I know, I know, I said I’d be back the next day after that last post, and here it almost 2 months later. I’m not going to promise I’ll be back soon, but I WILL say that I’ll be back blogging regularly after school resumes. I just find it easier to update when I don’t have the freedom of SUMMER around. Below, I’ve posted the rest of my trip recap for your reading pleasure. I was planning on supplementing with pictures, but photo uploader is being difficult, so instead I’ll just link publicly to my albums on facebook. Happy reading!
* E – “I was going to order a kid’s meal but I think they would have frowned upon that.”
K – “You could have frowned back.”
· * G – “KISS HANDS — USE TONGUE”
· * G – “Yurt attendants prepare for slumber!”
· * K – “Okay, I’m gonna go get the food bag – – the ‘FAG,’ if you will.”
It was COLD that night at the Grand Canyon. Katie got up to watch the sun rise and Greg and I remained huddled in our sleeping bags, trying to not freeze our asses off. Finally we managed to crawl forth from the tent and pack it all up. Then I started driving for about 5 hours toward Niland, CA, where Salvation Mountain is. After a long stretch on Route 66, Katie and I traded places, and we ate lunch before switching to another one-lane highway surrounded by basically, desert. We became stuck behind a presumably drunk semi driver who kept drifting into other lanes during really mountainous stretches, as well as tailgating the poor little sedan that was unfortunate enough to be driving in front of him.. He also almost ran off his side of the road. After about the 4th time he drifting into the oncoming traffic’s lane we decided it was time to call the police and alert them to this insane truck driver. I obtained their liscense plate number via Greg’s zoom lense. However, they didn’t do anything about our call for the next 30+ minutes we were behind him. We did get to be distracted from his crazyness for awhile when we drove through some pretty mountainous sand dunes. Eventually it was time for us to change highways again, and thankfully CrazySemiMan (or woman) remained on the other.
After a bit we arrived in Niland, and proceeded to navigate to Salvation Mountain, which was created by this adorable little man named Leonard *insert last name here*. I’m not going to lie, Greg and I were not looking forward to this part, because we were afraid it would be a giant religious conversion factory. Luckily, we were wrong, and it was really, really cool. Leonard gave us a tour of what he’d created, and listening to him talk about it and his excitement about being shown an article about himself in the LA Times was completely adorable. It was an amazing place, and we even got some gifts before we left, like postcards and magnets and even puzzles!
After we left Salvation Mountain we headed to San Diego. It was, indeed, classy. When we got there we decided to drive around some, and made our way downtown, through the ghetto, and across the bridge to Coronado Island. TomTom lead us to the worst “beach” ever, which was essentially a stretch of gross sand in the bay. Luckily, Greg navigated us to an actual nice beach on the other side of the island, and Katie frolicked in it for a minute. Then we ate at a pretty decent diner.
After dinner we headed over to meet Greg’s dad’s friend we were staying with. He was incredibly nice and amazingly cool with just letting a group of teenagers crash at his condo for 2 nights. After introductions were made we showered and went to bed, because we had an EPIC DAY in front of us.
We headed out bright and early (a.k.a. 8:30) to seek ADVENTURE and entertainment in San Diego. We dropped by the AAA office to pick up some directions Greg had them make for us, and then we headed to the San Diego ZOO. We spent 3 hours wandering around and getting lost and seeing adorable animals. I think my favorite part had to be the elephants. Finally, we took the Sky Ride across the park. It was a beautiful day; sunny, but also cool and breezy.
After the zoo we found a bookstore for Greg to get some literature, and we hi-jacked some WiFi, because it is our lifeblood and we were starved from living without it. I also found a book that I’d been wanting to buy (Harry, A History) for $1! Score!
After the book store we went to find a beach, and while we eventually found one (after Greg ignored me as a pointed it out for 20 minutes), we discovered it was for surfing only. We decided to instead go back to the beach at Coronado we’d found the previous day. It was about 4 by the time we made it there, and too cloudy to swim, but Katie and I walked down the beach with our feet in the water, and picked up some shells along the way. Then I went back to where Greg was reading, and started reading a book myself. It was a really nice, lovely way to wind down the day.
We left the beach at around 6:30 and went in search for a Seafood restaurant at Greg’s insistence, but we had issues finding one that wasn’t ridiculously expensive and served something other than fish. Finally, we gave up and headed back toward where we were staying. However, we made a quick exit to go to THE CONTAINER STORE, which is exactly what it sounds like. After we had our fill of containers, we headed back out looking for sustenance. We found, instead, an IKEA. Obviously, since Katie had never been, we had to go. By this time it was a little after 8, and we decided to eat there. Don’t knock it, IKEA’s food is surprisingly really, really good. And incredibly inexpensive. Just like the rest of the store. After we ate we had 30 mins before closing, so we took Katie on a whirlwind tour, while I picked up some stuff for my kitchen next year.
We finally got back to the condo a little after 9, and we watched some Dateline and uploaded our pictures before showering and going to bed. Sensing a pattern here?
We left San Diego at around 8:30 the next morning to head to Las Angeles, where Greg’s friend Courtney lives. After cutting across 3 lanes of traffic to reach a Krispy Kreme for Katie and Greg’s breakfast, we thankfully survived long enough to make it to Courtney’s house at about 10:30. She then took us on an excellent tour of L.A. We went to Santa Monica Pier first, and saw the ocean again. Then we headed of the The Grove, where there’s a huge shopping area and farmer’s market. I ate amazing Mexican food for lunch, and then we bought some fresh produce to sustain us on our upcoming camping nights. Greg and Courtney found a hideous, giant fruit called a Jackfruit, which apparently is the national fruit of Bangladesh and weighed 16 lbs., costing them $24. More on Jack later.
After we left the Farmer’s Market we headed over to the Walk of Fame, but neither of us were interested enough to actually get out and walk around. Especially on an insanely busy Saturday. Instead we headed up to the Hollywood sign, which was a harrowing journey up a narrow and hilly road, where we almost met our deaths multiple times. Also, we saw “Nicholas Cage,” a.k.a. someone who bore a decent resemblance to him. When we made it up to the viewing area we parked and finally discovered that we could get past the gate simply by walking in the entrance on the other side. (Duh.) After taking some pictures we turned around and got berated for parking in a “No Parking Anytime” area.
Courtney then took us to a thrift shop that all the studios gave their costumes/clothing to. I ended up getting some gold shoes that came from “Lincoln Heights” on ABCFamily and a shirt from All My Children. My two favorite shows!
After our whirlwind tour we headed back to Courtney’s house in the Valley and got caught up on last week’s episode of Glee. Then Greg and Courtney carved the Jackfruit. It smelled and was disgusting! (See video below.)
Shortly after Courtney’s friends started arriving because she was having a barbecue to help welcome us to California. There was tons of food and I met a ton of her friends and we played hours of Apples to Apples. It was great. By the end of the game I had 3 cards I’d been saving FOREVER waiting for Greg to get a good adjective while judging because they were a sure way to win: “Thomas Edison,” “The Midwest,” and “Americans.” Unfortunately the game ended before I had time to use them.
Finally, the party wound down and it was time for us to go to bed, because we’d had such a full and awesome day that we were completely exhausted. My many thanks to Courtney for showing us around and making L.A. such a fun and memorable experience for all of us.
We woke up Sunday and packed up after stealing some more increasingly rare WiFi time and headed off toward New Brighton State Beach, which is located in Capitola, CA; about an hour and a half south of San Francisco. We spent most of the day on the road, with a few stops along the way, such as our stop to see the ELEPHANTS SEALS.
We got to the campsite around 4:30 that afternoon and checked in and set up our tent. Then we took off to find a grocery store that could sustain us for the evening. We got back from the store and Katie and Greg tried to start a fire. I say tried, because they inevitably failed. I finally started paying attention when Katie took her phone out and called Andy, her brother, to walk her through it. Unbeknownst to me, their best attempt at starting a fire was covering 3 massive logs in lighter fluid and trying in vain to get it to start. Luckily, I was able to assist them and they didn’t starve after all.
We had originally decided to spend a relaxing day at New Brighton on the beach, but it was cloudy and pretty cold so we decided to spend it in San Francisco instead. It took us about an hour and a half to get from Capitola to S.F.
By the time we got there it was after noon, so naturally we were starving. We navigated to China Town and explored a little bit, before finally deciding on a place to eat that was upstairs above another store. Let me tell you, the place was authentic. We were almost the only non-Chinese speaking patrons in the place. The service was extremely slow, but the food was really good. Katie and I both got sautéed string beans and chicken, and Greg got “Seafood in Clay Pot. We were all very satisfied with our meals.
After China Town we returned to the car and drove to Castro Street. It’s a very cool area, and I was glad to see it. We browsed through some stores, got a couple gifts for Paige and Joe and just took it all in. We stopped in a HRC (Human Rights Campaign) store. I finally bought “The Meaning of Matthew,” a book by the mother of Matthew Sheppard, a young college student murdered because he was gay. I’ve been saying I wanted to buy it since it came out last year, so I really had no excuse not to, especially because at that store 100% of the proceeds went to the Matthew Sheppard Foundation.
After we left Castro street we headed over to Height & Ashbury, which is essentially the stoner district of S.F. There were some pretty hilarious individuals and stores there for us to laugh at.
Next we headed to Berkley, because Greg wanted to see where hipsters born. It did not disappoint.
Finally, it was time to head back to our campsite in New Brighton, so we picked up some dinner supplies on the way home and managed to cook a pretty excellent meal over the fire consisting of asparagus and grilled cheese sandwiches.
We woke up to a light drizzle Tuesday morning. Not fun when you’re staying in a tent. We packed everything up and were off to the Redwood Forest, or so we thought. The rain kept up throughout the day, and we were not looking forward to setting up camp in the rain. We soon discovered, however, that we had not made a reservation in the forest, so we weren’t bound to stay in a campsite at all! With this discovery, we decided to forge ahead and put some more miles toward Newport. However, we did manage to stop at the “drive-thru” redwood tree along the way, which was pretty much a necessity. We also came across a giant herd of elk, so naturally we pulled over.
Other notable tourist attractions we discovered the made me veer off the highway to take photos of/with them include giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Blue, as well as a “Prehistoric Garden” that featured a massive T-Rex out front. Tragically, the rest of the park was closed for the night, so we didn’t get to encounter the dinosaurs within.
We ended up eating dinner in a restaurant in a tiny town in Oregon about 8 p.m. We were literally the only people there. The cook started cussing to the waitress and whining about he was going to quit, so needless to say it was pretty awkward. However, our incredibly nice waitress and great food made up for it. Especially the blueberry/blackberry cobbler alamode we ended up devouring for dessert.
We got back on Hwy 101 for another hour and a half after that. It’s a gorgeous drive that cuts right through the redwood forest along with winding back out to the coast. We ended up in a Motel 6 in Coos Bay, OR for the night, and it was totally worth shelling out the extra cash to stay somewhere with an actual roof.
We woke up rejuvenated from our sleep in actual beds and ready to get back on the road toward Newport. It was a nicer day than the previous rainy one, though there were still several rainy spells.
Along the way we visited the World’s Largest Sea Cave, which was filled with a ton of sea lions. It was cool, but not close enough to them to be worth the $12 each we had to shell out as an entrance fee.
We got back on the road, and then once again stopped at a beach. There were massive rocks out in the surf, and it was gorgeous, unlike any other beach I’d been to until that point. We walked around and took lots of photos, and Greg got himself sprayed on more than one occasion.
After a little under an hour of driving later, we found our campsite right outside of Newport for the night. We arrived there about 12:30 and had already decided to upgrade our campsite from a normal on to a Yurt. Have no idea what a Yurt is? Shame on you!
Anyway, when we first got to the campground there was a sign out that said “No Yurts Available.” Naturally we were crushed. However, Greg went to check anyway, because we did NOT want to get rained on again, and lo and behold they DID have some available, but not until after 3. So we set out to explore Newport for the mean time. We walked around the pier area, and I came upon a shop selling salt water taffy. Naturally, I bought some, and it was incredibly delicious.
After killing some time we went back to the campground and acquired our fantastic Yurt. While checking in, I found a pamphlet that listed all the beaches in Oregon with tide pools. Being an inherently nerdy person, I freaked out at the prospect and insisted that we go.
We ended up turning off at an area about 10 miles north of Portland called the “Devil’s Punch Bowl Park.” First we had trouble finding the actual beach, and only came across the lookout, where we saw the “Devil’s Punchbowl,” which is basically a giant basin that the tide fills in during high tide. After cruising a couple more miles down 101, we doubled back and Greg managed to find the entrance to the beach. It was just as pretty as the beach we’d been to earlier that day, and the tide was almost all the way out when we arrived.
We spent the first 30 minutes or so taking pictures and walking along the shore. Katie and I collected some truly fantastic rocks. Then we wandered over to another end of the beach and Greg decided to get all daredevil on us and cross over to a large grouping of rocks. Katie and I soon followed. From there we discovered huge groupings of mussels, and several small tide pools that contained anemones. Then we inadvertently stumbled upon the Devil’s Punchbowl, and Greg crawled across a ledge inside, and naturally Katie and I joined him. It was incredible cool inside, with large curved walls stained orange with algae. It was a really cool experience to have.
After exploring that section of the beach, we crossed back over and recovered Katie’s backpack from on top of a rock on the other side, which we’d filled with all our electronics in case we had fallen in while crossing to the other side. From there we explored the other side of the beach, where Katie discovered an empty crab shell that sadly someone would pilfer from the spot where she had left it to pick up on the way back.
On the other side of the beach we stumbled upon some sea lions sunning themselves. We were about 50 feet away from them. There were several females with their babies. They were so adorable. One of the little ones couldn’t manage to climb up on the high rock from the water, so his mom had to get in and they swam over to a less steep ledge. Unfortunately, some morons stumbled across them without realizing they were there and scared all of them away. After that we walked back, collected our shoes and the rocks we’d left by them, and drove back into Newport.
By this time we were fully worn out and ravenous from all the exploring we’d done. Greg showed us the downtown area of Newport, and we ate at a Clam Chowder restaurant he was particularly fond of. Not being seafood people, neither Katie nor I can vouch for it, but I can say they have an excellent grilled turkey and cheese sandwich. After dinner we got some ice cream, and went to Newport’s main beach to watch the sunset. It was very pretty, but Greg and I were distracted by trying to ruin one another’s pictures. Unfortunately, my plan of stepping into his frame while he was getting the shoreline backfired, because the picture ended up being very “deep.” Eff.
Finally, after the sunset we returned back to our Yurt. It was nice and warm, because it had its own heater, along with a bed for each of us. A pretty sweet setup if you ask me. I slept unbelievably well that night.
On Thursday morning we departed from our beloved Yurt and got back on the road toward Tillamook. Along the way we listened to lots of Todd Snider, including his song “Tillamook County Jail.” Finally, we arrived at the best place on earth: the Tillamook Cheese Factory. There was a self-guided tour to be taken, loads of cheese to be sampled and purchased, a gift shop to browse and ice cream to be devoured. It was like heaven on earth. Go there. Trust me. It is amazing.
After our orgasmic visit to the cheese factory, we got back on the road and headed to Portland. Katie and I had ourselves a nice nap, while Greg took the opportunity of our unconsciousness to listen to Justin Bieber, since we had banned him from the stereo. I believe Katie said when she woke, “Was I having a nightmare, or were you playing Justin Bieber?”
We arrived in Portland around 1 and checked in to the Hostel we were staying in. Our beds weren’t available until 3, but we could keep busy until then. The hostel was a very interesting experience, but overall positive. It’s just a bit weird to be sleeping in a room full of strangers. But hey, they had a giant plastic bin of fresh baked bread, so who am I to complain?
After we went to our hostel, we walked downtown to the world’s largest used book store, Powell’s. It. Is. Incredible. I was expecting to be totally overwhelmed and lost, but the organization of it is completely perfect. I mean, yes, it is somewhat overwhelming, but not as much as one would think. Every subject is divided into rooms, and they are painted according to their name, i.e. “the purple room.” Also, there are maps available which list all the sections and their locations within certain rooms. We spent almost 2 hours in there, and I managed to get out with only 4 books, miraculously, but I do believe it is one of the nerdiest book purchases ever made.
After Powell’s we dropped by the Hostel to check in for real and bring in our things. Then we were off to find somewhere to eat. We ended up eating some excellent pizza a few blocks from the hostel.
After we got back it was a pretty low-key evening. I spent a lot of time reading, and eating lots of bread. We talked and sat around and finally went to bed, because the next morning it was time to move on to our next destination.
Do you know how hard it is to stay quiet while getting ready to leave at 7:30 in the morning in a room full of sleeping strangers? Greg, Katie and I do. On Friday we woke up and packed up, leaving the hostel. Our last stop in Portland was a place called Voodoo Doughnut, which was recommended to me, ironically, by my dentist while I was having a small cavity filled. Anyway, apparently it’s something of a legend in Portland, so we made sure to stop for breakfast on our way out of the city. It was 8 a.m. and there was a line into the street. Inside, the speakers were pumping Beck, which put us in the mood to listen to him on our way out of the city. I got a “Voodoo doll,” doughnut and a lemon meringue crueler, and both were delicious. Greg got a doughnut called “Captain, My Captain,” which was, in fact, a glazed doughnut covered in Cap’n Crunch.
After our delicious breakfast we started our 8+ hour drive down to Chico, CA. I read and slept most of the time I wasn’t driving, and there isn’t much else to say about it. We arrived in Chico about 4:30 in the afternoon, and drove over to the house of a couple that were friends with Greg’s dad who had offered to let us stay with them.
Let me tell you something: if there is anyone that doesn’t support gay marriage, they need to be introduced to Helen and Jane. They are some of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever met, and they just happen to be one of the too few couples that managed to legally marry during the short time it was legal in California. They have a cute house with an enormous, beautiful back yard with a CHERRY TREE that was in full bloom. We ate an ungodly amount of cherries, and they were delicious. Jane and Helen also have 2 dogs and several cats, so we definitely got our animal fix while we were there.
We had a great homemade meal of steak, pasta salad (okay, the salad was from Costco, but it was amazing all the same), asparagus cooked the right way, and sourdough bread. It was the best we’d eaten on the entire trip. I should also mention that we ate with a big group of people, including Helen’s mom, their daughter, and some other family friends.
After we ate, Helen took us on a tour of Chico. It is truly a gorgeous place, full of parks and trees and trails and swimming holes, along with the normal urban comforts of a city. There’s also a famous brewery here that is incredibly self-sustaining, complete with a parking garage affixed with solar panels. Helen’s a drug court lawyer, so we also got to hear some hilarious cases she’d been involved with, and she introduced us to my new favorite word, “methamphibians,” which refers to meth heads. Our last stop on the tour was an excellent ice cream shop, which as you all should know is one of Katie, Greg and I’s greatest pastimes. Eating ice cream, that is. I got an awesome flavor called “Chico Mint.” Katie copied me.
We headed back to the house after that. Jane and Helen were leaving a 5 the next morning for Boston, so we were originally planning on a very early wake up time. However, unbeknownst to us, they had gotten us a hotel room at the Marriott! Can you imagine how nice these people are?! They cook us dinner, give us an extensive tour of their city, buy us ice cream AND put us up in a nice hotel for the night? And the only connection we had to them was through their friendship with Greg’s parents. I cannot be grateful enough to Helen and Jane for being so hospitable to three mangy teenagers who turned up on their doorstep.
After we checked into our room, Katie and I went for a swim, seeing as how we hadn’t actually managed to do so on the entire trip so far. After that, we showered, laid around, and headed to bed for the night.
On Saturday we woke up at 7 in the morning in our hotel room and get ready to depart for the longest driving day of the trip. First, we went to a great diner that Helen and Jane recommended called the “Morning Thunder Café.” I got what they said to get, which was called “Vegetaters,” essentially it’s a big plate of steamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower, along with home fries and covered in cheese and sour cream. SO. GOOD. We all also got giant homemade biscuits, which Katie said she was “willing to die in battle for.”
After our breakfast, we set out for the most boring drive of the trip, most of which was on Hwy 50, self-described as “The Loneliest Highway in America.” I slept for a lot of the time. After about 10 hours we finally made it to Oak City, Utah where our campground was. The area is really pretty, with a creek right next to our site. We even saw a deer cross it right next to us. The only – horrendous – drawback of the place is that it has disgusting latrines for bathrooms, which also have no lights. It smelled like death.
After a dinner of scrounging up some dinner from the ridiculously massive food bag in the car, we got into our tent at like 9:30, and pretty much immediately went to bed. SO MUCH EXCITEMENT.
Remember how I said that the night before we’d basically just gone to sleep? Well, that isn’t exactly accurate. What really happened is that we all tossed and turned the entire night due to the fact that we were FREEZING OUT ASSES OFF because the temperature had dropped to below freezing. I seriously got in the habit of wiggling my toes every time I became conscious to make sure I didn’t have frostbite. Around 3 a.m. I started desperately checking my phone to see if it was close to time for us to get the hell out of there. Finally, around 6 a.m. I just got up and started packing everything. Katie and Greg emerged from their cocoons and evidently we had all been awake for quite some time, and just didn’t want to wake up everyone else. Anyway, we hurriedly packed everything and hit the road before 6:30.
We stopped at a gas station on the interstate to brush our teeth and make ourselves presentable. Then I slept. For like 3 ½ hours. And the rest of our day consisted of us driving cross country until we got to Denver.
We actually didn’t even eat anything until 4 that afternoon, and we lurked outside an italian restaurant until it opened. We ate, headed back to the house and wrapped up the day early.
The next day is basically a haze of long amounts of driving time, accompanied by the awful soundtrack of an “American” mix Katie found online, which consisted of TWO volumes of awful country music VERY loosely associated with America. Greg and Katie’s excuse for listening to it was that it was Memorial Day. UGH.
We were 20 miles from our exit when the back tire blew. Apparently it had been the source of the increasingly loud humming noise that’d plagued us ever since Needles, CA. Of course. Thank GOD it lasted as long as it did, and didn’t give out in the middle of barren Hwy 50. Luckily a friendly guy stopped and helped us change to the spare, because Greg’s attempts were not getting us very far.
Finally, we were back on the road, and dropped Greg off in Bristow, then took Route 66 all the way into Tulsa.