Drive Home

October 16-18, 2022

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

mapThis is not much of a diary, just a record of a (hopefully) uneventful drive from coastal Oregon to California's Central Valley. What could go wrong?

Our Sunday plan was to head south along the coast to Reedsport and then turn inland to reach Interstate 5. We passed through all of the most popular seaside towns and villages and discovered that the third weekend in October was surprisingly busy. Every community had stop and go traffic and, in between, every hill was slowed by clunky, old recreational vehicles.

Oregon coast Highway 101 has many wonderful ocean viewpoints, but we avoided them all. I blame the traffic. After working to pass a slowpoke or three, I just couldn't pull over to shoot pictures while the slugs moved ahead of us. Instead, we just drove on.

bakeryWe did stop for gas, driver exchange, and a bakery. This section would be Marianne's first session at the controls of Mr. Hertz' Nissan Rogue and it took some getting used to. Controls are different. Seats are different. And acceleration is way different from our Tesla Model Y - Performance. We miss Carla. (Because we delayed the stop too long, the bakery was sold out of things more interesting than routine croissants. Another lesson learned.)

UmpquaHighway 38 headed east, along the Umpqua River, also scenic and, for us, almost picture-free. As we moved inland, the river got more and more shallow. A few places along the way advertised "river rapids", but instead the Umpqua seemed just a series of ponds and puddles. Mid-stream rocks and sandbars were sprouting grass. I hesitate to speculate about climate change, but something must have changed.

We stopped in Roseburg, seven hours after we left Astoria. In college, I can remember driving straight through between Portland and the San Francisco Bay area in 10 to 12 to 14 hours. Or, harder yet, in two very long days in my 1952 MG TD, top speed 55 mph. The shorter driving days are not climate change, just aging.

mcminnimensinsideFor dinner we eschewed fast food and went downtown to McMenamin's. The food was ordinary American, but the place was in an old craftsman-style train station, nicely restored. The organization has restored a score of historic Oregon and Washington buildings, filling them with restaurants and hotels. We commend the effort at restoration and our salads were good ... good enough.

We definitely are tired of road food. We both miss home; home cooking for Marianne and home food for me.

We drove out of Roseburg at 8am, not knowing for sure if we would drive all the way home to Fresno. Interstate 5 in southern Oregon is a broad, scenic, highway. The twists and turns were not as tricky and stressy as Sunday's coastal two-lane byways. I don't think we will try the coastal route again.

As soon as we crossed into California, the scenery opened up and the roadway straightened. Easier driving meant we probably would make it home this day. In a few months, we expect to be driving Carla south again, and the Portland to Fresno trip sounds reasonable. Of course, we will need snow tires and patience to avoid heavy snow.

KFCWe stopped in Redding for gas, stretching, and fine roadside dining. We are not fast food people, but a quick stop meant we should make it home. I have to admit KFC's chicken sandwich was pretty good. Marianne passed on anything deep fried; just some mashed potatoes. Good enough.

deltaFurther south, we decided to avoid Sacramento traffic and the dreaded Highway 99, as much as possible. Apple Maps offered an option that would do just that. Great! However, we were sent onto a mix of freeways and two-lane roads that returned us to the stress of Sunday's small-road drive. We did have to admit this was the first time we had toured the Sacramento Delta in decades, but once was enough.

LottoAlong the way somewhere, we picked up a Lotto ticket because the pool was over $400 million and we thought that might be enough to make this trip a net positive. No one won.

Ten hours after leaving Roseburg, we crossed into Fresno. Before we got home, we needed to stop and get some minimum groceries. That last half-hour diversion pushed us into bickering, tired and more than ready to be home. Oh well, 22 days on the road we are entitled to a few moments less than perfect.

At home, we emptied the rental car, had a snack, and expressed relief that the old house seemed to have not deteriorated in our three-week absence. No more gunshot wounds. No water leaks. All the electrical things worked. And, thanks to Gloria, it was clean and the garden well-watered.


John and Marianne