The weather’s shifted suddenly. The clear, warm days of early fall have turned their faces towards the winter. The sky fills with the mountainous, gray spectrum of clouds I’ve only found in the Northwest. Wind and a light but constant rain shortens the view, defocusing the landscape, removing the colors, and turning everything to monochrome. The ocean roars with high waves, crashing on rocky beaches. The blights of recent development that have scarred the coast become nearly quaint, while the decrepit old shops and warehouses look even more decrepit. Drive-through espresso stands are busy: this is the weather that makes even the locals hunch down, stay in their cars, look for stimulation through the necessary winter nutrient of caffeine.
We stop at a little art gallery along the way, housed in a lovely old building right on the highway. Fifteen years ago I bought a hand-made wool hat here. The shop still sells those hats, along with masks and pottery and assorted geegaws of clay and yard and wood and metal. The owners, old long-hairs, do knife sharpening, too, so I bring my long-dull chef’s knife in from the truck and wait a few minutes while the blade is restored. I buy a leather Mardi Gras mask, in preparation for March’s visit to New Orleans and that city’s major festival. It seems a strange purchase, a sort of time-travel talisman, as if I am somehow carrying a piece of Oregon fog to the Big Easy.
The next morning, rays of sun shoot through the redwoods into the windows of the housetruck. This is Trinidad, a tiny old fishing village on California’s Lost Coast, now home to a dozen pleasant little campgrounds and RV parks. The highway is just across the glade, and active this Friday morning. But I can’t see the rushing cars, and they’re going places just like we are. The whooshing of the wheels melds with the caws of the crows above the bathhouse.