Monday, October 14, 2013

To Seattle and Back - 5 Days Sort of "On the Road"

When Jeff (my 24 year old) moved to Seattle early last month he flew with one carry-on bag and his backpack.  All his worldly belongings did not fit.....amazingly enough.  So the plan was for me to load the Hyundai Tucson with the boxes and pictures and desk and bicycle and deliver them to Seattle when he and his roommates found an apartment.  As I love to drive, am comfortable doing so alone, and am retired with no commitments on my time, this was a good plan for everyone.  Getting the space back in the garage was a nice bonus......

September 30 I headed out early and made the 5.5 hour drive to Sacramento that I have made many times in the past 20 years.  There was a large herd of deer near Fort Tejon at the top of the Grapevine and the trees were starting to show a tinge of color in the highest elevations.  Famous Footwear has added another large distribution warehouse next to the bright blue IKEA warehouse at the bottom of the Grapevine.  Property costs must be cheap there and certainly it is a major trucking artery, but they still look strange in an area that has been nothing but agriculture for so long.  I made a couple stops for fuel and stretching and made good time until traffic bogged down a little through Stockton.  It is one of those areas that seems to always have construction.  My first overnight was at Janis and Nick Szichak's in Sacramento where I stayed two nights a week for two years while I worked in Sacramento and lived in Valencia.  Sounds crazy now but it wasn't bad and with their wonderful hospitality it was so much better than the first year I spent at the Holiday Inn every week!  So my room was ready and I settled in for a good visit and a light dinner before heading to bed early.

I was up and on the road before 7:30 but with a stop at Starbucks and the morning commuters on Highway 80 it was 8:40 before I was back on Interstate 5.  No complaints from me though......they were headed to work and I was headed to Oregon!  Just outside Williams there was a large flock of birds flying south beside the freeway.  Even from a distance they were larger than the usual Starlings that frequent the area.  They were ducks - and there were at least two thousand of them!  With that many birds they were not in the usual V formation, in fact as they flew over the car they looked anything but graceful or even organized.  I had my doubts they would make it to their next landing without several midair collisions - but I'm no duck expert so it was probably just a normal migration "pattern".  From Sacramento to Red Bluff it is pretty much a repeat of the Bakersfield to Sacramento stretch but the traffic was light and the farmland was peaceful.  I noticed there were no RVs on the road before 9:30 and thought "because they slept in". 

My first break was a quick stop in Red Bluff and then at a Vista Point north of Redding I pulled off to stretch my legs and check out Mount Shasta.

The mountains were spectacular and immediately I was wishing Bill was sharing them with me.  RVs were starting to show up and I imagined us in several of them, heading to wonderful places together.  I noticed that not a lot of Class Bs and Class Cs were towing a vehicle, but Class As without a tow vehicle looked like they were missing something because the majority of them all had one.  While I was delighted with how healthy all the trees looked and with how much snow there was on the peak, when I got to Lake Shasta the severely low water level was depressing.  It was down at least 400 feet and looked horrible.  I took a longer break in the little town of Shasta Lake where the mountain is very close and the heavy snow is visible.

The mountain was visible across the whole large valley near Yreka and I figured I would stop on my way back and take several more pictures. 

I remember liking Ashland, Oregon when Janis and I passed through there a few years ago and it didn't disappoint on this trip.  Maybe it's because I was finally in Oregon but it just looks even greener!  Rain was in the forecast and I started seeing clouds just north of Ashland.  It started getting misty after I passed Medford and I made another quick stop to check out the Valley of the Rogue campground near the beautiful Rogue River.  The "season" ended yesterday and the A Loop was closed but I drove through the B Loop and loved it!  Right on the water and lots of trees, it is a magical place.  The camp road is narrow and the sites would be pretty tight for a bigger rig with little separation if it was full but there were only about a dozen sites with campers and about 50/50 tents and RVs. I could hear the river over the highway which was a plus.  Back on the highway I caught up with the rain.  Wanting to let Janis know where I hit some weather (she had warned me of a "biblical" storm the night before) I looked for a sign of just where I was.  Next exit....Sunny Valley.  Of course :-).  It rained off and on all the way to Eugene but I didn't see any animals lining up in pairs so I figured the storm warnings might have been exaggerated. 

Driving the speed limit and stopping a few times, I made Eugene in about 7.5 hours.  It was a pretty drive with plenty of scenery and mountain driving to keep me stimulated.  The time passed quickly.  I had booked an inexpensive room with good reviews and Siri guided me to the motel in downtown Eugene not far from the university.  The room was clean and comfortable and even though there was a bus station across the street I felt safe.  After checking in I took a walk to some of the local shops and then stopped for a salad at a lovely little cafe about two blocks from the motel.  There were several things at the shops that I would normally have picked up as they were unique and not very expensive.  But they were not something I would take in the RV nor were they something I could justify storing, so they stayed on the shelf and the money stayed in my pocket.  It was very liberating to walk out without making a purchase!

After a good night's sleep I was up early, grabbed a cup of lobby coffee, bypassed the lobby pastries, and continued north.  There was fog all the way to Portland so I didn't see much besides the road ahead of me for that stretch.  I was looking for a particular rest stop that Nick had shown me pictures of from their last trip.  Just south of Portland it started to clear up and I thought the next rest stop in the large trees was the right one.


French Prairie rest stop is easily the most beautiful rest stop I have been in.  And it is huge with two large loops and three large parking areas including one behind the trees that would hold 20 -30 large rigs.  Behind the rest stop is a large PG&E solar farm.  Great place to take a nice long break!  When Janis and Nick stopped they had free coffee but it was closed while I was there.  I didn't take it personally.

Traffic was light approaching Portland so I opted to stay on the interstate through the city.  As is usually the case, the city does not show it's best side to those passing through at high speeds.  Soon after I crossed the Columbia River and was in Washington.  It wasn't yet noon and I was making good time even with the intermittent rain showers.  I was surprised that there was so much water on the freeway as I have heard somewhere that Washington gets a bit more rain than we do in California.  I figured their roads would have superior drainage, but they were a mess.  About 10 miles from my destination seven lanes of traffic came to a stop and then we inched along for 20 minutes before finally getting past the stalled big rig.  Of course Jeff didn't answer his phone (his greatest pet peeve when it comes to his mother.....) to confirm where I should park but their garage was open and I pulled in behind Tim's bus a little after 1 PM.  Whew!  My backside was ready to be out of that seat!

The car was unloaded in 5 minutes and the camping chair set up in the living room where it was the only piece of furniture in the apartment.  Sweet!  It is an amazing large space with a bedroom for each of the three roommates and one block from Lake Washington.  It is a beautiful place to live. Jeff and I walked to one of their local eateries then to the local hardware store for a couple items.  The neighborhood is perfect with its own local grocery, the hardware store, a kitchen boutique, and a couple pubs and places to eat.  I'm delighted to know Jeff is in such a great place.

After dropping him off at work I found my hotel.  The city was booked up and there was only one place under $250 that wasn't in a questionable location or too far away to be practical.  I picked up my keys - not key card, keys - and took the elevator, behind the sliding cage door, to the fourth floor.  My room had an entry hall, a full size living room with a recliner, a full kitchen, a separate queen size bedroom and a small pink tile bathroom.  All the doorknobs were glass and the casement windows were cranked open to let in the breeze.  I had stepped back in time to the early 1950's.  Alrighty then.....  Ready to put my feet up I saw there was a room service menu - yay! - and I could order fish and vegetables for less than $8.00.  Unheard of.  But when I called room service I got a recording that said I had reached room service and that if I needed to have my blood sugar read before I ate I should push my call button.....I didn't hang up.  I had noted that the beautiful old building across the street was a hospital when I checked in.  It was now apparent that room service was provided by the hospital.  The set up of the "room" made more sense now as well.  Families stay in this hotel when their loved one is at the hospital, sometimes for long periods of time.  So I ordered my dinner and as promised it was delivered within 30 minutes.  The hospital worker rang the doorbell at my door (by now nothing seemed strange) and there was my dinner.  In a cardboard box.  There was a full set of dishes in the kitchen if I had felt the need for something sturdier but the box was fine.  So was the meal - very good actually.  I do find some of the weirdest places to stay when I'm on the road!!

When I picked Jeff up from work I took him home and then took both he and Chris to their friends' party.  It was nearly 11:00 and since I figured the party would go much later and Jeff would most likely not be great company for breakfast, we said our goodbyes.

I woke early to a light rain and headed out.  I did text Jeff to confirm he was not up to breakfast this early (surprisingly he did wake up long enough to respond in the affirmative).  Back on the interstate and heading south with another cup of lobby coffee.

South of Seattle I stopped for more coffee and fuel at a 7-Eleven.  The area was beautiful and I sent Bill this picture from the parking lot.

Our 7-Elevens don't have views like that!  Maybe because it was different and beautiful and I wasn't sharing it in person with Bill, it sort of made me sad.  I didn't take any other pictures the rest of the trip :-(.  The sun came out and I was able to see more of  Washington.  The rivers are especially beautiful although the bridges are a bit suspect.  It's easier to understand how a major bridge on this major interstate collapsed earlier this year.
I realized that I would like to work in Washington where there is no state income tax.  I would like to shop in Oregon where there is no sales tax.  And I want to drive in California where the tax revenue provides for safe and superior roads and bridges.  Perhaps a change of political party is in my future.......oh hell no!
The sunshine continued and the area north of Eugene I missed the day before was just gorgeous.  Green meadows surrounded by mountains, it reminded me of the feeling of safety I get in the Carson Valley in Nevada.  I loved it.
My goal was to make Medford for the night, making for a shorter middle day on the way back.  Janis checked in and wanted me to stop at the RV park at the Seven Rivers Casino in Canyonville.  She knows I'm not a fan of the typical cramped concrete parking lot RV park and really wanted me to check this one out as an example of a "good park". The area is beautiful and not far from the Valley of the Rogue campground so I was up for it.  It was easy to agree with her on this one.  Still tight spaces but beautiful grounds and with 50% filled you could tell they made an effort to spread folks out as much as possible.  I would stay there. 
But then she pushed her luck with the Durango RV park outside of Red Bluff the next day......not so much.
After driving through Medford thinking there would be a better place to stay at the next exit I backtracked through town at 5 PM to the first place I thought about took forever!  They had a room at a reasonable price, room service was provided from the on site restaurant, the bed was very comfortable, and I was asleep before 9:00. 
Another very early morning, back on the interstate before the sun was up.  I hit the Yreka area as the sun was rising and realized that those pictures of Shasta I planned on taking weren't going to happen.  There was a large gray mass off to the east but you certainly couldn't tell it was a beautiful snow covered mountain.  Just as well, I wasn't in picture taking mode anyway.
My gas mileage was certainly better on the return trip.  I picked up a tail wind in Ashland and it pushed me all the way to Sacramento.  Of course I was also without the weight of all those worldly belongings in the car.
Janis and Nick had appointments at 1:00 so I called Lezlie (a dear friend from my previous work world) about 11:00 to see if she could do lunch at 12:30.  Of course she had a 1:00 meeting because it was Friday and you can never have too many meetings at the end of the week.....nope, not missing that work thing.  I stopped by to give her a hug anyway and got caught up on all the big changes in her life.  I'm so happy for her!
Back to Chez Szichak for the night.  I don't know how Janis and I still have so much to talk about after 25 years but there seems to be no end in sight.  When the yawns were winning over the words I knew I was done.  After a goodnight call to Bill I was asleep in minutes.
Absolutely nothing interesting to report on the final day's journey.  The wind blew the whole way but never enough to be an issue.  I pulled into the driveway at exactly noon and was very glad to be home!
The next time I make that trip north it will take at least four weeks!


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