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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

Parking our cabooses in a caboose!

May 19, 2022 (Thu)

10:30 am

We fire up Harvey for the first time in two days and slowly pull out of our very urban RV park. Finally, a chance to drive a bit in San Francisco as we make our way out of town!

10:40 am

We get on the freeway and—wait, there’s six lanes? We should stay in the middle lane? Which middle lane? Now two right lanes went away!? Where did all those left lanes come from?? We should exit right—no, wait, they meant left. Ahh!

Say what you will about twisty turny mountain highways, it’s easy to tell when you’re on the correct road.

After 30 minutes of swerving in and out of lanes to try and stay in the same place, we finally come to:

A Toll Plaza!

Which isn’t really a toll plaza, because there’s no way to pay a toll (we think they’ll mail us a bill?). It’s one final hurdle to get out of town. The speed limit drops from 65 mph to 25 mph and there’s three times as many lanes and we have to go through a narrow opening about 12 inches wider than Harvey and then all the lanes collapse and everybody is going 65 again!

Goodbye San Francisco, land of Lyft.

11:30 am Frittering away our time

“I want an apple fritter,” says Gini. So we ask Siri about nearby donut shops as we speed down the freeway.

“Take the next exit,” says Siri and there’s a Happy Donut, right there! Apparently, Gini has the super-power of detecting when apple fritters are nearby. Beware, criminals!

Gini gets her fritter!

A donut shop in the middle of the day is a lonely place. No one comes in. At one point the lone employee (owner, probably?) wanders out of the shop for ten minutes while we happily munch away. They probably get a lot of reading done…

1:30 pm It’s heating up

We are definitely not on the coast any more, as we take I-5 north in California. The temperatures are in the upper 80’s and it is windy. Like 20 to 30 mph steady winds, and we are driving straight into them.

That’s when we discover Harvey’s little quirk: When it’s very windy, the side mirrors slowly fold themselves in until all we can see is our own smiling faces. Since the rear-view mirror only lets us monitor things flying out of the refrigerator, we rely heavily on those side mirrors when we change lanes.

Driving 70 mph with a 20 mph headwind means we’re getting hit with 90 mph winds and the side mirrors are collapsing regularly. So we develop a routine: every ten minutes, roll down the window and lean out to push the side mirror back, then roll the window back up (this can take a couple of tries because it’s so windy it pushes the window in and it won’t close all the way). Use the automatic mirror adjust to move the mirror back, and compensate for the slowly folding mirror.

All while driving 70 on a freeway full of drivers who very much want to drive 90 mph and resent us having the nerve to go the speed limit in the right lane.

Robert in his natural environment

1:45 pm Lunch!

We pull off the freeway to put another C-note worth of gas into Harvey and have a lunch break. We find a lovely town center park in Willows (literally across the street from City Hall), with nice shady trees and a gentle 20 mph breeze.

Gini has used Harvey’s kitchen to whip up some BLT’s with apples for desert. We see lots of solar panel units from where we sit but ponder why there aren’t more wind turbines in this area. Seems like a good fit?

Robert ponders the deep questions

2:45 pm Olive Capitol

We pass a sign that proclaims Corning, CA as the “Olive Capitol.” It doesn’t say the capitol of what, however. Olive capitol of California? The country? This galactic quadrant? (Although if you’re the olive capitol of the world, that probably extends pretty far…)

In any event, there’s an ungodly number of olive trees. This prompts us to ask the internet how olives are harvested. Mostly by hand, as it turns out. Although sometimes they use machines that shake the trees so the olives fall into nets. That means somebody out there has a resume that lists “Olive shaker” as a job.

4:30 pm Caboose city!

Robert found a place to stay that consists of old railroad cars converted into motel rooms.

He, of course, picked a caboose as our vehicle of choice, just so he could say (many times), “We’re parking our cabooses in a caboose!”

It is, in fact, an actual caboose (there are nine cabooses and maybe 20 other railway cars in this resort). Seems the nearby town of Dunsmuir was an important railway center and they would park the extra cars here. So when railroads fell out of favor, there were extra cars sitting around and back in 1968 some entrepreneurs looked at them and thought, “Sleeping spaces!”

It’s actually very roomy in our caboose and there’s a King size bed trying to take up a lot of space and yet failing to fill. As we recall our railroad knowledge (when we were kids, grown-ups thought it was important that we know about this advanced form of transportation, so we learned about the “puffer-bellies all in a row”), the caboose was a break room for the train people and was always the last car in the train.

“A caboose is the captain’s cabin, the crow’s nest, the galley, and the fo’c’sle all rolled into one,” proclaims a photograph in our room.

Robert up in the crow's nest, ready to spot crows

Robert in our very spacious caboose (that's a King-size bed)

Robert ready to park his caboose in a caboose

Gini's sentiments exactly!

View from the cupola

5:00 pm Soaking our troubles away

Even better than a caboose in which to park our cabooses, this place has a hot tub! We slowly slip into the hot water and soak our cares away after a long, hard day of moving a steering wheel back and forth. We don’t even get to use our legs much when we drive, because Harvey has cruise control.

But mentally, it’s hard! Really! We’ve earned this soak…

Soggy Robert (yes, he has on green trunks!)

6:00 pm Dinner

There’s a restaurant here on the grounds of the Railroad Park Resort and it’s not at all the kind of place we expected. (We expected a railway diner with cute food named “Puffer Belly Burgers” and “Narrow Gauge Drumsticks.”)

Instead, it’s the kind of place where we should have made reservations, but we smile nicely and try hard to look like kindly old people who tip well. We must have looked like somebody’s grandparents, because they found a spot for us.

They did have themed alcoholic drinks, and Robert had two “Train Wrecks” while Gini got a “Gold Rush.” We’re not sure what the rush was, but Robert got mildly wrecked…

6:15 pm Missing Diners

We’re waiting for our waitress when we notice the table next to us. It’s set up to seat eight people, but it’s empty. There’s a full steak on one place, and other plates are also unfinished. Drinks are half empty. There’s a purse left on a chair.

It looks for all the world as though everybody suddenly sprung up and raced away. Abducted by aliens? Word suddenly arrived about a terrible accident and everyone rushed to the hospital?

A lady arrives at the table and says to us, “We’re still here!” and we tell her about our alien abduction theory.

She laughs and says, “No, toddlers.”

Ah, that makes perfect sense! Eventually four toddlers and four grown-ups return and it’s every bit as chaotic as you might imagine. Probably would have been easier on the grown-ups if they had been abducted by aliens!

7:30 pm Back to the caboose!

We stagger back to our room where Robert proclaims, “We’re going to park—” “Yes, dear. Go to sleep, now,”

Robert & Gini

Harvey Staff

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