We left the house this morning at 10:30,but it was 11:00 before we could say we were on our way. The weather was was pleasantly cool and sky was filled with pillowy clouds . The Willamette Valley, the "Eden of the Oregon Territory," which, in the middle of the 19th century had drawn thousands from the eastern states, was its usual lovely and benign self. Sheep, goats, llamas and dairy cattle were grazing in the fields; hawks and vultures soared above, and everywhere it was green—the green fields of valley, the dark, blue-black green of the conifers, the pale chartreuse of the willows with their fresh spring leaves made possible by the bounty of the Valley's rains. Closer to the ground patches of blue and yellow marsh iris made wonderful splashes of color. Bright yellow scotch broom was gorgeous too, but our ardor is cooled by the fact that this is an aggressive, imported invasive species.
Shortly after Eugene we began the long haul up through the passes of the Siskiyou mountains which straddle the boarder of Oregon and California—Canyon Creek Pass: 2,020 ft., Stage Road Pass: 1,830 ft., Smith Hill Summit: 1,727 ft., Sexton Mt. Pass: 1,970 ft., Siskiyou Summit: 4,310. The climate is cool in winter and hot in the summer, and is considerably more arid than the Willamette Valley. Mount Shasta, at 14,162 ft., of course has snow and ice year round, but even the lesser peaks still had snow—some of it probably fresh (it's been a strange spring). The dryness results in a different flora: fewer Douglas fir and western hemlock, but more madrones and pines, especially ponderosa. But even at that, many hills are nearly devoid of trees, and, what trees there are, are scrubs. They squat there like old men, worn rough and bent from the wind, cold winters and arid climate. Mt. Shasta, by the way, had its head in clouds of its own making the entire time it was in our view.
Climbing out of the Willamette Valley
Because we had gotten such a late start, and because we had so many miles to go, and because we chose to drive at a fuel-saving-speed of 55 mph, to save time we took pictures through the windows of the bouncing rig. The resulting photos are blurry, but they are included here to help our friends back east who never seem to be able to travel west of the Mississippi.
Mt. Shasta hides her head
One of my favorite bits was the huge sign we passed in the hills of the Roseburg, Oregon. Not only was it huge, but it was bright yellow. Its message: "The Day of Judgment is Coming: 21 May 2011," or words to that effect. At the time I was driving in the midst of double and triple trailer trucks, and, if I had stopped to take a picture of the sign, 18 May might have been my day of Judgment!
We finally stopped for dinner at 7:00 pm, and to save time we chose a McDonalds. We ate in the van to keep Henrietta, our basset hound, company.
It was already becoming dark as we hit the road again and about a half an hour before reaching our destination—Valerie's aunt's house in Sacramento—a nearly full "full flower moon" rose in the southeast. It was a lovely shade of yellow caused partly from being so close to the horizon and was thus filtered by much more atmosphere than had it been higher in the sky, and partly because we were looking at it through Sacramento's heavy breath.
Hello, this is Valerie. Bruce wants me to say a few words about “why Sacramento.” I was born in Sacramento—4th generation on my mother's side. My mother's great-grandparents came to California for the gold. George and Margaret (Gill) Hagelstein came from Germany, and Christian and Agatha (Tennis) Jurgens came from Helgoland (an island in the North Sea close to Denmark and Germany, which, at the time they came, belonged to England). George Hagelstein walked from St. Louis, Missouri, to Hangtown (Placerville), California, and his wife probably came across the Isthmus of Panama to San Francisco. Christian and Agatha and many of other members of both the Tennis and Jurgens families sailed from England to San Francisco around Cape Horn.
My father's side of the family were late comers to Sacramento. They moved to Sacramento from Portland, OR, in 1923. Both of my parents are buried here in Sacramento. And, not only my beloved aunt (my father's sister), but, also, two of her daughters and their children and grandchildren are now living there. All of this family, alive and dead, keep me feeling at home in Sacramento.
Miles traveled: 545; hours on the road: 12 hours.
Bruce is writing again.
19 September. We spent a very pleasant day with Valerie's aunt and cousins. Aunt Phyllis is in her 80s now and her short-term memory is not what it once was—a source of great consternation for this highly intelligent, Smith College graduate. Two of her daughters, Linda and Katherine, live in the Sacramento area and look after their mother. Linda was the maid of honor at our wedding and Katherine was a flower girl. The morning was spent talking with Phyllis both about old memories and more current events. In the evening we had a delicious meal with Katherine and her family: husband Peter, son Benjamin and daughter Amanda, and Ben's girlfriend Gwen. All are delightful, intelligent, talented, and with a sense of humor that kept the banter delightful, interesting and fast paced.
We are back on the road again and hope to spend a day or so with my brother and his wife, Debbie, in Lake Forest, CA. I have an aunt and uncle in nearby Laguna Beach, and a cousin, Lori, Uncle Dave's daughter, who lives in the area as well. We'll see them Sunday
Hills in the Sanouquin Valley.
I-5 (the main multi-laned road through the west coast states). I-5 through the San Joaquin Valley (the valley south of Sacramento) has to be one of the most boring stretches of road anywhere. It is long (383 miles), and, in the summer, hot and arid. We're not in summer yet, so it's not unbareably hot, but the grass has already gone dormant from the lack of rain. The Sierras are off to the east, but you can't tell by looking, as the Valley air is too thick to see them. To the west, at the moment, are the Santa Barbara Mountains and beside being an uninteresting shade of blue, provide nothing to hold ones attention for more than a few seconds. A few miles past Bakersfield we ascended what is called the Grape Vine to cross a range of mountains which help hold the smog in Los Angeles. The name, "Grape Vine," is probably a hold over from the time when US route 99 was the main thoroughfare crossing these mountains. Old folk can recall the many switchbacks which made it possible to get over the 1499 ft. pass. The engineers who designed I-5 did a much better job, and, except for heavy trucks and underpowered RV (like ours) the average speed is about the same as on the flats of the valley.
The traffic through Los Angeles and its burbs was stop and go with the emphasis on stop. For the life of me, I can't figure out the appeal of living in or around L.A. The traffic is horrendous! the air unbreathable as well as corrosive, and the traffic maniacal. But we made it through and arrived at my brothers house about 9:00pm and ate a wonderful meal with Bob & Debbie. In spite of our weariness the laughter made us forget our exhaustion.