…we left the helendale desolation and wended our way through the mountains. the landscape shifted slowly before our eyes. flat, dead, and yellow weeds and tumblers became multiple shades of green seas of sagebrush, with a smattering of joshua trees. that scene gave way to scrubs and then wind sheared pines.
we arrived in buttonwillow for gas, a potty walk for buggs, and cheap cheeseburgers at mcdonald’s…which we ate bunless…not the best meal, but cheap and easy road protein for both of us. the 76 station had a nice grassy area for travellers to grab a bite to eat and relax.
buggs headed for that deep, lush, green grass and began rolling around, kicking up his heels. he was suited up in his blue and white, clearance, hanukkah harness from petsmart and he was trying to wiggle out of it. i told him beforehand that there would be, “no funny business” and mean mama put an end to his mirth…of course, not before taking photos and making an animation.
there were short, squat, palm trees and wild daisies growing. there were big rigs coming and going. there were interesting signs and road signs everywhere. the sun was setting and buttonwillow became the perfect setting for some dramatic photos.
as i looked across the freeway onramp, i saw a very familiar sign and place. this wasn’t my first time in buttonwillow and it wasn’t my first time staring up at the big, blue, square sign with the red, number 6 inside of it. we used to stop in buttonwillow on our way up north to washington state, during our family vacations, when i was a kid.
however, i found myself reflecting on the last time that i stayed in that motel 6. it was when me and k***y, m*****a and p**l, and our six cats were moving from san diego to vancouver, washington. my dad drove our enormous u-haul truck and pulled a trailer with my 1993 ford escort wagon (courtney car) on it.
it was february 13, 1996. it was right after the great downpours and flooding along the willamette and columbia. both portland and vancouver were pretty soggy, but we…rather “I” was dead set on starting my new life in my beloved pacific northwest. nothing was going to stop me, come hell or high water. and, we had both.
on february 12, 1996…me, my sister, and my nephew went to pick-up our original hertz truck. it was brand new and never yet used to haul. i drove it off the lot, got to the stop sign and stopped. then, without moving anywhere, we were hit head-on by a drunk driver. my nephew and i both hit our heads and ended up with concussions. my sister hurt her neck. we lost valuable time in the emergency department of grossmont hospital.
we had to rush around and try to finish packing the truck. we left so much behind, because it wouldn’t fit. there was a hole in the wall from when my ugly, old recliner failed and met it with a crash. the drain in the tub was clogged, but we left a bottle of jaegermeister and a bottle of absolut in the freezer…with a note. it was one of the best places that i’ve ever lived, with great landlords and owner. a few weeks later i received my security deposit minus fifty dollars to fix the hole.
we left san diego much later than planned, around 2000. it was dark and k***y and i drove in her car. we followed my dad, my nephew, and my sister in the u-haul truck, which was pulling the trailer with my car…which incidentally, held our six cats, in carriers, in the cargo area.
my last lingering memories of my beloved san diego, were first seeing twelve bright and i’m guessing very pissed off kitty eyes staring out at us. and second, watching the door on the back of the u-haul truck as it danced around and became unlatched when my dad hit a bump. we watched helplessly as the door opened up and rose higher and higher.
k***y flashed her bright lights and my dad pulled over, but watching our vacuum cleaner sway halfway out and then sway back in, made for two anxious people. we knew that at any moment everything that we owned, could become roadside fodder. we were very fortunate that we lost nothing. my dad stopped and we resecured our load.
as we were coming down the grapevine that night, it was pitch black except for the yellow, orange, and red sparks flying off of the u-haul’s brakes. my dad was more and more noticeably having a hard time slowing down. we approached buttonwillow and my dad made a hand signal pointing out the window.
we followed as he exited. the truck came to rest in the motel 6 parking lot. cell phones were not really available at the time, except for those giant, weird looking precursors. hotels and motels didn’t accept pets. those were the days…not really!
we checked in and got two rooms. we had to sneak the six cats in…in the middle of the night. i was in charge of calling u-haul and getting the brakes fixed. k***y was in charge of feeding and watering the cats. and, m*****a was in charge of putting p**l to bed and getting him to sleep.
they came and fixed the brakes on the truck. i went out and oversaw the production. i came back to the room exhausted and needing to sleep, but when i opened the door, displeased kitties tried to escape, p**l was crying, and m*****a yelling. apparently, my cat john rotten, peed on the sleeping duo. nobody got any sleep that night.
it was beautiful and surreal to be back in buttonwillow. i soaked in the memories and then, we pointed the car north toward sacramento and drove on. it was smooth sailing into the sunset.
and then, coming into the san jose area, it was pitch black, with road construction and traffic revision cones. there were winding and twisting roads for about forty miles. it was anxiety inducing, as i really don’t see that well at night. however, we came through it with flying colors and landed safely and soundly in fremont.
when we arrived, i didn’t know exactly where we were, other than fremont. i knew that i needed to use a restroom, as i didn’t use one in buttonwillow. however, i stopped at two different 24 hour gas stations/convenience stores and neither allowed customers inside after 2200. i realized that i was shit out of luck.
we drove to a parking lot that i deemed to be safe. it was a denny’s parking lot. i found a spot next to some lush grass, got buggs out, and began walking him in the grass. we were in the middle of a triangular green, grassy oasis and i heard a sound.
mind you, it was a sound that i’ve heard before, but i couldn’t place it. it began as a low hiss, like a snake. and then, it hit me…quite literally. within seconds, buggs and i, were soaked to the skin. we were being sprayed by sprinklers coming from every direction. neither buggs, nor myself were amused. i’m sure we looked like quite the duo…two drowned rats.
we walked back to the car, both of us soaked, and me with a full bladder. i grabbed a towel and dried buggs, put him in his bed, and secured his leash. i got another towel out and dried myself the best that i could and got into the driver’s seat…well, bed really.
i returned some text messages and set my phone clock for 0600. i tried to play some solitaire to clear my full mind, but then i got warm and cracked the window. i was exhausted and knew that i needed to sleep, as i knew that the next day would be long. i got a light flannel throw and put it over my eyes to block out the light. i must have fallen asleep right
more tomorrow…here are some photos from this leg of our journey: