April 10, 2010 Texas Excursion
This is not a true pedal-paddle adventure because we have not included the Baby Bootie, and our primary goals this trip involve planning and staging for the upcoming Bird Olympics to be held at my sister’s home in the Hill Country over Memorial Weekend. Bird Olympics is our style of family/friends reunion where we get together and compete (very friendly and casually) in various, usually unpracticed events. Past Bird Olympics have included sand castle contest in Cannon Beach OR (we won), white water canoe trip in AR, building and racing model boats, water balloon wars, cannonball contest, potato cannon accuracy, horseshoes, rubber duck floats-well, you get the idea. Of course, all of this is interspersed with eating, drinking, talking, laughing and general good spirits. Thankfully, my family likes each other!
Anyway, this year is the first Bird Olympics since 2002 so we’re hoping to make it a memorable one indeed! Plus we have new family members to welcome: twin babies from Jeremiah (my nephew) and Linda; and Kiki, now wedded to Kat (my niece).
The seminal event this Olympics is cardboard boat building and racing down the Frio River (my sister’s home sits on a high bank on the river-very nice). Since none of us have ever done this, we thought perhaps we should have a preliminary trial to assure some quantum of success come Memorial weekend. I figure if Patti and Jim, Matt and I can construct a successful boat, we can then assure that each team will have one member with some experience, thus leveling the playing field a bit. The cardboard was ordered on line and delivered, and we are on our way with tape and caulk on board.
We also have 2 wood forms for constructing concrete posts to mark the boundary of the Bird Sanctuary designated on Jim and Patti’s property as a family ashes cemetery/repository. No need to expand on this theme further, but we are thinking of making the building and personalization of these forms as part of the Bird Olympics 2010 experience. The Bird Sanctuary already has a swift tower constructed, but it has not yet been discovered by the desired Chimney Swifts (hope springs eternal…). It’s a “no duh” that we have a preponderance of bird themes.
Anyway back to the trip. It begins like most of our limited time excursions: we hit the road at 10am, after dropping the cats off at Cats Only “luxury lodging” in West Salem. This is our first time to leave our cats away from home but the accommodations look amazing, and the woman owner/manager is delightful; and I don’t intend to worry about them while we’re gone as I usually do.
We left Salem 10am, headed south. I personally don’t consider myself on vacation until I have passed the Oregon-California border (unless we stop to see friends in Ashland-that’s always a vacation). I have personal favorites of the trips south that are “can’t miss” visual experiences: I-5 just past Sexton Summit when the first view of the Rogue Valley appears; Then, the landscape from the Siskiyous to Mt Shasta, CA is a fabulous variety of classic western mountain to the Klamath River valley (gold country!) to rolling pasture and meadows to towering volcanic mountain terrain. After Mt. Shasta, I-5 winds through Dunsmuir and on, snaking downward through narrowed horizons of pine covered mountainsides; curving left, then right, then left; on and on for miles until culminating in tantalizing glimpses of Lake Shasta and the flooded fingers of three rivers feeding the reservoir, begging for water-based explorations. After the reservoir, the landscape changes again to parkland meadows punctuated by oak groves preceding and surrounding Redding and on to Red Bluff. The majestic Sacramento River has its beginnings in this country and peek-a-boo visions of its tortuous youth wend under and adjacent to I-5 intermittently all the way to Sacramento where it is a dominant force of the landscape. After Sacramento, I marvel at the very distant mountain ridges on the horizon, first on the east side, then on the west side that parallel our route, with the opposite view flat to the horizon. The land initially is pasture in appearance but groves of citrus and then orchards of olives appear as we move ever southward. California has, indeed, transformed and subjugated its land into service for the maximum benefit of mankind. I become mesmerized by the mechanized fields, particularly the linear plantings that become evanescent fans sequentially and repetitively capturing my vision from my seat in the Ruby Slipper, until I feel I might become hypnotized. I choose to move to the back seat to nap.
Unfortunately or not, as it turns out, we became aware through NOAA that high winds were expected along our route across southern CA to Arizona. Matt had been driving, as usual, as he hates to be in a passive position (with rare exceptions) until we get almost to Barstow. He concedes that he is tiring but we should consider pushing through to Needles, CA. I volunteered to drive (it was 1am on 4/11, and we’re just west of Barstow, CA). Much to my surprise, Matt takes me up on my offer. So I drink a 16oz cup of coffee in order to stay awake. 1.5 hours later, Matt says we can stop for the night as we have covered most of the Mojave desert and should be out of range of the windstorms predicted. I, of course, look at him as if he is out of his mind. Those of you who know me, know that I drink at most a single cup of green tea in the mornings as my only caffeine intake. I am now as buzzed as if I have taken speed and I am not psychologically able to shut down. Also, I have an IPOD full of music my 27 year old son has downloaded, and I am “in the groove”. I told Matt (not too gently) to lay down and go to sleep, and I cruise through the rest of CA and into Arizona, listening to a combo of “golden oldies” and more progressive and new driving music. I didn’t wake him until I became concerned that the road had been turning north for some time and I knew we were supposed to be heading east. By then dawn had arrived, and a sliver of the waning moon was hovering over the east horizon with Jupitor visible inferiorly. It was moving and beautiful and, to me , quite calming. Matt had a slightly differently affect. We stopped for breakfast and regrouped, and all was well. Matt regained the helm, and I slept in the back for a couple hours.