Mendocino, Marin and Steinbeck Country

Mendocino day was full of capitalism: visiting my favorite bookstore, Gallery Books, and the Science Store (present for Jimmy), and the toy store, where Robert bought a Play Mobil Bus with hippie action figures. We walked the bluffs, sat in the Big Chair, ate lunch by Big River (cute Chihuahua running on the beach), then finished errands in Fort Bragg.  We tried to nap but I am too into The Next Tsunami by Bonnie Henderson, a gift from Dad, to sleep, so we read and rested then went to look for tidepools. There were no urchins or starfish, unlike earlier years, but no tsunamis and very little beach trash, so all was OK. In camp I made Nancy and Sophy mobiles while Robert played with his Play Mobil bud, and then we had dinner and fell asleep.

The morning dawned misty and gray, but Robert checked the Bus and we got ready to go. After breakfast in Mendo we followed the 1 to the 128, our route inland, and the Anderson Valley to the 101. The Navarro River was lower and more algae slimed than I have ever seen it in 25 years, yet another sign from the planet to pay attention. The coastal redwoods look the same, though, and we twisted and turned through them to the sun at Gowan’s Oak Tree fruit stand.

            I drove this road so many times with my friend Bob in Old Blue, his Chrysler, and I never travel it without thinking of him. Now Robert is getting MORE coffee in Boonville, or as the people of Boonville past would have called it, a horn of zeese (they once spoke a dialect in Boonville called Boont, and that is the only phrase I ever learned). We also saw a bus in Geyserville!

We were heading to our camping spot at China Camp, only we were not allowed to camp. Apparently only tent camping is allowed.  We have a tent, but the tent is attached to the Bus, so apparently that was NOT ALLOWED. Robert started talking to one guy about the Bus: he’d been to Nepal, owned a bus, knew folks who had driven a bus to Patagonia, and he may or may not have been the brother-in-law of the next guy who came out to talk busses, who may or may not have been the other camp host (inclined to be more lenient—you can sneak in after 6—or perhaps the other camp host’s boyfriend…but either way, we were stuck without a campsite again. The bus folks wanted to talk engines, smog restrictions, and tell bus stories (the 79 was a piece of junk—you can hit 65 with a tailwind heading downhill), but I wanted to get on the road, so I was ringing the Buddhist bell, not being at all Buddhist. “Try Samuel P. Taylor or Olema Ranch,” the Bus guys said. We had tried to reserve at Samuel P, my preferred Marin campsite in the Redwoods, but they had no space when we reserved, and Olema “Ranch” is basically a field with RVs, but OK. So off we went, down Sir Francis Drake and headed for the coast again.

            We did score a site at Samuel P. Taylor (site 33 is not a great Bus site—56 is better, but someone got in ahead of us and stole it),

and we got set up after a quick stop at the Lagunitas store where a lovely man made us a great sandwich, and Robert made plans for a morning breakfast burrito.

There isn’t much to say about the night there, except while we were setting up and settling in, I had The Bus Dad Story Epiphany!

The Great Bus Dad Story Epiphany:    Once we landed at Samuel P, people kept stopping by to talk about the Bus. We kept telling the story, and then I realized: telling the story of my father and the Bus over and over and over again is a kind of living tribute to both of them. People’s faces light up and they shine when they hear the story. Part of it is the romantic journey part, which Steinbeck wrote about in Travels With Charley, people wanting to be on a trip, saying “I sure wish I could do that!” But part of it is also the story itself, the honoring of a legacy, the kind of story that should come true but doesn’t always, the story of the redemption of the Bus and his further adventures. People like this story because it is history, and that history is so much better than they had imagined: a daughter, a bus, a driver, a legacy—so much better than two hipsters buy a van.

            Here’s the story we tell:
“Wow, cool Bus. What year?”

“1966.”
“Do you want to sell it?”
“No, he’s a member of the family.”
Robert: “We bought him from my father-in-law 3 years ago. He ordered him custom and had him shipped over. Yeah, the top is a Dormobile, and it opens like a clamshell.”

Jenny: “He was my first car to ride in. I grew up with him.”
Robert: “He’s her older brother.”

People: Wow, you are so lucky. Great restoration.

Car guys: What kind of engine? Do you have dual carbs? What’s your top speed?
The Bus: Thanks for all the love.

And thanks from us to Dad and the Bus and for all the family and friends (especially Nancy and Jimmy for Puppymonster care)

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