And We're Off
It seemed to take forever. The endless snail's pace of dealing with one's parents deaths. Handling the estate, remodeling the house & selling it... Paperwork... lawyers... contractors... realtors... details. Did I forget something? Better check again. Suddenly it is done. Over. Pardon the language, but it is a shitty deal. Not the work, but the result. I lose my parents and sister & end up with a little cash. It sucks. I really don't care how much money. I would rather have my family. I'm sure my brother feels the same way. But that is the way of life. If you are lucky, you have a good relationship with your parents and they die first.
So with it all over, here I am. I sold my place in Missouri before I came to CA to be with my parents in the end game. So I have no place to go to. No place I have to be. About a decade ago I was writing for a character in a story. Surprisingly the characters thoughts are vaguely fitting here so I will quote a bit of that story... it is, perhaps, overly written:
"Having arrived at that point in my life—where all that was is behind me and all yet to be ahead—I found myself standing, like Sancho Panza after the fall—dust settling, Noble Hero moaning in the mud—my next action uncertain. Shall I follow the habit of established behavior—running to my master, brushing as much of the muck and corruption I can from his dress, setting him up on his steed so he can lead, once again, on some imaginary quest and be thrown, once again, by some chimeric foe; for I see now my master is mad, to follow his folly would be madness compounded—or shall I seek tangency, let each step of mine fall on dust untrodden; unled, unfollowed, unseen. Each horizon yet undiscovered. Every dawn bright and new. This too might be madness. But, I think, madness of a different source. A madness of truth. From within rather without, rising unsullied from the depths of my soul to crest forward, breaching into the atmosphere of chaos… of life, carrying me forward, waves of manifestation. The beach of fulfillment ahead… as the ocean—and I, as a surfer… Willing myself upright, to keep from tumbling back into the tsunami of the unconscious."
Oy.... OK, right... Way over written, as well as other crimes against art and decency. Too much Rostand in my youth I suppose, but 'twas a unique and noble character I was writing for... not my scruffy and ignoble self.
So my last month at Fort Bragg ended onthe second July. I had to go somewhere. My transportation issues had been all, mostly, settled at the last minute... like Friday, the first. No chance of finding another hotel room on the holiday weekend. So I gleefully accepted the invitation to spend the weekend at some friends' place in Piercy CA. My friends decided at an early age that they wanted to live off the grid, raise goats and grow as much as their food as they could. They have the philosophy that time is money and if you can work things out so that you don't need a lot of money, in exchange you have a lot of time. Time to take care of the goats, grow the garden, build a home, make art, make music and enjoy the days. She plays violin, he plays guitar and together they play dance tunes from all over the world. From Hungarian ditties to Duke Ellington. Frisky Brisket is their handle and they play Saturday evenings at Calico's Restaurant in Garberville.
After an extended and enjoyable weekend of goats, music, food, wine & conversation, Tuesday finally arrived & it was time to hit the road. I fired up the rig and puttered down the long and winding dirt road that leads to their place. North it was. I had a mind to head to Alaska. Be a human pachinko ball. Zoom up to the top and then bounce my way back down, see what I see. The days are getting shorter now. I needed to make time but was still not in too much of a hurry.
I took the scenic route. Through the redwoods. Yes, you should too. Giant old-growth trees. Stop, get out, walk amongst them... Oh my... it is something that I can't really imagine how to fit into a camera, so I didn't take any pictures. The picture in my head is better anyhow. I made it up to Trinidad. No open motels... kept on toddling 'til I found a vacancy. It was a sad little motel that had seen better times. Better times a long time ago. Times for some folk are hard. They have to make do with what they have & with low cash flow, some maintenance gets skipped and the hole begins to deepen. If you stay in the hotel, try to be understanding, the rooms might have a smell, but the one I was in, at least, was clean... even if the chair cushion was a 4" concavity.
The Redwoods National & State Parks are just north of there and a scenic bypass runs through them. By all means take it. Drive really slow. Get out and take a walk through the forests. Take your shoes off. Walking barefoot on Redwood duff is really lovely. Redwood needles are flat, so the experience is soft and downy with little twigs. Of course, if you absolutely never go barefoot and have no calluses, your experience might be different.
Redwood trees are socialists... Or at least very friendly. Their roots are on the surface and weave into a mat that allows them to support each other and stand against the high winds that blow through the Northwest. And every year more needles, leaves and whatnot falls from above, covering the roots and building a rich soil. The paths through the forests are laced with these roots. The crests bare and polished from decades of shoe leather.
The Southern Oregon Coast is dramatic & beautiful. It seems that every half mile there is an overlook to pull off & see something else new and interesting. You could probably spend a worthwhile week or two checking all of them out. But I didn't. I was out of California now and it felt different. It really was behind me. I had no family there to call me back.... And... Oh yeah, I'm headed to Alaska... I guess.
I made it half-way up the beautiful Oregon coast on Wednesday. Only the vaguest of plans... Just the general urge to go north. Maybe I had been eating too much salmon. On Thursday I continued on. I crossed the bridge into Washington from Astoria and it started raining. The lovely patina of mud & dust I had been carefully building on my vehicle melted away. A plan started to develop. I would get to Bremerton Washington on Friday and spend the weekend there... catch a ferry on Monday.
Why Bremerton? During World War Two there was a shipyard there. My mother had moved from South Dakota during the war to do her part for our side. My Father had been a Naval officer and had gotten a job as an engineer after the war at the local electric utility. That's where they met.... Bremerton. They both had great memories of the town & times (well they were young too...), I thought I would check it out.
I was 80 miles from Bremerton at the end of Thursday, I was going to take the long route around Olympic National Park Friday to turn the 80 miles into 200 or so. Friday morning I decided to check the Ferry schedules. I learned something very valuable. Ferries are not like busses. Not only do they float a whole lot better, but they are not scheduled to leave every hour or so... at least not the ones to Alaska... The ones to Alaska leave every Friday at 6:00 p.m.. and they leave from Bellingham, not Seattle. Like I said... it was the idea of North that was in my head... I hadn't really started the research. At about 8:00 a.m.. I realized that I had a slight chance of making the Ferry that day if I could get to Bellingham in time.
I did.... Barely. They started loading vehicles at about 3:00 since I was going to the next-to-last stop, my car had the be one of the first ones in. I had about 15 minutes to spare. I was sitting in my car waiting for my turn to drive on and I realized how little I know about Alaska. Well, I know the stories. TV documentaries.... Read a bunch of Jack London books and a bunch of autobiographies of mushers... They have grizzlies, salmon, eagles, orcas and I heard tell of mosquitoes the size of humming birds.... but what's the weather like this time of year? Has it thawed yet? When is it going to freeze up again? I don't even own a warm coat! What the hell am I doing?
So here I am on a boat to Alaska until it lands in Haines at 11 a.m.. Monday. No berth, those are booked to smart people, who plan things ahead, through September, so I am sleeping on the floor. No sleeping bag or warm coat. I've Shanghaied myself for the duration and there is no going back. And you know something? Things couldn't be better.