California Dreaming

On the California border, a booth suddenly appeared. I pondered whether there was a toll as I rolled up. The booth operator inquired if I had any fruit. “Yes, a banana and some peaches,” was my reply. ” Where are the peaches from?,” he wanted to know. “From Oregon,” I said without hesitation. Okay, good to go then! Hmmmm…I drove on until I found the turn off for the mineral springs I had a date with. I could already see the pinnacle of Mount Shasta amongst clouds. I choose a right hand turn without being able to verify the road and found myself twisting around hairpin turns until finally I realized this was the wrong way and tumbled back down the hill as best I could without going off the side! When I turned back on to the main road, there were signs directly in front of me telling me I was there at the springs! I did some creative parking and wandered too far looking for the office, before I finally found it. I needed detailed instructions on how this all worked. When do I wear the sarong they gave me? In the sauna? Outside? Sauna was clothing optional, hall area you needed to cover up, outside clothing free as well, if you liked. I took a couple trips between the sauna and cold stream outside before my bathtub was ready, filled with mineral water, which had a vague sulphur smell and saline feel. I took a sunbath and chatted with Claire from Portland for a while.  Behind an angel statue, I spotted a small white brick that had my brother’s name written backwards like this, “RETEP.” Signs are everywhere, if you are open and alert.

I felt rather refreshed as I heard off to Weed. I had heard on the radio, back in Oregon, that there had been a devastating fire there, but the only damage I noticed was on the blackened hills above the town. A friend had told me you had to ask permission from the mountain to go there. I asked a number of times but Mount Shasta felt like testing me. It started raining as I headed into the park. I saw a covey of patridges or quail on the side of the road, that would scurry when I drove but stop when I stopped. I found the rustic campsite and commenced erecting my tent. The drizzle turned serious. I laughed and said out loud, “Really?!” It kept coming down as I kept at my task. Afterwards I drove the ten miles up to the highest reachable point by car. Gusts of winds brought snowflakes and fog obscured the peak. A woman got out of her Element and headed up the path. I stayed in my car except for a brief photo session, and felt wimpy. That night, I slept in my car. At one point, I woke up and sat up to notice some flickering lights outside. Could have been a flashlight or…who knows! The stars up in the heavens were bright and plentiful. Breathtaking!

Mount Shasta the next day
Mount Shasta the next day

The next morning, I stopped on the highway onramp to check directions, well beyond where a hitchhiker was putting on a hoodie someone just gave him. The day before on two occasions, I had wanted to give rides but didn’t. I was wrapped up in my directions, when a rap on the window confirmed the hitchhiker had spotted me. I decided to allow him to ride with me (sorry Mom!) and he became my companion for the next four hours. Tim was a window installer heading to Southern California. He had a German background and was very confident in his soccer skills. The hours flew by and in no time we were in traffic for the Bay Bridge. I tried reaching my friend Lynne and in the meantime headed across town to the Golden Gate Bridge. Traffic was crazy. Horns were sounded. Crazy steep hills were ascended. I had to stop at each intersection and release my handbrake while releasing the clutch. Good times! Lynne had called me by now to instruct me on getting to Golden Gate State Park. She was in a cab with her son not far behind me. In fact, I saw them getting out in my rearview mirror as I drove on to find parking. Tim and I parted ways then and after some time, I found Lynne at the side of the soccer field where Duncan was playing. I met Lynne’s husband Brian and after some post game playground time, we took a bus to a pizza place. There was a mistake in the dinner order, which left some disappointed, but it was nice to chat a bit about how the couple met and catch up since college days. Lynne came back to my car with me and rode with until the entrance to the highway. The traffic lights were red so we had a little time to say goodbye before she exited the car and I, San Francisco.

Lynne & me
Lynne & me

I drove into the night to Salinas. The Campbell’s, in-laws of my cousin Karen, live in a gated community. I called to get the code and Roger was waiting outside the house to carry in my bag. He pointed out honey bees living in their courtyard, which was comforting, since I grew up around bees. I had a very comfortable sleep and left around 9:30 the next morning for Monterey. I always wanted to view the aquarium, because they are known for their sea otter program. I was a tad underwhelmed by the three otters on exhibit, but it was exciting to see two wild otters floating on their backs in the bay and the video about orphaned baby Luna brought me to tears. I bought a grilled veggie sandwich for the road and a frozen yoghurt with lime and hazelnut flavors for just then. Scrumptious!

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I journeyed then to Bakersfield, where I spent some time lost before finding the KOA campground I’d overnight at. On the plus side, there was a pool that I partook of. On the minus, the tent site was really close to the highway. But the temperature stayed nice all night and with ear plugs, I slept fairly soundly.

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