Return to the Sundial

About 10:30 last night i discovered that i no longer have the strength to drive all night, so i stopped at a sleazy motel in Medford.  Got up the next morning and resumed the drive home.  Hmmm, kinda nice to be able to see the lower quarter of inland Oregon as i drove through it.  Got into California and realized that i could salvage one shred from the return trip if i stopped in Redding and tried for some good pics of the Sundial Bridge.

I first visited this bridge in July, 2004, when it was three weeks old, and at that time i had my first digital camera, a little Nikon Coolpix that i’d bought the previous spring.  With it i got the luckiest shot i ever took and put it on the home page for this site.  I learned most of what i know about photography with that little camera until i had dropped it one too many times four years later and i discovered that enormous advances had been made in reasonably priced digital cameras.  This trip i have my Panasonic DMC FZ50 with me, and although i’d be stopping right in the middle of the day, there remains the possibility of getting another good shot.

So i pulled off the freeway at the first Redding exit and stopped at a gas station/market, bought a map, and confirmed with a local kid that yes, the road you could see over there was 237 and that all you had to do was follow it to the downtown area and then turn off to the right a mile or so to the bridge.  And for that matter, the damn thing can’t hide because we know it spans the Sacramento River, of which there is only one in the entire state.

Alas, my senility kicked in again and i forgot i was coming into town from the north and thus needed to turn the map upside down, or, as they taught us in the Army, to orient the fucker.  A complicating factor was that the kid (old enough to sport facial hair) either was as bad off as i am and didn’t know his right from his left or in fact had no idea where his world-famous bridge was, since otherwise he wouldn’t have agreed with my statement that i’d need to turn right when i got downtown.

So there i was following 237 toward downtown and looking at the map outta the corner of my eye and not seeing a single one of the major streets i was crossing.  Gave up and stopped at a park, which i couldn’t find on the map, nor could i figure out the street index codes.   Asked this codger and he confirmed that that street right there was, indeed, 237 and that i should just keep following it that way and turn onto 199, which leads to the park the bridge is in.

So i got to 199 and turned right and immediately noticed that i was going uphill.  Knowing that rivers are traditionally located downhill, i knew there was still a problem and seethed over the map until finally something clicked about the position of the sun and i understood what was wrong.  Sat there in a puddle of self pity until i finally pulled myself together and turned around and went downhill on 199 until i saw signs for the bridge.

It came as no surprise that i misread the signs and ended up at the sister park on the other side of the river, but it had a groomed trail through the park to the bridge.   Sun was near the meridian, but i took some shots anyhow before i drove home.

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Sundial Bridge

Stopped for a late lunch at Bartels Giant Burger at the Corning exit.  Suspected it was gonna be good when i rolled up and noticed that all the vehicles outside were full size pickups.  I knew it was gonna be delicious when i walked in and saw i was the only tourist and that everybody else, patrons and staff alike, were obese.  I couldn’t stop myself:  giant burger and large chocolate milkshake.  They gave me a discount because i was so skinny and clearly needed some fat on my bones.

And then i drove home and am trying to figure out how i can better deal with my senility.

A comforting thought, though, is that in the first place i’d always said i had no definite schedule for this trip, that i would go north until i got tired of it.  So all i missed by driving straight home is the sights i would have stopped at enroute. the main things being the bridges of Portland and Tacoma and most of all a little side jaunt over to Mt. St. Helens.   Well, other than what i’d been thinking of as the highlight of the trip, seeing my friends in Vancouver.

Other than Vancouver, my greatest regret is over not seeing Mt. St. Helens.  I weep with joy every time i think of Robert Landsburg, who was just a few miles from Mt. St. Helens when it exploded.  Knowing he was going to die, he stood there and shot up the rest of the roll of film in his camera, rewound the film, put the camera into its case, put his wallet and the camera into his backpack, and lay down on top of the backpack.  They found him a couple of weeks later on top of his pack but under a blanket of ash, and the film although somewhat heat damaged could be developed.  Several of his shots were printed in the National Geographic story on the eruption.

I want to stand in that spot.

And i’ll have my camera ready in case my prayers are answered.

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