Wednesday, March 1, 2017


I last posted to Thistle Adventure on the 22nd of February, after we'd been on the road only a couple of days. And now, here it is the 1st of March and I'm finally rounding up the parts of the past seven days into a travel medley composition.

Driving down the Coast we had rain, rain and more rain. A quick walk was grabbed here and there in the sun breaks, but mostly we were lulled by mile after mile of the wipers beating back and forth, the rain pounding down on Thistle, and the oncoming traffic throwing water at us. Our world was a saturated mess as this wet winter continued to be wet.

Hay stacks became strange ominous dark blotches through our rain drenched windows...

At one point, stopped for construction, we were thoroughly entertained by a rain gear clad flagger wearing the world's biggest smile. She talked with the folks stopped before us and then, putting an even bigger smile on her face, she walked over to our car window. In the beating down rain she cheerfully said, "At the next little store they serve great hotdogs with homemade mustard." Ed and I have not been big hotdog eaters for years, but, guess what we did in the wake of such an irresistible smile?

Leaving the coast at Fortuna in California we headed east on Higway 36 into the Shasta Trinity National Forest, towards Red Bluff. A slow-going mountain road, two lanes, millions of curves, frequent slides from the heavy rains, snow at the higher elevations, and views to knock your socks off. On the west side of the Salmon Mountain Range were redwoods and on the east, oaks. Grass lands, firs and pines completed the mix. An occasional ranch tucked into the landscape gave reason for the highway. Definitely not the road to drive if you're in a hurry but worth every second if you're not.

From Red Bluff to Auburn we were headed directly through the Colusa-Yuba City-Marysville area where a week earlier the back roads, as well as I-5, were flooded and folks in the path of the Orville Damn were evacuated. With sun replacing the rain we had dry roads, but the fields were flooded and walnut and almond orchards stood in pools of water. Little dwellings still had water lapping at their doorsteps, but I'm guessing quite an improvement from the previous week of water inside.

Coming through the valley, following the Sacramento River, I finally discovered the secret of knowing where I am at the corporate-developed intersections. You know the ones. They have all the usual players -- Safeway, McDonalds, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Target, Wendy's, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell. So here's the trick. Street signs. In the northwest the streets are Pine, Fir and Cedar. Down here in the valley they are Oak and Olive. In the southwest they are Sage and Juniper.
Once we were in Auburn (Meadow Vista actually) we stayed for two nights to visit with Sharon and John, high school friends. The Potpourri yearbook was pulled out time and time again to refresh our memories. Do you remember him? What happened to her? We told all the stories we could remember about Jeff, our good friend and classmate, who had died just a few months earlier. We managed to get all our gruesome health issues out on the table, with John still in recovery from back surgery and me, not so long ago, doing the intestinal surgery dance.
Ed and I walked the roads, finding the Hankins home but not looking for mine. We even drove around Auburn finding the homes of our long ago friends -- Sue, Linda, Jeff, Judy, Marilyn, Paul. John's former home. Comments sprang up, "Wow, the ice house is gone. Isn't that where Rankin's Department Store was? Such a shame the main building of Placer High was demolished." YAnd, somehow, Ed and I drove away without one photograph.
Today we spent most of the day on Highway 49 headed south from Auburn to Cool and then Coloma where gold was discovered. On to Placerville, Sutter Creek and then Jackson where we stopped for lunch at this charming Serbian Orthodox Church under the bluest sky imaginable.

Growing up in Auburn, positioned nicely in the Mother Lode country on Highway 49, I have traveled this road many times. If you have not, you are missing some of California's most charming little towns, magnificant scenery and fascinating gold rush history. Plus the wine tasting isn't to be overlooked. I recommend putting Highway 49 on your must do travel list.
Our night's stay was boondocking on Greeley Hill, not too far from Sonora, looking out over the sprawling lights of Modesto in the valley.

This morning we head to Yosemite. Road reports advise all but one road into the park are closed by snow and winter storm damage but we have a clear blue sky so nothing looks impossible. And, at this very moment we enjoy internet and sunshine in Mariposa. Three signs jump out to define this lovely little town for us -- Dabbles, Bytes and Chocolate Soup.

Placer High School yearbook
Several songs or events strung together in a medley

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