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An unexpected road trip

Three weeks ago I was planning one of my trips to the Olympic Peninsula, where I love to immerse myself in the natural beauty of ocean, beach, rain forest, and mountain. Then on Thursday the 6th, just three days before I was going to head for Astoria on the first leg of that trip, I found myself at work trying to decipher an old database while being bombarded by text messages from my family. Gradually it penetrated my distracted brain that my mom and dad needed somebody to help them drive to their winter home in Southern California and that neither my sister or brother were in a position to do that.

"I've got next week off," I texted. "I can drive to California, if that's what's needed."

The next day at 5:30pm I was on a train to Portland, having cancelled all my reservations in Astoria and La Push. Twelve hours later we were in my parents' Prius heading down Interstate 5. I was suffering a bit of whiplash, but it was all in a good cause.

I'd helped my parents drive to their place outside Desert Hot Springs once before a few years back, but that time we left from Central Oregon and headed to California by way of Lakeview in far southeast Oregon. This time we headed down I-5 and cut across the Cascade Mountains at Klamath Falls, which is the route Dave O'Neill, carl, and I took when we drove to Reno for the Worldcon in 2011. A bit strange that this terrain is therefore starting to look a bit familiar to me. We connected with U.S. Route 395 at Alturas in California and stopped in Reno for the night, after nearly twelve hours of driving.

20141108_NE Cal
Northeastern California

We stayed at a Best Western in downtown Reno, and I headed to the bar to have a couple of drinks before dinner. The bar was inset with slot machines, but I ignored them and watched football instead. After dinner my mom fell into exhausted sleep (my dad has been having health problems which I think are just about as hard on her as they are on him), while my dad and I settled in to watch our beloved Oregon Ducks play Utah on the hotel room TV. It was a great game, with one of the craziest plays of the year, and it was worth the trip just to spend that time cheering with my dad, who looks strangely like Popeye when he has all his false teeth out.

Meadowcliff, just outside Coleville, California

The next day we had breakfast at the little restaurant at Meadowcliff where we'd eaten on the previous trip too. Absolutely beautiful setting. That drive along the Sierra Nevadas on 395 is utterly spectacular. I kept thinking of all the great movies that have been filmed in those mountains, especially High Sierra (1941) and one of my all-time favorites, Out of the Past (1947). As on our previous trip we passed through Bridgeport, which is the little town where Jeff Bailey has fled in a attempt to escape the past in the latter movie. It was just as thrilling the second time to make the approach to Bridgeport along a countryside that hasn't changed in almost 70 years. We also stopped in Bishop again to buy bread at Schat's Bakery ("world famous"!), before dropping down out of the plateau into the drier desert of Southern California.

20141109_High Sierras
The High Sierras

It was another twelve hours in the car. Mom and Dad went through their practiced routines of getting their double-wide unpacked (many household items go into the fridge for protection against summer heat) and air-conditioned and the water heated. I think I slept for most of the next 24 hours -- not continuously, but with several long snoozes over the course of the next day. I don't know whether it was all the driving that did me in, or whether I was worn out from my job too. I surely needed the time off, and one thing that had immediately appealed to me about this trip once I got my head back into place from the sudden shift in gears was the prospect of some warmth and sunshine. Meanwhile back in the Pacific Northwest, a big rainstorm was followed by some freezing weather. I was glad to be missing that.

20141109_Parents at Morongo
Mom and Dad watch birds at Big Morongo Canyon

On Tuesday and Wednesday we went on a couple of short hikes in nature preserves. Dad came with us to the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, which showed that he was starting to feel better after the heart problems he had in October. It was a beautiful little park that they visited regularly in their younger days because of the birding. We ate lunch at a little cafe where a local told us that one of the bird guides they'd known died last winter of brain cancer. On Wednesday Dad stayed home while Mom and I went to Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, which is an absolutely magical oasis in the middle of the bone dry terrain of the Coachella Valley. The fan palms are fascinating, because they hang onto their dead fronds and wear them like a coat. You walk into a grove of those and are immediately cloaked in a peaceful silence and stillness. The preserve is home to several protected species, including a frill-toed lizard and some kind of little fish. The oasis blew me away, and I'd happily go back.

Fan palms

The oasis

That evening we were invited to dinner by Merv and Lorraine, who are a couple of Canadian friends of my parents. They were amongst the various people who had stopped by to ask how my parents were in the days after we arrived. Folks were concerned that my parents had come down later than usual. Anyway, Merv and Lorraine are salt-of-the-earth types from up around Edmonton, and we had a lovely evening and a lovely salmon dinner.

One of my mom's quilts -- a pattern that Lorraine has also done

On Thursday I flew back to Seattle from the Palm Springs airport. All in all, it was a great trip. I sunned myself, I gawked at all the old geezers who swarm to the desert in the winter, I admired my mom's latest amazing quilts, we gabbed about family, friends, health, books, sports, politics, and memories. Life. It was good quality time with the parentals, and another wonderful drive down the backside of California.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 24th, 2014 12:58 am (UTC)
What a great trip. What a good son. Win-win.

Thanks for the write-up, and the pix.
Nov. 24th, 2014 01:35 am (UTC)
Thanks, Geri. My brother and sister do so much more for my parents than I do, it isn't funny, so it was nice to be able to something helpful to everyone. And yeah, it was a lot of fun too, so win-win.
Nov. 24th, 2014 03:22 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it.

That Ducks v. Utah play was so wacky even I heard of it.
Nov. 24th, 2014 04:15 am (UTC)
Definitely a WTF play. We were groaning because we thought Utah had scored a second touchdown and were now leading 14-0, when all of a sudden the TV was showing the Ducks running the ball into the endzone. It took a while to understand what had happened.
Nov. 24th, 2014 04:01 am (UTC)
Wow, gorgeous terrain, and what a lovely quilt!
Nov. 24th, 2014 04:18 am (UTC)
I highly recommend the drive along 395. The landscape is just amazing. And my mom is a pretty amazing quilter.
Nov. 26th, 2014 06:17 am (UTC)
You are a fine, fine son.
Nov. 26th, 2014 05:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks, although I don't think it ranks up there with going to Mexico to retrieve your dying uncle. Not that it's a competition!
Nov. 27th, 2014 09:59 pm (UTC)
Happy Thanksgiving!
Nov. 28th, 2014 06:40 pm (UTC)

Thank you!

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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