Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Four days ago we left Corvallis, and have been traveling rather busily since. Well be slowing down and staying longer in places as we go, but since we had a lot of distance to cover between Corvallis and northern California, weve been driving a few hours every day but today.
Sunday, after a frantic flurry of packing and washing sheets and towels at our rental house, we got on the road about 9:30am, saying goodbye to Corvallis for the foreseeable future. We almost drove off in the van, without taking the Honda, which we needed to deliver to my mother in Sweet Home to keep while were gone.
We headed east through the mountains, after goodbyes and car delivery at my mothers, hoping that we had not forgotten to take or do anything important. (So far we havent discovered anything, but its early days). We stopped at the High Desert Museum south of Bend, which we hadnt been to for some years, and Colin never. We especially wanted to go that day because the old steam logging mill which is featured there would be operating, and it being Fathers Day, Rich would get in at an extra discount. It was a pleasant stop, with several new displays since we had been there last, and the weather was very nice as well, warm but not too hot. Then we made our first mistake of the trip: we went back into Bend and drove around for an hour trying to decide whether to stay in a cheap but unpleasant motel on a shopping strip, or a nice but too expensive hotel downtown. Then we finally did what we should have done in the first place - drove the 20 miles or so south to La Pine a much smaller town) and stayed in the cheap-but-nice Best Western there.
It had a good indoor pool, so Monday morning Emily and Colin played in it for awhile, then we headed on south towards Klamath Falls, our next stop, just north of the California border. Once there we opted for another Best Western, not as nice but still fine, and after having a picnic lunch at a pretty park (with a playground) at the foot of the Upper Klamath Lake and wandering around for a bit, we decided to go into California to visit the Lava Beds National Monument and Tule Lake Wildlife Reserve about 40 miles away. We had bypassed the various lava caves and visitor centers in the Bend area, since we had seen them before (Emily especially, since she had visited some of them during the previous two years science camps), and most of them were a bit too far off our track. The Lava Beds in California, however, were new to us, and promised lots of caves. The day was hot, but dipping into several coolish lava tube caves was pleasant, and there was quite a bit of variety. They tended to have had frequent cave-ins, too, so there was sunlight fairly often, which kept them from being too spooky for Colin. We only saw a few of the caves - several were closed due to the presence of bats, and several appeared to be too difficult to take Colin into, or too low for us to want to crawl through - but those we visited were well worth it. We also stopped to look at and listen to birds (and the silence) at one part of the Tule Lake reserve.
The next day we spent a little time in Klamath Falls, taking a trolley tour of the historic downtown (there are a couple of really nice buildings, the rest was pretty mundane) and checking out the possibilities of a boat tour on the lake (nothing was happening that day, as far as we could tell, except an expensive evening dinner tour on a paddle wheeler), then started south again via Hwy. 97. We stopped briefly at another wildlife reserve just out of town, to watch birds and bugs for awhile, then headed on into California. Very soon Mt. Shasta dominated the landscape. I had never approached it from this northern route before, and the view was really spectacular. Rich and Emily were kept quite busy taking photographs (Rich has more-or-less figured out the fancy digital camera we have with us, and Emily is rapidly learning, while I have barely picked it up to do a point-and-shoot, so I think they will be our staff photographers).
We made several stops on the way, most notably at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, a fascinating and beautiful array of much-larger-than-life-size, impressionistic metal sculptures memorializing those killed in wars, especially the Korean war, I think, all set in the middle of a subtly-colored sagebrush desert as lovely as any garden. Emily took lots of photos here, many set against Shasta for drama. We lingered quite awhile, all very impressed, even Colin, but it was hot and sunny, near 100, and even hats and sun glasses couldnt keep us comfortable too long.
A little further south we stopped in the town of Mount Shasta, with the mountain looming above, and after scarfing up an armload of tourist brochures at the local visitor information center, took a 20-minute drive up the mountain as far as the road was open - not very far yet, but enough for there to still be snow, which the kids had great fun playing in. This, however, pretty much used up our sun quota for the day (were still getting used to being out-of-doors in a warm climate, after two months of being more-or-less holed up in our rental house, with no garden to get us outside), so we were eager to get to our pre-reserved lodging for the next two nights, in Dunsmuir, a few miles further south.
Unfortunately, when I reserved an inexpensive modular unit with a kitchen in a small resort in Dunsmuir, I forgot that Dunsmuir is, literally, right alongside I-5, and very noisy, especially at this location, where trucks were compression braking down a long hill. The accommodations were less than stellar, too, although adequate, and Rich almost convinced us to look for something else. However, it was getting late, and would probably have taken quite awhile and cost more to go elsewhere, so we stayed, and it worked out fine. Once we got the air conditioner going and cooled off the heat of the day, the heavily-shaded grounds were pleasant, and if we walked alongside the nearby Sacramento river, or stayed inside with the air conditioner going, the road noise wasnt a problem. There was also a nice pool which Colin was eager to try out. We got unpacked, picked up dinner makings at a small store around the corner, and had a pleasant evening.
Wednesday morning (we are losing track of which day it is already - that was this morning as I write) we drove about 30 miles south to go to the famous Shasta Caverns. This turned out to be more expensive than I would have expected, but was fun. We rode a boat across part of Shasta Lake to a huge limestone outcropping, rode a bus 800 feet up to the cave entrance, then spent an hour touring the spectacular (and expertly-lit) limestone formations inside the mountain. Even Colin was impressed. We also went up and down 100s of steps, and my knees were not happy. Colin was a real trouper, keeping up with the adults no matter how long the flight of stairs, and not complaining, though when we were stopped he asked to be picked up several times and was obviously tired.
After that days picnic lunch, we had planned to go visit Castle Crags, another spectacular rock formation near Dunsmuir, but everyone was tired, and we could see them pretty well from the freeway. Besides which, Colin fell asleep in the car, so we drove back up to Mount Shasta City to get groceries, then retired to our quarters for the rest of the afternoon. Colin got to swim for awhile, though it was much cooler here than the day before, Rich spent some time unsuccessfully trying to forge an Internet connection over the phone line, and we walked to the very lovely Dunsmuir City Park nearby, complete with a fledgling botanic garden. Ive spent the rest of the evening typing this, and will now read for awhile.
Monday, June 23
I really need to do these entries more often - Im already forgetting what happened just a few days ago. Last Thursday we left Dunsmuir, and got an early enough start that we stopped at Castle Crags State Park briefly after all. Unfortunately, to really get into the crags you have to hike quite a ways, and we did not have the time or inclination for that. But we did walk to a lower-level viewpoint, and Emily kept busy photographing flowers and bugs, as well as the Crags. Then we headed south to Redding, where we planned to go to the Turtle Bay Exploration Center. We spent an excellent morning and afternoon there. It is a very nice, shady place with a lot of variety: a museum with displays ranging from how the gold rush impacted the local Native Americans, to modern glass work, to local water fauna; a Butterfly House with dozens of exotic butterflies flitting about - this was everyones favorite, and the kids even got to release some butterflies from their glassine mailing envelopes; a Paul Bunyan adventure area, which Colin loved - it had a water flume (shaded) where kids could place wooden dams in various configurations to control the water flow, a water wheel, and a gravel pit with several kinds of digging trucks, as well as a playground; and several other things. It was well worth the visit, and had things to interest everyone.
Then we embarked on the rather long drive down to Auburn to stay with our friends Jan and Ron. We fully expected that both Emily and Colin would sleep all the way, but Colin chattered and played the entire 3 hours, and Emily finally gave up trying to sleep. By the time we arrived we were happy to get out of the Central Valley flatlands and into some nicely-treed hills, and appreciated their lovely geodesic dome house on several acres. We were in time to help feed the horses, much to the kids delight, and were treated to an excellent roast dinner.
Friday we were ready to just relax, and this was an excellent place to do so. We played with Jans cute new kitten when it was brave enough to show itself. The kids both got to ride a horse, Emily receiving some good riding lessons from Jan. The only excursion we made was to pick up Jans mother from Auburn so she could join us for dinner, and stop at a playground for Colin to mess around a bit. We also had a change in plans - we had intended to spend Saturday and Sunday nights at another friends house in the Bay area, after their annual huge Solstice party which we havent been able to attend in years, then two nights in Monterey, partly to visit relatives there. But after speaking to one of said relatives we decided a visit was not a good idea, and didnt really have any other reason to go to Monterey. After some fast discussion and phone calls, Jan and Ron graciously agreed to host us another two nights, despite the fact that they are unaccustomed to kids in the house, and we rearranged the rest of the schedule to follow.
Saturday was still party day in Palo Alto, but since we were no longer going to stay there that night, we decided that just Jan and I would go; it was a long drive and Rich and the kids wouldnt know very many people. As it turned out it was an even longer drive than we expected due to traffic delays - almost five hours, including a stop to pick up the rental car that we would be using for the rest of our time in the US. But the party was fun, and I enjoyed talking to people I hadnt seen in many years. Jan and I left fairly early to visit another friend who hadnt been able to make it to the party, then embarked on the long, late drive back to Auburn. I was hard put to stay awake till 11:30, our arrival time, and Jan had to get up early the next day to prepare for a deck-lifting (it was sagging), so we got straight to bed.
While we were doing that, Rich took the kids to Sacramento and elsewhere, and I hope hell write about it.
[On the way to the Sacramento Zoo we got lost so often, that kids say Are we lost yet instead of Are we there yet. The Zoo was a small but nice one, with a special exhibit of a white (albino) alligator.
After the Zoo, we headed to Sutters Creek, in the California gold country. Once again I got lost. Sutters Creek was a funky town consisting mostly of antique shops. We did find a nice ice cream shop with a piano player playing rag time and other jazz tunes. The drive back to Auburn on hwy. 49 was so winding I had to stop to let the kids walk around to prevent serious car sickness.]
Sunday was another quiet day. I helped Jan with a little garden work, then we decided to drive a ways into the Gold country to the town of Coloma to visit the site of the first discovery of gold, and the park there. The kids most enjoyed panning for gold in a little water trough - they found mostly garnets, but got a few tiny flakes of the shiny stuff - but there were also several little museums and a nature center. It was a quiet, pleasant afternoon. Alas, when we got back to Jan and Rons we found they had had an unannounced visitor with a 5-year old son who could have played with Colin, but we missed them.
We had an excellent dinner out that evening, and departed early Monday morning, leaving our van in the care of our hosts, with the intention of going to Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy, but we didnt quite make it. We were heading through Pacheco Pass, it was getting later in the afternoon, and their 5 oclock closing time was looking closer and closer in relation to the considerable price we were going to pay to get in. When we passed by Casa de Fruta on the pass, we decided to stop there instead, and do the Gardens the next day. Casa de Fruta is a funny place that started life years ago as a fruit stand. Ive been there many times 20 or more years ago, and it has expanded greatly since. Now it features the Casa de Fruta, an extensive market selling all sorts of fruit and other products, Casa de Sweets, de Wine, de Coffee, and several others, as well as a small steam train, a petting zoo, a playground, and the most amazing collection of rusted old farm equipment any of us has ever seen. It was another low key, pleasant afternoon, and afterwards we trundled into Gilroy to a hotel, after nabbing an excellent discount coupon for Bonfante Gardens at the visitor center.