Thursday, May 13, 2021


Emily's brother Mike had to go to California on business, so he invited us on another road trip. We've been doing a lot of road tripping lately. Maybe it's addicting.

The sun was going down when he picked us up in his Prius Hybrid. Soon we were heading westward into an interstellar blackness. We arrived in Barstow after midnight.

In the morning, Barstow seemed deserted in a post-Apocalyptic manner. We got coffee at the same Panera we did last time we were in town. I already had stains on my pants and T-shirt as we got back on the road.

Things got less ghost towny as we sped deeper into California, and my non-decaffeinated (they didn’t have decaf, as is often the case in the outback) Americano did its legal psychoactive number on my brain. Everything seemed futuristic, another brave, new world.

Soon we went past Edwards Air Force Base, and the Neil Armstrong Space Research Center.

They are near a helluvalot of modern windmills--Don Quixote's worse nightmare updated for our times.

Then the desert filled up with more airliners than I’d thought could reasonably exist. A sign said it was the Mojave Air and Spaceport. Perhaps, hidden among all those planes, is something capable of achieving orbit.

We stopped at Francisco’s Fruits in Filmore. It was festooned with murals we just had to photograph. We got some of the fresh edibles, and I grabbed a bottle of habanero hot sauce, and some “Chili y Limon” peanuts.

Santa Paula, where my Hogan grandparents lived back in the Sixties, was unrecognizable. Change keeps running amok. That’s the way it is in California.

Amid the “serious treeage” (as Mike put it) of Ventura we discovered that three thrift stores he wanted to show us were closed. Another pandemic phenomenon. “They just open when they show up,” we were told. Downtown was closed off to cars and converted for masked shopping and outdoor street dining. Adjustments have been made.

Santa Barbara is gorgeous, a lush, Mediterranean-ish earthly paradise for those who can afford it. The California Dream incarnate.

We took lots of photos at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History--they had lots of dinosaur statues, some of which moved, and other wonders. 

There were lots of WE BELIEVE BLACK LIVES MATTER, LOVE IS LOVE, WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS, SCIENCE IS REAL, WATER IS LIFE, INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE signs on expensive houses in the twisty hills. Not to mention the occasional estate sale.

We had dinner on the patio of a seafood place with relatives as the breeze from the ocean cooled everything down.

Beyond the Chuma Reservation it suddenly looked like the African veldt, blending into wine country.

We stayed at the La Quinta in Paso Robles AKA El Paso de Robles (The Pass of the Oaks in English.)


The marine layer was lifting as we heard news of another mass shooting. I had a bear claw from DK’s Donuts.

Downtown Salinas was also retrofitted for the new reality. In a huge antique mall, I found a book: Explorations into Chaokia Archaeology: Bulletin 7 Illinois Archaeological Survey. Realities come and go.

We passed a cannabis field on the way to Monterey, near Carmel, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. In Carmel, we went to upscale thrift stores. I found The Mysteries of Ancient South America by Harold T. Wilkins.


Then it was across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco for the business reason for the trip: Mike had to deliver a large, combination coffeetable/drum to a client. The guy’s apartment was on a steep hill, as is most of SF, and next to a huge TV broadcast tower that penetrated the overhead clouds. This city is always something different.

We spent the night in Petaluma, at a Quality Inn. Tried to call El Ranchito for food, but it rang and rang, and no answer. Finally went there, and found the place to be doing fantastic business that had spilled over into their parking lot. They had a DJ blasting loud Neo-Latinoid dance music so we had to scream our order. “We’re too busy to answer the phone,” informed an employee. Everyone was masked, but social distancing was collapsing under the crush. The tacos, beans, and rice were good, though.

Next morning it was quiet in Petaluma, except for the sounds of other motel guests getting up, distant traffic, and nearby roosters. I wondered about the Post-COVID-19 world. What places will still be in business? What will thrive?

Then we got news of still another police shooting, and more protests. When we got back on the road, flags were at half-staff.  Whither goest thou, America? And all that jazz . . .

Got our on-the-run breakfast at the Donut Den, that also serves Chinese food.

Under the cover of the marine layer, we made our way through Coatati and farmland to Sebastopol, that is brimming over with folk arty stuff. Robots and other weirdness in the streets.


Folks were demonstrating in support of Black Lives Matter. The place has character.

Santa Rosa, the birthplace of Charles Schulz, has statues of Peanuts characters everywhere. 

There’s also a pandemic masked shopping area with a lot of fun stuff, but nowhere to go to the bathroom. Three cheers to Dan Taylor’s Omelette Express, that lets visitors use theirs if you ask nicely, like we did. Emily did buy some coffee. The food looked and smelled great, so we’ll have to try it next time we’re in town.

Then it was wine country again.

There are a lot of Mexican food joints in Sonoma. And another pro-Black Lives Matter demonstration in Napa.

We ended up in a Motel 6 in Vacaville. My Panda Express fortune cookie said: STAY CALM THROUGH CHAOS.

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