It's about 150 miles from Fernley to Yuba City, and we got away from home shortly after 8 AM. We stopped in Truckee for a nice breakfast at the Wagon Wheel Cafe in downtown before pushing on to Yuba City in an otherwise uneventful drive.
This was the first time Lisa had seen my sister since Kelli got out of the hospital. They talked while Mom and I dealt with the business papers. We stayed and talked for 90 minutes or so. Then we stopped for a vehicle errand (the van was overdue for an oil change, I'd forgotten to go by my usual Jiffy Lube while in the Bay Area, and there was one nearby my sister's house) and we turned back toward home.
As we left Marysville heading east on CA-20, we shortly noticed a huge smoke plume in the distant mountains ahead. I stopped where the Marysville - La Porte Road turns off to head up to my home town of Challenge and took a photo standing on the rear bumper of the Astro.
I had a feeling that this fire was going to be on our route of travel, but road conditions said CA-20 was still open, so we pushed on to Grass Valley.
Rather than typical fast food, we stopped at Cousin Jack's Pasties in Grass Valley, where we'd eaten once before when spending the night in GV a few blocks away at the Holiday Inn Express. Lisa had the beef and I had the lamb, and they were both good. It's hard to get Cornish pasties around these parts. It's not like the UK where they're seemingly ubiquitous. (Lisa ate a lot of them during Loncon 3 while I scarfed down curries from the adjacent Indian food stand in the Excel.)
After lunch, we walked around downtown Grass Valley browsing the shops. Lisa found something in an antique store that she'd been seeking for a while for one of her costumes (and that appears to have been a good bargain, too, about which more later if things work out as hoped). On the way back to the van, I snapped this photo of the smoke plume of the fire.
The fire turned out to be the Lowell Fire, which apparently started sometime this afternoon and spread rapidly in the drought-dry conditions. At the time I took the photos, I didn't know exactly where it was, and (mistakenly, as it turns out) thought that taking CA-20 (the "natural" route) home would take us right into the fire zone. We therefore detoured back to the south on CA-174, which was a drive I've wanted to do before but never had done. Today would have been a good day for this but for dodging Cal Fire equipment coming the other way Code 3 lights-and-siren on a narrow two-lane highway. In fact, rather than avoiding the fire, we were driving closer to it.
After stopping to get Lisa a smoothie at Colfax (the pasty was too much for my blood sugar to handle, so I had nothing more), we headed east on I-80. We later learned that the fire was burning to the north of I-80 and that evacuations were happening in the Dutch Flat-Alta area. We didn't know about that when we stopped at the Gold Run rest area and took these photos.
See a tiny spec at the center top of the main plume of smoke here? That's a spotting plane that was flying around over the fire. There are several more photos including this plane in the Lowell Fire Album I created on my Flickr account.
Fortunately for us, we got through the affected area with nothing more than irritated eyes from the smoke. We got home just short of twelve hours after we'd left. It was a long day, but not an impossibly long one. Still, I'm looking forward to not having to set an alarm tomorrow. For the next six weeks or so, such days are going to be few and far between.