After a long early morning run that I had hoped would rid me of the too-much-sugar-in-those-pitchers-of-margaritas hangover, I took a blurry BART ride to Oakland, where I was greeted by Obi and his California Subaru. We went straight to the Berkeley Bowl for coffee, almond butter and portabello mushrooms, where we ran into Hall, who was buying fancy cheeses and smoked salmon for our camping adventure in the San Rafael Wilderness. After lugging some firewood into the car, we drove to the Juniper Ridge headquarters in Oakland.
If every room that I walk into for the rest of my time on Earth smells half as good as the Juniper Ridge offices (even the bathroom!), I’ll be a happy man. Piñon pine and black sage fill your nose at every corner, a transported mountainside in a shitty East Bay neighborhood. You’re in Big Sur while taking a piss and traveling through a field of Death Valley wildflowers while sitting at a computer checking your email. I stayed in the factory while everyone got ready, hovering over a huge pile of bundled sage that I would hope linger on my clothes until I washed them again.
We loaded up the Juniper Ridge Ford Econoline with a week’s worth of cold beer, food and camping supplies, got on the road and started driving south. Power pop and Kyuss filled the speakers as we got out of the city, and within a few hours, we stopped for a shitty (awesome) meal at Chevy’s, sitting outside with margaritas, beers, and a special concoction of Camarones a la Diablo made by our host/companion/lover, Sunny. More car salesman than server, Sunny and his devil shrimp concoction would be discussed at length for the duration of the trip. He left a mark.
A couple of hours later, after long music exchanges and a quick drive by Neverland Ranch, we made it to the Los Padres National Forest, where Hall quickly drove Alli, Obi and I up to the Figueroa Lookout. A narrow, bumpy side road led to a peak covered in California Poppies and downed Coulter pines. The wildflower bloom is a reason for anyone to celebrate, but when you’re with three people whose lives are dedicated to such happenings, it’s extra special. We laid in an ocean of bright oranges and purples, made sure the car sickness had subsided and continued down the valley to our campsite as the sun was just about to go down.
We grilled chicken and the mushrooms from the Berkeley Bowl, popped open countless bottles of Lagunitas and sat on park benches while we waited for the rest of our party to arrive from Los Angeles. The sun was long gone and the three hour sleep I had the night before finally caught up to me as the food slowly finished digesting. I’m not sure the exact time I fell asleep, but when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, a watch is the last thing you need to pay attention to. (Says the first guy to pass out in his sleeping bag, only inches from a large group of people drinking tequila.)
It’d only be a few hours until the goats arrived….