90,000 Miles to Me

20,856 Miles • Welcome to California

Heading south from Crater Lake, I crossed the border into California. Normally I don’t write the sentence, “I crossed the border from State to State.” Normally I don’t need to. Normally there isn’t a “border” really, just a sign on the side of the highway saying, “Welcome to State.” Often the state motto or a slogan is included.

Northern California has a border. Driving south on highway 5, from Oregon, there is an honest to goodness, stop your car at one of the three permanent inspection station buildings, officer of the law on duty, asking about your produce. I had to go in the back of the van to get my oranges to show the officer. They were checking for oranges from Chile. Mine were from Peru—so says the sticker—so they were okay. “We’ve been having some problems with oranges from Chile lately,” the officer said. He didn’t care about my apples.

Welcome to California. Show us your fruit.

I could see Mount Shasta from the border as a startlingly white figure, even against the clouds.

  • Town name: Yreka —how do you pronounce that?
  • License Plate: WRKNKRW
  • Sign: Earl’s Plumbers – All of our plumbers are potty trained

I spent the night boondocking by a river in the Mount Shasta area before heading a few hours south to visit family for a few days. 

Which is where all of this began. Where ME began. Where my story started. In a small town in Northern California. 

This is the first time I’ve been back since I started this Grand Journey to myself, and since then I’ve dredged up, reframed, healed, been angry at, sad because of, and dealt with, a lot of old junk. Much of it didn’t happen here, but some of it did, and either way, being here again, driving around the familiar streets and visiting the familiar places, many of which hold good memories, made me cry. 

I’m not exactly sure why. There is a general feeling of, “this is where I began.” Much of my childhood was happy and secure, much of my life has been good, and some of it very difficult (I’m thinking here of my sensory issues, both those identified early and those not). Often those good and difficult things have gone hand in hand, and that has made them tricky to untangle these last few years.

I’m honestly not sure what I feel or think about any of this, or what I want to say, exactly. Perhaps crying, in all its shades and nuances, in its wordless simplicity, is the single most appropriate response. 

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