a delayed departure

After a week of delay, I’ve finally begun my summer road trip. Over thenext two months I want to photograph the plains states of the United Statesand Canada. I want to shoot the places that people run away from, andcapture the things that they fondly remember. I want to chase tornadoes,and share a soda pop with Dorothy.

Right now I’m on my way north towards Aurora, Oregon. Tom & Adam Lengyelare expecting me on Monday morning, and will be installing one of his finedriveshaft decouplers into my van. The Vanagon Syncro is an all-time 4WDvehicle, but with Tom’s decoupler, the van will operate as a rear wheel 2WD.When I want the extra traction, such as during a rain storm, I’ll simplypull a knob on the dash and the 4WD will be engaged. I’m hoping that thiswill give me better mileage, and I’m tracking my fuel consumption closely.

I started out this morning at ten. Driving out of Sausalito, I passed asquare-rigged sailing ship, dodged some bicyclists, and passed Fred’s, myfavorite breakfast spot. Even though I was leaving my home and friendsbehind for the entire summer, I had a grin on my face. I love road trips,and I was looking forward to this one.

Twenty-five miles out, traffic on I-80 eastbound was stopped due to a majoraccident. Two cars had rolled, and a couple more were pretty smashed up.Driving is a frightening thing. Every time I pass an accident, I remember adriving vacation my family took to Nova Scotia when I was around 5. On aroad cut into black stone cliffs, we came across an auto accident. Iremember my dad driving slowly past people sitting by the side of the road,their white shirts dyed red with blood. I remember looking away, but toolate. The image remains with me to this day.

A little later, near Dunnigan, I pulled over onto Road 12A. Several dozenbeehives, stacked in a grid pattern and looking to me like a model ofManhattan, had caught my eye. I shot them for about an hour before movingon again. It was warm, the wildflowers were in bloom, and the bees werehappy. Occasionally as I snapped photos, a bee would careen off of me,drunk and giddy with nectar, on its way back to the hive.

On Highway 5 north through the central valley, I was tempted by a signreading “KFC Buffet! Over 20 Items!” I wanted to see what a buffet atKentucky Fried Chicken looked like. There aren’t 20 items on the menu at anormal KFC, so what were they serving? Was everything either fried orbuttered? I didn’t need to know. I looked away, and drove on.

Mount Shasta eyed me from 100 miles away as I left the central valley andentered the “State of Jefferson”. There is a movement in northernCalifornia to secede from the rest of the state. The new state, Jefferson,will never happen, mainly because the people in central and southernCalifornia pay the majority of taxes, while the people in the north consumea disproportionate amount of public assistance.

There is also a problem of definition. The hippies of Humbolt county want alibertarian, left-leaning state, while the inland folks want a Christianenclave (leading to one radio station welcoming me to the “Great BiblicalState of Jefferson”.) Billboards along the highway proclaim “The Pope isthe Antichrist! Proof at POPE666.com!” Roadside cleanup is sponsored bythe “State of Jefferson Council.”

Tonight I’m in Oregon, having driven 377 miles from home. I’m camping nearthe town of Wolf Creek, which burbles outside the windows of the van. It’scold here… probably around 40 degrees, and I’ve run out of propane. I’mglad I brought a comforter.

On my way to the campground, I came across a twelve-pack of beer scatteredacross the narrow windy road. A mile later, a line of flares spiraledaround a corner, leading me to flashing lights and a car rolled over intothe trees. My day was bracketed, morning and night by auto accidents. Ihope it’s not an omen.

It’s past 11, and I’m going to sleep. I’m glad to be on the road again.


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