I left Merced, CA and headed to Sacramento, CA. I’ve only driven through Sacramento once before and never stopped. I wanted to see a little bit of the city so I decided to stop for lunch. I found a place on Yelp that had good reviews in the downtown area. When I walked in, it was like walking into a familiar place – a place that has quality food, is a little pricey, and cares about customer satisfaction. It felt like my previous life, the life before crappy 2-star hotels.
I sat at the bar, a few barstools away from a guy who was around my age. Across the bar was another guy, but he was about 15 years older. Why is it that every time there is a someone eating alone, it’s a male? I purposely sat somewhat close to the guy around my age because I thought maybe we would strike up conversation. We glanced at each other but then returned to doing our own thing. When people first glance at me, I get the sense that they think “Is she alone? WHY is she alone?”. They look at me with this peculiar look. The bartender did it too. But after her peculiar look, she looked happy to see me alone. I get this from women fairly often. It’s like a “Yeah, you’re doing this alone! Go you!”. I always appreciate those looks.
It was close to 2:00pm so it wasn’t very crowded, but I could tell this was a place that was a popping during peak hours. I ordered a pizza that had shrimp on it, and a glass of white wine. It was so delicious and made me feel more comfortable, like my old self because I was used to eating in nicer places with quality ingredients. It’s funny, in general, I’m a very frugal person. When I make an expensive purchase, I do a lot of research to make sure I’m getting a good deal. I’m not afraid of asking for a discount or using coupons. I don’t spend money on things I think are frivolous. But there are certain things, like quality food, that I’ve become accustomed to. Sure, my bill was $28 for lunch (with tip), but I justified it because it was quality food and wine, filled me up, and in that moment, I needed it for my sanity – to feel like me again.
After lunch, I continued to head towards Klamath Falls, OR. When I had installed the roof-top cargo to my car days before, the guy who helped me told me about Klamath Falls and said it had great hiking. I didn’t know anything else about it. I had never been north of Sacramento before (on the west coast). As I drove through northern California, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! There are mountains, giant green trees, and crystal blue lakes! The drive was so breathtaking, I forgot how long I had been driving.
I came across a small town called Weed. As I passed through Weed, I saw a little souvenir shop that was capitalizing on their town’s name. Smart.
Just as I passed through Weed at the base of Mt. Shasta, I saw a sign for a Living Memorial Sculpture park. The sign came out of nowhere as I was started to climb up a large mountain. There were virtually no cars around and it was 6:30pm. I pulled my car over and decided to go check it out so I flipped a U-turn. After all, isn’t that what random road-tripping is all about? Stopping spontaneously at places you see signs for?
I pulled into the gravel parking lot and there weren’t any cars around. Well, there was one empty car, under a tree off to the side. I parked my car and walked over to a monument. It had an American flag on top with lots of names of veterans. Then I saw a little wooden sign post with some fliers near the entrance to the large parking lot so I drove over to grab one. This sculpture garden is “A place to remember. A place to Mend” and said “Dedicated to Veterans of all conflicts”.
To get to the sculptures, you drive your car down a one-lane gravel road. I parked my car when I got to a circle, which had 6 different little trails you walk down to see each sculpture. I was literally the only person around and the sun was brightly shining down, starting to set. There was a postcard perfect snow-capped mountain in the background.
I walked to each sculpture and there was a beauty in the emotions that each one displayed. This artist has a way of invoking emotion through tall, sharp, metal. The tragedy of war is seen through the sculptures, and it made me feel for the soul of the solider and their families.
The artist is Dennis Smith, a Vietnam War Marine Corps sergeant. He has said, “Each sculpture has personal meaning for me in terms of life experience and personal incidents. Through the arts we have the means to peacefully consider violence and to ask questions as well as to offer possible solutions.”
Here are a few of my favorites.
“The Greatest Generation”
“Those Left Behind”
“The Why Group”
“Korean War Veteran”
“All Wounded Warriors”
After spending some time gazing at these beautiful, emotional sculptures, I continued driving to Klammath Falls, OR. I crossed over to the Oregon border and arrived to the Days Inn around 8:00pm. I checked in for 2 nights and it felt good to rest for a bit and to plan for my next few days.