Thanksgiving brought my daughter, Beth and her family down to Santa Cruz, California for a visit. She, her husband Dave, and my four grandchildren (who are coincidentally their children) came down in Dave's small truck and with an assist from my son, Matthew. He carried the larger portion of the clan in his Jeep SUV. They had moved to Medford, Oregon, ahead of us, anticipating the sale of our house and the rest of us following shortly.
They are residing in temporary shared housing of my extended family. Unfortunately, the home sale fell through at this end, protracting the temporary situation. The kids are in the process of moving into a rental that will carry them through until we finally sell the house, get moved and find a new place for everyone to live happily ever after.
So they came, we visited, had Thanksgiving. Did family stuff. It was good. Then came the return. Winter travel in most of California does not face some of the challenges of other parts of the country. However, between Santa Cruz and Medford lay some truly challenging mountain passes. How would we get everyone back to Oregon?
The small truck was going back, anyway. The other vehicle would be my van, named The Mobile Man Cave. The camping components were reduced to what I would need on the return. The rear seat was returned to the full upright position, and we loaded up. Lots of room in the middle for cargo and general stuff.
A weather check defined the coast route to be the better choice, though the total mileage came to 548 miles. A lot of miles for one day, but we had only that much time for the return. The up side was that the kids had not traveled that route. Well, Beth had, but she was so little that her memory of that trip would largely be composed of the view of the back of the front seat in a Mercury small car of some forgettable name. I think we called it "the blue car" back in those days.
So, off we go. Surprisingly good weather. The passage through Oakland and across the toll bridge to Marin County was relatively uneventful. We did In-and-Out Burger in Oakland for lunch. Some nice guy in the parking lot offered to sell me a new laptop computer. That was nice of him, but I didn't need one right then.
So, North we go. North. Highway 101. Wine country. It was beautiful, but we had hundreds of miles to cover. No stopping for pretty. Small towns the highway still actually passes through in places. North. Into the northern redwoods. Getting foggy. Getting dark. Passing sights to see in the darkness. We could have been anywhere. North. Ever north.
So, we get to Medford in the very early morning. 548 miles. Long drive. Pleasant enough. The kids travel well, and did not fuss and generally were well behaved. Except at the point when one of them hit the button that lays the seat down flat under the power of an electric motor. I had visions of the kids cut in half by seat belts as the motor ground away into the down position, but it simply turned into a short yet funny interlude.
Now I am in Medford, and it is a good time to spend with family. I got to see everyone, and it was pretty nice. I also met the real estate agent my Dad had engaged to help us when we got sold and were ready to buy. We looked at property, and he put me in touch with a finance officer who might help with the money thing once we were sold and ready to buy.
Time to go home. Watching the weather, looking for a good departure window that would get me safely over the mountain passes. Monday, January 6th, looked like the day. I left late, around ten in the morning, to allow the ice on the passes to become just water and thus no particular problem. We took that time to do some final checks on the van.
Two days before departure I had started it, backed it out, and started down the road to run some errands with my daughter and the grandkids. Smoke had poured out of the heater vent. It was exciting, but not in a good way. I shut it down and checked it out. Turned out to be leaves that had gotten into the heating system and been ignited by friction. Fortunately, no damage and the offending leaves apparently burned up and blew away.
So, I roll out and head south. I was going the more direct I-5 route. Ashland is along the way, and I always stop and drink a bit of Lithia Water at the plaza fountain. I grew up, in part, in Ashland, and always had some of that bubbling mineral water whenever I passed that way. The taste is at best a unique experience, but it has become a tradition with me.
Now, souther. I went over the pass with no problem. I passed by the first rest stop without stopping. I usually stop, but I needed to get some drinking water in Yreka. I took the route through the town, looking around and generally seeking a Dollar Tree or something. I found a Walmart at the end of town, got my water, and hit the road again.
My target at this point was the rest stop at Shasta Lake. Hence, I did not stop at the Weed rest stop. The weather was closing in, Mount Shasta was robed in clouds and I was into some steady rain from Dunsmuir to the rest stop at Shasta Lake. It was still raining when I got there, but not very heavy. I had lunch at that stop, and then I was on the road again.
I dropped out of the mountains and into the Central Valley. The clouds cleared to partially cloudy, and it was very nice weather as I continued south. My next stop was a planned visit to the Rolling Hills Casino. I wanted to look at their RV park (which was mostly an extension of the parking lot) and get some free coffee. I walked around the casino, watched the games a bit, but placed no bets this trip. I took my coffee out to my van and got back on the road.
My final goal for the day was the Pilot Travel Center near the I-5/505 interchange. I didn't make it. At sunset I spotted a rest stop and decided to rest. I pulled in, recognizing the spot as the beginnings of a short story I wrote in my head on a previous journey. That story sits now in a file, awaiting publication. It fell out of my head at some point, and I caught it in my digital net.
Putting the van in camp mode, I settled in for the evening. Being tired, I elected to sleep a bit. I awoke a couple of hours later, and did not really want to get on the road again. In the dark. Traveling in the dark is generally not that great. It is hard to see the vistas I am so fond of. Dark is just about the same everywhere, but vistas are special. Each and every one.
So, I read a bit. Then I laid down and did some thinking. That put me to sleep, because I am an apparently boring thinker. I awoke at about two, and did enough thinking to put myself to sleep until a bit after six. I got up, used the restroom, generally prepared to get moving, and got moving.
It was a really nice sunrise. By the time I got to the Pilot Travel Center the sun was well up. I stopped for gas and to look the place over. It would have been a decent over-night, but the rest stop was better. I got a discount on a cup of coffee with my gas purchase. That was fortuitous, as I was quite ready for coffee. I got my coffee, and was again back on the road.
My usual route would have been to take the 505 cut-off and go through Vacaville and the Bay Area on my way home. It would have been very busy at that time of day on a week day. I elected to continue south on I-5. My hope was for less traffic, and some vistas I had not often seen.
As I drew closer to Sacramento, my hope for avoiding traffic diminished. Yep, city traffic. Busy. Lots of trucks and cars and plenty of stupid drivers. However, the duration was nothing like I would have had to endure (for hours) on the other route. Then, fog. And traffic. Hmmm. I began to wonder if my decision was a good one.
The fog and traffic broke just south of the Sacramento area, and the highway stretched before me. We moved a bit west, toward rolling grassy hills. Yes, there were vistas. Hills, farm lands, pastures, and a huge valley stretching into the haze that covered the distant mountains. It was nice. Very nice.
It continued to be nice for quite some time. All of the way home, for that matter. At Highway 152 I turned again west, and passed through passes that were beautiful. Rocky outcroppings, oak trees in abundance. Grassy meadows. Lakes. Farm lands. Then, in the distance, the Pacific Ocean.
Along the way on Highway 152 is Casa de Fruta. I had passed it many times, but never stopped. It was always too early in a journey, or too late. I most often passed it late at night. This time I came upon Casa de Fruta at a time I could stop. I had planned this, and unlike my plans for word domination, this plan bore fruit. Ahem.
Casa de Fruta has a pretty nice RV park, a motel, and some fruit related retail outlets along with an amusement park in miniature. It is pretty, well presented, and quite over-priced. However, they have some very nice culinary contributions to make to the traveler's shopping experience, and the price might be worthwhile. I definitely recommend the stop if it is not too early, or too late.
I took the Highway 156 route through these coastal mountains in order to enjoy the valley around Hollister and to cross Highway 25. I hope to eventually travel that little highway and add it to my list of complete highways traveled. But, not today. I passed through San Juan Bautista and Castroville on my way home.
Then the familiar lands around Watsonville and Santa Cruz.
Home. Yet, while traveling in The Mobile Man Cave, I was very much at home every mile of this particular journey. I still wonder if I could travel endlessly in this fashion. Who knows? That future might be mine, or it might not. However, I can look forward to many more such adventures, long and short.
It was good. It was fun. The highways still beckon.
I am currently 62 years old. At present I am a retired correctional officer with 20 years of service. (My real job these days is being a Grandpa.)
I am married to my long-suffering wife, Linda. I have three children; Matthew, Beth, and Jon. I currently have six grandchildren; Alexandra, Madelyn, Wyatt, Lucas, Abigail and Landon.