On the road in search of olive tea towels and bits of granite

Yesterday we drove up I-5 to Grant’s Pass. Here’s all the things I noticed and enjoyed.

Coming up 505 there were lots of flooded fields that I thought might be growing rice. I fell in love with the lady behind the counter in a Carl’s Jr. somewhere along the way because she seemed so sweet and earnest and vulnerable, like the heroine of a Patsy Cline song. Everyone else in the Carl’s Jr. knew each other and talked about their plans for the weekend, asked after family members, and so on as their kids and grandkids played on the play structure. A guy who in former decades I would think of as a hesher came up to me. “Love the wild hair, I have to show that to my son – his favorite color is purple.”

Further along, in Corning, after about 1 million billboards for a place called the Olive Pit, I got off the highway and had a similar experience in the Travel America truck stop. A woman in a TA vest liked my purple hair and yelled “Hey Mom! Come on over here!” They liked my hair and then I went to the bathroom passing a big sign for Trucker services in the Trucker Chapel. Wow, a truck stop with a *chapel*. I had this picture suddenly come into my mind of the Holy Grail appearing and disappearing at a truck stop feast table near the combination pizza hut and taco bell. There were two other obvious OLIVE *** places so I went down the road to the Olive Hut, a big round topped metal building with plastic barrels outside. Not sure what I was hoping for; I love olives, olives with weird things in them, and felt there might be a warehouse full of kitsch, and if I could get an Olive Capital of the World magnet or tea towel something in my soul would be road-trippishly satisfied. Alas, no trinkets but a mostly empty echoing warehouse with some very nice and cheap olives. I tasted and bought chipotle and garlic-jalapeño stuffed olives plus some slightly out of place salt water taffy. The kitsch was probably all at the place with the billboards. I pictured big fiberglass olive shaped structures making up a playground and photo opportunity, where you could get into the fake olive with your head sticking out and take a stupid picture. If that doesn’t exist, it should…

There was an interesting sign somewhere along the way, “Stop the Thermal Curtain! Save Lake Almanor!“. A thermal curtain (said my driving companion Oblomovka from browsing on his phone) is a thing they install at the bottom of deep lakes to stir up the cold water that sinks to the bottom and sent it out and down stream to benefit the fish, or fishermen, or both. “Waiit a minute is this something that the power companies say is for the environment but is really to offset their own thermal pollution…” Not sure and I need to look it up. The “save the lake” guy sounds slightly batty on his web page. I want to believe!

Must go to Lake Shasta Caverns on the way back, OMFGBBQ! A boat ride, bus ride up the hill, and then CAVES. I love a cave, wet or dry. Show me the flowstone, baby!

We got off the highway again at Weed to go to the Silva BBQ, which was very good but very, very salty! It’s worth a stop for the amazing view from their deck of Mt Shasta and the Black Butte volcanic plug. Thank you, Roadside Geology of Northern California, for all the great explanations of geologic features. I failed to buy some funny postcards that said “WEED” on them.

A brief stop to lie in the grass under the trees at the Rogue River state park … I get very stiff while driving and have to pee like once an hour and am very curious about the things nearby the highway, in case you’re wondering why I stopped like 6 times on what should be a 4 hour drive… I thought of how if I were younger I’d be climbing all the trees in this rest stop and running down to the riverside but it was the end of the day and nothing other than lying on a picnic blanket was going to happen. The wind picked up as we lay there and made the tops of the tallest pine trees sway beautifully like little anenome-like tentacles of branches of coral.

In Grants’ Pass we stayed at the Sweet Breezes motel, very nice, with a funny pink painted sink, funny green splotches decorating the bathtub wall — someone learned to paint porcelain. A bookshelf with readers digest condensed books. A slight carpet cleaner smell but it aired out and was tolerable. A fridge and microwave (no coffee in room – only in the lobby) and nice bath stuff. Pink and green towels and bedspread, rather sweetly matching the painted sink… someone made an effort.

Dutch Brothers coffee kiosk. More chit chat which I got to overhear. Two guys in the kiosk argue about breakfast place advice. Ray’s Supermarket breakfast burritos (tempting!) Della’s for a step up from Denny’s and some people say it is the best breakfast in town. I drove around with my coffee seeing the preparations for Boatnik.

Ended up at the Powder Horn Cafe which was a classic and gorgeous little diner with longhorn horns over the menu on the back wall, a case of homemade pies (flavors chalked up on a board nearby) and a waitress with a lot of eye makeup and one of those sarah palin hair thingies calling me honey. I adored all the waitresses. A lot of people in here look like regulars and all chat about their weekends to each other and the staff. The rye toast was not the gross kind that has been in the freezer for years but was fresh, thick, and soft, eggs nice, homemade hash browns (a LOT of them) and coffee at my elbow topped up every 5 minutes. They had a charming thing called Table Talk with knock knock jokes, funny headlines, local history and so on. I’d go there again, especially for rhubarb pie. They were really nice even though I was an out of towner and taking up a whole table with my newspaper and notebook and giant plate of cheap poached eggs. (Breakfast was… 6 dollars total with tax. !!)

Powder Horn Cafe, Grants Pass

Other bits of Grants Pass that I noticed while driving around: the caveman statue, cute downtown with ads painted on sides of old buildings, a piercing shop, something with a betty boop sign that could be a sort of homegrown hot topic for the alty teenagers, a theater where Henry Rollins is coming tomorrow to do spoken word (!!!!!) Cute well maintained small businesses everywhere so a) it must be cheap to live here b) the city must encourage and foster them very well. I thought the downtown was missing a hotel or two or fancy bed and breakfast – instead the motels are all near the highway, understandable, but as a tourist I prefer to be right in the cute downtown where I can walk (or wheel) to everything without getting in my car.

In my little fantasy world (where there are also giant olive sculptures and Olive Capital tea towels) I putter around the tiny shops, cafes, small town history museum, and riverside park without having to drive and park and drive and park. The local paper described Boatnik, a 50 year old boat parade and picnic, sounds like fun, beer drinking by the river and so on, lots of small town competition of who can build the coolest float and I’m always a fan of that, eat your heart out pretentious Burning Man artists. I would SO go to Boatnik! As long as no one beats me up or anything – I find small towns fascinating but a bit scary, to be honest! Clearly Grants’ Pass is trying to transition from being a logging town to being a tourist town and they’re doing a good job of it.

Onward to Portland! My goal today is to pick up some rocks from a stream bed! It would be nice to see something that isn’t serpentinite … how sick I am of the Franciscan Melange. Some granite maybe – is that too much to ask? The problem here is that I can’t walk all that far, so it has to be a riverbed right next to a parking lot.

I forgot my camera so the photos of this trip will all be cameraphone. Everything is so lush and green and rainy here!

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