Thursday, 4 September 2014

Day 14: Sonora, CA - Chico, CA

Apart from being able to nip out for a fag without having to worry about whether your room key is in your pocket, another advantage of having a balcony is that one can brush one's Flowing Locks out there and discard the tangled mess (and if you have been driving with the top down all day, you will have a tangled mess) over the side and into the edge of the woods.  The woods do not look to be large enough to support a colony of Woozles but if I am wrong on this, they will no doubt appreciate the bonanza when making Nests for their Young.

Outside the hotel many of the parking spaces are marked "COMPACT".  "Compact" as a description of a motor-car is a holdover from the time when the only fundamental difference between the standard sized USAnian family motor-car and the USS New Jersey is the lack of sixteen-inch guns on the former.  Today they hold everything from a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle (which, to be fair, is only slightly smaller than, say, a Smart For-Two) to a Chevrolet Suburban (so-called because of its resemblance to a bungalow).  I think they need to invest in some new paint.

Where were we?  Sonora lies on the east side of the Sierra Nevada.  So does Chico.  Therefore the only sensible way to get from the former to the latter is to cross the mountains twice.  This was harder than it sounds as the section of CA-108 near the hotel must have been built since Emily left school.  She got all confused and ended up thinking Markleeville was about a hundred miles further away than was actually the case.  Getting there required crossing the Sonora and Monitor Passes (lizard conspiracists take note), which was all good clean fun.
View from most of the way up Lizard Monitor Pass
To add to her growing discomfiture, Emily thinks we can buy "gas" in Markleeville.  We cannot.  Nor can we buy it in Woodfords.  Eventually we have to go all the way to Gardnerville to get some, which is in another frikkin' state!  It's worth the detour coz Nevada is much cheaper, but I had to pay cash for it as the cashier's card terminal wouldn't recognise either of my cards.  I expect that kind of behaviour from pumps, but this is simply beyond the pale...

Then over the Carson Pass.  There is much Carsonage in these parts; you cross the Carson Pass and the Carson Spur, having followed the valley of the Carson River (which flows into the Carson Sink) and through the town of Kit Carson.  The nearby-ish state capital of Nevada is Carson City.  It's as bad as John Day up in Oregon (see 2009 Automatic Diary).  Enough to give you a Carsonoma.  CA-88 is quite busy and while one might reasonably expect to be stuck behind the odd horse trailer, I went one better by encountering a trailer hauling pianos.  No, really!  Somewhere near here, it was:
Emily fell into another state of new-road-induced sulks while skirting Sacramento and at one point had us driving across a lake, which is one better than last year's river malarkey in Pennsylvania.  The reason I came here was to have a shufti at the Oroville Dam.  At 230 metres, it is the tallest dam, and possibly the biggest pile of muck too, in USAnia, being an earth dam and a fair bit higher than the Hoover Dam.
It's difficult to see the size of it from anywhere other than a helichopter, and I left mine in my other trousers.  In fact, it's so well-concealed that you might just mistake it for a hillside if you didn't know it was there.

And so to Chico.  The Leo Kottke / Mike Gordon song "From Pizza Towers To Defeat" speaks of robbing the train to Chico.  A machine from California State University in Chico won the Seattle-Vancouver race during the first International Human Powered Speed Championships to be held outside USAnia, hist. fans.  Anyway, it's full of Penniless Student Oaves and the median age of those one might see on the streets is about twenty-two.  Which is why your indescribably ancients Diarist has stayed in tonight and is about to unwind in the in-room jacuzzi!

On yarts:

Teacher: Why weren't you in school yesterday, Johnny?
Johnny: I had yarts, miss!

YARTS is actually short for "Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System" or, put another way, buses.  A much better acronym than "BART" in the San Francisco area if you ask me.

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