Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's all about the journey on day 2.

Part 3 of a 5 part travelogue.
Finally the weekend came and it was Sunday. My appointment for the mud bath was at 3 P.M. on Monday. I had packed on Saturday but somehow with this and that I didn't get on the road till 7 P.M. Or so.

First stop; Fresno to visit my sister Stacey. She usually visits me but hadn't the time for a trip in months so it was my turn. In the past I had traveled the state quite allot. Not so much in the last 20 years and not at all the last 10. Back then I used paper maps. The folding kind. I went traveling so often then that I bought a Thomas guide. It was a spiral bound book that had an awkwardness of it’s own but was better than the big folding map when you were in the car. The new car has a few extra bells and whistles, even a touch screen in the dash but no pussy GPS thingy. I bought myself an iPad for christmas and have enjoyed it very much. It has the Apple Map App and the Google Maps App so I’m good to go. Part of this adventure will include navigation by tech gadget & App.

Stacey’s house was the first target on my Apple map app. I set it to beep at me when I was 20 miles away. It did and I called her at around 9:30 P.M.. Luckily she was still up and said it was okay to visit late. I pulled off the freeway and down the road to her house. She lives on a farm in the countryside about 10 miles west and a little south of the main part of Fresno. That is the way I remember it being arranged 15 years ago when I was there last. This is where the fun "Map App" subplot really begins. When I had been there before it was day time. All the new buildings threw me at first so I pulled into a parking lot to take a closer look at the map. There was a little arrow tracking where I was on the map. 

I pulled back on the road. New construction faded and I saw a little country store and other landmarks I kind of recalled. The little arrow on the map hadn't gotten to the turn but I didn't remember her street being this far out. I started looking for street signs but on a dark country road you are usually past them before you see them. I had noticed this earlier but my lovely new car has those fucking blue LED headlights. Until that very moment I thought the worst thing about blue headlights was the way they are way too bright when they come at you at night. I have no idea who thinks these things are a good idea. As I found out, they show an intense clear blue light on the roadway in from of you for 100 feet. No where else. No peripheral visibility at all. It’s like you are driving through the night in a tunnel. 
This is kind of the problem
Forget about road signs........ Anyway, I had passed her street so turned around and passed it again...... I got there after 10 PM. It should have taken 5 minutes. Whatever,...... I was glad to be away for Col. Baker’s fields. That’s what mattered. We talked non stop for an hour and a half or two. It was great to see her. She and Mike have made a cozy home for themselves with many cool extras only they would have.

Back on CA-99. Next stop Modesto. I figured that in the morning a stop over in San Francisco for lunch would be just a hop and a skip away. It occurred to me that I had never gone all the way up CA-99 past Fresno before. For those long trips I always took I-5. Not that I was enjoying any new scenery what with the blue headlights and all. After a couple of hours the little arrow thing had moved but I didn't trust it. I got off the freeway to look for food and all I found was a Circle K where got a couple of hot dogs and a drink. Ironically the only 2 places open in Wasco after midnight were the 2 Circle K stores. This was about the time I would have been at one of them. Huh.
Funny the people you run into in Bumbfuck California
I asked the clerk where I was and where Modesto was. He and the customer that was there were quite warm and friendly. Turns out I was past Madera but south of Merced. Atwater wherever that is. Modesto was north. Still over hour to go. Once at the edge of Modesto I set the app to plot a course to the cheap motel I had booked for the night. This turned into another fiasco of wrong turns, missed exits and missing street signs. I blamed being sleepy and 6 hours on the road. I’m better than this with technology. Usually.
Cheapo motel was clean and all I needed it for was 6 or 7 hours of sleep and I was off again.

There ought to be a law. A ‘not everybody is from around here’ law. As soon as I got into the car and the little MiFi puck got logged on I plotted my course to San Francisco. This time I zoomed the screen in and out and got the lay of the land the best I could. It wanted me to go south which didn't sound right but I didn't see any easier way to get to the main highways going west towards the bay. I had all but given up on the little arrow on the map keeping up with me. I headed south out of town toward an intersection that I was to turn west on. I thought I was there but there were no street signs telling what street. I turned around and went back to see if I could see any street signs but had to go miles since I was again in the countryside where streets are miles apart. This went on for a while and I was at last on a road I assumed would lead me to I-580 and to the bay. I brought food and beverages in a cooler to save time and money. My morning didn't really get going till I spotted a drive thru coffee hut and got a hot mocha.
This business of no street indicating signs was to be a recurring theme. What are they thinking? “The people that live here know what street is what, fuck those strangers and their tourist dollars”.  There ought to be a law. Sorry I already said that.
Ah Ha! So someone is hoarding them all.
The trip to the Bay Bridge took longer than I would have hoped but it was a nice day, cool with just enough overcast to cut the glare and let the colors saturate. One thing I remembered learning from my earlier journeys to the north was to have a task, Even a small one, something to find, a quest as it were. Just walking around as a tourist is boring and you don’t learn anything. Besides wandering herds of tourists look too much like schools of feeder fish. Walking chum.

Once in San Francisco my mission was to find places that sell gluten free food items. I miss french bread and other things I used to eat. I’m not really obsessed with it. I treat it like a hobby. But remember what I said about having a quest. In advance I did a little research and pre loaded the location of several places into the map app from my desktop computer. My first pilgrimage was to a gluten free grocery. Once I was able to stop and give the map a good look I saw that the desktop version of the app left out the note indicating that the place was temporarily closed. The others were mostly restaurants and I wasn’t hungry. It’s a tourist place but a nice one so I went to the old ferry building in the embarcadero district. This is the location of a gluten free bakery. One thing about San Fran that I remembered but block from my mind is the parking. Every parking space in the city is filled at all times. There are not even places to stop and survey the terrain or look at a map. Glancing at the iPad at stop lights I made my way to the embarcadero area. After what seems like an hour of driving around 4 spaces in front of the post office that were “No Stopping” from 6AM till 10AM opened up. It was 10AM. I think this was the 2nd time I had used a parking meter that takes debit cards. Space age.
It was a short walk and not only did I find gluten free baked goods but one stall had shelves and shelves of exotic mushrooms. Once upon a time I belonged to the LA Mycological society. This was a glorious find. I got a cinnamon roll and a croissant. And a bag of dried Lion's Mane Mushroom. I haven’t tried it yet but the story is that it tastes like lobster and is easy to grow. (money making opportunity?)

During most of the 80s my best friend was a person known by one name that I called them by anyway. My old friend was called another name in one band. In a different band my old friend was something else. For a time in our band of misfit partiers the special name was an homage to Maceo Parker, James Brown’s Saxophonist and side man. Hey I said we were partiers. We were usually very drunk and/or stoned in those days) Sad story short my old friend drank till my old friend could drink no more. Sober my old friend moved with remarkable guitar skills to the bay area to seek destiny. 
They had the hardest time finding a drummer.
After a year or two in San Jose my old friend moved to San Francisco and got a roommate. Many of my visits to northern California were to visit my pal from the band of misfit partiers and look for what sober adventures we could find in the city. There are lots as it turns out. On one visit my old friend and one other took me for a tour of the underground nightlife. I remember one place in a basement. Packed in with a couple hundred (it seemed) screaming sweating lesbiens and a punk band. Not altogether unpleasant but I was glad to be out of there. 
There are many distinct neighborhoods in the small area that San Francisco takes up. Was I looking for SOMA (south of market area) ? or The Tenderloin? Or?

Anyway the old San Francisco of the 60s is gone forever. No low or even middle income housing remains. Tech industry hipsters and other kinds of people with money are the only ones who can afford to live there. The place is rife with gentrification. A few years back the house they lived in was sold for big bucks. So that was that for San Francisco. The house and I guess the apartments next door were torn down and replaced with stacks of million dollar plus condos. I had hours till my appointment in Calistoga so I went on a mini quest to find the old place. This turned into a jumble of half remembered streets, missing street signs and the map app always telling me to turn the wrong way. I finally found the street. Just like when you pick up a plastic bag and inevitably try to open the closed end first, I found the out end of the one way street first. Pictures are in the next blog post down. 

Time to beat it out of town and on north. I switched from the Apple map app to the Google maps app but that was little help. Neither app seemed to ever know which way my car was pointed and the tracking me thing was always off. It would be helpful if the map stayed true to north no matter which way you held the iPad but it doesn't do that. Maybe it does but like I said there was no place to park and figure out how to make it do that.  It took longer than I wanted to get to the GG bridge. This map navigation thing was stressing me out. I did finally make it to the Golden Gate Bridge. No toll leaving the city. Yay! See photos below.

At the Sausalito end of the bridge there is a vista point. In 1990-1-2 or there abouts I had a minivan set up as a cargo van (no side windows). After a Saturday night of partying in the city. Comedy clubs were still a very big thing at the time. I would back into one of the spaces there to sleep. I woke up to a remarkable view of the bay and the city. One that the high rollers in the fancy hotels didn’t even get. I did this a number of times with only one strange incident. One morning I awoke to noises outside the minivan. When I opened my eyes operating a rake or some similar instrument was a giant dyke in an orange jump suit right outside my window. Crews of prisoners clean the place up on Sunday mornings I came to know. The back window and the one in the side door were tinted so I laid quietly in my sleeping bag till she left. Then I drove on, in search of breakfast at a big farmers market I knew of .
Huge farmers market at the Marin Center (Frank Lloyd Wright)
In theory the new car would go 440 miles on a tank of gas. That is if you are going 55 on a slight downhill grade the whole way. As you have read, my driving was varied. The fancy schmancy readout on the dash tracks all of this and gives a constant update of how many miles you can still go on the gas you have left. I had 36 miles I could go. The first gas station that I spotted displayed $4.25 a gallon. Yikes! I had a vague memory of discount gas on up the road but didn’t remember just how far. This part of the world is not like back home where there are gas stations every few blocks. Back that up, even back home doesn't have that any more. Time slip. 20 miles of range left. I’m screwed no gas stations in sight. One of the happy functions of the maps apps is that they know where to get gas. No help there. Then I was out of cell range so no data. If you look at the area on a map there is allot going on. Out the window is open space. Ok intuition if you are such hot stuff, do your thing. North was not working out so I turned off and went east-ish. There must be civilization over that hill. Okay the next hill. Okay I’ll turn right again. Now I am on a kind of low bridge or thin strip of land with a marsh on both sides. No end in sight and I have 5 miles of range left. Now zero miles of range left. Land ho! The sign says Mare Island. The first set of buildings look like the set of a post apocalyptic movie. Huge industrial buildings with hundreds of windows. Many broken out. A different sign said it was a naval base so I went that way. After some twists and turns I saw houses and a town. Finally gas. On my receipt it said I was in Vallejo.
The maps app said it was 43 miles or 57 minutes to Calistoga. My appointment was in an hour. Crap! I called and begged them to move my appointment to the next morning. Yes! they had an opening at 10:15 AM.
This must have been taken while it still had a few windows.
Suddenly I am free to move about the state. I’m remembering now. I had several trips like that; where I just set out and drove. Most times alone but with one of more members of the band of misfit partiers I spoke of earlier too. The muse almost a tangible presence. One such journey landed me in Petaluma having the most surreal and delightful dinner of my life. I want to go there. One of the gluten free restaurants on the list with very good reviews was in Petaluma. More digital misdirection and missing signs but I finally found the place. The tech wasn’t all to blame. It was inside some other kind of building that had been made into shop spaces of different kinds. So now I know what they meant by “Nestled in the historic Great Petaluma Mill”.  It was kind of small but efficiently designed I sat at the bar with a view of the kitchen. I told the proprietress that I had grown up in a restaurant and admired the way her staff worked in the small space. I had a margherita pizza and iced tea. I was complimentary but it was no better than I make. Except that I didn't have to make it.
The trip to my lovely little El Bonita Motel was easy and smooth. The desk clerk was very helpful and pointed me to a local market. This is when my trip really began to have the northern California feel.

No comments:

Post a Comment