Onward inland

Little River, CA

We spend two nights in a speck of a town just south of Mendocino, consisting of a small market, a restaurant/inn and a gas station with its residents residing mostly on the side roads off Highway 1. We are on the property of another Tent Space participant. Dave and Melanie are newlyweds who graciously allow us to set up our tent behind their house on a flat plot of ground adorned with giant Redwoods next to an old but refurbished Airstream. She tells us there is a mountain lion in the area, not to be surprised if we hear it crying out in the night. They both have an aging hippie feel to them, though only vaguely so. Dave has several motorcycles including one exactly like Mark’s.  Melanie was co-owner until recently of the only woman-owned butcher shop in San Francisco. Over dinner together we swap travel stories, Dave’s gesticulating hands coming to rest on his bride’s arm, back, any part of her within reach, fluttering homing pigeons touching down. She gazes adoringly at him when he speaks, and even when he doesn’t. Mendocino is much as I remember it from my visit with my father a few years ago: charming, quirky and quiet. 

Arcata, CA

We drive north and spend two nights at the house of James, whom Mark met last year. He’s out of town but because he already knows Mark, he has given us the code to a lockbox and told us to make ourselves at home. It’s lovely to sleep on a real mattress (albeit that of a pullout couch) again. We visit the Phillips House museum which today sits atop a small rise in the center of town but used to look out over the bay before the dykes were built, extending the shoreline by several miles. We stop at a brew house on the way back to our accommodation, where Mark has a local IPA and I choose a stout. 

Crescent City, CA

We find a splendid campsite in Florence Keller Park campground. There is hardly anyone here. The sites are large and private, separated by Redwoods and thick foliage. We buy a box of wood and make a fire, the first of our trip. While it never reaches roaring proportions, it does warm us and charm us, at least for a couple of hours. In the middle of the night it begins to rain, hard, and it continues well into the next day. Around midday, hungry and tired of sitting in the tent, we ride down the road to Denny’s in CC where we eat a late breakfast and check the forecast before returning to the campground and walking some of the surrounding trails in the late afternoon drizzle. It is so lush and fertile in these woods that it feels like a rain forest. 

Rain is predicted all along our intended coastal route for the next week. We are rethinking our plans. The tent is wet, not as water- tight as it used to be apparently, and the prospect of camping in the rain for days on end, without even a car to retreat into, is not appealing.

By the next morning, after a second wet night, we decide to head inland to an Airbnb room for two nights. It’s still raining when we leave so I put on the disposable rain poncho I brought with me. We have crossed the border into Oregon and are riding a very winding Hwy 199 when we pass a motorist on the other side of the road who has just crashed their truck into the rocks, the front passenger side all twisted and crumpled.

We turn the bike around and go back, by which point a Cal Trans truck has just pulled up. Two young workers are standing beside the open window of the wrecked vehicle and we ask if there is anything we can do. They ask us to ride back the way we came and flag down oncoming cars to slow down as they approach the accident. We do as they ask, Mark waving my bright red poncho at the oncoming traffic. Some drivers get it and immediately slow down, others look at him like he’s daft and continue flying past. A few stop and put their windows down. “An accident around the corner,” Mark tells them. Most smile and thank us. One man leans out of his window and yells “Do you need gas?” Mark recites his warning but the man stays put. I cup my hands around my mouth and repeat it somewhat more loudly. The man fires back, “Yeah, but do you need gas??” 

Roseburg, OR

Our hosts here are a lesbian couple, I guess to be in their late 50’s/early 60’s. They own one of the oldest houses in Roseburg, and rent out the two bedrooms upstairs as well as the old carriage house on the double sized lot. 

We walk around Roseburg in between bouts of rain. The community has a conservative, time warped air to it and I wonder what it’s like for our hosts. Are they accepted here for who they are? Are they harassed? They speak in positive terms when describing their neighbors, which I take as a good sign. 

The houses are mostly old, two-story Victorians or similar styles, full of character, with yards bursting with roses. They range from exquisitely maintained to derelict. Formerly a thriving logging town, Roseburg now gives a careworn, even depressed impression, and we see a lot of seemingly transient people, many quite young. Many shops are vacant, houses boarded up and abandoned. There is an abundance of liquor stores and bars, and more than once I see an old man stumbling out of one. Here, as everywhere in Oregon, we see signs advertising “Medicinal and Recreational Cannabis.” Several taverns we pass by have signs in the front window: no tweakers. 

Back in our room I read the headlines and learn about Alabama‘s passage of the strictest abortion laws in the country. I think what year is this? Who are these people? I see a presidential candidate being interviewed, the Congresswoman from Hawaii, and after the interview the reporter insinuates the same ridiculous concern that keeps being pressed upon the voting public: can s/he beat Trump, or is Joe Biden the only one who stands a chance? We have a plethora of educated, enthusiastic, well-qualified candidates of different genders, races, sexual orientation, religion etc, for the first time in history, at a time when it is more crucial than ever that we break away from the same old choices, and what do we do? We predict that only the rich old white Christian man stands a chance to beat the standing president, idiot though he may be.  Enough of the rich old white Christian men. They aren’t solving our nation’s or our world’s problems, in fact they are making them worse. For fuck’s sake, give someone else a chance before it’s too late.

I’m reading Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, the story of a 67 year old woman hiking the Appalachian Trail without even a sleeping bag in 1955, after her life of abuse at the hands of her husband through 40 odd years and 11 children. Strangers gawked at her, newspapers wrote about her, and everyone concurred she was taking such a risk, hiking that long dirt trail in the wilderness without company or equipment. Why would she do it anyway? they puzzled. We always think it’s the exploration of the unknown that’s dangerous, when so often it is the every day. What we know, and what we get used to. Parents tell their children “Don’t go to that strange place,” or “Don’t talk to strangers.” No one ever says to their child, “Oh honey, don’t drive to the local Y to work out then come home for dinner, it’s just too dangerous.” 

Like Grandma Gatewood, I find solace among the trees. Like her, I feel the need to walk.

When I wake up in the morning Mark is sitting on the couch perusing his tablet. There’s no kettle in the room so I suggest he use the coffee maker to make hot water for tea. After a few minutes, still in bed with my eyes closed, I’ve heard no noise. “Aren’t you going to make a cup?” I ask. “I did,” he says. “I think it’s getting hot.” It looks to me like it’s just sitting there. Turns out he put water in the carafe then set it on the burner and turned it on. “No, you have to pour the water into the machine,” I tell him. Seconds later tepid water spills down into the carafe. I get up and look at the machine. He has poured the water into the coffee grounds basket. I point to the reservoir and say, “The water goes in here.” “Oh, okay,” he says. I shake my head in wonder though I’m oddly impressed. The man has traveled to at least 75 countries and all seven continents but he has never seen a coffee maker before, or at least never used one. 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: