Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cast Out Of Eden

Abandon hope all ye who enter… The Sacramento Valley. I made the 730 mile round trip to Placerville today to pick up the flooring. This took me through The Sacramento Valley where it was a blistering 107 degrees. That is not a type-o. It was ONE-OH-SEVEN, and – AND – because I was driving a truck from Eureka, I had no air conditioning! It was brutal. It was like driving through a blast furnace.

To make matters worse – if that’s possible – I have become a weather wimp. From a weather prospective I am the equivalent of a Banana Slug. I require a cool, moist environment. I wasn’t always this way. I grew in South East Texas and spent a few years in So. Florida. I lived about half my life in some of the worst heat imaginable, but I’m just not accustomed to it any more. That is, if you can ever really become accustomed to triple digit temperatures.

For the past week there has been a high pressure system parked over the west that is creating this un-Godly heat. Here in Eureka, though, it has given us absurdly perfect weather. Garden of Eden like weather. Instead of our normal summer pattern of slate gray skies and temps in the 50s, we’ve had brilliant sun shine and temps in the low 70s. On Tuesday we broke a record for the day with an all-time high of 74 degrees.

On the way out of town this morning I passed by the electronic marquee at The Bay Shore Mall. It said 3:11 AM and 51 degrees. When I rolled into Placerville about 6 hours later, shortly after 9:00 in the morning, it was already 96 degrees. I haven’t felt anything hotter than 78 degrees in 3 years or so. The owner of the mill wanted to chit-chat and I all could think of was I’ve got to get the hell out of here before it gets really hot. As if 96 isn’t really hot.

The Sacramento Valley lies between two mountain ranges. When the high pressure system sits over it it compresses the air and it just keeps getting hotter and hotter and hotter. On the south side of The Bay Area there is The Central Valley that gets just as hot, if not hotter. Needles, CA, in The Central Valley, hit 123 on Wednesday. Both valleys are long and flat and mostly agrarian. Aside from the State Capitol of Sacramento there isn’t much in either of them. Interstate 5 runs down the middle of both valleys and there are dozens of little blink-and-you-miss-them towns along the way.

Placerville is just up in the hills above Sacramento, on the way to Lake Tahoe. So, at 9:30 AM I leave Placerville and head towards Sacramento. By the time I get to Sacramento, about an hour later, it is already over 100. I then head north on I5 up the valley. Around 11:30 I stop in this little speck of a town to eat lunch and it is 107! And remember I have no A/C in the truck. It is unbelievably hot. From there I take state highway 20 west to get over the little mountain range so I can get on Highway 101, which leads to Eureka. It is about 90 miles over Highway 20. This road is 2 lanes winding through the mountains and it is hotter than hell. Again, to make matters worse, the road is clogged with tourists going to Clear Lake at the top of the mountains. RVs doing 35 MPH and absurdly large SUVs pulling absurdly expensive boats that aren’t going much faster.

I call them mountains, but really they are low rolling hills that climb only a few thousand feet at best. The hills are covered with tall brown grass and dotted with canyon oak. They are quite beautiful when you’re not behind an RV doing 35 MPH and the temperature is still well over 100. After about 20 miles of that they start to look more like something out of Dante’s Inferno. The sun was coming in the driver’s side window, along with the hot wind –again - made it almost unbearable. You don’t want to move. It is just so freakin’ hot. My arms are different colors now because one was in the sun and heat for hours on end.

When I got to the top of hills at Clear Lake it cooled somewhat but it is still in the 90s. It seems to take forever to get past the lake. The damn thing just goes on and on, and it is dotted with little towns and RV parks and there are a lot 30 MPH zones. As soon as you get past the lake and start down the other side the temperature just starts to climb again. About 50 miles past the lake I stopped in Willits on the 101 to get a smoothie. It is a little after 1:00 and it is 104. I’ve been driving in 100+ temperatures now for more than 4 hours and I’m still 2 or 3 hours from home.

About an hour outside of Willits I saw my first redwood and I thought I was going to cry. The road narrows in to 2 lanes and drops down in to this grove of giant redwoods. The canopy completely covers the road and the shade brings immediate relief. You are no longer breathing scorched air. Instead there is a green, moist quality to it. It is still in the high 80s but it feels good. Unfortunately it is short lived. Very quickly the road begins to climb again. By the time I hit Garberville it is back over 100, but now I’m only an hour from home. After Garberville it is literally all down hill. The 101 slowly winds its way down the mountains to the coast (This is a different mountain range than HyWy 20). After every 10 miles or so the temperatures seems to drop a degree or two. By the time I hit the bustling metropolis of Weott it is in the low 80s.

A half hour later I roll in to Eureka. I pass by the marquee at The Bayshore Mall and it reads 3:25 PM and 64 degrees. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and people are wearing sweaters. I’m home. It took 12 hours and 14 minutes, 723 miles of driving, and a temperature swing of 56 degrees to get the wood for the floor. I will never again go to The Sacramento Valley in the summer for as long as I live. Mark my words.


Gary said...

"I will never again go to The Sacramento Valley in the summer for as long as I live. Mark my words."

I'll bet that if you had air conditioning and were on a quest for a "decent screw" you may change your mind!

Greg said...

OK, for a decent slotted head wood screw I would swim in the river Styx, but not go back in that valley.

SmilingJudy said...

Great story, Greg! Your weather there sounds amazing. I wanna move to Eureka! :)

The McCords' said...

I grew up in Redding...120 degrees on many a summer day. YIPES!
Hey I just retrieved a handfull of lovely slotted head screws out of the doors I got from and architectural salvage place. might check it out...could be a goldmine.