“I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there’s no going back. It’s all very well, to set off on a train with no money telling yourself that you’re really quite a brave and adventurous person, and you’ll deal capably with things as they happen, but when you actually arrive at the other end with no one to meet and nowhere to go and nothing to sustain you but a lunatic idea that even you have no real faith in, it suddenly appears much more attractive to be at home…”
-Robyn Davidson, Tracks
Yesterday I left San Diego; the real adventure began. I got stuck in LA traffic for hours, gratefully made it through the Grapevine without hitting any weather, and drove along quite contently until I glanced at my campground maps at a rest stop and realized I’d very nearly driven through all of the pages I’d copied from my parents’ copy of The Complete Guide to California Camping by Tom Stienstra. Of the dozen sites I’d considered for my first night, only two remained north of me, and after a brief internet search that revealed one had closed down a while back, I fought down rising panic. If this last campground was closed or full, I didn’t know what was past it – I hadn’t copied those pages, certain as I was that I wouldn’t drive this far in one day. Should I just keep driving and pay the extra cash for a room in one of the roadside motels? Would it ruin the integrity of my trip to cave and stay in a hotel on the very first night?
I got off the exit for Lost Hills, and any lasting positivity faded as I turned down the road to the RV park that sat just behind the truck stop; a big sand parking lot with scattered eucalyptus trees, about a quarter full with RVs and large trailers. I paid the fee and was directed to the overflow parking by a chain link fence. The pool was closed. The water spigots near my site didn’t work. I was the lone tent camper at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere.
Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined. The most intriguing dining option was a Mexican food truck planted by the truck washing station, and my sole journey out of the RV park took me to the Valero where I bought a sleep aid and a Mike’s hard lemonade to wash it down. My site didn’t have a table and I didn’t want to set up my stove on the ground, so I ate freeze-dried corn for dinner. The noise from the freeway and truck stop was impossible to ignore.
But I’d already paid the camp fee and sunset wasn’t too far off so I decided to make the best of it and just go to bed early. I let the alcohol calm me down. I called a friend and got off the phone happier. I started reading Tracks, amused that the author so perfectly captured my exact feelings. I got cozy in my sleeping bag. And as the sun went down, the traffic noise was drowned out by the frogs in the pond behind the fence. Suddenly it wasn’t so bad, and anyway it was only for one night.
I woke up early, took a long shower (the one perk of staying at this particular park), and ran into a couple of RVers from Grenada, the town where I’ll be WWOOFing this week. One of the women looked at me with something like envy when I told her about my plans, saying that she didn’t even go to the movies by herself. Her friend’s husband came by while I was loading up the car; he’d grown up in Grenada and knew about the farm I’d be WWOOFing for. None of them seemed to think I was crazy for traveling alone, and I got back on the road feeling much better than when I’d gotten off of it.
Tonight my campsite has a picnic table. My tent is pitched on soft green grass and great big sycamore trees shelter it. The Sacramento River is right across the campground. and although it’s mostly RVs again, there’s one other tent camper here. I cooked dinner on my stove and took photos and ended the day feeling grateful to be on the road; the nagging feeling that I’d made a huge mistake has faded, at least for now. After all, adventure is what happens when things don’t go as planned.