We just got back from a great trip to the lost coast. One of the guys from the Cherokee jeep club usually organizes this trip for Memorial Day weekend, and I have been on it several times in the past. This year he couldn't do it so I kinda volunteered to lead the trial run, which is a bit tricky navigationally speaking. I had the GPS track log from one of the past years when I did it. The group was a bit smaller than in past years but every one who came was really cool and it made for a good size.
Saturday morning we finished up packing and set out for Richardson Grove campground to meet up with the rest of the guys who had camped there Friday night. The drive was a bit long but the scenery just gets better the closer you get to the coast. You really cover California on this drive. We start out in the gold country in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and then drop down into the green fields of the central valley and then back up into the winding roads of the coastal range and over into the redwood forests of the coast. All that in a drive that is less then 5 hours! We got to the campground and after conferring with the ranger at the gate and a bit of wandering around we located the group that went up Friday. It turned out that Friday was rainy and they had been kinda cold and stuff. I like camping even in the rain owing to my growing up camping in the rainy Seattle area. I can't say I'm bummed to have missed it but I wouldn't have minded.
In the past Kelly and I have always used the very small tent that I used when I was single. It's a very cozy fit for two but the problem is that we don't have any good sleeping pads. What we do have is the big blow up, battery powered, self-inflating, queen-size mattress that my boss gave us for a wedding gift. So for $30 Wal-Mart hooked us up with enough square feet to camp in comfort and sleep on luxurious air.
Having set up our sleeping arrangements it was time to participate in the obligatory yak-about-everyone's-jeep session. The only thing as fun as driving a jeep is talking about them with other jeepers. What's your final drive ratio? What is your lift? How do you like those rock rails? Is that a 4 to 1?… Kelly and the rest of the women just gave up and went for a nature walk in the big redwoods. That night Kelly served everyone her awesome homemade chilly which seemed to be appreciated by all. There was also a slug-kissing incident for which I have no explanation.
The next morning we broke camp and headed into Garberville for breakfast at the Waterwheel Restaurant, as is the tradition. There was one guy who had said he was coming but had yet to show and we hoped that he would meet us there. It turned out he had a steering problem that caused him to turn back. After gassing up we headed out of town with Kelly behind the wheel. She had agreed to drive because she would rather drive than take pictures and she did a great job. The trip starts off with about 20 miles of rough but paved road squiggling through the giant redwoods before finally reaching the road closed for winter sign that indicates it time to air down the tires and put it in low range. The road is not a jeep trail and far less capable vehicles could travel it with out trouble. In fact we were passed by a little Nissan pick up and a VW bus going the other way. Indeed the joy of this trail was not in its off road challenge but in the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing drive through some incredibly beautiful scenery. In many places the roadway is worn five or six feet into the forest floor, lending the impression that you are sneaking through the woods on a secret, ancient path that could have been there as long as the trees themselves. After several hours catching only the occasional distant glimpse of the ocean there is a spot where the trees finally part to reveal a surreal view out over a tree carpeted valley and the ocean beyond. From there it's hard not become inpatient to get the beach and feel the sand between the toes. The last few miles of the road drop down for the high bluff to a riverbed that leads to the ocean. The beach is such that most of it can only be reached by boat or by driving across a fairly deep river ford. This is the great draw of this beach. On Memorial Day weekend we had this beautiful beach almost entirely to our selves. That is the true joy of having a jeep for me. It's the poor man private island if you will. We drove our jeeps over some of the rock sticking up out of the sand and took a lot of poser pics with the sea as a backdrop. We barbequed hot dogs, steak and corn on the cob. We sat around a warm fire and told stores. And we fell asleep with the waves crashing only 30 feet away and a cool breeze blowing up the beach. If heaven isn't any better, I for one will not be disappointed.
We got a slow start in the morning. None of us were exited for the trip home. We all drove out together along another windy path thought the thick forest out to highway 1 were we aired back up. Then we drove down highway 1 and into Fort Bragg to have lunch together at a great fish and chips place Kelly and I remembered before we parted ways. Form there it was another four and a half hours to home.
Kelly and I have been working on our garden lately and it is finally starting to look like it. We ended up buying tomato plants because it got so late in the year. Our soil is all clay. So we dug really deep holes for each of the plants and mixed the clay with soil builder and then used it to fill the holes back in. It's almost like our tomato's are in clay pots. I have three basic motivations for growing (or attempting to grow) a garden. First and foremost, I love homegrown tomatos. As the saying goes, there are only two things that money cant buy… true love and homegrown tomatos. The second thing is that it's something that Kelly and I can do together and that makes it fun. The third thing is that I want to learn something about what it takes to live off the land. I hope to collect seeds from this year and plant them next year. I expect to have most of my crop fail. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. You have to do it to learn. So I will judge the operation a success if I get to spend some good time with Kelly, eat a few tomatoes and maybe learn a thing or two about growing food.
The other day Kelly and I both had a really rough day. When I got home we spent some time commiserating with each other. It's one of the nicest things about being married that when you have a tough day your spouse is always at home waiting for ya with a shoulder to cry on either literally or figuratively which ever is required. At any rate I asked Kelly finally what she wanted for dinner and she told me "I don't want to make any decisions". I told her "then put on some good sturdy shoes and lets go". I drove us up to Placerville and we went through the drive through at Jimboys and then ate in the car. After that we tried to drive up Mosquito road to a mountaintop where there are a bunch of antennas and you can see for miles. But the road had a sign saying it was closed. It is a twisting narrow road that goes way down into the American river gorge, crosses a depression era one lane suspension bridge and then climbs back up the other side. I figured that with all the heavy rain we had been having a few week earlier they had closed the bridge for some reason and maybe they just hadn't gotten around to taking the signs down, so I kept going all the way to the bottom where we finally ran into a gate. I was trying to make it to the top of the mountain in time to see the sun setting over Sacramento. There was another way but it was longer and we were at the bottom of a big canyon. Dang me and my foolishness. We turned around and raced back to Placerville and then went tearing up 49 and back out toward the peak. On the way out we crossed the bridge that I asked Kelly to marry me under just as our car rolled 100,000 miles. It had to be some kind of a sign. We got to the top at long last about 10 minutes after the sun had set. It was still a great view and both of us were feeling much better about life. As I drove back through the woods along the old narrow mountain road with Kelly pleasantly dozing next to me, I thought about how live is a convoluted unsure path. Sometimes you ignore the signs and as a result you waist time and energy driving to the bottom of a canyon. Other times it's filled with pleasant coincidences and beautiful views, but there seems to be a rhythm and a meaning to it all. The hard times make the good time that much better. Having descended to the bottom ignoring the warning, at least you know what you had to do to get back to the top and get back on track. Even the bad times are a wonderful part of life. The trick I guess would be to keep focus on the peeks and turn around as soon as you realize the road you have chosen wont get you were you want to go and then to just pay attention and enjoy the beautiful views along the way.
It's starting to get hot and allergy season has begun for me. The seasons are different here than anyplace I have ever lived. It rains a lot in the spring; like very day for weeks and then one day it just quits and it doesn't rain again till September. As a result of this all the plants have a short time to do there pollinating between the time its too rainy for the pollen to be floating around in the air and the time where they all dry up and turn brown. The good news is allergy season is short here. Kelly has started a new job at work. She has given up her beloved position as the head of the kids department at Borders in order to get more favorable scheduling. She now work a 6am to 3pm shift and only works 4 day a week. She is also working fewer Saturdays. I am really enjoying having here around at nights. We are planning a trip to the Lost Coast for Memorial day weekend. This is a trip that the NAXJA jeep club does every year and this year I volunteered to organize it. It is always a really fun time. I have done it twice. Once it was with Kelly when we were dating. We both have found memories of it. Last year we didn't go so we were really wanting to do it this year. As an added bonus Joe and his crew are coming down to join us in the fun. I'm sure the kids will love the ocean. I'm trying to get my jeep all fixed up before the trip. I just got the old safari rack fixed up with new and improved mounts and now I'm trying to get the transfer-case linkage all fixed so I won't have to climb underneath to shift it into four wheel drive.
My hard drive died on me. Indirectly that has been the cause of my resent lack of blogging. It died in kind of a slow and not so catastrophic way that gave me the opportunity to back up all my data. So I didn't lose anything. The thing is it kinda worked. If I put a fan under my laptop to keep it really cool and didn't do anything really taxing it would still work. So after realizing that something was wrong with it I backed up my date but then I didn't want to send it off to get it fixed. It is still under warranty so I needed to send it to Kentucky of all places and they were going to figure out what the problem was and fix it and send it back all within a day they clamed. They sent me a box to put it in with the address all ready on it and paid for. All I would have to do would be take it to work and give it to the UPS man. The problem is when it came right down to it the thing still worked and I didn't want to be without it. I realize that this is just plain sad. The thing is I use it every day. Without it I really feel cut off from the people I know, the things I like to do and the world in general. It's something that I didn't realize until now. I am so used to having the wealth of the internet at my disposal that having it missing for even a short time was disturbingly discomforting. After all I sit in front of another computer at work most of the day. If I really needed something I could have used that one. I think the internet and computing is an amazing tool. It makes me wonder though when I can't go a few day without it comfortably. One parallel that comes to mind is the small pocketknife I carry with me every day on my key ring. It's a tool I have come to rely on. Like my computer I use it very nearly every day for all kinds of things. When I have to fly I leave it home and find that I am constantly just a bit uncomfortable that it's not right there within ease reach. I'm not sure what this should be telling me. Is it good or bad? Using tools is one of the great hallmarks of humanity right? I guess something is telling me I should be more self reliant but I'm just not sure if that something is right.