Monday, April 10, 2006

Home Stretch

San Francisco offered me a rainy "welcome home!"


A cold and restless night, I was constantly moving to generate some warmth. My body fatigued from the effort. Awoke around 6:00 but, waiting for the sun's warmth, I went back to sleep and, surprisingly, didn't wake for another two and a half hours.

Last night, the wind picked up and I crawled out to have a look. The sky was suddenly clear, stars and moon above, lights out on the ocean. (And what were those vehicles doing up here? There must have been four or five that passed during the night. What kind of "crazy" comes all the way out here in the middle of the night?)

A cookie (from the Apple Farm) for breakfast. A clear view to the ocean far below, but there were no boats to be seen. Clouds were moving up from the south. Rain on the way? Packed up the wet tent.

I was a bit anxious about going back up the dirt trail in my groggy state, but it proved a simple task. ("It's always easier the second time!") Further down the mountain, an overnight landslide had nearly blocked the road. (This is a common hazard along California Highway 1.) There was a gap of a few feet that allowed me to get around it. In the early morning, the winding Route 1 is quite enjoyable. It's nearly empty. Sport bikes were already out taking advantage of this opportunity to have some fun.

Looked into having breakfast at Fernwood in Big Sur, but on closer inspection, the restaurant didn't look that inviting. Moved on. So many slides on Highway 1! It reminded me of those people in Colombia, standing in the road with shovels. It could be a person's full-time job just to keep a tiny piece of pavement clear.

In the picturesque and elite little town of Carmel, I drove the first block of the business district. That was enough. I had no interest in the wall-to-wall boutiques and galleries. There was a time I held Carmel in awe. No longer. On the way out, I noticed houses in the village are surprisingly modest, no luxury cars parked in the drives. I guess the really lavish homes are along the beach, out on "17 Mile Drive" and up in the hills.

I was undecided about which direction to go in this final "home stretch". Pulled off the freeway in Monterey, and there was a Denny's ahead. Parked and went in. I was in a small minority of Caucasians. Compared to the Apple Farm of a couple days ago, the Denny's waffle was pretty sad.

I wanted to take photos of San Francisco for the final chapter in the blog, but it was a "crappy" day. Thought of perhaps taking backroads into the Diablo Range, outside of San Jose, up to Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton. "Get it out of your system now! The opportunity may not come again."

I was heading in that direction when something steered me back to the coast. Near Watsonville, the rains started. Through Santa Cruz and onto Highway 9, winding up through the redwoods to the little town Felton. Drew lived here for a time in the early 70s. Riding the steep mountain road up to have a look at the house on Upper Scenic Drive, it was way up! Much farther (and steeper) than I recall.

Took another break in Ben Lomond. ("I'm really starting to drag my heels now!") Coffee 9 offers specialty coffees and free wireless internet service. Outside, a foot race was being run along the highway. Coffee and a cookie in hand, I posted some photos to the blog while listening to the music in the background.
I was sitting on a bar stool
In a barbecue joint in Tennessee
When this old boy walked in
And he sat right down next to me
I could tell he'd been through some hard times
There were tear stains on his old shirt
And he said you wanna know what you get
When you play a country song backwards?

You get your house back
You get your dog back
You get your best friend Jack back
You get your truck back
You get your hair back
You get your first and second wife back
Your front porch swing
Your pretty little thing
Your bling bling bling and a diamond ring
Your get your farm with a barn and a boat and the Harley
First night in jail with Charlie
Sounds a little crazy, a little scattered and absurd
That's what you get when you play a country song backwards
Well I never heard it said quite like that
It hit me in the face cause that's where I'm at
I almost fell flat out on the floor
He said wait a minute that's not all there's even more

You get your mind back
And your nerves back
Your first heart attack back
You get your pride back
You get your life back
You get your first real love back
You get your big screen tv, dvd and washing machine
You get the phone and the lawn and the bed and the mower
You go back where you don't know her
It sounds a little crazy a little scattered and absurd
But that's what you get
When you play a country song backwards
Oh play that song Woo!!!
What if I played this trip backward? Let's see...I get my job back.

(Forget it.)

At the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Highway 9 intersects Skyline Boulevard. Skyline is one of the most beautiful drives in the entire Bay Area. And today, with gray skies and light rain, it was quiet and very peaceful. Perfect. Skyline ends near the city of San Bruno.

I took the cue and proceeded down the mountain to the Golden Gate National Cemetery, where my father and mother share a grave. It was nearly closing time, and the rain had grown more steady now. Standing over the marble stone, I realized my father passed away 42 years ago. In his case, more than a lifetime ago. (He died at 41.)

("What would you like to see me do?", I thought.)

As always, my spirits rise driving into San Francisco. Yes, it was lousy weather "but it is what it is." Drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the Marin Headlands for that San Francisco photo.

Returned to Rohnert Park (some say Rodent Park) around 7:00 p.m., closing the circle. Over 46,000 miles in total (over 6,000 just since arriving in Miami.) And, by my count, 323 days of sitting on my butt.

The first stop: my storage unit (which houses all my earthly possessions not on the bike.) Unloaded everything that I wouldn't be needing now, including the tent, camping gear, tools and parts, maps, etc. Picked up the boxes of mail (11 months' worth) that Jessica had collected for me and placed in storage. .

"Now what? Guess I need to find a place to sleep." (I'm feeling a bit ill. Is it merely psychological?)

Checked a couple nearby motels: the Motel 6 is $50 a night. (That "6" once meant $6 per night!) The Best Western, $80, but the manager suggested, if I go to a Denny's and get a coupon, the rate is only $60. Mary and Robert had stayed here when they came to visit, so that was good enough for me. I ran up the highway for that coupon.

Settled into the room, showered and shaved. Called Jessica to say "I'm back!". Of course, I had to leave a message on her voice mail. I then headed into Santa Rosa to try her apartment. Fortunately, her roommates were home and Erin tracked her down and told her I was here. She and Sergio were on their way over.

I have to say, it was a bit uncomfortable getting to know my daughter once again! It was the longest I've ever been away. I have far more catching up to do than she does, since she was able to follow the blog. For eleven months, I've done almost all the talking!

I didn't stay too long; she was tired. (Working at a grocery store, volunteering, school studies and the health club are keeping her busy these days.)

Too late for a proper meal, I went to the In-N-Out Burger near the motel. Wolfed down a "Double Double Animal", french fries and a drink. Not a rewarding experience.

Sorted through mail, over 90% of it junk, until I pooped out at 1:30 a.m.

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