March 13, 2016:
Welst here I be resting my weary bones at Santa Rosa, N.M. After a hectic few days preparing for this little excursion that will take me and my chauffeur, social adviser and traveling companion out across the country reacquainting with the old and searching out the new; well new for me anyway since neither a trucker or world traveler I be.
I did, as a kid, take the advice of a fellow name of John B.S. Soule to "go west, young man, go west" and of Horace Greely who advised to go west and grow up with the country. Looking back now to 1952 and that 19-year-old kid on a Grayhound bus heading west, easy to imagine the lad was a little too anxious to "grow up." After a period of 55 years peddling my labor on the shores of the "Golden State" I question the meaning of Mr. Soule’s middle initials. At least I grew up, but insert the asterisk "in spite of."
These days I try to avoid any relationship with the partnership that once existed betwixt the State of California and I. Like so many corporations and businesses, those whose labor, talents and ambitions initiated their constructions, no longer have a part in them neither are their contributions recognized or appreciated.
But alas, alack my footprints are all over superior California in the form of family and friends so here sits I relaxing at the Comfort Inn, Santa Rosa, having arrived at 3:30 afternoon of March 13, on the first leg of a trip that will take me and my fellow traveler on a 5,000-mile jaunt down this concrete ribbon, first to Red Bluff, Calif., where I shall search out two of my four scattered children, learn to what extent my progeny has multiplied, then, on up to Mt. Vernon in Washington State where my fellow drifter has a son that makes his home along the shores of the Great North Pacific. I do have a list of grandkids and great-grandkids lying somewhere about but seems to have been mislaid; as I recall, the herd is sizable in number.
We hit the road on a rainy Sunday morning figuring the first overnight layover to be Tucumcari, N.M., but steady driving, an uneventful day and gaining an hour on the sun put us all way to Santa Rosa.
Morning of March 14: After a hot in-hotel breakfast, a 7 a.m. departure for all points west. The intermittent showers early on in the trip gives way to sunny skies and a blustery crosswind which will follow us across three states; the winds annoy but do little to hinder or interrupt time-wise as we aim for Kingman, Ariz., the next over-night destination. The road west is an ant trail of commercial trucks hurrying mindlessly along, not all of them of the courteous kind, yet one supposes they might take the same attitude toward lowly four wheelers, some of us with an "attitude" ourselves ranging from the mildly confused, to the impatient and angry to still others obviously ignorant of the concept. Yet we are not excessively hindered, making excellent time we’re in Kingman at 3 p.m., have dinner at the Cracker Barrel and settle in for the evening.
Up at 5, morning of March 15, we have a hot breakfast compliments of the Best Western Hotel our host for the night and decide to leave 1-40 which would have taken us into California at Needles, and on to Barstow before turning northwest to Bakersfield and onward to the upper extremes of the state. I know from experience, the San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield north on either 1-5 or State Highway 99, is subject to heavy traffic and thick fog and decide not to relive the gut-wrenching experiences of it this time out. From Kingman we turn northward to Nevada, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas and 200 miles of little but desert.
A new bridge above the dam since the last time there, and might have missed the site completely had I not known before hand. It’s a spectacular sight by any stretch of the imagination so we exit 95 on the northernmost side and drive down into the gorge and across the dam, take a few pictures, exit the canyon and head on up to ‘Vegas.
Last time through Las Vegas was more years ago than I can number, a new bypass freeway - Speedway? Which sucked you in on one side of town and spat you out the other. Not this time. In what seemed like a gigantic maze of engineered deceptions designed to confuse and delay, a twisted ribbon of concrete tentacles reaching, grabbing, encircling.
What once was navigable by directional information alongside and above the roadway now requires, at least for an old country boy, one of those new fangled Global Positioning Systems. Yet, from pain of experience, my advice is to reprogram or re-coordinate the gadget should one digress from its originally prescribed route. From Vegas the infernal machine attempts to turn us around and re-route us back through Los Angeles, at which time we pull to the side of a busy highway, slap the thing around a couple of times and reprogram to a fictitious address in Reno, Nev. No problem.
It’s a long impatient pull from Vegas to Reno all desert all the way, Indian Springs, Tonopah, Hawthorne, Fallon. Reno by 2:30 of the afternoon, energetic and alert 180 miles from our destination, loaded up with candy bars, cookies and coffee. Rather than find lodging like any sane person would do after a long days drive, we opts to drive on in.
Another decision. Take California Highway 395 north to Susanville then 36 west to Red Bluff, or take 1-80 across Donner Summit to State Highway 20 westward to Highway 99 northward.
I know both routes like the back of my hand and have no need of GPS technology to lead me in. Donner was the ultimate choice, and despite heavy snows the week before, roads are clear the sun yet above the horizon, and the scenery spectacular; heck we can coast in from here.
Yet, progress slows when we enter the mountains and though daylight holds until we cross Donner summit, darkness closes around as we enter onto the westward slope of the Sacramento. Eventually we intersect California State 99 at Marysville and from there northward it’s a double lane country road black as the shades of hades filled with the headlamps of automobiles heading south.
By now its 9 p.m., still an hour from our destination, and going along I’m thinking the towns that lie along the way, Oreville, Chico, Los Molinas have moved significantly farther apart since last I was here.
Finally, at 10 in the evening, we arrive on the easternmost part of our destination, find a fast food restaurant, wolf down a sandwich, call and advise the young’uns to leave the light on, we’re in town. It’s five days before the next leg of the trip up to Mt. Vernon, Wash., by way of Portland and Seattle. Storms are sweeping in from the Pacific, all the way from California to Canada. Is there any chance I can turn back now whilst we’re still ahead of the game? Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash., are bound to be hell on wheels. Mt. Vernon is 600 miles to the north, 40 miles from the Canadian border, the further most this old ‘possum hollow guy has ever been from the ridges of the Boston Mountains. Time wise we shall be wise enough to allot two days for the trip.
Fast forward: Sent from Missoula, Mont., March 26.