Continued from The Torino.
The trip had been planned in great details. After landing in California, we would purchase a car, drive to Modesto to register at the cannery where we would work for one month, then start our road trip across the USA, staying at campgrounds along the way. The itinerary was set and dates were nailed down so we could pick up mail from France at General Delivery in some of the cities we would pass through. Our own version of “If it’s Tuesday, it must be New Orleans…”
After buying our mustard yellow Torino, we were chomping at the bit: still in Oakland (nothing to see), so close to San Francisco (lots to see.) We decided to drive across the bridge for a first taste of the City by the Bay. Spectacular! We spent most of our time around Fisherman’s Wharf, admiring Alcatraz surrounded by jade waters, and trying out a sandwich at Boudin's. We realized that French bread, like French dressing, was not really French after all. Late afternoon, we picked up some groceries at Safeway in the Marina district and headed out to the Berkeley Hills: our California map showed a tent icon there, indicating the presence of a campground.
It was dusk, and then it was dark. We were still trying to find that campground. Eventually, we noticed a wooded area with some picnic tables and a couple of parked cars. We had arrived. We turned our flashlights on, unloaded the gear, set up the tents, cooked some pork chops and rice, and called it a day. The next morning, it quickly became obvious that our first camping night had been sauvage: there were no facilities of any kind save for the picnic tables. But we were prepared for everything: teeth were brushed and business was done, in a very ecological manner. We boiled water for coffee, fried some eggs, and devour them with untoasted white bread. We packed our gear and headed out to Modesto.
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and filled up the Torino at a station service on 5th Street. As soon as we got out of the car, we were immediately welcomed by the infamous Valley heat, a prelude to the temperatures we would contend with during the whole month of August. We drove to the cannery, signed up at the personnel office and told Kathy (personnel manager) we would give her our address and phone number as soon as we had secured an apartment to rent. We spent that night camping at the Modesto Reservoir, a legit campground. Taking a shower was wonderful, watching young Americans brush their teeth under a running faucet was surprising: I was the only one using a plastic goblet. Does your father own the water company?
We drove to town early, had breakfast at –the now defunct– Smitty’s coffee shop on 9th Street, picked up a copy of the Modesto Bee, and poured over the “For Rent” ads to find an apartment. We only needed a place for one month and there were seven of us but, in reality, we would be working different shifts: a two-bedroom apartment would suffice. We drove to Villa Verde South on Coffee Road, had a pleasant meeting with the manager where I pretended there were only three of us: me, my “brother," and my “boyfriend.” We were quite impressed by the spaciousness of the apartment, at least, by Parisian standards! I signed on the dotted line, paid the security deposit and one month rent. We congratulated ourselves for finding a place so easily and arranged to get phone service tout de suite. We knew the cannery would not need us for a few days and we drove off to Yosemite. What could possibly go wrong?
To be continued...
Le camping sauvage: lit. wild camping; setting up your tent in an area not specifically designated for camping.
La station service: gas station
Tout de suite: right away.