When I woke in Redding on Sunday morning, I lay in the motel bed panicking about my life until I remembered that that was a terrible way to spend a vacation, so I got up, ate a Clif bar, and got back on the freeway pointed North toward Ashland, my true destination.
Though I have driven to Oregon many, many times over the last 25 years, I can only say I'm even more of a chicken driving over the mountain now than I ever have been previously. If the road is anything but entirely straight, I drive like a grandma. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.
Cruelly, the radio provided little solace in the treacherous driving conditions (read: curves in the road). Unlike the first leg of the journey, which was all NPR until the bitter end when it faded into a brilliant show called Shasta Serenade, aka the best American road trip music I could have hoped for. Plenty of banjos, but then, just when you think you've got it all figured out, some 30's swing. I could have driven hundreds of miles with Shasta Serenade for company.
My favorite was "Lampshade On" by Dustbowl Revival, perhaps best described as a rollicking ode to alcoholism. By the end of the song, I realized I was doing about 90mph and was in need of a heartrending ballad to get me back to the neighborhood of the speed limit.
North of town, no such luck. I made tour after tour of the radio dial finding that at least 85% of songs were stealthily about Jesus. I didn't mind exactly, since sneaky Jesus songs are a staple of any road trip, but it did get tedious. Worse though, was the smoke. The news had been full of reports of massive forest fires in California and my shaky understanding of geography led me to believe that smoke had arrived in Oregon, somehow skipping over a large section of Northern California. Not so. It turns out that the Pacific Northwest has forest fires of its own, thank you very much. The smoke in Ashland was so bad that they considered canceling the evening performance in the outdoor theatre as, indeed, they had done the night before when the smoke was said to have been even worse.
Undeterred, I drove straight to breakfast. I was seated at the counter next to a slim young man. The waitress brought him a large plate of what might have been pancakes on steroids. Or possibly they were pancakes that had something sandwiched between them? I can't be sure, but the whole pile was sprinkled with sugar and topped with butter and would have given a lesser man a heart attack on the spot. "That is impressive,"I said. "I'm excited just to be near it. However, your level of fitness far exceeds mine so I'll just enjoy it vicariously." "It's amazing." he told me. "I had it yesterday. But it's really not that filling, so i get something else too." It's really not that filling? I'm not sure anyone has ever said something that astonished me more. But then, just a he had forewarned me, the waitress brought him an omelet on a second platter. I laughed. That was when he told me that he had recently walked 700 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail and, during his few days in town, was eating everything in sight. Ohhhhhhh. He didn't make it quite through the whole omelet (not for lack of trying) and then he bid me farewell and went to take a nap.
Wildlife Update: I wouldn't want you to miss out on anything, so I must report that right now a coyote is making a hell of a racket close at hand, and the neighborhood dogs are objecting. At this rate of wildlife escalation, perhaps tomorrow a cougar will come by for breakfast.
Though I wouldn't have minded taking a post-breakfast nap myself, I instead went to matinee of Long Day's Journey Into Night, an aptly named play that did not end until nearly 5pm. And then, at last, it was time to meet the Airstream. I believe I made this reservation in January, so I've had plenty of time to build my expectations to unreasonable heights. I have not been disappointed. It is entirely charming. I can only imagine how thrilled my child-self would have been to stay here. It is like living in a dollhouse.
I send you this dispatch from the living room:
My only regret is that the smoke has been too thick for me to see stars from my bed, a thing I had been strangely excited to do. However, the joy of sleeping in a place where I hear nothing but crickets instead of my accursed neighbors far outweighs any need for a view overhead.
I'll be sorry to go.
I had planned an excursion to another lake today. My Whiskeytown air mattress is still all blown up and ready to go, but it is still very smoky and today's high is forecast to be in the mid-nineties, so it's possible I'll just go to a movie. Shhhh. Please don't tell the lake. Or summer. They will be mightily disappointed in me.