Last week I went to northern California to visit some friends and to install a small solar electric system for a friend of a friend. I used to live down there, in Humboldt County, about an hour south of Eureka on the coast. It was the first real road trip in the recently repaired diesel Jetta that is featured elsewhere on this blog.

I like going down there at this time of year. Everything is so green and flowers are starting to pop up everywhere. And the coastline is beautiful.

ocean and rocks

On the way into California, along highway 199, the road drops into the Smith River drainage and follows it down towards Crescent City on the coast. I have a favorite stop that I make almost every time, a little turnout where you can walk down and sit by the river.

smith river canyon, california

I took this picture underwater with the little waterproof Pentax. The color of the water is just about perfect for steelhead fishing.

under the surface

South of Crescent City, there are numerous places where you can see elk herds. I actually pulled off this time and took a couple of pictures of the elk and their warning sign. Do not approach on foot! Yeah, no kidding…

do not approach on foot!

While waiting to meet the person who needed the solar panels installed, I took a little drive through one of the many redwood groves, and got out and hiked around a bit. This forest type is very different than what I am used to in Washington. The dominant softwood of course is Coast Redwood, and the main hardwood is Tanbark Oak, not a true oak in the Quercus genus, but it produces acorns like an oak tree. Its latin name is Lithocarpus Densiflorus. It is the only Lithocarpus outside of Asia. I used to work at a small sawmill that was focused on making lumber and especially flooring from tanoak, which is considered by the mainstream softwood industry to be a “trash tree”. We made a lot of really beautiful boards from this “trash tree”. Other hardwoods include oregon white oak, black oak, canyon live oak, bay laurel, and madrone. One of the few things I miss about living in California is the smell of woodstove smoke from all these spicy hardwoods. Lovely!

tanoak and redwood forest

Saturday night, I was all done and headed back to Portland. The car had been running flawlessly the whole trip, and I had done my 1000 mile head gasket retorque the day before. I was zipping along south of Albany, OR when it suddenly started running ragged and quit. I got over to the shoulder and tried to get it going again, but to no avail. It took a $400 tow truck ride to get to Portland, where the car is sitting right now at a friend’s house. I will head over there tomorrow to pick it up. Once again, I curse my failure to have purchased AAA towing insurance!

Initially I was hoping it was just a plugged fuel filter, but it seems to be more serious than that; I wasn’t able to get it going again even after a new filter. I’ll tear into it again when I get it home.

Ah, the joy of owning and working on old cars!

tow truck