Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Road tripping down the west coast

Yesterday I left Seattle at 6 am, the start of a 3-week long road trip through California. I had as my co-pilot a college junior named Alek going to Humboldt for his spring break to visit friends – Craigslist is always a great place to find rideshares! I figured it would be nice to split gas and not be alone for a 10-hour drive, and I was right on both counts.

I was worried about traffic but, unbelievably, there were more cars at 6 am in Seattle than 9 am when we rolled into Portland – we practically didn’t even slow down. The sky was filled with bright clouds pretty much the whole day, with some rain and snow through Oregon. Luckily, the Siskiyous were bare and dry and we flew through them.

Just as we had entered Oregon at 9 am exactly, the clock turned from 1:59 to 2:00 just as we hooted about the “welcome to California” sign. Mount Shasta was socked in by clouds but we could imagine how cool it looked. Here's a haphazard photo of the lake out the back window:

Two hours after crossing the border we were in Redding, which took exactly 2 tanks of gas to reach. I had assumed this would be my first stop of the day. Alek’s friends were coming from the coast for him in Redding, but I couldn’t imagine stopping at 4 pm just 3.5 hours from my Santa Rosa destination. So I dropped Alek at a coffee shop, gassed up, and pushed through. Alek was an excellent road trip companion and even drove for a few hours. The trip was downright pleasant and flew by. Plus he saved me $50 on gas! Here he is with a truck rainbow behind him - this was a random row of very brightly colored semi trucks without trailers.

I called Meagan to let her know I’d be arriving that night and to find out the best route to take. After 10 hours in the car I was on my own, and I’ll drive almost entirely by myself for the next three weeks.

After another stretch on I-5 I turned off onto 505 south - Meagan chose a slightly longer route for me that didn't go through the mountains and I applaud her choice based on the scenery alone. I had been enjoying the verdant scene outside the windows – sheep in green fields throughout Oregon, moss- and lichen-covered trees in the mountains with some snow scattered through the evergreens, tidy rows of new crops and budding trees in California:

I’ve made this trip probably 15 times in my life as a kid, but always in the summer when the land was scorched. It turns out I-5 can be lovely during the right months! But turning onto 505 was even more vibrant. Suddenly I was on a low country road, feeling like part of a pastoral painting.

I haven’t yet shared the nature of this road trip, but my plan is to visit half a dozen farms along the northern California coast, pick 2-3 of them, and volunteer as a WWOOFer for 3-6 month stints starting in September. Next year I’ll be a farmer, or at least a farmer-in-training, and I'm grateful to finally be able to follow a calling I've felt since I first got excited about growing food many years ago.

Being on the 505 and then again on the 37 driving over the Napa-Sonoma Delta made my whole body tingly. This was going to be my home for a year or more and I felt very welcome. I cruised up the 101 belting out Elvis’s greatest hits, marveling at how fast the day had gone, how soon I would see a dear friend, and how ready I was for this trip and the year ahead.

I made it to Santa Rosa in 12 hours and was enveloped in Meagan’s cozy apartment. She made the most amazing broccoli soup with buttered French bread toast, followed up with homemade sugar cookies and a few episodes of 30 Rock. I retired to the guest bedroom a little delirious and very happy.

This morning I woke up several times and had the luxury of going back to sleep each time, finally hauling myself to the couch at 9:30 to drink tea and write a few emails. I made a massage appointment for 4:00 to work the driving kinks out and then headed to Les Scwab.

I had my tires rotated before I left Seattle and the car was pulling to the right on the trip so I figured I needed an alignment. Here’s why I LOVE Les Schwab – rather than make $80 off me on an alignment I didn’t need, they drove my car around, diagnosed the issue, and fixed it by switching my two front tires. It didn’t cost a dime. Now I’m sitting at the East West Restaurant, eating a falafel wrap and drinking hot chai tea. I think after this I'll take a nap... I’m happy to have this day of downtime before I visit my first farm tomorrow morning, which is a family-run farm and small dairy operation in nearby Petaluma.

Mileage: I started the day at 118,023. The Matrix made it 350 miles on the first tank, about 30 miles a gallon. We filled up again at 118,650, only 277 miles on that tank but it was through the mountains. Gas is about $4.35 a gallon here. I ended the day at 118,870 – 847 miles in 12 hours, more than 70 miles per hour! Dang good time if I do say so myself.

Special shout out to my mom and brother and sister-in-law, all of whom bought me treats for the car that more than sustained me (and Alek) through this leg of the trip, with enough bounty to last many more legs.

Next stops after Petaluma are Big Sur and Cambria before spending about 10 days with family and friends in Los Angeles.

California, here I am!


Anonymous said...

yay California!! Way to go Arch!

jrteacherlady said...

Yeah!!! Can't wait to see you this weekend:) I love hearing about your adventure!!!