Monday, September 26, 2011

In California (Again): Odd Goals Accomplished

So I'm in Northern(ish) California* for work, the project is in Oroville, about half way between Sacramento and Chico... I tagged on a vacation day (that is, today) mainly to unwind but also to do a little bit of exploring.

Last night when I landed at SMF, Sacramento's very retro-feeling airport, I had a pounding headache and really just wasn't feeling well at all -- while my inital temptation is to blame it on what I not-so-affectionately refer to as my "allergic reaction to California"** It could have just as easily been the hyperactive child and loud and obnoxious mother kicking my set and screaming/cheering loudly throughout the flight from Houston to Sacramento*** -- I made it to the hotel about 9:45 PT (that's 11:45 PM Eastern)... and crashed hard on the bed. Before I even checked in, though, I knew I had made a good hotel choice: There's an In-N-Out Burger in the same parking lot. (happy sigh) -- I had wondered if I'd be able to find one on this trip, since In-N-Out is a relative newcomer to NorCal.

This morning I took a leisurely start to the day and a dry run to the project location to make sure I could find it tomorrow; then kind of bumbled around until I found the Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States. Browsing the visitor center -- and (re)learning a little bit about the California State Water Project -- one of several utterly massive projects to get water from water-rich Northern California to Central and  Southern California... I've been on the far end of the project -- most water in Southern California, where I grew up, is imported either from Northern California or the Colorado River, but never near the source.
View from the hiking trail of Lake Oroville, the Oroville Dam, and the road up to the visitors center. Not a cloud in the sky.

I did a bit of hiking around the dam area and it was amazingly peaceful... utterly silent except for the sound of your own breathing and the occasional call from a nearby bird, or perhaps the crunch of a dried leaf underfoot. It was nice to get away--and especially on a beautiful day, but I realize that I am a city mouse; the the silence was peaceful and disconcerting at the same time. I realized that I am a city mouse: the noise of an active city puts me at ease; silence makes me nervous.

While hiking back up hill to the visitors center, I was reminded of how out of practice I am on the subject as my legs started complaining...loudly. More loudly, however, was the rustling that came from the underbrush. I stopped. More rustling. Suddenly, a handful of yards in front of me, I see a dear. I hold my breath.


I stare at it. It stares at me. I'm not sure what I should do. I know that Deer are (a) absolutely beautiful (b) not carnivores and (c) because of the lack of antlers, I think this one is female. But I also don't know what a deer will do if it feels threatened. And I don't particularly want to find out today. We continue staring at each other. I'm thinking... OK, my legs are killing me, running probably isn't an option... I wonder if I can climb that tree fast enough, or at all.. We continue staring at each other. She eventually takes a tentative step forward. I stand still. Another tentative step forward. I take a slow step forward. Another tentative step, still staring at each other. She clears the trail and is well camouflaged by a tree. I slowly walk by, holding to the absolute outside edge of the trail. We don't break eye contact. I pass and several, and eventually we stop staring at each other but it was an odd encounter.

I make it back up to my car and after stopping a few points along the way (and driving across the dam for no reason whatsoever) I head back for civilization. But what civilization? Fry's Electronics, of course.

Fry's is like Radio Shack was 20 years ago (i.e. before they became virtually worthless) blown up to a Costco-sized facility. Add to that the fact that each store has a distinct theme, a slightly different culture, and a different variety of stuff. I've had been to every Fry's in the state of California while I lived here****....except the Sacramento store. That dangling chad has now been decisively removed. And I do believe that it is one of the cleaner/organized stores I've been in. Restocking some eccentric consumables for back home, I make it out at just under $50.

Feeling generally accomplished for the day, I aimed my way back to the hotel after making some deposits at my bank (Bank Of America seems to have branches everywhere I am except Ohio)^, and point my GPS back in the direction of the hotel. I decide to stop for lunch along the way, and find an In-N-Out just up the road.

But wait... there's a Hampton Inn in the same parking lot as this In-N-Out, too. A sigh across the street catches my attention while I'm waiting in the drive thru: I consult my itinerary. It turns out this is the hotel I'm staying at the night before my flight home^^. I swear I didn't know before I booked either of them.

Oh yes, it seems, the travel gods have smiled upon me for this trip. Excuse me while I walk over to order dinner.


*- They call it Northern California. If I'm not paying attention, I'll call it Northern California, but it's -really- "North central California" at best... there's still a whole lot of California to go before you hit Oregon, as I learned several years ago when I drove the coast.
**- Virtually every time I fly to the state: Massive, unrelenting, headache and upset stomach/nausea being the two most notable symptoms
***- It took all of my restraint to avoid slapping both of them upside the head; I had considered a stern-faced "Are you going to control your child or do I have to?" over the seat back but since the mother was just as obnoxious, I figured it wouldn't get anywhere.
**** - It appears that a new store, in Oxnard, opened after I moved to Cleveland. I shall have to make another trip to Southern California to complete the list.
^ - But they have withdrawal-only ATMs all over the state. It's just depositing that can be a pain.
^^ -  I'm scheduled to depart at 6 AM Thursday morning, to try to make it back to Cleveland in time for the first concert of the Cleveland Orchestra's Severance season. I wanted to be as close to the airport as possible. I am not a morning person.

No comments:

Post a Comment