(Please join me in welcoming Rave Reviews Book Club Spotlight Author – Bette A. Stevens!)
As a save-everything-I’ve-ever-written-writer I put together a short story for you. During a brief three year jaunt along my journey as a writer (1995-1997), I kept a special journal to document what we still refer to as our California Vacation. I’m taking a small section from my journal to rewrite for this post. Our 2014 winter in Central Maine has been brutal. We still have over a foot of frozen snow in the back field. It’s been a long and bitter New England winter. A trip back in time to bask in the California sun sounds pretty soothing to this Mainer right now. So here we go.
It was hard to believe we were leaving as we headed southwest in our 1988 Camaro on a 3,700 mile journey over interstate highways that would lead us to California’s High Desert. Dan had accepted a three year internship with the U.S. Air Force that he couldn’t turn down. We kept telling ourselves that the next three years were going to be one long vacation. And, we planned to enjoy every moment of it.
By the time we crossed the Mojave in late August of 1995, desert temperatures were in the triple digits. We found a one-bedroom apartment in Lancaster, a small-by-California-standards city, near the base. We spent our first week basking in the sun. The terrazzo-roofed adobe complex, immaculately landscaped and complete with pool, sauna and weight room was as luxurious as a fine Caribbean resort.
By the end of the first month, our vacation resort complex, well-secured with iron gates and alarms, began to take on the appearance of a stockade. I figured I just needed time for The Golden State to grow on me. After all, 20 years before, adapting to a country lifestyle in Southern Maine after leaving New York’s suburbia proved to be an unexpected pleasure. Maine—The Pine Tree State—a place where breathing fresh air and not getting stuck in traffic are the norm.
The desert, the mountains, the cities, the night life—Californians seem to have it all. The Golden State is pure bliss to the vacationer or to natives who relish the relentless sun and the fast-paced excitement of highway driving and milling through crowds as a steady diet. California has its perks.
Our first year in The Golden State took us over more than 3,000 miles of highways and byways. I had little doubt why vacationers return again and again. In a state that covers more than 164,000 square acres, there’s plenty to see and do.
Our first of many trips along The Pacific Coast Highway began at Morro Bay and took us north to Eureka. It was nothing less than spectacular. As we approached Eureka on the northern coast, protected groves of 3,000-year-old redwoods towered above us in majestic splendor.
From there we headed inland. We drove through the Sierra Nevada’s over The Gold Strike Highway that climbs, descends and winds like a gargantuan roller-coaster along precipices of mountain canyons, to explore Yosemite National Park where El Capitan—the world’s tallest terrestrial monolith—rises to a height of more than 3,600 feet above the valley floor.
Before we’d arrived in The Golden State, I was pretty sure I knew where California got its moniker. I’d suspected it grew from the fame of its Gold Rush Days. Later I learned that the nickname adopted in 1968 was derived not only from the 1849 Gold Rush, but also from the fields of golden poppies that can be seen each spring throughout the state.
By the end of our first year of vacation, I had determined that it’s not just the gold nuggets and poppies that claim the gold: it’s also the sun-bleached grasses. No matter where you travel—desert, coast or mountains—the grass has a golden tan hue. It rarely turns green on its own. Extensive systems of enclosed pipelines and aqueducts are as abundant as the state’s freeways. Arid lands metamorphose into productive agricultural vistas of fruits, flowers and vegetables as far as the eye can see. California is a gloriously golden state.
I’m sure that Californians would agree. After all, The Golden State is their home. Freeways run its length and breadth. Recreation runs the gamut, the sun is always shining and Californians are always on the go.
There’s just one problem in a land where changes to sky and land are nearly imperceptible because the sun shines most of the time. I call it solar fever.
Early one morning, a glance out the window threw me into a state of delirium. “Praise the Lord,” I shouted as droplets of H20 splashed about violently in a puddle and danced around on the concrete walkway. As I raised the blind my spirits sank. It turned out to be the sprinkler system watering the verdant floribunda.
This strange solar phenomenon affects California natives, too. That same week, a co-worker returned from a four-day trip to Washington State where it had rained every single day of her long awaited vacation. “I just loved the rain!” she smiled over at me and sighed.
It may sound odd to New Englanders who yearn for more sun, but I think that solar fever can affect anyone exposed to large doses of sun over extended periods of time. The effect is similar to the cabin fever experienced by those of us who have just plain had it with mountainous snow banks, unrelenting sub-zero temperatures and the scarcity of sun for months on end.
Imagine those poor Californians who have to suffer from solar fever all year long. Fortunately, remedies for solar fever abound. A jaunt along coastal highways to stand in awe of giant trees or simply to enjoy the cooling effect of a salt marsh along the Pacific Coast isa sure cure for these solar-induced doldrums.
After the long cold winter of 2014 on the Atlantic Coast, this writer is still awaiting an effectual remedy for her cabin fever—the powerful cure-all is called spring. It’s on its way. It just hasn’t arrived yet. When it does, the snow and ice will disappear and we’ll be walking the two-miles of wooded trails here at the Farmstead instead of breaking trails on snowshoe. Greens of every tint, tone, shade and hue will unveil themselves like magic. Maine is a place where nature is always in the process of change. It offers a way of life that Dan and I have grown to love—a respite where we have the luxury of time to get to know our neighbors, our family and ourselves.
It was a treat not to have to shovel snow from October to April and not to fight black flies and mosquitoes from May to September during our California vacation back in the 1990s. There are winters here in Maine when I long for another California vacation. Still, there’s no place like home. The changing seasons are invigorating. Solar fever and life in the fast lane remain fond vacation memories.
Sunshine image http://www.reallyfreeclipart.com
Find out more about Maine author Bette A. Stevens and her books at http://www.amazon.com/author/betteastevens
Visit Bette’s Website/Blog http://www.4writersandreaders.com
You can follow author Bette A. Stevens on her RAVE REVIEWS SPOTLIGHT TOUR, catch up on any stops you’ve missed and check out other great SPOTLIGHT AUTHORS http://ravereviewsbynonniejules.wordpress.com/spotlight-authors/