"Alice doesn't live here anymore."
Bear with me a minute ... I have a personal demon to wrestle aside.
An overworked idea currently
on the mental landscape of America is "closure". Not to trivialize any
of the recent emotional occurrences, but after almost any event that has
any significance these days, there is a cry and a 'need' for "closure".
It seems we are required to achieve some specific yet undefined acceptance
- some punching of our societal ticket for us to regain our normal insignificance
in the greater scheme of commonality. Real closure for truly significant
personal events is more elusive.
Two years ago when I was packing the night before my original Wanderlust trip, Max watched me with tired eyes. I wondered, then I promised her I would return if she would be there to meet me. She said without speaking "You better hurry". Two weeks later, while I was traveling, she had her first heart attack.
As fate would have it, this time I left San Francisco for the renewal of my Wanderlust exactly two years to the day of her heart attack. It is not closure. It is an opening of the future. I carry her memory with me, and I addressed her remains as I left saying I would return if her memory would remain. This time I need not hurry.
And so it is in her honor that I 'resume' my Wanderlust, picking up with the next number after her illness shortened the previous trip. We are not seeking closure. We are seeking whatever we may find.
For various reasons, it was
a later than usual start. Most people start the day in the morning. Maybe
it is indicative of the relaxed rules this trip will try not to adhere
to ... but I left at 4 pm. And then only covered 190 miles.
How much do you want to hear about droning California freeways? What wonders can be explained about metropolitan rush hour traffic that have not already been shared, absorbed, digested, and excreted? Let's just say that despite San Francisco being one of the most wonderful places to live in this country ... going for a memorable ride means you have to first get out of the Bay Area. My overnight stay was in the forgotten town of Oroville.
Which, of course, put the fabulous Feather River Canyon at my feet after breakfast. California Route 70 is one of those roads that make you wonder why anyone would drive a car when they could ride a bike (at least while it is not raining ... which is anytime between, say, April and September). Seventy five miles of sweepers, painfully pretty scenery, and canyon walls so steep that the GPS could not find a satellite except directly overhead. There are many good reasons to put up with the hot flat expanse of central California ... and this is an exceptional one.
Getting to Oroville, one has to pass through the part of California that would make a Japanese farmer cry. Around Colusa there are more rice fields than anywhere else in America. Abundant Sacramento River water floods the fertile flatlands and grows the long-grain rice against which the Japanese government has been trying to protect its national heritage. Ride through this area and you feel the weight of the moisture from the flooded paddies in the air. It makes me wonder - most 'country folk' are meat and potatoes people. Do rice farmers eat rice?
While riding up the Feather canyon, I saw I most amusing sight. Off on the bank of the river there was a man lounging under a wind break "half tent" while his automatic dredger chewed at the current. Either American ingenuity, technology, or just plain laziness has evolved to where it was necessary to develop a personal sized flotation device that sucks up river current and pans it against sediment while its 'overseer' sips a brewski beneath a polymer sunshade. What would a 49'er (the gold diggers, not the football players :) think?
Georgia and New Mexico have
a similar color to their dirt. It is an ochre red, almost a brilliant orange
brown that stands out to the eye to be noticed. Some parts of the California
gold country have a similar redness to the land, but never before today
have I seen PURPLE rocks and dirt! North of Susanville I passed a road
construction site where the hillside was being regraded and filled with
rocks and gravel. The rocks were grape colored. Not red, not brown, not
ochre. Grape. And the gravel glistened like bad velour from the 1970's
... and I didn't even have any mind bending spirits for breakfast - honest!
We joke in San Francisco that it is where all the surplus purple paint
ends up (have you seen some of the houses in the Castro district?), but
purple dirt is beyond even my expectations.
What is a trip if not a discovery ...
My little quote book, The Quotable Traveler, begins: There is a big difference between travel and a vacation. We choose the itinerary for our vacations, but our travels lead us on an internal journey.
Bar-Be-Que. BBQ. Q. Good golly, the smell makes me hungry. Stopped for a minute in the barely-there town of Adin, California. Small sign beside the general store says "BBQ today". Heavens! Well, more like purgatory, because the smoker was closed for another hour and I couldn't wait, but what those carbon laden pheromones were doing to my appetite has probably changed the focus of this trip. Anyone want to guide me to their favorite BBQ shack? I'll even offer to buy the first sandwich.
Ok, that's enough for now. Reports from this trip will not be coming every day as on past trips. I expect to be on the road for 30 to 40 days, and writing every day takes an enormous effort. Plus, I need time to encounter the observations that you might find interesting ... so I'll take a break while I attend the Chief Joseph BMW Rally, here in Klamath Falls. After that Idaho? Montana? Who knows? See ya ...
San Francisco I80 I505 I5 CA20 CA45 CA162 Oroville
Oroville CA70 CA89 CA147 CA36 CA139 OR39 Klamath Falls
Sam Lepore, San Francisco