July Adventure

… in northern parts of CA and NV

It all began when Marcus (that would be the writer) got the brilliant idea to go and see where Brian goes when he goes “in the field” way up in Northeast California and Northwest Nevada around a town called Cedarville, CA.

Brian welcomed that idea and responded as follows in an email on June 20;

Planning for July 4th wkd. If you want to see field sites, probably the best thing to do is for y’all to meet us up in that area, which is ~3 hrs north of here. Doesn’t make sense for you to come here first then go there. As long as we’re up there, we might want to do it right. There is a spa with a natural hot springs near Cedarville, which is a surprisingly hip village in vermillion red Modoc Co.


Not outrageously expensive (similar to Calistoga) but there’s a 2-day minimum stay on holiday weekends. A proposed itinierary:

Sat – Meet for late lunch in NE Calif.; men go to field sites, ladies do tourism; check into spa;
Sun – men do field sites near spa; ladies do spa & tourism; Basque dinner in Altruas;
Mon – check out of spa; drive to Reno; hit last site on the way; ladies tour in Gerlach, Nev. (home of Burning Man); arrive Reno late afternoon;

Let me know what you think.
Doc B

On Jun 22, 2011, at 10:24 , Marcus Rector wrote:

Google sez it is nearly a 7 hour drive, so don’t plan anything rigorous for the old folks right away. If we leave about 7 we should get there in time for a LLL (leisurely late lunch).
I’m psyched.

On Jun 22, 2011, at 11:50 AM, Brian Rector wrote:

We’re planning on spending that Friday nite in Lassen National Park, since I will be doing field work in that area on Friday and it makes more sense than driving back to Reno and then back up there the next day. You can meet us somewhere around there for lunch (there’s a fee to enter the park, so we can meet outside if you wish), which is a little more than halfway from SF to SV. We can check out a site or two while the ladies head straight for the hot springs, or whatever else they wish to do.

On Jun 23, 2011, at 10:13 AM, Brian Rector wrote:

There’s a senior discount for national parks, so for $10 per senior you get a lifetime pass to all national parks. If that fits into yer budget, we can meet in the park, find somewhere to eat, have a brief look around, then be on our way.

On Jun 23, 2011, at 10:23 , Marcus Rector wrote:

I think we can budget that and amortize it over the next 30 years.
Where shall we meet? Exactly. Do you know yet?

So that’s how it went. Little did we know what adventures awaited us.

Bright and early on Saturday, July 2 we hit the road north. The first couple of hours was like going to Reno: GG Bridge, 101, CA37 through the Carneros wine country to hit I-80 at Vallejo; then almost to Sacramento where we veered north on I-505 to join I-5.

I-5 can't be straighter and drier, but soon we're in for a treat...

Look, some grass and a tree or two.

After getting a slice of pizza at a truck stop, we got off onto some human scale roads at Anderson and traveled in an easterly direction.

Along Ash Creek Road we encountered a stone wall, remarkable for its red color and texture. Then we realized that it was very thick, about a meter thick and a meter high. We slowed and stopped to take its picture and as we continued on we realized that it went on for miles, really. We saw a sign, “Crystal Springs Ranch”… maybe that’s it.

The stone wall along Ash Creek Road
Thick and high and red,
It goes on for miles -- not kidding.

I Googled “Crystal Springs Ranch” and found this.
Is there a connection? Maybe there is.

Our little road — Google really maps all these little guys in the middle of nowhere — lead to a bigger and straighter road, CA-44 headed straight east into Lassen Volcanic National Park where we were to meet Brian and Natasza.

CA-44 East
Lassen Volcanic National Park -- outside the museum

Lassen has your regular National Park museum, this one depicting the eruption of Lassen Peak, photographed by Dr. Benjamin Franklin Loomis in 1914. Dr. Loomis was aware of certain volcanic activity, which in his mind foretold an eruption of Lassen Peak. He and his wife took their car to a perfect viewing spot and waited patiently for the volcano to erupt. And erupt it did. My mind was whirling… Lassen Loomis Loomis Lassen… never mind, the pictures are amazing and most likely the reason that this park exists.

Dr. Loomis' photos of the eruption; there's one more to my right

We stopped for lunch at Hat Creek.

Fourth of July Weekend and all...

There was a pulled pork bbq special goin’ on and we gladly partook. I sized up the menu and the mom and pop behind the counter and surmised that one order would easily feed me and Carol. What do you think?

potato salad, baked beans and pulled pork bbq

Brian and Natasza had come in this way from camping the night before and knew about the Fire House Strawberry Feed — a delicate way to put it — and envisioned that as our mid-day dessert. This time one order fed the four of us.

From there we had a couple more hours of driving to Cedarville and six miles beyond to Surprise Valley and its hot springs spa.

Cedar Pass 6305 feet
Cedarville just ahead... beyond this farm
And beyond Cedarville, our spa. We made it.

It’s pretty isolated; “Six miles to a loaf of bread,” is what Wendell would say; 30 miles to Alturas for dinner. After cruising the Main Street strip, we opted for The Brass Rail; “Fine Basque Cuisine.” Fixed price, but no price on the menu. The diner selects an entree from a short list. We are served a salad, soup, first course our entree and dessert. Nice place; pleasantly crowded with families, a pair of 40-something identical twins as waitresses.

Salad Course...
Minestrone Soup...
Ravioli First Course
Of course, we each had different entrees. Here’s mine, Fried Shrimp and Scallops (baked potato -- wrapped in foil -- comes with)

Carol had the Fried Shrimp, Natasza the Fried Chicken (fried without breading or batter) and for Brian, the Rib Steak.

After, we piled into the SAAB — Carol at the wheel — for our mountainous trip back to Surprise Valley. Oops… car won’t start. Cranks good, but won’t turn over. I go back into the restaurant — empty now, twins eating in the kitchen visible through the door. “I need a jump start… Can you help?”

She said she had cables in her rig, but tonight she brought her daughter’s car. She checked with folks in the crowded bar — a number of reunions going on — nobody had cables. She called her husband; he’ll be right over. “Have a drink in the bar while you wait.” We did; I had a big stiff bourbon.

Guy arrives, Denny, in this huge 4-door Dodge Ram pick-up. Seems like the hood is as tall as my head. He hooks up cables, I crank. “Not your battery. You got a way home?”

“Nope, staying in Surprise Valley.”

“Oh, at the spa? How is it? You’ll all fit in my truck, I’ll take you. Let me just make some calls.”

We fit easily, but the truck was so tall, we had to help Carol up and in.

Driving over the mountain, I mused on why small town people are so helpful to strangers. If your car breaks down in Alturas or Cedarville or other like places, you’re miles from nowhere and there’s no public transportation, no taxis, no car rental, no nothing but the local motel. So people do what they can.

We thanked Denny and gave him $20 for gas – we noticed on the dashboard display he was getting 11 miles a gallon. He gave me a piece of paper with the name and number of a mechanic: “Ken Walton. Call him tomorrow at 7:30am.” That would be Sunday morning of the 4th of July weekend!

Sunday was a beautiful morning, no matter what.

I called Ken Walton and said my SAAB is at the Brass Rail, unlocked, keys over the driver’s visor.

Ken called back… fuel pump… not a surprise… he has to order it from Reno, get it Wednesday, car ready Thursday. He gave me the number of a guy to tow the SAAB to his shop, Walton Auto Care.

Brian says we’re in luck (yeah, right)… he’ll be in the field near Alturas on Thursday. He can pick up the SAAB.

Let’s see…

  • We’re booked another night at this spa,
  • Brian brought his truck on this trip — we four won’t fit,
  • Me and B drive the three hours to Reno, swap truck for Subaru, see one of his Study Sites along the way,
  • We all drive to Reno Monday,
  • Me and Carol take his Subaru to SF on Tuesday,
  • Come back the weekend to get the SAAB.
  • EZ (sob)

We arranged to meet the tow-guy at 11:30 on the way to Brian’s Study Site and Reno. Nice guy. He wondered why I was taking pictures… looking for damage or something? Nope, just documentation. I might write about this on the internet.

more to come…

July Adventure, Up North (now published)

July Adventure, Homeward Bound (now being written)


2 thoughts on “July Adventure

  1. Fun post (tho not for you). I have many Saab stories…tho none as REMOTE as yours. Did I ever tell you about my flat tire in Rawlings WY in the Mustang? Now THAT was an adventure… All was not lost M…you got a great story out of it!


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