If you haven’t read Day One of this story, and would like to go back and catch up, click here to be taken back in time to the previous day’s adventures when Freedom called out it’s name so loud and clear, it invigorated and energized me in its urgency. This link will open the page on a different screen so you can come right back here once you’ve caught up with us.
So, as we headed out from Rohnert Park with a restless three-hour “nap” in an industrial park under our belts, and continued driving up Highway 101 in California, the sense of freedom kept creeping into every tree we drove past, every semi-truck roaring by us going the other direction, every bird we saw flying next to us on the highway, every bite we ate, every sports car that zooming around us as we rambled along with our UHaul trailer following behind us, fifty-five miles per hour feeling like we were snails moving along the roadway, always under threat of being squashed like the pokey slow-movers that we were.
Driving through Santa Rosa, I was reminded of Hula, my son’s last Guide Dog Puppy that he raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind. She was the most gorgeous of the golden retrievers to whom we’d given a temporary home as she was raised to be either a guide for a blind person or a breeder for the school. Hula had the sweetest temperament, the goldest of coats, the softest of ears. She’d been called the Social Director of the Kennels because it was her mission in life to greet each incoming dog with loud barks and gleeful tail-wagging. Indeed, if the dog world had social directors, Hula would have been their administrator.
Hula lived with us in our home until she was about a year and a half old, at which time, she returned to the school in San Rafael for her training as a guide dog. Even though she went on to become a breeder for the school, dogs who enter the breeding program must show that they would also make excellent guides, and Hula passed with flying colors. During her life as a breeder, she produced a number of litters for the school before she retired. All of this is to say that Santa Rosa is where she lived with Chet and Gail Kreidler, the long-time volunteers for Guide Dogs for the Blind who kept her during her breeding life and retirement.
As Dinah Dog, Louise the Cat, and I traveled through Santa Rosa, we passed the sign for Guerneville, a place I’d visited many times when the son was small. Oh, what memories of that time came flooding back to me – the freedom of being young, of not having “real” jobs, of driving a cheap-on-gas Volkswagen squareback (how I loved that car!), of starting out in life, of having a brand new little one (that would be the son!), of new places to see and new places to go. We’d wander those back roads for hours, for days, meeting new friends, hanging out in little funky places, and doing what we thought was just being! I suppose we were probably called hippies back then, the son’s father and me, bumming around with this little baby, in our veedub, with our sleeping bags and tent, our Coleman stove and lantern… but talk about freedom! We sure felt like we had it back then and I wanted to get it back… that’s what this trip was all about, wasn’t it? Freedom!
Dinah, Louise and I drove on, driving through Cloverdale, spying the sign for the KOA campground where we’d stayed for a week or so all those many years ago while we looked for more permanent housing and a job for the son’s father so we could stay in that area.
I’ve loved the Northern California area for a very long time; everything from Santa Cruz north intrigued me, inhabited my dreams, filled my waking hours with plans and schemes. I’ve spent many weeks over many years cruising through the small towns on the back roads of Mendocino, Napa, the Sonoma coast; many days lying on a beach in Bodega Bay watching birds fly by; many hours wandering around the magnificent Point Reyes with its fabulous light house (300 steps down!) and incredible diversity of birds and wildlife.
So it was, with green hills surrounding us as we drove north on Highway 101, trippin’ down this memory lane, I still heard freedom screaming its name from every tree and every fence post we passed.
We soon passed a sign for the historical Sun House in Ukiah. How many times had I passed this sign and never stopped? A place called the Sun House? We have to go! Even though it was way early in the morning and the adjacent Grace Hudson Museum wasn’t open yet, I walked the grounds where the wisteria was just beginning to bloom and the azaleas were bright in all their colors, drinking in the quiet of the workday morning, the stillness of the redwoods nearby. The freshness of the dew on the lawn of the Sun House was delightful! Some day, I’ll go back to see the museum when it’s open; perhaps on a fall day when the leaves are turning red and winter is preparing to descend in all it’s quiet solitude.
The redwoods were calling our names so we headed back out to 101 and pointed ourselves north once more. At Willits, the Gateway to the Redwoods, we began driving through stands of trees, those grand, stately redwood trees what seem to touch the sky itself. I’m sure I could drive through these big, giant, beautiful trees all day long! I think trees talk to each other, dance with each other when the wind blows, cry with each other when it rains, and I wanted to be a part of it; I wanted to listen to them, hear them, dance with them. By just driving through them, I felt like we were part of the tree family. The tree family!? How can they not be a family?
There’s a very unique 31-mile drive through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park called the Avenue of the Giants and if you ever get a chance to drive north on Highway 101, do not miss this parallel path through the most amazing trees on the west coast! Even if you just drive through, this family of trees will amaze you, awe you, strike you with its magnificence. There are many places to pull over and stop, to take a short hike through the trees, to relax with a picnic lunch, and to experience this wonder up close and personal. There’s also a visitor center that’s very interesting, with interactive exhibits and lots of fun displays. Seriously, try it – you’ll like it! It’s one of my favorite sections of 101.
Still heading north, we drive through some of the coolest little towns anywhere. As much as I could have stayed in this area for a long time, I also knew that we needed to continue our journey northward, enjoying the views, loving the area through the windshield of my car. After driving through all those trees, the first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean was couched in low clouds and mist. We pulled into a deserted rest area north of Eureka. Dinah and I both took our time at this peaceful, quiet rest stop, needing the break and stretching our legs. We’d been on the road for about thirty hours by this time, with only a few hours down-time for me in Rohnert Park the night before. Even though Dinah was well-rested, sleeping while I drove, she likes to get out and walk around, giving her legs a break from the rear of the car. She’s such a trooper – when she began having difficulty jumping up into the back of the Montero, I got her a ramp to help her climb up into the car. She’s not very fond of it yet, thinking she can still jump in, but I’m sure she appreciates that she doesn’t have to try to make that big leap. We walked down one of the paths that meandered through the redwoods and blooming rhododendrons. Ah, rhodies, how I’ve missed your wonderful colors and fantastically large blooms. (This pink rhododendron probably tops out at more than eight feet high because that “pet area” sign is as tall as I am!)
Returning to the car, I got Dinah’s ramp out of the back and prepared to walk her up the slope, just as a semi truck pulled in a few spaces over from where we were parked. Dinah hopped on up the ramp and the trucker initiated some conversation with a comment about the tarps covering his load. We chatted for a few minutes, talking about the drive ahead for both of us (he was heading to mid-state Washington) and how we each thought we were getting too old to be doing this kind of <fill in the blank> anymore. He then pulled out a photo of his new “hobby” – a 22-foot sailboat! He was planning on retiring in 18 months, and is intending to sail her to Baja for the winter; then he’s trading her in for a larger 35-40-footer, and sailing off to cruise the waters around the world. I love it when people dream big, especially us “older folk” who might not have the physical strengths we once had, and who, more often than not, get bogged down in the “what ifs” and the “how do I leave all my stuff” and the “I could never do anything like that” – but we can still dream and do, can’t we?! Dream and Do! Dream and Do!
Anyway, I wished him well, congratulating him on his up-coming adventure, and as he prepared to leave, and I started back to my car, he said we should keep in touch – and who knows what doors open in front of us and what paths are cleared as we move forward? So we exchanged email addresses and I drove out the exit, heading northward, knowing I needed to stop for the night in the next few hours for some R & R.
Still driving through some of my favorite terrain, we passed places like the Mystery Trees with its big, huge statues out in front of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. I’ve never been to the Trees of Mystery, as it’s officially titled. Maybe it’ll be worth a stop on the next trip but for now, it’s getting late, I’m tired, we’ve been on the road for thirty hours, and I’m working up to getting hungry. Looking at my iPhone maps, I see that Brookings and Gold Beach are not too far away, so I search for the closest Motel 6 because that’s the one place we can stay that allows pets and doesn’t charge for them. My kinda place! I see that there’s one in Gold Beach so I decide that’s where we’re spending the night. The coast along the way is overcast and gloomy, the drive through the trees shrouded in foggy mystery. The afternoon was quiet and pleasant; we were virtually alone on the road. It’s a Thursday afternoon in April – tourist season has not started. This time of year, the picnic areas aren’t crowded with people on vacation, the weather is cooler, the colors muted. It makes for a very nice, very peaceful journey.
The Motel 6 in Gold Beach is currently under remodel (construction stops early and starts late so it won’t interfere with your serenity!), each room being completely re-done and updated, and not the typical Motel 6 at all. Rumor has it that it’s a converted lodge, high on a hill overlooking the old bridge that spans the Rogue River in the northern end of town. Whatever it was in its past life, it’s now a nice, acceptable, low-cost alternative to the high-priced places elsewhere in town. The view is spectacular and I’m hoping we have an awesome sunset! We checked in and I spent the next half hour getting all of us into the room and settled down – that means dinner for Dinah and Louise and a look around for place to go for dinner for me. In the parking lot, I was approached by a woman who was missing her own dog back in Ottawa and wanted to know if she could get a “pet fix” with Dinah. Dinah never passes up an opportunity to be petted and loved on, so, of course, the answer is yes! In our conversation, I find that she is traveling with her sister from Vancouver, British Columbia, and they’ve been driving up the coast from San Diego, just like we’ve been! Kathy from Ottawa and Marilyn from Vancouver, BC, are heading north, cruising along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, on their way home from a sister road-trip. We all sit and talk and connect and laugh and exchange email addresses and vow to keep in touch while we journey through life. Thank you, Kathy and Marilyn, for your connection – it’s wonderful to find kindred spirits everywhere, isn’t it? (I discovered later that evening that Marilyn had also connected her friend Marina in England with my blog! Wow! What amazing serendipities happen when we let them!) The cry of freedom is still ringing in my ears, the sense of openness and the infinite wonder of possibilities pokes at me from around every corner!
If my dinner that night was forgettable, and it was, the location was anything but…. at the edge of the Rogue River where it dumps into the Pacific Ocean, on a somewhat cloudy and overcast evening, with freedom oozing from every blade of grass, every grain of sand, I walk back up the hill to my room, passing a couple of deer grazing in the grass near the sidewalk, and crash into bed, alongside Louise the Cat, for the night. Ahhhhhh…….
Yesterday was a day of connecting up with friends I’ve known since forever, sharing our paths one more time; today was a day of making new friends, of connecting with people doing the same thing I am, of meeting up with others who aren’t sitting still as their lives continue past the half-century mark.
Tomorrow will be another day of Freedom, and as I close my eyes for the night, I hear a cry of joy just outside my consciousness – Rock On!
Coming up: Trippin’ Down Memory Lane – Hwy 101: Day 3 – Continuing Freedom