Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Highway 101 (California)

Yesterday we left The Ranch and drove 9 hours up the coast to Humboldt County. This is where Big Dog went to University, became an adult, had adventures, made a documentary, started buying real estate, formed a corporation… In other words, roots spread deep and wide.

The last two summers, we worked here, renovating a 120 year old Victorian house. In between it, I had to travel to Japan for both business and family issues, as well as LA and the Virgin Islands, so in addition to the flights across oceans, there was a good deal of driving up and down the entire state.

I know all the north-south highways in California like the back of my hand now and have also become a damn good co-pilot/cheap gas spotter. Our faithful Tiki Truck, while not the world's biggest gas-guzzler, has, unfortunately, gone through gallons and gallons of Saudi's finest. My little notebook in the glove compartment lists all the cheap gas stops on all major N-S routes. (Todd Road south of Santa Rosa usually offers the best prices at any of their 4 gas stations. Right now, Humboldt gas prices are about 50 cents more than anything in the Bay Area.)

Though Interstate 5 has many attractions (not the least of which is the amazing feedlot in Coalinga which I will have to tell you about some day), my favorite route is the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and Highway 101. From The Ranch, Highway 101 is probably the most direct route, so that was our choice for this trip.

Rolling hills, vineyards, oaks and cattle. That's pretty much the scenery from The Ranch to South Monterey County. Then, the land flattens out into a giant agrarian vista. It's fun to try to guess what's growing out there. Lots of lettuce this time of year. Some tomatoes, beans… and, of course, at Gilroy it's garlic, garlic, garlic. The AIR smells like garlic. They don't call it the Garlic Capital of the World for nothing!

And as you're daydreaming about Steinbeck's Salinas Valley, all too soon you approach the Bay Area. These days, the Bay Area is everything from Santa Rosa in the north to San Jose in the south and it's mostly a blur of fast driving, agitated drivers, agile maneuvering. Every time we make this trip, I am astounded and a bit heartbroken at the development. New lanes keep appearing on the highway, as if somehow putting in another lane will ease the congestion -- they're barely keeping up with the paving of the entire state!

But then, the last strip mall falls behind you and you are back in Rural California. Shopping centers are replaced by rolling hills covered in grapes; pretty little farmhouses take the place of ugly McMansions.

For me, Northern California begins with the first tie-dye village of Hopland, home of Real Goods, the solar people. Hopland is also home of Solar Fest every summer and we keep promising to come back for that (tho we never have, yet.) It gets a bit woodier and it is gorgeous this time of year. The deciduous trees are turning color, giving the ever-greens a nice splash of bling-bling gold.

Willits is "Gateway to the Redwoods" according to the big sign that greets visitors traveling north, or "Heart of Mendocino County" if you are traveling south. They are 2 sides of the same sign that spans Route 101. From here north is my favorite part of 101. There's Richardson's Grove and the Standey-Hickey State Park with its giant redwoods. And you can't forget the roadside attractions, either. Confusion Hill (Is Seeing Believing?), the One Tree House, carved inside a read tree (Believe it or not!), the One Log House, the Drive Thru Tree, the Bigfoot souvenir shop.

You don't see it when traveling north, but if southbound, you can't miss the sign just outside of Laytonville (another tie-dye village) on a wooden shack of a welding shop. A cryptic, but somehow profound, "Don't Forget The Magic." No, I won't, I always say in my heart and groove on the trees.

Route 101 goes through, or by, other tie-dye town as it snakes along with the Eel River. Garberville, Redway… then the Pacific Lumber Company town of Scotia. Everyone who lives there works for The Company, or services those who do.

As the redwoods open up, there are fields and wetlands and green, green pastures where mom and kid cows munch, lounge and frolic. You can't help but believe that California cheese ad about happy cows. These have GOT to be the happiest cows around,

Then, finally Eureka/Arcata which is circled by the tallest redwoods, teensy slivers of sandbars, and breathtaking wetlands

Most of the journey, we ride in silence. Big Dog and I are not a chatty duo. We don't feel the need to bury every bit of silence in conversation, or even music. We'll drive for hours in silence, during which I am lost in thought. I try to remember minute details from my past. I think about why my father died so young. I ponder the universe, questions about the existence of god, new designs for clever tools or just cool clothes, modern-day reliquaries I can make as soon as I get my own studio space.

An example of one thing that I thought about intently, maybe somewhere between Paso Robles and Salinas, was the idea of the "tree" design that mirrors itself in so many different ways in nature. The human artery-vein system. Just like a tree. Fat trunk and branches, diminishing in size to teeny twigs. Rivers -- branching out from the main river to creeks and streams. And I start wondering if we were to "see" our aura, our energy force, it would be more like that -- energy coming out of us, first in wide, thick lines, branching out into wispy lines, sort of like a flash of lightning, except emanating from all around. Or would it be more like a cloud, a blob of light?
There goes that hour.

When we DO talk, we talk intently. It could be about politics, or the state of the world, or about business, but it is rarely about mundane things like "Honey, did you know that Hanna from my department is pregnant and the father is Mr. Leiberman, you know, that doof in accounting?" No, what might happen is we'd start talking about all the cheap motels we've stayed in and why do you think every one is owned and run by Indians? Not American Indians, or Native Americans as we would say today, but India Indians. From the subcontinent. And that would in turn lead to a conversation about an imaginary screenplay, or maybe a cartoon series, about the Curious Couple who notice these things too but then go and investigate, only to find out that there is an Indian Motel Cartel and the Indians all come from the same isolated village in India.

Are you getting tired of reading? This entry has gotten as long as our drive!


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home