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My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
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Tag Archives: pickup
[This is the eighth of eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. So far. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]
Isn’t it always the way. You start a project and something gets in the way – job search, reading, laundry, and just plain distraction and procrastination.
I’ve been trying to finish off this series of blogs on the vehicles that I’ve driven over the years and there seems to be something in the way each time I sit down to write. I do want to finish off the series, especially since I’m so close to the end. So far, anyway.
But, frankly, I’m not sure it was worth the wait.
Despite that, here it is in all its glory.
* * *
I was disappointed when I lost the Rodeo in the crash. I liked it well enough, it was dependable, it provided some presence and power on the road compared to my previous rides, and I hadn’t been forced to spend that much time and money on maintenance and repair.
Granted, the gas mileage was not great with the Rodeo and over the years I had become more concerned with what the Rodeo and vehicles like it were doing to the environment. I was feeling guilty and a bit embarrassed that I was contributing to a problem that we can no longer ignore. Every little bit done to reduce those emissions will help.
Despite that guilt and embarrassment, I had planned to drive the Rodeo for at least another year before looking for a new ride. I had been trying to pay down some credit card bills and I wanted to direct my money toward that and not toward a new vehicle just yet.
But, alas, it was not meant to be.
Stockton’s mass transit system got me around for a couple of weeks after I lost the Rodeo, but that got old pretty quickly.
* * *
A friend in Vacaville who works with several auto dealerships there tracked down a deal for me on a lease of a 2008 Honda CRV. She had been driving an older version of the model and loved it.
I had always liked the looks of the Honda CRV and the Toyota RAV4, but I could never afford the popular vehicles. They are fairly compact, yet the driver and passengers sit fairly high for better visibility. They were both stylish and dependable, notwithstanding Toyota’s most recent cataclysmic problems.
Honda always seems to hold one of the stop spots in customer satisfaction surveys so I figured I would not be disappointed. And to this point I have not been.
Picking up the CRV was a bit bothersome, I suppose, because the dealership had limited color selection in the model I could afford. Remember, this was before the ugly economy came crashing down around all our heads. People were buying cars, especially brands like Honda, so I knew that getting the color I wanted was going to be hit-and-miss.
I waited at the dealership three hours or so after signing the paperwork, because a dealership employee had to drive to Sacramento to trade a CRV with one at a dealership there for one that was the proper color, sort of a metallic blue. The wait was worth it to get my first ever “new” vehicle. Each of my previous rides had been used vehicles.
On the good side, the dealership took care of returning my rental car, which was nice of them. And the deal was and is pretty good.
After finally getting the CRV, I drove it to my friend’s home in central Vacaville so she and her husband could give it a lookover. They liked it enough to offer me dinner. Well, they probably would have offered me dinner even if they hadn’t liked it.
I believe it was the following day that I first drove it to work and parked under the Crosstown Freeway parking structure across the street from The Record building. I was a touch nervous leaving it out there since The Record is not in the best neighborhood, but it was going to be daylight soon enough and the guard shack for The Record was just across the street.
Later that day or within in a few days – the memory fades soo quickly – we heard scanner traffic in the newsroom that the van belonging to an accused child molester had been spotted on a levy road pullout west of north Stockton, a place where local police are called often because of dumped stolen vehicles. I drove the CRV out to check out the report. It was nice to be driving my own vehicle again after having been forced to drive The Record’s fleet vehicles.
It was a nice day for a ride – sunny, but not too hot, which are rare days in California’s Central Valley in the spring, summer and fall months. Typically, the sun bakes the valley floor and those who dare to tread on it.
The reason for the ride was not so great – chasing down an accused child molester.
Every law enforcement officer and half the reporters in the county were looking for the guy. I seem to recall that someone at a nearby restaurant or a passing boater had reported the van, thinking it had been abandoned. So, it wasn’t a surprise that when I arrived there were at least a San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputy or two and an equal number of California Highway Patrol officers.
It didn’t take long to learn that the accused child molester had killed himself in his van parked in a turnout at the end of the levy road. Of course, we couldn’t see that from where the police kept the media, but that is just as well. I’m never in the hurry to see brain matter splattered all over the inside of a van.
* * *
There have been far, far more trips in the CRV that were positive and pleasant, trust me. It must have been a few weeks later that trip to the levy road that I took my first real roadtrip in the CRV. Friends and I have been going to this same campground in the Sierra Nevada for the past 20 years or so for long Memorial Day weekends. Actually, the friend who helped me get the deal on the CRV has family living in the area so she’s been going up there all her life.
For some reason, one lost from my porous memory, I was unable to make the extended part of the trip. But I figured I could drive up for at least part of a day.
I took off from Stockton much later than I had planned, which was a bit of a miscalculation since I decided to use a loop that I had mostly not driven before.
I headed out of Stockton on Highway 4, a mostly two-lane ribbon of asphalt – sorry for the cliché description of a plain, old road – and into the Sierra Nevada. Up in to the mountains and through towns such as Cooperopolis, Murphys, Arnold and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Dorrington, Lake Alpine, and over Ebbets Pass. It is a truly beautiful winding road through some very scenic trees, mountains and valleys.
After going along the East Fork of the Carson River for a while, I turned onto state Highway 89 and up and over Monitor Pass. It is another beautiful and scenic stretch of road that goes up and over Monitor Pass into a valley where the West Walker River flows. I then took U.S. Highway 395 south – through or near places such as Coleville, Walker, Topaz Lake – to Bridgeport, a lovely and historic ranching community.
I turned onto Twin Lakes Road and to Annette’s Mono Village. The place is set back on the eastern short of the upper of two lakes. In many ways, it fits what I imagine a ’50s-style camping resort looked like, with a log cabin for a restaurant and bar, regular barbecues for guests and other family friendly events, and a place to buy bait and beer. There are areas for tent campers and various areas for campers with travel trailers and RVs, and there are lodges and motel-style rooms.
From the campsite you can hike into the Hoover Wilderness located in the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. Trailheads located in Virginia Creek, Green Creek, Robinson Creek, Buckeye Creek, and the Little Walker River provide access to trails within the Hoover Wilderness.
This is the U.S. Forest Service’s rather conserve description of the Hoover Wilderness:
“Bordering Yosemite National Park along the Pacific Crest and falling away to the Great Basin to the east, the Hoover Wilderness is a spectacular piece of the Sierras. Soaring peaks, glistening lakes and lush meadows are just some of its awesome spectacles. The headwaters of the East Walker River can also be found in the creeks of the Hoover Wilderness.”
It is much, much more beautiful than that.
Bodie State Historical Park, Mono Lake, and Mammoth Lakes are within easy driving from Bridgeport, as are other scenic areas.
But this roadtrip did not include hiking, visiting ghost towns, or visiting lakes, briny or otherwise. I was here for a very quick visit, but it was the trip itself that was the goal.
With a touch of envy, I hiked from the parking lot of Annette’s Mono Village to the “usual spot.” For years, we had selected the same spot to camp, one slightly uphill from restrooms and shower facilities – yeah, I know it isn’t exactly roughin’ it – in the shadows of jagged mountains and a huge dead sugar pine. That’s where I found the usual suspects and I hung out for a while visiting with friends that I usually see only on this annual trip.
But I didn’t stay too long, despite every effort by my friends to persuade me to stay overnight. I wanted to complete the loop and get back to my own bed. I had taken off from Stockton much later than I had wanted and the trip up into the Sierra had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, so I needed to get back on the road.
For the return portion of the trip I turned off just shy of an old California Department of Transportation yard onto state Highway 108, also known as the Sonora Pass Highway, which took me near the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. I have a feeling the men and women assigned to the facility were getting a much needed and much appreciated holiday weekend barbecue – I could see the smoke and smell what had to be delicious burgers and dogs. And long lines of marines lining up for chow.
Soon after passing the base, I began the steep, winding incline. It is an incredibly beautiful, scenic and dangerous road, made more hazardous when drivers of oncoming vehicles attempt to take their half of the road from the middle, which happened several times.
But the trip through the Sierra was well worth it. There are few places quite like the Sierra Nevada for raw scenic beauty.
This leg of the trip took me through the Sonora Pass and down into or near the Sierra and Mother Lode communities of Dardanell, Wagner, Cow Creek, Bumblebee, Strawberry, Cold Springs, Long Barn, Sylvan Lodge, Mi-Wuk Village, Confidence, Twain Harte, and Sonora. Then it was onto state Highway 49 – yep, Highway 49, as in 49ers, in Mother Lode gold country – to Angels Camp and then state Highway 4 through Cooperopolis and back into Stockton. It was a long day.
* * *
I took several shorter roadtrips after that, usually involving meeting a friend for golf or simply to stretch my legs, as it were.
Those trips ended about a year ago, unfortunately. I could no longer justify the cost of such trips after I was laid off. I do so very much look forward to more trips in the future once I find a new job and get back on my feet financially.
OK, the bottom line is that the Honda CRV is not a particularly sexy ride. But it is practical, gets great gas mileage, is an ultra-low fuel emissions vehicle, and is, well, a Honda. I am happy with the CRV, at least for now.
See you on the road.
Rides of My Life … so far
Part 8: Honda CRV