5. The Sierra Nevada mountains & California!…August, 2021

Day 21 8.29
I headed back West to Sacramento but super unsure of my next step.  Found a really nice park with bathrooms & shade (& free WiFi) & parked.  I talked to Danny & my mechanic back home.  

Then I found a Toyota Dealership about 6 miles away & they were open on Sunday!  I drove there & was able to get my 4Runner looked at today.  I waited a couple of hours to get the bad news…best case?  new Solenoid; worst case?  new transmission. I felt sort of sick at the cost, but also because they’d need to keep my 4Runner all week.  What the hell was I going to do?  I looked at camping opportunities & hotels.  Luke came to the rescue!  He was driving down to work in the area & would get us a room at the big Casino here in Sac & stay until I could get things sorted.  Danny spoke with the Dealership service manager & I could get the 4Runner back until tomorrow morning.  It was enough of a plan to regain some calmness & figure the rest out later…or as it came.

Luke would be here tonight, so I might as well make the best of today.  Rocklin is a cute town & kept me out of the busy bustle of downtown Sacramento, so I decided to stay here.



Out of Bounds brewery…a 20% stout (my biggest ABV beer yet).

Look what I found in Rocklin! (but sadly, had no shade!)

I made my way back to the same park as this morning, found a shade tree to park under, pulled out my camp chair & laptop started to work on my website.  Not only did I need to catch up on it, but needed something to take my mind off of Camper & the outgoing stream of money I’ve been spending on her repairs. 

As I was sitting there, in the 103 degree temps, I noticed a building across the parking lot from me advertising a ‘church information’ event.  A little while later a woman came over to me & said “you look so peaceful sitting there”…I felt like I was melting, feeling the sweat drip down inside my clothes.  She told me she was the pastor’s mother…he was starting a church here in town.  She kept looking in my 4Runner & then asked me a bunch of questions about the way I travel, camp & hike.  She was very nice.  About 15 minutes after she left, a young guy crossed the parking lot from the building to me & handed me a soda & a cold bottle of water & an invitation to come sit inside the building in the A/C.  I said thank you for the goodies, but I was good.  Then he came back about 10 minutes later with food on a plate & another invitation.  I said yes this time, thinking I could just tuck away in the corner, maybe plug in my laptop & be ignored.  But the tables were all decorated nice & sitting in the middle of the room.  People came & went & for the first 5 minutes, I was happily ignored…the A/C felt great.  Then the wife of the pastor came up & asked me a bunch of questions about my travels.  Then the original woman came back.  Then a young 20-something boy came up & asked me about my history with the church….I did not want to go there. So I thought I was saved (no pun intended) when the pastor & his wife stood up & asked for everyones attention.  He wanted to share his life story & how he found God & his way to this town to begin a church, then his wife would tell her story.  Now, everyone here had been very, very nice.  I knew I had to quite working on my website & be attentive…but I felt so trapped.  I now longed for the heat & sweat & uninterrupted opportunity to work on my website.  Also, I was expecting a phone call from Luke anytime, so I could take off to meet up with him.  As the pastor spoke I could see my battery dropping on my laptop.  I sneakily moved my hand up to the cursor & hit save, then as it kept dropping & the pastor’s life story moved very slowly, I quietly powered it down.  Then the wife began her story.  I had my phone in my hand ready to silence any call that came in.  Then he wanted us to all join him to pray…I put the phone on airplane mode.  Once everyone said Amen, I quickly began to pack up my laptop.  Then a woman about my age sprinted over to my table before I could leave & wanted to know who cuts my hair?  She just had to have the name she loved it so much.  I get so many compliments on my hair in all states…good & bad & most of the time I’ve done nothing to it…not washed it in days, ran damp hands through camp hair or hat hair…it just always comes back to looking ….well, the way I want it to.  It fits my life & life style soooo much….& it’s all due to my Sister-in-law Jan who has made it look good forever. Todays hair, had had nothing done to it…I’d been too preoccupied all day to do anything but brush my teeth! The woman was disappointed that my stylists was 1,700 miles away, but it looked like she was making friends & finding a new church. I politely said good bye & thank you on my way out.  I packed up the car & drove away, feeling like that was the only way to escape.  Everyone had been very nice & I did appreciate that. But, I don’t have a great history with religion & their institutions…so, we’ll just leave it at that.

Luke called a short time later & I took off to meet him at the casino.  The rooms there are super gorgeous, modern & so nice.  We grabbed a quick dinner & a beer then I went back to the room for some peace & quiet.  Luke did his thing he does in the casino & around midnight I turned off the lights & laid down to go to sleep.

Day 22 8.30
I had a 9am appointment to turn my 4Runner into the dealer for the rest of the week.  I woke up at 7am, Luke had picked me up a coffee & while he was headed back to bed, I was headed out to 4Runner.  

But, in the meantime, my mechanic from home called me & we talked.  Then Danny called me & we talked more.  The three of us decided my call should be to buy the whole enchilada…have the $4,500 transmission installed rather than the $3,000 part that probably caused the problem, but not 100% sure.  I felt great about this decision.  If I’d been home when all this happened, & had more options & choices, the decision might have been different.  So, I phoned my now California mechanic, told him the decision which bought me more time this morning before I had to take her in. 

The casino parking lot had been full yesterday evening when I parked way way out at the end of the lot, but on this cool morning, the whole area around my 4Runner was empty.  I had made a list of everything I thought I needed to pull out, so I went through that, packing my stuff into a duffle.  Then I set about making the inside looks super nice, wiping down surfaces & cleaning her up.  I know it’s crazy, but when you spend as much time in a vehicle…not only living in it for weeks or months at a time, but depending on it to take you to far away places, down hard tough roads & to experiences that make dreams come true…there is a HUGE attachment.  It’s not very often her & I are without each other, unless she is at home.  So, when I have to leave her…like in an airport, hotel parking lot or with an unknown mechanic…it’s a thing…a big deal.  But, since the parking lot was empty, there was no one to witness my ‘crazy’ & I could chat & soothe both of us in my own way.  Crazy hair…crazy mind…but so appreciate this old Toyota beast.  

I patted her & said good bye & my CA mechanic said he’d take good care of her.  Luke picked me up & we met his friend Matt for lunch.  Then we headed out about 2:30 for the 5+ hours long windy drive west & north to Blue Lake.  We had a stop to make about an hour outside of Sac at another casino, then we’d be on our way.  As we got back to the car after the casino stop, Luke saw some fluid on the ground underneath his car.  I thought I’d become a fluid expert by now, & we both dipped our fingers in the water like clear fluid & sniffed.  We were hoping it was just from the A/C since it was again about 100 degrees today.  Luke let me drive, since I’m so prone to car sickness & we took off.

Until about 15 minutes later, when his coolant light popped on in his BMW.  To say this least, he was not happy.  I felt like a bad omen where vehicles are concerned.  We pulled off immediately (he knows better than me to drive with a light on).  He methodically made phone calls….first to his mechanic in Sacramento (could he get his car dropped off there?); then to AAA (we needed a tow); then to the car rental place (he would need a car for a few days).  It only took 20 minutes for the tow truck driver to pick us up which was the good news…the bad news was that in spite of AAA telling us he could take us back with the car if we masked up, he could not.  We were literally in the middle of nowhere.  He was a super nice guy, but couldn’t ignore his company rules, but didn’t want to leave us in a unsafe spot, so he offered to drive us back to the casino & drop us there.  So, Luke called his buddy we’d just had lunch with & asked him to drive out to pick us up.  In the meantime, I’d remembered something I’d left in 4Runner that made me freak a bit….4 fuel canisters.  Not a big deal, unless the inside of your car hits 120 & they blow up.  I knew this was only a slight possibility, but slight was too much for me (remember all the trouble I went to before I parked camper in the Las Vegas airport last May?).  It was over 100 degrees when I’d dropped camper off & I knew she’d be parked in an unshaded lot for most of the week, windows up & doors locked.  I called my California mechanic & asked him if he could get them out of camper…I could tell him exactly where they were.  And, he was so nice & kind about it.  Sent me a text saying they were under his desk where I could pick them up when the 4Runner was ready.

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We all know when life starts throwing lemons at you, first you cuss up a storm, some of us slightly or majorly panic, make decisions, find a way, then start looking for that lemonade.  We could have been a couple of more hours up the road, which is so narrow & twisty, no places to pull off the road, no cell service, no one to pick us up that’s not multiple hours away & no known mechanic.  And, Luke made some money when we got dropped back off at the casino.  And, I got to meet Matt’s Dad..super nice & interesting guy.

They dropped us at the airport, Luke rented his car, we drove back into the heart of Sac to his now closed mechanic’s shop (thank goodness he’d given Luke the gate code), cleaned our stuff out of his car, packed up the rental, & at 8pm, once again took off for Blue Lake.  Luke offered to let me drive, but he drives these roads at night every week.  I knew he was more familiar than I would be & was very anxious to get back.  

I made 3.5 hours on those roads without getting sick…but when we got to the 101, it hit.  I was doing my best to not puke in the car or make him pull over.  So, I rolled down the window & sort of hung my head out the whole way.  By the time we rolled into Blue Lake at 1:15am, I was so shaky getting out of the car & felt awful.  I thanked him for coming to rescue me, sorry about both our vehicles, then dropped into a very welcoming bed where Leia & Pete & left a light on for me.  I just wanted the earth to stop moving long enough for me to go to sleep & not get sick.

Day 23 8.31
I woke up feeling a lot better but still with a lump in my throat & my stomach cranking at me.  I sat on the deck with a cup of coffee, bought a new Kindle book I’d been waiting to debut & read.  I didn’t want to think about broken or moving vehicles.  

Leia & I met Pete for an early lunch & the super yummy bowl of soup I ate, turned my motion sickness woes around…or maybe it was time that did it, but I felt back to normal.  Leia had asked if I wanted to run errands with her today, & I happily went along.  We also stopped so I could pick up my motion-sickness-kit.  I’d left all my dramamine in the 4Runner, so I bought more—the kind that would knock me out, crackers & a coke.  We spent part of the afternoon wandering around a local nursery, looking at all the plants. Leia loves house plants & it took me back to my college & botany days when I had so many.  The she drove us up to Trinidad & we drank port & a glass of wine at the local winery.  Neither of us had ever had white port before…but we both liked the dark red port much better.  

Pete was off playing pickle ball after work tonight, so wouldn’t be home for dinner   The one place I hadn’t eaten at when Danny was here, was the Lighthouse because it was closed on the day we’d hiked in Trinidad.  They have mashed potatoes cones…like a meat pie in a waffle cone.  OMG, so good.  Brisket, bacon, cheese, gravy & mashed potatoes in a neat little yummy cone.  We both had a draft of local Lost Coast Root beer to go along with dinner.

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After we were all back at the house, we just spent the rest of the evening visiting.another wonderful day!

Day 24 9.1
When I come to visit the boys & Leia, I also usually see my friend Terri.  She’s my sister-in-laws original friend, but I’ve come to know her better & love our walks & talks we share when I’m here.   She was out of town last week, but this week, was back.  We made contact & met at the local coffee shop.  We’d planned to hike by the river next to Pete’s house, but a new fire had started just about an hour from their house & was making the air super smoky.  So, she drove us up to the Trinidad head & we took our coffee & went for a hike & some good conversation!

The skies were foggy over the water & smoky over the land.  There was soooo much white in the waves today.


So glad I got to visit with Terri!

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And, that I got to spend time by this magnificent ocean one more time before I left.

The colors of the sky make a huge difference in how we see the color of the water. It seemed to have changed just since we’d reach the top & hiked back down.

Terri had previous plans for this afternoon, & Pete, Leia & Luke were all working.  I sat on the deck & read my new book…love this series.  The weather was perfect & I was feeling good. But I could be distracted fairly easily by these three...

Goat watching…they’re pretty cute.

We had dinner at the house.  Jordan & Luke came over, Peter grilled steak & chicken & Leia made some yummy mushrooms & quinoa & green beans.  Luke brought a cheesecake for dessert.  I so appreciated being welcomed back to Pete & Leias instead of being stranded in Sacramento.  It’s an easy comfortable place to be.

Day 25 9.2
I started the day on the deck, colder here this morning than any other morning I’ve been here the past two weeks.  Leia & her dog Choloe & I walked to the coffee shop & back to the house.  Leia was working this morning, I was reading, Luke stopped by but was on his way to play a round of golf this afternoon.

Since everyone was working or gone, I walked to the Dog House for lunch; a little local spot down by the park. Wow…it was great!

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I had the Umami dog…with home made Thai pickles, Larrupin sauce (a local sweet mustard thats fantastic…bringing two jars back with me!) a spicy relish & onions.  I sat in the park & read, then went back to the coffee shop & bought a cup of tea & moved the next park & read for a bit.

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Luke picked me up, while Leia was working & we met Pete in Arcata.  He had to work tonight, so he was taking a long late afternoon break.  We met at Pie & Cider, each enjoying a piece of their yummy pie, & chatting again before saying goodbye.  It’s been so great to get to spend so much time with these guys!

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I took a piece of pie back to Leia, but before too long it was time to say good bye.  I had washed & changed the sheets on my bed, packed up all my stuff again & was ready to go.  When Luke came to pick me up, I said good bye to Leia with lots of thanks (& a few eye leaks) thrown in for being such a good & easy host.  I hoped I’d be back soon….but not like next week!

Luke & Jordan already had plans to drive down to the casino tonight, to a wedding tomorrow evening, then the red-eye out to Pennsylvania, then a drive to Ohio for a music festival.  These plans had been made a long time ago, but I was so grateful they fit in for my need to get back to Sac.  But I was super nervous about the drive back.  Luke suggested I drive, Jordan was sweet to sit in the back & they both showed patience as I took a little bit longer to make the drive than Luke would have AND for the understanding that I brake for foxes & owls that might die in my path or damage the vehicle…no more car problems!  We didn’t leave McKinleyville until 8:45 & with my driving landed at the casino at 2:30am.  Luke had gotten me a room & I was super grateful for the big comfy bed, the shower I’d take the next morning & that I was that much closer to getting the 4Runner back.


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