Before calling it a day, I went up to the advisory tower and took this shot of our helicopters sitting idle. The weather at the base was okay, but offshore, the wind was howling with the advance of Hurricane Ike, and seas were running more than twenty feet.
I flew into Sacramento because it was much cheaper than flying into Redding. The drag about flying into Sacramento is the two-and-a-half hour drive to home from there. Once I got on Interstate 5 northbound, I called Rhonda on her cel phone to check up. She and Dylan were on the road to Lassen National Park for a campout sponsored by Dylan's school.
The plan was, once I'd arrived home, to change clothes, pack a bag, and head off to meet Rhonda and Dylan that night. Mind you, I'd been up since two in the morning California time. "Are you sure you shouldn't get a good night's sleep and join us tomorrow?" Rhonda asked. I told her that I was sure I could make it after stopping by the house for more clothes.
When I got home, though, I realized that I was exhausted. The nervous energy that had carried me through the hurricane evacuations and the commute home seemed to flow out of me once I walked through the door. I thought about driving on a mountain road at night, with too little sleep. I called Rhonda on her cel phone, but she had no coverage. Damn. I really didn't want Rhonda and Dylan to worry about me. I thought about dosing with a big-time hit of caffeine, and driving the hour-plus to Lassen anyway, but I decided that I'd rather Rhonda and Dylan worry about the possibility of me getting into an accident than learning the next morning that it had actually happened.
Just as I was ready for bed, Rhonda called. Sure enough, she had no cel phone coverage, so she'd driven to a campground store and used a pay phone. We chatted for a few minutes, and she mentioned a few extra camping items I could bring along. It was wonderful to hear her voice, and to know that she and Dylan could rest easy.
Usually, it takes me ten or fifteen minutes, at least, to fall asleep. That night, I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I drove to Lassen the next day to reunite with my family at the campsite near Manzanita Lake.
I'd been away for three weeks, and Dylan hugged me around the neck so hard that I couldn't breathe. The little dude is sure getting strong. With a hug and a kiss from Rhonda next, I felt at home. Home is with my wife and son, whether it's at our own house, a motel room, or a campsite.
We camped next to Uncle E, his wife Sharyn, and their two daughters. Uncle E and and Sharyn are great folks to hang out with, and their kids are so doggone cute that it hurts to look at them.
Later on, Sharyn, Rhonda, and the kids went on a nature hike around Manzanita Lake. Uncle E and I considered going along, but we knew the kids wouldn't miss us much as long as they were together. Besides, we figured that the manly thing to do would be to hang around the campsites to protect them against dangerous predators. While the families were away, we felt the need to bolster our courage in the face of such a grave mission. Some Mexican beer seemed just the ticket. We maybe, just maybe, got a little too involved in conversation, as we discovered later that a Steller's Jay had made off with about half of a bag of peanuts in the shell. But hey, along with talking about music, politics, and religion, we solved about half of the world's problems. It should also be noted that our mission was by no means a complete failure: a golden-mantled ground squirrel tried to stare Uncle E down, but Uncle E steadfastly drove the potential offender away with his icy glare.
Don't mess with Uncle E when he's had a couple of Mexican beers. That said, Uncle E should use caution if he goes back to Lassen anytime soon. Word in the woods is that the golden-mantled ground squirrels have a bounty on him.
He'd better show up with an extra-large bag of peanuts.