November 5th, 2017

Star Wars - Fly away...

Sometime, I was somewhere.

At times, I retrace my steps. Google Maps and Street View are good for that. I know that, say, in summer 1982 I rode on one particular Arizona road, Meteor Crater Road, because my family visited Meteor Crater while moving from California to Virginia; then in summer 1994 I helped my parents move west that time, on a northern route where we stopped at such places as Indy Motor Speedway, Devil's Tower and Yellowstone. Many of the places I've been still more or less look as they did 20 or more years ago. Many are unrecognizable. And I can't remember them all. So sometimes I can see something and say "I think I've been there, but I'm not sure."

Recently I got that way about a July 1995 solo road trip of mine, from Oregon down to Southern California. Borrowed my mom's reliable 1985 blue Volvo (since sold to a SW Portland family and still driving in 2017, because Volvo) and spend two weeks on the road: camping in the L.A. area and visiting L.A., northern San Diego (to Rancho Bernardo, where I lived from age 2 to age 7), and Camarillo (age 7 to 8!). Once I headed home, I drove north to San Fransisco, driving past the huge hangars for blimps off of Hwy. 101 southeast of the city, then to the city itself.

After I waited a while in a traffic jam where 101 descends to street level, I drove around searching for a motel. I think I got a room in Beck's Motor Lodge, next to the Mission District and affiliated with the Castro. I think that's the one; none of the other hotels and motels in that part of San Francisco come anywhere near matching up with my 1995 memories of it. Beck's Motor Lodge mostly does, but not completely; that said, this could be my 22-year-old memories (old enough to be a college grad!) not being complete anymore. With the changes to the motel and the neighborhood in those 22 years a factor, too. I worry about that. Or at least get concerned with that.

It was a quiet night. A good way to start winding down from what had been a packed, miles-covering trip. It was the only night on the trip I sprang for a hotel. The one dramatic thing was in a book: while there I finished reading my used copy of Brothers, William Goldman's bonkers sequel to his book Marathon Man. Goldman himself later called it "a not-very-terrific book" (though keep in mind he's a harsh critic of his own work). The ending is an even more bonkers part of a bonkers book, in a "THAT happened?!" way*, and weirdly this huge ending is almost immediately undercut so that it doesn't really matter, or have the world-changing consequences you imagine it would. I read that in a comfortable motor inn in a neat city I could visit overnight. I am not exciting.

The next day, after a light breakfast at the motel while sitting with and talking to other visitors, I briefly toured San Francisco and Oakland before heading to I-5 (detouring across the Golden Gate Bridge, because I didn't want to miss that bridge) for one more night/two more days of driving back to the Portland area. I was still a college student, staying on summer break with my parents at their Dundee home (that they'd moved to in 1994. It all connects). It's possible to reach the Portland area from San Francisco in one day of driving, but I knew I wasn't up for that, plus that is best done by leaving SF first thing in the morning. I'd wanted to spend at least a little time looking at SF, my first time there. (I've said it before: I've no desire to live in or near SF, but it's fascinating to see.) There. A little more of the world, seen.

Earlier I mentioned camping in L.A. This, I learned, was hard to do: there were very few campgrounds unless, I'm guessing, you go up into the nearby National Parks. It's probably even harder to find a campground in the region now. I camped at a place (with a pool!) in the northern San Fernando Valley, except for one night staying with a college friend and his family in their Upland home. I haven't yet found — re-found? — that San Fernando Valley camp. Twenty-two years later, it might not exist. There I put up a tent, a time or two repacking the tent into the car for the day but mostly letting it stand, and wound up being a good temporary tenant to the point that the campground operators cut me a deal on my final week or so staying there. (Camping was the best way for me to afford the trip: cheaper than two weeks of motels.) Of course I did plenty of driving, L.A. being far more spread out than I'm used to, and got practice gassing up my own car — Oregonians mostly don't, with rare exceptions in the state's remote parts — and seeing what I could see in a city that could fit ten San Franciscos in it. (And that's just L.A., not its suburbs.)

I like thinking of San Francisco. I hope to have more reasons, and the means, to visit it again. And make new memories there.

* That ending? I'll spoil it so you don't have to read the book: walking, talking bombs made to look like little boys (two each! Brothers, right?) infiltrate many government buildings and blow up, killing about one-third of the world's government officials in a single day. Yes, you read that right. I mentioned this is undercut: turns out almost every affected government, despite being decimated (worse than decimated: a third gone instead of a tenth!), manages to keep functioning, just with fewer people.