Not that the Thunderbird Lodge wasn't nice and all, but quite frankly we were happy to see the copper H2 still residing in its parking space when we peered out the motel window the next morning. After a quick freshening, it was time to cram our wares back into the Hummer and contemplate our day's activities. Unfortunately we started off the day with a quite perplexing situation: we needed to drop off the room key and the TV remote that we'd checked out, but were afraid to make further contact with the phlegm-coughing woman behind the check-in counter. After deliberation we opted for a quick toss of the goods on the counter, a hasty "see ya," followed by squealing of the H2's mambo-sized 315/70R17 BFG All-Terrain T/A's.
After being chastised for previous long visits, Kiwi was put on a strict schedule to visit with his Chico-based family members. The chat with "Uncle Terry" was brief and concluded with a stellar apple-and-walnut pancake breakfast before the H2's super-beefy shifter was clunked into Drive and its grill pointed southbound towards Sacramento.
Not much was on our "must see" list for Day 10, simply because: 1) Central California doesn't offer much beauty by comparison to what we'd seen on the journey thus far, and; 2) frankly, our butts were sore and we just wanted to get home. Consequently, our only scheduled stop was in Sacramento for a quick gawk at Sutter's Fort (of Sutter Mill and the '49er gold rush fame), but unfortunately we had no spare time to partake in any gold-panning or sluice-box merriment. Also skipped was a tour of the California State Railroad Museum in old town Sacramento. As one of the best (if not the best) railroad museums in North America, we would highly recommend spending an afternoon at this great attraction. However, keep the kids far away from the extremely-well-stocked gift store or your wallet will take a considerable beating--trust us.
Driving southbound on Interstate 5 is a rather mind-numbing experience. There's virtually no mountains, notable shrubbery, interesting sights, or decent road chow. You will, however, be treated to throngs of semi-trucks, agricultural vehicles, and mom-n-pop travelers ambling down the highway. Also prevalent on I-5 is a well-stocked arsenal of California Highway Patrol black-and-whites. Consequently, the H2's cruise control was set to 70 mph and our Escort radar detector was adjusted for maximum sensitivity.
Once we approached Bakersfield, boredom was really setting in. The dusty and lifeless landscape blurring by outside our H2 was downright awful. After discussion, we agreed that we'd rather enjoy the pleasure of having an Alaskan mosquito drill for blood from our eyes (which actually happened once to Kiwi at the Arctic Circle) than to endure the torture of driving this lifeless section of the I-5. If it wasn't for the supreme entertainment value of the XM satellite radio system installed in the H2, quite frankly we may have gone "Old Yeller" mad. With more than 100 channels of music, sports, talk, and comedy to choose from, we frequently focused our road boredom on playing with the remote control and surfing the scads of channels. Although the "'80s Hits" channel was a favorite, by far the most addictive was channel 161 (Discovery Channel Radio) that had an endless cornucopia of fascinating three- to four-minute segments that regularly had us saying "oh, wow." Topics ranged from space stations to logging, from history recounts to bat dung -- overall, the subject matter was fantastically diverse.
Oddly enough, as we drove into Southern California and passed a "Welcome to Los Angeles" road sign, the H2's trip odometer showed 5150, which in police radio lingo means "crazy." Were we crazy to embark on such a colossal extreme road test? Sure. But we'd also performed an unparalleled torture test and enjoyed countless memories that will likely last long after we retire. But the good news/bad news is this: we're still only halfway done with our journey. Oh, and just as Kiwi promised to swim in the Arctic Ocean, he also said that he'd climb Mount Whitney (the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states) too. Will he survive for Leg Two of the H2 journey?