Now that I am settled into the awesome, carless city life I have always wanted, it amazes me that I drove as much as I did when I lived out west. One of the examples that first comes to mind from that time was when, six years ago this month, I drove my now ex-wife’s car from Henderson, NV to Eugene, OR, a drive of approximately 1,200 miles.
My ex had been eyeing the Pacific Northwest for a few years as a potential landing place. By the time she had finally packed up and moved out, she had been talking about heading off on her own for over three years.
When push came to shove, she headed to the Northwest to scope some places out and eventually settled in Eugene. We arranged movers for her stuff, but the issue of what to do with her car lingered. She did not like driving and particularly did not like highway driving, so she was not inclined to make the trip herself.
Shortly after her move, I had the opportunity to do a presentation in lovely Monterey, CA for the Monterey Area Cooperative Library System.
What really amuses me now is my very west coast thought process at the time. I figured I had to go to Monterey anyway, so I might as well drop her car off in Eugene, a mere 630 mile diversion.
I have been back on the east coast for over five years now and haven’t driven 630 miles.
Trains are the way to go.
Since being back, I’ve driven to Scranton, PA and Baltimore, MD. But we’ve taken the train to such places as Ocean City, NJ, New Haven, CT, and Boston MA.
To put that drive from Monterey to Eugene in an east coast perspective, that’s about the same distance as Philadelphia is to Indianapolis. Montreal is “only” 460 miles from Philadelphia.
I am also not a big fan of driving, especially driving long stretches at once, so I broke the trip up and made a five day adventure out of it and got to see a couple friends along the way.
The first leg of my trip took me from Henderson to Bakersfield, CA (280 miles). At that time, one of my oldest friends lived in Carpinteria, CA, and we arranged meeting in Bakersfield. That was a mere 140 mile drive for him.
I had been to Bakersfield once before on a similar trip when I headed to Monterey for a library conference. It proved to be a convenient location to spend a night in order to break up the drive.
Bakersfield didn’t strike me as much of a place those first two times. It seemed like just some suburban stop off the highway. A year later, my now girlfriend, Holly, and I spent a night there (also to break up a long drive during a different epic CA trip) and found a fabulous Basque restaurant, Wool Growers, for dinner and a wonderful spot, 24th Street Café, for breakfast the next morning that we still refer to. During yet a different trip to Bakersfield, I went to the Bakersfield Museum of Art which I recall being fairly impressed with.
I owe Bakersfield an apology for anything I said about it based on my initial impressions.
Baker, CA, on the other hand, has little to offer. It’s a glorified pit stop where I often stopped for gas on my numerous California jaunts, as I had on this one. It’s most famous for its giant thermometer (world’s tallest, in fact) and the Alien Fresh Jerky store.
I have a Flickr album with all my pictures from this trip
But at the time of my long Eugene drive, Bakersfield was still just some stop off the highway to me. My friend and I didn’t even venture out of the hotel. We had a drink at the bar and then went up to our room to enjoy some beers he had brought with him from Carpinteria’s own Island Brewing. The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and then went our separate ways.
I had visited my friend in Carpinteria a few times and loved it. It’s one of the places I miss from my time out west. Pretty much all of the places I miss from that time in my life are in California.
Las Vegas didn’t do much for me. Certainly, there were specific spots I really liked, but the city, in general, left me cold, figuratively speaking.
After Bakersfield, my next destination was Monterey (220 miles) for the workshop I was presenting at.
Monterey is a very special place for me. Two major life-changing events happened there.
The first time I went to Monterey was to present at the Internet Librarian conference in the fall of 2006. I was still living in Philadelphia at the time and that was my first trip to California. I had no idea that within a few years I would take such a liking to that state and spend so much time there.
After my presentation, someone from the library at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas approached me to tell me about a job opening they had. Several months later, I was living in Las Vegas. That, perhaps, is a story for another time.
Three years later, also at Internet Librarian, I met Holly which put the wheels in motion for a major and very positive upheaval of my life. It was an event that eventually led me to driving my ex-wife’s car from Henderson to Eugene.
Prior to going to Monterey for this workshop, I had been there for Internet Librarian three times (and once afterwards). It was strange being in town for a different reason and being there without my usual librarian crowd. Luckily, I knew my co-presenter for the workshop, so I did get to see at least one friendly librarian face.
I can’t say enough about how much I love Monterey. After Internet Librarian in 2010, Holly and I stayed a few extra days, so it was great experiencing it without a conference to attend. That said, I look forward to a time when we can go explicitly for a vacation not at all tainted by our jobs.
The night before my presentation, I had dinner at one of my all-time favorite spots, Montrio Bistro, a place where on our next visit, we went, I believe, seven times in six days. The next morning, I went to another favorite spot, Wild Plum Café & Bistro, for breakfast.
The workshop was just a half-day workshop, so I was soon back on the road, this time to Berkeley (120 miles). I spent the night at a hotel right on the water and had a nice dinner at Skates on the Bay.
At Berkeley, I visit a friend who has since retired from the library at the University of California, Berkeley. I knew him from when I was more involved with the media side of libraries. We had bonded over bourbon at a conference in Kentucky a couple of years prior.
He was kind enough to give me a tour of the university.
The distance from Berkeley to Eugene was still 520 miles, which is a bit far for me to do straight through, at least alone. North of the bay area, there are fewer places to stop, and the nearest to the halfway point was Redding, CA, 210 miles from Berkeley.
Holly tried to talk me into taking a detour to Chico, CA, to visit Sierra Nevada Brewing. I was growing tired of driving and opted to just go straight to Redding, but I regret not taking advantage of being relatively close.
Redding is a small city along the Sacramento River. After I arrived, I did have the chance to walk around a bit and see the river. I found a tapas place for dinner and had an enjoyable meal. This was the one stop along the way which was purely a rest stop. No one to see. Nothing to present.
The last leg was the 315 mile drive from Redding to Eugene. I have since been to Portland, but, at the time, that was my first time in Oregon. Until I went to Portland and later Seattle, that was as far north on the west coast as I had ever been.
I spent one night in Eugene. Luckily, my ex and I were on fairly amicable terms. As I mentioned, she had been talking about moving out for a while, so despite the suddenness when things finally fell apart, we were able to remain friendly.
While in Eugene, I got to see some of the campus of the University of Oregon, the Animal House house, and the Willamette River. Also got to see some live music (Horse Feathers) at a small local club. At one time when I was first thinking about the possibility of moving from Philadelphia, I was interested in a job at the U of O in Eugene. Obviously, nothing came of that, but it is interesting that our paths led us there in a completely different way.
The next morning, I took a flight back to Vegas, via Portland, and my long drive was over. It would have been therapeutic if that trip provided the kind of closure it seemed to imply. But there was still paperwork ahead and there are ongoing financial entanglements that are denying me complete resolution. But, thanks to that trip, I was able to at least philosophically shut the (car)door on that part of my life and start on a new, happier one.