As most of the readers of this column know, a couple months back, I acquired a gentleman friend. We’re still an item, and a week ago, we took a week long road trip together. Remember, we are oldsters (79 and 80), so our friends would say, “Have a great time…and be safe.”
We did both. Our leisurely journey covered 2200 miles.
Our trip was called an “adventure” because the gentleman friend had an idea where he wanted to go, but we made actual plans (and reservations) every morning for the day ahead. Our first day was exciting because of a flat tire. Fortunately, the gentleman is a mechanic who has a trunk full of tools and was able in no time, to take off the flat and install the spare. We were in the middle of the Nevada desert at the time with the temperature 100 plus degrees. The lug nuts on the tire were blazing hot. I touched one and immediately dropped it, but the gentleman has some kind of heat tolerance and he handled those lug nuts as if it were springtime in the Midwest. We bought a replacement tire in the next town we visited.
So on to the driving. I loved being a passenger. I could look around and see the land and the hills and the plants, something entirely missed with plane travel. Our GPS lady was almost flawless and we were grateful we lived in the time of GPS. The highways we used were all in tip-top shape so the cruise was bump-less. I can’t say as much for the rest stops. At least half of the ones we passed were closed and when we did stop at one….well, it needed maintenance, lots of maintenance.
Where did we go? We made our way through desert, cities and forests to Coos Bay, Oregon and the Pacific Ocean. Then we wound our way back to Las Vegas through northern California, amazed at all the hills and acres of agriculture on either side of the highways.
We ran into haze a number of times and weren’t sure whether California fires were nearby. Our ocean views were also disrupted by fog — lots of fog. Occasionally we ran into road repairs which delayed things a bit, but all in all we made good time and were on the road with hundreds of semitrucks and SUVs whose drivers were always courteous.
We tended not to listen to the radio, but to talk or just ride in silence looking around. The gentleman is a very safe driver so nervousness of the passenger wasn’t an issue either. What was an issue, though, was the lack of a tour guide. We both had questions about what we were seeing and we would have loved answers. I Googled San Joaquin Valley and got some information, but I would have loved an in-person report.
Highlights of the trip? Seeing California redwoods in their natural settings reaching for the sky — tall and magnificent. Seeing golden yellow hills with trees and rocks and wondering how they came to be. Meeting the proprietors of Misty Meadows gift shop in Bandon, Oregon and buying some of their delicious jams. Stopping by acres of planted trees and getting up close enough to see fuzzy almonds as the product and picking one for good luck.
Early in the trip, we had an unexpected plus. We had reservations at Tonopah Station and when we checked in, the clerk asked us to turn a small cage containing three dice. If three of a kind came up, we’d get a free room. Three deuces! The first room we were assigned hadn’t been visited by the maid, but we were given another room and all was well. The casino was memorable, too. No coins or papers in the machines. If you wanted to leave a machine and had money coming, you had to find a guy with a badge and he brought your money to you. I did that twice and that was enough. For players who like to move from machine to machine, Tonopah Station would have been a real turn-off. OK back to the room and the Olympics. Loved the Olympics.
Other than Tonopah Station, the motels we used from Motel 6 to Holiday Inn Express were “about” $200 a night. I hadn’t been on a driving trip in years and seems to me motels were in the $45 range. Times have changed.
In looking at the ocean, I was surprised how scary it appeared. So large and so forever…..I didn’t mind at all that our return was inland.
One of our stops was Reno, Nevada. Before checking in, we decided to take a run around Lake Tahoe. not realizing how large the lake was and how long a “run around” would take, We actually gave up about half way, having seen many tourists, lake homes, restaurants, etc. We even saw a whole wedding party marching to a restaurant with a lake view. South Lake Tahoe was very busy. Cars were everywhere.
As to wildlife, we spied a burro up close early in our trip and we almost ran into a deer in one of the cities where we were looking for a lunch spot. The deer was on the main road right in front of the car. And we saw some elk grazing peacefully in a field maintained by one of the national forests.
Though northern California fires weren’t evident, our trip did pass through several areas where fires HAD been. We also saw storm clouds and were prepared with umbrellas, but had no rain. Bridges over creeks told the story. Little or no water in the creeks. A big rainstorm would have been reason for Californians to cheer.
Arriving home, my three dogs were alive and thriving…and that’s all I ask. A vacation for me does mean time away from the dogs, but I was glad to see them and their tails wagging when I picked them up.
We’re already planning another trip. Grand Canyon anyone?