Seeing sights, one state at a time

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November 6, 2010 - 12:00 AM

50th class reunion highlights road trip

Paul Sorenson is an eclectic fellow.
His home is decorated with sculptures made from teapots, frying pans and metal discs from who knows where. He collects license plates. One is a rare, original condition 1913 version, the first issued in Kansas. Tantalizing fossils are among a collection of rocks.
That he lives in Iola isn’t happenstance. He spent weeks 10 years ago researching an affordable place to live with a friendly atmosphere before migrating from native California.
Sorenson also is an adventurer.
His latest was a 31-day, 10-state journey covering 6,071 miles in his 1997 Kia Sportage.
The trip was to attend his 50th high school class reunion in the San Francisco Bay area. He also was eager to visit relatives and friends, several of whom he has made through license plate collecting.
Sorenson said he wouldn’t have considered such an ambitious and time-consuming undertaking without the help of his Iola friends and neighbors who volunteered to keep his lawn up to standard and tend to other tasks such as picking up his mail and paying bills.
True to his meticulous nature, Sorenson planned the journey carefully including limiting his distance to 500 miles a day — at most. The restriction served two purposes: to not get tuckered out and to give the scenery a bit more than just a passing glance.
Once on the West Coast, Sorenson said California’s traffic jolted his memory as to why he left the state. “I remembered how much traffic there is but I had forgotten how fast they drive. There was no time for sightseeing there.” California is home to more than 36 million people; 12 percent of the U.S. population.
When he ventured north to Tacoma, Wash. and then on east to Salt Lake City on his journey home, the driving got considerably relaxed, he said.

SORENSON kept a statistical record of his trip, his first back to California since 2005, when he flew. It included overnight stays at the homes of 25 friends and relatives — just six nights in motels — and driving at sea level as well as high as 10,603 above that benchmark. He has an altimeter in his car and was surprised when it reached the high point of just over two miles above sea level on I-70 in Colorado.
Sorenson also had a small cooler that he squeezed between the front bucket seats of his sporty vehicle, which permitted him to stay on the road rather than stop for lunch breaks. It also saved him a few bucks.
The only specific date he had in mind when he left Iola Sept. 19 and drove west on U.S. 54 was to be in the Bay area by Oct. 2 for his high school reunion.
“I was so glad I made the reunion this time because the organizers said it was going to be our last big hurrah,” Sorenson said. It was attended by 125 of 400 graduates.
Otherwise without a definite timetable, he took time to backtrack a time or two, to see people who weren’t at home when he first stopped by, and to drive to Reno, Nev., to visit a couple of friends before going on to Burney, Calif., to see his sister, Marco Sorenson.

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