S-Miles Across America – Chapter Three – California Chronicles


SMILE . . . You're on Cannabis Camera!

“Card? . . .  No, I don’t have a ‘card’,” I said.

His blank stare expressed an equal amount of confusion as I had had before he told me that ‘everyone’ has a medical marijuana prescription card ’round here.

Arcata, California breeds a distinctly different liberality of style and attitude toward life and drug use.  Even the glassy-eyed hotel clerk seemed a little more laid back than what I’d expect as the norm.  Whether professional, or tavernesque, the folks that I encountered in Humboldt County were, as I said, “laid back.”  There was a light shower as I shuffled my baggage off the bike onto the bell cart and into the Economy Suite.  I quickly showered and took directions from the front desk clerk to find the local grill for dinner.

Six River’s Brewery buzzed and hummed with local novice voices on the karaoke floor.  I entered to a hilarious attempt at the B-52’s “Love Shack,” performed by three college girls and a dude. “Dolla Bill’s Karaoke” was at full swing and drew quite a crowd for a Monday night.  I took the only seat available at one of the twenty-some-odd stools at the bar, ordered an IPA, and a cheeseburger, surveyed the crowd, and smiled.  The kid next to me caught it and asked me if I was going to put my name in the hat.

There’s only a few times that I’ve subjected a crowd to my bad singing voice, and without the support and patronage of friends practicing unconditional love, there was no way I was throwing “my name in the hat” this night.  So, I enjoyed my burger and brew, listened to a lot of bad singing and few good voices as my neighbor explained “the card” to me.   At the end of the conversation and the end of my evening in Humboldt, I left the brew, the music, and the offer to smoke, at the table.

After a solid night of sleep I saddled up, throwing my right leg over the seat and felt the effects of the miles behind me on my backside.  I was saddle-sore and wondered at what point of the next six-thousand miles my body would adjust.

The California Redwoods renders a thick, piney aroma that is best experienced, in my opinion, without windows.

While I enjoyed the scenic views of dense forests, I pressed hard to get down to the familiar ground and lifelong friends in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz, California.

After a VERY windy crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a congested passing through the park, I continued on Highway 1.  Just a few miles south of one of my favorite dining spots, the Cliff House restaurant, I zoomed past the Point Montara Lighthouse and broke hard.

I had recently rediscovered a wonderful friend from high school, Janice Pratt, via Facebook.  I’d learned that she and her husband manage the lighthouse and hostel at Point Montara, just south of San Francisco, so I couldn’t pass without attempting to say “hello.”

Janice was out, but I had the privilege of meeting her husband.  Chris was very gracious to this stranger who had come looking to say “Hi” to his wife!  After explaining who I am and making a feeble attempt to coordinate the impromptu visit, I asked Christopher what makes him smile . . .

"Anything that comes out of my children's mouths makes me smile" was Chris's reply.

I’m sorry that I missed you, Janice, and I wish that I could have met your kids, too.  Perhaps some other time I will get to see the family that makes Chris so happy.

I zoomed past Half Moon Bay, a place where I love to stop, and arrived in Santa Cruz where I had been longing to visit again, for some time now.  It’s not about the surfing, the boardwalk, the great shops and golfing.  It’s not the way the coastal fog lifts to brilliant sunny vistas over the mountains and ocean.  It’s not the cool character of the locals on skateboard wheels.  For me, the coolest thing about Santa Cruz is seeing two of my dearest “lifer” friends.

Yvette is the hospitality coordinator for an incredible retreat and conference center in Scott’s Valley.  She extended a warm welcome and graciously made room and time for me.

Joni and Friends were spread throughout the camp.  Everywhere I looked, I saw smiling faces and REALLY wanted to continue the mission of asking individuals, “What Makes YOU Smile?,” but decided not to exploit the hospitality extended to me.  I relaxed a bit before setting out to see another dear friend.

Sarah’s smile is another one I hadn’t seen for far too long.  I pulled out of the camp and headed to the beach where we had arranged to meet.

Sarah's Smile: "Seeing a friend after so many years and feeling like it was yesterday."

I met Sarah in 1989, in my hometown of Modesto, California, through my neighbor and best friend, Keith Parham.  Keith had a magical way of bringing many diverse people together.  Sarah and I are no exception as we have  polarized differences in our world views, especially in regards to religion and politics.  Perhaps it  is our differences that forged the fiery friendship over twenty years ago.  Anyway, walking into the Crow’s Nest was exhilarating as we hadn’t seen each other in 17 years!

After catching up, I asked Sarah what makes her smile and I have to say that her answer is among my favorites.


I spent a couple of days in Santa Cruz doing some work from local Keller Williams offices and other hot-spot locations.  Of course, I also did some beach-combing.  While doing the latter, I found some Kite-Surfers catching waves and air off the cliffs just north of Santa Cruz.

As one surfer came in, I asked the question expecting “the” obvious answer.  But, Evan’s reply was “Pleasant and unexpected surprises.”

Unexpected Surprises


After a refreshing time of visiting with friends and seeing some familiar ground, it was time to re-mount and continue south on California’s Pacific Coast Highway.  Just prior to getting back on HWY 1, I got some oil and chain lube at Kragen Auto Parts where Brad told me that “Scratches and bruises” from riding his dirt bike makes him smile.

"Dirt-bike scratches" makes Brad Smile.

Next stop, CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA!  This is one of my favorite spots on earth! I went to a part of the beach where many years before, I’d met a CHiP’s TV star Heather Locklear.  A talented Filipino artist stood painting the cypress and Pebble Beach onto his canvas where Heather had once painted her pink bikini forever onto the canvas of my mind.


I cannot leave Carmel without stopping by Thomas Kinkaid’s Studio in the Garden.  I was honored to catch the gallery’s manager, Jim Cloer, while a rare lull passed over the quaint, but highly trafficked art haven.  Jim showed me Mr. Kinkaid’s latest piece entitled, “The Cross.”  When asked what makes him smile, he told me, “When someone ‘gets’ the wonder in the awe, from the eye of the beholder.”

“WOW!  . . .  That’s a mouthful!  I had to think about what he said for a moment.  It’s a profound thing when both the creator and spectator share the joy of the product and understand both its inspiration and intent.

Jim at "The Cross" . . . have to see it in person!

The next three hundred and thirty miles weaved, more than stretched, toward the end of my west-coast ride and . . . WHAT A THRILL!  There’s no way to convey the experience of riding all those beautiful cliffed curves on such a machine as this ZRX!  It really began for me at the Bixby Bridge and continued through San Luis Obispo.

Beautiful Curves Begin at the Bixby Bridge

When I came to San Luis Obispo, I pulled into the Carl’s Jr. parking lot and lifted my helmet as a pickup pulled in next to me.  A couple of Army guys got out and I wanted to ask the question–to color my collage with camouflage.  One of the two had his back to me and was on his cell phone, so I abandoned the thought and went in to order a late lunch.

As I waited in line, I turned to see a sergeant and a captain standing behind me.  The Captain happened to be my friend, Darren Schuler!!!!

"Mamorial" Make-up

Here it was, a couple of days past Memorial Day, and the last time I saw Darren was at our annual “Mamorial” Day fraternal gathering back in Murphys, California.  This was the first year of twenty that we/they didn’t get together for a round of golf, camping, cards, and general fart fest.  We were both several hundred miles from home and happy to share an unscheduled lunch together.   After lunch, I hit the road again with a HUGE smile!

Entering Los Angeles, I’d hoped to crash at another high school friend’s place in the city, but couldn’t connect at the right time.  Plan ‘B’ was to stay at a campground north of LA, but somehow, I missed my turn.  As it turned dark, I scrambled to find the cheapest motel on Ventura Boulevard.  Fearful of having the bike stolen, I invited it in to share the locker for the night.   🙂

I woke at 6:00 a.m., had a continental breakfast and headed to the Santa Monica Pier, aka “the end of the trail” for Route 66.  For me, it was just the beginning!

I split the lanes to the beach, parked, and was approached by a guy offering me a dollar bill for my pocket change so he could pay the parking meter.  His name was Mark, and “rings” make him smile.

"Rings turn hardened criminals into giggling little boys."

Mark prodded me to try the rings but I was on another mission.  I pulled Carrie’s little rock out of my pocket and walked barefoot in the warm sand to the pier where I baptized it for the second time, saying a prayer for her, for us, and for the trek ahead as I begin to cross from coast to coast.

Next Stop:  Just CLICK  Vegas, Grand Canyon, and . . . Mexico?

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2 Responses to S-Miles Across America – Chapter Three – California Chronicles

  1. Ed Townsend says:

    Does this mean that me and Kristi can park our ZRX in the bedroom? What a great thing to wake up to!

  2. Pingback: S-Miles Across America – Chapter Two – Northern Pacific « Out and About

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