California Trip Days 10-11: The Drive Home

Dates: August 13-14, 2021

Our drive home to Beaverton, Oregon from Santa Cruz, California would be 700+ miles so we planned to split it up into three days so we could do some site seeing. Back in the day we would hop in the car and drive straight 700 miles straight through to visit Carla’s family. Heck; in college my friends and I would leave the College of Idaho campus after our last final and drive 800+ miles overnight to get home in southern California.

But we don’t drive nonstop like that anymore. We like to see things along the way. Our plan was: Day 1 to Chico, California; Day 2 up to Grants Pass, Oregon; and home on Day 3. Well, that was the plan; like our July trip, we had to change a bit because of wild fires and smoke.

Mike – a friend from high school days – went to college in Chico and he loved it so I’ve been trying to get there for years to check it out. This was as good a chance as any. I think I live in a big city – Portland – but driving is nothing compared to making your way through the enormous San Francisco Bay area. Navigating through the Santa Cruz mountains to San Jose on California 17 followed by 580 and 680 freeways through the East Bay was stressful. But then we got onto the 505 and I5 where things settled down. Bonus! We got to have lunch again at an In ‘n Out Burger. Score!

We got to Chico in mid afternoon and checked into the Hotel Diamond which has a beautiful Rolls Royce parked out front.

Rolls Royce outside the Hotel Diamond in Chico, California

We had time to stroll through the nice downtown area. Chico State University is located practically downtown so things were pretty quiet since it was summer break. The main roadside attraction for us was the National YoYo Museum!

National YoYo Museum. Chico, California

The museum – located in the back of a toy and game store – has the largest wood yoyo on the planet. And notice all those regular size yoyos in the background.

World’s Largest Wood YoYo. National Yoyo Museum. Chico, California.

I love the way displays like this specify the classification. Reading between the lines, I’m thinking there is a larger yoyo – made of some other material – somewhere in the world. Carla and I will keep our eyes peeled and let you know if we find it.

We asked around and were told the place to eat dinner was Tres Hombres just across from the Campus. A margarita hit the spot.

Margarita at Tres Hombres in Chico, California

After a nice dinner we walked around town a bit more – I had an ice cream cone – and then went back to the hotel. Knowing we had only 250 miles to drive on Saturday, we walked around town in the morning and found the local train depot where the Amtrak Coast Starlight stops. We hung around for a bit waiting for a train to come along, but struck out. Walking through downtown we saw this great mural. I love paintings that look 3D. The artist did a great job making it look as though an existing wall was broken down to reveal a ancient building behind. Even that painted slab of rock on the bottom looks like you could grab it.

Street mural, Chico, California

Eventually we made it back to the hotel to check out and point the car north. After a couple of hours driving we realized things were a little dicey. It seems as though summer travel in the west is plagued by wildfires and the attendant smoke. By the time we got to Redding and Mt Shasta there was smoke everywhere with health advisories on the radio. Reading the news about Grants Pass on the internet we discovered things would be worse up there. So we called the hotel to cancel our reservation and decided to drive the 500 miles home. The hotel was very gracious and didn’t charge us for the night even though we were past the cancellation date.

It was double the drive we expected and our late departure from Chico aggravated the problem. Back to the old times… at least it was all freeway so we put the pedal to the metal and carried on. We stopped for dinner in Eugene and got home around 9:00 PM. More driving than we expected to do but at least we were home.

We had a great trip and it was fun watching the kids experience Santa Cruz, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and more. Good times.

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