Saturday, May 4, 2013

The fun starts here

From Tobin Highway 70 climbs then descends Yankee Hill and skirts the western edge of Oroville. The town motto is The fun starts here! The Chamber of Commerce says it's a perfect place to visit or live. I mean, Think about it – if the salmon visit every year – maybe you should, too!

By now you can probably tell that Oroville is a gritty, functional, unattractive town. In summer it's also the hottest (and thanks to Lake Oroville, most humid) place in this hot, hot valley. The first night of my first Super Tour was in a tent on a field at the high school. That night the low temperature was around 80 degrees. Yellow sodium lights illuminated our campsite. The mosquitoes were ravenous. From 11pm-2am townies buzzed us in their cars, screaming out of the windows, stereos thumping. It was a testament to what a few motivated individuals can do. Then at 3am the sprinklers went on.

Today with the sun dipping down and the sky streaking red, it's windy. Crosswinds coming in gusts, buffeting the Volvo wagon. Without the drop bags as cargo it would be hard to keep this lane. Wonder what it's like out here on a bicycle. A dozen or more cyclists are riding this stretch, making their way back to Davis.

A red light on the instrument panel, Parking Brake. My right hand goes down to check; no brake on. The light disappears. A few minutes later it flashes then disappears again. The Volvo's sensor is reacting to the wind. My eye catches the odometer: 330xxx. Miles, not kilometers! I'm both impressed and fearful.

Where's the airbag? There, under a panel in the middle of the steering wheel. A first generation airbag is still an airbag. It's Dan's car; Dan is a reliable guy.

Heading west on 162 over to Highway 99. It's dark. Kathy Twitchell is riding shotgun, talking a blue streak to keep me awake. She tells about her son, how she met Jack, other 600Ks, what went wrong on this one. They're from Pomona, way down on Route 66 east of LA. Near the Wigwam TeePee Motel. So she has no idea how to get back to Davis. I have a rough idea but no map.

Right now I'm working on three things:

  • keeping attention on this task
  • looking at the white line, away from headlights
  • working up the courage to prospect for 5th gear

On two-lane highways the way to be safe is to go fast enough that other drivers don't feel the need to pass. The hard parts for me are dealing with variations in light and keeping focused.

I don't know where we are. Or the next turn. It would be so easy to freak out. OK now we're in 5th.

On Friday Dan asked can you drive a stick? The drop bag driver fell through. Sure, I've never owned anything else. Now, had he asked can you drive 125 miles at night on unfamiliar roads without a map after working a double shift and sleeping 4 hours in 2 days...

This is an excellent test. For exactly this reason I had to leave my job. It's not just the task, it's the timing and context. Everything that comes before. And really, who wants to work with someone who can't just step up?

Dan needs this. Dan needs this.


  1. Dear Elaine,

    I found your blog via the DBC email list. I am totally transfixed. Wonderful writing. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Julin, thanks for the kind words! Please make yourself welcome here, and feel free to comment.