Friday, March 7, 2014

More 1979 California Diaries

May 1, 1979
Back to California

After our hike in the Park, we headed for the sunshine and warmth again. The road was foggy and I sometimes thought impassable. But we made it and soon we saw the valley all lighted up with the sun.
Through the small hills with horses and cows grazing, we traveled. It seemed the farthest thing from California. It was too quiet, peaceful and gentle, nothing like the fast, gaudy pace of L.A. Of course, this nature-lovin' , country town girl was enchanted by this beckoning land. Obviously, I can see why everyone wanted to move West. The West is beautiful and much different from the East.
As the land grew flatter, the orange groves also grew. About a half hour before lunch, I felt like a snack. Herman waited patiently until there were no houses around, and then stopped the car. I hopped out and ran as fast as possible to the nearest tree. I plucked a bright orange made from the sunshine and raced to the Rabbit again.
Immediately, I started at the round fruit. It squirted and sparkled. The white on the rind was so thick and inviting. I couldn't wait to engulf the whole thing in my mouth.
But Michelle shoved her blonde head between the bucket seats and demandingly looked at me. I remembered I must share and broke the sections apart. More sticky spray flew. And everyone had a piece of orange. 
The orange was delectable. The sweet juice swished in my mouth and the pulp melted. It was the best, the sweetest, the organiest, the sunshiniest fruit of any kind I ever had. A representative of California, summer, warmth and wholeness made me want more and more.
Traveling across this long green bowl surrounded by gray mountains reminded me of Kansas and Nebraska. Even the little farm towns with non-brandname stores and storage towers were typical of the Great Plains. The people that weren't Spanish had the Midwestern impression. Little oil wells also spotted the land, another trait of the first western states I visited. Some of the village squares with the old established Victorian style buildings were bringing thoughts of Ohio into focus. But did I really believe I was in California? No.
Bakersfield (doesn't even sound like California) marked the beginning of the pass through the Sierra Nevadas to the long awaited Ridgecrest. This city (Bakersfield) with its hilly outskirts building to the mountains appeared to me as Wyoming or Colorado. With the ranches, horses and cows, the dry land spoke clearly of Laramie. There were no Beach Boys here, only cowboys.
The very narrow two lane highway followed the rocky and dangerous Kern River. The mountain flowers were just jumping into bloom. The grass was a new green only spring can revive. And of course, the sky was blue as ever. The mountains were bursting and so was I with all the beauty I could possibly hold. It was much too stupendous for any human to see. Yet I was seeing it along with many other people. The Lord is most gracious with His gifts. California is a place to rejoice in the Lord.
I noticed slowly the land became drier and the plant life became unfamiliar from the other. Dust was more common now than the mudslides just two days earlier. Still in the mountains, I was already sensing the desolation of the area I was to occupy.
Then we approached the forest of Joshua Trees, so different from this day's morning at the orange groves. They were jaggy and scraggly. The interestingly pretty plants twisted but were short. They only grow about a four thousand feet altitude in a dry climate. Each plant adopts to its environment.
Soon we were at the end of the pass and edging into the foothills. Before the Rabbit, spread the massive desert.
"Ta da! and there's Ridgecrest!" Herman pointed with fake enthusiasm.
I asked, "How long till we get there?"
Herman, realizing I was not picking up his false spirit, answered matter of fact, "About a half hour or so. Not impressed, huh, Mollie?"
Herman feigned his disappointment.
"It's interesting," was all I could murmur. I didn't want to get down on the desert without first really testing it.
Herman, who seriously is a great guide, nodded his head to Robber's Roost. And then we were on the desert floor. Only fifteen miles to Ridgecrest, a giant sign loomed out of the ground: Ridgecrest, Home of Naval Weapons, invited everyone to this town.
We turned down a road and first went through a little town named Inyokern. The biggest happening was a few weeks from this time, a man tried to push his girlfriend from a bar into the street with an oncoming semi. Why, that happens every day in the Shenango Valley! Of course, the Shenango Valley has much more to offer than the Mojave Desert in the way of things to do.
To bear out the last ten minutes of our trip, I played peek with Michelle. She had been growing weary and was enthralled with this new game. I quit when she decided poking my eyes out would be even more fun and I looked at the town.
The road was bumpy because they only spread tar on the sand. The houses were all quite new but walled in. The little stores on the corners with gas stations and the drive-in were definitely something out of a ghost town movie. I couldn't believe how desolate the life seemed already only after a few minutes of observance.

We pulled into the garage of Diane and Herman's mustard color house. The abode was large and 'H' shaped. On the left side of the 'H' was the kitchen, dining area and family room all connected. A fireplace was in the family room idea. The middle was the living room and formal dining room with large cathedral ceilings. A fireplace was in the sunken living room, also. The view from the picture window was of the mountains we had just come from. My room was the first on the hall. It was the packing room, full of unopened boxes, and the most comfortable chair that had been in my room in Florida was the only piece of furniture. Michelle's room was next to mine, although the doors weren't side by side but at a 90 degree angle. It was a lovely yellow nursery with baby pictures on the wall. Mine and Michelle's bathroom was green
with two tiny rooms, with the sink and mirror, then the inner one with the toilet and tub filled with Michelle's bath toys. A third room was locked with the owner's possessions. The master bedroom was romantic. It  had the sliding doors to the patio and a large area for dressing and bathing blocked with shutter doors. This room also had a walk-in closet. Herman asked me if I wanted to sleep there. I laughed heartily because when I stayed with them in Florida, for a short time(when other guests had come to visit), I had to sleep in their closet. That is one joke that will never be forgotten.
Herman took me on a fast tour of the desert town. I observed the small hospital where he worked. The only familiar names in the town were McDonald's, Burger King, Safeway, Hallmark, K-Mart and Kentucky Fried.
The little downtown of the few stores gathered haphazardly reminded me of  a make believe town of a little boy's imagination built to size. All the signs for the stores were unfamiliar and painted.
But I told Herman, it was more than what West Middlesex has. And Herman replied, "Yes, but at least Middlesex has the Valley."
I went to bed early, ready to jog the next morning. I slept soundly, yet before I dozed off, I wondered what the rest of the vacation would be.

That ends my journal about California. This was a school assignment for my creative writing class. A few days later, when the teacher had reviewed our journals, she announced couldn't read our journals any more. She didn't know if she could read them again. She said none of us could write. "She is the first person that ever said that about me," I wrote on May fifth, my reaction to her declaration. I continued in my journal as only a Christian eighteen year old could. I decided to pray for her. But I was angry.
I can see as I reread this, I tried hard. A little mentoring may have been in order. Good thing I got that from David Yarian, my journalism teacher. He knew my gift and that I was still immature. How can you really be anything else at eighteen? I had that Philippians 4:13 attitude, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. In a cocky eighteen year old way. I did try to learn from the hurt. I forgave her and still do. She is dead, now, but I wonder if she could read my novels or my blog now, would she still say I couldn't write? (Well, not these last few days. She read that and told the class her opinion on our writing.) I am glad, I never gave up or was discouraged. I continued writing even that year. I didn't believe her. I have immense joy with writing and hope to write every day of my life.
I have many great memories of this first trip to California, which I will tell with more pictures next time. An idea of a term paper were the castles of California, but I didn't really have enough information about that, so I wrote in favor of the death penalty in Pennsylvania, another hot topic at the time, that I had been introduced to when I did my Harrisburg week, with the church in my junior year.
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