A Nissan Rogue is parked in a grove of redwood trees.

NorCal Road Trip Day 1: Is My Wife About To Die?



Starting Location: Athens, GA

  • Flight from Atlanta to San Francisco
  • Visited family in Santa Rosa
  • Long travel day and late night arrival at hotel

Ending Location: Philo, CA



Running on three hours of sleep and going on my twenty-third hour awake, I slowly traversed each tight curve as we headed north on California 128, careful to avoid any momentum that would push my wife over the edge. Rebecca was sick in the back seat of our rental car, a new Nissan Rogue that felt luxurious when compared to the ‘06 Ford Escape waiting for us back in Georgia. 

I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with her. She had been experiencing motion sickness more than she used to, but she was also dead tired, hadn’t eaten well that day and just had two glasses of wine followed by a latte at my dad’s house in Santa Rosa. Then there was the mysterious tingling sensation shooting down her arms.  She’s a medical speech-language pathologist and works with patients recovering from strokes. “I would tell someone to call 911 for this,” she said. “Am I having a neurological event? Does my smile look symmetrical?” 

Needless to say, I was worried. A terrible combination of situations had her on the verge of vomiting all over the interior of our rental car on our first day in California, and the winding roads weren’t helping. Though our itinerary that day was reasonable, we were delayed by waits at the rental car place and awful Friday afternoon traffic that started in San Francisco, stretched across the Golden Gate Bridge and continued all the way through Sonoma County’s wine country. We got to my dad’s house later than planned, but chose to spend more time there, given that we hadn’t seen my dad, stepmom and little siblings since before the pandemic.

So with one arm reaching back to monitor her convulsions, no cell phone service and hopelessly far away from the nearest hospital, I pressed on toward our hotel, assuming I could reevaluate the situation once we were off the dark Anderson Valley roads (where I imagined a hungry mountain lion was lying in wait for me). 

We pulled into The Brambles in Philo around 1:30 in the morning, nearly 5 a.m. Eastern time. I carried Rebecca inside. She was feeling a little better, so I stepped outside to unpack the car. I knew things would get better. I could tell there was something magical in the air, something so enchanting that it captured what little attention I had left that night. I stopped and drew a breath of cool, fresh air. It carried hints of a pleasant woody aroma. 

And, for the first time, I wondered what redwood trees smelled like …

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