Road Trip – Chapter 10

It’s November 3rd. We got back on the road this afternoon after a lovely long visit with Doma, David and Ilana followed by too-short ones with NCSS friends from long ago. It was great to catch up with them after so long. It felt as if I’d last seen them quite recently and Felicity, who barely remembered them, enjoyed what felt like meeting great new friends.  

Henry’s transmission is restored to full health. Google enabled me to diagnose the problem that remained after the transmission guys fixed what they could and I had the part shipped to David’s house. It was the speedometer circuit board that signals the transmission at what speed to change gear. Finding someone to do the replacement was hard. 

David eventually found a friendly truck repair shop many miles away. We drove there and persuaded them to look the next day. But their priority, of course, is to get commercial trucks back on the road. We were fine with that but day after day passed. At last we went back, I looked as sick as I could, and Felicity told them it’s urgent for me to get back to my doctors. 

They had the rv fixed the next day. Not only that, they thoroughly cleaned the outside. They were very sweet. Now Henry changes gear just when he should and very smoothly. If only it was this easy to replace his cracked manifolds. 

We stop for propane on the way to Marina on the Monterey Peninsula where we’ll camp tonight. Felicity likes the look of a Mexican road food stand so we stop for lunch. On the opposite side of the road two men on horses wait for food to be brought to them from the store. 

We’ve arrived at Marina. Felicity went for a walk on the beach. I’ll go in the morning. There my be sea otters. 

Next day – We go to Monterey Bay Aquarium and learn that it wasn’t just over-fishing that ended sardine canning here. The ocean cools and warms cyclically, suiting sardines for 25 years then anchovies. Sardines are back in the bay now and the fishing is regulated. 

The elegance of the bat wing rays in the floor to ceiling tanks is especially captivating and I’m entranced, too, by the bigger fish. They’re moving gracefully in three dimensions almost without effort. It’s joyful, too, that so many small kids are screaming with excitement. 

We saw no otters in the sea but three that were rescued are in the aquarium. They swim swiftly on their back then flex and dive instantaneously. So elegant!  We wait for feeding time. Food is thrown to them in plastic balls which they set on their breast and ransack as they swim. 

Next day – We can’t go further west so it’s time to head toward home. We’ll make for Yosemite today. 

There’s a low growing plant stabilizing the sand dunes that the guide books condemn as invasive. A little further inland we see what really is the invasive species.  The hillsides are covered with glistening plastic protecting what, strawberries perhaps? Homo sapiens has changed this area beyond recognition, specifically those from Europe. Not too long ago this was Mexico and now the Mexican laborers without whom the rest of us would starve are called immigrants and are hated and feared as invaders. 

I like the rolling hills covered with brown grass and sprinkled with dark green California oak trees. They do feel a bit alien but I reckon I could quite easily have gotten used to them, especially if I had a horse. 

West of those hills we’re rolling across flat land toward the mountains. I love all this sunshine, and the mountains. 

And now west of the mountains it’s entirely flat. The fields are vast. There are huge bales of cotton wrapped in yellow plastic. A few fields are iridescent green. Lettuce, perhaps. Most of them are bare. As we travel further there are enormous tracts of irrigated fruit and nut trees. 

Everything is irrigated. This feels more like mining than farming. We’re forcibly extracting food from the environment. 

Further still huge flocks of milk cattle are packed under low roofs to protect them from the sun. The cruelty with which we raise meat, milk and eggs is very distressing. If I could still eat meat of course I would because I enjoyed the taste and texture, so it’s good I can’t. 

We stop by the roadside for lunch. I’ve realized it’s good to add an equal amount of water to my lunchtime formula. Helps to keep me hydrated. The idea dawned on me after I’d been adding coffee to my breakfast for a while. 

After lunch we ascend a scenic canyon. It’s barely 3 when we reach the campsite but the sun has already gone from this narrow valley. I’ll enjoy the scenery more in the morning.

Next day – We drive up the canyon and stop beside the river. There’s very little water now but it must be spectacular in flood. The bed of the river is entirely filled with gigantic round boulders. The canyon walls are vertical, many of them hundreds of feet high. 

This road was made in the twenties. People used to come by train to the nearest town then travel in on the dirt track by horse drawn wagon. Rich people took long vacations back then.

Further on we stop and walk through the trees to a meadow of tall dry grass. This must be the most beautiful time of year. Shimmering yellow leaves dance on the breeze to the ground. Felicity says she must return to paint and stay here for many weeks. 

We continue, stopping often for photographs. While my lunch settles Felicity goes for a walk through the trees to the river. “A small bear just walked down to drink!” she texts. 

Of course I immediately set off to find her. The bear finished drinking and has gone back up the bank and been joined by another. They’re quite young. The mother must be close by but there’s no sign of her. 

One of them climbs a tree covered by a vine on which there must be berries. Then it rejoins the other one and they tussle like small boys. They aren’t at all interested in us. 

When we get back to the RV I realize I locked my keys inside and Felicity didn’t take hers because I was in the RV. I always take my keys, except this time because I was in a hurry to see the bear. What to do?  

One of the side windows is open. Felicity borrows a screwdriver and pries the screen back. I climb a little way in, Felicity pushes on my feet, I pull with my arms and tumble exhausted to the floor. My diaphragm must be getting weaker. But who cares when there’s a chance to see bears?

There’s no cellphone service here so I can’t see how the election is going. I voted out of revulsion against Trump and the Republican program but disgust is not enough. The Democrats must have a compelling alternative platform. 

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