16 - Petaluma Post


16 - Petaluma Post
16 • JUNE 2015
ll the hoop-la
over cars in May,
including my
own article, has
my brain doing donuts
in its parking lot. I can’t
stop thinking about cars
and hence, the road-trips
I’ve taken. Here it is June,
school’s about to let out (I’m
a teacher) and the open road
beckons. Cupid’s car-love
arrow never found me, but I
can’t imagine living without
my vehicle into the new, and
I learned it on those family
trips starting in the 1950s.
Every mid-June my dad
pulled out the maps and
guidebooks from Triple
A to plot our annual car
adventure. We drove the
West, seeing the sights,
smelling the smells, tasting
the tastes, and learning the
lore. Two weeks at a time.
The trips started after
Dad sold the black Buick
convertible (hard to pack
camping gear on the soft-top)
and Mom had purchased her
apple-green Ford Country
Squire four-door station
wagon. It was wood paneled,
but not a Woody, and it fit all
the food and camping gear a
Ana Manwaring writes, teaches
creative writing, and edits manuscripts through JAM Editorial
Services and Manuscript Consultation. She’s branded cattle,
camped in Mayan ruins, lived
on houseboats, worked for a PI,
swum with dolphins, and writes
about it all. Information about
editing or the summer schedule of
creative writing classes is available at www.anamanwaring.
family of five needed for two
At first our trips were
local: Mount Tamalpais to
Boot-Jack Camp. I loved
winding up the mountain,
my head out the window
catching the rush of scents
on the air: exhaust on
Miller Ave. in Mill Valley,
redwood trees in the canyons
rising to the shoulder of the
mountain, manzanita and
sage along the ridge, a breath
of ocean at Four Corners
and the damp freshness of
the pines and maples mixed
in with more redwoods at
the state park. Don’t ask me
what we did there. I only
remember the ride.
We went to Bolinas and
Point Reyes. We bought a
ranch west of Healdsburg
and started making the
hours long trek north before
the Highway 101 Petaluma
by-pass was built, skirting
through the shadow of
Sonoma Mountain along
Old Redwood Highway
until we arrived at the Fosters
Freeze in Cotati and took
a break. I’d bite off the curl
at the top of my chocolate
dip and suck the ice cream
Road Tripping’
out through the hole. Those
cones melted fast, and I
remember licking the mess
off my hands before being
allowed back in the car.
In my 1950s mind, the
trip to “The Ranch” took
all day, but the reward
was worth it. Long days
o f s w i m m i n g , ro a m i n g
acres of wild land, catching
pollywogs then frogs in the
sun dappled creeks, and
later, sitting on the hood of
the station wagon holding
the deer rifle for Dad as my
sister, big enough to see over
the hood, navigated the car
at a snail’s pace along dirt
tracks. Dad stalked dinner
out in front of us. Thankfully
he rarely saw game. We hated
When my little brother
was old enough to sit in the
car all day, our excursions
l e n g t h e n e d . We w e n t
camping in Calaveras County
at a place called Snowshoe
Springs. Highway 4 through
Angles Camp was always
interesting: the smells of the
turkey farms, pastures, forests
blew in the window as the
landscape streaked passed.
Headed home, probably the
year before Mom killed the
rattler under my sleeping
cot, I daydreamed to the
scents of barnyard when Dad
exclaimed “Look! A peacock
in full bloom.” He pointed
to a pasture filled with
One of the best trips
started north, up I5 into
Oregon. First stop, Crater
Lake—one of the world’s
most beautiful spots and
the friendliest chipmunks
I’d met. We chugged on
through the lava flows and
sage of eastern Oregon into
the high chaparral of Idaho
on our way to a week in one
of the wonders of the world,
Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone wasn’t anything
by Ana Manwaring
like Jellystone! Again, it’s my
nose that made the memory:
sulfur gas; hot mud; sage and
pine; bears.
From Yellowstone we
went to the Grand Tetons.
It rained. Mom taught us to
play pool in a smoky tavern
while it stormed outside. The
drama was to behold: colors
muted, the mountains black
silhouettes and the torrent of
water bathing the landscape
in sheets, each drop throwing
up a puff of dust as it hit the
ground. That had a scent
too, and it entwined with
wet granite, mules ears and
sage, cleaning my nose of
the stale smoke. Mom keeps
a small oil done by a Jackson
Hole artist of stormy Grand
Tetons framed by chaparral
blooming muted grey-green.
I think I can smell the dustyfresh rain as I gaze at it.
Last stop, Dad’s choice:
the Piper Opera House in the
wild west of Virginia City,
Nevada. The Cartwright boys
shooting it out with some
rustlers outside the saloon,
Little Joe (Michael Landon,
my first TV crush) giving me
a wink when Pa reprimands
him for gun play in the
street…We had some fancy
dinner at the Silver Queen
owned by the tough but bighearted madam, or was that
another show? Dad loved it.
My 55-year-old photo doesn’t
tell the story—just a dusty
building on a dustier hillside.
The road trips didn’t
end there. Death Valley;
Disneyland; stalking the trail
of the California Missions;
the impossibly green
Olympic Peninsula with its
with piggyback plants and
ferns; the ferry to Victoria
then Vancouver and the
world’s largest banana slugs;
Tahoe and Donner; the
Delta, Santa Cruz; Carmel—
we had the measles; San
Simeon; Morrow Bay—it
was Easter and raining, we
hunted eggs in a motel room.
Ever ywhere we went
I learned something new,
tried a new food, smelled the
unfamiliar. Back home my
life looked both smaller and
expanded. There was a whole
new world beyond Ross, and
I vowed that when I was old
enough, I’d have a car to take
me there. In the meantime, I
could dream of driving, and
all the wonderful things I’d
learn on the rush of wind
through my window.
Bear Lake, Idaho 1960
Half dozing across miles
of straw-colored chaparral
in the back seat of an applegreen Ford “woody” with the
windows wide open. Snippets
of my parents’ conversation
blown back: “200 mile..
groceries.. pizza in the park.”
The warm wind chasing their
words into the camping gear
stowed behind me.
We were crowded and
sticking to the plastic bench.
My b ro t h e r we d g e d
between us sisters, his feet
resting on the driveshaft
hump.50 miles per hour
seemed so fast as we motored
across dusty plateaus, into
dry canyons—red and
crumbling, up and down
the tarmac track rolling over
hills stretching yellow under
a water colored sky that
corralled the rising and falling
grass horizon to horizon.
Soothed by the scent
of hay and sage on the rush
of the wind, I fell into a
dream lush and soft as sweet
tropical fruit. I became a
flowing-haired Queen upon
a sorrel horse bejeweled in
sapphires, diamonds, gold,
and turquoise— a watery
jewel in the distance winked,
catching my inward eye.
I would wear such a gem
as that nestled down this
golden slope and offered up
like the promise of heaven.