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Monday, September 25, 2000

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Down the west coast

At 5:30 in the morning we stopped at Wolf Creek for breakfast at a 76 snack shop. I hadn't gotten much sleep so I decided to get a cup of coffee, wake up and enjoy the day. We came over mountains just as you could see the sky barely lighten behind them. Clear blue sky so the dawn was an eggshell pink and blue. It was so beautiful watching it as I drink my first cup of coffee.

7:00 Medford - (2) - Greyhound garage (1) Power steering going out. As we were leaving Grants Pass the driver was having trouble with the sharp turns. By the time we reached Medford he called in because the power steering was going out. They couldn't find anything leaking and finally decided that they couldn't keep the bus in service. There were two sections and a lot of people had gotten off so they stuffed us into one. There were a couple handicapped people in the front, one very old lady with crutches and one visually impaired lady, with a helper, and two extra drivers. Our 10 min stop turned into more than 30 and the drivers were bustling trying to get everyone on and the baggage transferred.

We followed OR-99 on our way back to I-5. We go up again after Ashland, into pine covered mountains. Usually the bus drivers just cruise down the steep grades but this one is braking a lot, probably because we are so heavily loaded. Its a very scenic drive and as we come down we get into the oak and grasslands.

At the California entry station they actually came-on board and walked down the coach asking if we had fruits or other plants. I did mention my tomatoe but they didn't care about that. They also had the driver open the luggage compartments so they could look. I've had a bus I was on checked for drugs, but never food.

There is a bit of controversy about the temperature but the driver said it was 73 and there are too many people to keep changing it. I always dress in layers because it can be cold, especially during the night but once the sun starts shining in it gts a bit warm, so I'm ok, but there is a bit of grumbling. So much about the temperature depends on the driver. Most of them keep it colder, I suppose because they stay awake better.

It's nice to be back in open country. All the green this week was lovely but I like more open vistas. That's why I like the ocean also. The hay (?) is in little cubes set in lines on the field and, with the shadows, looks like modern art. I think I see Mt Shasta but it seems too close, but there are signs about Mt Shasta and there's a little snow on it.

We stop at Weed and Mt Shasta and then we're back up in the pines. Soon we seem to come down forever and the pines on our left are tipped with sunlight shining through. At Redding we only get fifteen minutes instead of fifty since we're still running behind from my first bus breaking down. A second bus is added here since we are too full to take on more people.

People who didn't bring food are getting testy but our new driver said he would stop for food. He also informed everyone in the front seats that he didn't allow talking as it broke his concentration. One lady tried to sit there with her kid and he told her to move. Lot of the buses have "no children in the front seat" signs. I expect it is distracting to have a kid bouncing up and down, asking questions and being just a pest while you're trying to drive.

We're in flatland now with deciduous trees and river bottoms. The map is no longer showing the highway as scenic, which I think is wrong. I enjoy farmland, productive land, as much as virgin forests. In fact land that is being used if often more interesting than miles and miles and miles of forest. We're running near the Sacramento River which looks like it comes out of Lake Shasta.

We finally stop at Williams for fifteen minutes so people can get something to eat. I'm so glad I brought my food so I have time to use the Texaco toilet. It's on again to Sacramento where we have an hour and have caught up so I can finally brush my teeth and freshen up. It feels so good to have clean teeth. There is something about unbrushed teeth that just keeps you from feeling sharp.

We had an hour and a half and leave Sacramento nearly half an hour late. We're taking I-5 to Stockton and CA-99 down theough the central valley. Big trucks of tomatoes and melons roll by. They are piled higher than the walls and you'd think they would all roll off. The melon trucks are lined with carpet. We follow CA-4 for a while at Stockton and Modesto has a pink spanish colonial Southern Pacific Train Station and Stanislaus Regional Transit Center where we stop.

It's a manmade landscape through here, farms, orchards, horses, cattle. Without interevention this would be desert and is broiling hot in the summer. From the bus it looks like a nice midwestern landscape. We're at the end of the delta area and it takes more effort to keep it green. More and more of the people getting off and on are hispanic and most of the conversations on the bus are in spanish.

We get on CA-140 through Merced and then I start seeing eucalyptus again. There are fields and fields of grapes, which, a guy on the bus, says are made into raisins. He said they make some wine but it's not a big business. At Fresno I was taking pictures of the bus station and the security guard asked if I wanted my picture taken against the bus but it's been a long day and I didn't feel likeI wanted how I look now to be preserved for posterity.

It's dark now and I doze a little as we stop at Bakersfield in a couple hours and then a couple more hours to Los Angeles where we arrive a little after midnight and we are all tossed out into the dark and bustle of the bus station.

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(c) Rachel Aschmann 2000.
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