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Tomorrow I leave for the Santa Cruz area to spend the weekend. I plan on stopping in Cambria, maybe Hearst Castle (never been) and Big Sur. I’ll see how the timing works. After staying with my hosts, I return to the scene of the crime, and will get my Subaru repaired (three days). I will return to Ojai and visit with Craig Walker re Ethel, and go back to Reyes Bar & Grill. I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it.

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I’ve been staying at my brother Barry’s home for the past four days, and enjoying the weather; coastal, breezy, sunny. I visited with my niece, Shani, her husband Clint, and my first grandnephew, Logan. Barry, Margaret and I went to Ivy Lawn Memorial Cemetery and tried to locate Dr. Ethyl Percy Andrus’ mausoleum but ran out of time, as the maintenance crew had to ready to grounds for Memorial Day. Back at their home, we had a wonderful try-tip steak with rice and steamed spinach. I’m packing up tomorrow to return to another leg of my road trip. My next week or two will center around getting my car repaired. The fender and parts will be here next week while I am up by Santa Cruz. Then I will return to Oxnard and spend three more days with the car in the shop. Then back up north I go again, this time to continue with the “gray road experience.” It will be interesting to see how this all works out, as making firm arrangements is problematic to say the least. Oh well, it’s all good.

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“Turn left, right?”

Directions for the rest of us:

I hope to be visiting with a new host family very soon. In communicating with Tys, he informed me that they live deep in the woods of the coastal range of mountains. The directions (edited) are as follows:

“First, get on the highway, going north.  Look for the highway 7/hwy 12 north sign. I’m not sure of the exit, but it’s marked as a dangerous one…there’s a big sign that says “curve sharpens”. After the curve, you end up merging onto hwy 12 north, but you’re actually going east.  Stay in the right lane, as the next exit, only 400 meters or so, is hwy 7.

“Take hwy 7, the long, curvy, 2 lane road through the state park, and through the towns of Belton, Loch Lomond, Crookdale and then you get to Rocky Creek.  Drive through the town, stop at the one stop sign, then go about 300 meters, past the new sushi restaurant and over a small bridge, to Wolf Creek Road, which is a right turn.  (mark your milage meter) go 4.5 miles up Wolf Creek Road and look out for the almost hidden left turn onto Elk Creek.  If you are going up hill for more than half a mile, you’ve probably missed it. If you see a street sign for ‘Pinto Mesa’, you’ve definitely gone too far.

“PLAN B: if you get confused and can’t find it, DO NOT turn around and try going back a different way. Go back north (downhill) and go to Rocky Creek and use your cell phone to call both Tys and Melissa on our cells.

“Directions off the paved road:

“From Wolf Creek Road, [start your tripmeter/odometer at that point] take Elk Creek Road north (the only way in) 1.8 miles.  It’s a windy single lane road,so be careful of people coming the other way.  You will go over the same creek 3 times – there’s three bridges.  About ¼ mile past the 3rd bridge (2 miles from the start) there will be a sharp, LEFT-hand turn uphill. That’s Gamble road.

“You will go a total of 3.3 miles uphill on Gamble. This is the hard part for any car.  Go slow and steady. If you start to spin your tires, back up andtake a faster run at the slope. The first place people get confused is just 1/2 mile up, where a road goes off to the left. Don’t take that. There’s a small sign calling that road ‘Little Duck’.  Instead, stay to the right, and always go uphill. You’ll pass a number of signs and gates that say stay out and ‘go away’ and such, but just keep going uphill. If there’s any sort of fork or driveway, always take the one that goes uphill. When you finally get to the top of the hill, Gamble road hits OceanView Road. That’s our road.  Go left, slightly downhill (don’t go the other left uphill on the road with the heads on spikes – maybe that’s obvious) About 350 meters south, you should see our driveway on the right. On the left, there’s a doghouse looking structure, with a brown shipping container behind it.  Our black and white dog should come out and be barking at you”.

[Ed: did I mention they live in a yurt?]

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Friday, May 18, 2012

I am ready to leave the LA Basin. Family and friends – great! Weather – perfect! Mexican restaurants that serve Bohemia beer – what’s not to like? No, my reason is a bit more subjective. Let me revisit one of the goals of this road trip: meeting and listening to random people, and taking random photos of out-of-the-way and unexpected images that come to my attention. Herein lies the problem…

Frankly, getting from Point A to Point B is the problem. For starters, any Point X I can think of, is connected by roads – specifically – freeways. Lot’s and lots of freeways. As I traverse the two counties I find myself in – LA & Orange Counties – I find that my knuckles have turned permanently white. This from a man who learned to drive stick shift in a ’39 Chrysler at the Rose Bowl parking lot when I was old enough to reach the pedals (13). I got driving creds, believe you me. So when I parse the freeway driving experience here in SoCal, I trust you can understand why I am ready to leave the LA Basin!

Let me recount a couple of observations. And let’s put a few things in context first: all freeways are six to ten lanes wide. The posted speed limit is 65 mph. That’s all you need to know. Now, Pointer #1: When entering a freeway on-ramp it’s pedal to the metal time! This may seem an obvious suggestion, but the real reason is hidden in the unwritten rules of the native drivers. To wit, the right lane is the REAL passing lane. It makes sense if you thin about it. The normal passing lanes on the left, are usually jammed with some drivers going 85mph, and that’s to friggin’ slow for those who are going 95mph. It’s not that unusual to see a Mercedes C550 swing across eight lanes of moderate (or heavy) traffic to the right lane, and back to the left lane, one full car length ahead of the guy doing 85mph. Which brings us to Pointer #2: do not look for, under any circumstances, turn signal indicators. These high speed lane changes require a modicum of control, and a driver pushing 100mph doesn’t have enough time to use turn signals. Pointer #3 (optional): wear Depends. Let’s keep in mind the propensity of American drivers to tailgate the heck outta each other. No matter where I’ve driven, Indy 500 slipstreaming is not only practiced, but endorsed. In any event, the “left-right-left” passing move will require the 95mph-er to dive between two unrelated bumpers, without pealing off the I’ve Got State Farm sticker, and then dive again a lane or two later. Gasps, expletives, rapid blinking, and shortness of breath may be experienced by the observer. With the driver’s return trip to the left, these near misses will be a bit more expected and not as awe inspiring as when first performed. Pointer #4: the Sitting Duck phenomena. Generally, drivers have a strong herd instinct. Try to imagine a grouping of 50+ cars all glommed together driving at approximately the same speed. This “pod” I call it, will stick together for miles, each car jockeying for position. For my example, I’m going 72mph (so I can stay alive), and Pod #1 passes me at an average speed of say – 82mph. Once the pod passes, I have found myself literally all alone, really alone, in lane #5, blood starting to return to my knuckles. This is a false sense of wellness. There, in my rearview mirror comes Thundering Herd #2, average speed 87mph, trying desperately trying to catch up with Pod #1 who just went by me. (Who can blame them, after all, there’s comfort in numbers I understand). Rest assured, that feeling of “nowhere to hide” will pass, your destination a sanctuary where that look of “what the hell was that?” will soon pass. It may help to have “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor on “repeat”.

I trust my pointers have – at least partially – justified my lack of interest in discovering the “hidden” points of interest I may have found here. I am grateful that my family and friends have provided the requisite sanctuaries – thank you all!

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See Subie Squeaky Shine

The car is like new again. Feels so good, ya’ know?

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May(day) 10th, 2012

You know you’re in Nebraska when your GPS, mounted on the windscreen, doesn’t change one whit. (See photo).

One of the main presumptions I made about my road trip, was ubiquitous cell phone coverage, no matter my location. Here I am, racing to Southern California, traveling nothing but Interstates, and the coverage? Zip. I mean, I would pass obvious cell towers, and my little icon blinked back at me, mute. When I got to a metro area, quick as a rabbit, I’d call my sons to check in. (Getting them to pick up was another matter). I can just imagine, when they tried to call back, straight to voice mail. One explanation that came to me: is that there is nothing happening in Iowa or Nebraska.

Omaha = Obama…

After ten hours of driving across the platens we call “The Midwest,” my mind begins (sic) to wander. There, high above me, the contrails of  a western bound jet. Truth be known, I would give anything to be on board. Anything, you understand! Center seat, rear of plane, across from the lavatory, anything!

Note to self: I-80, Nebraska, mileage marker 119 – feed lot. Close all fresh ari vents beforehand. I’ve been warned.

I think the “end-of-time” people have a point. Here it is, 2012 CE, and the evidence is all around us. To wit: wind-power towers. There are so many now, that some time later this year, the our good ol’ US of A will be ripped from our ancestral moorings, and launched into oblivion. A kind of geophysical “rapture.” (Just you wait and see, it’ll happen, and bed sheets do not parachutes make.)

…later (much later) that day…

Arrived at my motel, a Super 8, in Sterling, CO, 800 miles from home. There’s a prison right next door, and its presence added to the bleakness of the area.

Sterling is northwest of Denver by about two hours, and my plan was to rise early, and – wait for it – go through Denver at rush hour. Bad plan. I waited in Sterling, puttering around until rush hour passed, and that worked just fine – and I flew through the metro. I had made reservations for the motel, on the fly, somewhere in Nebraska, at a gas stop. Hotels.com took my Amex card, but when I went to check out, someone else’s Mastercard was used, and for $20 less(?). Ah, technology. I’ll figure it our later…

The advertised “internet service” must have been dial-up, because I had very sporadic access. I was unable to get my blog updated until today (Sunday, May 13th) and so it goes. While traveling, cell phone coverage was also sporadic, but I think my car’s link and my cell were having a hissy fit. I think it’s fixed now. That said, I want to thank NPR for their talk shows, especially Public Radio Remix. Having voice in the car made me feel less a solo act. Yes, I have the “me, myself, and I” voices in my head, but that can carry me only so far! When the chats were enough, I would wander over to either Watercolors, or Spa, on Sirius satellite radio. In any event, it made the time fly by.

I did stop here and there, and sometimes you can see some pretty things.

May 12th

On my way to southwest Utah, I gave my US Servas/host family listings a shot. While at a lunch stop, I searched the rather sparse Utah hosts, and googled their cities. Bingo! Ivins, UT. Never heard of it, but the zip code was for St. George, UT. I called and talked with Sanjoy, who was most encouraging, and said he would call me back after talking with his wife, Benita. I hadn’t driving five minutes and he said that my spur of the moment request for a visit would be quite all right. Unbelievable! And this was in the afternoon, and I was 400 miles away, and would not be arriving until 9:00 p.m. or so. He suggested (and I’m glad I did) that I call from Cedar City, and hour away form their home for directions. I was received most warmly, and made to feel immediately at home. And what a lovely home it is. We chatted for an hour or so (truth be known I rambled rather than talked, but after another 800 mile day, what did I expect?) and I slept very soundly. In the morning Benita suggested we visist the amphitheater where there was a farmer’s market and car show going on in the parking area. The gem of the tour was the amphitheater itself: seating 2,000 with state of the art audio/video facilities, it is nestled between two gigantic bluffs (all bluffs in UT are gigantic, then again, coming from MN, what do you expect?).

Sanjoy and I then had a walk-around of their “zero-landscape” gardens – minimal watering required. I’ll let the pictures do the talking here, but I was most fortunate to see these wonderful, ancient plants in various stages of blossoming. I felt transported to an ancient time, where the environment was harsh and unforgiving.

 

 

 

 

Sanjoy & Benita – my wonderful hosts

May 13th

Getting to Las Vegas was a breeze. From Vegas to LA was another matter. Several 20 mile sections of interstate had a speed limit of 60, which I dropped down to 65 or so, thinking road construction or ??? Nobody else did however, and I almost got run over doing so. Back up to 78 mph I went. In the 400 mile run to LA, I saw three CHP troopers, all on the other side of the freeway. (I just saw the headlines here in CA: “Another financial crisis – $16B deficit”). With gas prices at $4.70/gallon I think they want me to fix it while I’m here.

Coming over the hill (I had been dropping in elevation) I saw a vision of hell: smog and power lines and stop and go traffic heading towards Vegas. Thank heavens Margie lives close to the ocean. With my white knuckles on the wheel, I’m perversely glad I couldn’t/wouldn’t take a picture.

Then the Garmin started sending me hither and yon. So I cobbled together a path that eventually got me to her home. I even went by my alma mater: Cal State Los Angeles. Long story short: I took Rosecrans Ave for nine miles across LA bypassing the 105. So what if it was stop and go, the air kept clearing, and the temperature kept dropping. And here I am, typing away.

Happy trails everyone – I’m off to the races!

[Note from editor: future postings will have, for the most part, slide shows instead of individual photos – I think they’re easier to view. We’ll “see”. For practice, here are ALL the photos from the last three days in slide show format.]

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Subaru & bicycles

Brad & Anika helped me mount a bike rack on the back of the Outback. They test drove it and it works great.

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