Author: Cornish, Rick

Road Trip

I’ve spent the past couple months up in Humboldt County due to a family emergency. I always look forward to spending time in that area because I was born and raised there and much of my family resides there. Though this was not meant to be a pleasure trip I decided to find some pleasure in my travels just the same.

I left Brentwood in early May not knowing how long I’d be gone. I loaded my Jeep and tuned into Channel 65 (Bluegrass Junction) on the Sirius Satellite radio and headed out. After making my way through Benicia and Vallejo, I headed west towards Highway 101. I took the Old Lakeville Road that would lead me over to Petaluma. This is supposed to be a short cut that would trim a few minutes off my time on the road, unfortunately I got behind a truck with a trailer hauling a portable toilet. The trailer didn’t have a stabilizing bar and that thing was whipping all over like a carnival ride. I was really concerned about the toilet flying off the back and hitting my Jeep. I sent up a quick prayer, “Lord, I don’t want to be wiped out by a toilet, there’s no dignity in that!” Danny Paisley and Southern Grass were singing “When My Time Comes to Go,” (pun intended) and I thought of how my obituary would be worded, “the poor ole lady was creamed by a crapper,” “terminated by a toilet,” “picked off by a privy.” Okay, I admit I had too much time on my hands and was trying to entertain myself. The toilet took a turnoff and I got a new lease on life, everything was cool, music was great until I got in amongst those giant eucalyptus trees lining that stretch of the road. I lost my satellite signal, and there were all these handmade billboard signs with pleas to “save the trees,” and I’m thinking, these trees are interfering with Bluegrass Junction, they’ve got to go!

When I reached Santa Rosa I encountered the usual traffic gridlock. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver were singing “Where’s this Place Called Lonely Street,” and I was wondering the same thing. When I passed the River Road turn off that heads towards Guerneville, it triggered a memory. It was in that little town that I met up with Doc Watson, many years before. Okay, I didn’t actually meet up with him, but I found a store that sold used record albums and I bought a two record set, “Doc Watson on Stage,” it was copyrighted in 1970, (Doc was labeled a folk singer at that time). I can’t begin to tell you how much joy I have received from that collection. But I digress.

When I’m traveling alone, I have to invent little games to entertain myself, so I was looking at all the land marks, road signs, flora and fauna trying to turn them into potential Bluegrass song titles. Here’s some I came up with: “Buckeye Blossom,” “Dry Creek Breakdown,” “California Poppy Field,” “Eel River Blues,” “Mendocino Mist,” “Mountain Misery,” “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” oh wait, I think that one has already been taken.

Speaking of skunks, I stopped for gas in Willets, home of the Skunk Train. On the outskirts of Willets I saw a billboard advertising a shop called The Headroom. They sold “hemp” products. You could actually buy clothing made from hemp fibers. I think that hemp fiber is flammable isn’t it? I didn’t stop and shop, that’s a little too “green” for me.

As soon as I crossed over from Mendocino County into Humboldt, I felt like I was coming home. The Avenue of the Giants always gives me a sense of awe, the tall, majestic redwoods are a call to worship. Once again, I lost the satellite signal, a small price to pay for the beauty that surrounded me. I felt like making a cardboard sign that says, “Save the Trees!”

It wasn’t long before I left “The Sunnyside of the Mountain” and came into Eureka, a lovely place situated on Humboldt Bay. Like most towns near the ocean, the sun doesn’t show its face too often. My destination was the town of Arcata, where my father-in-law was hospitalized. Arcata is the home of Humboldt State College, and from what I could see, is “home” to quite a few homeless people. After being there for several days, I saw the same people who sat on the same street corner every day, holding up their cardboard “will work for food” sign. One day, there was a couple new girls on the block, their sign was simply stated, “Need Beer Money.” You’ve got to admire their honesty.

I spent many hours and days at the hospital and the only thing that kept me sane was my iPod, it allowed me access to e mail and internet as well as some good music. I had just downloaded Danny Paisley and The Southern Grass, “The Room Over Mine.” The highlight of one of my days was when I got a MP3 file from Gene Bach, he had put my “Apron Strings” poem to music. What a gift! I also received some encouraging notes from some of my CBA friends. One day while I was in the hospital room, a fellow named Arvel came to see my father-in-law, and I was talking Bluegrass (like I thought everybody should be interested in it) and he said, “Do you know Ed Baker?” I pulled out my digital camera and showed him a picture of Ed singing and playing for Bluegrass Church at Turlock. Yep, I know Ed.

I know everybody is still “riding high” from Grass Valley, I’m sorry I missed all the fun. We don’t know what lies ahead but I think this was the last Father’s Day we will spend with my husband’s 92 year old father, it was where we needed to be. God Bless you all, thanks for taking this little road trip with me.
Posted:  6/28/2009

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email