Tuesday, January 08, 2008

“What is that on the road?” asked Robin.

“A coyote,” I replied. “And he’s pooping.”

Robin kept driving.

“Really. He’s stopped, and he’s having a poop right in the middle of the road.”

Robin kept driving, but he leaned on the horn. Finally, the coyote looked at the oncoming behemoth, turned, and sauntered off the road, leaving a neat pile in his wake.

"Now that's contempt," said Robin, admiringly.

That was at about two o’clock this afternoon. We were just about to cross into San Bernardino County. The day had started quite early – just after 6:30 in the morning, when I turned off the propane, battened down the hatches, and drove away from what was billed as a rest stop about an hour out of Santa Rosa. We had driven there after Chuck's Brake and Wheel had finished repairing our sadly injured front end (the main problem was a pulverized bearing, but there was a whole lot more). There hadn’t been much rest for me, though Robin had gone to sleep before 9 pm and was still dozing. We had used the oven for heat, and all the heat had drifted right up to my little nest over the cab. I opened both my overhead vent and the window beside my head, but all that accomplished was to bring in the sound of a thousand passing trucks and the engines and generators of all the rigs around us at the rest stop. I considered driving on at about 3:30, but I figured I would disturb Robin, so I waited. At 5:30 I gave up trying to sleep. At 6:30 Robin turned over, and I seized the opportunity to say “I’m going to start driving, okay?” That was fine by him, so off we went.

Well, as I write, it is 8:15 pm, and we are in Yuma, Arizona at an RV park whose name escapes me. We started trying to stop at 4:30 this afternoon in Barstow, California. The place we found there was full. Then we found a park down the highway, but its washrooms were out of order. It looked a little seedy anyway, so we kept going. That was the way it went for the next three hours until we finally fetched up here. We’ve taken refuge in a spot we thought was available, but wasn’t. It belongs to the Albertan couple next door, who have kindly allowed us to stay here for the one night, as we are obviously too exhausted to keep driving around the park in search of a truly empty site.

The upside to this sad story is that we are only a day’s drive from Ajo, Arizona, where we like to stay at La Siesta Motel, and another day’s drive from San Carlos. All being well, we will arrive at Totonaka on time, in spite of the weather and mechanical difficulties. It’s hard to type with all my fingers crossed, so I’ll sign off. Meanwhile, though, here are those saved posts I mentioned yesterday.

January 5, 2008

Klamath, California

We considered staying on in Sutherlin, Oregon another night, but Robin couldn’t picture sitting still that long, so we left there at about 9:45 this morning, headed for the 101. Apparently there’s a lot of snow on the passes, so we thought it best to follow the coast, what with not having snow tires and all.

It was an interesting trip on highways 138 and 38, which lead out to the Oregon coast at Reedsport. The scenery heading west is lovely, very pastoral – but not as nice as Wiltshire, says Robin. (But then, he says that about all the scenery.)

About five miles from the coast, the rain hitting the windshield got pretty crunchy, and soon we were driving through slush. It was about six degrees Celsius outside, though, so we weren’t worried.

We bought green pepper and onion at the Safeway in Reedsport, so that I could do a chicken curry with the leftover chicken from last night. This supermarket excursion wasn’t nearly as painful as yesterday’s (and the curry turned out well).

The GPS guided us south to hook up with Hwy 101. That drive is absolutely spectacular, although it is somewhat unnerving. The road follows very close to the cliffs, from which the view of the Pacific is dizzying. I think I should never live beside the ocean, because I would never do anything except gaze into the waves, feeling their immense weight, breathing to their rhythm.

After a while, the road started to climb rather higher than we had expected, bringing about a feeling of dread and a shower of freezing rain. We were in the Redwood National Forest. Robin asked what our elevation was, so I looked at the GPS, but it wouldn’t tell me. It wouldn’t tell me anything, in fact. It ignored our progress, insisting that we were still 65 miles from Eureka, California - no matter how far we drove. The trees have strong spirits, I said, and they won’t allow any intrusions from newfangled satellite signals. Just up the road there was a tourist attraction called Trees of Mystery. (cue Twilight Zone theme)

Finally, the road tilted in the other direction. We hurtled down the hill and found ourselves right beside the ocean, but then we lost sight of the road as it bent inland. By then we were both tired and ready to stop for the day. At 4:30 this afternoon we turned in at Chinook RV Park and gratefully accepted shelter from the storm.

And what a storm! While I was doing dishes after dinner, there was a crack, the lights flickered, and then there was a roll of thunder that I thought would shake the dishes off the counter. That was too close. Since then there have been intermittent hailstorms. The cable tv is out. The wi-fi is out. Fortunately, we do have electricity, so we are warm and dry and safe for the night. We think we’ll be close to San Francisco by tomorrow night. Presumably, we’ll be out of the Redwood Mystery Forest by then and our satellites will be able to find us!

January 6, 2008

Santa Rosa, California

Well, that was a big presumption. We left Klamath at 9:00 this morning, headed south on the 101. We planned to go east on Hwy. 20 at around Ukiah, which would have brought us out to the I-5 somewhere in the Sacramento Valley. The day started out well. We passed beautiful groves of eucalyptus trees, and Robin spotted the first palm tree of the trip. Later, the eucalyptus groves were replaced by patches of arbutus – a touch of home. As we approached Ukiah, though, we noticed a disturbing reference on Maggie’s screen. (Maggie – short for Magellan - is the GPS. When she’s speaking to us, Maggie says helpful things like “At the first opportunity, make a LEGAL U-turn…” It seems only right that she should have a name.) At any rate, Maggie wasn’t saying much, but there was a reference on her screen to something called Upper Lake. That sounded like high elevation to us, so we changed our minds and kept going south.

Very shortly, we encountered a fork in the road that allowed us to choose between Highway 101 and Highway 1. We chose the latter, as it was closer to the coast and presumably (there’s that word again!) would involve less upping and downing and therefore less chance of encountering snow.

I was driving. I made an abrupt turn down Highway 1, whereupon there appeared three turkeys at the side of the road – and then three more, right in the middle of the road. No slouches, these turkeys, they quickly cleared a path for us and we set off on our slow, winding journey through the Forest Primeval. I was hooked. Six turkeys! That had to be a good sign. The road was narrow and it really did wind an awful lot. It also went up and down (and up and down, etc.). I drove twenty some-odd miles to the coast at a top speed of thirty miles an hour. In many places the curves were posted at 20, 15, and even 10 miles per hour. The forest was dense. There was a ravine on our left, with a rushing stream at its bottom. It was on the opposite side of the road, so we were in no danger of falling into it. I was having a wonderful time, tootling along in second gear, following the stream to the sea, enjoying the scenery, so it took me quite a while to realize that Robin was distinctly unhappy. It seems he truly does not like being in places where he can’t see more than 100 yards ahead, and we couldn’t see nearly that far for well over an hour. I was glad I was driving, because I think it would have been worse for him to have to drive through the forest, but I wished I could do something to make him feel better.

After what was apparently an intolerable length of time, we emerged on the coast above Fort Bragg. Robin breathed a huge sigh of relief and took the wheel. Then it was my turn to sit petrified while we hurtled along the coast road, our passenger side wheels (that’s MY side, now, you’ll note) barely clutching the edge of the shoulderless road, foam-crested waves beating against huge, sharp rocks at the bottom of our inevitable plunge. Robin said he was driving with extreme care, so as not to frighten me, and I’m sure he was. Nonetheless, my back teeth are ground to nubs and my stomach is still in a knot.

I forget when or where it was that we started talking about that disturbing noise we heard whenever we braked. The noise got louder and more disturbing as the day progressed, and of course it made those hairpin turns and cliffside dangles all the more interesting.

At around 2:00 we stopped for lunch, and then I drove again. Fortunately, we had turned inland a bit, so I didn’t have to deal with the cliffs. We began to notice that RV parks on Highway 1 were almost non-existent. Robin remembered having stayed once at a campground at Manchester Beach. If all else failed, we decided, we would just keep going to Manchester. All else failed.

Manchester failed, too. We got there at about 5:00. There was a KOA, but it had no electricity. As it turned out, pretty well the whole coast from there on had no electricity, but we didn’t realize that at the time. Robin took the wheel, and we kept driving. The light was fading fast. It was pouring. Then it was just plain dark – unusually dark. We passed many darkened houses and businesses. We checked the time. Either the folks in Sonoma County retired awfully early, or there was a blackout. We found a couple of RV parks, but they were showing no lights, their offices were closed, and they didn’t have signs posted with instructions for late check-ins. There was very little traffic on the road, and a lot of that consisted of hydro crews out trying to get the power up and running. There were fallen tree limbs everywhere along the road.

There was one light at the end of the tunnel, or so we hoped. If we persevered, we would eventually come to Santa Rosa, and if I remembered correctly, Santa Rosa was a town of considerable size. Surely there would be a place for us to stay. When we finally reached Santa Rosa – at 8:00 in the evening – we found that it had electricity. Hallelujah! What it didn’t seem to have was an RV park. I phoned Jane and Franco to assure them that we had made it through another day’s adventures and to ask them to look up an RV park on their computer. They did just that, and a few minutes later, with a little further assistance from Maggie, we were here. Right here, in unpretentious little Villa Trailer Park, where there’s light and heat and even cable TV, if we weren’t too tired to be bothered hooking it up. So - twelve hours after leaving “home” this morning, we were at home again, in a different town, sitting down to dinner. In the morning we will have the brakes fixed, and maybe I will find a place from which I can send this narrative off into cyberspace. There must be a Starbucks.

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