We left early the first day, having mostly packed up the night before, escaping south from the 8th straight day of rain in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We've gotten up to 80 inches of rain between November and March, so it's a great time to be heading out of town. For example, I've occasionally had to completely build two-story home additions under massive tents during the wet winter months here. Our first stop was eight hours south in San Diego, and the tips I got from online travel forums had us veering east through Bakersfield to 395 and I-15 South, completely bypassing Los Angeles, with nary a single traffic jam. In fact the only traffic jams I hit on the whole trip were near the Mardi Gras parade routes in New Orleans, and coming back into Santa Cruz on Highway 1 North in the last 15 of 5000 miles!
Gail and I stayed the night in San Diego with a favorite aunt and cousin, Naomi and Karen, who fixed us a wonderful meal that was two days in the making. Naomi has a photographic memory for long ago events and told us stories late into the night. I was estranged from Naomi and Karen for the better part of 50 years due to dysfunctional family dynamics and a cover-up in which my parents invented new identities for themselves, but that's another story! I started connecting with them again five years ago and this visit was too short but a pure joy.
The next morning we started east on I-10 for Tucson, in seventy miles passing Buckman Springs Road, the hilly, boulder-strewn turn off that corkscrews down to Campo on the Mexican border, where I spent boyhood summer vacations for several years. This was where my great grandfather, Rufus Jesse Clark, who graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1888 and became one of the first circuit-riding preachers in southern California, homesteaded 160 acres and raised 10 children. As a boy I used to read to him as he rocked on the front porch, blind for his last years, passing at the age of 93 after translating the Bible into a phonetic language so it could be read by people who were illiterate, a common fact of life for many in those days.