June 24 – July 26, 2021
Less than two weeks after our return to Los Angeles from the East Coast we took off on a planned one month road trip that would be centered around a week-long bike tour, Idaho Trails Relaxed, with Adventure Cycling near Coeur d’Alene. We’d spend seventeen days working our way north through Oregon, cutting over to eastern Washington state and then meet up with the tour. Our first stop, as is often the case, would be in Oakland to see Jessica, Kris, and Gemma.
This is now a very familiar drive up the I-5, stopping once for gas for the car and at a Taco Bell for gas for us. Arriving late afternoon at the apartment, we unloaded the car and began two days of a routine we’ve perfected that saves us money on parking. The streets nearby are all restricted to two hours unless you hold a permit. We usually arrive on Thursday which is street cleaning day and by the afternoon spaces are still available right in front of the building. Kris grabs a spot there and for the next day we switch the cars every two hours, Kris parking his car in their spot in the building. After 6 PM on Friday, parking restrictions are lifted and we can just leave the car, only having to move it when we leave on Monday morning.
As it was time for Jessica and Kris to knock off from work, we fetched Gemma from day care (a block away) and proceeded apace to The Kon Tiki for a bit of happy hour. Like many restaurants, they’d set up outdoor seating pods and we grabbed one just off 14th Street and proceeded to enjoy some rum based tiki drinks (Zombie, Mai Tai, Last Rites, Virgin Sacrifice, Island Old Fashioned, and a Jet Pilot) while Gemma entertained the wait staff and various passersby.
Friday brought our routine of a Oakland Farmer’s Market run combined with another to a Safeway on Grand, for food for the weekend and dinner that night. The next day I took off on a bike ride I’ve done several times, heading north up to Berkeley where I stopped on Solano Avenue to check out a change of ownership sign at Rivoli Restaurant, one of our favorite eating establishments of all time, one containing more memories than any one place I can think of outside of Yosemite. For a number of years, we celebrated New Year’s Eve here with Lydia and Walter and Jessica and Kris.
But nothing lasts forever and so I continued down Solano, picking up the Oholone Greenway which parallels the BART tracks and then connects with the Richmond Greenway Trail. From there its straight into Richmond where after some diversion you hit the San Francisco Bay Trail with runs down the eastern shore of the bay to Emeryville and the familiar route to the apartment.
A quiet weekend followed until late Sunday afternoon when we drove to Alameda for dinner at another family favorite, Speisekammer with Lydia and Walter. I’ve reported on this spot before and it’s plain to see why, its ambience, authentic German cuisine, and fine draft beer selection keep us coming back for more. We started, as usual, with the potato pancakes, and an order of the Nuernberger sausages, finishing up with the Jaeger Schnitzel which Joanna and I split. When in Germany, one can get a bit tired of Schnitzel’s, but when it’s been a while since your last, they are like a bit of heaven in a bite.
We took off for Kamp Angst Monday morning, a drive we’ve made for almost forty years, our visit there in fall 1981 the very first Joanna and I would take as a couple. There have been a couple of years when we’ve missed a stay, but as many people opt for a vacation home at the beach or in the woods, this has been our substitute, our get away in the forests of Southern Oregon.
As has been the case in the past, our timing was spot on for a stop at Bartels Giant Burger in Corning. We’ve been here twice and were a little disappointed the last time with the service and perceived quality, but willing to give it another shot were completely satisfied splitting the larger burger and delicious fries.
We know we’ve arrived at Kamp Angst when we pull off the county road onto Forest Creek and begin the one mile run up this dirt road to the house, commenting on the condition of the road (better or worse than the last time?), how the local crazy Dip Mulch is faring, and other random thoughts until we pull up to the steep drive to the barn and the welcoming visage of the house we’ve come to know so well.
The next day Tom, Joanna, and I drove just southwest of Cave Junction to spend some time at the Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum. One of the four original smokejumper bases established by the US Forest Service in 1943, it has been completely restored and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Smokejumpers are fire fighters that parachute from airplanes into the forest to fight forest fires that have been started by lightning in remote, mountainous regions. The idea is to get to a fire while it is small and easy for one or two fire fighters to put out. In this way they prevent fires from becoming catastrophic events that are both dangerous and expensive to put out.
We entered the office of the complex and met our tour guide Gary, a former longtime smokejumper, who would spend the next two full hours providing us with a complete and personal accounting of the program, its history, its successes, and its eventual demise.
In the oldest existing parachute loft in the United States, we viewed the equipment used by the smokejumpers, including various parachutes, firefighting gear, the protective clothing that was worn and sewing machines. Throughout the history of this base, there were many sewing machines needed to repair parachutes. As many as 17 machines of different sizes were in operation at this base’s parachute loft, most of which were Singer Sewing Machines. The Singer Company noted this fact in an article that featured the Siskiyou Smokejumper Base in a 1956 edition of their company magazine.
The program as it was presented closed down in the early 1980’s, citing cost factors as the reason. However, as of August 2021, nine smokejumper crews operate in the United States, by the United States Forest Service (USFS), and two by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Curiously, Gary didn’t mention this, leading us to believe that smoke jumping as a firefighting tool had been abandoned.
Regardless, it was a fascinating glimpse at an important program and its rich history, and as detailed by Gary one that had an impact on those who were involved. We departed wiser, and hungry for lunch, which would be our next stop at our favorite Cave Junction joint, Taylor’s Sausage.
Kon Tiki: https://www.thekon-tikioakland.com/
Bartels Giant Burger: https://www.bartelsgiantburger.com/
Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum: https://www.siskiyousmokejumpermuseum.org/
USFS Smokejumpers: https://www.fs.usda.gov/science-technology/fire/people/smokejumpers
Taylor’s Sausage: https://taylorsausage.com/