Monday, August 30, 2010

California girls

Mrs. Hall stretched and reached for her coffee while Colleen showered. It was nice to take it easy for a change and enjoy breakfast before facing the highways. They only had five hours left til they reached Oakland, CA, and Mrs. Hall was relishing every minute of her morning.
Rain had moved in overnight. The sunny blue skies they had enjoyed were a thing of the past and a cold wind blew the trees about. The National Weather Service was warning that early cold temps were expected and at elevations over 8000 feet they were expecting an inch of snow. Mrs. Hall shuddered and suggested they move on.
The nasty weather not withstanding, Reno and the surrounding Sierra Nevada foothills looked quite inviting to Mrs. H. Lots of services, great shows and beautiful landscapes seemed to call to her and when Mr. Hall called that morning to check on the little voyagers, she insisted he make room in his busy calendar for a trip out for the both of them soon.
Gas prices had been pretty moderate in Syracuse, and nice and cheap in Ohio. Even across Iowa and Wyoming they held steady. But by the time they got to Nevada, the price was up to $3.00 a gallon or higher. Reno took the prize for most expensive petrol so far.
As they climbed higher and higher through the mountains, the pleasure they felt seeing the trees and rock formations was directly proportionate to the amount of terror they experienced sliding along the highway in the rain, fighting the traffic and reading all those scary road signs. "Rock Slide Ahead?!?" Oh, boy, can we go on it? I wanna ride down the rock slide!" exclaimed Colleen. Mrs. Hall just shook her head and watched their progress on the map.
Eventually, the rain gave way to clearer skies. The scenery around 7100 feet was breath-taking. They pulled over to a scenic overlook at Emigrant Gap at the ridge of the Sierra Nevadas to stretch their legs and read the historical plaque. "I finally made it!" cried Colleen. "I'm finally in California. I can't believe we did it." Colleen wiped a tear. "We're not there yet," cautioned Mrs. Hall. "We've still got quite a ways to go. But it won't be long now before we get you settled in."
Though the traffic was moving quite briskly and the ride was mostly downhill from there, it still felt to Colleen as though they were only going 30 mph and dragging their feet. The anticipation was killing her. Finally, as they approached Sacramento, the landscape changed from alpine to a flatter, more tropical feel. "A palm tree! I saw a palm tree, my first palm tree!! Oh boy oh boy oh boy!" Photographic evidence to the left shows palm trees number two and three, as the car was swaying around too wildly for Mrs. Hall to capture the first one. Mrs. Hall had suggested that it would be no time at all before Colleen would be bored of seeing them. Colleen did not hear this amidst all the screaming that occurred when Mrs. H. had to grab the wheel and request that Colleen regain some composure before they ended up wrapped around one of her precious palm trees.
The little black car maneuvered about the city nimbly, assisted by the reassuring voice of Lee, the Australian accented gentleman's voice that came preprogrammed into the GPS. Colleen had been speaking to it as if it was a real person for the last half of the trip. "Lee will get me around town, Mom; don't worry." she would reassure. Occasionally Lee would like to play with them alittle and make them take the long way around. They attributed it to the naturally whimsical nature of down under drivers, and took it all in stride. Racing along I 80 out of the hills, Oakland spread out before them. About 1:30 pm, they rolled into the parking lot of the last hotel they would need for the trip. "Look, beach! The water! We made it!" Colleen was ecstatic. Mrs. Hall was busy looking at the airplane just clearing the runway outside of the window of her room. The hotel was just down the street from the Oakland Airport and apparently right at the end of the runway. She was just contemplating whether or not she was going to get any sleep that night when Colleen said, "What are we waiting for? Let's go find my dorm and the campus of CCA!"
The campus and dorms were located in downtown Oakland in the Chinatown section. Loads of old Art Deco buildings surrounded the area and it was clear the city was involved in protecting and preserving these architectural gems. Traffic was light in the area because it was a Sunday, so luckily, they were able to find a spot to park right in front. How very fortunate that was became even more evident as Mrs. Hall surveyed the building. Originally built to be a Young Womens Christian Association building, it struck her as being very old; as in old enough to be before the era of lots of wide, efficient elevators. "What floor did you say you were on?" asked Mrs. Hall, but Colleen was busy grabbing the lightest and least important bags out of the bundles in her car and heading into the building. After registering with the RAs and receiving her keys, they managed to locate the one, tiny, slow-moving lift in the house. "I'm in room 503. Wanna use the stairs?" she chirped, but Mrs. Hall just scowled at her.
The room was bright and airy- the windows facing Webster St. were open wide and admitted a pleasantly fresh cool breeze. Two bunk beds seemed to fill the room and both the bottom ones had been claimed already. "Looks like you're on top this year." remarked Mrs. Hall, but Colleen was already scampering up the ladder and putting up her calendar on the wall. Her new roomies were experienced campers at the school; both were returning for their second year. "You are now my new best friends!" exclaimed Colleen. And it cheered Mrs. Hall to hear that, for she liked to think she was leaving Colleen in good hands.
After an only slightly unnerving trip back to the hotel, Colleen hugged her mom and turned to go. "I'm going to stay at the dorms tonight, but I'll be back to have breakfast with you tomorrow bright and early." Mrs. Hall hugged her tightly, gave her the usual litany of warnings and admonitions and and sighed as she watched her go down the hall. Next episode: Campus tours and detours. Stay tuned!

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