True to form, over the next two years when we lived in the Redding area, we moved four times. However, I was able to attend only two high schools, a different one each year. That made a total of seven separate high schools I attended before I graduated near the top of my class in 1971. Even though I was a good student and had a keen interest in science, college was out of the question. This was right after the tumultuous 1960s, and my parents felt that college campuses were hotbeds of insurrection and forbade our attendance. My father insisted that owning a small business was the key to success, so they opened a small dry-cleaning service.
One morning right after the Fourth of July, my dad asked everyone if we wanted to go to the lake. Whiskeytown Lake was our favorite getaway, so we all enthusiastically said yes. We quickly changed into our swimming suits and grabbed our towels, and we were on our way. Just before we reached the turnoff for the lake, my dad asked if we wanted to go to the ocean instead. We had not gone to the ocean since moving to Redding because it was a long drive over the Trinity Alps. So, the appeal of this excursion was irresistible. “Yes,” we all hollered.
Several hours later, we were frolicking on a Northern California beach. As the day was drawing to a close, my dad asked, “Who wants to go to Oregon?” My mom expressed concern about none of us children bringing our shoes, not having any other clothing besides our swimming suits, the sandwiches we packed being all gone, and our not having much money. But the rest of us were game for another adventure. So we pooled all the cash everyone had on hand and decided we could probably buy some flip-flops and cheap cover-ups for my young sisters and still have enough money for gas and food if we didn’t buy any fast food. So off we went.
We drove up the coast all night, turned inland about halfway through Oregon, and arrived in Eugene in the wee hours of the morning. We didn’t have money for a motel, and it would be light in a couple of hours anyway, so my dad drove into a school parking lot and parked the car for us to sleep until morning. I stayed awake the whole time. When a police car drove up shortly before dawn, I popped out of the car to talk with the officers so they wouldn’t wake everyone else. It didn’t work. They sent us on our way, so we bought some food at a convenience store and drove back to a lake we had passed a short distance out of town and watched the sun rise over the lushest natural greenery I had ever seen. It was love at first sight. I wasn’t alone in this assessment; a few hours later, after driving around Eugene, my dad asked, “Who wants to move to Oregon?” It was decided. It really didn’t seem like much of a choice to me. Redding is extremely hot and dry during the summer, with the temperature exceeding 100 degrees almost every day. In contrast, Oregon seemed like the Garden of Eden.
On the way home, we drove by Crater Lake. It is the deepest lake in the United States and sits in the crater of a tall collapsed volcano. It was a hoot to watch the reactions of the other tourists in their winter coats as we filed out of our car wearing our swimsuits, surrounded by high snow drifts. We ran out of money when we were getting close to Redding, so my dad would turn off the car and coast down the long mountain descents to save gas. We drove into our driveway with the gas gauge on empty.
As unconventional as this experience was, it didn’t seem that strange to me at the time, based on my life experience.