On the Road to California Again

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Humboldt Bay at Sunset

 

Last week didn’t turn out quite as expected, especially for my dad. He fell and broke his leg above the knee. It was a bad break, requiring surgery and an extended stay in a care home after the hospital. He has survived heart surgery and a broken hip in recent years, and he will survive this, but for a person one month shy of 95, this is not good. My brother rushed over from his mountaintop home near Yosemite while I hit the road from Oregon. I didn’t know how long I would be gone or how well Dad would recover, but when these things happen, you do the best you can to tie up loose ends and go.

Winter lasting forever up here, the Siskyous were still loaded with snow, so I took the coast route down. After nine days, I returned up I-5. It’s an all-too-familiar 1,400-mile round trip commute. But I took pictures of some things I thought it would be fun to share here.

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This homemade camper at a coastal rest stop caught my fancy.

 

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I saw the peanut mobile way back near San Jose and was amazed when it pulled up at the Black Bear restaurant in Willows where I stopped for lunch.

 

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Dinner on my last night on the road was big enough for three dinners.
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Poor George’s in Yreka, where I had the massive pancakes, ham and eggs, is an old-time diner.

 

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I don’t do a lot of selfies but here I am on the coast highway.

Dad seeming relatively stable, I came home to get back to work, Annie, and taking care of my own house, but I will be going back soon, I’m sure. It’s not easy having your heart torn between two states. Meanwhile, please keep my father, Ed Fagalde, in your prayers.

 

 

All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

 

From Jesus to Weed: signs point the way

img_20161121_1608453881I’ve been driving back and forth from the Oregon Coast to San Jose, California for 20 years. My late husband and I left “Silicon Valley” in 1996 for a better life in a small town by the beach. It is a better life. But the family is still back in California, so several times a year I hit the road. Unless it’s snowing in the mountains, I take I-5.

When you drive the same route many time, you notice the little changes. Also, your mind wanders, especially when you’re sick of the CDs you brought and the radio offers nothing but talk shows and evangelical preachers.

Today I’d like to share some of the signs I saw along the road during my September and November trips:

Politics: There used to be a lot of anti-Obama signs. They’re all gone, no point now that his term is about to end. As I traveled through San Joaquin Valley farm country for Thanksgiving, the signs said, “Make America Great Again” or simply “Trump.” Post-election, one sign had an addendum: “Thank you.”

Also in farm country: “Pray for water.” California has gotten some rain lately but not nearly enough.

“Guided goose hunt. Call now.”

Near Delevan: “The gift of God is Jesus Christ our Lord”

Mt. Shasta: More than a peak experience.”

For Rolling Hills Casino, located in Corning, The Olive City: “Eat! 3 restaurants.” “Tip Top Pit Stop”

Approaching the town of Weed: “Weed like to welcome you.” Not a typo.

Five miles south of Yreka, there’s a metal-sculpture cow, now with a calf. For Christmas, someone usually drapes a garland around the cow’s neck.

The State of Jefferson sign. At one time, folks in southern Oregon and northern California were planning to create their own state. Considering how things have been going lately, they’re considering it again.

In a pasture just south of the Oregon-California border, black-faced sheep gather around a big white cross and a hand-painted sign that says, “Forgive them.” I wonder who and for what?

The road goes up and up, signs marking the altitude in 500-foot increments to the peak of 4,310 at Siskyou Pass. Other signs tell drivers where to chain up or take off snow chains. Hope I never have to. I have chains, but I have no clue how to put them on.

Northbound just before the Oregon border: “Puzzled? God has answers.” And just past it, a giant liquor store sign.

Also approaching the border, a green and yellow billboard: Need Weed? Take Canyonville exit. Ah, we’re back in Oregon.

Honk the horn at the Welcome to Oregon sign and watch the milepost numbers start fresh with Number 1.

Save

Maybe we should change I-5 to "Dry-5"

Weed after the fire, Mt. Shasta in the background

View of Lake Shasta from the rest stop–no water

As I sit here on the Oregon coast with rain looming in the weather forecast, it’s hard to believe that I was in San Jose a little over a week ago, that the sun was shining every day and forecasts of rain were met with laughs because actual rain was so unlikely.

I spent 28 days back home helping my father, who broke his hip in late August. Dad, who is amazingly resilient, is healing well. Now we’re back to comparing weather over the phone. Those 700 miles make a big difference.

Me: It’s cold. I had to light up the pellet stove and turn on my electric blanket.
Dad: It’s hot! 91 degrees right now outside, and about 85 in the house. I’ve got all the fans going.
Me: They’re predicting rain here.
Dad: Hah. We don’t know what we’re going to do if we don’t get some water pretty soon. Send some down here.
Me: I’m trying, I’m trying. I keep telling the rain to go south.

Most of my trip between San Jose and South Beach takes place on Interstate 5. It’s a nice wide road with lots of rest stops and plenty of places to eat, sleep or shop. It’s also loaded with trucks and RVs.  I keep awake by playing “dodge-truck,” passing the slow-moving 18-wheelers, muttering when they try to pass each other and block all the lanes.

Traveling I-5 in the fall, it’s usually hot. But this year, the heat and the drought have had dramatic effects. Fire is a big problem. Watching the news, it seems as if half the state is burning. While I was in San Jose, one of those fires destroyed a large section of Weed. This town of 3,000 at the foot of Mt. Shasta is a place where we have often stopped on our trips.We have stayed in its motels, eaten in its restaurants and walked its streets. The news reports were awful. Homes, schools, and churches destroyed. Was anything left? I had to see. I also had to see Mt. Shasta, where it was reported a glacier at the top was melting, causing a giant mudslide.

As I headed north last week, tearful from saying goodbye to my father, the reporter in me was anxious to see what had happened while I was gone. Most of the way, nothing had changed. The hills and fields were brown. The cows still grazed and dozed in the sun. The road was still lined with trucks. It was still hot. Lake Shasta was still nearly empty, vast areas of exposed dirt between the road and the water.

Then I rounded a bend after Dunsmuir and there was Mt. Shasta. When I drove south in early September, the mountain was brown, except for a small area of white on the very top. Now it looked like someone had taken a giant knife and spread that white thinly down the sides of the mountain, almost to the base. It had melted like frosting on a cake left in the sun.

Then came Weed. I expected to see exits closed and signs covered, but no. I exited and found myself passing the usual restaurants, motels and businesses. Where was the fire? I drove a few miles north before I came upon charred hills and police cars blocking roads leading into the hills. Only residents were being allowed in. About two weeks after the fire, all I could see of what was left was . . . nothing where a whole neighborhood used to be. The ruins had been cleared away. What happened was tragic, 157 homes were destroyed, along with numerous commercial properties, including two churches, the library and part of the lumber mill, but most of Weed was still standing, still in business. They will rebuild. Meanwhile, I needed to drive on.

I spent the night in Yreka, the next town up from Weed, exactly halfway on my San Jose-South Beach run. Room 30 at the Best Western Miner’s Inn, dinner at the Purple Plum, a walk through the old gold rush town, some Internet, some TV, some sleep, and back on the road toward home.

Once I crossed into Oregon, the landscape turned green and clouds dotted the sky. Go south, I said, go south.

I stands for . . . I-5

Photo courtesy Photobucket.com (Can’t shoot when I’m driving!)

I stands for I-5, the interstate highway that stretches between the California-Mexico border to the Washington-Canada border. It’s the road that seems to connect everything for western Oregonians heading for Portland, Corvallis or Eugene, and for me, it’s the road home to San Jose.

We don’t have a freeway here on the Oregon Coast. We have Highway 101, maximum speed 55, mostly one in lane in each direction with lots of curves along the ocean and through the redwoods. You can get to San Jose that way, but I-5 is more efficient. The trick is getting to it. From anyplace on the coast, it takes at least an hour of windy roads over the coast range to finally get to the open farmland of the Willamette Valley and the freeway. I have driven it in sun, snow, rain and fog, and I’m always glad to finally enter I-5 Suddenly I can drive fast, with multiple lanes to pass the many trucks, Rvs and slow-movers. I can just hear my car saying, “Hooray!”

I-5 is designed for long drives. It has rest stops every so often where one can use the restrooms, walk the dog, and eat a picnic lunch. Sleeping is also good. At many of the stops, people sit near the bathrooms holding signs asking for money. Some play guitar. many have dogs with them. They claim to be homeless, out of gas, in a jam. I never know whether or not it’s true.

The freeway also offers lots of billboards and informational signs that tell us how far it is to the next cities and what restaurants, gas stations and special attractions can be reached off the next numbered exit. The road is so straight most of the way that we need something to keep us awake. Radio stations in the rural areas tend toward Christian and right-wing talk shows. One could listen to an entire audio book–or write one–while cruising I-5.

It’s 700 miles from South Beach to San Jose. I spend most of those miles on I-5. I know the landmarks well: the Apple Peddler restaurant in Sutherland; the wild animal park in Winston; the casino and antique stores in Canyonville; the great Best Western in Roseburg; the Heaven on Earth restaurant; the truck stop with the porn theater; the rest stop at Rogue River; the series of mountain passes leading to Siskyou Pass, elevation 4310; the Welcome to California sign with its yellow poppy on a blue background; the agricultural inspection station; Yreka;Weed; Mt. Shasta; Lake Shasta; Redding; Corning; Willows where I eat at the Black Bear restaurant; Sacramento, where the traffic clogs up; Stockton, and Tracy, where I exit to 205 to 580 to 680 to 280 to Dad’s house in San Jose, arriving exhausted from fighting the Bay Area traffic.

It’s a long drive, which I have made approximately 40 times, mostly alone, since we moved to Oregon almost 18 years ago. That first trip with the rental truck that kept breaking down was something to remember. It occupies a whole chapter of my book Shoes Full of Sand. And when I went back the first time to visit, I brought so much stuff, my mother thought I was leaving my husband. I don’t pack light.

These days, I go back two or three times a year. I fly sometimes, but it takes so long to get to the Portland Airport that driving seems more efficient, and it’s definitely more fun. Sometimes I think I actually live on I-5. When I drag my suitcase into my room at the Best Western in Yreka, which is exactly halfway, I often feel that I am finally home.

I stands for I-5.

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge, and I is for I-5. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:
 
A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon
G Unleashed in Oregon
H Childless by Marriage
I Unleashed in Oregon
J Writer Aid
K Unleashed in Oregon
L Unleashed in Oregon
M Unleashed in Oregon
N Childless by Marriage
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
W Writer Aid
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Unleashed in Oregon

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Visit Writer Aid tomorrow to find out what J stands for.

Tempted by all that Darned Sunshine

I just returned to Oregon after nearly a month in San Jose with my father. Dad is suffering from heart problems and will be having surgery in early December. Meanwhile he needed help, so I ditched everything here and hurried down I-5 to the place where I grew up.

Once I was there, I experienced this weird Dorothy-waking-up-from-the-dream-of-Oz feeling. I was home. The sun was shining. Every day. Every day for 28 days. Here, if the sun comes out, we rush outside to look at it because it’s such a fickle visitor. There, it’s the rain that’s a rare guest. It clouded over briefly a couple times, but cleared up without dropping any moisture.

I love the sun. I spent a lot of time sprawled on the old chairs in the patio soaking it up. Dad’s yard is like a nature preserve, full of shrubs and fruit trees, with three resident squirrels as big as your average cat, blue jays, mockingbirds, sparrows, crows, hummingbirds, and the biggest bumblebees I’ve ever seen. It’s nice back there, and it’s nice being warm. I barely noticed the constant roar of the nearby 280 freeway.

I slept soundly in my childhood room, and I enjoyed being close to the scenes of so many memories. It was also great being near my family, especially my father. I liked the fact that every store or business a body could think of was within a few miles, and I always had four reception bars on my cell phone. That first week, I thought: This is crazy. I should move back home. Now that Fred is gone, why am I staying in Oregon? I can’t afford to live in the Bay Area, where everything costs about three times what it costs here, but I’d have a lot more chance of finding a job there than I would here. I could rejoin my old writing and music groups. It would be great.

Over the weeks that followed, the feeling faded. Even perpetual sunshine gets old. Folks there are always worried about not having enough water because it rarely rains. Everything is crowded, and the traffic is unbearable. A week ago today, I took Dad to San Francisco to meet the surgeons who will be doing his procedure. I don’t like to drive in big cities, and I definitely don’t like to drive in the dark. The directions were good, and I made it successfully to the parking garage next to the hospital. But we got out at 5:30, the height of the evening commute. Stop and go all the way. Red brake lights in front of me, white headlights to the left, eight to ten lanes across. Gripping the steering wheel, afraid every minute of crashing and dying. After a couple hours of that, I told my father, “If anybody asks why your daughter moved to Oregon, this is why.” We agreed that no job is worth fighting that kind of traffic every day.

No, I live here. Right now, it’s raining. Out my window, the big Sitka spruce waves in a gentle wind. My dog Annie is asleep on her chair. And I’m writing in my bathrobe. This is home.

They say you can’t go home again. Well, you can, but it’s never the same, and you might not want to stay there.