Best of the West: Oregon to California

Rise and shine! Outside the drawn hotel curtains, I could hear the birds talking to one another and letting everyone else know; it was time for a new day. The sun was barely peeking in as the clouds blocked most of her light. Inside our room it was quiet, dark and cold. I was awake but for a moment, had forgotten where I was. I wasn’t used to waking up next to Dave, I was used to being alone and sweating in my room in Seattle. When I rolled over and saw him lying there, sound asleep, a sense of relief washed over me- this was real, it was all really happening. No more long, drawn out goodbyes but rather short ones that meant we would be together for as long as we chose to be.

Taking a quick shower, I packed up the small bags that we had and soon we were both awake and out the door. It was 6:30 in the morning but already there were a few other people at the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Judging by their scrubs and three ring binders, they looked like nurses or hopeful nurses on their way to a conference. The breakfast room was quiet except for the news recapping another mistake Hillary Clinton had made.

We drank our coffee and ate our breakfast, quietly mapping out the next part of our journey. Today we were planning on heading inland a bit and taking a detour through the Redwood National Forest. The mighty redwoods were something that everyone should see and something that was on both of our bucket lists. We approximated our drive time, drank the last few drops of liquid then settled back into the cozy Jetta.  

Raindrops began to faintly drop on the windshield as we departed Coos Bay, merged back onto 101 South and headed down the Oregon Coast. My eyelids were heavy, causing me to be the ultimate co-pilot fail. Rule #1 of Co-Pilot is always don’t fall asleep. I was trying so hard but ultimately my eyelids won and I drifted into a short-lived catnap.

When I woke thirty-minutes later, we were pulling over at a small yet scenic Oregon town. Bathroom break, stretch break and of course, a little photo opportunity. Stepping up on the brick wall that divided the hills to the ocean and the road, I felt so free. The wind blowing my hair and sweater away from my body, this moment felt like one I had been waiting for my whole life. I looked over and couldn’t help but smile when I saw how happy Dave seemed to be. My heart ached for moments such as these, moments where you are doing seemingly nothing of major importance yet somehow it sticks with you. Looking over the mural down on the great boulders and open sea, I was reminded just how small I am compared to the vast earth.

Back on the winding road, I followed the rest of our drive through Oregon on my road atlas, silently marking through each city as we passed. A gorgeous mix of trees, sea and roaming hills flew by the outside of my window. Dave and I both agreed this would be a place we would love to explore more. There’s never enough time in life- you could spend each and every day seeing something new and wonderful and still never end up seeing it all.

Just before 11 am we had made it to the California/Oregon border and of course, I needed my photo by the sign. Just as I marked my travels west with a dance pose by each state sign, I needed to mark my move south with similar photos. “Babe! Welcome home,” Dave smiled as he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me closer. I hadn’t even thought much about what was going on, just living the actions. It hadn’t quite hit me yet; California was now my new home. It seems as if I was just starting over in Washington and now, not even a year later, I was beginning again. This time, the begin again had everything to do with love.

Right then and there, on the border of Oregon and California I really started to comprehend how truly amazing time, life and plans are. The plans we make for ourselves often never go as planned because there is always a better plan for us. In less than a year I had lived in three major cities, driven through eight states, and have fallen in love. In a true test to time – it’s always proving it slows down for no one. A year can go just as quickly as it comes but, when we are counting moments rather than hours or days, it can sure feel like we’ve lived a full and loving year.

Farewell, no state tax, I thought as we drove further into California. Oregon I had decided was a true hidden gem of the United States. I feel it’s so often over looked that most people don’t fully know or appreciate the mind-blowing, stunningly, beautiful state that we know as Oregon. I would have never guessed if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

My stomach was starting to rumble- needing some lunch. With nothing but openness and very small towns few and far between, we ended up pulling over at the “Snack Shake” on the side of the freeway. Bright yellow picnic tables with brown umbrellas sat out in the middle of a gravel parking lot. The two elderly male workers took our orders and started to flip the burger and fry the chicken. We sat at the picnic tables and let the hot sun beat down upon us. We realized that we had somehow miscalculated our timing and it may take us a little longer than we had initially thought to get to San Francisco. No fret, when you have no real plans and nowhere to really be, it’s okay to get lost, wonder and take your time.

Finishing our lunch, we opted out of ice cream with the promise of getting it later down the road. Dave handed me a wild daisy from the fields then whisked me away on to the next part of our adventure. It wouldn’t be long now until the might and majestic Redwoods.

***

“Wake up, Britt, you have to wake up. We are getting to the Redwoods, you’re going to want to see these!” Blog 16 - IMG_9687

Shoot, my ploy to pretend I wasn’t sleeping hadn’t worked- he knew. With half opened eyes I sheepishly peered out my window. What I saw completely caught me off guard. I couldn’t even see the tops of the towering Redwoods. Wow. They seemed to continue into the sky for an infinite amount. Dave turned off Highway 101 and merged onto the small two-lane highway that drove us through the Redwoods. Near the entrance (or exit as we soon figured out) there was a booklet for self-guided tours through the Redwoods. It was also there that we decided to stretch our legs and to take a little hike through the woods to see what sorts of sights were awaiting us.

Surrounded by the Redwoods, I simply could not get over how large these trees were. Standing over 6-foot tall, Dave appeared to be an ant next to the lofty trees. Feeling like children again, Dave took off running, sprinting around the fallen trees, jumping and climbing with a smile glued to his face. I knew this was one part of the trip he was looking forward to the most so I loved to see how much he was enjoying it. Grabbing my hand, he led me down the human made trail, over dead trees, through split Redwoods and around thick and fat ones that they wouldn’t dare put a path through. There were few other people on our trail, which is sometimes nice. I like being lost in the woods with no sight of human activity except for the man next to me.

We walked about 2 miles into the woods before realizing that as much as we wanted to stay and play, we needed to keep going or we would never make it to San Francisco. Back to the car we walked, taking in the sights and the fresh scents along the way.

The overflowing Jetta looked less and less appealing each time we had to re-enter the car. The trip would have been a lot more relaxing if we didn’t have a car full of junk but, we forever make the best of what’s around and enjoy the journey. Driving the small road through the Redwoods was truly an indescribable feeling. So many times in life I come across moments or natural wonders that remind me how large the world is. It happened with the mountains in Seattle, with the Oregon coast and now with the Redwoods in Northern California. So often, people, myself included, believes we have to sail the seas and travel to far, foreign places to see something beautiful and wonderful that we forget how blessed we are in the United States to have such a variety of wonder. I could spend a year traveling our beautiful land and still need more time to see it all. Blog 18 - IMG_9702

Rays of sunshine were peeking through the tall trees at a picture perfect angle we had no choice but to stop and take in the beauty. Photo opportunities all over the trails, these were some of my favorite photos of our trip. In the middle of the highway, surrounded by the Redwood National forest, Dave and I took our signature pose with the rays of sun beaming down.

There were many stops on the self-guided tour that tourists are able to stop, read about and take a look at what’s going on. So much history is in the area and it’s awesome how they record it for you to read. Still, we were on a race against the daylight so we couldn’t stop at them all. We were picky and choosey about where we stopped but enjoyed a slow cruise under the tree top canopy. Chandelier Tree is one of the oldest trees at a remarkable 2,400 years old. It scales in at 315 feet tall and 21 feet in diameter. To make it more of a tourist attraction, the cut a hole in the middle of Chandelier for cars to be able to drive through. Of course, we had to do it too! I was nervous the Jetta wasn’t going to fit especially after seeing the minivan in front of us almost get stuck, but she managed to make it through with no problems.

After Chandelier Tree our next stop was San Francisco. The trip wouldn’t be worth telling if the drive was an easy one. Instead of a smooth sailing highway, we were stuck on the two-lane highway that had hairpin turns, winding up and down the hills with no turn off. That’s right, once you were on this road there was no getting off, somewhat freaky if you think about it. Luckily, we didn’t read too much into it and just aimlessly followed the road relying on the gut feelings, road atlas and road signs as we had lost service miles back before the forest.

The road to San Francisco was long and we were starting to get quite antsy. Cows, birds and horses provided entertainment for a short while but mostly I was starting to cramp up and wanted to get out of the car. Finally Dave pulled over on a gorgeous overlook of the Pacific Ocean. Rocky boulders played peek-a-boo beneath the rumbling and vicious waves of the ocean. The weather was beginning to take a turn and suddenly I felt a chill run over my body. The sun would be on her way out, and standing over the coast with the ocean breeze I was finally able to breathe and feel rejuvenated enough to make it the rest of the way to San Francisco.

As the sun set and the fog rolled in, we made our way across the Golden Gate Bridge, letting us both know we could soon, almost be down driving for the day. Finding our way to the familiar park our friends lived near by, I was happy to be able to sleep in a bed, stretch out my legs and just have a break from being in a car for the second straight day. I had never been so exhausted and couldn’t wait to crash. Tomorrow would serve as another long day of driving but now that we were in San Francisco, we were in the home stretch. San Diego, I am coming for you. Ready or not, this Minnesota girl was soon to become a Cali girl.

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