Ahhhh, California.

It’s been so long… long enough to forget how beautiful it is out here… and also long enough to forget how filled to the brim it is with useless jack-holes. It seems a rule that California draws like a magnet some of the worst people on offer in the entire human race. Like jackals to the carcass of the lion, the scavengers flock to the grandest, most majestic spots on earth.

I feel like an Oakie out here. Surrounded on all sides by paradise (I even drive past the CA town called Paradise), but it’s entirely off limits. Look but don’t touch. No Trespassing. Private Road. Private Drive. Private Beach. NO DOGS. No Swimming. Day Use Only. No Fires. No Motorized Vehicles Beyond This Point. Prohibida La Entrada. $25/Night. For Single Vehicle Use or Licensed Tow Vehicle Only. Day Use Fee: $8. No Tents. No Parking. No Smoking. No Littering. No Stopping. All Vehicles Must Display Reciept at All Times. And, my personal favorite: The Rules & Regulations Herein Contained are not to Be Construed as A Derrogation of Local, Federal, or State Law.

All These and more I see in just this one little campground. Everywhere I go is a pejorative, regulation or commanding legal statement indemnifying parties from any potential litigation. Christ, even my fucking wood has a label that says: “All wood (including this wood), contains chemicals that are known in the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other health problems.” Seriously California? You have to remind people that, in essence, FIRE MAKES SMOKE?!?!

“Beware! Stuff in life may occur without warning, and often with consequences! Please don’t sue!” – God.

I pull into a deserted campground in a mostly-dried up lakebed and debate whether I should just eat the 25 dollar camping fee or take my chances further down the highway. The park ranger glides by me slowly in his huge white truck as I consider the options. He is just like a bear on a unicycle. He waves & smiles.

I decide to go the later route and take my chances, but it’s a mistake. There isn’t a single unfenced, un-partitioned parcel of land in the whole vast, wild-looking area surrounding the lake. Huge pickup trucks with monster tires on tailgate me as I go looking, then roar past on narrow 1-lane bridges with their middle fingers waving from driverside windows, cause hey, who do I think I am only going the speed limit?

I stop on one of the many dry lake shores with the water so low the red dirt goes down down down without any vegetation, just rocks and dust. I pull huge hunks of quartz out of the muck. Finally, something in my mind giving way, I drive back to the campground & pay, just as the sun starts to dip low in the sky.

Car campgrounds are bullshit. Everyone knows it. To ask $25 for the privilege of pulling your car right up to your own little patch of dirt next to a bunch of other cars and patches of dirt, well, it seems unfair…even if they do have showers (I found out the next morning that you have to PAY for these showers via a little quarter slot…$.75 for 7 & 1/2 minutes). Thankfully, it’s deserted except for one other car. I pull as far away from them as possible and set up shop.

Late that night, as I’m reading moby dick, a skunk walks right into the camp and saunters over. I’ve put all the food away, but he doesn’t seem to believe that it’s the case. He stops all over the camp, me slowly backing away each time he comes close. I’m so freaked about getting sprayed and smelling like skunk for the rest of the tour. I finally give up, as he’s chasing me in circles so I climb in the tent for the night. After falling asleep I wake up suddenly to a horrible screeching in the middle of the camp. I look out the tent window and see now two skunks, locked in some kind of battle. Probably fighting each other to the death for a few drops of bacon grease that escaped my pan.  Ah, California. You put the bear on everything, but I think your better mascot might be the skunk.

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