Klamath, Calif., Aug. 7, 2016; click to enlarge
Hi there. Remember me?
Paul here, with my first entry in over a month. First and foremost, doubleplusthanks to the Uni Watch crew for keeping this site running while I took my annual August break. The biggest pat on the back goes to, of course, deputy editor Phil Hecken, who went above and beyond (as is his usual way — you’re the best, buddy), but I’m also grateful to Mike Chamernik, Alex Hider, John Ekdahl, and Brinke Guthrie. I also want to recognize contributor and longtime friend/ally Todd Radom. Thanks, guys — you’re all awesome.
As most of you are aware, I was still turning out ESPN content during most of August (in case you haven’t seen it, here’s my annual college football season preview, and my NFL preview will be posted next Tuesday), except for an eight-day period when the Tugboat Captain and I went on vacation. With your kind indulgence, I’m going to tell you about that trip today.
Our plan for this trip was fairly simple: We wanted to see northern California (including lots of redwoods) and southern Oregon (including Crater Lake), a region neither of us had visited before. The most obvious way to do that would be to fly to San Francisco and drive north from there, but then we’d have to travel through Napa and Mendocino and all those wineries, which isn’t our scene. We thought maybe we could go around some of that if we started farther inland — in Sacramento, say. But then the Captain got the brilliant idea of starting in Reno, which, in addition to letting us avoid the wine region, would let us cross through the Sierra Nevada range and also put us in position to explore some other cool sites.
So that’s what we did. We flew to Reno on the night of Wednesday, Aug. 3, and spent the next eight days cutting a wobbly clockwise path ”” about 1,650 miles ”” up and over into northern California, then up the Oregon coast and over into the interior of southern Oregon, and eventually back to Reno, where we caught a red-eye home on the night of Thursday, Aug. 11. This map is a pretty good approximation of our route, although there were lots of little detours and side explorations that aren’t shown here (for all of today’s maps and photos, you can click to enlarge):
One interesting thing about this route is that we were traveling almost entirely within the proposed state of Jefferson, a quixotic California/Oregon secessionist movement that dates back to 1941 and is occasionally in the news. We hadn’t planned to stay exclusively within Jefferson’s boundaries, but it pretty much worked out that way:
Apologies in advance to any quixotic secessionists who may be reading this, but everything I’d read about Jeffersonians indicated that they — like most quixotic secessionists — tend to be willfully delusional crackpots. I have no particular use for willfully delusional crackpots in my day-to-day life, but they can be very entertaining travel diversions, so we were hoping to bump into some Jefferson activists at a bar or diner. At the very least we figured we’d see Jefferson flags or T-shirts or bumper stickers or something. But none of that happened. Dang.
Fortunately, that was one of the very few disappointments in what was otherwise an amazing trip. We saw jaw-dropping natural wonders, encountered all sorts of wildlife, and had a really special random encounter with another traveler. Here’s how it went. (Most of the photos that follow were taken by me, but a decent number ”” including all of the ones in which I appear, obviously ”” were taken by the Captain. In general, if a photo is really good, you can assume it was hers, not mine.)
Day 1 ”” Thursday, Aug. 4: After arriving in Reno shortly before midnight and promptly crashing, we woke up, had breakfast, and made the short drive down to Lake Tahoe (mainly because it’s right there and it’s beautiful, so why not?). We didn’t linger long — just enough to drive a few minutes along the lakeshore and cross over from Nevada into California (honking our horn twice when crossing the state line, a ritual I picked up about 20 years ago). Then we headed northwest to Donner Memorial State Park, which is located on the site where the Donner Party got, ahem, a bit creative with their menu during the winter of 1846-47. The park has a little Donner Party museum (so-so) and a monument whose base is an impressive 22 feet high — the same height as the snow during the Donner Party’s ill-fated winter. I took some pics of the monument, but I neglected to include the Captain (or any other people) in any of the shots. The 22-foot measurement is much more effective if there are humans in the photo to provide scale, so here’s a shot I found on the web:
Man, that must have been a lot of snow.
As we continued to drive northwest, we came across a dilapidated structure that was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It kinda looked like a giant badminton shuttlecock:
I couldn’t figure out what it was, so I posted a photo on Facebook, where a friend replied as follows:
These were “tepee” wood burners. They were adjacent to lumber mill sites and had conveyors that fed wood scraps, trimmed pieces, and odd cuttings into a “fire environment” that eliminated the wood waste, before the logging industry came up with ways to repurpose scraps (like pressed plywood sheets). My grandfather had a mill.
”¨”¨Fascinating, right? Additional info here.
A bit farther up the road we stopped to wet our whistles at the endearingly named and signed Knotty Pine Tavern. As you can see below, it didn’t live up to its name on the outside, although it definitely did on the inside (no interior pics, sorry):
We eventually reached our big destination for the day: Lassen Volcanic National Park, a sprawling site centered on Lassen Peak (largest plug dome volcano in the world, don’tcha know) and filled with hydrothermal activity. We drove some of the scenic auto route and then stopped for a 1.5-mile hike. Because of the elevation, there was still some snow from last winter:
The hiking trail brought us to Bumpass Hell, a steamy, burbling, sulfur-scented site that felt a bit like an alien world. Even the colors were really weird — a range of bleached-out pastels with metallic-ish highlights. Really, really fascinating.
We hiked back to our car, drove the rest of the scenic route through the park, and then headed west to the town of Redding, where we put up for the night, happy to have had an extremely satisfying first day on the road.
Day 2 ”” Friday, Aug. 5: After driving west to the coast, we had lunch at the very interesting Samoa Cookhouse. Originally run by a logging company to feed its crew of lumberjacks, it’s now open to the public with a small logging museum in the back. The food is simple and straightforward, with only two menu options at dinner and only one at lunch. On the day we visited, it was meat loaf:
After lunch we headed south and soon entered the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile stretch of winding two-lane blacktop that runs through grove after grove of massive old-growth redwoods, many of which are right against the road shoulder. It was awe-inspiring stuff — how do you describe how majestic and beautiful these trees are? Seriously, language wasn’t designed for the job.
At one point we parked at a trailhead and went for a short hike amidst these incredible specimens. Effectively photographing these trees is even more difficult than effectively describing them (at one point I laid down on the ground to get a few shots, thinking that might help), but here are some attempts:
No drive through the redwoods is complete without literally driving through a redwood. So when an old-fashioned tourist trap presented itself, we jumped at the chance:
We had planned to film our drive through the tree, but things got disrupted when our car turned out to be nearly too wide. We had to fold in the side mirrors, and I was still a bit worried that we might not make it. The confusion of the moment is captured for posterity in this truly awful video:
The rest of the day was a blur of driving past redwoods, gazing up at redwoods, and generally having our minds blown by redwoods. We exited the Avenue of the Giants and ended our day in the town of Garberville, where we spent the night.
Day 3 ”” Saturday, Aug. 6: On Friday night we had seen a breakfast/lunch joint with a great neon sign that, unfortunately, wasn’t illuminated. But it was up and running on Saturday morning, and I apparently liked it so much that I forgot to turn my phone horizontal while recording it:
That’s where we ended up having breakfast. While sitting at the counter, we chatted with a very nice guy named Bruce — a retired machinist from Reno who said he was taking a few days to tour through northern California on his motorcycle. We eventually said our goodbyes and moved on, but I later found myself wishing I’d taken a photo of Bruce, because I really enjoyed talking with him. Smart guy, interesting guy.
A few hours later, we ended up in the coastal town of Shelter Cove, where we wanted to see the black-sand beach. As we pulled into the beach’s parking lot, the Captain looked out the window and said, “Hey, I think that’s Bruce!” We had just been talking about him a few minutes earlier, so I thought she was kidding, but it really was him! Just a weird coincidence that we ended up in the same place. He was shooting some video footage of the beach with a drone, which was pretty cool:
We talked some more, and he asked about our trip. We told him about some of the things we had in mind for the next few days and explained that we’d eventually be taking a red-eye home from Reno on Thursday night. Bruce reminded us that he lives in Reno (he had told us that over breakfast) and said, “I’ll be back home by then, I love to cook, and I’m 15 minutes from the airport — you two should come over for dinner that night!” We already had plans for the final day of the trip that might make it tricky to fit a dinner stop-over into our schedule, but it was a really gracious offer, and I loved the spontaneity of it, so we exchanged contact info with Bruce and promised to keep him posted as the rest of our trip progressed. Then we parted again, as he peeled off on his bike we went to explore the beach.
It was grey and cold down on the black sand (which was odd, because it had been sunny and fairly warm just a few miles inland), but this was the Captain’s first sighting of the Pacific Ocean and she was determined to get her feet wet. Here is the exact moment where, like Lewis and Clark before her, she finally engaged with the great western sea — and if you look closely, you can see the black sand and pebbles splashing at her shins:
Me, I’d already been to the Pacific plenty of times, so I kept my shoes on and steered clear of the surf. Which was just as well, because the Captain said the water was, and I quote, “really fucking cold.”
We walked some more on the beach, which was completely excellent. The black sand was beautiful, and there were all these polished black rocks at the water’s edge, which made a great clickety-clackety sound as each wave came forward and then receded back into the water (no audio, sorry). At one point we climbed up on a rock that was just high enough to keep us dry while breakers cascaded around us.
Shelter Cove also has a lookout spot called Seal Rock, where you can supposedly see seals lounging on some offshore rocks, so we went to check that out. We didn’t expect to see any seals (what are the odds that the wildlife will be there right when you happen to show up?), but sure enough, there they were — about 15 of them stretched out and looking all lazy on the rocks, plus a few frolicking in the surf. They’re hard to see in these photos, but they’re there:
We said goodbye to the seals, drove a few miles inland (where, presto, it was sunny and warm again), and went for a pretty damn strenuous hike. Then we started driving north through what’s called the Lost Coast. The route involved a series of very twisty, slow, uneven, and often unpaved roads, and the landscape was a series of contrasts: First we were going through more redwood forest, then we went through some very hilly rural ranchland, and then, suddenly and stunningly, the ocean came into view down below us. It was amazing — three different shades of blue! The road descended down to the shoreline, ran alongside it for a few miles (we got out and investigated the beach for a bit), and then climbed back into the hills. Soon we were back in the high ranchland — there were cattle right at the roadside, with ocean still visible in the background! The whole thing was incredible.
We ended up in the town of Eureka, where we split a steak and some fried chicken (turf and turf!) and crashed for the night.
Day 4 ”” Sunday, Aug. 7: Today we headed north up the California coast, beginning with a visit to the World’s Largest Totem Pole, which is exactly where you’d expect it to be — in the parking lot of a Safeway in the town of McKinleyville:
From there we headed up toward Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which is famous for two things: gigantic redwoods and herds of Roosevelt elk. I had my doubts about seeing any elk (see above, re: seal skepticism), but we saw a bunch of them bathing in a lake a few miles outside of the park:
I would have been happy with that. But a few miles later, as we turned off the highway and prepared to enter the park, there were four big elk right there on the exit ramp, munching on vegetation and surprisingly oblivious to our presence:
Wow. So beautiful!
From there we entered the park and went on a long, gorgeous hike (which wasn’t supposed to be quite so long, but we took a wrong turn on the trail and ended up going deeper into the woods than we had intended). This was another dose of redwoods-o-rama, with old-growth trees that were astonishingly large:
The park has its own beach, which is at the end of a long, winding dirt road. We went down there and found it nearly deserted. Once again, the beach was cold and grey, even though the woods we’d been hiking through less than an hour earlier had been warm-ish and sunny. We waded into the surf, picked a few flowers that were improbably growing in the sand, and spotted a seal swimming offshore (you can see his head in the video below) — magic.
As we were leaving the park, we saw more elk by the roadside. Then we headed north toward Trees of Mystery, a redwoods-themed tourist trap. We arrived just as they were closing for the day (just as well, probably) but were still able to take some shots with their giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Check it out — two Pauls and two babes:
We continued driving north as sunset approached. The road mostly stayed close to the coastline, and the light was incredible (no more grey conditions, even at the water’s edge), so we kept stopping to gape at the ocean. At one point we stopped at a particularly beautiful cove, where the waves were arriving in curved arcs, perfectly matching the curvature of the cove:
We pushed on to the town of Crescent City, where we got a room at the Curly Redwood Lodge, a motel built in the 1950s from the lumber yielded by a single massive curly redwood tree. (The term “curly” in this context refers to the wood’s grain, not the tree’s shape.) I loved everything about it: the ample redwood trim; the pegboard where they kept the beautifully simple room keys; and, most of all, the very mod design of the place, a super-nifty zigzag motif created by a local high school drafting teacher. Each downstairs room even has its own little car port! So cool (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):
Day 5 ”” Monday, Aug. 8: Today we said our farewells to California and continued north into Oregon (occasioning another toot of the horn). Oregon has 361 state parks ”” the most of any state in the nation ”” many of which are along the Pacific coast. We immediately stopped at one of them, Harris Beach State Park, and went down to the beach, which was dotted with big, craggy rocks (a few of which I couldn’t resist climbing). It was another cool, grey day, with lots of fog, which just made everything look more spookily beautiful:
One thing you can see in that last photo is that the waves were forming an X-shaped pattern, which I found sort of mesmerizing. Here’s a bit of video footage:
We stopped at another park and went for a short hike, and then visited another tourist trap: Prehistoric Gardens, an outdoor attraction with lots of dinosaur sculptures. It was fun, but not as fun as it could have been, because it pretty much played everything straight, trying to provide solid educational info. I would have preferred something a bit kitschier. Still, some of the patterns painted onto the dinosaur sculptures were pretty entertaining (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):
We hadn’t yet eaten any seafood on this trip ”” or, really, anything local, except for some beers. We addressed both of those issues during a mid-afternoon stop in the town of Port Orford, where we found a little seafood shack down at the local docks and ordered some Oregon oysters and a big Dungeness crab. I’ve never been a huge fan of west coast oysters, and the batch we got didn’t change my mind — very mild-flavored, not briny like the east coast varieties I love. But the crab was really good. Interestingly, it had been cooked that morning and was served to us cold — very different from the blue crabs we have back east, which are usually kept alive at the restaurant and then cooked to order and served hot. Also, the carapace (that’s the top shell) had already been removed — another distinction from blue crabs, which are typically served fully intact and then you have to remove the carapace yourself. I’m not suggesting that either way is better or worse; it was just interesting to note the differences. In any case, it was delicious.
Afterward, we walked on the docks for a bit. By coincidence, a crabbing boat had just come in, and the crew was unloading the day’s catch. We talked a bit with a few of the crew members, which was really interesting, and a perfect complement to the meal we’d just eaten.
They offered to sell us a crab for cheap, which was tempting, but what would we do with it? So we reluctantly declined and then sat on the dock for a few minutes, where — of course — we saw a whale flopping about in the surf (sorry, no photos). Are you fucking kidding me?
We ended up spending the night in the town of Bandon, where a note taped to the microwave in our motel room suggested that other travelers had been more adventurous than us regarding the issue of traveling with a live crab:
Day 6 ”” Tuesday, Aug. 9: Our plan today was to head inland, so we had one last coastline experience by having breakfast on the beach and then hit the road.
Along the way, we stopped at a pretty cool little logging museum and then found ourselves in the mood for a drink. We came upon the perfect watering hole in the town of Winston, where the 99 Tavern has one of history’s most pathos-laden signs. They might wanna think about buying a few more light bulbs, but that would ruin the effect:
Although the sign was in a poor state of repair, the interior was swell, with a very friendly chatterbox barmaid, two gorgeous shuffleboard tables, a 50 ¢ pool table, and a very amusing piece of artwork on the wall:
A little farther on, in Roseburg, we were driving through town when I spotted a sensational neon sign. It wasn’t illuminated, but it was still a beauty:
The shop was open (although it looked like it hadn’t done much business in quite a while), so I stopped in found the owner puttering around in a back room that had lots of antlers mounted on the walls. We had the following exchange:
Me: Really love your neon sign. Do you ever light it up?
He: Not anymore. Paid $2,500 to get it fixed a few years ago, but then it went out again six months later. And the guy who fixed it had gone out of business!
Me: That’s too bad — it sure is a beauty. Do you know how old it is?
He: Sure, I know. My daddy opened this shop in 1951, and that was his sign!
So that was kinda sad, but what can you do?
My friend/hero Jamie Jensen, author of the seminal travel guide Road Trip USA (a book that literally changed my life when I first encountered it in the late 1990s), had recommended that we check out the Umpqua Hot Springs — a natural geothermal site within Umpqua National Forest — so that was our next stop. After going down a bunch of dirt roads and hiking up a short but fairly arduous trail, we got to the springs, which feature a series of pools positioned on a steep incline overlooking a river, with water from the upper pools flowing and draining into the lower ones (this photo is poached from the web):
It was a really beautiful setting, and we tried to enjoy it, but it wasn’t the best experience. Most of the other people at the site were either hippies or dude-bro types, and many of them were in loud party mode. Things went from bad to worse when a chick from the foursome in the pool directly above ours started climbing up the incline to retrieve more beer and pot and then slipped and slid back down the incline into her pool, resulting in serious scrapes on her back and butt. For her friends, this was a source of much hilarity; for us, it meant that she was now bleeding into the water of her pool, which was spilling into our pool. We exited soon after that, although I did get one good photo before we left (not shown: empty beer can that someone left behind at the edge of our pool before we arrived):
We later read that the problems we encountered at the site were fairly typical, at least in recent years. Too bad.
Day 7 ”” Wednesday, Aug. 10: Today we hit one of our major destinations: Crater Lake National Park. I’d always wanted to come here (I drove by during a late-’90s road trip, but it was during the month of May, when most of the park’s roads are still impassable due to snow), and I was expecting it to be a highlight of our trip.
It did not disappoint. The lake’s water, which comes entirely from rainfall and snow melt (there are no rivers or tributaries feeding it), is almost impossibly blue, and there’s a little volcanic island toward one side of the lake that adds a nice counterpoint to the otherwise unbroken cerulean shimmer. There are dozens of turnouts on the park’s scenic loop, and it was tempting to stop at all of them, because each one offered a slightly different perspective on this incredibly beautiful place.
At one point we went on a hike to see the Pinnacles, a series of chimney-like volcanic vents that were formed when hot ash cooled after the eruption that created the lake. Like so many of the things we encountered on this trip, they were unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
The park was crawling with little ground squirrels (which look like chipmunks but are actually squirrels, really). They were scampering hither and thither, and I was completely smitten with them. A few times the Captain had to remind me, “Uh, Paul, there’s a really amazing lake over there. Are you sure you want to spend all your time obsessing over the rodents?”
As it turned out, the Captain did a better job of making friends with the squirrels than I did. Late in the day, shortly before we were preparing to leave the park, she was trying to photograph one of them when the little critter decided it was ready for its close-up:
That night we had dinner at the Mohawk Restaurant, a place that’s locally famous for its collections of liquor bottles and taxidermed animals, both of which line the walls:
And hey, for all you Minnesota sports fans, they even have a genuine timber wolf!
This was the night I think we may have set the record for the most kinds of fried food consumed in one meal by two people. From foreground to background, that’s chicken-fried steak, onion rings, fried shrimps, a crispy chicken sandwich, and French fries:
Once it got dark, we wanted to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower, which was supposed to peak more or less on that night. We got some beers, grabbed a couple of plastic chairs from outside our motel room, and brought them behind the motel (too much light in the front, plus there were some big trees obstructing our view). It was a real shithole back there — lots of scrap lumber and other debris — but we didn’t care. The bad news is that we sat there craning our necks and looking skyward for the better part of an hour but saw only three shooting stars, which was way less than we’d been led to expect. The good news is that nerdily looking up at the sky with your sweetie while sitting in a motel backyard shithole in the middle of nowhere is about the most romantical thing imaginable. A very good end to a very good day.
Day 8 ”” Thursday, Aug. 11: This was our final day on the road, and I don’t mind saying we made it count.
On the way back from dinner the previous night, I had spotted a really interesting-looking defunct motel in the flyspeck town of Beaver Marsh, and we began the day by going back to check it out. It was called the Holiday Village and had an excellent A-frame motif. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get too close to the individual cabins, because most of the site was fenced off (although cars were parked outside a few of the cabins, so maybe it’s been repurposed in some way), but it was still very, very cool:
Now it was time to start heading back to Reno, where we’d be catching a red-eye flight back home. But we had some important stops to make along the way. The first was in the town of Klamath Falls, where the Captain had a line on some really good pie. As she drove us there, I looked up the town’s history on my phone and learned that we’d be passing about 65 miles from the town of Bly, where there’s a memorial to the six people (including five children) who were killed by a Japanese balloon bomb in 1945 — the only American deaths in the continental U.S. caused by direct enemy action during World War II. We had both read about this incident before but hadn’t realized we’d be traveling so close to where it happened. It sounded like an interesting site to visit, but we had a tight itinerary for the day and didn’t have time for a detour.
We eventually arrived at Casey’s Restaurant, which is essentially a diner. There was an assortment of very homemade-looking pies displayed on the back counter, so I ordered a slice of cherry and the Captain got berry. This was the fourth or fifth time we had ordered pie on this trip, and it wasn’t even close — these slices were by far the best.
We told the waitress how much we liked the pie, and she said, “Yeah, they’re great. The lady who makes them is 85 years old. She’s back there right now, making more.” We asked her to thank the pie baker for us, and the waitress said, “You can thank her yourself — I’ll bring her out.”
And that’s how we met Annie Patzke, who, as it turned out, does not just bake pies — she owns the place. She didn’t look anything close to 85 and had an extremely firm handshake, which I guess is what working with a rolling pin for a few decades will do for ya:
Annie was super-sweet. She happily jibber-jabbered with us for a spell (at one point excusing herself to dash back to the kitchen because “I left my mixer running”), and then she told us something that totally blew our minds. Here’s how it went:
Annie: Now, if you’re traveling through this area, you might want to go over to this little town called Bly…
Me: Oh, right, that’s where the Japanese bomb exploded. We were just reading about that.
Annie: That’s right. They have a nice memorial for them there, with a picnic area and everything. And I always try to put in a little plug to get people to go there because, you see, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were two of the victims — my husband’s brother and sister.
Us: [Stunned silence.]
”¨”¨I mean, seriously, what are the odds that we’d be reading about a fairly obscure event from 1945 and then, half an hour later, bump into someone with a personal connection to it? Bizarre. We sort of half-promised Annie that we’d try to make time to detour to Bly, even though we knew it wasn’t going to happen on this trip. I slunk away feeling a little shitty about that.
As we hit the road again, we looked up more info on the incident and learned that, sure enough, two of the children killed by the balloon bomb were Joan Patzke (13 years old at the time), and Dick Patzke (14). We did the math and figured out that Annie would have been 14 herself when the bombing took place and presumably had not yet married her husband (although she may have already known him by then), so the victims weren’t technically her in-laws, but still — what a story.
Soon we crossed back into California (another horn honk) and headed toward our next stop: Lava Beds National Monument. Oddly, this was the fourth volcanism-related site we’d visited on the trip (Lassen, the hot springs, Crater Lake, and now Lava Beds). We hadn’t planned on having that sub-theme running through our travels — it just worked out that way.
Lava Beds was surreal in multiple ways. For starters, it’s the only National Park Service site I’m aware of whose website includes a warning about bubonic plague. More importantly, it’s filled with black volcanic rock — some of it stretched out in vast fields, some of it stacked up in piles, and some of it just lying by the roadside, all set against a parched, arid backdrop. As was the case with so many of the natural wonders we saw on this trip, the grandeur was difficult to capture in photographs (I realize some of the shots just look like piles of cow manure), but we tried:
The big attraction at Lava Beds is the site’s extensive series of caves, which are popular with spelunkers. We poked around in one of them for the better part of an hour, which was fascinating (and, at one point, stressful, as we briefly got lost in a series of catacombs before successfully retracing our steps). The only lighting came from our flashlights, which made it impossible to get good photos, but I did get these shots just as we got started:
We had originally planned to spend a good chunk of the day at Lava Beds, but we had to cut it short because we wanted to have dinner with Bruce — the motorcyclist from Reno who we’d met five days earlier. We were keeping him apprised of our progress and figured we were on pace to show up at his house sometime around 6:30pm.
But there was one more uniquely western landscape feature for us to see. As we headed southeast toward the Nevada state line, the Captain pointed out the window and said, “Look how flat that land is over there. And it’s a really weird color.” I checked the map and saw that we were looking at what was supposed to be the northeast edge of a fairly large body of water called Eagle Lake — but it appeared to have gone completely dry, presumably due to northern California’s extended drought. So we were seeing an alkali flat where the lake had once been. In its own way, it was every bit as beautiful and surreal as many of the other things we’d seen during the trip.
Some quick googling revealed that The Guardian had published an article about Eagle Lake’s falling water level just one day earlier — another crazy coincidence. (That article is about the lake’s southwestern lobe, which is apparently much lower than usual but still has some water, unlike the completely dry northeastern lobe that we saw.)
We continued onward, stopping in Susanville to check out a combination bar/BBQ joint (the former was excellent, the latter so-so), and finally making it to Bruce’s house shortly after 7pm. He greeted us at the door and introduced us to his wife, Vicky, and their dogs, Otis and Maude. They were super-welcoming, treated us like they’d known us for years, and didn’t seem to mind that we were wearing some of the same clothes we’d worn while puttering around in a cave several hours earlier.
After more than a week on the road, it was great to be in real home with real amenities. More than that, though, it was great to follow through on our previous meet-up with Bruce — a textbook example of how traveling can turn a random encounter into something really special. It felt like a tremendous validation of everything I’ve always believed a road trip can be.
As for dinner, Bruce made pasta with a great Bolognese sauce, and we made some new friends — the perfect capper to a great trip.
After dinner we headed to the airport and flew home. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.
I know this was really long (and it could have been longer — I left out a few things). Thanks for listening.
Actual uniform news, how about that: After my college football season preview column went live on Tuesday morning, there was some additional uni-related news that trickled in that day, so we added about half a dozen items to the column in the afternoon. But news has continued to come in, so here’s an update (sticking to FBS schools here, and just going alphabetically, regardless of conference):
• Charlotte has a new set of gold pants:
• Cincinnati opened its season last night by wearing white at home:
— Cincinnati Football (@GoBearcatsFB) August 30, 2016
• NC State’s celebration of Carter Finley Stadium’s 50th season includes a nice touch: the “50” yard line markers are now “50th.”
• Here’s New Mexico’s new helmet:
• Addition by subtraction: Penn State, which had the Nikelace last season, is apparently dropping it for 2016.
• TCU has apparently added matte white helmets, although we don’t get a particularly good view of them here:
Managers putting together Matte White game helmets. pic.twitter.com/NBSdo5TzAQ
— TCU Equipment (@TCU_Equipment) August 7, 2016
• Texas State has a new uni set that, among other things, scraps the claw marks on the sleeves and replaces them with a Texas-shaped patch:
— Michael George (@TxStCoachGeorge) August 20, 2016
• Vanderbilt is another school that wore white at home last night:
— Max Herz (@MaxHerzTalks) September 1, 2016
T-Shirt Club reminder: In case you missed it earlier this week, we’ve launched our latest Uni Watch T-Shirt Club design.
My creative partner on the T-Shirt Club project, Bryan Molloy, no longer works at Teespring, so we’re doing this shirt with his new employer, Represent, which operates almost exactly like Teespring does. From your standpoint, the customer experience should be virtually identical.
Now then: Our latest shirt is devoted to soccer. Here’s the design (for all of these images, you can click to enlarge):
We’re offering this design in four different shirt colors — maroon, black, dark green, and heather grey:
The shirt is available here. It’s available for a slightly longer period than most of our previous shirts, in part because I want to build in some extra time because of the Labor Day weekend, and also because traffic here on the site is a bit lower during my August break. Basically, I just want to make sure everyone has a chance to see and order the shirt.
One more time, the soccer shirt is available here. My thanks, as always, for your consideration.
By Paul (it’s like riding a bike)
Baseball News: Check it out: Chisox P Tommy John wearing his pants down to his ankles in 1969. Unheard of in that era. Must’ve been just a pregame thing (from Tristan Ridgeway). … Also from Tristan: an old shot of Mets C Choo-Choo Coleman posing for a shot while wearing sandals inscribed with his name and number. … Half a million baseball bats were sold last year in Russia, where they’re popular for settling road disputes (thanks, Mike). … A Canadian farm carved a giant Blue Jays bat flip into a corn field (from Patrick Guay and Ted Arnold). … Here’s a good look at the Comiskey Park anniversary patch that the White Sox wore in 1985.
NFL News: With the 49ers preparing for their final preseason game yesterday, someone floated a really silly question: Would Niners QB Colin Kaepernick be permitted to remove the American flag decal from his helmet? It’s a silly question for two reasons: (1) Kaepernick hasn’t expressed any desire to remove the flag decal, and it’s a big leap to assume that he’d want to do so simply because of his position regarding the national anthem. Like, why not ask if he’d be permitted to burn an American flag on the 50-yard line while you’re at it? And (2) Kaepernick, like every other NFL player, doesn’t have the right to alter his uniform, so the whole issue is moot. Of course, there’s a less silly question worth asking: Why is the American flag decal, which was added to NFL helmets in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, still being used 15 years later? But nobody thought about asking that one. … Kaepernick once again declined to stand for the anthem last night, and this time teammate Eric Reid joined him. … Seahawks CB Jeremy Lane also sat during the anthem last night. … Meanwhile, someone looked through some photos from last month and discovered that Kaepernick participated in a practice session on Aug. 10 while wearing socks that depicted cops as pigs. Kaepernick responded by saying, among other things, that two of his uncles are police officers. … Niners fans who own Kaepernick jerseys are trying to turn them into Blaine Gabbert jerseys (thanks, Phil). … Longtime reader Vinnie Candelore has been creating three monochromatic uniform concepts for each NFL team. You can see the results on his Instagram page. … Looks like Pats CB Darrelle Revis’s right-sleeve maker’s mark was backwards in Super Bowl XLIX (from Jared Sloan). … Someone painted an old 49ers program cover onto the side of a wall in San Francisco. The logo at bottom-left indicates that it’s part of the team’s 70th-anniversary celebration, which makes me wonder if other murals are being painted around town (from Greg Bensinger). … The Vikings have come up with a pair of gloves to salute injured QB Teddy Bridgewater (from Kyle Jamison). … The Bengals have added a sideline memorial for head groundskeeper Darian Daily, who passed away last weekend (from Jimmy Croda). … Former Giants LB Carl Banks was presented with a birthday cake designed like a red Giants jacket (from Chris Flinn). … Washington QB Kirk Cousins told his teammates that he wanted the team to be “the San Antonio Spurs of the NFL,” so they got him a personalized Spurs jersey (thanks, Mike). … Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott and Texans WR Braxton Miller, who were teammates at Ohio State, swapped jerseys after last night’s preseason game.
College and High School Football News: Three veteran college football journalists have teamed up to create a new CFB subscription website. … A Virginia high school team that uses inspirational words instead of NOBs — “Discipline,” “Strength,” “Commitment,” and so on — appears to violate a new rule from the National Federation of State High School Associations, which states that jerseys can only have the school’s name, player’s name, and uniform number. … Newly
branded redesigned helmet for Kentucky Wesleyan (from Eddie Kenny). … Northwest Missouri State players with at least a 3.0 GPA will wear helmet decals featuring their GPA, major, and advisor (from Caleb Grabill). … Virginia Tech’s first No. 25 of the season will be Steven Peoples. The number will rotate to a different special teams player each game (from Clark Ruhland). … The latest round of college football uni concepts based on marching band unis focuses on the ACC. … Want to paint a midfield-style college football team logo on your lawn? Here’s a company that sells the stencils for that (from James Gilbert). … New road uniforms for Houston Baptist. … Here’s Syracuse’s uni combo for tonight’s season opener. … New helmets for Coahoma Community College (from Brad Logan).
Hockey News: New uniforms for the Calgary Hitmen (thanks, Phil). … New center ice logo and red line design for the Rangers. “I love it!” says Alan Kreit. … When the Flyers unveiled their 50th-anniversary jerseys the other day, they showed two jerseys with two different NOB fonts. Can’t see the difference? Look at the negative space on the G, R, O, and U — the corners are squared off in the first example (which is the team’s current official NOB font) but not in the second (which is the old NOB font used prior to 2010). “Retailers, including the Flyers store in the arena, have sporadically the old font for merchandising purposes for years now,” says eagle-eyed Paul Ricciardi, “but this is the first time that I have seen the font mix-up occur in an ‘official’ capacity, as opposed to just on the retailing side.”
Grab Bag: At least one observer really likes Puma’s new soccer jerseys for the African Cup of Nations. … Aussie football news from Bill Blevins, who write: “I was watching the AFL: All Australian Awards, which is the equivalent of First Team NBA. The winners are presented with a nifty blazer, which has the Great Seal of Australia embroidered on the breast, along with the year(s) they won the award.” … Blue Bell ice cream has come out with a new flavor: Camo ’n Cream. Really. … This is pretty awesome: a typeface inspired by a model train tracks (thanks, Mike). … Filmmaker Christopher Guest’s latest mockumentary, in the same vein as his previous films Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman, is called Mascot, and it’s about a sports mascot competition. Here’s the trailer. … Here’s some info on NASCAR’s throwback weekend.
Holiday weekend: The rest of the Uni Watch team has this weekend off, and I have a busy weekend planned myself, so the site will be closed tomorrow and Sunday (although I’ll leave the comments open, so you can talk amongst yourselves). I’ll likely have a short post on Monday, and then we’ll get back to normal on Tuesday, when my annual NFL season preview runs on ESPN.
I realize the college football schedule is kicking into high gear this weekend, and I’m sorry we won’t have detailed coverage of it. Phil will begin his usual Sunday Morning Uni Watch package, which I know many of you look forward to during the college football season, next weekend.
Incidentally, I worked on a couple of very interesting blog entries during my August break, one of which is a real eye-opener regarding the logo history of an NFL team. More on that soon. Meanwhile, have a great holiday weekend, and I’ll see you next week.