Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another Adventure Begins

In August 1975 I moved to California.  I left my job with the company where I had worked for many years, picked up and just moved.  My parents had been transferred around the country for a few years and ended up about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, and they invited me to join them and return to college.  I took them up on the offer.
I didn’t quite know how to settle down after so many years of travel and adventure, but I gave it a try.  I enrolled in a local college, made a few friends, and spent most nights in a coffee shop or two or three.  Years of meetings in different cities across the country, often several cities in a single day, left me with a huge case of jet-lag and an insatiable desire for caffeine.  My new friends would join me for a few hours, but eventually they couldn’t keep up with my schedule.
For years I had rarely slept more than an hour or two per night, and often I would go many nights without ever seeing a bed.  Dallas meeting this morning, Chicago this afternoon, Cleveland tonight, Los Angeles tomorrow morning, New York City tomorrow evening, Denver the next morning.  Such was my life.  Whenever I got a bit of time off, I took advantage of every moment.  After years of this routine, I found I was extremely addicted to coffee, and I just couldn’t sleep.  Thus the all night coffee shops.
My college classes were centered on geology, and this fed my lust for the outdoors, but college keeps one close to home most of the time.  And this was another reason for the coffee shops every night.  I just couldn’t afford the time to travel.  Like it or not, classes started at 8am five days a week.
My friends and I would grab a big booth at the local Bob’s Big Boy about 9 every evening where we would have coffee, dinner, coffee, desserts, coffee, snacks, and coffee for a few hours.  The waitresses began to join us when their shifts ended, and the group would grow and then shrink as some people had to go elsewhere (home).  Usually the last ones there when the coffee shop closed would go as a group to another coffee shop nearby to continue the fun.  I was always one of that second group.  And so was Rachael.
Rachael was the cashier at Bob’s when I started going there, but soon she became a waitress.  It always made me happy when she joined the group at the big booth, and before very long we became the last two to leave each night.
We were married April 30, 1977 at the Chapel in the Wildwood in the foothills above Upland, California.  And within a few hours we were on a road trip up the coast.  We stopped in many great little towns and cities on the journey, but mostly we stopped for cows.
Rachael had never seen a cow before and was absolutely fascinated by them.  Our photo album of the trip is mostly of cows.  Yes, there are a few shots of the ocean and other sights along the way, but if you ever get the opportunity to see this album, well, expect to see cows.
We stayed in a variety of places and some were better than others.  One of the most expensive places we stayed was in a town north of San Francisco and, believe me, it still ranks as one of the worst places I’ve ever been.  When we travel today, this is still one of the three places we compare all others to (the other two are in Flagstaff and Albuquerque, and they are a story of their own).
When we arrived at the motel’s office, we were not happy with what we saw.  The photos we had seen before making our reservation were not even of the same buildings.  We had seen a series of individual brick houses with carports.  We arrived at a large wooden structure with boards falling off the side.  And we parked in a dirt yard.  With mudholes.
We drove around for about an hour looking for another place to spend the night, but “No Vacancy” signs were everywhere, so we reluctantly drove back to the building.  We didn’t recognize it at first, but after looking at it for a few minutes, we realized the building was now leaning to the west instead of the east as it had been earlier in the day.  It changed the entire look of the building.  We checked in.  We should have spent the night in the car.  At least they had a restaurant at one end.  Another mistake on our part.  The only thing I can say was that the gasoline flavored martini was served in the correct glass.
The next morning we drove a few miles to another town where we immediately checked into a motel just to shower and use the laundry to get rid of the fleas.  Then on to Sonoma and Napa, and other great places.  But soon we had to turn back toward southern California.  At least we could take a route through the Sierra Nevada to get there.
After leaving Yosemite we took a side trip up into the Sequoia/Kings Canyon area.  About halfway up into the mountains, a gentle white substance began to fall.  Rachael, who grew up in So.Cal., naturally thought a forest fire was in the area and we were being covered by ash, but I had seen snow before.  She began to worry, so I pulled over to the side of the road to let her take a closer look.  I wish I could describe her excitement at this discovery.
We spent only a couple of hours in the snow, but the size of the trees made the side trip worthwhile.  Even though I had been in California many times, these trees were something I had never seen before.  No picture could do them justice.  True, the photographs accurately showed their size, but the real life physical experience is indescribable as one stands at the base of one of these giants.  Now I truly know how a Chihuahua must feel when standing beside a person.  Actually the difference is much greater.
After driving back into the Los Angeles area, but still a couple of hours from home, we stopped at a restaurant for dinner and noticed a sign for the annual Renaissance Faire out west of the city.  We found a motel for the night and spent the next day in the late 1500’s.  It couldn’t have been a better week.  And I couldn’t have asked for a better life.

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