Arcata, California – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 8 – The Best Festival Ever

After breakfast we hopped into the car for Arcata, California for the Kinetics Festival. The event coordinator gave us spectator pins and tips where to watch the parade of kinetic sculptures. The kinetic sculptures are human powered vehicles decorated to race on road, water and sand.

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The event starts with a parade around the town square then takes off to race down the street for the first leg of the race, continuing for miles until they reach the bay then paddle through water and then down a sandy dunes before ending in Eureka.

One primary requirement is that the vehicles must carry all needed items for the race with them. The sculptures were wildly decorated and some theme-related, designed from a bicycle and transformed into a giant, dragon, shark, bug, volcano, or anything imaginable. Men dressed as green mushrooms named their sculpture Funguys who had a great time as they paraded around the square.

The festival started 47 years ago in Arcata by a man who wanted to have good clean, silly fun and is the largest kinetics festival in the country. There are other small kinetic festivals but people travel from around the world to participate or see it in Arcata.

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The parade of the participants varied in costume. The sculpture of the Organ Trail had a heart on the front of a peddled covered wagon and its peddlers dressed as 19th century pioneers. Santa Grinch cycled around the square. We also saw an Adopt-a-Pet sculpture with dogs ready for adoption, trilobite, mailmen, CHIPS imitators and so many more.

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We stayed to view the sculptures until a whistle blew at noon and a 1950’s police car and old fire engine led the start of the race as the sculptures peddled quickly out of the square and down the hill onto the street course. Some sculptures began to fall apart but it was all for fun anyway.

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Roadside America offered our next stop so off to McKinleyville to grab lunch at McDonalds and see the world’s tallest totem pole. The world’s tallest totem pole is located behind the Safeway grocery store in McKinleyville. A sign posted the totem pole as 160 feet tall. Carved by Ernest Pierson and John Nelson from a single 500-year-old redwood tree in 1961, the totem pole weighs 57,000 pounds, and sits on a base that weighs over two tons. Even so, at least four other poles have laid claim to beating it but this totem pole claims it is the tallest since it is carved from only one tree. The totem pole carvings are painted brightly colors also. The town pulls down the totem pole every few years to repaint the carvings.

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A ninety mile trip took us two hours to reach Trinity Dam, an earth dam in Shasta Trinity Whisky Recreation Area. The government built the dam creating Trinity Lake. Trinity Dam is composed mainly of river gravel and local rock, rising 538 ft from its foundations. A hydro-electric plant is located at the base of the dam. The Trinity Dam provides flood control and water to the Central Valley essential for farming.

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Beneath the water of Trinity Lake, lies old Trinity Center – its homes and commercial buildings – now an underwater ghost town. In its day, Trinity Center was a major stop on the only road from San Francisco to Portland. But all that washed away when the government built Trinity Dam and flooded the valley and the towns of Trinity Center, Stringtown and Minersville.For decades, residents were so bitter about the dam that they tore down signs and misdirected tourists for what the government dubbed Clair Engle Lake, named after a U.S. senator. It wasn’t until later that the government changed the name to Trinity Lake.

Also nearby we stopped in the small, abandonded town of Shasta. Six miles west of Redding on Highway 299 a row of old, half-ruined, brick buildings of Shasta, once the center of the county before Redding passed it. Among the buildings are an old Shasta County Courthouse, now housing historical exhibits The town is unrestored with brick ruins of the building, along with a few standing buildings.

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On our way to Shasta Dam we saw two roadrunners cross the street. These birds are too quick for us to get a photo of them.

Shasta Dam is the eighth tallest dam in the United States. Parking the car, we bypassed the closed visitor center and walked out onto the dam.

From the midpoint of the dam we had a spectacular view across the reservoir with 14,000′ high Mount Shasta looming in the distance.

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Our hotel for the night was in Redding, California. The hotel had a house cat named Jack who welcomed people to the hotel. Jack was left by a family who could not take him to their new home so was adopted by the hotel. The cat lounges in the foyer and the front door of its new permanent home.

Going into town, we stopped at their famous Sundial Bridge is a well known spot in Redding.  It is a pedestrian bridge that resembles a sundial made of tall cables to hold it up with glass panels as its floor giving a clear view of the river below leading to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and the botanical gardens. The Sundial Bridge is the first of its kind and is the tallest working sundial in the world.

We crossed the bridge for a walk through the botanical gardens, however the gardens were disappointing because they was so unkempt. The lack of rain here does not provide the gardens with the lush green look of so many gardens we have seen in the east.

Afterwards we went into downtown Redding for dinner at Woody’s Brewery, an excellent choice with good atmosphere and food.

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