|Fabulous beach near Trinidad, CA, off Hwy 101
Now that we’ve been on the road nearly 18 months and covered nearly 35,000 miles, people are always asking us: what was your favorite place? We find that to be a hard question to answer. There are many amazing places in North America, some achingly beautiful, some striking in their historical impact, some jarring in the modernisms of the landscape, some that go straight to the heart because of the openness and kindness of the people who live there. But for breath-taking beauty and interesting stops along the way, Highway 101 through Northern California and up the Oregon Coast has got to be one of the most outstanding roads in the United States. We drove this route southwards on our 2003 motorhome trip, so it makes it a very fun way to end this trip. Something about the huge trees, the jagged shoreline, and the kitschy roadside attractions makes this route both amusing and rewarding.
|One armed Paul Bunyan and tiny Janna by his foot
We stopped and lunched with one of the many herds of Roosevelt elk that have repopulated this area and went on to our favorite free museum at the Trees of Mystery where we were shocked to see Paul Bunyan’s right arm missing. The accident happened during the torrential rainstorm a few weeks back when a nearby redwood, saturated with moisture, gave way and took off Paul’s arm. We found it ironic that the forest was counting coup on old Paul, finally striking back at an icon of logging. But that was a distraction; we were there to see the museum and we were not disappointed. The matriarch of the Trees of Mystery is an avid collector of Native American clothing, tools, baskets, and artwork When we were there in 2003 we made the discovery that the museum housed a fabulous collection of North American cradle boards. After a major renovation in 2008 there is now room for much more of her collection, which is impresssive. We saw things there we have never seen elsewhere, including the American Indian Museum in Washington DC and the Heard Museum in Phoenix. We loved a musical instrument display that included rattles made out of moth cocoons and a fiddle made from a cactus skeleton with horsehair strings. The assortment of beadwork from all over North America was stunning, and the aforementioned cradleboard collection is still remarkable. The docent told us the policy of the still surviving owner (she’s in her 90’s and spends winters in Arizona) is to make these items freely available for tribal ceremonial and educational purposes, loaning them without charge. Larger museums have evidently tried to acquire this collection, but the owner feels the items are of more use in her possession than “locked up in back storage areas” which could happen in larger museums.
|Crater Lake is an incredible destination
Our first destination in Oregon was the very special town of Ashland, with its wonderful food co-op, bustling students and cultural enthusiasts, and our dear friend Lavelle. We enjoyed a stroll in Lithia Park and lunch at the Co-op, then hit the road eastward to Klamath Falls. When we pulled into the Klamath County Fairgrounds RV Park we were astounded to feel radiant floors in the bathrooms. We soon learned that all the government buildings, the sidewalks, and many homes and businesses in Klamath Falls are heated geothermally. From there we drove north to visit Crater Lake National Park which had been closed due to the government shut-down when we traveled this road a year and a half ago. Neither of us had ever laid eyes on this remarkable caldera filled with rainwater. As we drove up to 6,000 feet we encountered lots of snow, and finally had to scramble over four feet of the stuff to finally see the lake. Crater Lake, a spectacular vista, has no inflows or outflows, but Mount Mazama is the original watershed for many of southern Oregon’s fabulous rivers. We followed the course of one of these, the Umpqua, all the way west through the city of Roseburg and down to the Pacific Ocean. As we travel we often listen to books on CD and the story we’ve been following the last few hundred miles is Cheryl Strayed’s Wild about her hike along several hundred miles of the Pacific Crest Trail . It’s been fun to see how our road has intersected the PCT, and, still recovering from the flu, we’ve benefited greatly from Cheryl’s powerful message of persistence.
|Exploring author rooms at the Sylvia Beach hotel
We then turned north towards home and the fabulous rocky seascapes and drifting sand beaches of the Oregon coast. Due to the inclement weather Liz was disappointed not to get out to look for agates, but she did manage some quality time at the Newport Aquarium. We also toured the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport. Countless friends have recommended this place and it was fun to finally see several of the rooms, each dedicated to a favorite author. The namesake of the establishment, Sylvia Beach, was an American who owned a bookstore in Paris in the 1920’s and 30’s called Shakespeare and Company where book readings by emerging authors were held. Room names and themes include Oscar Wilde , Emily Dickinson, Dr. Suess , Hermann Melville, Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Mark Twain, Alice Walker, Agatha Christie, M. K. Rawlings and several others.
|Janna on the bike trail at Fort Stevens near Astoria
At Tillamook we heard that our dear friend Teddy Deane was returning to performing with a one-night gig in Portland, following his life-threatening “vacation” of last fall. So we set the GPS to Portland and veered off-course to enjoy a delightful evening of music with Teddy wailing on the sax with friends from his wild youth, several of whom he played with in Portland in the 60’ds and 70’s. We also got to take in an interesting event at the historic Hollywood Theatre featuring young female filmmakers. POWGirl is a mentoring program that supports teenage girls in learning about film production and we got to see several of their products and to meet some of the girls. We also found some time for a delightful dinner with Liza and Wally, daughter of friends from Friday Harbor, and good friend of our granddaughter Genoa. Now we are at Fort Stevens State park, drawn here by its extensive bike trails, an attribute that also attracted us for several nights at South Beach State Park near Newport.
Today after checking out a few sites in Astoria we’ll cross over the Columbia River into Washington, finally back on home turf. By now we are thinking about some serious nesting activities. Our ambition to acquire property on Vashon Island has been delayed and we’ve decided to return to Illg Beach on San Juan Island until the fall. Lilypad, however is still ready for more travels, and we’ve decided to let her go on without us. We had her rigorously checked out by a mechanic and we’ll be putting her on the market in a few weeks.
We can’t believe we are almost home. You might see one more blog after we wind our way through the western part of the great state of Washington. Then it will be a sad goodbye to TravelLily.