Hello readers.This is the first in our ‘On the Road’ series of 2022, featuring the adventures of Beatrix the Toyota Highlander, and Marion, our vintage Trillium Trailer. While I’m typing this, I am holed up in Marion with all the windows closed. There are ferocious 65 mph wind gusts blowing skin-abrading sand and gravel through our Keough’s Hot Springs Campground, just south of Bishop. —Kate Poss photos
Whidbey Island to Millersylvania State Park
We left home at 8:47 AM on April 1 in Beatrix, our new 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Her odometer reading started the trip at 1685. We’re glad she gets 30+ mpg because the price of gas is more than $5 a gallon in California following the Feb. 24 start of the Ukraine war.
It was overcast with the damp bite of cold the day we left. The temperature was 47°. We said goodbye to the blooming cherry and apple trees, the daffodils and the budding tulips. We were grateful to the three AmeriCorps women (Rachel, Shayna, and Lily) staying at our home caring for our dear orange Ollie cat, and our aquarium fish. We were lucky to have two ferries running per hour that day, making the 9:30 ferry heading to Mukilteo. Walking toward the front of the ship, we remarked about a photo of an orca pod aboard the ferry, and said how cool is that. Just then, a ferry captain announced a pod of orcas swimming in the distance, off the stern. There they were, four dorsal fins and spouts of orca breath. What a great sendoff.
As we drove toward Whole Foods in Lynnwood, we talked about how, when we’re in this extra-ordinary time, different portals of our psyche open up. We noticed the beautiful blue sky and the curve of the clouds as we drove.
We visited with our friend Michelle at Steel Lake Park in Federal Way. Michelle told us a saga about Lionel, the nurse at Swedish Hospital, who was called in to calm her down after a three-hour wait. She inquired why her doctor was so late for his first appointment, a yearly pancreatic cancer test. She is also diabetic and asthmatic. She was told not to eat when she arrived at 7:30. By 10:30 her blood sugars were dropping and she began to feel panicked. Finally she was tested at great expense to her well-being. Michelle told her stories with great nobility and beauty. Our take away from our visit was that she told Lionel, who was less than interested in helping her, that she did not want to get ugly and lose her integrity with him.
The teeth of damp cold bit through our clothes at Millersylvania State Park, south of Olympia, where we camped among old and venerable fir trees. We tuned in to great indie music on KAOS FM 89.3 from Olympia. So grateful to our friend Kateri for our FosPower radio, that not only plugs in via USB chord, but is also charged by the sun and hand-cranking. It contains a reading light, a flashlight, and emergency lights.
Portland, Corvallis and Ashland, Oregon
The next morning, we headed for Portland, where we met our son Raymo and his partner Gino. On KAOS radio, Mavis Staples and Levon Helm sang, You Got to Move. We felt the spirit of the song as we rolled down the highway.
Visiting at Whole Foods in Tigard, south of Portland, we chatted with the boys about their plan to move to Southern California this July. I said I understood their reason for moving—the weather, being in a more diverse culture, and work opportunities, and admitted I’m sad they will live so far away. We were assured of continued visits, and that a flight takes about the same amount of time as driving. Still, we’ll miss them.
We said goodbye to Gino, and Raymo followed us with his doggie Rogelio in his car named Elektra to Champoeg State Park, an impeccably maintained state park south of Portland. It’s a lovely site on former farmland along the scenic Willamette River.
We hugged Raymo goodbye as he headed home to Lake Oswego that evening. The following morning we left for Corvallis. But we became distracted in McMinnville and found ourselves driving west on Hwy 18, instead of south on Hwy 99. By the time we discovered our error, we were headed for the beach. Our less than an hour journey wound up taking two hours. We breakfasted in Marion on an overcast day at Gleneden Beach, where we watched the pounding surf.
“I thought we would never see the Pacific Ocean on this trip,” Bill mused. Now, here we are.”
Next we camped at the Benton Oaks RV Park and Campground in Corvallis in a pounding rainstorm. The campground is part of Benton County’s fairgrounds and a horse show was in progress at the barn. Earlier, we visited with our daughter Gilli, and her roommates Robbie, Elle, Thomas and Rachel. We brought over excellent Chinese dinner for them from Yummy Yummy. Loved visiting these creative folks. Later, having to step outside Marion during the night for a wee, Bill and I were instantly soaked by the torrent of rain. Camping here is convenient for visiting our Gilli, yet we note that the bathrooms and laundry are on a decline maintenance-wise.
Our next stop was outside of Ashland in a creatively up-cycled former KOA campground. Campsite 24 at the Ashland Creek RV Park lies along friendly Neil Creek. We were steps away from the freshly painted, very clean turquoise and black bathroom. A camp neighbor’s tuxedo cat greeted us. He lived at an RV across from us. The beat up RV had a torn and broken awning. Tux, as we called him, was handsome and healthy. The campsite had excellent Wi-Fi coverage and we treated ourselves to a streaming film, The North Star, made in 1943. Eerie to watch this Lillian Hellman-written story about a peaceful Ukranian village being savaged by Nazi bombers and troops. So similar to now how the regular townsfolk took up arms to protect themselves. In the film we learned that Nazi doctors took village children’s blood to treat wounded soldiers, resulting in the child’s death at times.
The next morning we said goodbye to the venerable Ponderosa pine gracing our campsite and headed toward California. Driving with a trailer down the 6 percent grade from the 4500 foot-high Siskiyouou Pass (where I learn it is snowing and 29° at this moment), Bill shifted into Beatrix’s ’S’ mode for the first time. It was a tense drive in the past, especially with semis whipping by us on the downhill curves. With newly installed Bluetooth electric breaks on Marion, along with the six lower gears in ’S’ mode, we remarked at how we cruised downhill, comfortably rounding curves without much braking. We gave thanks to the excellent engineering done by the Toyota folks.
Red Bluff, and Folsom Lake, California
We arrived in California and, as always on our visits, Bill’s energy ramped up. He is a California native, and just being in the state brings a light to his eyes. Stopping at the Hornbrook agricultural station, the agent had us surrender our Mexican-grown lime.
We stopped in Mt. Shasta City for lunch, where I enjoyed a hotdog at the food truck Poncho and Lefkowitz. It’s run by by a ski-dude and his niece Nicole, who enchanted me with her Lady Gaga glamorous appearance. It’s cash-only here for a good lunch, either Mexican fare or sausages. Next door is Berryvale Natural Foods Grocery, a good place to buy healthy food. Its cafe is still closed as of this writing due to COVID.
While some may think there’s nothing in Redding worth stopping for, we discovered Turtle Bay Exploration Park. It is a worthwhile visit, for its museum (which hosted the visiting King Tut exhibit), a Sundial sculpture and glass-paved bridge spanning the Sacramento River, botanical gardens, birds, and butterflies. At a water feature, we learned that the average American home uses 300 to 500 gallons of water a day, whereas the average use worldwide is 60 gallons a day. Here in this thirsty state where drought and wildfires visit each year, water conservation is essential.
That evening we camped at Sycamore Grove Campground at Red Bluff National Recreation Area. We watched bats circling, diving and swooping at sunset under a crescent moon above the Sacramento River. Notable here are tremendously girthed ancient sycamore, willow, and cottonwood trees.
We talked about how soft the breeze was here, a caress. We stopped to feel it ruffle our hair and felt it lightly touch our face. We recalled how our climate bites at home just now (where our home carers experienced a power outage and successfully fired up the generator). Back in Marion, after our walk through the beautiful woods, we talked about how good it feels not to have to wear so many clothes. We were wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
We really enjoyed visiting the college town and sunny weather of Chico. We breakfasted on good eggs, cottage potatoes and bacon at the Cafe Coda. We walked around town, noting the progressive creative vibe. A weathered homeless woman smelling strongly of pee asked us for a handout. I gave her $5 and she hightailed it to the doughnut shop. But by the grace of God go I….
Arriving at Beals Point Recreation area on Folsom Lake, we camped among the welcoming shade of oak trees. We visit the lake and noted it had dropped a couple hundred feet from its original water line. We wondered how the summer tourist season will fare with such a long way to launch a boat.
Before dinner we stopped by the Sacramento Waldorf School in nearby Fair Oaks. Our friends Chris and Kat McFee work there. Chris and Kat were teachers at the Whidbey Island Waldorf School but at different times. They did not meet until both were teaching in New Hampshire. Kat is now the Sacramento Waldorf School’s administrator and also teaches Grade Four. Busy much, this beautiful woman?
Chris, who once taught kindergarten at WIWS, is now the resident artist and at the Sacramento Waldorf School.
He built two water wheels, which power a bellows and student-built brick smelter. He sources iron-rich material, which students melt in the smelter to make iron blooms and learn the ancient art of metallurgy.
“There is no historical precedent of a water wheel driving a box bellows,” Chris explained.
Afterwards, we visited the school farm and garden. Next to the American River, which runs alongside a small school pasture, Patty the cow was overjoyed to see Chris. She kicked up her heels and ran around in bliss. Later, she kept very close to him. Chris acknowledged her devotion and told us horses are more to his liking, but for Patty, she only had eyes for him.
After her long day of meetings and teaching, Kat greeted us at the Brahma Bar & Grill in Fair Oaks. Before Kat arrived and while waiting for our table at the popular eatery, we joined Chris on a short walk to the nearby Village Park, where guinea hens and feral chickens meander. Its local setting reminded us of Langley and its resident fair bunnies.
Heading out from Beals Point, we drove along Hwy. 89, viewing the devastation from last year’s Calder Fire, which burned for 69 days, destroyed 221,835 acres, and more than a thousand structures. We stopped and waited in several places while the road crew cleared burn debris and made road repairs. Stopping for a picnic in tiny Markleeville, CA, we were surprised to see gas selling for $7.49.
Stopping for three nights at our long-time friends Carolyn and Pat Lewis in Gardnerville NV, we enjoyed the Carson Valley high desert nestled between the Sierra Nevada and Pine Nut ranges.
Our first night there we enjoyed wild boar spaghetti. The next day we drove up to visit the historic silver and gold mining town of Virginia City. Perched on the hillside and framed by mining debris, the old Western-themed berg caters to tourists, especially bikers. We noticed quite a few biker bling stores. The local cemetery was interesting, with graves dating back to the 1800’s. Resident wild horses roam here as seen by their horse apple deposits.
On Saturday we visited St. Gal Catholic Church’s ‘little’ rummage sale as locals explained to us. The big one is in August. This one appeared enormous, with two big buildings filled with well organized stuff to sell as well as several long isles of goods organized by category. Bill and I sat in a couple of living room chairs, put out for the rummage sale and gazed out at the snow-clad Sierras. A beloved church man, Terry, stopped by to say hello. His gaze is direct and calm, a look we note on locals in the Sierra Nevada region. He talked about his days as a blackjack dealer over in nearby South Lake Tahoe.
Later, we enjoyed delicious lunch at Sonney’s BBQ Shack with Pat’s lively lovely mom Alice Garcia, who will turn 96 this year. She regaled us with stories of her life in Los Angeles, her much-loved late husband Jose, and their love of travel and fishing. Hope to be like her when we grow up. Alice is a devout Catholic, who regularly lunches with St. Gal’s retired pastor.
Many times we remarked to Carolyn and Pat about the welcoming friendliness of Gardnerville’s people, how they wave as you walk down the street and are glad to stop and chat. We like it here. It was also fun to tell stories and exchange views with Pat and Carolyn, generous friends who are now grandparents of two young ones in Chile.
During our last night we watched the film Tombstone with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. Good story about the hard won efforts to tame the West and the remarkable friendship between these two men.
Sunday April 10, we said adios to our high desert friends and headed south on Hwy 395 to Bishop, where the next tale begins.