Travel days and jelly bean finished pork…

Sunday was meant as a day of rest, but due to a miscalculation on my part it became a travel day. My next appointment was in the Bay Area, so I had two days to do about eleven hours worth of driving. I took to the road through Central Oregon and into Northern California. Luckily, as I now had the luxury of two days it wasn’t intensive all day driving and I got to explore a couple of smaller towns along the way. I got to see some of the real America.

I’ve been to the US on a number of occasions now, at the last count I’ve been to 13 of the 50 States, which is pretty good going I’d say. It’s the same thing on each trip that really gets me going, travelling through small town America. Mom an Pop diners serving home cooking, homely motels, neon signs, pick-up trucks, country roads – everything you see in the movies.

Sadly, with it being a Sunday most stores and diners in the smaller towns were closed but I managed to grab a bite to eat in Canyonville. OR. The place was filled with local people, which is always a good sign, and I was lucky to get a bite as they were closing within minutes. Oregon has this incredible balance of commercialism and hippy-dom. I’ve never come across anywhere quite like it. Directly opposite the diner there was a wholefoods store with a massive peace sign, and it felt right at home.I carried on and stopped for the night at Yreka in Northern California at the most immaculate motel of the trip so far. Accommodation can be hit and miss, it’s either akin to the Bates Motel or it’s a lovely old place which has been family run with pride for donkeys years. Yreka was quite interesting, when I arrived the streets were deserted, and I found out quite quickly, most of the towns inhabitants were at Church. It’s an old gold mining town – gold was found nearby in 1851 and it’s one of the early sites of the California Gold Rush. The town must have been bustling in its day and the historic Miner St still has some wonderful red brick built stores, sadly it’s now more similar to the set of a zombie movie. The cinema had a sign saying “That’s all folks” and in the evening when I went looking for supper I didn’t see a soul out.

To keep my toe in the charcuterie water, I settled down with some books I’d bought from Powells in Portland. Powell’s City of Books is dubbed as the largest independent bookstore in the world, it certainly is pretty big. I don’t know whether this is an urban legend, but I was at a social media event recently where one of the guest speakers told the story of the very first internet purchase. A man from the UK had accessed the data inventory that Powell’s held on their computer network, had searched for a book, and e-mailed an order directly to the company. I can’t find anything online about it, but it makes for a good story – they were definitely ahead of the game as they were selling books online way before Amazon.The following morning, having travelled light for the trip I popped to the local laundrette. Now I’m sure you’re not that interested in reading about my washing but it was an utterly thrilling experience. Back home the thought of going to a laundrette would fill me with dread – it probably stems from one night in University when we were doing our laundry and somehow the washer locked itself, trapping my Welsh rugby jersey inside. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. However, in a foreign country, everything has a new and sexy gloss to it, including washing.

My final destination was Fairfield, CA as I have a visit planned with a nearby Mangalitsa breeder. However as I was in town I thought I should head over to the home of Jelly Belly as they run a free factory tour. Unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures inside the factory, so you’ll have to make do with a jelly bean rendition of John Wayne instead. It was a fascinating tour and there were plenty of tasters, we even had a pork factoid – all the spilt beans on the factory floor and from their stores and tours are collected and given to a local farmer as pig food. Now there’s a novel idea, jelly bean finished pork…

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