Trip to California: Seeking Gaps in the Storm

January 22, 2010

Last week, Mr. Pencil and I flew to Sacramento, rented a forgettable car, drove five hours south and helped his parents plan a vineyard planting at their Arroyo Grande home. Then we drove north again through a fierce tempest to see my aunt, uncle and cousins back in Sacramento.

Dull synopsis aside, I learned several important things on this trip:

  1. The Nissan Verso is the world’s most forgettable automobile. I yearned for the halcyon days of our previous Kia rental. Yes, it’s that vapid.
  2. When the weather service says that it’s going to rain something like sixteen inches in the span of a few days, that means it’s going to rain, hard.
  3. If you find the right winery, the Central Coast can, I admit it, turn out an intriguing Pinot Noir. To think I’d relegated them to Rhone varietals! The nerve!

Our flight down was intriguing. Just before boarding, it was announced that the plane might end up in Oakland instead of Sacramento. My reality required me to be in Sacramento, and this made me nervy. In the end it was mostly hilarious. We coasted into SMF above a long bank of low clouds—just how low was suddenly clear when I could make out individual starlings flying out of it. Into it we went, and then the guy in the seat behind me shouted “Wow!!” and then there was a slight patch of green and we were on the ground. I don’t know what the visibility was, but it was quite literally about one or two seconds between Mr. Behind-me’s exhortation and, as the flying veterans say, wheels down.

“As you have probably noticed, we’re here,” said the unfazed flight attendant over the PA.

A break in the storm on Flickr

A break in the storm

I also learned a very key piece of information for healing freaky-fliers like myself. PDX has special dispensation from the clingy OLCC (our liquor harpies in this state) and can serve booze as early as 5a.m. (I think it’s 5) as long as you can produce a boarding pass. It’s never too early for a Bloody Mary at the concourse C Gustav’s!

Most surreal trip moment: the Nissan Ennui is maxed out at 72 or so in the hammer lane on I-5 northbound, hemmed in by a semi, when a four-foot diameter tumbleweed enters the lane from the left. “Shit!” I shout after bracing for weedy impact and I feel bad about this because David is on the phone with a local farm supply pricing out baling wire for vineyard installation and now family-values store proprietor man—whom I absolutely envision in overalls and who definitely squints from years in the sunny fields—has to endure my potty mouth. Sorry!

A run-in with tumbleweed on Flickr

A run-in with tumbleweed


  1. Todd says:

    I did not know, until you forced me to look it up on Wikipedia, that the official alcohol-purchasing hours in Oregon are from 7 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Unless you’re in the airport, I guess. Interesting. How is Gustav’s bloody mary? Also, I tend to imagine the curse word you used as one with which agricultural workers are quite familiar, and thus do not find it terribly offensive.

  2. Mikey says:

    I believe that is a Nissa Versa. The annoying thing is that there is a Toyota called the Verso. As if it weren’t nondescript enough, it’s got to contend with having almost the same name as another car. “Is that the new Corolla you’ve got there?” “No, it’s a Nissan Corollo.” Sheesh.

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