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Monday, October 27, 2008

Return from Medford, Oregon 2008-

I left not too early in the morning on October 16th, with plans to travel most probably as far as Oroville, California. It was a fabulous day as I headed south from Medford, Oregon, on the old Highway 99, intending to pass through Ashland.

I spent the latter half of my growing up years in Ashland. I love to stop there, even for a few minutes, on my way south. I found a suitable parking space near the plaza and found the Lithia Water fountain running once again. It was down for repair last year. I always drink from the fountain when it is running.

The morning I stopped I observed someone who was obviously unfamiliar with Lithia Water drink from the fountain. He spat the water onto the ground in obvious distaste. It is an acquired taste. I had a few sips, relishing the nostalgia if not the effervescent mineral tang.

Then, back on the road. Soon I was over the pass and into California. Very soon I was again visiting the Randolph C. Collier rest area. This is a beautiful place to stop. I stop even if I don't need to stop. I had a bite to eat, and again was headed south.

Interstate 5 is rather interesting through the mountains in this area. Mount Shasta is magnificent, and was particularly so as I passed beneath it. Then came Castle Crags State Park. Though I had been on the road but a few hours I would love to have called it a day as far as travel and set up camp in this beautiful place.

I continued on. Another stop at Shasta Lake, a nice rest area there. I ate the rest of the food I had with me, walked around a bit, and got back on the road. Soon I was in the northern reaches of the Central Valley. Another hour and a half brought me to the Rolling Hills Casino. I got a free cup of coffee, lost two bucks on half penny slots, won three, and lost it again on penny slots.

So, I paid three bucks for a free cup of coffee, used the restroom, and hit the road.

I headed east to catch old Highway 99, caught it and headed south. It was fun passing through orchards, farms and fields. There were several promising camps along the way, but it was still too early.

Around Oroville I was tired of traveling, and wanted to set up camp. I checked my directory, and gave some thought to two camps near the Feather River. However, my funds were low and they were costly. So, I wandered up toward Lake Oroville and found a very nice camp. It was $19, and provided clean restrooms and showers. I even had access to electricity, if I chose to use it. I will probably add some electrical components to my kit for such times, but this trip I had no need.

There were two casinos in this area. Feather Falls Casino and Gold Country Casino. I had no time for either, and continued south early in the morning. By sunrise I was packed and on the road. Soon I was passing through fields and orchards and farms once again.

Off to the west I saw a mass of mountains in the center of the Central Valley. I don't recall seeing them from this side before. I had often looked east upon them and wondered what they would be like to visit. Seeing them from the east was a delight, but I still longed to go visit them. Once again I was constrained by time and other obligations.

As I drew away from these fascinating mountains and headed on south, I received a call from my wife. There was a plumbing leak, and she had called my son to look at it. He had turned off some water, and she wanted me to call the plumber and then get home as soon as possible.

Once I reached Marysville I needed breakfast and a potty break. I found both at Carl's Jr. While I was there I called the plumber and arranged for the repairs to be made. I was not entirely sure why I had to do this from half-way across the state, but I made the call and made the arrangements.

After breakfast I reviewed my Google directions for my next stop, and realized I did not have enough information to get there from Marysville. I crossed the street from Carl's Jr., and went to a store to find a map.

The map cost me $4.95, plus tax. Over five dollars for what I used to get for free from gas stations. Oh, how the world had changed! I used to collect maps in my youth, and often looked at them and imagined traveling. I could actually fold a map even in my tender years.

Map folding. That is a challenge that will soon fall into obscurity with the explosion of digital navigation tools. The world is obviously going to Hell in a hand basket. Fortunately, the navigation will be turn-by-turn.

I referred to my newly purchased map and my Google instructions. Soon I was on the road again with my map correctly folded.

As I passed through the area north of Lincoln I spotted a train running nearly parallel to the road. I relished seeing it running along side the highway, recalling in my childhood watching similar trains from the back seat of other cars. Eventually the road and track converged, and I had to wait for the train to pass.

Once the train passed I was able to slowly overtake it as the road ran along side the tracks. I headed into Lincoln and once again needed to respond to my bladder. I turned down a side road to enter a MacDonald's parking lot but traffic prevented me. I had to go across the tracks, turn around and come back.

I arrived at the tracks just in time to wait once again for the train to pass. It did so, I made my stop, and was again on the road out of Lincoln.

My next stop was a planned one. Roseville, California. I was to stop at my wife's cousin's place and pick up a box of collectible owls. Apparently my wife's cousin's mother once had an extensive (and famous) collection of owls. These were now being given away. My Google instructions took me right there, and I pulled up in front of their mobile home well before noon.

Since I was rushing back home to assist in watching the plumber repair our leak, I was unable to stay for long. We exchanged a few pleasantries, loaded two boxes of owls into the truck, and I was again on my way.

West, on Highway 80. This is a heavily used highway, and quite worn. That being said, traffic flowed quite efficiently along this major artery in the California Highway System. Soon I passed through the edges of Sacramento, and was on my way toward Vacaville.

Since Vacaville would coincide with my need to stop for food and fuel, I planned on visiting the New Nut Tree for a look around. I have fond memories of the old Nut Tree has been a way stop for many years for my family and Linda's family. My father and I particularly enjoyed the strong aviation theme to the old gift shop, as well as the many aviation books and photos offered there.

My camera was without power, and so the only photos I got were phone photos. I still find it amazing that I am taking pictures with my cell phone. Had I realized how much I would use this feature I would have opted for better quality in the camera. As it is my images have proved serviceable, but not particularly good.

You can move back and forth through that album with the arrow buttons, and so you may see a few (poor) images of the New Nut Tree as it is developing. This development includes a lot more retail, and an amusement park that includes the old little train that was a significant part of the old Nut Tree experience.

The retail space is not fully populated, but there is much to see and do at the New Nut Tree. Unfortunately, my stop was a quick one. I soon found an International House of Pancakes and indulged in cheese blintzes. I love those things. I got some fuel for the truck, and headed out.

I decided to use the access road that led toward downtown Vacaville. I passed through part of the town, found my way back to Highway 80, and again headed west.

This part of the journey is pleasant as it passes near the San Francisco Bay, overlooking the Navy mothball fleet and passing over the Benicia Bridge. After that it is many lanes of endless traffic passing vaguely through the towns and countryside on the way to San Jose. It suffers from Freeway Isolation, that separation from everything real that freeways bring about. It is getting there, not traveling.

In an interminably short time I was passing through the Santa Clara valley and finally climbing into the Santa Cruz Mountains on Highway 17. Then I passed through Scotts Valley on my way to Felton. Soon I turned in at my own drive, parking my truck in the usual place.

I was home. The plumber had come and gone, making the repairs quickly in my absence and without my supervision. I left my family to visit my family, and returned again to family.

On this journey I was at home wherever I happened to be.

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