THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
2 February 2002
I'm sitting here in a Best Western Motel overlooking Humboldt Bay, in the northern part of California, an hour or so from the Oregon Border. From the walkway to the motel room, I can see Marie Callender's and between here and there is the hotel Exercise Room (Walt made sure to point that out to me!)
It's about a six hour drive up here, and we left Davis around 11 this morning. I packed food so (a) we wouldn't have to stop and (b) I'd have control over what I was eating. So far so good. It's downhill from here on, as I'm into guessing points from restaurant menus and from tomorrow's promised "stuff your face" wedding buffet.
The drive up was beautiful. It's mostly back-road quality highways and we wended our way up the Capay Valley (lined with orchards filled with trees, pregnant with the promise of blossoms about to burst forth in time for the annual Almond Festival) and then on to Clear Lake. The sun was out by the time we got to the lake and on the opposite shore, the peak of Mt. Konoctai was just barely visible, peeking out from the top of the clouds which encircled the mountain.
And then it was on toward Redwood country. At one point we were slowed by the warning of "Accident Ahead," with men in orange jackets waving flares. It was the sort of thing you see on the nightly news, but rarely see in person--a giant semi flipped on its side, surrounded by highway patrol and fire engines.
As you begin to get into redwood country, you are aware that life here is definitely different. This is where die-hard hippies came to retire and the first indication was a tie dye shop, and then a welcome sign sporting a space ship. I suspect some folks here are still waiting for the mother ship to return.
Each little town has its log house, its restaurant given some name that incorporates "redwood" into it. Carved wooden statues are big here, as are huge decorative saws, and there are many places where you can buy "tacky redwood crap." (Carol--that's for Kathleen).
Several towns have the "authentic drive-through tree." Many, many years ago--even before I was born--someone cut a tunnel in the trunk of a giant redwood tree and pictures of people driving their car through the tunnel abound. (In fact, somewhere there is a picture of us driving through the tunnel tree.) However, the original tunnel tree fell a very long time ago, and these "authentic" trees are all johnny-come-latelys, which you have to pay to even see, as they are hidden behind tall fences.
About 60 miles from our destination, we turned off the main highway and took the 32 mile Avenue of the Giants, the old highway, which winds its way along the South Fork of the Eel River, passing through several groves of coast redwood trees. Some of the tallest trees in the world. These guys are so old that they were larger-than-life mature trees before Columbus ever set sail for the new world.
There is a sense of reverence that you feel in this forest primeval. The ground is spongy, carpeted with needles, leaves, and other flora deposited over the years. It absorbs sound and until another car comes by, it is as silent as a church. Our Brasilian daughter was walking through the trees here with her husband several years ago when a moderate size earthquake struck this area. She said that it was like trying to walk on jello.
Eureka is a moderately large town, with all the amenities--McDonald's, Applebees, Staples, Home Depot and lots of strip malls. Our motel is on the outskirts, and set back far enough that we won't be bothered by traffic from the busy street which passes by the front of the place.
Walt suggested we go to the Somoa Cookhouse for dinner. I had visions of some Polynesian cafe, but it turns out that Somosa is a small town across the bridge from here, and the cookhouse is a local tradition. It's the last surviving cookhouse in the West, and continues the tradition of serving lots of good food, lumber camp style, with patrons seated a long tables and served all you can eat servings of soup, salad, 2 entrees, baked potato, vegetables, and apple pie. I was a bit concerned about staying within my point range, but I think I did it, with a large enough cushion that I allowed myself two bites of Walt's apple pie. But I was already full of green beans, and two bites was all I needed.
And so to bed. Fortunately we have two beds in this room, because Walt has developed a horrible chest cold and is sounding like he belongs in a TB ward somewhere.
Tomorrow we'll hike around "historic Eureka" before heading off to the wedding at 2 p.m.