The sky was just lightening and, in the distance, the Carrizo Plain was covered with a white mist that looked like an endless lake. It was our last morning before entering the endless rivers of Californian traffic to visit some good friends in Santa Cruz. During one of our last hikes in the gold and emerald hills surrounding the Selby Campground where we were camped, Kat expressed sadness that it was all coming to an end. The tone of our adventure was about to change as we started our return journey northward into Canada. Like coming back from a long and extended vacation, we have practical matters to deal with: tax returns, repairs to our truck and camper (fortunately, all minor), crossing the border without running afoul of Canadian Customs. And looking for a new home. The real world for most people.
They’re everywhere we go. I see them clogging up the roads with rigs the size of train cars. When shopping, the same rigs are spread across four parking stalls. Inside the grocery stores, the aisles are swarming with pot-bellied men in white beards slowly shuffling behind their poodle-haired spouses. The campgrounds, RV parks, and state parks are crammed with their shiny rigs. Locals complain that they can’t take their kids camping because the best camp spots are reserved for months in advance. They’re all here from the northern states and Canada to escape the cold winters and bask in the gorgeous southern sun. They are the snowbirds. And we do not flock with them.
I knew we were in for a rough night when we looked outside and saw a woman walk to the sparse shrubs just outside our camper, drop her sweats, and squat to relieve herself as she showed us her more than ample moon. She seemed unaware that we were sitting just few feet on the embankment above her, watching from our dinette window. Kat gasped as I quickly turned my head, not wanting to etch the image onto my brain, but knowing it was already too late.
On our third evening at Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site, just after dinner, I saw a flash of light illuminate the window of our back door. A few seconds later, I saw another one, and then another. I put on my shoes and went outside. The sky was clear, but hovering just above the northern horizon, I spotted a large white cloud. The cloud was full of energy and every few seconds, three or four bolts of brilliant white lightening would streak through the space between the cloud and the earth, and shear the night. Remembering that sound moves slower than light and that each second represents a mile, I began counting the seconds after each flash waiting for the rumble of thunder. But no sound ever came. I watched for over an hour while the cloud mysteriously remained anchored to one spot, spitting silent lightening. Just before we went to bed and I took Melo and Pix out to do their stuff, the cloud was still there.
“You have to see New Orleans,” people kept telling us. “It’s the home of Louis Armstrong,” and “You get to eat authentic crawfish gumbo and jambalaya,” and “There’s music on every street corner,” and “Those pretty women you see aren’t really women, you know.”