May 9, 1998
Now, what can you do when you extend yourself to the limit? Like starting several projects around the house with the hope that Spring will finally show its friendly and warm face, offering to write an article for the newsletter of your favorite motorcycle association, Northern California Honda Sport Touring Association, or when you have more work -- at work -- than you can handle or again when you are trying to tackle an article on nationalism for Swans and struggle with the issue...
Whatever you can do I have no clue but personally I tend to cut corners where ever I can. So, for Swans and its dreaded deadline, I rushed to find something, anything, on the computer's hard drive. After all, those magnetic drives are the repository of years of babble and other tidbits never before published. Why not put them to good use?
Mousing through folders and perusing files I discovered a little gem in the form of a letter written by Jan in which she fondly and facetiously describes how wrong-headed and stubbornly testosterone-loaded one (I) can be at times. With Jan's permission, here comes a little tale that will make you smile....at my own expense!
"...This year we went to Northern California and therefore broke our tradition of going to Santa Fe, NM, for Christmas. Gilles has been quite worried this year by his lack of a significant income and so we decided to be more frugal and avoid the cost of a long trip and expensive hotel nights. Instead we visited the Northeastern part of California, mostly driving through back-roads, sleeping in cheap motels and cooking soup in the room and eating sandwiches and canned pate. But we had a great time discovering new places. We started with the Russian River which is about two hours North of San Francisco, then went further North to the Mendocino coast area. From there we headed North East to the Shasta region and finally drove back through the Napa Valley. Most of the roads we took were one or two lanes, paved or unpaved, plowed or non-winterized country roads. This time I thoroughly appreciated the merits of traveling in a four-wheel drive vehicle! For instance, we explored a tiny mountain road East of Trinity Lake that had not been cleared. Thirty-some miles that took more than two hours to get over. I am not sure that I would want to qualify this experience as one of the best occurrences in my life but it certainly was one of the most unusual and slightly frightening one I have had in a long time! This was a tiny unpaved road, covered with a good foot of snow, and winding through the forest and along a cliff in the middle of nowhere up to over 3,000 feet... I had actually advised against taking this road but Gilles with his inescapable logic contended that we had just gone through another back road which locals had strongly warned us against taking, saying that we would encounter huge difficulties, and adding that even they preferred to stay away from it. Yet, truly enough, the ride had been quite easy and pretty smooth. So, he had argued, would be this one... And fair enough it started quite well at the beginning. The road was following the lake shore and was well cleared. But, after a couple of miles it began to narrow and to gradually edge up, leaving the banks of the lake and penetrating a forest of pines. Although there was much more snow we could still see the tracks of a few vehicles that seemed to have recently driven through. But after another mile and once we had passed a house on our left the conditions progressively worsened. Gilles eventually stopped and got out of the Land Cruiser to engage the front-wheels shacks, popped back in the truck, put it in four-wheel drive and there we went on. But it became worse and worse mile after mile until no tracks could be seen anymore except for those of a bear. By that time, Gilles was silent and his attention fully dedicated to having the truck going and keeping it from sliding and plunging into the snow bank on either side of the road. I was transfixed by the road with no end in sight and by the open cliff only a couple of feet on my right. The truck was inching up ever more slowly, pitching and tossing like a small embarkation in the middle of a storm, rolling and reeling its way up the stiff upgrade. Gilles' arms and hands were constantly moving back and forth from the gear shift to the wheel that he kept turning right and left to restore the balance of the truck . My mind started to imagine us stranded at 3,000 feet, in the boonies, with no snow chains and no shovel, with a weak battery that might not start the engine in the morning or allow us to use our CB radio, if we had to spend the night with bears for only neighbors ...
Eventually, we reached what looked like a possible momentary summit and Gilles finally stopped. But only for a few seconds, as, at the very same moment, he became aware that some one had driven up there and turned around in the same spot, meaning that the road further on, having not long ago been traveled upon, could not be worse than what we had just gone through. So he started again and insensibly became more relaxed, poking jokes at me, the bears, the road and the elements. Indeed, we had passed the summit and were now rapidly sliding down toward the valley on an increasingly icy road. And finally, he admitted that at the time he had stopped he was thinking about what to do, either go on or back track, considering that the truck could not go through even barely worse conditions that we had encountered! You can easily imagine my state of mind and the relief I felt... I was grateful to him for having gotten us out of this mess but at the same time I wanted to beat him up for having put us through this in the first place and for his crazy and childish stubbornness! But, he, proud of his achievement, like a young male that had thumbed his nose to the devil himself, kept smiling and praising the quality of the truck! The male ego will always bewilder me.... Anyway, I will remember this experience for a long time! But beside this stupidity we had a really great time driving through little-traveled back roads, largely unpaved, surrounded by cattle and sheep ranches, punctuated by minuscule hamlets and lonely farming communities."
And I who thought I was this cerebral Quixote always seeking out poverty and denouncing conservative imbeciles... Paf on the nose!
Time to go back to mowing the lawn.