Recently, I closed down my business. After attending to all the tedious and seemingly endless details (a few still linger), to my utter delight things reversed, and I quickly became bathed in unfamiliar feelings of freedom.
A few weeks before the actual closing, my old friend, John, mentioned that he was planning to go back to the Washington D.C. area. We grew up there together beginning as toddlers. He was returning to attend his oldest granddaughter’s high school graduation. He lives near me here in Northern California.
John said to me, “Bob, why don’t you come along?”. “We’ll stay with Don (who also grew up with us). We’ll have a terrific time.” I told him it just wasn’t possible, since I always had so much going on that breaking loose for even a few days was a logistical nightmare – rescheduling employees, staying on top of things, etc. It was always more trouble than it was worth. By the way, have you noticed that nobody gets named John or Bob anymore?
John continued; “Well, won’t you be out of that place by that time?” And, you know, he was right. I was still picturing myself being caught ad infinitum in what felt like an unbreakable mold. I should mention, too, that both of us are many years post-divorce. We don’t have to consult anyone about our movements. (Hey, don’t get any ideas).
The Internet Junkie in me got right online, of course, with one of those cheapo travel sites. In a few minutes, I had two non-stop, roundtrip e-tickets for us at $216 bucks each!
Well, the trip was marvelous – carefree, light, fun and full of reminiscence among three old life-long friends. All the well-worn stories were trotted out, massively embellished and lifted to legendary standing. Don and his wife, Sheila, were great hosts. Sheila had heard it all before. I think I noticed a little eye rolling there. The graduation party was fun, too.
Back home again, I was sitting around one day, preoccupied with my customary shallow thinking, when the question crossed my mind, "Bob, what are you really doing with all this freedom you have?” I began reflecting, “You know, there are so many places in California you’ve never seen, why don’t you just take off and go somewhere?” The answer came quickly – “Yeah, why don’t you?”
The next day, I packed up and drove north from the Bay Area. Remember, I have no one else around to put the kybosh on this kind of thing.
I had a little delay around Winters, California when some tread lopped off one of the tires from the intense summer heat in California's Central Valley. You can be a member of AAA for years and never use it. But, there’s always that one time – thank God!
Surprisingly, there was a gas station open on Sunday in Winters that had my tire size. Nowadays, you can pretty much forget about that. Gas stations sell gas, cigarettes, coffee, junk food and heart attacks. That’s about it.
Not long ago, I bought a laptop which I hadn’t tried out on the road. I checked into a motel in Redding, hoping for the best with my first hotel/motel internet hookup. Gosh, it was easy! Now, I can keep moving around and still do this obsessive internet stuff.
My laptop has become mandatory travel gear. I’ve even registered a domain name - LaptopLife.Com - which I plan to develop. You can dump your desktop.
I stopped by Lassen Volcanic Park. I’d climbed Mt. Lassen with my father 45 years ago. Not this time though, but I was tempted. Maybe next year. Anyway, did you know that, if you’re over 62, you can get a lifetime pass into all the National Parks for ten bucks? The lady ranger at the gate carded me just to make sure I qualified.
From Lassen, I drove north on Highway 89 which is tremendously scenic. Just about everything I saw on this road trip was tremendously scenic. Forgive me if I don’t mention it again. As you move along, Mt. Shasta comes into view. I hadn’t been by Shasta in 45 years. Its impressive folks. Go there. Or go back there. It’s breathtaking!
Stop off in Weed. On the main drag, there’s a little bakery where you can pluck a commendable latte’, munch addictive home-baked cookies and strike up some friendly banter. I mentioned to the bakery lady that I’d last been through Weed in 1957. She said it hadn’t changed much.
I conceded that perhaps the only significant change was the emergence of latte’s in Weed. They hadn't penetrated the U.S. in 1957. While she pondered that, I remarked that her place clearly bore no resemblance to Starbucks. “For which I’m grateful”, I added. I really did mean it as a compliment.
I hauled my new laptop into a Yreka motel for some more internet time and rest. The desk lady told me that an internet connection from my room would be out of the question. I fooled her. Occasionally, compulsive behavior has its advantages. Can you use "Yreka" in Scrabble?
Forget Yreka. The next day I lunched in Ashland, Oregon, a lovely town nestled in the mountains of southern Oregon. Ashland is famous for its Shakespeare Festival, but I didn’t do Shakespearian things there, although I’d like to. The drive up I-5 from Yreka is well worth it, too.
From Ashland, I drove south and turned onto Highway 96, the Klamath River Highway. Now we’re getting into areas I’d never seen. This is a road less traveled. I had it pretty much to myself. No tourist crowds. The Klamath is one of the designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in the U.S. It lives up to its billing.
After a night of more internet and snoozing on the much cooler coast at Arcata, I took Highway 299 east through the Trinity Alps. Other wild and scenic rivers stretched out, along with some pretty rugged and impressive terrain. I had lunch in Weaverville, an old Gold Rush town. Yep, California had Gold Rushes outside of the Sierra Foothills. One thing that distinguishes Weaverville is a lingering Chinese influence. During the Gold Rush, it had a large Chinese population.
Making my way back home through Redding, I drove by a bank which had one of those time-temperature signs. It read 123 degrees. Man, it really was time to go home. I was satisfied that I had capably deployed myself so far in the enjoyment of my new freedom. I felt nicely enriched.
Well, I won't be home for long. I’m off to New York shortly, then, in a little while, on to London and Rome. In London there’s a conference for obsessive webmaster types. This laptop thingy is going to New York, London and Rome. Where to after that? Who knows? Also, I have seven grandchildren. Now, there's a retirement adventure of an entirely different sort.
Hey, I’m loving retirement. Just pack up and go!