Leaving California

May 27, 2010
By Mara Gordon

Driving along in the car, we spend a lot of time listening to NPR. There are exceptions in some desolate areas, but I can almost always count on it being available somewhere between 88.1 and 92.5 on my FM dial. As we steer along unfamiliar roads, there is something very reassuring about hearing the familiar voices of Scott Simon, Renee Montagne, Terry Gross, and of course, my favorite, Daniel Schorr. As Stewart and I finally (finally!) made our way out of Lodi, and began our journey that will eventually take us across Canada, I heard a story that saddened me a bit.  Actually, I heard part of a story as I was also navigating and looking for a place to get something to eat – but more about that in a bit. What I thought I heard was that about 3000 people are leaving California each week, and that a one way truck rental is as much as ten times more expensive leaving the state. I’ve done a bit of checking, and the truck rental report between the states is all over the place. For example, between San Diego and Ft. Collins a truck is $1340, and between San Diego and Dallas, the same truck is $2098. The distance is very close, but who knows, maybe less people are bringing the trucks back. None of my searches returned anywhere near ten times the cost. As for the number of people leaving each week, I suppose I’ll just have to wait for those new signs that welcome visitors to town that will go up after all the 2010 Census numbers are counted. Regardless of the doomsday, whoa is me, we’ll never get out of this mess attitude that is often heard over the airways and seen splashed across headlines, California still has IT! Yes, that indescribable “it” that makes a person feel like anything is possible. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Peregrine has a toilet and copper plumbing. It only took 20 months on the road, but I finally figured out how to transport our clothes sensibly (some process engineer!), and we can set up and spend the night almost anywhere. The closet we lost to the porta potty was replaced by a Yakima Rocketbox on top of the car. So, when we left Lodi, CA on 17 May (a month late) , our load was lighter, and I was excited to try out all the new found freedom and my new trunk organization system.  I have a feeling the neighbors weren’t too terribly sad to see us leave either. Stewart has always subscribed to the school that one cleans up once at the end of a project, so you can just imagine the mess he made while modifying Peregrine. Lodi Creedence Clearwater Revival

We headed out Hwy 12 straight west for the coast, where it turns into Hwy 1, bringing us right to beautiful Bodega Bay. As we were making the final few winding turns, we realized we’d better hurry if we were going to catch the sunset on the water. The first place we came to was Doran Beach, and we turned in.  The road switches back, and on one side is the Bay, and the other, the ocean, but there was no clear view of the sunset. It was still beautiful. We decided to spend a couple of nights right there. It was a bit more rustic than I’m usually up for, but that’s also part of what makes life interesting. Not having any food with us, not so much. After trying several options, we finally found a store in Guerneville (23 winding round miles) that would sell us a loaf of bread. They were actually already closed, but took pity on us standing in the cold rain, and let us in. When we got back to Peregrine, we made peanut butter and fruit sandwiches that went down like gourmet fare.

There are a couple of places in Bodega Bay that were noteworthy this time through. The first one is Patrick’s. Stewart and I never pass through here without stopping. It’s hard to miss with it’s pink and white striped facade. And, from the images on Flickr, apparently quite a few people feel the same way. For 50 years, Patrick’s has brought the best salt water taffy flavors together under one roof, making it difficult to decide between the caramel cheesecake, watermelon and my favorite, the licorice. Or, you could just buy the varietybags, and take whatever you get each time you stick your hand in and grab one.

We had also passed by the Boat House on a number of occasions, and decided this time we would make a point of stopping in before leaving town. Stewart wanted to try their BBQoysters, one of his favorites, but I’m not a big fan, so I went with the more traditional fish and chips. Both dishes were excellent, but Stewart’s only came with a few oyster crackers, so I gave him my fries. My hips thanked him all the way to the car. For a tiny place, they carried about 30 varieties of bottled beers, and many types of sodas from all over the world.  The walls are covered covered in fish stories that would make any angler itchy to cast his line into the water. Stewart was no exception. The rest of the night was filled with plans for catching crabs and mussels along the Pacific beaches.

One more thing, before I move on from here. The scariest film of all time was filmed in Bodega Bay, “The Birds”, by Alfred Hitchcock.  Since seeing this 1963 classic starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy, I have had an extraordinary fear of birds on a wire. For those of you who have seen The Birds, you know what I’m talking about because you do, too. For those of you who are snickering at me right now, add it to your Netflix queue. Then let’s see how you feel about all those sparrows in your backyard next Fall!

After leaving Bodega Bay we headed toward Mendocino, another one of our favorite spots. We realized that at this rate we wouldn’t make Canada very quickly, but since we tty to live in the now, 97 miles seemed like enough for that particular day. We had found a little Indian restaurant right on the edge of the Russian River in Jenner, called Sizzling Tandoor.  It was a few minutes after 2PM, and the view was gorgeous, so we decided to stop. There was only one other table occupied when we got there, but the place smelled great. When I saw the prices on the menu, I realized the owner had given us the dinner menus. We got up to leave. When she asked why, I told her it was too expensive for what it was. She quickly offered to substitute the lunch menu, and we stayed. My curry was delicious, as was Stewart’s tandoori.

On our way south down Hwy 1 in September, we discovered the Seafoam Inn in Little River, just outside of Mendocino. The views are sweeping, and as far as I can tell, each room has at least one dog in it. Each morning, a basket appears outside your door complete with fresh muffins and orange juice. After two nights in the rain with no amenities, a hot shower and a chance to see the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy live sounded really good (all I can say is, “WOW!”). Also, the office has hundreds of movies guests can sign out. Coincidentally, the last time we were there, we had been discussing a particular film on the way down that Stewart had never seen, and they had it there. But this time there was no time for DVD’s. The guy in the next room, Daniel, also had his guitar with him, and was more than happy to jam with Stewart on our deck as the sunset. Little River, CA outside Mendocino

The next day, we stopped in Ft. Bragg, about 12 miles away, for a dohickey thingamajiggy. You know, one of those parts that make a sane person’s eyes glaze over in a hardware store. We stopped at the local Ace, which happens to be part of Mendo Mill & Lumber, and there we met Steve Channel. While I was off scoping out things like containers for under the sink, Stewart and Steve had struck up a conversation about Peregrine. It turns out Steve had recently built an 18″ trailer completely from native woods, and was in need of a heater. We just so happen to have had a heater that was wanting to be freed from under our seat, giving me oodles of more storage space. While Steve made himself look busy in order to keep his job, and Stewart took all sorts of measurements, I researched the value of the heater. Times are tough, but people aren’t, and a deal was made. Steve rang his wife, Blondie, and she started marinating the chicken for a BBQ that night. While Steve finished up his work day, we headed over to Catch A Canoe: And Bicycle Too for help attaching a tube to the roofrack for our fishing poles. The owner, Rick, was very helpful. When I rang to find out if he could help me, he told me what supplies to pick up at Mendo Mill before heading over to his shop. When I asked him where he was, he replied, “Behind the counter”. Yeah, that’s how he is in person, too.

Later that evening we arrived at Steve and Blondie Channel’s home in Ft. Bragg, and set up Peregrine next door. Steve was born in this house, and has known many of his neighbors his entire life. They lit a wood fire outside, and throughout the evening people drifted in and out, many conveniently arriving just as the food was ready. As scrumptious as it was, if I lived nearby, I may do the same. Eduardo, a native of Chihuahua, Mexico thrills us with pictures and samples from the Copper Canyons, the largest Quartz deposits in the world. It’s fascinating, and looks like a worthwhile trip to take. He said to be sure to take the trains while down there. Apparently, there are quite a few different ones to chose from.

When the heater was removed from Peregrine, it left a hole in his side. Stewart tried to convince me that it didn’t matter, but I wasn’t budging until it was covered. The guys started scrambling for something aesthetically pleasing that would also fill the hole. After about 15 minutes, Eduardo came back across the street with an expired New Mexico license plate. At first I was skeptical, but after seeing how well it complemented the orange and silver on Peregrine, it got my approval.

Eventually, we made our way further up the beautiful California coast to Eureka, about 130 miles. As you may have noticed by now, had we been walking, we could have left California quicker. Anyway, we decided since our next stop was Grants Pass, OR, which was about three hours further, this was a good place to stop. We booked a hotel in an anonymous chain that doesn’t charge for dogs, and set out to get some dinner. Whenever possible, we eat at local restaurants. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to travel the country and eat at chains. Plus, it does more to help the local economies by spending money at locally owned stores and restaurants. We saw quite a few people through the window at Lost Coast Brewery, so we decided to have dinner there. When I asked about the seasonal and special beers, the server offered me a sample of a Belgium beer. It was very good, sweet. Everything we ate was good. Four people sat down at the table butted up next to ours, and immediately started chatting with us. They ordered a pitcher of a wheat beer, and LCB World Famous Buffalo Wings, and passed them over to us to taste. Then, they insisted I taste their beer as well. As our meals progressed, I asked them  about themselves. The couple sitting closest to us, Joan and Paul Gallegos, are both attorneys, and the LA life they were living didn’t work for the family they wanted to build. They moved to Eureka, and started a life there, with Paul eventually running for District Attorney in 2002, and winning. He was re-elected in 2006, and is running again now for his third term. Sonia and John Ford also are transplants to Eureka. John is the morning drive time DJ on 95.5 FM, and Sonia is with Humboldt University. The architecture is beautiful, and there are fantastic murals throughout the downtown area. There is a strong emphasis on the arts in the community, which would certainly make it more attractive to people moving from more urban areas.

It’s clear that times are difficult throughout the United States, and in California, in particular in a way that is especially unfamiliar to many of us. After all, how can the promised land require us to tighten our belts? I’ve often heard people say that in tough times we clearly see people’s strengths and weaknesses. What I have seen is that the people of this State are incredibly generous and kind-spirited, There may be more trucks moving out of California THIS week, but there will be always be more people filled with hope and dreams for their futures with stardust in their eyes, who will come to California for all it has to offer. I’m leaving it now. But as the Guvernator said so well, “Ill be back”.

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8 Responses to Leaving California

  1. Henry McCullough on May 27, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    Interesting article. Were did you got all the information from…

    • MaraBG on May 30, 2010 at 3:20 AM

      I take notes, and thoroughly research each article that I write. I try to bring as much information to my readers as possible without turning stories into term papers.

  2. Rico Finnel on May 27, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    Hey, cool website. I actually came across this on Ask Jeeves, and I am really happy I did. I will definately be returning here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment.

    Thank You

    doggy shoes

  3. Aspergers Syndromes Symptoms on May 27, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    What a great resource!

  4. antoaneta perlmutter on May 27, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    Mara,I enjoyed so much this story and not only because is so beautifully writen but because is also written in a positive note. The state of “Kalifornia” is definitely going through a rough time and people may seem to flee the state but for every truck leaving, there will be 2 returning once the economy stabilizes a little. Like you said that state has so much to offer and the beauty of it, is unique. I’ve never been to Cali and it’s on my bucket list :) I thank you so much for sharing all your travel experiences with us and it’s wonderful to see how many cool and down to earth people you get to meet.
    It’s very clear that if you know what you want and treat people with respect there is stil lots of decency left in people of this country.
    Love all your stories and this one was particulary uplifting.
    Can’t wait to see more pics from the road and please ask Stewart to siop making you run along Peregrine so you could take pictures of him ;)
    XOXO
    Antoaneta

    • MaraBG on May 30, 2010 at 3:24 AM

      You are delightful! When you are ready to make your way to California, let me know, so I can show parts of it to you from my perspective.

  5. Kasey Hunneyman on June 2, 2010 at 10:20 AM

    Super article! Your writing is so much better compared to most other bloggers. Thank you for writing when you get the chance to, I will be sure to read more!

  6. Meryl Steinberg on June 26, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Good to see that people are kindhearted. It’s true. We need to get past our fear. Keep smiling & hugging … it makes it easier for others to shine! :)

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