January 30, 2013 —
Trinidad, California is on the coast. A rock cliff lines the ocean view out of the window of the bed and breakfast where we are staying. We arrived at night, drove down from Portland, OR, and so I didn’t see the view until the morning. I was surprised when the sun poked through the fog and revealed the ocean.
Down below, huge rocks jut out from the water. From this distance, it’s difficult to imagine how big they are, but they look enormous. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, otherworldly.
We drive through the Avenue of the Giants, and Redwoods stretch big and tall. (Big and tall doesn’t really describe them—huge, enormous, gigantic, colossal… perhaps.)
I half expect to see a brontosaurus run across the road.
The fog rolls in daily, especially in the morning; by midday it’s burned off.
Friend and producer Marc stands with his hand blocking the sun on his brow as he points out a group of sea lions hanging out on a rock, “To the left of the big rock, directly below… You see them?” A mass of brown, smooth bodies lie sunning themselves.
He jokes that they are down there looking up at us. One of them is probably standing, flipper blocking the sun on his face. “To the left of that big house, directly above, there’s two guys standing right there… You see them?”
I’m up in Northern California retracing the steps of our documentary subject. He spent a few years living quietly up here in the mid-’90s. Most of the folks who knew him say he kept to himself and was fairly normal. No one knew anything about his checkered past until he was arrested for murder a few years later and it was written up in all of the papers.
At first, they didn’t believe it was the same guy, at least not until they saw the pictures of him in court.
Almost all of them are afraid to go on camera, not uncommon in this story. But the fear is palpable when we explain why we are there.
We are most interested in retracing what we know of his whereabouts the week before his best friend turns up dead in Los Angeles. The idea is to drive down to Los Angeles in one straight shot. The way we think that he did it.
We mount a GoPro camera to the front of the car and set it to time lapse. It will take one photo every second. It will greatly compress the time. We did a few tests and it looks pretty cool, especially when the sun rises and sets. We will get one of each of those, since it’s over a 12-hour drive.
We leave early in the morning and we stop a few times. We listen to music and joke and talk. We sit in silence and watch the landscape change. We do everything that we can think of. It’s a very long drive.
It’s hard not to speed on the I-5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles and I find myself hovering around 85 mph. The speed limit is 70.
We are two hours outside of LA when I see flashing lights in my rearview. I pull over. The cop comes around the car. “You’ve been pulled over for speeding. Where you headed?” he says.
“Long drive,” I explain. He nods. He sees the camera and asks what we are shooting. I explain that we are working on a documentary about an alleged murder.
“Trying to catch him,” I joke about the speeding. He smiles and returns to his car.
A few minutes later he hands me my license and registration back. “Slow down a little bit.”
I am incredibly thankful and bleary eyed by the time we roll into LA, fifteen hours after we left Trinidad
It fits the timeline and gives me chills.