Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Trip Report

Well, I headed out of here Sunday morning about 10am. Honestly, I was driving down the freeway and I STILL wasn't sure where I wanted to go. I realized that was kind of a nice problem to have, until the freeway interchange came up and I had to make up my mind! I'd been torn between going back to the coast, and driving up the Central Valley to somewhere like Lake Oroville. Well, seeing as how I'd been to the coast many times, and can't remember the last time I'd been to the lake... I decided to drive for the lake. So, I headed off up Hwy70/99 toward Marysville.

About 25 miles north of Sacramento I passed through the little town of East Nicolas. It looked like something out of the past. I stopped at the market, and sure enough, there was a little old lady behind the counter, talking to Sunday afternoon patrons like they were longtime friends. A few of them obviously were.

I continued on, through Marysville, on up Hwy70 to Oroville, where I stopped at a Wal-Mart and bought a little portable radio. It's true, Wal-Mart IS everywhere. Then I drove on up to the lake in search of someplace to camp. I stopped at the visitor center, talked to the little old lady volunteer for a moment, then climbed the three flights of stairs to the top of the observation tower. I looked around and saw that the lake, nestled in the Sierra foothills, was pretty. The hillsides were very green and lush. It all looked quite nice.

Then I got depressed. Instead of someplace new, some environment that I'd never explored before, I found the area to look depressingly similar to Folsom Lake, just a few miles from home.
This just wouldn't do.

So, at 3:30pm, I pulled out my map and decided to plot a quick course across the Sacramento Valley to the coast. I quickly discovered there IS no fast way across the valley. You can fly north and south on I-5 and Hwy99, but the east-west routes are all small, one lane highways. So, off I went. (Actually, Hwy162 is long, straight, and on Sunday afternoon, there is NO ONE on the road, so I was able to drive about 80mph without seeing hardly another car. But you didn't hear me say that.)

Now, I was shooting for the coast, but long about 6:30, I was getting pooped, and the sun was beginning to get low, so as I went around Clear Lake (the largest natural lake ALL inside California by the way) I decided I'd had enough driving for one day. I'd seen some lovely places, some neat things, but I was done driving. So I pulled into the Rainbow Lodge, advertising rooms for $55 a night. Not bad for a motel directly across the street from the lake in a resort town. I asked the lady at the counter if cash was OK, and her eyes kinda lit up. She leaned over, looked at the "$55" sign outside, and said, "Well, if you're gonna pay cash, I won't charge you any sales tax or room surcharge, how's that?" Uhm... ok by me! So I wandered around and took some photos of Clear Lake, then got some dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

Next morning I was up and out by about 8:30, headed for the coast. The weather was just stunningly gorgeous. Since I was north of Napa, it made no sense to go that far south to catch Hwy29 and the Hwy116 to the coast, which I normally do from the Sacramento area. The coast I wanted to get to was almost directly due west of Lakeport. So, I decided to catch the mule-track-like Stewarts Point/Skaggs Spring Road out of Healdsburg and drive the winding 35 miles (often, literally, just wide enough for one car) to the coast. Don't get me wrong, it's a gorgeous drive, through dense forest and deep woods, it's just long and slow and winding. But it's worth it, because the end is literally right at Hwy1, and the coast. I stopped at the Stewarts Point Store for some ice before heading down to the rocks at Salt Point.

The day was just beautiful. Sea lions, Cormorants, tide pools, ocean spray... what can I say? It's the ocean, it called to me, and it didn't disappoint.

I was going to stay a night and camp at the park, but at this point, I'd done what I set out to do. My personal batteries were recharged, and I had a sunburned face. I decided to drive on home. No trip to the Sonoma Coast area is complete, for me, without a stop at Jenner, and the overlook of the Russian River outlet to the Pacific Ocean. It amazed me how much the sand shifts each year, and so many sealions!

I'll need to do this again soon, but next time I'm gonna take at least one of the kids with me. This is all nice to enjoy, but it's always so much better sharing it with someone you love.

I think I've been trying to be like my father was, and it's just not working. He enjoyed the solitude of camping alone. He would camp for several weeks in the Sierra's by himself. I've tried the last few years to camp alone, I guess trying to feel grown up like my dad, and I've come to the honest conclusion that camping alone is boring. I don't see the point in it anymore, at least for right now. I do enjoy short, overnight trips. This last trip was a blast. Seeing new things is always fun, and sometimes I do just need some time alone. But... I think it's always more fun to share it with someone.

Anyway... back to work tomorrow!

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