Monday, January 4, 2010

A Quick Update

I know! I suck at blogging.

I DID make it out of California. In fact, I have made it to the East Coast where I am going to "settle down" and look for work. I made it through 44 states, 2 Canadian Provinces, and 18,788 miles over 126 days. Keeping up on a blog, while editing photos, while traveling, while trying to get the most out of wherever I went, proved to be an unattainable goal. On a positive note though, i was pretty good about keeping a journal and taking photos so i am going to try to recap the trip and still log it digitally on this thing so stay tuned! I can't promise anything steady (looking for a job is a full time job) but I will try my best!

So here's to a new year, a new decade, and more blogging!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Flume Trail And My First Hillbillies

Under the suggestion of the bartender at the Gold Hill Saloon, I drove back towards Lake Tahoe and went to Spooner Lake to rent a bike and ride the Flume Trail. The first part of the trail is a 4 mile ride that climbs 1000ft in pretty soft gravel. Between being out of shape and riding in high altitude, I found myself extremely out of breath and walking the last 1/4-1/2 of the trail. Once at the top, I got a beautiful view of Marlette Lake, an almost untouched lake that was a crystal clear blue.

After getting to the edge of Marlette lake, the actual Flume Trail begins. The flume trail was the most technical trail I have ever ridden (which isn't really saying all that much) and easily the most scenic. The trail wrapped the round the top of a mountain which rounded Lake Tahoe (as seen above) though the view was hazy due to the fires in Yosemite and elsewhere. When I got back to the car (a van picks you up) and ate, I didn't get on the road till 3 pm which would make it tough to make it to Oregon the same day.

Passing through Reno I stumbled on a AAA office and stopped in to get a camping guide. In looking through the guide I found Milford, CA to be the best bet for a camping spot. I couldn't find a place to buy food along the sometimes desolate HWY 395 but, in learning from my past decisions, I decided it was better to find a place and let food figure itself out.

Driving along the 395, I see a sign for a state run campground and ventured 2.5 miles to the west. Half of a mile from the campground, I see a sign for a road closure. For some reason I ignore this sign and continue along the freshly groomed gravel road. I get to the campground and the entry gate is open, proving to me that the road closure sign MUST have been wrong.

As I enter, I pause at the bulletin board to see if there are announcements. None. There is a payment receptacle but no bulletin regarding cost and no envelopes for payment which is strange. None the less, I see an old bet up truck through some trees and decide to go see who's there. I round the corner and make out 3 old big trucks with wooden side wall extensions to make the walls of the truck as tall as the roof of the cab.

I spot the bathroom, which looks like a fancy hole in the ground (vaulted), which is not surprising as the AAA guide already warned me of no showers or flushing toilets. An overweight woman with brown hair emerges from the toilet with a small yappy black dog following close. The minute it sees me, it begins to yap uncontrollably. As I pass the woman I see her, who I presume to be, husband and 3-4 young kids and identical black dog which begins to yap uncontrollably the minute it sees me, this one somehow more annoying than the last.

As the father and children come into sight, all heads snap towards me in unison. The father, whose curly hair spilled out of his faded baseball cap, flashed me a look as if to say, "If you knew what was good for you, you'd keep on moving." Though I could see him clearly through the corner of my eye behind the dark lenses of my Ray-Bans, I never turned my head to acknowledge him. I just kept up my speed, making sure not to run over either of their dogs, and returned to the gravel road before the dust could settle from my drive over. The complete dusting of my car, along with the gravel beating the undercarriage, was the punishment as if to tell me to believe the signs next time. As I headed back to the 395 as fast over the speed limit as I could justify, I couldn't help but notice how much the family, in all seriousness, reminded me of the Spuckler's from the Simpson's. Their appearance, posture, and dress were remarkably similar.

I drove north on the 395, battling sunlight, and found an RV campsite a few miles down with showers, something I needed more than ever due to the bike ride, and a convenience store. As I cooked dinner that night, I found myself constantly fighting off the local cats that seemed to be quite comfortable at the campsite but have no home to speak of. They bugged me from the minute I parked my car though they became more relentless as I began to cook in the dark, keeping tabs on them by darting my flashlight around to find them in between stirs of my food. It didn't help the fact that I decided to cook tuna that night.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My First Haunted Hotel Experience

I was up nice and early and on the road quickly which was disappointing because I didn't get a chance to say good morning and good bye to the new friend I made last night at the campsite. I made my way down to Davis to spend a couple nights with Joelle relaxing and doing a little hiking at Tiburon.

After Joelle cooked me a big breakfast and sent me off with snacks, lunch, and dinner (I would have visited a lot sooner if I knew I was going to get this sort of treatment), I headed towards Silver City, NV under the suggestion of a close family friend, Steve. As I passed through Lake Tahoe, I stopped for a short bike ride around the lake.

Just north of the 50 on the 391 was a bunch of junk on the west side of the road, or so I thought. After driving many miles, I have come to realize that it is pretty standard practice for people to leave equipment, when it is broken, out on the property to rust and sit there pretty uselessly. Some people, like the ones who own this property, decided to make art from some of their "junk". I turned around and found a place to pull over and snapped some shots of all of the art.

I had headed to Silver City originally because it had been described to me as this cool little touristy town up on a hill. When I arrived at what I believed was Silver City, I didn't see much more than run down buildings and a couple of historical markers that were not kept particularly well. Seeing no reason to turn around and go back, I kept driving to explore a little bit. When I went a little farther to go into a local thrift shop, I could tell by the bumper stickers that I was not around people who shared my beliefs. After a short wander around, i headed back down the hill when I stumbled upon the Golden Hill Hotel and Saloon where I decided to stop in and have a drink before trying to find a place to stay for the night.

As I walked up to the front door, there were two people sitting and enjoying a drink that greeted me and I began to talk with them. After a couple minutes, they asked me to take a seat and I did. One of the people happened to be Bill, one of the owners of the hotel. Bill was a somewhat soft spoken, portly man, who had many stories to share if he is provoked to tell them but he seemed more interested in hearing other people's stories. As the night went on, I met many people, both local and guests of the hotel. Many of the guests were regulars who come back every year for various reasons. Some, like myself, just stumbled upon it or found it on the internet.

With the group of people outside growing and changing constantly, I had an incredible time talking with everyone. Many of the people had done a lot of traveling and one couple had even worked for the UN for many years and urged me to look into it as well (they gave me some resources if I was interested). After a couple drinks, Carol (Bill's wife and other owner) had asked me why I wasn't staying there. When they told me it was only $50, I got a room and stayed the night, drinking and talking with the people I had met and eventually retiring to my room sometime after midnight.

(Dan and his wife worked for the UN)

 Although the hotel has history and is in a relatively nice dessert surrounding (it's cooler there because of the altitude), the main draw of the hotel is that it is haunted. There have been many sightings both from psychics and regular people. There were some young people a while back who stayed in room 18, the mining room. They saw and recorded their encounter with ghosts and sold it to the History and Discovery Channel. Room 18 was booked for 60 straight days after the piece aired. It was interesting to here Carol tell all of the ghost stories and sightings. Fortunately for them, the ghosts are generally friendly there (from what they can tell).

Even more fortunately for me, I got room 3, one of the only rooms that has never had ANY ghost sightings. The funny thing about staying in a haunted hotel is that you begin to almost expect to see a ghost. You begin to attribute everything that happens to ghosts. When something very simple all of a sudden has no explanation, you ask yourself, "is it a ghost?" Soon you realize that it's not, though the amount of time your mind takes to process normal things and tell you they're normal has somehow seemed to slow to a snails pace with the opportunity of the explanation being "ghost." It didn't help that the room had 3 different types of locks on the door (is that SERIOUSLY necessary?), old tapestries on the wall and an 18th century picture of a scary looking, pale skinned child who's lifeless eyes seems to stare through to your soul no matter where you stood in the room.

When I walked in the room, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. After realizing that I was in a haunted hotel and that would probably explain the hairs on my neck, I shoot a glance to the picture of the demon child and realize it's crooked. Is this a ghosts way of somehow communicating with me? Does it know that deep down, there's a small bit of OCD in me and I would notice this, thus proving after all, that room 3 actually IS haunted? No...wait, they probably tilted it when dusting. As I began to settle in and my nerves followed at a slower pace, I began to calm down a bit. I made sure to place everything on the floor as I had been told that the ghosts had been known to throw things on to the floor and somehow I didn't think apple would take "ghost" as a reason for a broken laptop when I took it in for warranty.

Even as I settled down and got comfortable in the room, I still paused every time I walked into the bathroom, a little darker than I would like with a rather large mirror over the sink which sat to the left of the doorway as you entered the small bathroom. I paused as the hairs stood up on my neck, every time, and I quickly looked to the mirror expecting to see someone besides as if I was in elementary school testing to see if saying "Bloody Mary" however many times in the dark would make her appear. After acknowledging that it was only me, I would look myself in the eyes and chuckle inside at my ridiculousness. And though I laughed at myself every time, I still repeated this every time I walked into the bathroom, turned around from peeing, or came out of the shower. I survived to the next morning with no sightings and some decent rest, happy to be untouched, a little disappointed I didn't have a story to tell.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Camping Off The 299

Just as all available light is beginning to slowly disappear, I pull into one of those state owned, put money in the slot with site number on it, there's a host at the entrance type of camp sites. I didn't realize you could pay by check so I paid with a $10 bill and eight quarters (talk about desperate).  I look over at the host site and see a full on family sized army style tent my family used to have but I can barely remember. There is stuff sprawled all around, including a portable shower, lots of water jugs and a jeep at the edge but no sign of anyone around. It looks like the set of a movie, just put there to convince you someone is around but no one actually lives there. I take a quick look around and see 1 or 2 trailers in the distance, again, no sign of life in them either. I pick up literature warning me about bears, walk back to the car and check my cell phone, zero bars, I am officially off the map. Nobody knows where I am and I have no cell reception, in today's terms, I don't exist. Being half way through a 200 mile stretch of hilly, heavily forested highway, I don't know why I would expect to have reception.

I walk back to the car and before doing anything, open one of the big bottles of beers I got from Anderson Valley. I was looking forward to this beer, partially because I had never had it, partially because it had been a long day, and partially because I needed to calm my nerves. I quickly pitch the tent in complete darkness as there is no ambient light under the thick canopy of trees and lack of moon. When I finish pitching the tent, I throw all my things in it and finish my beer. I hear ruffling noises from behind the tent and quickly flash my mag light in the direction of the noise, darting it back and forth while mentally planning out what I would do if the sound were a bear, noting which car doors were open and which would have best access to the drivers seat as my bike was in the back. I still hadn't decided whether I would drive off into the night or just sit still and wait for it to leave, imagining a scene from a show like Family Matters where I wake up in the morning to the sun light and birds chirping with my flashlight clutched to my chest like a warriors axe, nothing disturbed outside or in. By the time I start thinking of whether I would be sober enough to actually drive (a big beer drank quickly on an empty stomach), I realize my day/night dreaming has gotten too far off track and I need to get back to reality. I realized a few minutes later that the noises I heard earlier were actually my thermarest inflating and moving against the sides of the tent. 

 I put the car lights on to illuminate the picnic table, crack open the second bottle of beer and start planning for dinner. As I rummage around for my cooking knife, a.k.a. my leatherman, I realize I don't have any way of starting my camping stove. I am annoyed but don't try to problem solve as I realize cooking means bugs, small animals, and possibly bears as well as dishes and trash to properly take care of. I can't leave anything out because of the bears and then the picture of my dad, shirtless, pretending to be a bear in front of the bear locker at Yosemite YEARS ago keeps popping into my head.

I decide to forget the whole thing, I tear into the package of baked, marinated tofu with my teeth and eat that along with some peanut butter pretzels my neighbor Karen had given me before I left. I sat down in the drivers seat and wrote in my journal and finished my beer. I hoped this extra time would help make me tired/drunk/worry less about the possibilities of bears or wandering axe murderers. I was also hoping the extra time would allow me to get all the beer out of my system and not have to get up in the middle of the night to pee. As I started to write in the journal, I see a light in my side mirror. For a minute I got a little scared but then realized that if a psycho killer with half a hockey mask, hunched back, and rusty axe were trying to kill me, he wouldn't carry a a flashlight (I need to stop watching movie trailers). After this realization, I stepped out the car to greet the host. He greeted me with a short "Howdy" as he wrote down my car's info and when I probed him a little with some questions, he stopped me dead in my tracks with 1 syllable answers. Looks like he got the perfect placement for campsites judging by his people skills.

A minute later, a car passed by the entrance and went to one of the trailers in the distance, that took some weight off my shoulders immediately. It's interesting at how much of an imagination I have of the worst case scenarios, especially considering I generally steer clear of horror movies. When I was younger, I could only watch Are You Afraid Of The Dark when they started showing it during the day.

As I was more comfortable and started to relax, I started to notice all of the stars I could see through the trees and decided to take some photos. Since it was my first night camping, I thought I would take some photos of me with my tent. I triggered the flash 4 time total. After the 2nd flash, I heard a grunt, though I did not think anything of it. After the 3rd flash, I think I heard someone say "STOP" though I didn't figure out what it was until the end when I processed everything. After the 4th picture (fortunately it was a good one), I hear someone yell "KNOCK IT OFF!!!!" After a short pause it was followed by a trailing off "Fucking city moron..."

Now it's been a while since I used my outdoorsman speak, but I am pretty sure that translates to: "Welcome!!!!" and "Have a nice night..."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

SF to the 299 (2 days)

After a lazy Sunday of brunch with Halley, some packing, and some planning, I hit the road later in the day, passing through hwy 1 just north of SF as sun was setting and the moon was rising. I stopped by Russian River Brewery for dinner and some beer tasting before getting to my hotel in Anderson Valley.

I woke up early and headed straight for the Anderson Valley Brewing Company brewery (one of my absolute favorites) to get into their first tour of the day. Fortunately, as it was a monday at 11AM, I got a personal tour from one of the head brewers, I couldn't have asked for a better experience because I got to pester him with questions and he spoke a little more candidly about some of the aspects of their business. At the end of the tour, I went for the obligatory tastings and tried a beer they're testing out called Limited Huge'r Boont, a blend of 60% IPA, 40% Porter, it was delicious, I hope they produce that. It had all the body and smooth finish of their Porter but the bouquet and citrus flavors of their IPA.

After the brew tour, I headed west to the 1 and then up the coast. That section of hwy 1 has to be one of the most tiring drives I have done up to this point (and by this point, I mean 9/18/09, I'm in Montana on my way to Denver at this point), it was an incredible relief to get to the 101. When I got to Humbolt, I took the Avenue of the Giants detour which had a lot of interesting places to stop and walk among very old trees (redwoods I think). They have a marathon held there every year and if I was into running, that would definitely be one I would train for.

When I finally reached the 299, I started heading east to Redding, CA. The 299 drive has to be one of the most underrated drives in CA. It is a nice wide road in good condition that slowly sweeps through scenic views of old forests dotted with small towns and campgrounds along the way. As the sun started to go down, I decided I would camp for the night rather then continue to Redding and pay for a cheap hotel. I decided I would find a market to get food for dinner and then a campsite. I passed a camp site that looked somewhat alive with people and then found a market to get food. Rather than backtrack a couple miles to the campground I saw, I decided I would continue to Redding and not waste miles. I finally came across a state owned campground that had a few tents pitched but not one person around. I drove into the empty campground in the middle of nowhere, parked, paid, read the bear warnings and walked back to my car as the last minutes of light burned away faster than I could find my flash light, the full story another time.