Pat and I drove to California this spring. We did lots of hiking (and I went bicycling). Pat went to a dedication ceremony at Ananda Village, near Sacramento. We visited Anna in Oakland and saw lots of giant redwood trees. (Click on any picture to enlarge it.)
We left Seattle Tuesday afternoon, driving thru heavy showers. Supper was at the Glenwood Restaurant In Eugene, Oregon, to which Anna had taken us for breakfast when she was a student at the University of Oregon. The restaurant is located in a large old house with big windows. It’s filled with mismatched dining tables and chairs. When we arrived we were the only customers, but it soon filled up. The food was good, and the prices seemed to be about a third less than I’d expect in Seattle. We spent the night in Roseburg to be close to Ashland, where we had matinee tickets for a play.
Today we drove on to Ashland, and had lunch in a little cafe on Main Street. We were there early; so we shopped for books in the interesting theater gift shop. Pat found me “The Time-Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England” by Ian Mortimer. We walked along the river in nearby Lithia Park.
The play was “Secret Love In Peach Blossom Land,” a modern Chinese play presented at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It concerned a conflict between two companies of players each of which was trying to perform a different play on the same stage at the same time. One was a tragedy about lovers separated by the 1949 Chinese civil war, “Secret Love.” The other, “Peach Blossom Land,” was a ribald comedy about a cuckolded fisherman who stumbles into a hidden utopia and joins its blissful inhabitants, donning flowing white robes and pursuing butterflies. The two plays alternate and interfere with each other; at one point the players painted a yellow line down the middle of the stage and carried on simultaneously.
We had dinner in the Tree House Restaurant at the Best Western in Mt. Shasta, and spent the night in Redding in northern California, where we stayed thru Friday.
On Thursday we explored Redding’s Sundial Bridge and Turtle Bay Park. The pedestrian bridge has a bold design; it’s suspended from a huge sundial gnomon. The hour indicators are mounted on a low, curved wall behind a plaza north of the bridge. I noticed that it’s built to show daylight savings time.
We had a picnic under the translucent glass-decked bridge. Then I rented a bike and followed the wonderful Sacramento River Trail out of town and back, while Pat did homework for her class (Meditation Teacher Training). The Sacramento Valley has many bicycle and walking trails. The country is hilly and lush and dotted with blossoming flowers, tho I recall from other trips that it’s hot and brown in the summer.
We drove down to Sacramento on Friday. After lunch in a Mexican place by my motel, Pat drove on to Ananda Village for a dedication ceremony. Meanwhile I planned to ride the local bike trails and explore the Richards area of the city. We’d meet at Anna’s house in Oakland in two days’ time.
My first move, per Rick Steve’s travel advice, was to check the way out of town. I’d be traveling to Oakland on the Capitol Corridor commuter train. The station was hard to find, even with Google Maps, because I had to get across a complicated interchange. The station was enveloped in white plastic, and inside the building workmen were replacing the ceiling. I found the Capitol Corridor trains on the departures board, and discovered a walkway under the interchange that was obvious from the station end.
My next stop was Practical Cycle, where I rented a Breezer (rhymes with “geezer”?) hybrid bike. It had gears like a mountain bike and a body like an old guy’s cruising bike—perfect! I picked up the American River Trail behind the Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento and followed it back to my motel.
Richards is midway thru an extensive redevelopment; it’s an odd mix of handsome new public works, empty buildings and bulldozed fields. I passed a beautiful new building on a pylon in midstream that housed a pumping station. A pedestrian bridge leapt out to it from a plaza on the levee, and a viewing platform encircled the station. Later I read that it’s part of a regional flood-control system. Nearby, an old powerhouse was being converted into a science museum. It has an art-deco flair; it should make a good one.
A little repacking and I was ready for an evening ride. I continued atop the levee on the southeast side of the river. It gave good views of the river on one side and the town on the other. Small cabin cruisers were gathered in midstream, perhaps having a party. Gracious old trees shaded the river, dancing in the sunset wind.
I had an early breakfast on Saturday and rolled the bike out of my ground-floor room. It was windy and cold, but the rising sun promised better. I rode across the little truss bridge to Discovery Park. Another bike trail followed the riverbank, then took me east into pretty woods. Now and then I met joggers, chatting strollers, dog-walkers and other bikers.
Eventually I got to I-80. A maze of bike trails underneath the freeway so confused me that I had to make three passes to find the bicycle bridge back over the river. It was another steel truss, converted from a railroad bridge. Beyond were a few lethargic businesses, many “Available” signs, and open fields bearing the rectangular footprints of ghost-buildings. Empty light-rail trains glided along a freshly-paved arterial, ready to carry commuters to the new jobs that seemed to be envisioned here. I was puzzled at the public largess; later, Anna reminded me that Sacramento is the state capitol.
My rear got too sore to continue this pleasure. So I went to the motel, loaded my packs and rode down to Old Sacramento to turn in my bike. The shop held my packs for me while I visited the Railroad Museum. I was expecting a room or two with some glass cases of relics; but this museum had locomotives and rail cars–lots of them. Sadly, I only had time to skim it. Retired Amtrak workers were giving talks and explaining the exhibits; they were fascinating.
Tardily, much credit is now given to Chinese laborers who did much of the work of building the first transcontinental railroad (which ended in Sacramento). Chinese immigrants came to California to join the 1849 gold rush. But a discriminatory tax on foreign miners drove them out of the gold fields. They were then recruited for the railroad project. One Chinese team laid ten miles of track in a day. Today, using automated equipment, the standard is one mile a day.
I looked into an unusual steam engine with the cab at the front instead of the back. A guide explained that Southern Pacific built 140 such engines. They burned bunker oil; the tender car had an oil heater that used steam from the engine to make the oil fluid enough to pump into the firebox. (Now that I think about it, there seems to be a Catch 22 here.) Only one accident was made worse by the cab-forward design. An engine trying to couple with a flatcar approached it too fast. The impact caused the flatcar to fly up into the air, hitting the cab and killing the men. The crash pushed a shift lever in the cab into reverse. The unmanned engine ran backward for several miles, dragging the flatcar, before it could be switched to a siding and derailed.
I rode the Capitol Corridor train to Emeryville, where Anna and Brian picked me up. We went to The Trappist for beers. I had one from nearby Fort Bragg’s North Coast Brewery flavored with coriander and orange peel, very tasty. We had dinner at Miss Ollie’s, a Caribbean restaurant. Surprisingly, curry was on the menu. We tried some; it was much like Asian curry.
Anna and I visited the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland. It’s a coffee shop that is also a cat adoption agency. A lady who volunteers to help socialize abandoned cats talked to us. Peacock feathers are essential to this operation, she explained, as she teased a pale gray cat into standing on his hind legs to grab a feather’s tip. They buy them in quantity online.
The cats are in a double-doored visiting and play room which one must sanitize one’s hands to enter. The hope is that bonding will occur. Of course the cats control what really happens. A few were playful, the rest annoyed, in hiding or sleeping in cat-habitats (climbing towers with cave-like nests at the top). I didn’t make any animal friends. Later, Pat guessed that this was because the cats sensed that I wasn’t really interested in adopting them.
I had better luck back at Anna’s house. MacKenzie, the least feral of Anna and Brian’s three cats, climbed into my lap. Anna handed me a somewhat tattered blanket, used as lap-armor by anyone who’s receiving cat-love. I pulled it between the cat and me, and she was fine with it. MacKenzie and I had a good time petting MacKenzie, until she stretched a forepaw up my right shoulder in ecstasy and started unraveling my shirt with her claws.
Pat arrived in time to hear Brian practice a presentation that he’s preparing for his office; it’s about Italian architect Paulo Soleri. His ideas about resource conservation, “elegant frugality,” miniaturization and urban design as a means of raising human consciousness sound almost mainstream today. In the 1950s he must have seemed like a screaming radical. He advocated “Archology,” a portmanteau of architecture and ecology; his ideal was a self-contained city housed in a single, multi-storied structure.
Soleri and his students began to build Arcosanti, a community in the desert north of Phoenix, Arizona; Brian lived and worked there for a year before he began studying architecture. Soleri has passed away; but his followers continue the project, tho with some modifications he would not have approved of, such as adding solar cells. I wondered whether Soleri had worked out how such a city would be economically viable, or considered the changes in governance that would be required to compel this way of life. Anna thought Soleri concentrated on city designs and didn’t worry much about these issues.
We had dinner with Anna and Brian at Cafe Gratitude, a vegetarian restaurant in Berkeley. Then we said good-bye and headed north to Vallejo, homeward bound.
I don’t remember in which town the following incident occurred. I was peacefully eating prefabricated eggs in the breakfast room of a California motel. A man at a nearby table asked a Latino waitress, “Are there any big communities of negroes around here?”
He was husky, balding, wearing shorts, a T-shirt and heavy-rimmed glasses. And white, of course. She didn’t answer. “Are there any big communities of negroes around here?” He said more loudly.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“Good. I can’t stand them. They’re all that’s left in Los Angeles now.”
“You’re a jerk,” I wanted to say, but didn’t, because I’m a coward. The room got suddenly quiet. I wondered how I could honor my black friends without getting beaten up. I wondered if this is how fascism gets started.
It went on being quiet. After a minute he said something innocuous about the weather, and people started talking again.
We paused Monday morning at an Apple store in Santa Rosa to get help with our new iPhones. Pat’s phone worked okay; but when I tried to call her I always got my own voicemail. I thought we’d messed up Pat’s iCloud security somehow. But a young woman with a nose-stud quickly determined that my contact for Pat had my phone number instead of hers. How did it get that way? Never mind that! These computers–so troublesome.
We followed twisty CA-128 northwest thru a brief, pounding shower into Navarro River Redwoods State Park. The pillar-like trees were pretty, but we didn’t find any trails. We stopped to admire the groves and wildflowers, and went on to the coast. At Navarro Point Preserve we explored a cliff-top meadow of wildflowers, including purple irises. The sea foamed around the jagged rocks below.
Dinner was in Fort Bragg at Silver’s At The Wharf, under a bridge on a tiny river-mouth harbor. A sign on the stairs warned of an unfriendly cat; happily, we didn’t meet him. Pat commanded a large crab Louie salad; I had fish tacos, very tasty.
Breakfast was at Cafe One, an excellent organic restaurant disguised as a plain-Jane diner. I had aloha waffles drowned in whipped cream and pineapple, with turkey sausage on the side. Pat had a vegetarian omelet. She says it was good, with lots of mushrooms.
We stopped in Humboldt Redwoods State Park for a picnic and a long walk in the beautiful redwood forest. A carpet of ferns and redwood sorrel (looks like clover) spread out under the massive pillars of the trees. The forest was so immaculate that it looked like a garden. Pat was able to go deep into the forest’s recesses by walking on a series of huge fallen tree trunks. “The forest kind of reminded me of a huge cathedral,” she says. “It was large and quiet, and a presence was there.”
In Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park we had a more challenging hike up a stream valley. Too bad the rhododendrons had almost finished blooming; they were everywhere.
We arrived in Crescent City in time for a sunset view dinner in the Grotto Restaurant. I had wasabi-glazed salmon; Pat scored another crab Louie. The blonde waitress had a deep, somewhat gravelly voice like Lauren Bacall with a touch of Janis Joplin. The place closed at 9 PM, and we were the last to leave.
We tarried in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, east of Crescent City at the start of our inland climb. We toured Stout Memorial Grove, and scrambled down to a gravel bar on the Smith River for a picnic before driving on. As we ascended inland, we drove thru another rainstorm–as if there were a belt of rain between the shore and the higher, warmer inland all along the coast, tho it isn’t always so.
We’d hoped to stop at historic Wolf Creek Inn for an early supper; but it’s closed for repairs. We settled for an innocuous Applebee’s Restaurant in Roseburg, and drove on north to Eugene.
We returned to the Glenwood for omelets. Pat wanted a better pack for carrying her camera and equipment. So we went to a small REI store on the west side of town, and she found an Osprey pack that seems to be very flexible.
She wanted to test it right away; so we made a side trip to Silver Falls State Park in northern Oregon. We hiked in the east end of the canyon, going into the cave behind North Falls and enjoying the wildflowers. We didn’t leave until early evening. We paid for our indulgence with a long drive home to Seattle, pulling in near midnight. It was worth it!
On this trip we listened to a good audiobook; “Call The Midwife” by Jennifer Worth. It’s an autobiographical account of a midwife’s experiences in post-war London. I see that PBS filmed a series based on the book.
Click the link above. Then click the icon that looks like a computer in the top right corner to start the slide show. I took most of my pictures with an iPhone 6.