Monday, May 4, 2009

Going Places that I've Never Been

(Warning: there are two bad words in this post.)

The going away festivities from the night before had left me with a broken head and slightly dehydrated heart, so I was feeling fragile when we drove on to the ferry. Having finished school (forever[?]) a few days before and finished moving (not forever) a few minutes before, I pulled onto the Coho ferry with Sarah, headed for Port Angeles, WA with a station wagon full of stuff and a roof full of bikes. Our plan: to cruise the American west coast for a while (weeks? months?), looking for a place to lay our heads for a slightly longer while, and take some time to smell the roses along the way.

Leaving Victoria proved harder than I thought, though, in more ways than one. I tend to boast about the amount that I move, and with my last few have developed a smug sense of self-satisfaction at how smoothly it can go. This time, however, proved to be quite the scramble to vacate the apartment, tie up loose ends and catch the last southbound boat of the day from Victoria. While I wasn't entirely surprised at the rough go I had getting everything to fit in the car, I hadn't figured on having to mask a quivering lip and salty cheeks as we sailed away from the Island I had lamented more than once over the past three years. I'll try and save face by chocking the emotions up to the lingering effects of the previous night. Either way, though, at 4:00 on Thursday afternoon, I was headed for the mainland.

We camped in Olympic National Park the first night and headed south down US 101 the next morning. The Washington section of 101 has its share of Pacific Northwest greenery, but we both felt inclined to drive through the state at a utilitarian pace. We knew that Oregon and California would give us much cause to take our time, and looked forward to exploring those states at a gait so leisurely it might invite the middle finger from RV-ing retirees. Washington could be cruised through at a decent clip.

We arrived in Oregon late in the day on Friday and camped in Fort Stevens State Park at the extreme Northwest tip of the state. A funny thing about Oregon: one is prohibited by law from pumping one's own gas. Ostensibly this is to create jobs in the state, but if nothing else it adds some local colour to an out-of-stater's visit. Case-in-point: a conversation I had with an attendant at a rural gas bar on Saturday morning:

"Hey man, where are you headed?"
"Not sure. South is pretty much all we know. We're going to go at least as far as the giant redwoods in California."
"The redwoods are fucking bad, dude!"
"Yeah man. They blew my mind. There are trees that are as wide as from me to that building over there."
"Sweet. Looking forward to it."
"Yeah. I think they're prehistoric or some shit."

Heading inland from there, we made our way to Portland to check out the city and visit a friend of Sarah's. After getting caught in a hail storm and learning the hard way that there is a dearth of public restrooms in the city, we decided that the time might not be right for us and Portland to become acquainted. We enjoyed a great evening with an old friend and his wife and then headed back toward the coast late Saturday night.

As far as scenery, the Oregon coast has not disappointed. To our right has been crashing surf and the open ocean (I think it's the Pacific), and to our left have been hills blanketed with foliage so lush I've daydreamed about riding my bike atop the canopy, only to be snapped back to reality by the logging truck approaching me in the oncoming lane I have drifted into.

Sunday afternoon we arrived in Cannon Beach, where any well-cultured child of the 80's should know that The Goonies was filmed. We both felt initially drawn to the town, as it's a quaint seaside village where most of the shops have posted hours that include the words "around" or "ish." There are also striking similarities between Cannon Beach and Lake Placid, New York - a village that is near and dear to both of our hearts and has a similar resort vibe.

Upon closer inspection, however, Cannon Beach seems to be like the head cheerleader of coastal Oregon: it's nice to look at for a little while and is pleasant enough for a day or two, but eventually you can't help but realize it is a little too perfect. The meticulous landscaping, ultramodern vacation homes and picturesque storefronts came to give off an aura of the manufactured (despite the absence of chain stores), and the longer I spent in town the more I felt like I was in Disneyland for rich people from Seattle. Indeed, it looked like a village that had everything one could want, except for the sense that any real people actually lived there. There was enough distinct about it that I could maybe see myself enjoying the beach there for a summer, but I won't be surprised if I'm greeted by a Stepford wife the next time I roll into town.

Before departing Cannon Beach we sent some mail home. Now, one of the joys of our trip is not knowing quite where we're going, and not having anywhere to get back to. There is something at once liberating and guilt-inducing about having to shrug our shoulders when asked where we are headed either to or from, and in the past three days I think we have used four different home addresses. It can also add some flavour to even mundane activities such as mailing a letter. Here is the return address I put on a card that went in the mail box this morning:

99 Outback
BC Plates
924 HMR
Highway 101
West Coast

After the post office we contined south this afternoon. In light of the rather gnarly wind and rain that are pounding the coast, we've opted to move inside for the night. We're hunkered down at a Mom and Pop motel in Lincoln City, Oregon, hoping to be up and at 'em early tomorrow and camped somewhere cool tomorrow night. Private ownership is prohibited on the Oregon coastline, so there are heaps of prime camping spots lining the shore (the hippies finally got something right). I'll update when I can, and look forward to sharing more adventures as we move along.

Just don't ask me where I live.




Schizz said...

You think you had a hard time saying goodbye, I feel like the kid who is left at school after all the other kids have been picked up by their parents and are probably already at home watching degrassi high trying to figure out how Snake ever got with a girl, while you're stuck waiting outside, killing time hoping your parents haven't forgotten you completely.

Also, I understand what you mean about Cannon Beach, though it still is one of my favourite places to go for like a couple of days. I have like 500 pictures of that damn rock and beach.

Don't miss out on hiking in the dunes when you get to Florence, and I haven't been but apparently the inland trip to Crater Lake when you get further south is phenomenal. Let me know if you want some suggestions of places to check out.

All the best to you and Sarah, I have every intention of tracking you down this summer wherever you end up.

Your mother said...

Great report, Hart. I'm so happy that this is turning out to be such a good trip and that you're blogging it.

A few points:

1. The logging truck will always win. Enough said.

2. Retirees do not do the middle-finger thing, at least not the ones I hang out with.

3. You feel about Cannon Beach the way we felt about Sedona, AZ. It was nice to look at for a few minutes, but not real, the beauty of the land notwithstanding. Wouldn't go back.

4. 924 HMR???

Butterfly Girl said...

So glad to read this and be allowed to virtually travel alongside! I love the Oregon Coast and Cali is good too until you get to San Fran. I agree w/ the gas station attendant about the Redwoods. Notice when you're there... everyone whispers... like everyone somehow intuitively knows the giants (prehistoric though they are) deserve respect.

Elizabeth Shouldice said...

Hart, got you and Sarah both great presents in Ireland. Once home will be sure to mail them to the address you mention. Peace, love and understanding--Zib

Christina Drake said...

Did you make it to the Sand Dunes along the coast of Oregon? They start up just below (south?) of Lincoln City if I remember right. Totally different from the rest of Oregon's beaches and pretty darn awesome, although not as awe inspiring as redwoods. BTW on your way back stop at the Trees of Mystery/Giant Paul Bunyon somewhere in Oregon -- at one point I (I who hate all dirt) wanted to get married there, so you know it's cool if kitschy. Also if you have time (and if it still exists) there are some cool caves near Grant City, Oregon (I think -- somewhere near the Rogue River anyway -- do some river rafting while you're at it). See if you can spot my brother's stuffed dog somewhere in the foliage as he accidentally threw it from the car window during one road trip.

Rachel SQF said...

Just a general YAY!!!!
And a big endorsement for Crater Lake. It's a haul inland, but oh so worth it for geography geeks :)