Life is a Highway, and I Want to Ride it All Night Long

by Nancy Bestor

While we’re fortunate enough to have visited exciting and alluring locales the world over, the truth is that we spend a LOT of time traveling a much less exotic thoroughfare – Interstate 5.

We moved to Ashland, Oregon from the San Francisco Bay Area almost 19 years ago and soon after I was pregnant with our first daughter (What were we thinking? A new business AND a new baby?). We had not yet purchased health insurance in Oregon, but we kept our coverage with Kaiser in California. Yes, it was a “pre-existing condition” that sparked our love affair with the 1381-mile stretch of asphalt that twists through the mountain passes and cuts through the farmland valleys of Washington, Oregon and California all the way from Canada to Mexico.

Soon I was traveling the 700-mile round trip to Hayward, CA once a month for check-ups, and later moved in with my parents from Thanksgiving until Emily was born on December 21 (Yes, Emily, I moved in with my parents, FOR YOU!). I’ll never forget going into labor in the early morning of that fateful day and phoning Bob in Ashland to tell him he’d better get his butt in the car and get down to Hayward, PRONTO. I have panicky memories of him calling from the road (back in the “pre-cell phone” days) to check on my status, from Bill & Kathy’s Restaurant in Dunnigan. You’ll be glad to know, he made it in time, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the 19 years since, we’ve continued our I-5 adventures, mostly from Ashland to the San Francisco Bay Area, but also to Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Vancouver B.C and Ensenada, Mexico.

Although we don’t often stop for food (Heck, Bob and I don’t like to stop for bathrooms. If we could have forced the kids to pee in a jar, we would have shaved 15 minutes off our time.), we do have a few favorite spots along the way. For years we always stopped for gas and a bathroom break at a Shell station just off the freeway in Dunnigan, where a note on the restroom door said “Bathrooms are for customers only. If you want to use the bathroom, you MUST buy something first.” Oh yes, it was the hospitality that brought us back time after time.

Granzella’s is another regular stop. Located in the not so exciting town of Williams, CA, their deli and store have an impressive selection of quality meats, cheese and other delicacies for a place that is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. If you find yourself getting hungry, and you’re closing in on Williams, it’s worth waiting for Granzella’s. On the occasion that we need a fast food fix, we stop for burgers at In n’ Out in Redding, CA. Their double-double cheeseburger with fries cut right in the restaurant is really good, and the service is old school and friendly (no notes on this bathroom door!). We also never miss the Trader Joe’s stores right off I-5 (in Fairfield and Portland) for lunch treats and groceries.

Other Interstate 5 adventures include the time, four months into that first pregnancy, when our car broke down shortly after midnight in California near the Oregon border. Again, it was before the days of cell phones, so Bob had to stand on the highway and flag a car down. We were fortunate enough to be picked up by an indie rock band in a funky van, on their way home to Portland from a gig in San Francisco. They took pity on the pregnant woman and her husband and gave us a ride all the way to our front door in Ashland.

We still have lots of family dotted along the I-5 corridor and I suspect we might have more occasions to keep rolling up and down I-5 when Emily heads off to college. Maybe it will be north to Seattle, or perhaps south to the Bay Area or Southern California, only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll be adding these tunes to my road trip play list, and I’ll just keep on truckin’.