Aug 15, 2009

The Great Pacific Northwest Odyssey Part II


Where one journeys to a destination, one must return. And in this case, the trip back from Vancouver Island becomes a whole new adventure. Or rather, once again, an odyssey.

The journey home started with a backtrack through Vancouver Island. And for the first time, we found ourselves utterly and completely bored. It then occurred to us that driving on the same road lacks the luster that comes with experiencing new roads. It also didn't help that unlike our original adventure, where we had some sweet ganja to help wonderfully pass the time, I was plagued with acute bronchitis. Lung butter galore. Meaning smoking wasn't an option. Brutal.

Fortunately, a delightful family we befriended during our stay on Vancouver Island recommendeded a slight detour to a small town on Vancouver Island called Coombs. They told us that there would be a gift shop there that, in addition to having great ideas for souvenirs, featured goats on the roof of the building. No joke. And sure enough, when we arrived in Coombs, there they were: Goats on a roof.


We decided to continue the theme of the original odyssey: Drive far each day, but not to the point where we would burn out. And after our last experience crossing a border, we wanted to give ourselves ample time to make sure that the transition back to the U.S. of A. would go a lot smoother. So the plan was to stay the night in the capital of British Columbia, Victoria.

The town was surprisingly a treat. A lot of the architecture is similar in style and theme to Great Britain, which is apparently what the town was going for. And while I still don't understand why countries like Canada and Australia pay homage to the Queen, Victoria is a pretty rocking town. Beautiful scenery, great vibe, even the dining was well above par. We were stoked to stay here for a night. We were even more stoked to find out that, after initially fearing that we would have to wait possibly all day for a space to open up on the ferry back to the States, a couple of spots had amazingly opened up on the ferry the next morning, as a phone call I made to the ferry company that evening resulted in us avoiding hours of waiting for an open spot to come home.

The next morning started with a stop at Blenz, which is one of Canada's coffee shop chains. It was here that I bid adieu to our weed stash, and my old pipe. An old and dear friend of mine gave me the pipe over a decade ago as a Christmas gift, and to this day it served its purpose wonderfully. The guy who served us coffee didn't want neither the pipe nor the stash, but as we left Blenz, one of his friends raced outside and took the gifts. AdiĆ³s old friend.

With coffee and breakfast in hand, we headed for the border ferry where, unlike our previous experience going through customs into Canada, was unexpectedly easy. They asked us a few questions, and we were on our way. Simple as that. The way it should be when a couple of normal people like ourselves want to go back home (even if I am sporting a beard that makes me look like a terrorist). We had dumped our stash so that the trip back would be stress free, but found out after getting on the ferry that A) KerryLynn had a nug stuck on her shirt in plain sight, and B) I forgot about a bag of ganja that was in my backpack. Fortunately, because we (relatively) looked and acted like normal Americans, they let us through with ease. Whew!

The ferry took us to Port Angeles, a city that seems to exist simply to send and return ferries. From there we hit the road to Bainbridge Island, which has a ferry that takes passengers and vehicles directly to the heart of Seattle. I've been to Seattle countless times. My mom lived there for five years, so I would visit her at least once a year during her time there. And in all my visits, I never realized that the best view of the Seattle skyline was right on that ferry from Bainbridge Island. The views were stunning.


My sister, who moved up to Seattle with my mom, still lives there. And because we had dumped all of our recreational vices (at least most of them) prior to crossing the border, we needed to be replenished. My sister came to the rescue. Her roommate made a call, and we were quickly on our way to what my sister told me was the shadiest neighborhood in Seattle. Compared to the ghettos of Oakland and San Francisco, this place was like Shangri-La. Unlike most major cities, violent crime doesn't seem to be a major affliction in Seattle.

We picked up some goodies, then headed to the U district, home of the University of Washington. We were pretty tired since we had to get up early that morning to catch the ferry, so my sister decided to take us to a coffee shop that she claimed had the best coffee in all of Seattle. It wasn't bad. We also made a quick stop in a smoke shop, where new utensils were purchased, in addition to nice stogies that KerryLynn picked up for her dad and brother.

The visit to the University district wasn't the end of my sister's fun tour guide. I remember hearing rumors years back about some troll living under one of Seattle's bridges, and it turned out that the troll does exist, in the form of concrete artistic expression. Part of the body of the troll is made out of a Volkswagen beetle, with the body formed out of concrete. A nice little gem within the city limits of Seattle.


Before we said farewell to my sister, she mentioned that she's neighbors with what she claimed was Seattle's only surf shop, Wave Hounds. So we decided to make a quick stop to check the place out. Fun little store. I picked up a souvenier, a rug shaped like a surfboard.

We spent the night on the other side of town, at my old friend Dave's house in West Seattle. I had never been to this part of town before, and it's a cool spot, perfect for Dave and his beautiful young family. We didn't get much sleep however, since we stopped at a nearby bar to drink cocktails, then downed two bottles of wine back at his house. The next day hurt. Bad.

With just hours of sleep, a bad hangover, and the lung butter back in full effect, we embarked on a journey to the coast. We stopped in Tacoma to check out Stadium High School, a national landmark probably known more for being the high school in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.


The drive through Tacoma and Olympia is pure congestion. Think of the drive from San Francisco to Sacramento. Especially the nasty Fairfield and Vacaville section. That's Tacoma and Olympia. Getting through there was rough, but we finally cracked through the traffic and eventually hit the coast. The first city you encounter is called Aberdeen, which blatantly expresses its pride for being Kurt Cobain's hometown.

The drive south along the coast that day was nice. Nothing extraordinary, but traffic was minimal and the weather was pleasant. We stopped for the night in a town called Tokeland (no joke), staying in a nice suite with a sweet ocean view. This was the night that I introduced KL to National Lampoon's Vacation. The perfect movie to watch during a road trip (forgot to mention, Netflix stupidly doesn't work in Canada - another reason we were glad to be back in the States).

This is where the trip took a rather ugly turn. From Long Beach, WA (where we took a break and four-wheeled on the beach, pretty cool experience) all the way south to Port Orford, OR is just one major clusterfuck of traffic, annoying tourists, and rare glimpses of the ocean. In other words, I absolutely advise people to never drive this section of the coast. I had no idea the coast would be this congested with towns and cities. You can never drive faster than 40 mph (mainly because you're either stuck behind a train of cars or you're constantly entering new towns that lack any appeal and force you to drive unbelievably slow) and quite often you're inland. The towns reminded me of shitholes like Modesto and Willits. Astoria didn't remind me at all of The Goonies. You can rarely use cruise control, and the people - the people! Argh! Oregon really is a dump of a state. I've always thought Portland was vastly overrated, and now I know that the Oregon coast sucks too.

We spent the night in a nice hotel in Newport, OR that provided a deck with a view of the ocean. That was pretty cool. Beyond that, the drive all the way to Port Orford fucking blew ass.

Once we passed Port Orford, the hype surrounding the Oregon Coast finally lived up. The Southern Oregon coast is absolutely beautiful. Stunning views of amazing rocks jutting out from the ocean, with beautiful beaches everywhere you look. The wind is crazy. I've never experienced gusts of wind so strong. KerryLynn was freaking out at one point when I got out of the car and went close to a cliff's edge to take some pictures. The wind was that dangerous. I can't imagine surfing here. KerryLynn and I decided at one point to go for a hike. Breathtaking scenery. Some of the places up north seemed to offer some decent surf, but for various reasons it had zero appeal.


Worth noting as well that the Oregon Coast as a whole has a plethora of sand dunes. Even saw a sign at one point advertising sand board rentals. A trip.


After passing through Gold Coast, OR, we entered California and spent the night in Crescent City. Despite spending nearly two years of my life in Arcata, I never drove this far north on the California coast. Nothing special, although our hotel room did have a jacuzzi in the room. That was pretty cool. And we had yet another ocean view.

The next day was the last of the odyssey. And we received a blessing. Throughout the entire journey, KerryLynn and I encountered bald eagles, bison, pronghorn, numerous deer, humpback whales, a vast variety of seals, a sea otter, and bears. We both noted how the only thing we thought was missing was elk. There were numerous signs on the highway warning drivers of elk crossings, yet we never saw one. Until, shortly before reaching the town of Trinidad, there on the side of the road, laying in the shade, was an elk.


KerryLynn spotted it in the same fashion as when we spotted the bears: With her uncanny vision. It was a beautiful site, and a beautiful way to end The Pacific Northwest Odyssey.

Total distance driven in The Pacific Northwest Odyssey: Approximately 5,300 miles.