It wasn’t long after I left Rexburg that I got into Humboldt — I had to get all that inertia out of my system. Despite going pedal to the medal, I really enjoyed some parts of the drive. It was the first time that I had gone through Twin Falls, Idaho, which has a really beautiful gorge worth seeing. As far as Nevada goes, I pretty much drove straight through when it was dark. I was planning on stopping at Winnemucca (I love that name) but got some really good coffee that took me straight to Truckee, California. Nevada is one of my least favorite states anyways, from the cheesy casino culture (which is statewide, not just in Vegas) to the barren desert, I haven’t seen much that I’ve liked. Truckee is right across the border from Reno, an especially corny knock off of Vegas, at least that is what it looked like as I drove through at 4 AM.
The Truckee area is pretty nice, when I first got there it was dark and I could just see a lot of misty forest. I passed out at a campground at about 5 AM and slept a couple hours before I got back on the road. From Truckee to Redding was a pretty neat drive up highways 89 and 36. They are really small highways that weave and wind through a seemingly endless forest passing small communities. The little forest communities seemed like pretty nice places, little podunk towns ranging from 50 to 5,000 people. One of the highlights of that area is Lassen National Park. It was right on the way, so of course I stopped.
Lassen kind of reminds me of a combination of Yellowstone National Park and the volcanic area of Northwestern New Mexico. Like Yellowstone, it has those bubbling little mud and sulphur pots, which are pretty neat. The mountains are largely made of volcanic looking rock, but it is not barren, there are plenty of trees. I really didn’t go down too many of the trails because I was going on 2 hours of sleep and it was overcrowded. I did the main trail worth doing (in my opinion), which is Lassen Peak, a five mile round trip that takes you above 10,000 feet. It was pretty cool because I had never been that high before. It was a bit chilly on top, but I foolishly wore shorts and tank top — my sweater was used to wrap up my cold ears. It was worth it though.
After Lassen, I drove west to Redding and stopped briefly. From Redding it’s about 3 hours ish to Eureka, even though it is only about 120 miles. The road is rife with 25 and 35 MPH curves and elevation gains and drops and gains. It is a beautiful drive though, especially from Weaverville to Eureka. The Trinity River Canyon is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. There are steep canyon walls covered with lush vegetation with the Trinity River in the bottom. I’m hoping to spend some time in Trinity county before I leave. I’ve heard that several people have already died rafting the river, even though it didn’t look to deep (probably suffering the effects of California’s drought). Throughout the drive on the 299 there were many signs, cutouts, etc involving Sasquatch, apparently this was (is?) thought to be Bigfoot country. If Sasquatch do exist, they would probably live in a wild place like this.
I arrived in Eureka at about 8 or so and drove around looking for a place to park. All the campgrounds were super expensive ranging from $20 a night on the cheap end to $50 a night for the KOA — might as well get an apartment for that price. I tried near the fairgrounds, but people (probably drunk teenagers or something) kept spinning donuts in the lot. I drove around exhausted and exasperated for over an hour, desperate for sleep. I parked in the mall, but mall security kicked me out within 10 minutes. As I was driving around I was thinking to myself “Great life plan Joel, drive an old beater across the country with no money or job prospects. You can’t even find a place to park. Really solid plan here, man.” I eventually ended up parking on a side street next to a carnival. All the lights from the carnival looked like sirens coming through my windows. I was able to rig up a few blankets for privacy, but it was still like sleeping in a fishbowl.
After some much needed sleep I got up at about 8:30, thinking of where I would go to church. I put some coffee on and got out to stretch my legs. I met a guy named Matt who was trying to bum a cigarrette; I offered him some coffee instead. He joined me at my van and we had coffee and talked a bit. He drove up from Texas looking for work. He smirked when I told him I studied chemical dependency counseling, and noted that he was a recovering meth user. We chatted a bit more and I gave him my number in case he found work or I found work etc.
There was a large gold cross poking out a residential area, so I decided to drive there. It was an Eastern Orthodox church. I went there and it was pretty good, but I couldn’t take communion with them because I’m not Orthodox. They didn’t refuse me, but I decided to avert a potential soteriological interrogation. After church I kicked around the downtown area to get the layout of the city. I came to a store called Humboldt Republic that sells shirts and stuff. I bought a cool shirt that says “Humboldt Republic” and has Bigfoot on it, a parody of the state flag. I talked with the manager a bit and gave me some leads on jobs and resources. I was starting to feel a bit more hopeful.
While canvassing the town, I found a decent place to park my van, down at the waterfront at Eureka Public Marina. I parked there and explored some more. I met a group of homeless people sitting by the bathroom and talked to them a bit. Butch is a large guy that looks like a Butch, who has a stocky Pitt Bull named Tank, who looks like a Tank, but is a sweet heart. I also met Rain, a woman probably in her 30s and Jeff, a younger, tall guy who has a pitt mix. They gave me some information about resources for poor people — free meals etc. Butch told me to carry a knife, which I don’t and haven’t needed to thus far.
The next morning I went to one of the free meals in an empty lot next to the welfare building. There were about a dozen — more or less — people hanging around at 7 AM. The smell of marijuana wafted through the lot as people toked up first thing in the morning. I saw a tall young guy wearing shorts and winter coat pacing and talking to himself. I tried to introduce myself and asked his name and he said “I don’t have a name, the streets is my name, I don’t care. I don’t talk to others, only to myself.” I met another young guy named Jeremy who seemed half way “normal”. At about 8 AM “Betty’s Blue Angel” rolled up, a blue truck that has a compartment for food and coffee. I got a pastry and a cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup. I figured that the people down there were probably the people I would be hanging out with and hopefully sharing the love of God with. My next order of business was to find a job.