Our trip north

Returning backwards in time to Wednesday, we left Berkeley, CA and drove north through the California central valley toward Paradise, CA. Kris and I have done this run a thousand times. We passed by the Red Top exit near Fairfield, CA where Kris’ Honda CVCC seized up, due to a mechanic forgetting to replace the oil drain plug, more than twenty years ago. That fateful night we were towed into Fairfield and stayed in a rent-by-the-hour motel that “serviced” Travis Air Force Base. Ah, the memories of the good old days….

We took a slightly different route to Paradise this time, lured by a formerly two lane road turned into a freeway. We saw rice fields with snowy white cranes. We stopped for an ice cream in an old fashioned, non-franchise burger joint in Marysville, CA. A tattooed young Latino behind the counter discoursed on how expensive it was to raise three kids to explain why he worked a second job in the burger joint. North of Marysville, the scenery changes from rice fields to fruit and nut orchards. We passed by the industrial side of Oroville, CA, the county seat of Butte County, while the landscape changed to golden grassland. We approached Paradise, CA from the south, up the familiar switchback road past the airport. Approaching the more than forty year old “Welcome to Paradise” sign, we saw that in addition to the placards announcing the meeting schedule of the Kiwanis and the Rotarians, a hand drawn sign had been affixed thanking the firefighters of the California Department of Forestry for their efforts that saved Paradise from destruction by a recent forest fire. We saw blackened hillsides that at first defied understanding because while the undergrowth had burned completely, trees still stood. Then we realized that the trees where an unnatural shade of brown and quite dead despite remaining defiantly upright.

We spent two nights in Paradise  enjoying the company of family. Late Friday morning we resumed our journey north, passing a nearly snowless Mount Shasta, and we reached Ashland, OR by early evening. Ashland is the home of a long running Shakespearean theater that has expanded its season both beyond Shakespeare and beyond just a summer season to a ten month season. Our timing was perfect. We bought tickets to “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller. I confess that I was not in the mood for a modern play, a tragedy at that. But I wanted to please Kris and I felt foolish about my reluctance afterwards as the play was excellent. Miller’s play has an immigrant longshoreman, Eddie, as the central figure with the fatal flaw; he cannot accept that his ward/niece has grown up and must leave his house to live her life. Fatal flaws are never rational and Eddie’s feelings are quite confused. He contends with his own, possibly sexual, attraction to the niece and we are left uncertain whether these taboo feelings are responsible for his belief that the niece’s suitor is homosexual and only marrying her to gain citizenship in the US. The play was well staged and well acted, as are all Ashland productions that we have seen, and I was very happy that Kris had talked me into attending the play.

We dragged in kind of late to Grants Pass, OR after the play and crashed. On Saturday, we continued up I-5, exiting the mountains into the Willamette River valley. With my family in Seattle and hers in California, wee had made this trip a number of times as well. But we could not recall ever doing it on such a fine day. The sun was out and the sky was clear. From Paradise to my sister’s home in Lacey, WA, the scenery was breathtaking.

Lacey, WA is just east of Olympia, WA. Olympia has grown considerably since I was a child. It has also gotten more lively and interesting. This morning we went to the waterfront in Olympia to attend the Farmer’s Market. Once again, the parking gods were with us as, despite what appeared to be a completely full parking lot, we found a spot right at the entrance to the market. We were greeted by live music from a jazz and swing band. We bought a huge slab of salmon and a half flat of perfectly ripe, organic strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. We had a feast.

Tomorrow, we head to my older sister’s house in West Seattle and must get down to the business of repacking for the next portion of our trip and selling our van. It is hard to believe that our plane leaves for China in a week!

Tim

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