Golden foothills to the left and golden fields to the right as California’s sun greeted us at 6:00 am after driving many hours from eastern New Mexico. We had taken a 5-hour crash after a late start out of Houston on Sunday on an interstate-side motel, awoken to a high-altitude sun and Luke had taken the wheel on a long haul across the moonlike landscape of New Mexico and Arizona, stopping for dinner at a route 66 saloon in western Arizona where we ate quantities of beef to be reckoned with.
Luke behind wheel, Chuck bearing shotgun duties, we crossed the southern tip of the Badlands in the early morning hours and switched driver shifts not long thereafter, crossing beautiful California country as the sun rose, entering a hazy San Francisco whose native fog was supplemented by smoke from the fires raging around the state to create a truly mystic feel as we entered the city at rush hour, made our way through, and drove on to route 1 where our wildfire-avoidance team (Nick Leen) had directed our route.
Route 1 north of San Francisco is one of the more remarkable roads we've driven on, and while we don’t celebrate the cause of our detour, we are thankful that we were forced by circumstances to take the coastal route. We were rolling without a trailer on this tour, and the old Ford E350 had a real pep in her step after a long day of switchbacks, climbs, curves with no guardrails, sentinel islands, empty beaches, cliffs, switchbacks, climbs, curves with no guardrails, etc, etc. We felt very thankful to be driving this road.
Arcata is a beautiful city in Humboldt County, and Humboldt Brews in Arcata is a great place to play a show. This, our first time through, we opened up for our pals The Ghost of Paul Revere, a wonderful band from Maine whose members describes their sound as “Holler Folk” and are some of the finest folks we know. They just dropped a new record, by the by, and you should check it out on the official Ghost of Paul Revere website.
Three days off in Trinidad, we saved some cash by foregoing the hotels and instead renting a beautiful little house on a bluff overlooking Agate Beach. Safe from the wildfires that had enveloped much of the state, tuckered from some hard travelin’, stocked up on some donations from the local agriculture industry, we enjoyed our time on the Pacific exploring the beach, cooking elk sausage soup, raising a little hell, listening to Whale Oil, playing tunes, keeping up on the latest fire news and having a fine time.
It was a similarly fine time in beautiful Petaluma at the Big Easy, a classic small venue with a fantastic staff and crew and a disproportionate number of Mainers out in the audience. Good times were had. After Petaluma we crossed the state to North Fork, a small town in the mountains with a fantastic bar downtown called the Buckhorn and an equally great coffee shop across the street. North Fork is also home to Bandit Town, which was hosting a chili cook-off that they had invited us to come play; we did and we had a ball. We’d done Bandit Town’s Texas event a couple years ago, so we had met some of the rad BT folks, but Bandit Town Proper was everything we had hoped it would be, and we can’t wait to get back out there.
Back west to San Francisco, we dug into some more great Mexican food for lunch, rocked the Hotel Utah Saloon, met some great people from San Fran and LA, crashed, awoke and started booking it east towards Colorado. Our route took us up through the Tahoe National Forest before we crossed into Nevada so we took a short break off the highway to hit some hiking trails, get a little sun and stretch our legs for the long drive. Bringing more than enough water for the hike and keeping a close eye out for mountain lions, we ascended, thinking of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and other things. Back down, met a kind stranger on the way out of the parking lot traveling in a Sprinter van who advised us on the best route to Colorado, the direction he had come from. We gave him a disc for his journey, bid adieu, rolled on through the Sierras and into the desert and pulled into a hotel in Salt Lake City some time after midnight.
California, it was great to meet ya. We hope to be back soon.