West Coast Road Trip Part I.

Monday, June 18, 2018

In my quest for greater presence, which will no doubt be a lifelong journey, I decided at the onset of summer to set the Insta's aside and just be a human existing in the world.  Disconnect, yet again, from over-sharing every minute of our life on social media and just BEING.  Yet here I am, feeling a strong urge to write and share my version of this life via words and images, which are my #1 creative outlets.  Something, to be honest, I'm not sure I should ever try to escape from.  Seems I will forever be in its clutches.  Which, fine.  Whatever.  I can think of worse things to be devoted to.  The whole point though, is to go a little deeper in being FULLY engaged and awake to the ever-changing and expanding lives of my children, of which I can't seem to keep up with no matter how hard I try.  At least without the distraction of social media, I have a better shot of meeting this personal challenge of being more awake, aware and available to the ones I love the most.

SO.  We kicked off summer with a bang, a much-dreamed about road trip up the West coast, San Fran to Seattle.  It was freaking amazing.  
We rented bikes and got ourselves across that behemoth of a bridge in one piece.  And I seriously can't believe no one died.  That's some scary riding, if you ask me.  A little too intense for my liking, biking through the streets of San Francisco, heading West on Bay Street amongst the cars, runners and tourists.  But we did it.  

I got to watch my children navigate flawlessly the throngs of pedestrians and honking cars along the wharf, with so much confidence and grace.  Far more than I could display.  Another reminder I need to chill out and trust their abilities.
The views and landscapes along the way were worth the white-knuckle riding, rewarded with ice cream upon our arrival in Sausalito.
As always, the sea salt air, lapping waves, warm breezes and golden sunshine never lets me be in its midst without questioning what in the hell we're doing living in the Midwest.  I'm the biggest Minnesota-lover of them all.  But damn, California,you magic.
We rung out San Francisco like a soaked washrag, absorbing all the touristy things one can do in the span of two days;
Lombard Street was, well, crooked.  We walked practically STRAIGHT uphill to the top then meandered slowly back down amongst the row houses and beautiful blooms, breathing in the smells and colors of early June in this Pacific city.

We hopped the ferry to Alcatraz (SO cool,) and of course couldn't help but imagine ourselves in a life of solitary confinement.  I can't fathom having no access to light.  Or nature.  I know that I, personally, would die without those two things.
(This was the most quiet the kids were the whole trip, as they listened to and became educated on the history and purpose of Alcatraz via it's self-guided audio tour.)

We also made a quick jaunt over the bridge to El Cerrito, the home of Metallica's early days
where the band rehearsed and wrote most of the songs for the albums Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets in the house’s garage on Carlson Blvd. (which unfortunately has been torn down.)  But the place where they practiced in a quiet neighborhood in the 1980's close to their current studio.  They weren't there.  I rang the bell outside the gates multiple times, much to the chagrin of the children, in hopes James Hetfield would come out and invite us in for a tour and private show.  Mostly to support my teens' obsession with the band and their music.  No such luck.

San Fran was amazing but I was itching for the wilderness.  The solitude of the woods and quiet, winding roads through the trees, that don't take a half hour to travel a mile on as San Francisco traffic does.  We headed west for the Redwoods.
We sauntered across short foot bridges over clear water creeks, all the while gazing up at trees older than all our lifetimes put together.

Surprisingly, I didn't take that many pictures here, being that I have about 18,000 images of the woods backlogged on my computer.  Instead, I just walked.  And looked up towards the tree-tops every chance I got.  Which was even better than photographing them.
We took our time exploring and found little burger joints off the beaten path where we were literally the only people in the place.  (This was actually called "The Burger Joint."  It's in Arcata, CA and REALLY good.)
It was miles of hiking in Jedidiah State Park on the Hatton Trail, amongst the ferns and foliage only the Pacific Northwest can produce.  We barely scratched the surface on all the trails and scenic river bends that lie among the trees in this magical forest.
But found a simple trail that led us to the most magical river ever (the Smith River) which was stunning and worth the effort.

Even the outhouse was precious.
Being in the deep woods and then catching the highway out straight to sweeping ocean views in the matter of an hour?  I never really know how to process that information.  It's mind-boggling to me to have the best of both landscapes within one place.
And when we'd had enough, moderately decent hotel pools and adjoining rooms were our refuge at the end of a long day of exploring.
We went slightly off the coastal path to make our way towards Cave Junction, OR where we did a little river rafting on the Klamath in Northern Cali.  THIS was a highlight for me.
The strongest rapids were Class 3.  Intense enough, but short and sweet.  Enough to get a thrill and then coast along through.  Giving us breaks to take dips in chilly waters but soak up the sun along the way.  One of the best days ever.  (Liquid Expeditions.)

We poured our exhausted bodies in to a tree house loft that night.  To be honest, aside from the novelty of this idea, it wasn't the greatest nights' sleep.  It was an expensive and tight squeeze for a family of five.  But cool, nonetheless, with an amazing gourmet breakfast prepared by the owners.
Crater Lake State Park didn't disappoint.  WHAT a view.  I had thought we'd stick to the coast the whole way up, but gosh, there's just so much to see in the interior of Oregon.  We went a bit out of our way to see this and again, it was worth it.
As we departed the park, I thought what better opportunity to keep going another hour or so North to experience ACTUAL cliffside hot springs!  (Not like the ones we went to in South Dakota, those were just springs.)  But ACTUAL hotty, hot, hot springs.  So we did.
Which I think will go down as the most memorable part of the vacation.

(I was warned on Trip Advisor by reviews of the proclivity of nakedness in this place, but naively thought, "Ah, it can't be that bad!  I'll bet we won't see one nude person.")  Well, as my 13-year-old and I stood in line waiting to use the public port-o-potty to change in upon our arrival, out walks the nudest woman I've ever seen.  
I understand there's only one kind of nude.  Clothes are either on or off.  And a body is a body.  We all have one.  But I don't know. . .when you're not expecting it?  And all of a sudden there are just extremely large boobs and a clearly "unkempt" bush coming at you?  You flinch.  She was smiling at the two of us as if this was totally cool.  All I could do in defense was utter, "Oh for the love of Christ."  My son cooly and calmly snickered.  I turned back to the car where the rest of the family sat and just stared blankly.  "God.  What have we gotten ourselves in to?"  I thought, as I watched the woman's butt jiggle away from us to the tunes of her altered state.  I admired though, her wherewithal to strap on a backpack and sandals.  But no underwear?  For real?

When I got back to the car and was going to begin my apology for having drug the family to this supposedly exquisite destination, my 11-year-old daughter cut me off, "Well?  We can't unsee that!"  

The kids were good sports about it and handle MOST things gracefully.  But man, I just wasn't in the mood.  I was pissy and tired of being in the car and we'd come a long way. . .and NOT to see Sasquatch's in Sasquatch territory from below the waist.  But we drove all that way, damnit.  So we made our way towards the springs, me praying all the while we'd be spared.

We weren't. 

Naked's everywhere.  One woman literally scrubbing out her lady parts on the edge of one pool.  Another man leaning on the wall of another, his penis propped on the ledge.  To which my words became stronger.  "Are you effing kidding me?!"  I've heard some hot springs have designated days for those who like to frolic in the nude.  But not Umpqua Hot Springs. This is a daily free-for-all.  So?  We took in what we could.  Tried to avert our eyes and had a good laugh as we peeled out of the gravel lot past the VW Vans and Birkenstock sandals. (Please note I appreciate both of those things.)
(This particular hot spring was upwards of 112 degrees, from what I'd heard amongst the locals.  No one so much as dipped a toe in it.  My husband, in all of his hard-coredness, plopped right in.)  

We got the flock out of there and made our way to Eugene, OR for the night, which I hadn't realized until after-the-fact, is the home of Animal House.  Amazing!  THAT is a cool college town and also the same weekend as the USATF National Championships at the University of Oregon, so there were track athletes everywhere, which was so cool to see.  (And also where I took my most favorite images of the whole trip and purchased my new favorite pair of sweatpants.)
The next day we headed to Florence, OR, home of some of the most beautiful sand dunes you've ever seen, quiet creek beds running throughout.  Although I booked this trip myself, I was NOT feeling ANY feelings of excitement about it once we arrived.  
(Charlie looks how I feel.)  Of course, he was eating it up two minutes in.
I, however, was brought to tears.  I don't do speed well.  Not like, the drug.  Speed in general. . .fast-moving things.  We were going so fast over these rolling dunes I was literally crying in the back seat for fear of our lives, envisioning us hitting a turn wrong over the loose sand, spilling out in all directions never to breathe again.  (Nevermind we could not have been more harnessed and protected and our driver, Dan, was just an angel.)  But I wasn't diggin' it.  We stopped at one point due to mechanical issues and I couldn't have unstrapped myself from the belts fast enough.  "Well?  It's been fun guys!  Peace out.  I'm done.  THIS I can't do."  Despite their coaxing, I told them to have a good life and that I'd see them on the flip side.  

The kids were practically in tears when we had to leave.  They loved this adventure SO much and I was a total buzzkill.  One for the record books, nonetheless.  Part II of our West Coast adventures to follow on the next post. . .


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