Roadtrip part 3

Day 5

Most of the day was spent driving from Eureka, CA to Coos Bay, OR, the latter town being our disembarking point to Oregon Dunes the next day. Turns out Coos Bay is basically the largest town on the Oregon coast (population 16k), and also a heavy lumber area. I’ve never seen so much wood lying around. Also, there are a lot of trees up here. It kind of makes you wonder, but for humans, if trees would eventually take over all land (probably not).

Because we didn’t go through the Avenue of the Giants, we had to do the drive-through tree near Klamath. The drive through tree was pretty much exactly as described: you drive through a tree. Yes, it’s kind of gimmicky, but also slightly amusing. Maybe not worth $5, but it’s vacation.

After a quick stop in Crescent City for food (The Chart Room, which had pretty delicious fish and chips as well as other fried seafood), we drove on the Howland Hill Road trail, which is a mostly unpaved drive through a jungly-looking section of redwoods in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Evidently this is a popular place, because we saw more travelers here than in any other park in the area; it might have also been due to the time and the day (Thursday) as well.

We did make a short stop at a beach just north of the California-Oregon border, which was quite pretty. Besides that, it was mostly driving.

The CD list, which today was competing with my hearing Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” for the first time on the radio:

Artist, Album — Played Today (Cumulative)
Dido, Life for Rent — 1 (1)
Taylor Swift, Fearless — 2 (9)
Lenka, Lenka — 0 (9)
Bebe, Pafuera Telarañas — 0 (2)
Marit Larsen, Under the Surface — 0 (1)
Marit Larsen, The Chase — 0 (1)

Day 6

It’s a fairly short drive from Coos Bay to the Oregon Dunes. However, the visitor center is quite far up north relative to where we ended up hiking, which meant a little extra driving. What’s interesting about the dunes is that it’s a 2-mile stretch of desert that’s actually flanked on both sides by trees. There are a few oases and a few forests randomly in the desert as well, which I think means that the water table reaches the surface. Quite an incongruous sight. It’s pretty good that dk has some sense of direction, because I was way off in terms of navigating back to the trail. That’s the tricky thing about sand dunes and deserts: the wind blows away all traces of where you walked before. It’s quite fun to wander around what seems like an endless stretch of desert and dunes, when in reality you’re never more than a mile or so away from the trees. We should remember to bring out stillsuits next time. The beach itself was rather unspectacular, especially compared to the trees and the dunes.

The drive to Medford lasted a little over three hours and was rather uneventful. The highlight of the Medford Holiday Inn Express was the VHS player in the room. Is there someone who drives around with a bunch of VHS tapes in the hopes that their hotel room will have a VCR?

As a note: t-mobile kind of has terrible coverage in these areas. I was able to get edge in the Eureka/Arcata/Crescent City area, but basically had no reception at all on the coast of Oregon, not even in Coos Bay. You know you’re in a huge town such as Medford when you can get 3g or even 4g wireless. I’m kind of glad that dk has AT&T, which actually has at least some coverage almost everywhere we’ve been; and that I didn’t toss out this Garmin GPS, which, despite having maps that are now about 5 years out of date, is still pretty damn useful during road trips.

The CD list, a reminder of how great a song “White Flag” is:

Artist, Album — Played Today (Cumulative)
Dido, Life for Rent — 4 (5)
Taylor Swift, Fearless — 0 (9)
Lenka, Lenka — 0 (9)
Bebe, Pafuera Telarañas — 0 (2)
Marit Larsen, Under the Surface — 0 (1)
Marit Larsen, The Chase — 0 (1)

Day 7

I’m glad we decided to make our return journey down the 5, which allowed us to visit Lava Beds National Monument, which was pretty awesome. There are lava tubes and caves you can crawl into. There are actually quite a few caves of varying difficulties and lengths, some absolutely enormous. We were not quite adventurous, lacking hardhats and all, so we did a few of the easy and moderate difficulty caves. It’s kind of interesting to go down caves that are constantly 40-50F even when the surface temperature was around 100F. And seeing how caves are pretty much dk’s favorite things after castles, it was a pretty fun experience. Not quite as grand in scale as Carlsbad Caverns or Postonja, but well worth the detour. Some of the caves had these bacteria that kind of glowed a golden color in light. I also took a short video of the cave, which was dark.

After Lava Beds, we drove down a rather long stretch of unpaved road to get back to the main freeway. I wasn’t sure my car would be able to survive that stretch, but it did. The Garmin GPS was kind of wonky around here, constantly trying to tell us to turn around or take detours on tiny roads. Luckily dk went to AAA before the trip and got actual paper maps, which turned out to be useful.

We made a short stop at Mt. Shasta, which was a nice contrast to the desert and trees and caves that we saw the rest of the trip. There was actually a bit of snow on the sides of the road near the top of where we could drive. Pretty nice views, although by the time we got there, it was nearly dark so we had to book it down and get to our hotel in Redding.

I think by this time we were pretty sick of these CDs. Luckily, there were some radio stations that we could receive. A lot of country stations out here.

Day 8

The highlight of the morning was watching Federer win Wimbledon. Then we made a short visit to Sundial Bridge in Redding, which looked pretty nice. However, it was getting pretty hot, so we pretty much left in a hurry. The Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, where the bridge is located, does seem pretty nice. Might be worth a couple days exploring at some future date, maybe when it’s not 100F outside.

Drive back to the bay area felt pretty long. It surprised me that the biggest stretch of traffic we hit was when going through Vacaville. I was not all that excited to be back in the bay. It just feels like there are so many people here.

Listened to radio stations all the way. I think there was a “Call Me Maybe” sighting; still can’t believe that song is actually getting so much airtime.

dk made a google map of our driving route. I could’ve sworn we drove over 2,000 miles, though…

Some pictures posted if you’re on G+.

Roadtrip part 2

Day 3

The day started out with doing the 17 mile drive at Pebble Beach, which I think would have been a lot more impressive if it didn’t cost $9.75 and if it weren’t cloudy the entire time. For almost ten dollars, I was expecting something amazing, and the drive did not live up to the hype. Again, it’s not that it was a bad route, but there are plenty of very beautiful driving routes in California that aren’t so unashamedly commercialized. I did like the lone cypress, though.

Driving back through the bay area without stopping felt kind of strange. We took the 101 up the peninsula and then the Golden Gate Bridge, and then decided to drive up a stretch of CA-1 before giving up and taking the 101 up to Eureka, just a little south of Santa Rosa. It was a surreal experience going through Pt. Reyes and the Tomales Bay area and not stopping. And then going through Santa Rosa and not stopping there either. When I think of northern California, this is usually where it ends, at the northern periphery of the Bay Area. In actuality, there is a lot of Californian land above the bay (but not very many people). It was an interesting drive, although not particularly exciting. In total, we probably drove around 400 miles.

When you’re just driving all day and aren’t in a particular hurry to get to a destination, it’s nice to just let the mind wander and relax. It was interesting to think how beautiful the world is, both natural and human constructs. Just cruising and admiring the scenery that changes gradually and smoothly, every mile sort of blending together with its neighbors. Sometimes, everything just seems to click together when you’re far away from the troubles. It probably does me a great deal of good to just unwind and appreciate the vastness of nature; in my rather claustrophobic day-to-day life, I don’t think I experience that sensation nearly enough.

The funniest thing of the day (to me) was that we didn’t hit any traffic going through San Francisco, but we did hit a stretch of bad traffic in Santa Rosa.

The CD list (does Taylor Swift’s voice begin to sound a little shrill to you after listening to her sing for 5 hours nonstop?):

Artist, Album — Played Today (Cumulative)
Taylor Swift, Fearless — 5 (5)
Lenka, Lenka — 3 (9)
Bebe, Pafuera Telarañas — 0 (2)
Marit Larsen, Under the Surface — 0 (1)
Marit Larsen, The Chase — 0 (1)

Day 4

It’s kind of weird to think about the fact that Mountain View has nearly three times the population of Eureka (74k vs. 25k), and yet Eureka is pretty much the largest city in California north of the greater Bay Area and Sacramento. It definitely possesses that small-town feel to it, yet has an air of importance owing to its relatively large size. One wonders, though, had history been just a little different whether this area would be a bustling metropolitan area. At a quick glance, the north coast area is not lacking in any major resources.

Our day was spent mostly exploring the Redwood National and State Parks. We did two hikes: the Trillium Falls Trail at Elk Meadow (around 2.5 miles), and a slightly longer hike at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (around 5-6 miles). Despite the hikes totaling around 8 miles, it did not feel very stressful at all, and these were actually the most relaxing hikes I’ve done in memory. Part of it had to do with the fact that we were in no rush to get anywhere, so we were walking at our own slow pace of around 2 to 3 miles an hour. The other thing, which was pretty magical, was just the fact that there were so few people on the trails — much different than most hikes I’ve done. (And unlike trekking in the Indian Himalayas in the winter, I wasn’t in a constant battle for survival.) It is so calming hiking along well-groomed trails and not seeing anyone else for miles at a time.  For most of the hike, it was so quiet that the sounds of our breathing were the loudest things we heard. There is an amplified feeling of awe when you’re alone and surrounded by giant redwoods and nothing else.  Hiking up a 300-foot hill and still just seeing the trees towering all around you. The pictures don’t do the experience justice.

We also did a bit of driving in the parks. A lot of scenery is actually quite accessible from the car. While the 101 is already pretty scenic, there was a nice alternate route (Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway) which I think was considered more scenic because it was a 2-lane highway instead of the 4 lanes that the 101 had. We also did the Coastal Drive Loop, a short drive that had a small amount of unpaved road that had some pretty views of the ocean.

With some foresight, we probably would not have booked 2 nights in Eureka because the Redwood parks are north of Eureka, so we had to drive an hour back down to Eureka (and then back up again the next day). But it was nice to have Eureka as a home base for the couple of days.

The mystery of the day: what’s up with all the hollowed-out trees on the hiking paths? Are there just more hollowed-out trees than one might expect, or do people just make the hiking paths go near these trees?

Note to self: dk is kind of a tough slavedriver, refusing the gushers and fruit rollups during the hike.

The CD list, which was punctuated by the fact that we found a radio station that was playing Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe”, so we knew it had to be good:

Artist, Album — Played Today (Cumulative)
Taylor Swift, Fearless — 2 (7)
Lenka, Lenka — 0 (9)
Marit Larsen, Under the Surface — 0 (1)
Marit Larsen, The Chase — 0 (1)
Bebe, Pafuera Telarañas — 0 (2)

Roadtrip part 1

A small travelog only because there’s nothing to do here after dark but the hotel has internet. Pictures forthcoming, probably after I get back home.

Day 0

Dk arrives the night before. We go to San Francisco and Emeryville to meet up with some friends. But I have dinner plans with some WB friends in Mountain View, so I drive back down while dk stays up in sf. After one drink at Tied House, I’m too tired to drive back up to sf to pick him up. It’s nice to see friends all around, but driving from the peninsula up to sf is kind of a pain, and doing the round trip twice in a day would not have been much fun. In any case, this driving was the warmup for the roadtrip to come.

Day 1

The craziness of the day before means I have to wake up early (6:30am!) to drive to sf to pick up dk before we drive back down to get to Hearst Castle in time for our 2:10pm tour time. The extra 90 miles of driving kind of sucks, but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the trip’s entirety.

We pretty much book it down CA-1, which wasn’t really so bad except for a stretch between Monterey and Big Sur area, which was pretty winding. There are some pretty nice views along the coast. I feel like I must have driven down the same stretches of CA-1 when going to Big Sur, but for some reason parts of it look familiar and other parts don’t at all. I definitely don’t recall driving all the way down to San Simeon. It’s pretty nice to drive on a straight road every once in a while.

Hearst Castle is actually not a castle at all, much to my disappointment. I and dk were kind of hoping for a moat and drawbridge, but alas, it is merely a big estate atop a hill that overlooks the ocean. It’s quite an impressive residence for sure, but the word “pastiche” seems to sum up my main impression of Hearst Castle: it combines so many different styles that it seems slightly incongruous, despite the rather artful design and architecture. A large part of this feeling might also be due to the fact that the main building was never completed, and remains intentionally unfinished to this day (to keep it in the state that W. R. Hearst left it). So there are bits of bare concrete and different sections of the building that just don’t quite fit together. The artwork and interior decorations are quite stunning, especially for a private residence. But again, there is so much going on, with European artifacts and artwork from so many different locales and time periods, that the entire residence seems a little too busy for my tastes. There’s really nothing that speaks tasteful simplicity here; yet, it’s still very pretty. The garden and grounds are very nice. I wouldn’t mind visiting again at some future date. The $25 ticket price feels kind of steep.

We decide that it would be better to drive back to Monterey for the night, and we manage to make it there a little after dusk. A quick phone check on gives us a good candidate hotel to spend the night.

The “because he didn’t believe me that I only have 6 CDs and no Aux plug or mp3 player in my car” list:

Artist, Album — Played Today (Cumulative)
Marit Larsen, Under the Surface — 1 (1)
Marit Larsen, The Chase — 1 (1)
Bebe, Pafuera Telarañas — 2 (2)
Lenka, Lenka — 3 (3)

Bebe and “UTS” are good throwbacks to our roadtrip through the Southwest. Remember “track 2” and “track 11”? (The Honda Odyssey that we drove in that previous roadtrip also only had a CD player.) Somehow, extensive time in the car seems to have ruined my copy of Under the Surface; the fact that the song “Under the Surface” was the one that kept skipping made me very sad. 🙁

Day 2

Most of the day was spent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s an interesting experience coming here again, and it definitely felt like the aquarium was catered more towards kids. But maybe part of that feeling was because the aquarium was very crowded and had a lot of kids running amok. The facilities felt like they were at capacity, and at times I felt a little claustrophobic with the number of people in the building. Nonetheless, it’s still mesmerizing to stare at jellyfish and penguins and small sharks swim around. And those sea otters (Allied Atheist Allegiance) are pretty cute. The 15-minute mini-lectures they hold seem very light on material — am I the only one who wished they talked for a full 50 minutes?

Monterey reminds of me San Francisco in the fact that it’s cloudy and foggy and kind of cold all the time. On a clear and sunny day, both places are doubtless beautiful. Monterey at least has some small-town charm to it even if the sun only broke through the clouds for a few minutes each day we were down there. The drive along the coast in Pacific Grove (Ocean View Blvd. and Sunset Dr.) was quite beautiful.

As for food, we ate crepes at Crêpes of Brittany, which was an above-average crepe-eating experience for me. I find it hard for US-made crepes to compare to those in Paris, but the Nutella crepe I had was pretty good, if slightly less crispy than I would have liked.

If you’re ever in Monterey, I would recommend eating at Vivolo’s Chowder House, a small restaurant a few blocks away from Cannery Row. I ordered the fisherman’s platter (assorted fried seafood) as well as the clam chowder breadbowl, which was way too much food. The fish, scallops, and shrimp in the fisherman’s platter were fresh and absolutely delicious. This was also the first time I’ve ever eaten clam chowder; it also was delicious, and not quite as heavy as I thought it would be.

The CD list, not so bad today because it was just local driving most of the time:

Artist, Album — Played Today (Cumulative)
Lenka, Lenka — 3 (6)
Marit Larsen, Under the Surface — 0 (1)
Marit Larsen, The Chase — 0 (1)
Bebe, Pafuera Telarañas — 0 (2)