Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 400: 'Homeward Bound' Poor Circulation II ... Posted July 30th 2014

This morning we left an old and dear friend behind us. We turned our backs on the Pacific Coast Highway and turned inland on Highway 128: ‘Boonville 25 Miles’. It’s a sweetly paved ribbon of road that’s bordered on both sides by giant redwoods. They’re the tallest trees that I’ve ever seen and quite possibly, the oldest too. They look like a ceremonial guard, pencil-straight with dark red tunics and pointed green helmets, proudly standing to attention and welcoming us into California’s Anderson Valley. With the constant twisting of the asphalt beneath our wheels and the sweet heavy scent of the early morning forest, the dappled shade from the giant trees and the total absence of traffic, we’re discovering another valid contender for the world’s best motorcycling road. It’s another road that I never want to end, but sadly, that desire for infinity has little to do with its beauty or suitability for motorcycles.  
BOONVIILLE A Novel by Robert Mailer Anderson. Most books that I’ve read have had little to do with the reality of my life. They’ve generally been works of fiction, stories set in times and places that were a thousand years, or a thousand miles, away from me. But, this book was different and it’s proximity had disturbed me. After turning the final page, I’d returned to Amazon and found myself agreeing with exactly half of the reviews. I’d found five stars and one star, love and hate with absolutely nothing in the middle. If novels were food then Anderson had written the literary equivalent of Marmite. Anderson’s BOONVILLE is a small community of seven-hundred and fifteen ill-sorted souls in Northern California; peace loving hippies, gun loving rednecks and self-exiled Mexicans who’d possibly avoided the official count. The novel had introduced me to a disparate cocktail of humanity, one-third depression and two-thirds insanity, shaken for decades before being gently stirred and violently kicked into an unwelcoming twenty-first century. BOONVILLE was a town that had once been dominated by hard-drinking loggers, and then by hippies who’d arrived in search of love and togetherness, but discovered marijuana and stayed on in the hills long after the music had ended. Anderson’s writing was almost as quirky as the town, and as edgy as the people he’d portrayed, and long before turning that final page I’d concluded that for any traveller with the luxury of choice, BOONVILLE would be an easy town to avoid. However, on this particular journey, spending a certain amount of time in Boonville was never going to be optional.
I should be enjoying the final few miles of our journey together, but I’m not. My mind’s in a strange place right now, ignoring the beauty of the road and concentrating instead on the darker images of Boonville. They’re images that Mom had failed to mention, that I’d totally missed and that Dad had never had the opportunity to see. I adjust my nearside mirror and get a clearer view of the topbox behind me. Dad’s offering me his most unconvincing smile and Mom’s just telling me not to worry. Their efforts are kind and well meaning, but they’re not really helping. I can already see Anderson’s characters preparing to greet us, rolling their joints and combing their beards, tuning their banjos and liberally greasing the prettiest pigs in town. We’re twenty miles from Boonville and we’ve travelled twenty thousand miles to get here, but I’m mentally unprepared for arrival. I back-off the throttle, slow down the pace and encourage my mind to concentrate on the present.

The road continues to twist but the redwoods gently thin as the bleached golden hills transform into luscious green vineyards: Handley Cellars, Roederer Estate, Husch Winery and Navarro Vineyards, all regimentally green and rustically polished. Between the numerous vineyards, sheep and horses graze in dusty meadows, and in ancient orchards, apples thrive on gnarly trees. Roadside signs, hand painted with lots of love and random apostrophes, announce the sale of fresh organic produce; apples, peaches, pears, figs, olives.  This is clearly an abundant valley with good food, fine wines and more importantly, a soon to be united family. In perfect unison, we bank to the left passing a large wooden house and an invisible cloak of marijuana adds substance to the damp morning air. Life seems to be good around here.

 Five miles short of Boonville, we slow to 30mph for the small town of Philo. The Post Office, Libby’s Mexican Restaurant and Lemon’s Market line one side of the street and on the other, a small gas station and a random cluster of slightly neglected wooden huts. The huts probably act as cheerless homes for migrant workers, Anderson’s uncounted Mexicans, those who toil in the vineyards in the hope of building a brighter future for their families here in land of opportunity. There are perhaps five or six assorted huts and a couple of small single storey houses on either side of the road, but surely insufficient homes to justify this tiny no-horse town having its own bloody Post Office?

In a flash, the town of Philo is behind us and the road ahead begins to straighten. Beyond the eye catching white picket fence of Goldeneye Winery, we begin our final descent into Boonville. Arm doors and cross-check for landing.