- Where We Started: Reno, Nev.
- Where We Ended: Klamath Falls, Ore.
- Miles Driven: 352 (13,188 total).
- New States: Oregon.
- States So Far: 20 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
With the issues of our return date and Alaska trip now decided, the FHMA crew spent the the first day of the rest of our trip cruising through rural northeastern California, visiting the eerie Lava Beds National Monument before crossing the border into our first new state in more than two weeks.
We woke up not in California for the first time in weeks, but soon returned to The Golden State, where we passed through the forgotten part of the state -- the extreme northeast. You've probably never heard of any of the towns in this area, towns like Susanville, Alturas, Westwood and Janesville. But it's a pretty area, featuring lakes, national forests, national wildlife refuges and volcanic rock formations. Soon, we came across the dry bed of Honey Lake. We've seen a lot on this trip, but not a large lake with no water.
The dry bed of Honey Lake, near Milford, Calif. The lake is only dry during droughts, though the conditions in this part of California do result in significant fluctuations in the surface area of the lake.
By the time we arrived at Lava Beds, we'd already seen quite a range of terrain. And we weren't sure what to expect there, as I had not done a ton of research on Lava Beds, since it was a pass-through on the way to Crater Lake National Park. So we were pleasantly surprised by the variety of what we saw. Lava Beds has the largest concentration of lava tube caves in the United States, features more than 30 different lava flows and also hosts Petroglyph Point, one of the largest panels of Native American rock art in the country.
While we knew there were caves in the park, we weren't sure how much we'd be able to interact with them. The good news was that more than 20 of the caves have been developed for public use. But be warned: While a flashlight is not required to enter any of the caves, you need one if you actually expect to find your way out. The visitors' center rents out flashlights, but was closed by the time we arrived. But we were not to be denied, so we took our two crappy flashlights out of the glove and went to explore.
Toward the end of our spin around Cave Loop, where most of the public caves are located, we found a cool cave called Hercules Leg. We wandered into the cave about an eighth of a mile before deciding to turn back, as the sun was starting and set, and we were not interested in getting lost in a cave at night just for the benefit of our readers. We love you, but not that much.
Like seeing the big dry lake bed earlier in the day, hiking a cave was a new experience for us on this trip, and we'll all for that. Once we completed our spelunking -- OK, we really didn't spelunk, we just hiked; but I wanted to get "spelunk" into the blog -- we checked out Schonchin Butte, a cinder cone situated in the middle of the park, which afforded great views of the stark terrain. Next, it was off to Devils Homestead Flow, one of the most concentrated areas of lava rock in the park.
The last stop at Lava Beds was Petroglyph Point, located about 10 miles east of the rest of the park. This particular part of the park was disappointing, as the rock art was very faded and, at times, hard to find. Fortunately, the rock where the petroglyphs are is interesting in its own right.
During the long drive to Lava Beds, and during our time at the park, the dogs minimal outside time, so it wasn't a great day for them. But since we're aware of the abuse that will await us if we don'tt run enough beagle photos, here are a few pics of the boys.
FHMA officially departed Lava Beds around sunset, and then made the short drive across the border into Oregon, making it the 20th state we've visited on this trip. We now have 28 states to go, and 17 days to do it.
- As we were driving through Janesville, Calif., we came across a Ford Super Duty that had gone head first into a ditch alongside the highway. It appeared this accident had just happened, through the passengers -- the driver and his three kids -- seemed OK. The truck wasn't in as good shape, so we pulled up alongside, and Joan rolled down the window and asked whether there was anything we could do to help. The father looked at us, looked at our car, and said, "Not with THAT car." Gritting her teeth, Joan resisted the temptation to remind this guy that it wasn't "THAT car" that had ended up head-first in the goddamn ditch. But she kept the smile on her face, and asked whether there was anyone we could call for him. He looked up mournfully and said, "No thanks. I called my wife, and she's on her way over here with the truck to tow me out." Let's just say he didn't look too excited about her arrival; this was a man who seemed to know he had A LOT of explaining to do and was probably in for a few nights in his guest bedroom.
- We experienced a handful of immigration checkpoints when we were in Arizona and New Mexico, but Friday marked our first agricultural checkpoint. Agricultural checkpoints are California specialties; it has them on all major thoroughfares entering the state, with the goal of keeping any foreign plants or animals from disrupting the state's fragile ecosystem. This stop was no more exciting than the immigration checkpoint stops. We were asked whether we'd brought any plants with us from Virginia. Assuming the response, "You mean, besides the pot?" would be met with the same good humor that bomb jokes usually generate at airport security, so we said no -- which also had the added benefit of being true. We were soon on our way. Before writing this note, I wanted to do a little research to find out why only California seems to have these checkpoints, so I plugged "agricultural checkpoints california" into Google. The first site that came up was from -- I shit you not -- the San Diego chapter of Ferrets Anonymous. The post ranked at the top explained how to best get your ferrets into California by avoiding the checkpoints. Enough said.
- The towns of northeastern California are not only not well-known; they're also not well-populated. As we were cruising up U.S.-395, we encountered the following towns: Ravendale (population 20), Lichtfield (population 35) and Madeline (population 60). As we were cruising through these towns, mileage signs were touting our impending arrival in the town of Likely. Would this be the area's big metropolis? Not Likely, although its population was large by comparison: 200 people. It was only when we reached Alturas, the seat of Modoc County, did we finally encounter a four-digit population: 2,892. Then again, on the 2003 trip, we drove past Harmony, Calif., which had a population of 18. I just checked, and the town's population is still listed at 18. Either this means the town is still using 2000 census data, or people in Harmony are not having nearly enough fun.
- Reader Josh Hatch asked what Joan and I have against Hawaii. Absolutely nothing. I can sum it up in three words. Honeymoon. Maui. Us. We have not mentioned Hawaii much in FHMA because its already been conquered. But Joan and I have each been to 49 states, with Alaska that elusive 50th. For the record, Fred has been to 48 states, and Hank has been to 25.
- Four Bulgarians about to start a tour of the United States asked for some help in planning their trip, and someone was nice enough to point them to our post on dividing responsibilities. Always glad to aid Bulgarian-U.S. relations.
- Klamath Falls, where we spent Friday night, is less than 50 miles away from the small town of Bly, Ore. Bly holds the distinction of being the location of the only fatal attack on the U.S. mainland during World War II. On May 5, 1945, a Japanese balloon bomb exploded after being discovered in the woods by local citizens. Six people were killed. Here's some more background on this forgotten slice of American history.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment," by The Ramones. A typical Ramones hard-charger, with only a few chords and a few verses. But, like most Ramones, it works (at least for me). "GGST" is off the group's second album, "Leave Home," and while the album isn't among the group's best, it does have a few classics: "I Remember You," "Pinhead," "Commando" and an excellent cover of "California Sun."
- Here's our Day 3 report on our A-to-Z iPod Exploration:
- First song: "All I Wanna Do," by Sheryl Crow.
- Last song: "Always Somewhere," by the Scorpions. (For all their heavy-metal bluster, the Scorpions actually recorded some terrific ballads, and this is one of them. "Still Loving You" is another).
- Best Songs: "All Mixed Up," by The Cars; "All My Love," by Led Zeppelin; "All Shook Up," by Elvis Presley; "Almost Hear You Sigh," by The Rolling Stones; "All Systems Go/The Launch," by James Horner (from "Apollo 13"); .
- Pleasant Surprises: "All of Me," by Buckcherry; "All Those Yesterdays," by Pearl Jam.
- Guilty Pleasures: "All You Zombies," by The Hooters; "Alone," by Heart.
- Bad Songs by Good Artists: "All or Nothin'," by Tom Petty; "All the Right Friends," by R.E.M.
- Lunch: Silver Peak Brewery, Reno, Nev.: We used tripadvisor.com to find this place, and had a mixed experience. We split some amazing pot stickers to start, and then each went for the prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich. Joan was unimpressed; I was happy but not blown away. On the fence about the restaurant, we decided to have a rare lunchtime dessert to break the tie. I ordered tiramisu, and was not thrilled with its coffee-tinged flavor. Joan had chocolate bread pudding, but she's been unsatisfied with all desserts since having chocolate lava cake at the Wohlfarths in Oakland last weekend. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). Hey, the sandwich wasn't too bad, but I have to dock myself one star for having dessert. Restaurant Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5). What started with a bang ended as a disappointment. It certainly was not a bad meal; we just got our hopes up too much. If you're only going to serve one outstanding course in a meal, appetizer is probably not the best choice.
- Dinner: Black Bear Diner, Klamath Falls, Ore.: After turning up very little usable information on restaurants in Klamath Falls, we decided to use the scientifically dubious method of driving around town and seeing which places were crowded. We saw this packed diner, and decided we'd found some unique local flavor. We then went in and discovered that the Black Bear Diner has 38 locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. So while we didn't quite get the local flavor we were seeking, we did enjoy our meal. I had fish and chips, while Joan went for the grilled cheese sandwich and garlic fries. The Black Bear brags on its menu that its commitment to customer service is the same now that it was when the chain opened its first restaurant in 1995. This must mean that customer service didn't mean much to them in 1995 either, as the best we could get out of our server was a disinterested grumble. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). Only two positives: I started with a salad, and after almost caving, Joan and I decided not to split the coconut cream pie. Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
- After three days of back and forth in the comments area, Five Guys Burgers & Fries and In-N-Out Burger are now tied at six votes apiece in the Great Burger Battle. Maybe we'll just have to acknowledge greatness can exist on both coasts, and leave it at that...
- Best Western Klamath Inn, Klamath Falls, Ore.: The walls are very thin, which is definitely an issue when you have dogs who tend to "respond" to unexpected noises. So, to cover the noise coming from next door, we turned up the volume on the TV, which, in turn, I'm sure annoyed our neighbors. In addition, the high speed was an absolute joke. I could never get the passcode to work, and it didn't really matter, since the speed was abysmal. When Joan attempted to send me five relatively small photos, she was told it would take 108 minutes. We were going to dock the hotel another star because Joan had called ahead to make sure it had guest laundry, and then arrived to find there was no laundry at all. But that turned out to be user error as their are two Best Westerns in Klamath Falls and Joan had called the other one when inquiring about guest laundry. Hotel rating: 2 stars (out of 5, on the budget hotel scale).
- Joan has learned a new booking trick. Apparently, if you sign up for their frequent visitor clubs, most budget hotel chains give free upgrades if possible. Of course, an upgrade at a crappy hotel may not be worth much. At the Best Western Klamath Inn, our "upgrade" was a room just like every other one, except the bathtub had Jacuzzi jets. I'm not even sure that's a good thing at a budget motel.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO