California to Missouri

June 13

Dad took me up to the hills for what most likely will be the last time before they are sold. It’s not much different, except that there weren’t many squirrels around. We stopped at the old homestead and I picked up some eucalyptus nuts for my buddy Chuck. We stopped at the grower’s packing shed to pick up a case of sweet corn. Paul, the huge guy that runs the place, thought I was Mark at first. He said he couldn’t tell us all apart. I said, “It’s easy, I’m the good-looking one.” He said, “Yeah, and that Mike is an ugly *&^%$#.” We went to Brentwood and bought oil and filters for my car. When Mike got off work he came down and changed the oil and checked everything over. I should be ready for the drive home now. We went over my sister Marlene’s, where I sent out the last update. It’s only a few blocks from there to my brother Mike’s. We had a barbecue, and everybody came, including my brother Matt, Carolyn, our friend Scott Vinecour and his wife Tracey. It was delicious food.

A small grove of live oaks “up in the hills”.

Eucalyptus tree at the old homestead.

Black widow with egg case in Dad’s garage.  She’s a shy one.

June 14

In the morning, Mark washed his car, so I washed mine as well. We all went to the 15th Annual Brentwood Cornfest. Mike and Scott each had vehicles in the car show. Mikes Cadillac was featured on the official T shirt, and he gave me one. There was a midway, bandstand, lots of food, and various vendors of stuff. It was fun to see it all (and eat it all), but mostly we sat in the shade, talked, and people-watched all day. I did appreciate the chocolate-covered frozen banana. Mark’s daughter Kristen showed up with her husband DJ and son Jordan, neither of whom I had met before. DJ is a big dude who apparently likes to fish as much as I do. So he must be OK. In the end, Scott’s ‘63 Nova won best race car (let there be no doubt: it is fast) and Mike’s ’50 Cadillac won for best feature car. Afterward we celebrated by going to Mike’s for…another barbecue! We got chicken and tri tips (and plenty of beer) at the local grocery. It was a festive evening.

Scott’s Nova.

Mike’s Cadillac.

Scott, Dad, Mike, and Racin with trophy plaques.

June 15

Sunday morning Mark and I washed Dad’s pick-up and took it to the Portuguese Festa in Oakley, which I had not attended in many years. Maybe 7 or so. I saw my Aunt and my uncles and a few cousins I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We had to wait a long time to be fed, but beer and conversation took up the slack. We finally were let in to eat sopas in the back. It was more delicious that I even remembered, and I overate accordingly. Scott’s parents came, and it was delightful to see them. We went to Mike’s afterward, but not for another barbecue. Most of us took naps during NASCAR. Later on, Cindy made scrumptious brownies and ice cream. I showed my nephew Racin some new karate techniques. He demonstrated his kata, which I thought was very crisp and certainly more powerful than I expected from someone his age (10?). In summary, the side trip to California was essentially one long party of eating, drinking and visiting. What could be better?

June 16

Monday morning Dad made me a massive breakfast, including toasted Portuguese sweet bread. I rolled out and headed east. The traffic through Sacramento and the Sierra Nevada wasn’t bad at all. Some of the forest had clearly suffered from wildfires, recent or old. I stopped at a rest area, only to find that 3 busloads of school kids had gotten there just before me. Given the line for the bathroom, I elected to go on. In Fallon, Nevada I saw a yellow-headed blackbird. Not that uncommon, but I’ve only seen about 3 in my life. Highway 50 across Nevada is officially “The Loneliest Road” in the USA. And it is. There was no traffic. I haven’t made the drive since 1990. The pavement is better, and the speed limit is 70 now. Whoopee! I passed the usual landmarks, like Sand Mountain and the Pony Express Route. Incredibly, it rained on me several times. For those geographically disabled, this is all in the great basin desert. When I was in Utah, on the last leg of the day, a cottontail ran out into the left wheel track. At 70 mph, I had no time to swerve or brake. Thump-er. I spent the night at the West Bestern in Salina, Utah.

The Truckee River.

Sand Mountain.

Unknown establishment just outside Fallon, Nevada.

Does this LOOK like the loneliest road in America?  Hell, yes!

Wildfire in western Utah.

June 17

I didn’t sleep well, and was fighting fatigue all day. Going across the remainder of Utah and into the rockies was, of course, beautiful. I thought this would be the first time I went through Glenwood Canyon without a construction delay, as they were working on a tunnel throughout the ‘80s when I passed through frequently. But no! They had one tunnel closed and condensed traffic. Rafters were going down the Colorado River. Also going up Loveland pass there was some scary construction. I was afraid the Lil Egg would get its shell cracked. There were a lot of dead trees, I guess from bark beetles. Going down the east side was also interesting, as it poured down rain much of the way. Eastern Colorado and western Kansas were freakin’ boring! Flat. Wheat fields. Say no more. I stopped at a funky little independent motel in Oakley, Kansas.

Salt wash overlook, southern Utah.

Spotted Wolf Canyon, Utah.

Eagle River, Eagle, CO

June 18

I slept well and late, then got a good breakfast and plenty of coffee. I had a lot of Kansas to cover. It got more interesting in the eastern portion. There was one lovely sunflower field, but I couldn’t get the camera up fast enough to snap a decent picture. The trip was largely uneventful. I returned to a joyful reunion with Stacey. Savannah was at a friend’s and I saw her later. So ends the 19-day trip of 5222 miles, a semitranscontinental solo flight.

Scenic overlook, western Kansas.

Fragment of sunflower field.  How can Kansas be The Wheat State, but have the sunflower as their state flower?  Schizophrenic people.

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