#379–My topsy-turvy, totally terrific trip . . .

When my friend, Theresa Baer, moved to the L.A. area some years ago, she told me, “If you can drive 800 miles to see your family in Bakersfield, then you can drive another 80 to see me!” So, that’s what I’ve done three times a year since she left in January 2015. During my visits, we took multi-day trips as well as day trips and had a great time on each visit. But that all came to a screeching halt when Covid hit. I did not go to California between December 2019 and December 2022. I didn’t get to see Theresa for three years; I was really looking forward to seeing her this past December. But because she had some very serious health problems and ended up in the hospital, I did not get to see her.

Fast forward to April 2023. Theresa is home and her daughter and son-in-law are there to help her.

So this past month, I planned a trip to see her as well as my family. My plan was open-ended as far as Theresa was concerned. I had the idea that I might be able to help and would stay as long as she needed me. Well, “the kids” as she calls them, had everything so well organized and scheduled that my help was not needed. I was able to get Theresa out of the house and doing “normal” things, though, which pleased her no end.

Solvang is a favorite place for Theresa and me to visit.

In fact, prior to my arrival, Theresa and I had planned a trip to Solvang if she felt up to it. After I arrived, I found that she needed a walker to go any distance, but could use a cane for short distances, and around the house, she was getting so she didn’t even need that.  Each day, I could see improvement. But “the kids” felt she needed a scooter to get around when we went to Solvang. So, they rented one, and I learned how to take it apart and put it back together. (As it turned out, we never used it.)

I was able to take her clothes shopping, and another day we went to a lamp outlet where she could choose among hundreds of table lamps for the exact one she wanted.

ON the sixth day of my visit, we left for Solvang with the parts of the scooter filling the trunk. We left on a Monday morning and returned the next Friday afternoon. We stayed in a garden lodge a few blocks from the main street where we had stayed once before. It was our third trip to Solvang, so before we got to our lodging, we hit some of our favorite spots. We had lunch, bought shoes at a favorite shoe store, and ate ice cream and bought chocolates at another favorite––Ingeborg’s Danish Chocolates.When we got to our lodging, we found that we were the only room, where we could park right next to our room. And that was good for both of us.

Every day, we went to our favorite bakery for our favorite breakfast of rolls and Havarti cheese. Each day we explored Solvang or the nearby towns. We had a wonderful time. All week, we ate great food and loved our digs with its peaceful garden setting. It did have a chorus of sounds during the night that we could have done without––the heater growled each time it came on, the refrigerator whined when it came on, and the toilet added its own “I can flush by myself” sounds from time to time.

This garden lodge is now called The M in Solvang. We love the peaceful, garden atmosphere.

After returning from Solvang, I was there another week. During that week, we went for a day trip to the coast. We drove through Topanga Canyon to Malibu and up the coast to almost Oxnard, all of which was a trip along memory lane for Theresa. Then we went to Duke’s in Malibu for the best meal of my month-long trip. The dessert was the absolute best. It consisted of macadamia nut ice cream, drenched in hot fudge, and sprinkled with chopped macadamia nuts with a topping of whipped cream. It was to die for. Theresa and I shared a very generous serving.

I spent two and a half weeks with Theresa, and we had a wonderful time, making great memories.

I, who had never driven in the L.A. area except the exact route to Theresa’s house on the northern edge of L.A., was only too happy to let her be the driver on all my previous trips. She was the one who knew how to get anywhere. On this trip, I was the driver, and she was the passenger. That was topsy-turvy.

One of my worst nightmares, is getting lost in L.A. at commute time. And that is exactly what happened to me upon my arrival after being on the road for about eight hours. I knew about where it should be and was looking for it, but I did not see the turnoff sign for the 118 Freeway off of I-5 after going over the Grapevine and through a few towns. So, I continued on. Soon I realized, I really had missed it. I just kept going, trying to figure out what to do. It was a weekday about 5 p.m. and the traffic was getting worse and worse. I turned off at Burbank, and it was total gridlock.

One of my favorite photos of Theresa is with her new sunglasses. We had stopped for a break on our way back from Solvang.

I turned off my audiobook and turned on my GPS. I tapped on Theresa’s address and followed it blindly. We went through a quiet neighborhood, on a few busy streets, on a freeway I had never heard of that was barely moving, and then back onto I-5 going north this time at a stop-and-go pace. From this direction, there were huge signs for the 118 Freeway, and I finally knew where I was. That was short-lived as my normal off-ramp off the 118 was closed. This really was a topsy-turvy start to my trip. And when GPS finally got me to Theresa’s house. I didn’t see it. I was looking on the wrong side of the street. It took me 45 minutes from when I turned off south-bound I-5 to when I arrived at Theresa’s. Thank God, for GPS. The next day, I refused to even get in my car. I needed a day of absolutely no driving whatsoever!

The ostrich had his eye on Theresa’s bracelet.

Other, topsy-turvy happenings during my time with Theresa. Whenever we left Solvang to visit nearby towns in the Santa Inez Valley, I would lose Solvang. So, we got to explore the countryside from time to time. We discovered that in Solvang after 5 p.m. nearly every eatery is closed. So, the first night, we went to nearby Buelton and ate at Anderson’s Split Pea Soup. It was good, and we were starved. One day in Los Olivos at lunchtime, we couldn’t find any place to eat! After much looking and asking folks, we finally found a place. These are tourist towns, and food should be easy to find! Totally topsy-turvy.

We had been to Ostrichland to see the ostriches before, but we went again. We paid to feed them and that was fun. There is a sign that says, “Yes, we like to bite!” And Theresa found out the hard way. She had on a favorite bracelet. Well, the ostrich also liked it and bit her in the process of grabbing and eating it. That was very topsy-turvy!

Back at Theresa’s home, each evening after dinner, Theresa, “the kids,” and I would play a game or two of Scrabble. I hadn’t played since I was in college and just tried for a word––any word that fell within the parameters would do. I wasn’t going for long or complex words, anything that would get me through my turn. Then I got an ‘s’ and piggy-backed on someone else’s genius. I did that again and again with other prefixes and suffixes. By doing that, I got a higher score one night than any of them had gotten before, and I got another high score a second night. Those two nights were indeed topsy-turvy!

Teeta and I went to the Stanford Shopping Center one day to see the beautiful flowers. And Teeta wore her most spring like dress. She loves color.

After 2 ½ weeks it was time to move on, but my sister was in Europe and wouldn’t be home for another five days. So, I contacted my college roommate, Teeta, who has been a close friend for 63 years. She had hoped I would be able to visit her on this trip, but I had not planned on it. When I called her, she was glad to have me. So, off I went, 350 miles to Palo Alto (instead of the 80 miles to Bakersfield I had planned for). Again, a topsy-turvy situation.

We had a wonderful, spur-of-the-moment, visit. We went to Half Moon Bay one day, Carmel another day, and San Francisco a third day. While we were in Carmel, we tried three places to eat lunch and all were closed and where places were open, there was no parking anywhere near. So, we ended up having lunch in Castroville at the only place we saw to eat in town. It was a Mexican restaurant where I had the best tacos I’ve ever eaten. What can I say, but topsy-turvy once again!

After a wonderful few days with Teeta, I retraced my route down Hwy 101 as I headed for Bakersfield 250 miles away. My sister had just returned from two weeks in Europe and just wanted to chill. So, we played crossword puzzles, watched some good movies and visited with friends. I also got to see my nephew while there. We celebrated Cinco de Mayo by making enchiladas and flan. Both turned out great, which was good since we had invited friends over.

My sister, Edna, nephew, Jason, and I always spend a lot of time in the kitchen on my visits. This photo was taken a few years ago.

Then I headed home. I stopped at Corning for gas. By now, I had been filling my car with gas for about a month. I knew what I was doing––or so I thought. When I got back on the road, I realized I only had put in two gallons–– not the 9 I thought I had. When I got to Anderson between Red Bluff and Redding, I took the wrong turnoff and got on old Hwy 99, which turned out to be a very slow route to Redding. I was beat and ready to stop at any motel. The first one I saw, was one of three all located at the same intersection. Thought I was seeing things. So, I picked one. The next morning, it took about 15 minutes of driving around and around downtown Redding before I found an on-ramp to I-5. Still a topsy-turvy trip.  

The next day, I was heading home. As I was passing a car on I-5 about 10 miles south of Yreka, I didn’t slow down right away. As soon as I realized it, I did. The speed limit was 70. I wasn’t the only one to notice my speed. A CHP officer was behind me with flashing lights. I pulled over and got all my stuff together to give him. I had my window down and waited. Then I heard a tapping on the passenger-side window. That’s where he was. So, I put that window down. He told me he had me on radar going 89 mph. He took my stuff and seemed to be gone an hour, but was probably 5 minutes. He told me that he only put down that I was going 75+, so the fine would not be as high and that I should get something in the mail within a couple weeks. If not, call the number. By now, it’s been a couple weeks and I still don’t know what the fine will be.

Then he started chatting, and 10 minutes later, we were best buds. Before he left, I told him that in the 2,500 miles of this trip, this was the fastest I had been driving and he just happened to be there. He said, “That’s why we’re here!” and smiled. In 20 years of driving back and forth to California, this was my first ticket. Later that day, I was very glad to be back home from my topsy-turvy, totally terrific trip.

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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