After my son Arlo was born in 2012, I had put in my resignation with the Ukiah Daily Journal. After 15 years in the newspaper industry, I held onto it as long as I could. With a growing family though, my wages were not enough to sustain my household. It was time to move on.
I began a new career with the United States Postal Service as a rural carrier associate. When I reported to my post at the Ukiah hub, I was told that I could only be guaranteed 2-to-3 days per week because I was the newest substitute drive on the rural side. However, right from the get-go I found myself working 8-to-12 hours per day, six days per week. For the majority of my time with the Postal Service, I was rarely home, so I missed out on those formative years with Arlo. We never quite bonded.
That was how it remained for a good number of years.
Toward the end of 2019, Arlo and I began trekking through the streets of Willits; he on his scooter and me on my skateboard. Pretty much every weekend, this would be our routine. Adventures through Willits became fun, and the skatepark was not only our destination, but our common ground as well.
Since we were getting to know each other better, I figured it was high time to break the routine and go on a real adventure! Early one morning, I believe it was in late January of 2020, I woke him up. We dusted off some backpacks, filled them with water and snacks and stepped outside, into the great big world. It was misting when we left, and I asked him if he still wanted to do this. Arlo was excited! He still wasn't quite sure what I had in store for us though. The forecasts were calling for improving weather as the day wore on, so this was perfect! Off we went!
Once we reached the tracks of the California Western Railroad, we turned west. The real adventure had begun. He and I took our time. We had the entire day. We walked for a bit. We stopped and had a snack and then walked some more. Eventually the two of us made it to the Summit and Tunnel #2. Lunch was had on the rusted rails of the siding and then we made our way through the tunnel to the other side. After weighing the options, Arlo thought the summit was cool enough. We still had to walk back to town. It was long and arduous for him, but in the end, back at home and feasting on McDonald's, he said the day was awesome!
It was more skatepark treks for a few before Arlo and I switched things up and starting riding our bicycles around the valley. Again it was backpacks full of water and snacks and giving him what I believed to be authentic American experiences.
The Pandemic struck, and our adventures ceased. On occasion he would bring up how he couldn't wait for this to be over so we could resume our fun-filled trips away from home. As we would all come to realize was that COVID-19 wasn't going to just magically disappear, and a year would come to pass before life resembled a fractured shade of normal.
My secret New Year's resolution for 2021 was to enter phase two of my adventures with Arlo. Now I had a car and was in a place where I could take him to the farthest reaches of Mendocino County. With a host of trails that have sprung up in the past ten years, plus little out-of-the-way places I loved when I was younger, there were more than enough opportunities to get him out in the world.
These places I wanted to take him, and things I wanted to do with him, were the same things my mother did with me at that age. Through those experiences I found photography, a love for the outdoors and a passion for roadtrips. Who knows what these trips could do for Arlo?
At the beginning of January, a giant swell was rumbling through the Pacific Ocean and ready to plow into the north coast with all it's might! During the lockdown, Arlo was talking about wanting to learn to surf. Before getting in the water though, I wanted him to have a healthy dose of respect for the sea. What better way to convey that than by getting him up before dawn, venturing over to the coast and then down to where the big waves live, right? I gave him a camera to use too.
After the success of that initial coastal foray, it was on! I was excited to show him so much of what the coast, as well as the rest of Mendocino County, had to offer. I took him to places which held fond memories for me when I was younger. We explored places that were new to the both of us. We saw cool critters (including his first bald eagle), met and hung out with cool people and took a slew of good photos! We learned an awful lot about each other, as well as about ourselves too. These trips bonded us as father and son like nothing else could.
Ironically it was the only New Year's resolution I was ever able to keep.
2021 is now winding down. There are still a few trips left in us before we bid adieu to one hell of a year! Don't fret though, this is not the end of our adventures. There is a rumor that Santa Claus is sending a Nikon D70s to Arlo, and frankly, even with as much adventuring as the two of us have done in the past 365 days, it's really but a small fraction of what's still out there to explore and document.
In fact, it's truly only the beginning.