Words and Photos by Danielle Baker
“Why do we always have to drink all the alcohol?” Chad pondered this, much like the meaning of life, throughout the day yesterday. It’s true, we had drunk all the alcohol in the rig. . . again.
Three days ago we left San Francisco and set out for Fort Bragg along Highway 1; the seaside route. Taking our huge rig along this narrow winding route is about the equivalent of pushing your mom down a water slide. It was tight. We created angry, unwilling caravans of cars for miles as we painfully lumbered along single- lane highway and made three-point turns around corners. When we rolled through small towns along the way, little old ladies plugged their ears and stared up at us. Everywhere we stopped people came out of their buildings and businesses to gawk. We were rock stars.
The first morning on the road I woke up at sunrise in our campsite on a beautiful peninsula. Paying $1.50 for a five minute shower and putting my toes in the sand felt right for my soul. Even the boys were smiling. We packed up and rolled out, leaving behind the smelly fish heads that came with our campsite and had lead to many jokes at my expense. North Coast Brewery was our destination, solely because Chad hasn’t been able to find their beer at home. Every good adventure needs a goal. Chad’s Acme Pale Ale was our Animal Chin.
We arrived in Fort Bragg to find that nothing is open on a Tuesday. We picked up supplies for a rig dinner and set off to the outskirts of town to find our home for the night. The night started with a nice dinner and ended with a blank spot where my memories should be. It’s not actually a blackout, it’s more like underexposed film; the details just aren’t there. I do know that I ate a bug (thanks to Chad’s direction) and there was singing. Brett Tippie also came to the rescue over text when I couldn’t keep up with the boys’ jokes; “I could tell you a few jokes, but you’d probably laugh.” Thanks, Brett.
The only good thing about waking up with a hangover is that you have no expectations for any awesome in your day. After a month in the desert all Steiner wanted to do was put his feet in the ocean. We managed to clean up the rig and ourselves, find a surf shop and the beach all with surprisingly little conversation. The rig was quiet; our heads were fragile. Steiner hit the water as soon as we pulled in. Chad left on his bike to ride out the way his head felt. My fear of whales kept me out of the water and my lack of bike kept me from pedaling away. Fighting my own funk, I headed up the road on foot to see what I could see.
Caspar is a perfect seaside town. It sits on top of a cliff, fully exposed to the ocean weather. Chad came back with almost a grin. He had found some unexpected awesome for our day. I followed on foot as he guided me though a tunnel in the bush. It opened out onto a bluff with tall grass and single track as far as I could see edged with jagged drops straight down to the ocean. There was a tiny lighthouse in the distance and endless opportunity for photos. Chad played on his bike, I played with my camera and quickly our day went from hangovers to winning.
Regrouped at the rig, I pleaded my case for sunrise photos along the bluff. I promised I would no longer ask for a Rig Cow or a Rig Donkey in exchange for one more night up north and an early morning wake up. Steiner and Chad considered my request carefully weighing the pros and cons. On one hand we would have a longer drive back to San Francisco the next day, on the other hand they would no longer have to deal with me whining and pleading “We need a rig cow, I promise I’ll feed it and walk it and clean up after it. Please can we get one?” The boys agreed to stick around and I downgraded my request to a rig cock.
Back in Fort Bragg we spent the rest of the day being tourist. We checked out the Tattoo Museum, one of those unexpected gems in an unexpected place. We walked along the train tracks and stepped into (possibly) the only skate shop that sells pottery and rhinestones.
When we returned to rig that evening the check engine light that we’d been ignoring was now flashing and the rig had developed an aversion for certain gear changes. We pulled over to the side of the road and made the call. Instead of spending another night up north we’d head to the truck shop in Oakland. At least I still might get a rig donkey.
We left that night and arrived at the truck shop around midnight. The sick rig made angry noises along the way and I kept expecting to see a young John Connor in our headlights as we sped along the highway. Instead of falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and waking up to ride bikes at sunrise in Caspar, I fell asleep to the sound of sirens and ate breakfast alone at a Denny’s in Oakland. The thing about Rig Life is that it really isn’t about the destination.