Back to California (Aug 9 2016)


Wow. I slept surprisingly well! Unlike the Walmart parking lot at Clearlake, there were no leaf blowers, no street sweepers. And the rush of traffic on the I-5 is such soothing white noise.

From Grants Pass, it is Highway 199 to the coast, going through the Siskiyou National Forest, then the Smith National Forest. When we were on this road last year, there was no agricultural inspection at the border but today there is.

There is a lot more traffic – cars, RVs and motorcycles. And more sunshine!

Back on 101 to Cresent City, where we stop for some lunch at a Mexican place (most authentic chile rellenos this side of the border!) then, another stop at Kamp Klamath, at the mouth of the Klamath River. Aaron who we met in Baja runs the camp here but he was away in Medford so we just had a peek inside.


Could not resist taking a shot of the birds nesting in the eaves of the camp office.

The Newton B. Drury Parkway is a 9-mile road through Prairie Creek Redwood State Park and just as magical as the Avenue of the Giants. Unfortunately, the park was packed and we couldn’t stop by the visitor’s center for lack of parking.

“Man, there was a time when no one came out here,” Big Dog whines. “Too many people!”

There is camping here and trails to Gold Bluff Beach as well as Fern Canyon. We’ll have to come back during the off-season.

StoneLagoon1It’s so unusual to have such nice weather at the coast in the summer and it makes us stop at Stone Lagoon but it is too windy for kayaking. And just when I am wondering where the elk are this time of year, there is a wild herd in a meadow south of Orick.

From there, it is a short distance to Arcata and the end of this roadtrip, but Bailey is not getting out of Sprockets.

“More! I want more!” she pleads. Yes, we will have more. Many, many more.


Arcata is where… (July 31 2016)

redwoodparkAfter a nice restful night boondocking in Garberville, it is a short jaunt back up to Arcata. Although I am sad to be away from the Ranch, I love being in Arcata.

Why? Let me count the ways!

* It will always be Hippie Central

While some of the original flower children have “grown up” there is always an influx of newer, younger bohemians looking for that Utopia, keeping Arcata the most left-wing town in the U.S. (as far as I know.)

* Big Business (note capital letters) is not welcome here

“That’s why the area remains depressed,” bitch the old-timers who may have once been happy to panhandle for food money. “It’s too anti-business here!” Yes, they burned down every McDonald’s that tried to open shop in town until Mickey D finally got it. “You don’t deserve a McDonald’s!” they said in a huff on their way out. There IS a McDonald’s out on the edge of town, but if you want burgers, you can get great ones at V&N’s or Stars, so who needs terrible fast food? There are no Starbucks, no Barnes & Nobles, no Bed, Bath & Beyond, no Best Buy, no WalMart…


* Everyone is Community Minded

Actually, the town is very supportive of its businesses. Everyone makes an effort to buy local. So if you have a unique product or service (or even a not-so-unique product or service) this is a great place to start. In recent years, there has been an even bigger push for Humboldt Made, in branding and marketing, and as long-time cannabis businesses get ready for the decriminalization of their product, there is much talk about how to “protect” Humboldt weed.

* Creativity Abounds

And they never put on that “I’m an artiste…” attitude. The first time I came here, I met a big group of artists. They were awesomely good, but many had day jobs as car stereo installers, sales clerks, etc. If these people lived in Tokyo, they would have been the biggest sensation! Every small town has its group of artists, but the people here are really, really good. It must be the long, dark winters. Central California is just too nice most of the year to be sitting inside making art (as I found out!)


* Materialism is the scourge

You won’t know that there are any wealthy people here because no one wants to be perceived as materialistic. There are tons of junker cars, junker bikes, thrift stores. Everyone looks like they are wearing 30 year old clothing. I fit right in. Here, Big Dog and I are not the eccentric weirdos we are elsewhere.



In every way. From the Green Party (Arcata elected the first-ever Green party city council majority in 1996 and was the first city in the nation to pass a law nullifying the USA PATRIOT Act) to its eco-consciousness to the land around, everything is green, green, green. It has the most amazing wastewater treatment system in the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, was the first municipality to ban the growth of any type of Genetically Modified Organism within city limits (with exceptions for research and education,) and tons of eco-activists.

* It’s Young

More than 30% of the population is between 18 and 24, and the median age is around 26 years. The City Council is sometimes composed in part by college students. But more than actual chronological age, it’s a youthful town. Or maybe I should say, ageless. My mother who came to visit a few years ago couldn’t stop giggling over all the grey-haired “youngsters” skateboarding around town. We all think we’re 18 here.

* It’s got a Heart

And I don’t mean compassion for the homeless, but a geographical heart. Most American towns no longer have a center. Arcata still has its Plaza and what an active plaza it is! From the weekly Farmer’s Markets to the start of the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race to the Oyster Festival to the political happenings to all the people just hanging out or sleeping, it is a plaza much like the zocalos of Mexico.


* The Local Baseball Team is named after one of my favorite foods

Arcata is home to the Humboldt Crabs, the nation’s longest continuously operated semi-pro baseball team that’s played every season since 1945! And they serve soy dogs at the ballpark.



Highway 101 – Part 2 (June 12 2016)

dsc07371Big Dog and Bailey pick me up in Berkeley in the late morning and we begin the long haul north. Big Dog is already in a foul mood from getting badly lost on his way to my friend’s house in Berkeley – he’s gotten too used to having his own personal navigator (me) – and the traffic towards the Richmond Bridge is absolutely horrific.

We don’t like this stretch between SF and just beyond Santa Rosa. It’s mostly a blur of fast driving, agitated drivers, agile maneuvering. Every time we make this trip, I am astounded and a bit heartbroken at the development between Salinas and Santa Rosa. New lanes keep appearing on the highway, towns are getting bypassed.

But then, the last strip mall falls behind you and you are back in Rural California. Shopping centers are replaced by rolling hills covered in grapes; pretty little farmhouses take the place of ugly McMansions.

For me, Northern California begins with the first tie-dye village of Hopland, home of Real Goods, the solar people.

Willits is “Gateway to the Redwoods” according to the big sign that greets visitors traveling north, or “Heart of Mendocino County” if you are traveling south. They are 2 sides of the same sign that spans Route 101 now. But not for long. A bypass has been under construction and soon, you will have to get off 101 to drive through the town.

From here north is my favorite part of 101. There’s Richardson’s Grove and the Standish-Hickey State Park with its giant redwoods. And you can’t forget the roadside attractions, either. Confusion Hill (Is Seeing Believing?), the One Tree House, carved inside a real tree (Believe it or not!), the One Log House, the Drive Thru Tree, the Bigfoot souvenir shop.

Route 101 goes through, or by, other tie-dye towns as it snakes along with the Eel River. Garberville, Redway… then the Pacific Lumber Company town of Scotia. Everyone who lives there works for The Company, or services those who do.

As the redwoods open up, there are fields and wetlands and green, green pastures where mom and kid cows munch, lounge and frolic. Then, finally the Eureka/Arcata area, circled by the tallest redwoods, teensy slivers of sandbars and breathtaking wetlands.

dsc06476The Redwood Curtain used to be much thicker and Arcata, a pretty little town of fanciful Victorian architecture, colorful denizens and majestic redwoods, was much more hidden. Today, it seems to be on everyone’s map and the town is filled with out-of-towners.

But some things remain the same.

A few years ago, as we arrived and were driving through downtown Arcata, an old hippie stood in front of our truck at a stop sign and “flew” his glass pipe over the hood of our vehicle like a benediction. Nice to be back!


Bigfoot Country (July 1 2015)

BigfootMuralSprockets was more than ready for another Road Trip. And so were we.

“Ready for New Territory?” I smile at Sprockets, imagining him snorting and whinnying and pawing the ground in anticipation.

We don’t get very far, however. Not initially.

“Shit. I forgot the pump,” says Big Dog, just as we pass the West End Road exit on 299. We have to go back to get it or there will be no kayaking.

Moments later, we are back on 101, then on 299, headed towards Willow Creek. The only place cool in July is the coast and as we drive away from it, into the interior, the mercury starts rising. The hot air brings with it a scent that I identify as chestnut flowers although there are no chestnut trees in sight. Maybe it’s the smell of the other flowering trees. I must look it up later.


Up, up, up, down, down, down. The road twists and turns its way to Willow Creek, Gateway to Bigfoot Country. The big statue of Bigfoot reminds visitors of that, as does the sign on Route 96, the Bigfoot Scenic Byway.

WillowCreekBigfoot1HappyCampBigfoot3It’s interesting how many cultures have their own version of Bigfoot. The natives of the Pacific Northwest all had their Bigfoot, or Sasquatch legends. In the Himalayan region, they have Yeti. Orang Pendek lives in Southeast Asia, while Yowie is an Australian Bigfoot. And the interest still continues! Even as recent as 2014, there was another claim of a Bigfoot capture.

I don’t know the history of Bigfoot in these parts, but in 2005, a Bigfoot fan talked about tracking one in the Happy Camp area on a radio show. Happy Camp is on our route.

The town of Hoopa is right in the middle of the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. Do they have a casino, too? We don’t see one or any signs for one.

Past Weitchpec is the Yurok Indian Reservation that straddles the Klamath River as it heads down towards the town of Klamath and the Pacific Ocean, but Route 96 goes up along the river that comes from the Klamath Lakes. Towns along here are tiny, some are just groups of houses. One of the “larger” (but still tiny!) towns is Happy Camp. There’s a park and recreation area so we park there and take a little dip in the Klamath to wash off the dust and sweat. (No Bigfoot sightings, however.)

KlamathRiver2KlamathRiver4“Wow, the water’s really warm!” It’s surprising how warm it is. Not a good thing for the fish. The rocks are coated in blue-green algae. Slippery, slimy. But the water still feels nice and fresh.

It’s not much farther to F and A’s home in the town of Klamath River. Actually, there doesn’t seem to be a town at all, just a few dwellings dotting the road here and there. Was one of them a store? Mostly, it’s just forest – the Klamath National Forest.

F was Big Dog’s longtime friend. They both escaped to Vancouver together when they were drafted and they both returned to the US together, to share a house in McKinleyville while Big Dog was getting his undergraduate degree from Humboldt State University. Big Dog talks a lot about Phoebe, the cow they had then, and who only F could milk.

“Frank had a giant blond ‘afro’ and when Phoebe caught sight of it in the kitchen window or across the field, she would start lowing.”

All the residents of that house (there might have been 6 or more, including all the girlfriends) had fresh raw milk. There was even enough for a professor or two. All until the day Phoebe got into the grain and ate herself to death.

Today, F does not have much hair. Or mobility. He has MS which has gotten progressively worse and he is pretty much confined to home now. Regardless, he is in great spirits when we arrive at their home.

FrankAngelaHome5“He needs to be in an air-conditioned environment,” explains his very young-looking, pretty wife A. The cool comfortable house is a relief from the Very Very Hot outside. It’s an old pioneer type home and very appealing though I can’t imagine how A deals with F’s condition in this sort of house. But she seems to take it all in stride and whips up a BBQ salmon dinner for us.

FrankLichHome1Sprockets is parked in their yard and that is where we sleep, or try to in the heat. The side and back doors are open for ventilation (note to self: I must make another mesh screen – one is not enough) but it doesn’t cool down until about 3am and then we can finally get to sleep…until the birdsong wakes us up a few hours later!


House Camping (June 2015)

DSC04421Arcata is a beautiful town during the summer. The Humboldt State University students are mostly gone so the town is a bit quieter, but still fun and colorful with the Saturday Farmer’s Markets, Oyster Festival, plazoids (the itinerant crowd that hangs out at the plaza in the center of town) and the most original fashions.

We’re back on blow up mats inside the empty, unfurnished Victorian. I keep wondering if sleeping inside Sprockets might not be more comfortable…



Welcome to the Jungle (May 29 2015)

nasties14The 2nd leg of the journey went as smoothly as the first, with a brief stop at JW’s office in Eureka to drop off the box of 2-buck chuck for his wife (who had discovered the break-in), then on to Arcata.

The yard had turned into a jungle! With nasturtiums completely taking over the back entry – the path, outside, the walls on both sides of the path, the gate – and I had to hack my way through to get in. The yard was covered in weeds and grass 4 to 5 feet high. Yep. The place sure looked vacant!

But the break-in was really weird. B said there were towels on the floor and dishes in the sink. She washed the towels but I knew one of them was my floor mat. The dishes were in a square tub and she just took them out and brought them back as was but the dishes didn’t look at all dirty. Of course I washed them, but it was almost as if someone had come in, dried off, eaten with our dishes and utensils and then gone away to wash them and bring them back. Very bizarre!


Back Down 101 (Sept 7 2014)

DSC03975.JPGOur quick little trip to Arcata is over. After the tenant moved out, we moved in, cleaned the place and camped inside the empty house. In a little less than two weeks there were many reunions with old friends, walks around the beautiful neighborhood, the University and through the redwood forests.


DSC03976.JPGAnd now, it’s time for all of us to roll back down south for the winter.