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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Travel Adventure 2008 (the first day)

Travel Adventure 2008
First Day

My journey began with plans for my annual visit with my family in Oregon. Medford, Oregon. I generally go in the fall, and this year was no exception. I was a bit later in the year due to other people at work having vacation scheduled for the same time. However, it proved not to be too late to have good weather.

I have grown weary of Interstate 5 through the Central Valley of California. Freeways generally have rendered traveling to just getting someplace. Interstate 5 manages to reduce even the experience of getting someplace to a massive tedium.

Freeways are too fast. They bypass everything interesting. They are contained by sound walls and concrete barriers. Freeways are not for traveling.

So, how to get to Medford without using I5?

I left on the morning of October 7th. It was pleasant weather in Felton, California. That was my point of departure. My home. Plans were for crossing the Santa Cruz Mountains on Highway 17, and taking Highway 280 north to San Francisco.

I altered those plans, realizing I was starting my journey at the peak of commute traffic. Highway 17 would be thick with commuters going “over the hill” to get to work.

Highway 1 north from Santa Cruz would be much more interesting. So, that was the way I would go. I planned to grab some breakfast on the way out of Santa Cruz. I failed to recall the limited number of quick-and-easy (and also cheap) places to eat along that part of my route.

I ran out of town before I managed to find food. No matter, there was always Half Moon Bay.

The coast was generally foggy this morning. Coastal fog can be beautiful, rendering the views of the ocean, beaches and hills in a different light. There were many pumpkin patches along the way, full of pumpkins anticipating surgery for the coming Halloween.

I wondered why this bit of coast had become a pumpkin capital? There were pumpkins everywhere. And fog.

Half Moon Bay came all too soon. I was hungry, and it would have been nice to get a bite, but the turn-off to cross the mountains and meet Highway 280 at the mid-point preceded any dining opportunities. I opened the bag of barbecue chips I planned to munch on later in the day and had breakfast while I wound through the mountains.

There was commute traffic here, too. I may not have won anything by the detour, but I did get to see some pumpkins.

I reached 280 in good time, and moved north toward San Francisco with what seemed like thousands of other pilgrims. I stopped for a moment at a rest stop, and saw a full-time road person living in an old Volvo station wagon. I noted that it did not appear to be a particularly comfortable form of full-timing.

Soon I was passing through the city. The route is fairly straight through the city, and I always find it pleasant. Interesting buildings, the bustle of the city broken by Golden Gate Park and eventually the Golden Gate Bridge looming ahead.

The bridge was shrouded in fog this trip. Sometimes it seems even more massive as the towers disappear into the fog. I reached the other side and stopped at the bridge viewing area. It is a nice little park with a great view of the bridge. Even a bridge draped in fog. The exit was easy enough, and getting back on the road was not particularly difficult.

I got my first pictures at the end of the Golden Gate Bridge. I realized that much of my journey would go un-photographed due to my having to drive. Some day I hope to overcome this limitation, but missed photos abound in my memory from this trip.

Now I was on Highway 101. I am fascinated by highways, and remember some of the numbers being like incantations in my youth. The numbers sometimes related to trips made with parents and grandparents, and the magical places we went.

I fell in love with the smell of coffee in my youth, long before I began drinking coffee. It was the smell of coffee shops on the road. The stop, the opening of that door. The smell of coffee extending an invitation and promising scrambled eggs, hot cakes, and maybe chocolate milk.

Today I just had barbecue potato chips. Actually, by Marin County I had an empty bag. I needed to eat.

Rolling on, Highway 101 being freewayed enough to bypass most of those delicious coffee shops, I finally pulled off in desperation at a McDonald’s restaurant. It was close to lunch time, so I just did some hamburger thing. With a coke. No coffee.

Sigh.

Back on the road. North. Pretty little valleys filled with grape vines. Wine country. Each vista made me wish my wife were along to share the beauty. It was really nice. It would have been nicer if I could share it.

She could have taken pictures along the way. That would also have been nice. Trust me, it was beautiful.

Eventually the freeway sections of 101 fell behind me, and two lane blacktop flowed through the hills and valleys. North of Ukiah it seems that the freeway disease was less evident. It was nice to be able to slow down a bit and enjoy the ride.

Willits was the first town I got to where the old highway actually passed through the town. I wanted to stop and visit the Skunk railroad depot, but I realized that even taking two days to get to Medford I couldn’t afford to stop very often. Too bad. Perhaps I can plan another journey this way and travel much slower.

Soon I began to enter wooded lands and small farms cut from the woods. The road began to wind and I could go even slower. This was really nice.

One of my targeted stops was The World Famous Tree House. It was closed. From what I could see someone who carves wooden figures had acquired this attraction and tried to tie the old-school tourist trap into his art. It did not appear to be a going venture.

I stopped to get photos. I recall stopping here when I was a child. Well, my parents stopped us here, and let us go in. I was fascinated. You went into a tree! Then through the tree into a gift shop.

My fiscal condition in those days has not improved much over the years. I had little to spend, and I eventually settled on a dried seahorse. It had nothing to do with the redwoods, but I could afford it and I thought it was cool.

Poking around the now defunct tourist trap I found a wooden carving of a seahorse. Cool! Also a bit scary. How did they know?

The juxtaposition of a carved bear holding a sign saying “Welcome” next to a sign saying “Keep Out” was too good to pass up. I seem to have a passion for signs, and this was priceless.

I got on the road again, buzzed around the corner and passed up Confusion Hill. I wouldn’t have passed it up except that I was around the bend and past the entrance before it registered in my mind what I was missing. It was delightfully touristy in my rear-view mirror.

One day I will just be on the road to be on the road, and I can turn around for such things.

On I went, until I came across the One Log House. It was alongside the road on a straight stretch that allowed my mind to register what I was seeing and apply the brakes soon enough to actually stop. I got out and took two quick photos. I eyed the tourist shop that obviously housed the business that had acquired this bit of tourist history.

It was an inviting place. They even offered the secret code to unlock the One Log House so that I could see inside. They had coffee!

Alas, I was due in Arcata in too few hours. I got in the car and continued my trek through the redwoods. Since I live among the redwoods and near an old growth grove, they do not hold the fascination they might for a person from another place. Still, I love driving through them.

At one point the highway is extra-narrow as it passes through a stand of redwoods. Most of the time it is necessary to go off of the highway to find roads visiting these beautiful forests. Perhaps I will find the time to pay those roads a visit in the near future.

It was not long before the mountains lowered toward the ocean, and I was soon passing through Eureka. Just glancing around as I passed through this city I could see that it would be worth a visit. I could just see the old town section from the highway, and the buildings were colorful and interesting.

So, I long to travel slow and have enough money while doing so to stop and experience these things. Not today, though. Not enough time and not enough money. Just a mental note to try and fit this in, someday.

About midway between Eureka and Arcata is the KOA. I had a reservation. I missed the entrance the first time around. I had to go around a bypass road to get back and try again. They are tucked away behind some kind of hardware store and a Department of Transportation facility. Just keep going on the little road past the DOT place and there is the entrance.

I got my site assignment and went out seeking food. I wandered through the center of Arcata and eventually found a Subway restaurant. A portable feast was soon in the bag and I went back to the KOA to set up camp.

I had reserved a tent site, not knowing how KOA sets up tent sites. I found mine, and could see I would not be able to get my truck into the site. I parked in front and assembled my tent in my truck bed.

Close enough. I may have to take a low-end RV space in future adventures. It will better suite my camping style.

So, set up and ready for the night, I did as the pioneers did in their camps. I ate my sandwich while watching a movie on the tailgate of my truck.

Snuggled in my truck tent I settled in for the first night of my adventure. Pretty good, so far.

1 comment:

Donni Lockridge said...

Thanks, brother, for taking me on the journey before our visit and after. Your descriptive language let me feel I was along for the ride. I enjoyed "virtual travel" with you, but most of all I enjoyed having a chance to spend time with my big brother. Love ya, your sis, Donni