Summer ’86: Part XXII

This story is not quite over.  After reviewing my tapes of the trip, I discovered that I had inadvertently overlooked several “adventures” during the journey.  So please bear with me as I try to insert those portions as smoothly as possible.

When I got to Sacramento, instead of driving to Oakland, I headed north on U.S. 99 to Marysville in search of the diminutive town of Wilber Springs where a Nancy Woodworth resided.  She was a good friend of my good friend Bonnie Miller (from Denver days) who suggested that I look her up if I was ever in the area.  I crossed the Feather River to Yuba City where I stopped at a convenience store for directions.  Amazingly, the attendant actually knew of just such a burg and gave me some simple directions.  All I had to do was drive west on CA 20 for ten miles and then take a right on a dirt road for about five miles.  It turned out that Wilbur Springs was not a town at all but a mineral bath resort.

I found Nancy and after introducing myself, she was both shocked and delighted that I had looked her up. We had a great get-to-know-each-other talk, which included my mentioning that I had visited Bonnie in Tampa a year earlier in the midst of her move from Denver.  Nancy was an extremely talented watercolorist and when I told her that I had purchased one of her aquarelles from Bonnie, she was very appreciative.  It was a framed gauche of Mount St. Michael just off the coast of France washedplein air(in the outdoor light).  I told her, “I fell in love with it immediately because of its spontaneity and freshness.  You know, that’s the first work of art I have ever bought.” She gave a complimentary smile.  I shared some of my watercolor prints with her that I just happened to have with me.  She was very impressed.  I had to comment, “I’ve always watercolored from my photographs.  I really admire your ability to brush “live” outdoors.  You remind me of that great aquarellist Winslow Homer.”

Nancy was one of the administrators at the resort and I asked her about just how efficacious the mineral baths were.  She said there was no absolute medical proof of bathers actually extricating themselves from the throes of arthritis or some other cockamamie ailment.  She added, “It is more of a psychological panacea than a physical one. Back in the late 1800s, the San Francisco elite started coming up here regularly by stagecoach.”  She then suggested I try out the mineral baths, but with one stipulation – in order to get the full benefit of the water, I had to wear my birthday suit.  As she succinctly put it, “Nude is not crude.”  I unabashedly reclined in one of several small pools and immediately noticed the soothing warm water relieving the pain of my ingrown toenail on my right big toe.  Just what I needed.

Nancy invited me to have dinner with her and the staff.  It was a fun group of people who surprisingly were all from out-of-state just like my hostess (a Florida native).  I told the group that it was my first time bathing in the nude with complete strangers, but amazingly I didn’t feel uncomfortable about it at all. It just seemed natural.  I also told them about my amazing recovery from ingrownus toenailuswhich drew a round of guffaws.  I told my new friend that I grown accustomed to sleeping in the van, but she insisted I bed down in one of the available rooms.  As she so graciously put it, “I want you to feel as much at home as possible.”  I reposed in my Spartan surroundings and thanked The Lord for one beautiful day.

The next morning I was treated to another complimentary breakfast in the staff’s dining room.  The group seemed unusually receptive to me because, as I learned later, Nancy had told them I had bought one of her treasured watercolors.  I thanked all of them for their hospitality, gave Nancy a big hug, and took off for San Francisco by way of Interstates 5, 505 and 80.

My next insertion would be while I was in San Diego visiting son Ted and family.  Mom had given me the address of her goddaughter Charlotte Vaughn in hopes I would look her up, but mentioned that she had a severe drinking problem. I called a number of times only to get a busy signal.  I located her address on a city map and drove to it taking a chance she would be home. I found her apartment and after getting no response, I instinctively thought she might be passed out inside. I located the manager and explained my predicament to which he obligingly responded by allowing me entrance to her apartment.  What we found justified my most worrisome concerns – Charlotte was zonked out on the couch amidst an array of whiskey and wine bottles, most of them empty.

I thanked the manager for his assistance and said I would handle things from there on.  The first thing I did was replace the receiver on the phone and then sat back in a lounge chair scanning the disaster scene.  Aside from all the bottles, the apartment was in complete disarray. It was really depressing. I was hoping she would wake up on her own because I had an innate phobia of arousing people from their sleep.  I finally had to reluctantly do just that and after sitting up, she barely recognized me.  We talked for a while, mainly about Ted and his family and me having a new two-week old granddaughter.  I helped her clean up the place that included hauling all the booze bottles out to the trash bin.  I figured she could really use something to eat, so I treated her to lunch at a nearby café.  I spared her the anguish of talking about her alcoholism, but she did admit suffering from acute depression. As I dropped her off, I could only say, “I will be praying for you.”