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Road Trip

I took a two week road trip up the western coast of the US and into Canada. Naturally, I took a ton of pictures.


I started the trip on Monday, July 2nd. I got a later start than I was hoping. I had fantasies of waking up at 4:30 or 5 and being on the road by 6, but alas, I woke up about 7:10. That meant I figured it would be better to wait until after the morning rush, so I was going to be leaving at 10.

That’s fine since it allowed me to do a little bit of laundry and relax a little before leaving. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get on the road until about 10:50. I have no idea what I did with those extra 50 minutes, and I ended up hitting a bunch of traffic before getting out of LA nyway.

Fortunately, it cleared up reasonably quickly, and I had pretty clear sailing from there. I did frequently find myself behind these inconsiderate jerks who’d camp out in the passing lane and refuse to move faster or slower relative to the cars to their right. Grrrr.

I hit San Francisco (well Oakland really) right around evening traffic, but aside from one spot of nasty, it was pretty smooth. I got some dinner in Sausalito, and then made may way a little further south to the Golden Gate Recreation park where I took pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and this old lighthouse.

If I’d gotten there earlier, I would have had enough light to photograph Sausalito as well, and I really wish I had been able to, but I only had about an hour of light left. Next time I guess. As it is, I got to my hotel about 10:30 or so which was just enough time to sort through a million pictures of the same bridge before passing out.

The second night found me in I’m in Garberville. I was on the road for just about 12 hours on the second day. I wasn’t driving the whole time. I stopped at a bunch of places, but man, it sure felt like I was driving the whole time.

That morning at about 7:30, I was sitting down in a cemetery just outside of Bodega Bay trying to make a photo of the nearly full moon over the shoulder of a sad little cherub statue. By the end of the day, that early morning moment from just a few hours prior felt like it was a week ago.

I do have to say that I live in a big and beautiful country on an even bigger, beautiful world. It seemed like every corner I turned brought a new vista that was ever more spectacular.

The sun was pretty spectacular too, and I ended up with a nice sun burn. You’d think by now, I would have worked up some kind of base tan or at least that I would have committed to actually putting on sun block. Stupid sun!

The most exciting bit from day 2 came when I almost ran out of gas driving up the side of what had to be the tallest and steepest mountain ever. I’m pretty sure it was so tall it was scrapping the edge of the sun, which come to think of it may explain the burn.

There was supposed to be some town where I figured I could get gas, but I never saw it. Before I knew it, I was driving up and up and up, and before long, my gas light came on. I tried to tell myself that it was just because my car was at such a steep angle, but even given that, I knew that the tank had to be down to the dregs after all the miles I’d put on that day.

If I was on the downward side of the mountain, I wouldn’t have been so concerned because I could put it in neutral and coast (or so I believed at the time — I discovered a bit later that I lose power braking when I turn off the car, so it’s a VERY good thing I didn’t try to put my theory into practice).

With signs telling me the next town was 16 and eventually just 9 miles away, I didn’t know what I was going to do if I ran out of gas. Walking 16 miles (or even 9 miles) to the nearest gas station would suck hard enough, but doing it up a giant mountain was almost too grim a prospect to consider.

I crested the hill, and started rolling down, which was great news to me, and I figured I was home free. But, within another mile or so, the road started climbing back up. At this point, the out of gas light was pretty steadily lit, and I was yelling at the road. “No more up! I don’t want to go up! All I want from you is down!”

I finally rolled into a filling station on nothing more than luck a fumes, and I gratefully paid something like 5 million dollars a gallon to fill it.

Wednesday started off almost immediately with an early morning drive through the Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue of the Giants is a scenic off-shoot of the 101 that takes you through a bunch of redwood groves.

I stopped at the side of the road and wandered into one of the groves. It was sort of a surprisingly magical kind of place. The early morning light filtering through all of the leaves took on this amazing green color, and since everything was covered with moss anyway, it meant that everything seemed to glow. The road was just a few feet away, but I really felt like I was in the middle of a fairy tale, like an elf might pop out at any moment.

So that’s what’s good about the redwoods of Northern California. When you’re actually in them, they’re amazing and even just looking at them from the road, it’s a very pretty drive. However, what really sticks in my mind about the drive is that there are so many tourist trap type places as you make the drive. It’s like every 50 feet, somebody is hawking something or other. There are a lot of cheese ball trees carved into bears or statues of liberty and a lot of places selling burlwood or whatever.

I stopped off in one other grove a few hours later. This one had some kind of hiking trail, but it was really dense. The plants and bugs and spider webs were reaching out from every direction to grab me and it was almost impassable. All of the plants had this weird white foamy stuff dripping off their leaves and branches. I assumed at the time that it was bird droppings or something. It was really weird. I’d never seen anything quite like it. I ended up with it all over my jacket and camera before I wised up and started lifting my camera and tripod over all of the creepy foam branches. I found out later that it was cuckoo spit made by spittlebugs to keep them warm at night. Cool — the trip was pretty and educational.

Just before I left California, I stopped off at some restaurant for lunch. The food was really good. They put garlic in everything including the coleslaw, so how can you go wrong with that? It was weird though because they wanted $10 for parking to discourage people from parking and going to the beach (which was one of the saddest, most miserable looking beaches I’d ever seen, so I didn’t really get that at all). If you leave right away after eating, they’ll give you your money back, or you could get a free bowl of clam chowder (every single restaurant up here seems to specialize in clam chowder).

I told them I didn’t want the soup. I mean they would have had to pay me to eat that. They brought soup out anyway, and I told them to take it away because ick.

It was really foggy, which was good because it meant I was less tempted to stop any place for photography, and I had a lot of road to cover (this being one of my longest driving days of the trip). However, as I crossed over into Oregon, the fog let up.

The drive took forever. It probably didn’t help that I kept stopping places to explore and photograph, but I suppose that’s the point of the trip, so as long as there’s daylight, it’s hard not to stop.

Just outside of Newport, I stopped at the worlds largest sea cave to see a bunch of sea lions. It cost like 9 bucks, and it was the most worthless display I’ve ever seen in my life. Compared to what you’d see in San Diego or pretty much any place else in California, this was lame. There was no way to get decent pictures of sea lions with their caged set up, and even the caves were barely caves they way they had it all built out and fenced off.

I was completely shot by the time I made it to Newport. I went to get something to eat and then camped out in my car to watch the firework display. I had planned to photograph it, but it was cold and I was tired, and I’ve photographed fireworks before and probably will again.

Some family was lighting off their own display in the parking lot right behind my car. I was really annoyed by that for some reason — probably just tired, but I always have visions of a spark flying up into my gas tank and blowing up the car. At some point, a few cops walked by, and I though good, now they’re going to have to stop, but they didn’t stop, and the cops didn’t seem to care.

I got to thinking that traffic after the show would be awful, and I wasn’t too interested in seeing the rest of the show anyway, so I headed back to my hotel and crashed.

Thankfully, the next day was a short day — less than 3 hours of driving. So, after the craziest free hotel breakfast ever including hard boiled eggs and biscuits and gravy and self-serve waffles (which I was inexplicably unable to make despite the fact that the batter was pre-made and there was a waffle iron to do all the work for you), I hung out in my hotel room for a few hours just enjoying not being in my car and waiting for the aquarium to open. At 10, I figured it was probably open (and actually it was open a few hours before then), so I checked out and headed over there.

I’d been asking all kinds of people that I met if there was anything I should be sure not to miss, and almost invariably, people say no, it’s all pretty good. On the one hand, they’re right. You can stop pretty much anywhere and find amazing photographs and scenery. On the other hand, how lame is that? I’m not sure what I’d tell somebody in LA if they asked me, but I’m sure I could come up with something.

I took a few scenic detours and ended up in some state park on a nature trail for about 1.5 miles (it felt more like 3). There was moss all over everything in there. There’s moss all over any natural spot in Oregon it seems, but this was a weird kind of moss that I’ve never seen before. I don’t even know how to describe it, but it was weird.

Several people had told me to stop off at Tillamook to tour the dairy where they make cheese and ice cream. I was under the impression that it was a guided tour and that I would get free ice cream. However, it was a self-guided tour, and I had to wait in line for something close to forever to buy an ice cream cone. What a rip. I didn’t really enjoy the tour, but since I hadn’t eaten lunch, the ice cream was a welcome break at around 2 PM.

Canon beach was nice in a quaint, come spend all your money kind of way. Everything closes at 5 though. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I guess people just come for the day and don’t sleep over or stay around at night. It’s pretty annoying.

Looking into the galleries though, which I was really looking forward to — it’s why I chose to stay there, they don’t have much of the kind of art that would appeal to me. It seems to be a lot of glass or other Pacific Northwest types of art. I went to sleep that night hoping that I’d have better luck finding modern art in Vancouver.

Friday, I woke early (as I had been doing pretty much every day on the
trip). I showered, and walked over to the Pig’n Pancake to get some
breakfast. After that, I had to wait around for several hours before any of
the shops and galleries would be open. I watched TV, and I didn’t surf the
net since the wireless network seemed to be down.

I checked out of my motel around 10 AM with the understanding that I could
keep my motel parking pace until 12. As it turns out, I didn’t need nearly
that much time. By 11, I felt like I’d been to any store I might want to go
to and had seen what Canon Beach had to offer.

It was kind of disappointing. On the surface, Canon Beach looks like it
would be exactly my kind of place, but as I got into it and poked around,
it’s just not quite my style.

So, I hit the road again, and except for lunch, I didn’t stop any place else
before getting to my parents place. My mother drove me up to Snoqualmie
Falls. Then we went to some local art walk in Issaquah.

Issaquah is kind of a quaint little town with an old train station that
seems to be for display rather than use, and an old Shell gas station that
similarly appears to be more of a museum than a filling station.

The art walk was all kinds of strange though. They had a few galleries, and
those were fine and about what you’d expect. Most of the artists were
displaying in local businesses though, so you’d go into mortgage brokers
offices and barber shops and look at a few pretty obviously amateur
paintings or jewelry or whatever.

On Saturday, I went for a run for the first time in about a week. I’ve been doing a couch to 5K run/walk program and I was supposed to be moving on to the next weeks workout, but my parents’ place is Super hilly, so I stuck with the week I had been on. I looked for flat areas to run and probably went a little slower than normal, and at the end of it, I still felt pretty fresh like I could have done a lot more.

By the time I got done, my dad was awake (he’d come in late the previous
night), and he was on his way to going to work out. My brother came over,
and he, my mom and I went for a walk at this nature center place. There is
by all accounts a fairly vigorous hike to be had at this place, but neither
my brother nor my mother were in the mood for hiking up hill, so we just
spent a few minutes on a very easy trail before heading back.

My dad was just getting cleaned up at that point, so we all climbed into the
car and headed to the lake where they keep their boat. The marina place uses
a giant forklift to move the boats from their storage location to the lake.
That’s kind of bizarre to see, but it seems to work pretty efficiently. They
dropped my folks boat into the water and we all headed out for a day of
sailing.

Except that the day was plagued by misfortune. Almost immediately, my mom
cut herself. She had blood all over her hand, and I asked her several times
how she had cut herself, but she didn’t hear me, so it came as quite a shock
to her when everybody else told her she was bleeding a few minutes later.

Now everybody is running around trying to find the first aid kit (which my
mother had moved because it was in the way in the highly visible storage
location that they had it in previously).

We finally get her finger bandaged, and almost immediately the boat starts
beeping at us. Now, everybody is running around flipping switches trying to
figure out where the beeping is coming from. It’s a brand new boat that
seems to have no end of mechanical problems. They were already planning to
meet some guy on Monday to see about getting a their bilge pump fixed.

Finally, they notice that the engine is running very hot, and decide that’s
probably why the boat is beeping, so within about 15 minutes of putting the
boat in the water, we’re on our way back to the marina hoping that the
engine doesn’t burn up before we can get there.

Back in the car, and now what are we going to do to entertain the prodigal
son? My mom suggests going to the locks and unsure of exactly how to get
there, we head off. My dad does manage to navigate our way to the locks,
which prove to be all kinds of boring. Boats sail in, they raise the water
level to the level of the lake on the other side, boats sail out.

My parents are interested in this because they may one day want to take
their boat through the locks, and they aren’t exactly sure how to do it. I
on the other hand exhaust picture opportunities almost immediately.

We finally leave there and travel to some golf course where there are good
views of the city. I take a few photos, and then we head off for dinner.

The running must have taken a larger toll than I though because I was asleep
by like 11, and didn’t wake up the next morning until about 6:30 or so.

The next day, my parents drove me way north to some island. The main goal was to take me to someplace called Deception Pass that some past explorer though would provide a passage via ship to the East coast of the US.

It’s an impressive bridge, and the river or whatever it was, was spectacular, but those BIG types of vistas tend not to photograph very well. Either everything is too small in the frame to see anything or you only see a fraction of the whole.

I woke up early the next morning and was on the road by 7. My mom was worried that I was going to hit a lot of morning traffic, but there was very little traffic to speak of.

One of the women I work with suggested that I stop at some picturesque spot that she used to go to when she went to school in Seattle. It was just a mile or so out of my way, so I made the stop, but there were no trespassing signs posted everywhere. I guess I could have pretended not to see them, but there have been so many spectacular places to see that encourage visitors. It didn’t seem worth it to fight my way into some place where I wasn’t wanted. Plus, it was a gray and cloudy morning, and I knew that any photos would have felt kind of lonely and depressing.

The crossing into Canada took almost no time at all, but then I quickly got totally lost. Actually, I wasn’t lost. I just didn’t go far enough on the road I was on before turning around, convinced that I must have missed my turn.

This is a problem that would continue for the rest of my time in Canada. There’s something about driving in Canada that had me so twisted around, I never had any idea where I was or how to get to anywhere.

Aside from my complete inability to navigate, Canada (or at least the very small portion of Vancouver that I saw) really seems like a much nicer, much friendlier version of the US. The people seem happier. The service is about a million times better. It really is like somebody took a US town and used a magic ray to make it better.

I checked into my hotel and then headed out in search of sights. First up was the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This was so cool. It’s this massively long foot bridge suspended over a steep, steep gorge. As soon as you step on it, it starts rolling and swaying like a ship in an earthquake.

It’s very cool, and seems safe enough, but there were a few times when I was trying to shoot a photograph when the people in front or behind me sent the thing swinging in an unexpected direction, and I felt like I was going to plummet to my doom.

If you walk in the center of the bridge, it doesn’t sway as much, but all of the people who are super scared of crossing it cling to the ropes on the side. Ironically, this pushes them out to the edges where they send it swaying even more. For some reason, I really got a kick out of that. I guess there’s a little evil deep in my black little heart.

Once you get over to the other side of the canyon, there are a bunch more tree-top bridges that you can explore. It was really neat, but I was carrying my camera bag with me since I didn’t know what lenses I’d need, and I didn’t want to deal with going back for something else. Anyway, with all of the climbing and walking and swaying, I got pretty tired.

After I fully explored the bridge thing, I went up to Grouse Mountain. Some people actually hike up the mountain, and I bet that makes for a really nice hike, but I, along with most of the tourists, took a gondola ride up to the top. Once you’re up there, they have a bear habitat and a predator bird show and a lumber jack show. You can also ride the ski lifts for a scenic view of Vancouver and the surrounding area.

There’s hardly any shade up there though, and the sun was just brutal. Plus, even though I wasn’t actually hiking up the mountain, with all the walking and standing and carrying my camera bag, I felt like I did hike up the mountain. Every part of my body, and especially my back, hurt that night.

I spent most of Tuesday exploring more of Vancouver. I went to Stanley Park, which must be just about the most awesome place on earth. Within just that single park, within literally minutes of each other, I walked along a cool, rocky beach, I walked in a secluded feeling nature trail, I found a lake (or some body of water) where there were about a million kinds of birds — ducks, geese, swans, heron, they said they had eagles, but I didn’t see any.

I also went to the aquarium, which just happens to be right in the middle of the park. Their aquarium is AWESOME. They had this whole rainforest exhibit with fish the size of a person. The rain forest exhibit also had something like a zillion butterflies of all different colors and kinds floating around. They have dolphin shows and otters that hold hands like they’re little lovers and they even have a beluga whale show.

After the park, I drove downtown and wandered around there. I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery (they call museums galleries). The art was pretty interesting, but they wouldn’t let me take any pictures, which was kind of a drag. In fact, there was a big sign at the entrance saying that you had to check your camera before going into the museum. I didn’t want to leave my camera with anybody, so I just walked briskly past the guard like I didn’t even see that. One guy on the second floor asked me if anybody at the entrance told me anything about my camera and I was all innocence — no, nobody said a word to me. He left me alone, which was good.

Then, I walked down to the gas lamp district. It was picturesque for sure, but it would probably be a little too touristy for more than about 30 minutes. Then I walked over to Chinatown and then back to my car.

Oh, the trend of getting lost in Canada would continue for the entirety of the trip. I even managed to get lost in the parking garage while I was downtown. Take a moment to process that. How is it even possible to get lost IN a parking garage? I was driving around looking for a parking spot, saw nothing, decided to go back down and didn’t realize that now I was in the exit lane which spiraled down and down but offered no opportunity to return to the parking area. So, I had to drive out of the garage and then back in to park.

Something about Canada just totally screws up my internal sense of direction or something. Even when I know for a fact which direction North is, I felt like it was in the opposite direction. Driving up to Whistler, I got lost again — this time looking for a gas station. My car was even more empty than it was in the mountains, and I was stressed (but not as stressed since the walk would have been about a ton easier). I asked four, maybe five people where I could find a gas station before somebody gave me directions that had any meaning at all.

The first girl says the only gas station I know about is downtown (this was just off the highway in a tiny freaking town). OK, where is downtown? You go through the stop sign and then turn left and then right and then… I’m lost. I’m driving around, I’m not seeing a stop sign. I’m not seeing a downtown. I pass a general store and think oh, this must be the downtown, but no, so I stop and go in and ask some dude and he’s like just a flipity flip and a flopity flop and then you’ll curfliggle and again, I’m lost.

I finally find somebody who tells me oh, yeah, just get back on the highway, there’s one just over that hill about a half a kilometer north. Why the hell didn’t ANY of these people tell me it’s just off the highway? That’s the one freaking road I could have found.

Canada – BEAUTIFUL Scenery. Crappy signage. Crappy roads.

The vistas on the drive north from Vancouver to Whistler are AMAZING. They are what I imagined Oregon’s coast might look like based on what people had told me of Oregon. In actuality, Oregon is beautiful enough, but I don’t think it’s as nice as California. However, Canada is crazy gorgeous.

The highway is torn up in a bunch of places though with crews working on it (I assume in preparation for the Olympics in a few years), so driving on it was an exercise in patience. It’s hard to be patient sitting for like an hour while somebody holds up a stop sign and my empty car slowly gets more and more empty. Eventually I turned it off. Here’s an interesting fact. If you turn off my car, it seems that eventually the power brakes stop working. I had to HURRY to get the engine running again after discovering that little tidbit.

I did finally get to Whistler where of course I got lost for about 30 minutes trying to find the hotel. Whistler is about the size of a thimble, so I have no idea how I could have gotten lost, but I was driving around in circles for like ever.

The hotel was nice enough. They claimed to have internet, but they lied. Actually, there did seem to be a wireless network that I could connect to, but which wouldn’t give me an IP address, and there was an Ethernet cable that I plugged in, but which wouldn’t give me an IP address.

I spent a few hours processing my photos from Vancouver, and by that time it was like 8:30 or 9 and I was starving. The nice thing about being so far north is that the sun doesn’t go down until like 10 or 11, so I was still able to shoot a few photos. It was a little too dark because all of the mountains block the light, but it was manageable.

The next morning, I walked along this creek thing and then followed a trail looking for Lost Lake. Even the lakes get lost in Canada it seems. I never made it to the lake, because I had to hurry back to my hotel room to check out by 11. I had a little lunch and then went on my zip line adventure.

The zip lines were kind of cool, but I was so focused on trying to get a good picture of the activity, that I wasn’t present enough to actually experience the activity. The pictures weren’t that great anyway, so I probably should have just left my camera in my car. Or, if I was going to take my camera, I should have taken my wide angle lens. I knew I’d want the wide angle, so I have no idea why I left it behind.

After the zip lines, I had planned to ride the gondola up to the top of the mountain for more photography, but the gondola wasn’t running for some reason. I could have done some hiking, but my feet were like one giant blister and my legs were feeling pretty shot and my body wasn’t feeling much better, so I got myself an ice cream cone and hit the road instead.

The next day found me back in Seattle with my Mom. My dad was out of town again and wouldn’t be coming back until late Friday. I was mostly looking forward to using that Thursday as a rest day since I was feeling pretty haggard after the trip. We did go out for lunch and then went to this tiny little zoo where they had the cutest little tiger cubs imaginable.

On Friday, my mom and I went to Kirkland. They were supposed to be having an art fair of some kind, but we got there too early and everybody was still setting up. We spent the afternoon walking around to some of the local galleries instead.

Saturday saw me back on the road and heading for Portland. I didn’t like Portland very much. I was pretty much just in their downtown (Old Town?) section. It was dirty and hot and everybody around me seemed to be smoking. I guess if I went to some other part of Portland I might like it more. Or, if you dropped me down into downtown LA and asked me to amuse myself for 6 hours, I’d think I didn’t like LA either.

I wanted to leave, but I was supposed to be meeting some people that night at 7, so I had to stay. It was crazy hot and humid and I wandered around this outdoor market where people were selling crafts and bars of soap and stuff like that.

Then I went to some Chineese Garden place that was kind of lame but at leave offered a moment in the shade, out of the sun.

Seven finally came and I went to my party where I was able to play a bunch of classic old video games like PacMan and Dig Dugg. That was kind of cool, but I left after just a couple of hours.

I had planned to visit Crater Lake the next day, so I figured I’d drive down there on Saturday night and find a hotel so I could get as early a start as possible for my drive back.

The drive to Crater Lake took about twice as long as I thought though and I didn’t get to the area until about 2 AM. I was pretty tired by that point, but I couldn’t find any hotels that had any vacancies. This was the one night that I hadn’t pre-reserved anything figuring that it would be better to play it by ear. That was probably a mistake. I kept driving and driving and at 3 AM and about an hour south of Crater Lake, I finally found a motel with a vacant room.

It was a nasty motel. The kind where you look at the pillows and are too disgusted by how dirty they look to even consider putting your head on them. It was cheap though and I was too tired at that point to worry too much about it.

I slept for all of about 3 hours before hitting the road again. I thought about backtracking to go back to Crater Lake, but on day 14 of my trip, I really just wanted to be home in my own comfy bed. I couldn’t quite bring myself to backtrack for an hour (adding 2 hours to my travel time plus whatever time I would have spent at the lake).

So, I went South instead of north and kept driving that entire day. Something like 11 hours later, I was home.

Home, lovely home. I never want to leave you again. It was a good trip though. I saw a lot of very beautiful places, and I took a crazy lot of photographs.

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