Travel Adventure 2008
I awoke to a gray morning, but no rain. However, my tent was covered in dew and would require attention at the end of the day. I got up and made my way to the showers.
The KOA maintained clean restrooms and adequate shower facilities. I was soon ready to begin packing. Breaking down my camp takes a little time, and I did not hurry. Folding bedding, packing away various items. Folding up the foam pad that makes up the top part of the bed. Emptying the air bed that is the base of my truck bed bed. Breaking down and packing the Sportz II truck tent.
Soon I was ready to hit the road. I stopped by the KOA store on the way out to get a post card of one of the drive-through trees. My wife had requested it to send to a little girl in England. The little girl could not believe the tales of giant trees in the mythical land of California, so proof was in order.
I headed north and caught the northernmost end of Highway 255, which begins just south of Arcata. Indeed, it passes through the southern end of that quaint little town. I had passed through the town center the day before, and thought the little square was interesting.
Always so much to see, and never enough time.
Beyond Arcata the land became quite rural. Farms, many with cattle. Evidence of wood processing in the distance. Simple farm structures in various degrees of decay. One house and barn stood gray against the gray skyline.
Lots of marsh land. The horizon was low. If you Google Map or Google Earth the area you will see a peninsula. It was onto this I was driving.
I passed through Manila, headed for Samoa. Though I saw evidence of the influence of the Philippines in these names I saw no real evidence in the land or structures. I turned from due west to the south, and went on.
Soon I arrived at my morning destination. A friend had recommended the Samoa Cookhouse. I was going there for breakfast. It is a long-lived establishment based on nourishing a great many people in a very short time. Loggers in the past, but tourists and locals in the present.
It is a big building, sitting on the highest ground around. To the west I could see a large plant that looked like a wood or paper plant. Rising steam and the scent of wood were issuing from the distant facility.
I entered the restaurant and was greeted cordially by a nice gentleman and invited to sit at any of six tables near the kitchen. One waitress was in evidence. Four other people were dining. As I took my place the man who had greeted me gave me a brief introduction to the place.
The menu is set, and choices are limited. This day was biscuits and gravy, french toast, scrambled eggs and sausage. All with plenty of coffee and orange juice. The waitress had my plates before me in a jiffy.
It was all delicious. The gravy was particularly flavorful. Everything else was just great. I was offered more, but the first helping was more than enough. I ate it all.
I thought I saw a tip jar at the counter, and intended to drop my gratuity there. After a potty break (always a wise thing at my age) I paid my bill. I observed that what I thought was a tip jar was actually intended for some other purpose. It only registered to me much later that I failed to leave a tip of any kind.
The Samoa Cookhouse is in itself a little museum to the development of northwest California and the timber industry. Lumberjacks of any ilk will enjoy examining the many displays. I bought a shot glass as a souvenir.
With regard to shot glasses, I consider them the ideal souvenir for the retarded tourist. After collecting hats and t-shirts, I have concluded that the shot glass is the best bet for me. Small, easy to transport, and they are everywhere. You can even get nice display cabinets for them, though I prefer random placement on any flat surface.
So, breakfast concluded and the necessity to tip generously if I ever return well established, I once again hit the road. On the way out I completed my circuit of Highway 255. Another complete highway for my “collection,” and the first of two I would collect this day.
Highway 255 crosses Humbolt Bay via the Samoa Bridge. It is actually three bridges hopping from peninsula to island to island to main land. I went into Eureka to find fuel, and then turned north.
My planned route required me to take Highway 299 inland. I was not going the full length of this highway this trip. I hope to do that in the future.
The forests were lush and green as I climbed away from the coast into the mountains. This road was not freeway, but very well maintained highway. Passing lanes are provided often enough that getting stuck behind a commercial truck (or a slow moving tourist like me) is not a problem.
The road climbs quickly, and soon I was in thick fog. Passing through the top of that marine layer I broke out into sunshine and vibrantly green hills. Once again I longed for a way to safely record these images while traveling solo. This really is a problem that needs a solution.
Highway 299 went up and down over mountain passes and through valleys. Many very pleasant vistas opened up as I progressed toward my next highway.
Coming around a wooded bend the village of Willow Creek came into view. Perhaps the whole of the town was visible in that one scene. The road passed straight through town, but my route called for me to turn to the left about mid-way through the village.
Highway 96 exited the town of Willow Creek in about the equivalent of a block and a half. It passed through a rather inviting little valley that was dotted with small farms and rural homesteads. The road began immediately to meander. I was delighted, since meandering was what I had come to experience.
This highway passes through a couple of Indian Reservations. The first Indian village I came to was Hoopa. It was evident from signs and signs that fishing tourism was a big industry in this area. That and light farming. Oh, and the Lucky Bear Casino.
I found the casino rather cute. A small hotel, a small main casino building and a parking lot not much bigger than those in front of a Seven Eleven. Another place I longed to stop, but was compelled to pass up so that I could get where I was going.
Did I mention meandering? Lots of that as I continued on. One turn was long and slow and shaded by huge trees. A small farm was nestled in the turn. I actually went “oooh” in response to this delight.
Soon the road climbed above the river, providing vistas. I began a routine of stopping every few miles to grab quick pictures. The Klamath River ran below and was beautiful to see. Rocks lined the road so close as to threaten the paint of my vehicle. This was real traveling as I remembered from my childhood.
As I progressed along the road I found myself playing photo leap frog with a man on a BMW motorcycle. Sometimes one of us had to skip a turn-out because the other had grabbed it for photo opportunities. There was not always enough room for two.
The land began to change. It was gradual. The trees became thinner. More scrub and brown grasses appeared. This was part of the experience I had been seeking. Traveling, seeing the land change before my eyes. You can see this change by flicking through my images using the arrow buttons. Try it.
I noticed many more campground signs as I traveled in these lands. They had started appearing yesterday after Willits, and had been delightfully frequent as I moved along. A desire to return to this area in the future grew inside me. A very slow travel through these valleys. Fishing, camping, taking pictures.
Living like that sounds delicious.
I reached the mid-point of my journey at around one in the afternoon. Happy Camp. Again time constrained me. Most of the village lay to the left of the highway. I wanted to explore, but I hadn’t the time. I stopped for two quick photos. One of the road passing through town, and another of the Bigfoot statue that stands near the edge of the highway.
More delightful valleys ahead. Many were quite peaceful and inviting. I could see why people would find a way to move to places like this. Anyone who loves privacy, rivers and serenity would love these valleys.
The grasses and scrub became more common than trees on the south facing hills. The grass was dry and brown. Some of the groves of trees appeared blighted. Some hills were populated with the silvery carcasses of hundreds of dead trees. Other places were still green and lush.
As the dry landscape dotted by huge red rocks passed before me I knew that I was approaching the end of Highway 96. The land appeared like the land around Interstate 5 as it passed near the Klamath River. I spotted a red rock crag on the far side of the river and stopped for photos.
Soon I came to a stop sign. To my right a bridge swept away in an arcing turn to pass between two hills. I experienced a sense of invitation, a longing to explore yet another road. I turned left, instead, and continued to the end of Highway 96.
It terminated at the Randolph C. Collier Rest Area. I love this rest area. I first saw it when I was in my teens. My parents decided to drive down into norther California (we lived in Ashland, Oregon, at the time) and have a look at the massive excavation creating Interstate 5 in that area. The rest area is like a green jewel in the steep sided valley.
Every visit is equally delightful. I made a quick stop, got a picture, and was on my way.
The valley that comes before the Oregon border is guarded by a dragon. I did not stop, coming or going, to get a picture, but found a nice one on the Internet. I passed the great beast and continued north toward the border.
I could see Pilot Rock and Mount Ashland as I climbed to the pass into the State of Oregon. The sky was clear and I made the pass in fourth gear, moving slowly. Almost everything moves slowly on that climb.
On the other side I saw Callahan’s restaurant. It was burned to the ground last I saw it, and now it is fully rebuilt. Indeed, today (Saturday, October 18, 2008) is the grand opening. I passed the new place and began my descent.
This is one steep grade. Truck traps line the road to capture run-away trucks. Overheated brakes are common on this stretch of Interstate, and I saw more than one smoking wheel as I made my way down.
I regularly take the first exit and pass through Ashland. I spent the latter part of my growing-up years in this town, and my memories are fond. I like to pass through the town slowly, taking in what has changed and what has not.
Beyond Ashland I continue on the old highway. Through Talent and Phoenix, and eventually to the edge of Medford. A left turn, a few more blocks, and I finally pull in to my parent’s driveway.
I am expected, and welcome. In many ways, I have come home again.
10 hours ago