Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Last Day on the Road...

When we awoke in the morning and headed on our way we found ourselves in tourist country. This was very disheartening because every place we stopped that was supposed to have giant trees was a tourist trap. They all charged way too much money (and we were pretty broke, this being the end of out trip). There were giant figures of Paul Bunion and Babe the Blue Ox everywhere, but we had been seeing those since Minnesota so we were used to them by that point. We did see something that we didn't see at any other Paul/Babe site, and that was a little kid punching Babe's balls. That was weird on a lot of levels, the least of which was that I always thought Babe was a girl, but I guess I don't know much about American lore.

In order to escape the tourist attractions and to actually see some big trees we took to pulling over on the side of the road whenever we came across a grove that had trees we thought were big enough. This turned our to be a good strategy. We saw trees wider around than any we had ever seen before. They were wide and shot straight up into the air. So high. We had fun exploring the forests on the side of the road, but we knew there were bigger trees out there some where and we got back to searching.

The GPS stopped working in this area because the trees were so tall they blocked the signal. This means that we had to use regular old maps to try and find the national parks. As it turns out we all suck at that because we kept missing them. We were all starting to get stressed by mid-day because we were afraid we had missed all of the legendary giant trees. I reached my breaking point when Sophie pooped on my pillow. We HAD to pull over for a de-stress session. We picked the best spot for that because Molly found these beautiful giant four leaf clovers that were a brilliant purple on the underside. They were amazing! I think Molly got pictures, so hopefully she'll post those soon. Once we all chilled out we made a plan to stop at the next national park.

The park we pulled into was breath taking. We drove for several miles on a dirt road until we found a little parking lot. The dogs had to stay in the car, but we got out and made our way down the trail. This is where we saw the giant trees we had been searching for.

That's Jared and Matt:

Molly loves trees:

It was an accidental blue day:

Banana slug! I think a sign said that the banana slug was the only bug that could eat the sequoia leaves. Also, the only things that can grow on the ground are ferns and other sequoia buds. It turns out that was what the giant clovers were!

The bark of the fallen trees was like marble, both in pattern and in smoothness.

They tried really hard to get around that tree, and that was one of the smaller ones.

We tried several times to take this picture by ourselves and it failed to hard. We were balancing the camera on a post and using the timer function. Jared, Molly, and I were waiting at the tree and Matt set the timer and than ran to get to us before the timer went off. The first few times his missed it. Then the fell as the timer was going off. See if you can find him! -Also check out Molly's face, she's laughing pretty hard...

We finally got a stranger to get the good photo:

All and all, the Red Woods were amazing. Seeing them on the last day of our journey was the perfect way to end. For the rest of the ride to Portland I was in a daze as my mind tried to make sense of the magnificent things I had seen.

We arrived at our new home after dark. It had been a surreal day and I don't think any of us were prepared to enter real life again after a month on the road. We unpacked the cars and got into cozy PJs. This is what the living room looked like:

Matt and I had been carting around a champagne bottle since PA, courtesy of Matt's pretend sister Abby (thanks Abby!), and it was time to break it open.

Cheers to our new beginning!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

San Fransisco to the Red Woods

After another too short stay with Bob and Fabianne, we continued up the coast. Our goal was to camp in the red wood forest that night, so in the interest of time we left the PCH and got on route 101, with the intention of getting back on it to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. San Fransisco was much closer to Moss Landing than I had thought, and before I knew it the Golden Gate was comming out of the fog.

There was a little tourist pull off, so naturally we took it and busted out our cameras.

That's Alcatraz.

Charley was so scared!

There's a rainbow at the end of the bridge:

We stopped to eat at a restaurant by the water and then we continued on towards the Red Woods. We were taking out time more than we wanted to, but every time we stopped we met some crazy character that delayed us. Willits, CA was FULL of interesting people. We stopped at a gas station to fill up and get some camping supplies around dinner time. A man was selling huge flats of strawberries that looked as if they had been picked that morning. I wanted to buy a little carton, but he would only sell them by the flat. Molly and I decided to split one, so we got way more strawberries than we could eat for $10. While Molly and I were buying the strawberries, Jared and Matt were learning the life story of this guy named Mike. Apparently he saw Molly's Vermont plate and the website written on the backs of our cars (we used glass paint to advertise the blog) and wanted to know what we were doing. We told him about the trip and our plans to move to Portland. He laughed and said "We call that getting 'Oregonized,' it starts right about here!" Mike was a pretty cool guy. He owns a metal shop right next to the gas station where he makes all kinds of pieces for everything from cars to jewelry. His shop was a mess, but he said that its a no waste business. He recycled everything. After about 40 minutes talking to this guy we decided to head out back on the road -we still needed to make it to the Red Woods before dark, which was fast approaching. He wished us good luck and we were back in out cars. We needed to get food for the camping trip so we stopped at a grocery store. Molly and I went in to get the food and the boys stayed in the cars. While we were getting dinner, Jared got sucked into a conversation with an obviously crazy man on his bike (Jared never got out of his car, the guy just rode up and started talking. People are WAY more outgoing on this coast). Jared said he was a crazy, possibly drunk, racist veteran from Vermont. The Vet said if we ever get into trouble we should call his friend and say he sent us. It was weird. I think Jared wrote down the whole conversation, and I'm sure he'll write about it in a later post.

It was getting dark and we were on the edge of the Red Woods. We found a camp site that had Red Wood trees, but just not the giant ones, and set up for the night. I was a little nervous because I had never gone "real camping" before, but I was relieved when the site had a bathroom and running water. We ate a delicious dinner of soup, bread, cheese, and strawberries and chocolate for desert. It was great! We settled into our tents for the night and it was beautiful! The tent that Matt had bought is all mesh so its completley see through. We layed on our backs and stared at the stars until we drifted off to sleep. Here's us the next morning:

I bet none of you would have ever thought you would see me in a tent!

That morning we were all excited to see the giant trees, so we got an early start, but that story will have to wait for another post.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Up the Coast

Appologies to Jared and Molly. I wanted to wait until they had caught up to LA before I made this post, but I'm sorry guys, I can't wait any longer! So here is my post about driving up the coast. Dear readers, please check back often to make sure you catch up with J & M's crazy adventures camping from Colorado to California.

We set out up the coast for Portland later than we had wanted to. "The reason?" you ask dear readers; In-N-Out Burger doesn't open until 10:30 AM. Those of you who know me, know I don't eat fast food, but Matt was the only one of us who had eaten In-N-Out Burger and he had gotten Jared excited about the "Secret Menu." Matt wouldn't tell Jared what "Animal Style" meant, but he kept promising him that he would love it. All of this promotion of In-N-Out Burger meant that we had to eat it for breakfast. I'm pretty sure both Molly and Matt got a double-double with a neopolitian shake off the secret menu, I got a "grilled cheese" also off the secret menu (I put it in quotes because it was a burger bun with cheese, pretty much a burger, just with out the meat.) Jared got a double-double animal style. The man behind the counter was very nice and very encouraging of Jared to try the secret burger. Jared asked him what it meant, and with out any prompting from Matt, the man refused to tell him, he only reassured Jared that he would love it. I hate to admit it, but I was slightly impressed with In-N-Out Burger. Molly and I talked about it and we agreed that we were impressed only because our standards for fast food were so low.

After our unusual breakfast we left LA. It was a misty day, and pretty much the whole day we drove next to mountains which the mist clung to.

We wanted to take the famous Pacific Coast Highway all the way up to Grant's Pass in Oregon. We thought the PCH was Highway 1, but it turns out we were wrong. Highway 1 runs as the PCH for a good way up the coast, but it turns out the PCH, at least in southern California, is mostly small town roads that hug the coast. So from LA until San Luis Obispo, we were inland.

When we got to the ocean, it was still misty and gray out, but we had to get into the water. Charley really didn't want to:

Sophie didn't want to either, and since Matt stayed in the car, I didn't make her. It was all for the best though because dry she was the same color as the sand!

And besides if she was wet, Matt would be giving me a very different look here:

We knew that we could never make it up the entire California coast in one day enjoyably, so we were headed for Moss Landing to spend the night with Uncle Bob and Fabianne. I called Bob to let him know we were on our way and he told me about all the cool things that we had to see up the coast. I'm sorry to say I couldn't remember everything he told me once I hung up the phone, but I remembered that somewhere there was a beach with seals, around the seal beach would be the Hurst castle, which Xanadu was modled after in "Citizen Kane," and there was a delicious restaurant in Salinas. Needless to say we had to keep our eyes open for road signs to help us along the way.

We were nearing Salinas when I saw a sign for the Hearst Castle. We turned right (because a left would be into the ocean) and began to drive up a mountain that was covered in fog. We couldn't see very far ahead of us so we had to drive slow. We passed signs for parking and followed them. Then out of the mist a building appeared. I got very excited, I wanted to see the zebra herds and the other oddities of the castle! We drove closer and it became painfully clear that we had come to a visitors' center. Apparently you couldn't just drive up to the castle, you had to park, pay, get on a shuttle, pay, and then probably pay again before you could walk through the place. We decided that we didn't have the time or the money for that garbage and we turned around and got back on highway 1. I was severely dissappointed.

Right after we got back on the highway we saw signs for the seal beach. We pulled off and in the parking lot we saw a group of squirrels who were no in the least bit afraid of humans.

This is Matt's hand feeding one:

After feeding the squirrels we walked towards the edge of the parking lot. In the distance I saw a colony of elephant seals. They were far away, but I was amazed to see wild seals that close.

Then I looked down and I saw that there was another group right below where I was standing. It was incredible!

Then, two male seals came out of the water. The one on the right was trying to get away from the one on the left. The one on the left was being a major jerk and he kept trying to attack the other one. It was an awesome thing to witness, these two 2,000 lb animals blubbering around on the beach, howling (or what ever it is they do) at each other in a slow, awkward pursuit. I was hoping to see a real fight, but the one getting attacked got out of reach. I guess it takes a lot of energy for these animals to drag themselves over the sand, and this fight wasn't worth the expense.

Look at how angry that guy is! He was definitely looking for a fight.

The aggressive seal kept following the other one around when they got to the group. I wonder why he was so mad at the other one. The more docile seal looked really sad about it.

He also had this crazy wound on him. I wonder if the mean seal took a chunk out of him...

Look, more fighting!

The beach had some amazing wildlife on it. I'm pretty sure these are pelicans:

And I think these are sea gulls.

There was also this tiny adorable rabbit. I felt so bad for him, his ears are all chewed up!

When we got back on the road, the coast quickly turned into what I heard it would be, hairpin turns and cliffs along the sea. I drove first, and it was harder than I expected, not because the road was twisty and windy, but because I just wanted to look at how beautiful it all was, and not the road.

Look! Black sand!

The whole drive was unreal. Truly breath taking. I am so in awe of how beautiful our entire country is. It baffles me to think that we, as a collective nation, aren't doing all we can to preserve and protect our land.

We got into Moss Landing just as it was getting dark. It was wonderful to see Bob and Fabianne again. We went out to dinner at this place down the road called "The Whole Enchilada." The owner was a character, but I'll let Molly and Jared tell you all about that, they have the pictures. Until next time, with love...