Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Big Blue's Labor Day weekend in NorCal Adventure - Day 1

Day 1 route.

At the wheel of Big Blue.

We set out early on the Friday before Labor Day into the great wide-open of northern California. This trip, which marked 2 years to the day of us first seeing Big Blue, was taken for 2 reasons.
  1. We would consider it a “shake-down” trip. Having just picked up Big Blue from Paul’s shop where he had replaced the tie rods, done some carburetor work, and put in new inner wheel bearings. Having done this, we turned our minds toward a 9-day trip that will be coming up in October. With our first really long trip in Blue looming before us, we wanted to use this trip as a chance to see what was still needed, and what was not needed, and how we would survive 9 days on the road in our VW camper.
  2. The 2nd reason for the trip is the exact reason why we bought Big Blue in the first place. To slow down and shut off. I have been working 60 and 70 hour weeks at work lately, and to shake that off, we would go out into the wilderness, turn off from email (not an option for email where we were headed) and get back on natural time a little. The spot we picked for this shutdown was perfect. And, although it would take a while to get there, it would be worth it.
And leaving early affords us the luxury of taking our time. Under no pressure to get to our camping spot on Friday night, we made sure to get a meal in us before setting out, and waited out some Labor Day traffic, and then hit the 101 north.

EP's passenger side collection (note: we are planning on installing a under the dash tray prior to the Oregon trip).

Just north of Cloverdale, we veered westward toward the coast on highway 128, through Boonville. A few miles down the road, our adventure began. We picked up, Derrick, our first, and probably last, hitchhiker.

First, I should back up here and give you a little background. EP and I are trying to come to terms with our “love your community” feelings in today’s world. This is definitely my problem more than EP’s. One of the biggest issues I have is the subject of giving people rides. I know you open yourself up to the possibility of bad events – muggers, crazies, potential serial killers – but you also open yourself up to meeting some interesting people. People who, I find, have the possibility to make you feel a little more grounded.

So our past passing of hitchhikers has felt a little odd. We are, after all, in a moving apartment – one that can fit one more person easily. Also, if we are headed in the same direction, I find it hard to justify not stopping. So, in the past, we would pass a hitchhiker and I would turn to EP and say something like, “I wish we could pick that person up and help them.” Until Friday, her answer was always “No.” But, possibly under the weight of so many times of it being her decision to not pick people up - I realize this pressure I was putting her under- she said, “sure”. So I pulled over and we waited as the hitchhiker made his way toward our bus.

Our hitchhiker’s name was Derrick. He was a member of the Rainbow Family of Living Light – commonly known as the people who attend the Rainbow Gathering – an annual hippie-type gathering. Their idea is getting back to earth, being human, with a good dose of commune-tribalism left over from the 60s thrown in. (for an excellent story on a Rainbow Gathering, read Denis Johnson's story "Hippies", in his book Seek)

Derrick was clean – almost too clean for EP’s liking – and he told us tales of how he has been on the road the whole summer, leaving out of Indianapolis to attend the Rainbow Gathering in Taos, New Mexico in June. After that, he headed west, spending time in San Diego, central California and was now headed to Mendocino, the quaint little New England-style town on the coast.

Derrick's sign.

It became clear to us, that if we didn’t do something about Derrick, that he might possibly be spending the night with us, as we weren’t going to make Mendocino, and we were going to be camping along the way. So, EP and I did some non-verbal talking and, after 30 miles, convinced Derrick that Boonville was a town he would be likely to get a ride in. We dropped him off downtown, and headed on our way. One thing I learned about hitchhikers is that, unless you want them aboard for the long haul, don’t pick them up. It is possible they are going exactly where you are going, and then you are stuck with them. Another thing we learned is that if you sort-of rush them out, they forget their signs...

That behind us, we got to the coast and started looking for places to camp. After a quick circle through the Navarro River campground, which turned out to be full, we found a beach-side spot at Van Damme State Park. The spot wasn’t ideal, as it is basically a parking lot on the beach, which wouldn’t be bad except it was $35 for the night.

With the government problems going on in California, the prices at the state parks have gone up tremendously. And a parking lot with nothing more than an outhouse seems no exception. Happy to have a spot and the day behind us, we paid our money, settled in, had a beer while having a walk on the beach and went to sleep.

The night was not over though. With an almost-full moon, I couldn’t pass up the chance at some night photography, so a few hours later, I woke up, snuck out of the bus, and tried to get some night photos of Big Blue.

Below are the results (mind you, these were taken at about 2:00 in the morning):



Last time we picked up hitchhikers, they forgot their sign when they got out too. Weird!

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