Travel notesIssue 23 | November 2015

Susanville CA: Notes From The Road

by Susan Volchok

With wildfires blazing in Southern Oregon and Northern California, we homed in on Susanville as the ninth night’s destination, for the most obvious of reasons (beyond, I mean, its seemingly safe distance from the uncontainable conflagration). Because, yes, it is named for an historic, if obscure, Susan, which was quite enough to make it a must, a town I might truly claim as my own, if only for one night. On the other hand, Susans do not get a discount on hotel accommodations in Susanville, even with a valid driver’s license. Better not to ask; it won’t make the desk clerk smile. I suppose she must’ve suffered the too-clever question numerous times before. Or maybe she just didn’t get it. We had all had a long, long day, that much was clear.   

There is not much to downtown Susanville, but, arriving late, we needed not much more than this place to sleep—the best in town, a good enough motel with aspirations as an inn—and a place to eat: we were grateful to find the classic Main Street brewpub still open and filled with locals, including numerous employees just off their shifts at the two local prisons.  We could, by the way, smell acrid smoke we could not see in the darkness that had descended upon Susanville, but it grew fainter, or we grew accustomed to it; in any case, it was no cause for alarm, everyone agreed.

By morning, drenching rains both cleared the air and made it easier for me to clear out of Susanville as we had to, though I was just beginning to get to know her. Slashing both ankles bloody with a cheap disposable razor in the steamy motel bathroom was a sure sign that it was time to leave too. More propitious, though, was the rainbow bravely curving through the gloom over Susanville as we drove away, heading toward Tahoe. Since arriving home, I’ve followed weather reports for the town, a way of keeping up the connection, I guess. So far as I can tell, it’s nearly always gray, chilly, damp in Susanville, and yet the forecast always calls for sun and warm weather tomorrow. Which, like that rainbow, is just so hopeful, don’t you think? Susanville! My kind of town.

About the author

Susan Volchok is a New York writer born and bred who has only recently begun to balance extensive overseas travel with American adventures, including that overnight in Susanville. She has published widely in journals and anthologies ranging from The Kenyon Review, n +1, and The Virginia Quarterly to Best American Erotica, and in mainstream magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times. Besides authoring fiction and essays, she is a licensed New York City guide offering New York Walks.

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Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok