Who would have thunk it? Ferndale, California, maybe thirty miles from Eureka, is as charming a little town as you could ever hope to find, tucked in the middle of nowhere, just north of What’s It Called, and just south of Don’t Blink You’ll Miss It. Victorian architecture abounds, house after house after building after building, and the most charming, amazing cemetery carved out of a hill, and the whole damned place just caught me by surprise.
We stayed for three nights at the County Fairgrounds, full power, water, showers, even a local bakery on-site, all for $35 per night, and I challenge you to find an RV park which can match that price.
Nice people, those who run the county fair. We had the run of the entire fairgrounds, big place, long walks, and it was just a great way to catch our breath, do some laundry, get organized before the big push through the population centers of California. Met a retired Austrian couple touring the U.S. on a six-month visa, driving an RV made in Austria; talked to two young men who owned and operated the on-site bakery, nice guys, too young to be that successful, the kind of guys you find yourself rooting for despite not knowing them. Come to think of it, everyone we met in Ferndale was friendly and helpful.
Probably an anomaly, right? It can’t be that people really are good, can it?
Tomorrow is the 17th. In one month, Bev will step foot on the PCT and begin her 2,650 mile trek. We should be done with this southward trip in about a week, which will leave us three weeks to find a safe place to hunker down, get Bev some warm-up hikes under her belt, get the lay of the land, that sort of thing. I don’t know what the rest of this trip will be like, but I’m excited to find out.
BUSY DAY TODAY
Today we drove from wine country to veggie country, from the 101 to the 99, skipping right under the 5, and if you are a West Coaster you will know what I’m talking about.
I love farm country. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I must have been a farmer in the previous life, because I never grow tired of driving through a farming area, and California rocks farming in this country.
The winery we stayed at last night was 2,000 acres. No joke, we drove by many a farm today which was more than 2,000 acres, endless rows of cherry trees and avocados and practically anything else you can name that comes out of the ground. We passed cities I had never heard of, all bigger than Olympia, where we are from, further entrenching the realization that this is one big mother of a country.
There are farms and ranches and wineries so large in this country that they have their own designated street, like Nelson Winery Road, or Petrich Farm Road . . . nothing else on the paved, county road except that farm, winery, or ranch. That’s big!
And we ended up at some campground on some reservoir, both of which were foreign to me, absolutely lovely place, twenty miles outside Chowchilla, stunning landscape, the Sierra in the distance, a reminder for Bev why this particular trip is happening, snowcapped, buried, actually, and waiting for my partner to begin the journey of six-million steps.
Got everything set up at the site, darkness fell, sitting in the cocoon of Puddle Walker, and this quiet voice can be heard from outside, “excuse me, pardon me for bothering you,” a young Mexican gentleman, I used that word because it perfectly describes his demeanor, asking if we had any sort of fire starter that he could ignite his propane stove with. I gave him some matches, wished him Happy Lighting, and he came back five minutes later with a plate of huge, fresh strawberries, thanked me several times for my kindness . . .
And taught me a lesson as a bonus.
I will let you chew on that lesson for a while.
Now, this next discussion is a touchy one, simply because I am always concerned that what I’m going to say will somehow be construed as racist. Anyone who truly knows me knows I am pretty far removed from my father, who was a racist and probably proud of that fact. Me, the Enlightened One, I choose to think of myself as an all-inclusive kind of guy.
Don’t we all?
Onward I will trudge with this discussion. It is a strange sensation to walk the streets of a city and be the minority. It’s probably something every Caucasian in this country should do at least once.
I have a friend (I’ll call her a friend so as not to give her identity away), and she is of mixed race. I’ve known her for probably fourteen, fifteen years now, never really gave it much thought, her race I mean, but one day last year she was talking about how uncomfortable she feels in cities like Olympia, being of mixed race, not really feeling safe, not feeling like she belongs, and feeling like everyone is looking at her as this strange specimen in a lab.
It never dawned on me that she would feel that way. It should have, but it never did.
I was reminded of her today, in Chowchilla, me, not her, walking into a convenience store and being the only Caucasian, and suddenly I felt like every eye in the place was one me, the stranger, the not-belonger, and it was a very uncomfortable feeling.
One more lesson learned as Mr. Nowhere Man trudges onward.
It is with heavy eyes that I bid you all a goodnight on this 17th of February. By the way, it was 63 degrees in Chowchilla today, a gift from whomever it is who runs the cosmic weather department. Or is it whoever? I may die not knowing and not caring even more. 😊
THE REALITY OF RV/BUS LIFE
There are no absolutes when you are talking about RV life, or van life, or bus life. One size does not fit all, nor does one statement encompass all you need to know about that lifestyle.
There are highs, and lows, associated with having your home on wheels, just as there are highs, and lows, having a brick and mortar home.
We have been on the road, in Puddle Walker, with two sixty-pound dogs, for two weeks now, and I can say with a great amount of accuracy that it calls for adjustments. In truth, this bus would be perfect for one human and one dog; doubling that calls for infinite patience, a virtue neither Bev nor I possess. But by March 19th, Bev will be on the Trail, and that will be one less human to run into, plus the weather will be considerably nicer/warmer, allowing for much more time spent comfortably outside.
Not everyone could do what we are doing; I think that’s a safe statement. But then, not everyone can live in a rambler, or a townhouse, or in a home owners association. Different strokes for different folks, and wouldn’t it be a boring life if we all answered the same beat from the same drummer?
But I digress! If you have been thinking of an RV life, but you are suffering from paralysis by analysis, I say just go for it. We spent a year researching and weighing pros and cons and chewing our nails, and in the end, we had no clue what the reality would be like. So you might as well save all of that angst and just do it. The worst that can happen is you don’t like it and you move on to something else. The best that can happen is you’ll experience a freedom very few of us experience, and you will see some pretty amazing things along the way.
But, two humans and two dogs, in Puddle Walker?
That’s pushing it to the limit!
Thank you Julie! These are wonderful memories for sure and yes, Bev is like a little kid waiting for Christmas. She can hardly wait to get going. She will go on a few practice hikes once the weather improves.
You’re both having an amazing experience. Loved your comments on the lovely
Mexican guy with the strawberry gift. I remember the farm land in the north only for the
poor dead land squirrels hung on fences; presumably as a deterrent to those land squirrels
considering munching on their maize/fruit? You’re making amazing memories. I can’t wait for Bev to get started on the hike. I envy her.