Summer of Change XII

Move, Stage 2, accomplished.

Thursday, July 14, I picked up the Budget Rental Truck at about 7:30am, and I spent the remainder of the day loading up all of the stuff that Cristina had packed and stored in the garage. There was a lot of stuff, and, when you load one of these suckers, you have to consider balance of the load and all that type of thing. I helped work enough truck wrecks as a teen to know how important it is to make sure the load is loaded correctly. Apparently, I did it correctly because I only had one item move on me…a walking stick that I should’ve secured more soundly. Pretty good, I think.

I finished up around 8pm, and Cristina said she’d finish up the details so I could nap for a little while. Unfortunately, I was totally wound up, and I couldn’t relax enough to doze off…even after taking a shower. So, we took off around 12am Friday and headed up I-5 for Oregon.

Getting through Los Angeles at that time proved to be no great difficulty. The difficulty came when we hit the San Joaquin Valley. If it wasn’t for the mountains that are just visible to the left and right, you’d swear you were driving through the Texas Panhandle. The floor of the valley is about as flat as the Llano Estacado, and there is nothing but agriculture between the two mountain ranges that serve as boundaries for the valley. The valley takes up nearly the entire middle third of California, so it goes on for awhile.

Unlucky for me, I started getting sleepy…to the point of having to stop about once every 30 minutes to wake myself up. I finally sent Cristina, her sister, and the animals on down the road because I knew I’d have to stop regularly, and with the growing heat of the day, I didn’t want the animals put through all of that. Luckily, just south of Sacramento, I found a Starbucks and got two Iced Venti Americanos. For the unitiated, that’s 10 shots of espresso. That worked. I was fine, sleep-wise for the rest of the day.

However, and this is a big however, it gets really, really, really, really hot in the San Joaquin Valley during the month of July. The temperatures varied between 104 and 110. The truck I’d rented, proved to be a gutless piece of crap, but it did have air conditioning. ..which was a great thing until I got to Redding and headed north into the steep mountain passes through which I-5 goes as it skirts Mt. Shasta. Looming at a height in excess of 14,000 feet, Mt. Shasta is a magnificent sight to behold. Even in July, snow blankets the mountain in all but the driest of years (like last year). Shasta also marks the northern most end of the San Joaquin, and the name also applies to the lake one crosses, the forest through which one passes, as well as the passes across which one must trek to get to the other side. This a beautiful drive. I love going through there. Usually.

This time, the temperature was 109. The gutless GMC that Budget rented to me started overheating as I started climbing 6% and 7% inclines. I had no choice but to roll down all of the windows and blast the heater on full to keep the temperature within a manageable range. Getting through the mountain passes generally takes around two hours, one if you’re hauling butt…it took me about three…at 109 degrees…with the heater going full-blast. When I finally hit the plateau that precedes the rise into the Siskyous, I pulled into the first rest stop I could find, let the truck cool for a bit, rolled up all the windows, and turned on that air conditioning. By the time I hit Yreka, I was not a pleasant person with whom to commune…I was a tad cranky and a whole lot whiff.

We tend to make the first day of the trip to Cottage Grove, Oregon a long one – preferring to stop in Yreka, California for the night. Generally, we’ll get in there in the late afternoon, providing some decompression time before we take a well-earned night of sleep. Besides, Yreka is a pretty little town, home to two of our favorite restaurants and a funky metal sculptor. As one enters Yreka, a huge metal cow, it’s head and horns raised to the sky offering a mighty bay to the sun and moon, greets visitors about a mile or so before the first exit into the town. Formerly, when you got off of the freeway onto the main street, you’d pass by the artist studio, and there’d be this huge dragon made out of bolts and sheets of metal and bicycle wheels and all sort of metal objects. The magnificent dragon now guards the northern end of town…which is nice for folks on I-5, but I admit that I missed seeing it perched in its old spot on this trip.

There are two restaurants (which will both be reviewed in full later) in Yreka that demand our attendance when we stop there. A few years ago, when Cristina first began to stop in Yreka on her treks to her mother’s house, she discovered an amazing Mexican restaurant called Casa Ramos. Casa Ramos is part of a very small chain of regional stores, and they serve some of the best Mexican cuisine one might find anywhere in California. Not to mention their magaritas…not that we might be enticed to drink one or two. The place is HUGELY busy, so it’s important to be patient. The payoff is worth it.

For breakfast, it is VERY important to stop at the Black Bear Diner. There are twenty Black Bear Diners throughout the west, with one in Las Vegas and Bullhead City (across from Laughlin, NV, in Arizona). I cannot speak to the other 19, but if they are even half as good as the one in Yreka, they are worth a stop regardless the time of day. The menu is huge, and it is fixed locally and freshly, and they give out HUGE portions that make one wonder who actually eats the five items on the breakfast menu that are listed as being for HUNGRY folks. And…now pay close attention because I do NOT make this statement lightly…they serve the best chicken-fried steak I have EVER found outside the State of Texas.

Finally, on Friday, I showered and crashed. I wanted to watch the Friday night shows on SciFi, but I conked out within five minutes of the second one (SG:Atlantis) starting.

Saturday wasn’t too bad. It’s four hours or so (I took five) to Cottage Grove from Yreka, so it’s possible for us to be a bit more leisurely in the trek. I had to make the climb through the Siskyou mountains, but that only took a half-hour, and from there it was pretty smooth sailing. I went straight to the new house, opened the garage and began unloading. One of Cristina’s friends up there came over and brought her son. So, between Cristina and Fonda, me and Scott, we had that truck unloaded in about 1 1/2 hours. Nice. Also nice that Cristina went to the mailbox and found our copy of Harry Potter 6 waiting for us.

Sunday meant returning the rental truck to Eugene. I hate getting lost. I got lost. I hated it. I was frustrated and without a map. I was not a nice person. I apologize to all living creatures. We finally found the Budget office and dropped of the truck (I hated that piece of crap…did I mention that previously?). We then proceeded to get lost twice more as we searched for things that Cristina would need for her stay at The Place in Oregon. That’s what I’ve taken to calling it. We then went home, found that the dog had tried to dig through the door because we’d left her. After dealing with a couple of family disasters, via cell phone, 1000 miles from their place of occurrence, Cristina and I headed for Eugene’s airport.

I hated saying goodbye. I love my wife, and she is my best friend. So, it was tough leaving…knowing that we’d be a part for at least one month. On the other hand, the move has brought out some not so pleasant verbiage, and our patience with each other is a tad short. So, being separated for awhile is probably a good way to decompress some of that pent up frustration. Still, I miss her.

The flight was pretty uneventful, though the Seattle leg ended up being half-an-hour late getting out of there; so, I didn’t arrive in San Diego until 12:30am on Monday morning…keeping me up until about 1:30am before I finally got to bed. But, James was there to pick me up, and we had a good ride and visit back to the house. A house that’s pretty empty despite the furniture. Really empty.

Copyright 2005 by Greg Hubbard

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One thought on “Summer of Change XII

  1. Glad you’re finding good CFS. I am basically at this point stuck with what they make at Chili’s. Chili’s is at least a pseudo-Texas place, and the gravy isn’t bad, but the steak is sub-par at best.

    Hell, I might even have to make my own.

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