The Saga of Betty Yeti part 2
A little banged up but unbowed, Betty Yeti and I then made a beeline from French Gulch through beautiful little towns such as Burnt Ranch, Willow Creek, the forest growing moister and thicker as the road went West, right to the Ocean. I spent a few days in Trinidad, resting up from Shasta and soaking up the power of the Ocean. I saw my first Redwoods here, the trees are so big it’s absurd, makes one laugh looking up at them from the base of the trunk. From there I zipped down the Coast and cut across to Santa Rosa, not doing the incredible terrain justice, as it was time to visit my Cousin. I thought that if I left Santa Rosa at 5:30 am I would be able to cut across the Bay Area ahead of the morning rush hour and not get stuck in gridlock… wrong… wrong, so darn wrong. It was an eyeopener that such massive, well-designed freeways as they have in the USA can grind to a halt at 7am. And I mean an absolute halt, at times I was at rest in the middle of the freeway, bumper to bumper traffic. We got through that and continued down the 101, with special note of Salinas California, home of John Steinbeck, with whose novels I was obsessed in Grade 10. It was an incredible feeling to hit the Pacific late in the afternoon at Gaviota, the sun sparkling on the water, the land baked, it was like a different ocean from the brooding, dark and powerful sea at Trinidad, and it was my companion right into Ventura. There I met up with my Cousin Jonny. I had initially planned on staying a few days, as the old saying goes, guests are like fish, they start to stink after three days, but wound up staying about 10, because I enjoyed myself and like to think Jonny liked having me around as well. While I didn’t make it out to New Mexico as a result, the days in Ventura were most excellent — they typically unfolded like this:
Wake up around 10 am. Was sleeping on a couch in a warehouse which Jonny and his gang had converted into a sort of film studio for their movie, Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins. There was a little kitchen with a big sink that doubled as a bath (I preferred swimming in the ocean…), a washroom, a couple of offices where another film guy slept and the guys edited the movie, and a warehouse bay full of weird film stuff including big models of buildings. Do a run and stretch on the grass. Walk down to the nearest little businesses for a bite to eat. Jonny and the gang would be up, prepping to do the days editing. I lay down in the grass, reading the Unbearable Lightness of Being or having great talks with the interesting characters who were helping out with the film. In the evening we would catch a flick, or go out on the town before going to bed aggressively late. It felt good to connect with these wonderful people, and settle into a place that was quiet and easy to get around after a few pretty wild days on the road.
After 10 days or so I doubled back up to San Francisco via Big Sur to meet a friend and do some touring around. On the way I had an incredible beach day North of Cambria, where I watched the tour of California zip by, a stage that was won by the breakaway. San Francisco was a bit of a letdown for me. My mystical experience on Shasta, the incredible ocean, and quality time with family in livable Ventura, were now replaced with tourists, people selling overpriced junk, and communists. Golden Gate bridge was good, Chinatown, and the Streetcar museum, but its no Shasta, no Salmon River.
We wound up going back to LA on a circuitous route that took us through Yosemite. My somewhat hard to classify old flame decided to leave her job in Taiwan and meet us at LAX. We picked her up and spent a couple days around Venice Beach, before heading back up to San Fran to visit some other friends. Ultimaely, we planned on a romantic trip back up the Oregon Coast… Betty Yeti had other ideas. She wouldn’t be shared with any other woman. On the way down to Los Gatos to visit my Dad’s cousin, I heard a light knock. I thought it was the block heater plug flipping in the wind on the body of the van. The noise got worse. I pulled off the freeway. I turned Betty Yeti off. When I fired her back up, the sound was an absolute grind and I shut the engine back off right away. A mechanic soon confirmed, Betty Yeti’s motor was shot. Nowhere near worth fixing the old beast. Luckily we were close to my father’s cousin, who picked us up including all the weird stuff that was in Betty Yeti, tarps, snowshoes, tools, jumper cables… We spent a few wonderful days up in the hills with my father’s cousin and his wife, a wonderful couple. They had a real menagerie with all sorts of cats, rabbits, and even this semi-tame skunk they left food out for. My dad’s cousin’s wife was a brilliant lady, a former journalist and Japanese American whose family had been samurai, and had buried their sword somewhere in the California hills, for whatever reason I never knew… sometimes it’s better not to know these things, but to let your imagination go where it will. My little lady and her got along famously, both being journalists and not afraid of a glass of wine at the end of the day. My father’s cousin and I also proved that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. He is an engineer who does product testing, and showed us around their campus, including incredibly quiet vault-like rooms used for testing noise, and rooms where machines would be knocked over in certain ways to simulate common accidents. He had done all sorts of weird and wonderful travel, and even lived in Edmonton for a while, we read a bunch of sci-fi books and got along famously.
Ultimately the day came, when I met the tow truck and signed off on the bill of sale for ol Betty Yeti, and the little lady and I flew back to Calgary. All good things come to an end I guess. People ask me whatever happened to Betty Yeti? I tell them she is probably in a scrap yard in San Jose, or perhaps she has been stripped down and sent to China to be melted down and turned back into steel… ashes to ashes, iron to iron. But a part of her is with me forever. Really, if you look with the right kind of eyes, Betty Yeti is all around us. Wherever a sheepish man is standing on the roadside, looking for a boost, Betty Yeti is there. Wherever a dirtbag is sleeping on the side of a mountain, Betty Yeti is there. Wherever a man is driving home in his biggest jacket, absolutely frozen because the heat doesn’t work, Betty Yeti is there.