Huzzah, Greg and I have escaped San Francisco. No more worries over packing, and cramming. What is brought has been brought. What is home has been left home. With the addition of Greg’s few things, the car is about 90% full. The tail doesn’t drag too much. We putter up hills.
We stop in Sacramento, two hours away from San Francisco, to lunch with Ruben. I pretend I am just visiting for the weekend to start my typical Sacramento bender of bars. We eat sandwiches with beer. Ruben regales us with stories of teaching history and moving apartments. His new place will have an extra bedroom; in August, I may wile away a week or more in that new room. I like Sacramento’s wide streets, idle ambles, and warm weather.
Greg and I drive the direct route north towards Seattle up highway 5 through the central part of California. Warm spring heat bakes the car’s interior. We drink lots of water while I fret over the lack of air conditioning. As the car has a good heater but no cooling, the best route across the United State may be the far northern route. Highway 5 through California is uncrowded on a Tuesday afternoon. My San Francisco chiropractor recommends many rest stops with stretching.
Snowy Mount Shasta looms ahead for miles. We reach the wee town at the mountain’s base at six o’clock, well before the evening owls. We chat with the two lively proprietors of the empty Strawberry Valley Inn.
From the hotel, Greg and I walk down the road into Mt. Shasta. The town is eerily empty. Most shops are closed. Restaurants are shutting early by eight or nine o’clock. Hippie skate rats play pan flutes, haul dogs, and look for something to do. High season is still a month away.
We peer into closed crystal shops, soul-path readers, chiropractic studios, and herbalists. The town is a conflux of Tibetan woo and alpine frontier. We settle on a Thai restaurant and follow the meal with a beer in the antlered room of the large hotel across from ours. The lonely bartender named Nick–Nicknamed–dispenses advice on lake hikes, restaurants, and hot springs. Another customer joins us. He is a traveling asbestos remediator who has an odd penchant for cotton-candy flavored vodka shots.
Back in our hotel room, the frogs from the neighboring garden store keep me awake at night. This is what the road is like. I wonder what everyone is doing back in San Francisco.