Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Home Again

We got back to Fernley about 8 PM last night, having driven the 300 miles from Klamath Falls in about nine hours. We unloaded the U-Haul in the relative cool of the evening since the idea of unloading in the blazing 40-plus degree C sun of Fernley was too much to contemplate.

Moving out of our sixth hotel in nine nights, we set out from Klamath Falls lugging the last of Lisa's stuff behind us on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, as we left Sisters, we happened along a truck scale that was not open but still had its scale working and weighed the van and trailer. Based on the trailer's tare weight, we had around 1,000 pounds of stuff in the trailer and a total load of around 2,900 pounds, somewhat more than half of the van's rated towing capacity. I'm glad we didn't carry much more than that, however, as it hardly mattered that the trailer was not supposed to exceed 55 MPH — making that speed on anything other than level or downhill road was a challenge at the best of times.

The stage to Alturas was mostly uneventful except that between Canby and Alturas we came upon fire trucks, highway patrol, an ambulance, and a blocked highway. What appeared to be a nicely-maintained older car had overturned, and paramedics were working on the victim. We stopped behind a big rig and waited. After a while, we saw them lift the victim carefully onto a gurney, but to continue to work. The CHP began letting traffic through in alternate directions, and after perhaps fifteen minutes or so we were on our way again. I rather expected to have to pull over and let the ambulance go by as it took the victim to a hospital in Alturas, but that never happened, and I don't know what happened after that.

We stopped in Alturas at the same market at which we shopped during our overnight stay going the other way, bought some pastrami, corned beef, and provolone with which to make sandwiches with the Dave's Killer Bread we purchased in Stayton two days ago, and looked for a place to stop for lunch. We found a rare shady spot in the Alturas city park and had our lunch, then went for a short walk across the park to have a look at the forlorn-looking steam engine on display there.


Southern Pacific 2718 once plied the rails of the "Modoc Route" between Fernley, Flanigan, Alturas, and Klamath Falls. The Modoc incorporates the former Nevada-California-Oregon Railway, about which I've written before. The tracks now end a few miles south of Alturas Yard, as the line between there and Wendel (near Flanigan) was lifted in 2003. (The Fernley-Flanigan section was removed in the 1960s, boo, hiss.)

The middle second of our drive involved the last steep grade, that being the climb to Sage Hen Summit. (Confusingly, there are multiple "Sage Hen"/"Sagehen" Summits in California, and at least two on US-395 that I can find; the photo to which I linked is from the one we traveled, but going the other direction.) While our climb over the Cascades yesterday caused the temperature gauge on the van to reach the line between the yellow and red areas, this climb red-lined the needle for real. I backed off the throttle, shifted down, opened the windows, and Lisa turned on the van's heaters, both fore and aft, at full blast to do anything we could to shed heat. The needle dropped back down into the yellow zone, and shortly after we crested the summit (about 5500 feet) and began to drive downward, the gauge retreated to the safe operating zone and we could shut off the heater. Later, after the engine cooled some more, we felt safe running the air conditioning again, but on the periodic short climbs we shut it off again. Better that we should be a little uncomfortable than we should overheat the engine. This section in particular made me very glad that I had my van serviced by my mechanic in Fremont before the trip and that he had replaced the radiator and hoses. While the van got hot when I pushed hard, it rapidly cooled back off again.

At Termo (terminus of the NCO Railway for a few years, but now barely more than a wide spot in the pavement) we changed drivers and Lisa took over. It did help on the trip that Lisa could drive from time to time and give me a break. We discussed how we could do team driving on a really long trip and the engineering challenges of setting up a bed in the back with safety belts so that the resting driver could sleep in relative safety.

On the way down, we had another involuntary chance to rest the engine, due to road construction requiring one-way traffic and a pilot car. After confirming that the engine wasn't going to overheat while sitting still, we could simply shut off the motor and wait a little while for our turn to pass through the area. It could have been worse, after all; we could have been the workers having to lay down hot asphalt in temperatures above 40 Celsius.

There is a small rest area before the final descent into the Honey Lake valley, and we stopped there as usual. There's no potable water, and the toilets are the pit type, but there is a small spring that rises here clear and cold (very welcome on a hot day like this) and waters the valley below. Lisa continued to drive from here to the Honey Lake rest area, where we were able to find a prime parking space next to a big-rig who, judging by the drawn curtains and loudly-idling/air-conditioning-running cab, was hosting a driver taking a nap. His rig provided blessed shade for the van while we went and had sandwiches in the shade of the picnic areas. Aside from having no potable water here either (we assume the groundwater probably has too much arsenic), this is a very nice rest stop as long as you can stay in the shade.

I took over driving again past Milford, where I lived for eight months when I was in the seventh grade when my father was stationed there at a US Forest Service base high above the town. Milford has nearly nothing to see. I sometimes consider detouring up the mountain to look at the Forest Service base, but certainly not while hauling that trailer behind me.

Nearing Hallelujah Junction and Nevada, I started to gasp with fatigue, and Lisa told me to bail out at Bordertown, the first exit in Nevada. We made a brief pit stop at a rather dilapidated-looking casino and she took over for the final push home to Fernley. We didn't stop in Reno or even in Sparks, because I know we won't be able to make this month's Lightning Loot drawing, so there's no point in my tickling my club card at the Nugget for an entry.

Once we got home, it wasn't too awfully hot on account of the sun was mostly down and it does cool off some here at night. I walked over to the roadside stand on Main Street and bought us burritos while Lisa worked on unloading the U-Haul. The AC in our trailer had made a little dent in the heat as we had dinner. After recovering a little, we continued the task of unloading the van and U-Haul, which took around two hours. We were relieved to get it all unpacked and soon thereafter headed back to bed, delighted to not have to set an alarm on account of I had taken Thursday off from work as well.

After around eleven hours of sleep I felt slightly more human. Around noon or so, we agreed that no cooking was to be tolerated, and that we needed lunch meat to use with the good bread. While the U-Haul wasn't technically due back until Friday morning, there was no need to put off returning it since it was now empty. The U-Haul dealer is also the local RV repair place where the man had told Lisa it would be cheaper to replace our refrigerator than to repair it. Returning the trailer was very informal. At Lisa's suggestion, I took pictures of the trailer disconnected from the van and parked in their lot (and clearly showing the trailer number) in case there are later any questions as to whether we returned it on time.

Then we got some groceries. While we're happy to have a full grocery store in town, Scolari's is no Roth's. While Lisa is much better off overall here in Fernley, one thing we definitely miss is the friendly service and excellent selection of Roth's groceries. If you're in the Willamette Valley area looking for a good place to shop for groceries, skip the national chains and buy from Roth's instead.

We went home, had lunch, and spent most of the rest of the day huddled under the air conditioning in the trailer. Lisa periodically went outside and sprayed water on the outside of the trailer. With the humidity below 10%, we figured the evaporative cooling couldn't hurt.

Tomorrow won't be fun. I'm working from home, and there's no AC in the house. I plan to get up very early so I can, I hope, work something like 5 AM to 1 PM and then go take refuge under the cooler again tomorrow afternoon. Yes, Lisa wanted to move to a hot and dry place. This is still better than Oregon. That doesn't mean it's perfect, and proper heating/air conditioning systems for at least part of Fernley House are things we need to get done this year. It's all a matter of how much money we have and how much we can get done, since the last thing Lisa wants to do is to stampede into a cheap-and-nasty solution the way her siblings would do. As she never wants to have to move again, whatever solution we pick needs to be something that will stand the test of time.
Tags: fernley, house, lisa, travel, van
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