Monday, May 8, 2017

The Journey Home - The Chronicle of my Reunion Weekend

Part One - Friday

I don’t really know what I was thinking I would find by coming home for my 40th High School Reunion and the 2017 Big Valley High School Alumni weekend. I don’t know if I actually thought about it beyond meeting up with those I had known so long ago and reminiscing over times we spent together throughout our High School Career. But as I prepare for this ‘momentous?’ occasion tonight I am wondering what it is that I am to bring to those I meet up with. As well as what it is that they are to share with me.

While I sit here in my ‘weekend retreat’ this morning, I thought I’d ponder the path I have taken so far to reach this place. I left home about 7:00 am on Friday morning to head to Reno Airport to pick up the rental car. As we were filling up with gas, I realized that I had forgotten my pill container with all of my meds for the weekend. So we headed back to the house to pick it up. With my pills now in hand, we headed once more to Reno.

Arriving at the Airport, Jeremy dropped me at the door and headed for our prearranged meeting place so that we could transfer my luggage and ice chest into the rental. At the car rental company I spoke to a nice lady who informed me that after I made and paid for my rental, they had changed company policies. Now, if renting from an airport location, you must present either a boarding pass for a return flight -OR- a major credit card to ensure the payment and any incidentals were covered … I had neither. AND, I had PREPAID for the car. So this made no sense to me. She advised that I should call the customer service line and have the reservation transferred to their other Reno location, at the Meadowood Mall, Sears store, and they would be able to let me take my rental car from there. OK. Now I am ‘stuck’ at the Airport with no rental car and Jeremy is gone. I tried calling the Rental car phone number, no answer, so I call Jeremy. He drove back to the airport to pick me up and take me across town to Sears and the other rental car location.

While I waited for Jerm, I tried the car rental company again. When they finally answered I had already arrived at their Sears location and had spoken with a nice man behind the counter. He also told me that their customer service center could transfer the reservation for me and He would then rent me a car. But the agent on the phone was now telling me that he could not transfer it, all he could do was cancel it … and he then did that.

This rental location also rented cars for another company. So, with Jeremy’s help, I went ahead and rented a car, loaded my things into it and was finally on my way … about two hours after my planned departure time. Thank You, Jesus!

The weather was beautiful. Warm, sunny and supposed to be in the 80’s at home and mid to high 70’s in northern Cali where I am headed. The radio playing and my mind started to relax as I drove from Reno, NV to the first destination on this three-day adventure - a ghost town above Downieville, CA called Brandy City. I headed West on I-80 out of Reno toward Truckee. Once passed the ‘bug station,’  the local California Agriculture checkpoint, I headed North on CA Hwy 89 toward CA Hwy 49, Downeyville and the Brandy City Road turnoff.

This trip to Brandy City is something I had wanted to do since I received my diploma from Long Ridge Writer’s Group for Fiction Writing and Marketing.  I had been planning this visit for many years. I wanted to do a bit of research for a novel I have been trying to write for more than 20 years, but the plans have fallen apart more times than I can remember. Today, Friday, May 5th, 2017, looks to be the day I finally make it. Well, maybe.

The drive was peaceful and very calming. After the many trials recently faced at home, and the incident with the car rental company, the calm was much needed and totally welcomed. By now I am starting to sing with the radio and enjoying the peace that is enveloping the whole car, but more importantly, my whole spirit. I tuned to a classic rock station and sang as I drove along.

Before I left, I did a road conditions check to look over the route I wanted to take. I wanted to know what to expect. There was one stretch along Hwy 49 that was showing delays for road construction. No worries. It was to be expected after the winter we had just come through. I am in no hurry, the drive is for refreshing body and spirit, so I will just drive and enjoy.

The scenery is breathtaking as I drive through the woodlands and meadows on this California backroad. And the delays were minimal. Music, melodious meadows, and wooded splendor make for just the peaceful experience that I need. Peace and contentment have found their foothold in my heart and mind. God’s magnificent paintings are not wasted on me, today.

Google maps navigator had said that I should arrive in Brandy City about 12:30 pm on this afternoon. Not too bad, if all goes as planned... I know, famous last words, right?

I reached the Camptonville/Brandy City Road cut off - literally - as it is a bit of a switchback turn - about noon. It is a paved road, but a bit rutted and pocked with potholes. This was nothing unusual in this area of the California ‘backwoods.’ So I made the turn and proceeded up the road to a place I had long wished to visit. About 30 minutes up this mountain trace, I saw the first signs - literally - that I may not make it to this long awaited destination. There was a barricade filling the downhill lane of the road claiming that the road was closed. Well, not being one that is easily discouraged in the reaching of my goals, I proceeded uphill around this barricade … it didn’t close the whole road, just half of it.

I continued up the road, but it was very slow going. These turns were very steep and tight, but still passable. There were a few rocks and small branches scattered along the pavement, but nothing I couldn’t handle. And there were several wide places on this, now very narrow and trail-like road. So I knew if it became impassable up ahead, I would be able to turn the car around and make my way back down the road to Hwy 49. Little did I know at that moment that that was exactly what I would need to do in just a little over 45 minutes from making that turn uphill.

The closer I got to my destination, the narrower the road got. After about 20 minutes of uphill twists and turns, I came to another barricade with a Road Closed sign across it. But this new sign gave me pause. Though the barricade still only filled half of the roadway and I could have fit through, I opted not to proceed.

This portion of the roadway was more densely forested, swathed in darkness and shadows. And the road beyond the barricade as far as I could see was littered with an abundance of rocks which looked to be about golf ball sized. So I decided going back down the hill would be a more prudent decision than trying to go forward any further. Looking back on this research portion of my trip, maybe the Lord is trying to tell me something about the novel I have been in the process of writing since early 2002. I will be putting this book aside - for a time or perhaps forever - we’ll see, but for now, on with the adventure!

As I re-entered Hwy 49 North, I needed to decide what route to travel to reach tonight’s destination and my temporary dwelling for the weekend. Google Maps was telling me to go south toward Grass Valley/Nevada City, but I had lived in this area for many years and knew the roads that the locals would take to reach CA Hwy 70 and the road to Redding CA that would take me to CA Hwy 299 East - THE road to my High School Reunion. I opted to drive like a local and I'm glad I did!

When I reached a sign that said Marysville Road turnoff 12 miles I knew I wasn't far. I also knew this road well, so when I can to the junction, I turned right toward Bullard’s Bar Reservoir and headed toward my previous home in Rackerby.

Now I hate high places, especially those that have sheer drop-offs and though I had driven across Bullard’s Bar Dam many times, I have never reached a place of comfort while driving across it. Today was no exception. A couple hours earlier I had found a KLove radio station, so, with the radio playing praise music and singing to the Lord from my heart, I crossed the dam in the Lord’s Might. Praise GOD!

Now Google Maps Navigation keeps telling me that I need to make a U-turn to get back on the right route. But I know where I am and I am confident that I will arrive at my motel in good time. Though the roads they would have directed me too were main thoroughfares, I would be going south and west rather than traveling in the northeasterly direction I was actually headed. Yes, the roads would have been in better condition and I could have traveled at highway speeds for a longer period of time, these things were not as important to me as just having a calm and pleasant drive. And it turned out to be just that for me.

Making the road choices on this trip remind me of the choices we make along life’s road, the Highway to Heaven. Many are the times I have taken a path of my own choosing because it looks ‘easier’ to travel. And I have totally missed, or delayed, God’s blessing by doing so. My choices landed me in dark paths whose destinations were jail and many failed relationships. I could have ended up dead and buried, instead of alive and living this new life for God. I give Him thanks EVERY day for His prodding, and encouragement along the way! I am so glad that I decided to follow His path many years ago while sitting in a cell in the Butte County on charges that could have placed me in the California Prison system for at least a year and quite possibly the rest of my life. Today, I trust God to keep me and fully believe the passage in Jeremiah, which reads;

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13, NIV

Taking the backroads from Bullard’s Bar out to Hwy 70, I had an opportunity to drive through the communities of Brownsville, and Rackerby. Areas I used to call home some 15+ years before. They were lush, green and more beautiful than when I had last visited. Though I had no reason, and more importantly no desire, to stop and see anyone from my former life in the area … so I just drove through the countryside and enjoyed the scenery along the way. I refrained from stopping until I reached the northern outskirts of Chico, CA before stopping for anything. So, I made a quick stop for a sandwich and a soda before heading up I-5 toward Redding, CA, gas and the last leg of today’s journey.

The road to Redding, and beyond, was as uneventful as the views were gorgeous. More gorgeous than I had seen in more than 15 years, 10 of those were in severe drought. But today there is green and all of the water levels were higher than they had been before the drought began.
I arrived at the Bieber Motel about 6:00 pm on Friday evening. Though the backroads took much longer than the Google Maps route, I felt the drive was more than worth the time spent.

Well, as it is Saturday morning and noon is quickly approaching, I will close my journal for now, but  I will be back to share more with you about this weekend’s adventure. For now, I need to finish eating, shower and get out the door for today’s leg of my adventure. TTFN!

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