North is calling. It is a strange voice, a curious whir, the rush of wheels on gravel, the fluttering wings of a dark black bird. Is it simply the land, Cascadia in its winter, calling for company? Or is it the future whispering? This is not the trip I thought it would be, and while there were parts I would not care to repeat, they were more than balanced by the discovery of a new home, and new ideas for the future. If nothing else, it is time for a vacation from the vacation.
I have learned not to question too much this murmuring of the wind, and so I wake the housetruck from its month-long slumber, pack it shipshape, sweep out the dust of sage and memories, and creep out past the little houses of Spirit Pine. It’s hard to say goodbye to the folks, my new friends, with whom I’ve spent groggy mornings and active days and chattering evenings, but I give everyone hugs and contact info, promising to be back to visit in just a few weeks.
I nose the truck slowly down the steep mountain road, twisting around the hairpin turns until the slope spills into the ranchland below. I pass Michael Jackson’s dead Neverland Ranch, and turn north, along Highway 154, up to the 101, through bustling San Luis Obispo, and find myself on Highway 1, that great canon of the American road. I meet clouds and fog not far north, and I remember it is winter.
By the time I reach Big Sur, it is dark and drizzling. I gingerly descend to a river-side campground, pay my exorbitant site fee, and cook myself a somewhat lonely pasta. I miss the crowded, common kitchen of Spirit Pine, the random yet overflowing pantry, and the satisfied sounds of people eating a good meal after a long day of work and play. And down here in the drippy redwoods, I miss the clear, calm starry skies.
The next day, the route through the Bay Area is difficult and distracting. The weird spiraling vortex of Santa Cruz spins me in again, and I grit my teeth and barrel through. A hurried lunch in San Bruno with good friends is a welcome respite before the bone-rattling drive up San Francisco’s 19th Avenue towards the Presidio, then crossing the bridge and cresting the hill towards Sausalito, San Rafael, Petaluma, Rohnert Park. The mad race finally slows as I turn off on the old familiar Gravenstein Highway towards Sebastopol, where I am staying with an Internet visionary whom I once worked for, in the distant past when the Web was new. The clouds look fierce, and start to open up with rain, but I nestle into a small apple orchard just over the ridge from town. I light a tiny fire in my tiny woodstove, and listen to the rain tapping on the roof.
From here on, I am on familiar and comforting ground. Wet as it may be, I do feel an affinity to these lands, the ranges and valleys of northwestern California up into British Columbia and Alaska. This is Cascadia, and although its dark period drives me bonkers, the kinder parts of year are without equal. It is not my only home, but it is one of the best.
After a brief intermission of a full day’s stop with friends in the mountains high above the Anderson Valley, I truck up the 101, speeding past redwood forests and roaring riverbeds, nip along the coast and back inland again, cross over the winding and gorgeous Highway 199 to Grants Pass, and set my sights for Silverton. After what seems like a short day, I roll into my familiar street, back the housetruck into the driveway, and turn off the key, happy to be stopping — for a bit.