I have a near-autistic fascination with maps.
I don’t remember loving them as a child but it developed organically at some point in my twenties. My guess is that it started when I took my first trip out of the country at age 26. Every since then I’ve realized that travel is the greatest drug in the world and I’ve been addicted to the adventure ever since.
Where to this time? Well, the Backley cowboys are headed on their annual road trip, but this time up the coast to Northern California. (If you’re looking for another Backley road trip that I’ve chronicled then check out From Here to Montana).
The Golden State takes up almost the entire West Coast of the US and there are so many different terrains and towns to see. I’ve never really explored the area north of San Francsico / Napa but this time we're going to change that. As I get older, NorCal represents my personality a little bit more. I realize that's SoCal sacrilege to say, but it’s a slower life and they love nature, wine, and great food. In LA can get you caught up in the Rat Race and I’m at the epicenter of it living in Downtown LA.
I’ve had a fascination about visiting the Redwoods every since I read The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna (one of my top 24 most influential books I’ve ever read). Her description was that these giant beast of trees were easily 300 feet high, but had super shallow roots maybe only 10 feet into the ground. How did they stay upright? They could only survive by being around other Redwood trees. They intertwined their roots under the surface to survive and stand tall. This was her metaphor for humans. I dug it. So I’m headed up to experience it.
We left Los Angeles and hit the 5 North about 830 in the morning. I was fresh (?) off a 48-hour shift at the firehouse and was ready for the 10-12 hour drive up to Eureka (told you California was big). I’ve driven the 5 North to the Bay Area enough times to know that there’s nothing really quality to eat on the way up there, so we picked up a few breakfast burritos near my childhood neighborhood of Atwater Village and took to the road.
We passed the time listening to podcasts, reminiscing about our road trips through the years, and talking about our favorite subject: my 4 year old niece, Lavender, and my 1 year old nephew, Grey. My mom and dad baby sit the kids five days a week and I always make sure to visit them at least once a week for a fake tea party and some free breakfast.
Once we got in to Mendocino County and wine country, the 101 started to change. We were flanked by rolling hills and trees and the scene was dotted with wineries and as we drove North. The sun was begin to lower in the sky and we decided to stop for dinner in the next big town. Ukiah, California had a blue star and a big font on my map so we figured that was our best option. We guessed right. I typed “sandwiches” in to Yelp and found Schat's Bakery in the small town of Ukiah. We got there about 5pm in time for some sandwiches on fresh baked bread (an obligation for a great sandwich). Most of the town was closing up shop and we still had a few more hours to Eureka.
We got to Eureka about 8:30 PM. My first impression of the city was that it had large commercial stores like K-Mart and Home Depot. Then I noticed the amount of homeless people wandering or hitchhiking on the side of the road.
We found our motel. It looked like a place where I would find my overdose patients. The art of above the bed was screwed into the wall and there was a fluorescent light that accented the sheen on the crunchy bedspread.
We decided to go for a walk in Old Town Eureka.
Most of the shops were closed and there weren’t many people at all walking the streets. We did some window shopping at the bookstore and read menus for the closed restaurants. When we got to the corner of F street x 2nd we heard the sound of an accordion and walked down to the docks. We sat on a bench and listened to a (I guess) old Sailor played a few tunes. On the next bench, a very NorCal man in Tevas and a flannel danced with his dog while his blue-haired girlfriend laughed and took photos. This is Humboldt.
We looked across the water at the almost faded orange of the sky then walked back to our motel passing several possibly homeless characters. One said hello to engage me and then asked for money. Very different from downtown LA where they just ask you for money.
My favorite encounter were the two guys that stumbled past us on the sidewalk and said, "Either of you guys interested in a half gallon of Sailor Jerry? $25?" I laughed because no one had ever said that sentence to me before and we walked back to our motel.
Jurassic Park was on TV. Appropriate because the clerk at the motel gave us a map of the Redwoods where they filmed Jurassic Park. That’s where we’re headed, but perhaps more importantly, out of Eureka.