We leave Howard Creek Ranch a bit after 11:00. If you ever get a chance to go to the coast up there in Nor Cal I cannot recommend this place enough. It is a bit rustic but in all the right ways. Sonny, who runs the place, has been there for fifty years, gradually transforming it from a barn into at guest house with several rooms and there are several more houses to rent scattered on his 60 acres right by the sea. It is a place out of time… with Wifi.
I booked this leg over a month ago and can no longer recall why I wanted to go so far. I think it had to do with getting to Bainbridge Island, Washington by Friday but, man! this was a long driving day. The miles weren’t the issue, it was the contour highways wending their way through thick Redwood forests. Lovely beyond words, tangled and chaotic, newer giants growing from the stumps of harvested giants some hundred years ago.
On this day cruising through this forest of ancients, NASA released images from the new telescope, images that show light emanating from millions or even billions of years ago, galaxies upon galaxies dancing and pulling at one another. We can see you. I believe that the answer to the question “Is there life out there?” is the reverse. “Where is there not life out there?”
The ocean is wind messy when we drop down to see it and traffic is light on this non-Holiday Tuesday in Summer. We only leave the cool of the seaside for one brief stint and I can only imagine how hot it must be in the inland valleys.
Michelle is quiet for the first few hours but becomes agitated the longer the drive. We stop frequently to give her a chance to stretch her legs, for Mo to explore. He hoards his pee and likes to release it in one statuesque flood.
About an hour still to go and suddenly—thank goodness on a downhill section—the gas pedal goes to the floor. We’re not accelerating, and I know something bad has happened, most likely the throttle cable has snapped, worn out. It has been squeaking lately. But I packed a spare at my mechanic’s suggestion. I’m able to coast into a turn out and I head for the engine compartment and pull it open. It takes about five seconds to see it’s not the cable! The linkage has come undone, a ball fitting into a socket has come loose.
I reattach it though it’s clear it’s not likely to hold and off we go. After two more stops in ten minutes when it comes undone—one where I had to pull off onto the circle in the middle of a roundabout—I realized I needed to come up with a fix.
While packing my tools I had all the usual wrenches, sockets and screwdrivers and I came across these nifty velcro straps, about six inches long. I have no idea where, when or why I bought them. I was about to leave them at home when I thought, “Oh, what the heck, you never know.” They were, in a word, perfect. On the road again with a one-minute fix.
We arrived at Ireland’s Rustic Lodges around 7:00. I wasn’t tired and perhaps still under the influence of the phenomenal double café latte from Jitters in Eureka. (Best cup of coffee I’ve had in ages.)
I used to stay here for a full weekend and write plays and screenplays. No phones, no TV, no distractions. I would have it in full treatment form and just write the entire thing in two days. I did about five projects that way.
Michelle and I used to stay here as well, at Ireland’s, many years ago. We would come down with Freckles, our Border Aussie, for a romantic weekend, to cool off and breathe the ocean air. Michelle would tell stories the whole way unless she was driving. I learned this trick because I loved her stories, but the girl could go on and on, so if I wanted a break, I would say, “Hey, I’m getting tired, want to drive for a while?”
I would close my eyes and relax because Michelle was a super conservative driver.
While I must now do all the driving and she no longer has her stories or can no longer access them, and romance is a peck on the cheek and the dog is Mo and not Freckles and the redwoods are a bit taller and the stars keep spinning and the ocean is still messy this is more than just fine.
Something is missing that I don’t miss and that something is a backdrop of “need to please.” It was always part of my moment-to-moment existence but that’s gone now.
We meet a couple, Byron and Lisa, in a VW bus, a green ’78. They are heading back to Oregon, taking their time, taking shorter legs, smart people. I pull over when they pull over and we have a great chat under the giants. They will pass through Ashland and see The Tempest. This is the play Michelle and I were doing on tour with the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival when we fell in love and became a couple. Ferdinand and Miranda.
Their son is in theater, or was, and Lisa wonders if he will go back to it. She is a true theater person, having seen numerous shows at The Globe in London.
Later she texts me.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world that has such people in’t!
I respond with Prospero’s somewhat sarcastic response… “’Tis new to thee.”