It took almost a week for the rain to let up enough so I could travel. I’m now in Fortuna, about 20 miles south of Eureka. There will be two nice days, then a new rain thing will come in. At least I’m on the coast now so there’s something to see.

California Pot, a good read

I’m heading to Eureka tomorrow, and
this article
came out today. It’s by far the most comprehensive and accurate description of the cannabis scene here right now. Recommended.

The Solar Living Center

I’ve written about this place many times. It’s a must-stop when I’m in Ukiah. I was surprised to find one of the very first legal pot shops in California on the grounds. It had just opened, there were two people plus a security guard, they had product, prices were low enough to make me think they’ve made an error. Their claim to fame is that they are totally solar-powered.

What was striking is the setting: the center is a collection of functional exhibits including ponds and gardens and play areas; there is school bus parking in the lot, and the place is obviously prepared for groups. In no state in the union would this be permitted, a weed store anywhere near where children gather. So that was unusual.

It’s also the only legal pot store on US-101 in Mendocino County. Mendo is the heart of the nation’s cannabis, yet there aren’t any stores open yet. Two will open soon in Ukiah, but that’s it for a while.

I don’t expect this place (the solar-powered pot shop) to last for more than weeks. There could be state enforcement, a local lawsuit, or (more likely) a complaint from another store as soon as they get their license for a nearby location.

Parked in Ukiah

I am at the fairgrounds in Ukiah, a place I’ve stayed in many times. Like Sonoma County, it has trailers for the fire victims, about half the capacity of the park, leaving the good middles spaces for us travelers.

FEMA arranged for rv’s on dealer’s lots to put into whatever parking spaces, public or privately run, were available. Last fall they occupied everything. Now they are down to 50%.

So I’m in a regular routine rv park surrounded by model year 2017, varied brands and models, in the 2017 colors, from Camping World. Trailers, fifth wheels, and the occasional motor home, of all lengths and styles.

So what if you’ve never entered or thought about an rv and one day you are forced to live in a, say, 30 foot fifth wheel, unseen by you? Weird, uh?

It’s interesting seeing how a “small” disaster is handled.


The forecast called for a storm to come in today, and stick around for “several” days. It was a beautiful morning so I packed up and left for Ukiah, about an hour’s drive north. If I’m going to be stuck waiting out bad weather, I’d rather be in Ukiah than Santa Rosa.

I got a small look at the fire damage in Santa Rosa. What happened last fall was a typical wildfire: high winds pushed a grass fire around, perhaps scorching the oaks and conifers. Completely normal and natural, and generally harmless. But, recent home building provided fuel. To look at the countryside that burned today is to see nothing but healthy green grass, nice mature trees, and some perfectly fine vineyards. Not a structure to be seen.

This is a natural fire area, fire is routine here. If the houses hadn’t been there, it would have been most ordinary. Nonetheless, Sonoma County voted the other day to issue permits to build again (with one dissenting vote), guaranteeing that the disaster will happen again in the near future. The same that California does with slide-prone areas: Bury the dead, clean up the mess, and build again.

If Sonoma and Napa didn’t insist on building housing developments, they could leave it to grapevines, hay, pasture, and now, cannabis. Ventures that can withstand the routine fires.

I came into Ukiah while it was clear and sunny (the storm came in an hour later) and given the time of year, the brown swatches in the hills marked the cannabis farms. I’ve seen this damage around Ashland, Oregon, and it looks like crap. The amount of the scarring is astonishing. All of those operations (with few exceptions) are now illegal in CA, but moving them to more rational places is very expensive, very bureaucratic, and very time-consuming.

Santa Rosa took some very pro-active moves last summer to provide suitable areas at reasonable cost to correct this, but their plans got interrupted by the fire. It’s planting time, and there are no legal places to plant. Besides, do you know much land costs in Sonoma County? Compared to “borrowing” the public land up in the hills?

Ukiah (Mendocino County) might be the most cannabis-intensive area around, and just last Friday they approved developing a plan to allow sales in town. It seems odd, but the residents don’t buy marijuana for personal use, and the farmers export to the illegal states, so it’s not completely baffling. But it does suggest a lack of forward-thinking.

California legalized and regulated cannabis just nine weeks ago, and is issuing licenses at a fast clip. And, they have already started warning that everyone without a license is illegal. No slack: get your paperwork in right now or be shut down. There is going to be some serious complaining around here pretty soon….

Santa Rosa

SR is about 175,000 population, in a tight place so it’s dense. Streets are narrow and short-lived, making navigating by dead reckoning quite difficult. My gps does what the locals do: get on 101 or CA-12 to go to the next exit to avoid winding around on the surface.

I haven’t seen the burned area yet, but will tomorrow. Today, KQED released the first of what they found investigating the fire. It’s a compelling story, worth hearing if you’re interested in emergency management stuff. The first take-away is that when a disaster reaches a certain size, whatever humans want to do goes out the window. It’s the same as a major earthquake or hurricane: you are on your own. Similarly, the fire took out telephone lines and cell towers, ergo no communications were possible.

Napa, Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties didn’t have a chance to deal with the size of the fire. CalFire is big, but it was beyond them.

So while I’m listening to KQED’s story, it’s being interrupted with updates about a shooter at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville, Napa county. I went by the place yesterday. It’s an amazing building.

Interesting place, as I get to know it….

Touring around

I took a drive to Napa and environs. This is outstandingly beautiful country, with just 2 problems: Too many people, and too many cars. And, while I only want take a drive on country roads, I can’t reach them without using a freeway of some sorts.

I’m hoping to get downtown tomorrow…

Bodega Bay

It was years ago I found Bodega Bay on a birding excursion. It is one of the most beautiful places on the coast. The weather was great, and I touched the Pacific and saw the surf. The county operates an outrageously nice rv park on the jetty that protects the bay, $32 a night for dry camping. Conditions permitting, I’m looking ahead to trying out some places that might be better.

When I reached Bodega Head, a school bus of middle schoolers pulled up and I watched my favorite California scene: every person on that bus was a different skin color. From a teacher with to reddest of red hair and freckles, to a girl that was blue-black, every possible shade was represented. I’ll bet that a dozen languages could be spoken on that one bus.

I miss the ethnic diversity when I’m in the Southwest, or rather the ethnic variety. It’s good to be back.

Santa Rosa

I survived the CA freeway system and made to Santa Rosa on US-101. I asked for a week’s stay without expecting to get it, but was surprised when they managed to invent several spots they apparently don’t use. I’m at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Santa Rosa, of course, is where the fires did so much damage last fall. The rv park is filled with displaced people and workers involved in recovery operations. FEMA provided trailers. I was annoyed with the nice people running the rv park when they kept referring to the folks as “FEMA People” when they aren’t government employees, but Santa Rosans without their houses.

The trailers are regular 30 foot travel trailers (Mallard, Bullet, Pioneer, etc), all from Camping World. Not bad units at all, though to be housed in them against one’s desires is likely not a good deal. But they are loads better than the Katrina trailers that were used.

I’ll have plenty of time to explore this part of the North Coast; I usually stay north of here. The weather is nice today, but it looks like I’ll have drizzle for the duration.

Central Valley

I was in Lancaster, CA last night. Lancaster seems to be a very far-flung suburb (exburb?) from LA. Nothing special but the drive westward from there through the Antelope Valley was fascinating. I personally haven’t seen so many large solar farms anywhere. What that means is the normally empty fairgrounds rv park was half-full of workers on the farms. Reminded me of the time in Texas when the oil fraccers were going at it, and I had to hunt for a parking place.

The drive from Lancaster to I-5 is about 40 miles, and is the California Poppy Preserve. I can’t imagine a worse idea than erecting solar farms over poppies, but then I can’t imagine the need to protect poppies in California.

I picked CA-99 as my route through the San Joaquin Valley rather an I-5. There’s more to see, but the road can be brutal at times. It wasn’t bad today.

My target is Santa Rosa, in Sonoma, as quickly as possible. That means that tomorrow I must drive the East Bay area. The reward is that I will be on US-101, what I consider “home”.

I’d like it if I could set up a week-long base in Santa Rosa, but as I understand it I can probably only get a couple of nights. The fairgrounds is almost filled with displaced fire victims.

When I left Arizona, I paid 2.25 for gas. When I hit CA it was 3.50.