11:42. We drop off the keys with the woman who will be watching our dog. For the drive Sarah has packed Dubliner cheese and locally grown olives so we’re off to a good start. I ask what is in the flask. It’s Jameson for a nightcap or three. The first hour and 15 minutes of the drive is through rice country. Every couple of miles we pass a check full of several thousand waterfowl – pintail, wigeon, giant flotillas of snow geese. The Sierras are to are left, and the coast range is to the right. It's been dry, but the peaks and high places are still covered in snow.
12:17. On Road Y we encounter an old Ford Bronco that is perpendicular to the road, blocking both lanes. There is a woman at the hood, trying to figure out how the thing opens. I tell Sarah to wait in the truck in case this becomes one of those situations you read about in the paper, but the woman – and the infant in the back – have just broken down. She doesn’t say why she’s perpendicular to traffic, and I don’t ask. I’ll push her forward a couple of feet (there is no shoulder, just road and irrigation ditches) and call someone, but that’s the best I can do. As I get her ready to do this, a couple of good-ole-boys in their 60s pull up and immediately take their toolbox and duck underneath her hood. We’re gone.
12:24. Now 3 Chihuahuas are in the road. We’re never going to get there. One has a tag so we spend a couple of minutes trying to seduce it. No luck. Sarah tries a piece of the Dubliner cheese – which seems a bit drastic, we only have so much – and this fails as well. Finally, Sarah herds the dogs about 300 yards down the center of the road until we hit a small group of houses that appear to have fallen off of a truck. The dogs duck into some bushes, and again, we’re off.