Grand Canyon Love Story chapter three

Goals Three and Four

California is not a state; it is a state of mind. As we discovered during nearly three months — and well over 3000 miles — of travel, up and down and back and forth across Californialand, it is a state of mind so expansive and feverish that even its never-ending Pacific coastline is unable to wash away its exuberance. Almost immediately, California fever struck us. We caught it from a native son.

His name was R. E. Skinner. For seven hours — and 186 miles — his Buick Four swept us like a golden dreamboat from the area just below the Shasta-Trinity Alps, down almost the entire length of the Sacramento Valley, to Sonoma and the Valley of the Moon. We began realizing that this third goal of ours was a winner.

Throughout that journey, the famous valley of the Sacramento spread on both sides of us like the spilled contents of a cornucopia. Fields and orchards of growing food were strewn all the way from the distant snowcapped Sierra which we could faintly see in the east, to the low mountains in the west, which shielded this treasureland from the Pacific became the next goal on our list.

Early that morning, as our California odyssey had started, we had told our benefactor that San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean were our immediate goals. In late afternoon, a highway sign at a crossroads caught our eye: “San Francisco, 40 miles.”

“Are we that close? Just 40 miles from the Pacific? I can’t believe it,” shouted Win.

Our friend slowed the car, then stopped.

“Boys, I’ll let you out here if you say so. But I think it would be a mistake.” With the aid of a map he explained that he was going on to the Valley of the Moon and the Jack London country around Sonoma.

“It’s something you just shouldn’t miss.” His gentle yet persuasive manner was almost like that of a father. “Besides, if I were in your shoes, before heading for San Francisco I’d certainly take the Redwood Highway up through the Big Trees. There’s nothing like them anywhere else in the world. You can get your first glimpse of the Pacific at Eureka. The Big Trees are worth the trip.”

I could never thank R. E. Skinner enough for that advice. It changed my entire life, and indirectly laid the basis for this Grand Canyon Love Story.

We followed his suggestions almost to the letter. The Jack London country, under his guidance, was uplifting and exciting. And the Big Trees, which we reached on our own several days later, were worth half a dozen such trips.

Early one morning, at Eureka, we stopped at the edge of Arcata Bay to wash up and shave. The bay was salt water, all right; we couldn’t work up enough lather for shaving and had to go on. But this was not yet the ocean. We still could not see the Pacific. That was now our goal — the next to the last one on our list.

“The Pacific Ocean?” A friendly garageman echoed our query. “You just go on past Arcata a few miles, and there it is. You can’t miss it.”

We soon caught a seven mile ride, out of Arcata, with Roy Carr, who spent the entire distance telling us about his wonderful girl friend, Teddy, visiting out here from Texas. Just as he dropped us, in front of the small house where his girl friend was staying with the Gibson family, there before us stretched the Pacific. To us, it was as exciting as the Rockies, or Yellowstone. Our fourth goal was almost within grasp.

But not quite. An enormous cliff separated us from the shore. How to get down?

In a roadside ditch just beyond the Gibson house, a tiny stream of clear water was trickling its way Pacificward. Here was a good chance to finish washing and shaving. Two girls left the Gibson dwelling and almost at once disappeared into a concealed path which apparently led along and down that cliff to the shore below. Hastily cleaning our single razor, within five minutes we had found the path and were wading gleefully into the Pacific Ocean.

With a pocket knife we made a fourth small notch in each of our belts. Another goal accomplished.