Thinking back to a time of innocence and utter freedom along the backroads of Mendocino County.
The last time I was up and over the mountain was close to 27 years ago. Back then my buddy Ryan and I were doing a lot of back country adventures in my beat-up 1985 Subaru hatchback. This dusty road, from Dos Rios to Laytonville, was well-known to me from an early age. My mother used it fairly often when we fished the Eel, and later on when she was a delivery driver for Airborne Express. During those years of my roadtrips with Ryan, we were always looking for some place different to explore. This came up once and we jumped in the car and took off!
With music blasting and the windows rolled down, we traversed the 101 corridor to Longvale, and then ventured up the Covelo Road toward the two rivers; from time to time stopping for cannabis breaks. It was fairly uneventful, but a nice day to be out and about regardless.
A few miles west of Dos Rios, I slowed to a crawl after we saw an old man walking along the side of the dirt road ahead of us. My Subaru's engine was kind of loud, enough to alert this wanderer of our presence. He stuck out his thumb without even looking behind him, and after a quick debate, we decided to give the man a ride.
He was a grungy character; a back-to-the-lander who had come up to Mendocino County in order to grow crops of sensimilla. As we continued on our merry way, the old man opened his backpack, pulled out a can of cheap beer and popped the top. It was on!
He proceeded to tell us stories about the mountain and how it was the center of the universe for weed. "Da mountain be gushin' wadda braddahs! If yous has wadda braddahs, yous be king! King!" As teenagers, his stories seemed larger than life! He was a crazy old fellow who loved to talk between gulps of beer.
By the time the three of us reached Laytonville, the old man was four brews in, loud and jovial, and more than happy to leave us his last two as payment for the lift. We thanked him, said our good-byes and politely declined the alcoholic beverages. After leaving the Chevron station, Ryan noticed two unopened beers in the back seat. Damn.
"Da mountain be gushin' wadda braddahs!" became an inside joke for years to come.
And that was the last time I drove up and over the mountain; until May of last year.
A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the State of California had somehow deemed self storage facilities to be essential businesses. With worries and woes about the future from everyone who walked through my office door, I was beginning to feel like a therapist, or at least a bartender, and needed some form escapism in order to keep myself sane.
With a car to drive and a spark for photography again, along with boundaries set by the government during this time of crisis, I was going out to places that were all too familiar to me as a teenager; places long sinse forgotten with the passage of time though. As restrictions began to ease, my mileage radius began to increase.
On the 19th of May of last year, I left the office with no real agenda in mind. I simply wanted to be on the road with the windows rolled down and music blasting.
Up and over the mountain?
Sure, why not.