We're flying down California on 299 with haze and the dust lifting and hovering like slow clouds of locusts. I wish Carole would stay off of the little speed clickers and divest but you can't have everything. We're in farm country and the Ford Fiesta reads 96 degrees Farenheit.
Steph misses her flight and I meet her friend Carole in the San Fran airport and we just melt onto the floor and pour out our emotional guts till Steph arrives. We pick up the rental, I spot a red Camaro rental with the window down and Steph and I can't resist hopping in for the photo op. Carole starts driving and we get pulled over almost immediately. Carole explains she's swerving all over because we're not sure where we're going and we're looking for a parking lot to sleep in. As Steph and I conclude all is lost the nice young man offers to escort us to a Safeway grocery where we sleep in the car.
Starbucks, bagels, road. We find a small trail and before the car's come to a complete stop Carole has vanished into the woods in total wonder of being in nature. So we climb the small mountain, continue, hit up a beach, and continue. That's where it get interesting. We'd seen the guy walking out of the beach lot but now he was trekking with his little sleeping bag bopping on his back and we asked if he wanted a ride. He wasn't thumbing for one but his first question after, "Yeah, that'd be great" is, "Do you guys smoke weed?" It was all he'd had to offer. I'd lov e to go into detail but it there's too much for me to keep you. He's 24 and basically walked out of his grandpa's house in Ohio three weeks ago and has been hitchhiking and walking ever since. After a few hours we enter the Redwoods National Forest and set up camp.
*Sidenote, the current situation is:
Steph: Wow, my armpit is mad itchy.
Me: How's it look?
Steph: It's all red, but i've been itching it.
Carole (takes her eyes off the road): Whoa, it is red.
(Steph lifts her arm so it is directly in line with the A/C)
Wake up, walk to the river, drive to get coffee from a strange man in town next to the "Two Tuna Can Grocery" as we named it, drive to Albee Creek to go hiking. The three amigos get distracted at the river, I wander ahead, wait, wander back, can't find them, pick up hardwood sticks and sharpen the ends (just in case), and go wait at the campground we parked at and call my mom. I read a sign that says hiking alone is bad and mountain lions can get you. I'd begun to suspect Gary had kidnapped and dismembered my friends when they appeared around the corner. We drove back made another fire and cooked hot dogs for dinner. Then things got really interesting. Steph had just come from Seattle to see a friend of hers and we were talking about them and I suggested we ought to drive up there and see them. You know, as long as we're in the neighborhood. The plan is adapted and Isiah and Alex decided to drive down and meet us further north at another California park. At this point we decide we need a shower. I hadn't showered since New Zealand and we discovered too late the camp showers are quarter coin operated. We only had enough for ten minutes between the three of us and we set aside .50 for Gary. So Steph and I opt for showering together and surprised ourselves by how long five minutes between two people can be.
Wake up: 5:35AM, slow packers get us out of there by 6:20AM and I'm finally driving. Shortly before we meet up with the guys Gary abruptly asks that we let him off and we suspect he may not want to come into contact with Isiah who wasn't happy we'd picked Gary up. Anyway, we met at a gas station, continued to Prairie Creek State Park, pitched our tented, were caught by Ranger Rick's wife for not paying to register the site, amended it, and went on a hunt for firewood. We failed. Isiah stepped in and made that fire and cooked our pre-prepared grilled cheese (we waited a while for them to retrieve firewood) and Carole, Alex and I drove around the little prairie to where the mighty elk were wandering in and around the road for a photo op. The light was beautiful and Carole was eventually coaxed out of the car for a photo near them. She did voice her fears they might charge the car and bite her if she opened her window. She's been the motherly voice of reason on this trip. We fell asleep around the fire and I woke up to Isiah shaking Alex, machete in hand, telling him an animal was eating our chips and he needed back up. It didn't sound large so I asked if he'd put the rest of our logs on the fire and went back to sleep for about an hour when the fire went out and I spent the next six hours in and out of consciousness sleeping in the coldest conditions I've ever been in. Probably around 35F. Not one of the smartest nights spent outside.
Wake up, hop to the car in our sleeping bags and sit with the heater on full until the ice melts off of the window. Alex, Carole, Steph and I drive to the nearest town for coffee and a bagel. When we got back we found the rare birds the ranger warned us not to leave food out for fighting over a bag of chips left out. Since Isiah was still sleeping Alex made a little trail towards his tent which they quickly devoured so I went out and laid a few out on his sleeping bag but just before they reconvened to go in he woke up and killed our morning entertainment. It took ages but after some reading and packing we headed out. Dream come true: Alex let me drive his '92 Jeep Wrangler the whole way to the beach. All 4 dirt mountain road miles of it. When we got to the beach Isiah hopped on the back and held onto the tire (Isiah's 6'5 and black as night) while I dodged the potholes. Except for this one… a 15x6' puddle. GOLD. Carole said the wave was "At least nine feet high!" And we were all wet and thrilled to death. We fell asleep on the beach for a couple of hours and said goodbye to the boys before we all pulled out. Unfortunately, just at the ranger station Alex's Jeep sputtered and promptly croaked. After several hours we determined AAA is the most useless roadside assistance company known to man, we were truly screwed that far inland, and the ranger in his hut didn't say jack to us the whole time the guys revved the engine, crawled under it, and lunged for water when it caught fire. Us women all realized our ex-boyfriends would all be excellent candidates to call for fixing the problem which was unfortunate since they were ex-boyfriends. Steph's ex Vinny was actually heaps of help.
While us ladies had our own rental car, Alex had to be back by the next morning for work in Seattle and it was almost 6 before we decided to go to town and get a screw driver to get the distributor cap off and let it air out. Alex and I bought cigars to smoke but Steph was keen as to get out so we said goodbye for real this time and headed for Redding. We had to make it to church by 10PM for the worship service. Half an hour later the Jeep had dried out enough and were on their way. I drove the next four hours through the mountains, we stopped in Bigfoot town for gas, met a cute hound dog named Tina in the bed of a fellow gas customer's truck, narrowly avoided hitting deer, and made it in time for the service.
We know Jesus took us as we were and frankly, we were too tired to care about our hole-ridden, stained, and dusty pants, smell, and windblown hair. To sum up our appearance Steph dubbed us, "crusty".
Eventually the lack of sleep caught up to us and we had almost crawled into our sleeping bags by the dumpsters in Bethel's parking lot when the security guard kicked us out. We slept on the sidewalk outside what appeared to be a Catholic old people's home. It was the best we'd slept in days.
Up at 5:45AM, found Starbucks and stayed till 9 when I begged we stop at Taco Bell for a bean burrito (no food in the world is like them) and we went back to church for a "healing service" which weirded us all out a little and we left early. Around noon we headed out to Redding for lunch at Lim's Cafe which is really an American diner that also serves Chinese food and has red promotional Chinese beer lanterns hanging against the grease stained Chinese wallpaper. We got grilled cheese, a BLT and a burger. The strangest store on earth was next door harboring rifles, revolvers, pistols, saddles, gold jewelry in cases, guitars, and old Native American artifacts. We split. We've been on the road to San Fran ever since and are going to spend the night in the airport.
A week ago right now I was in a hot tub on the coast of Whangamata after riding on the back of a crotch rocket around the Coromandel Peninsula all day. Now I'm in a car driving down California after a week of camping; sleeping on the cement and in cars; picking up Gary the sad hitchhiker, and laughing a lot. I'm a little depressed already at the thought of going back to normal life and definitely miss New Zealand. *written 12 May
*That night we found a Barnes & Noble, I rushed in utterly delighted and bought Chris Matthews' Hardball Handbook, we drove to the airport and found a convenient spot and slept til 4:30AM when we checked our bags ($25 to check a bag! Way to be lame America). I met a handsome Spanish man while waiting at security but had to scram since we barely caught our flight. Our old roommate picked us up, I showered at Steph's and she dropped me off at my family's mother's day dinner for my grandma and I got to surprise everyone. Except my mom, the one person I wanted to surprise, because my dear, sweet little brother tattled like a weasel. We definitely made a stop at Target for new underwear on the way home. That's it. The anticlimactic end.
Well... This morning I hopped in my car with my dog and after my dad said, "You can go for a little ride anyway down the driveway." But I was feeling adventurous so I went around the block (4 miles around) and then down into Lakeville where I saw a guy knew in 8th grade walking shirtless and shoeless with his mom. It was a little weird being back.
I'd left with no ID, registration, title, or (as I discovered when I got home) any license plates. The adventure continues :)