WEST COAST ROAD TRIP – A BLOG ONE YEAR IN THE MAKING…

8.24.12

7/6/12

    Sometimes in life things come easily, and then there are times like these where it takes an entire year to write a blog… I mean how hard can it be to sit down and write a story about a fabulous trip you took with some of your best friends in the world, in this case obviously pretty hard. Maybe it was the fact that we squeezed a lifetime of experience into a mere six days driving down the US 101, maybe it was the 2000 photographs I had to sort through and edit before I shared them with the world, or maybe time just got away from me as it so often does in this crazy world. Never the less I am here now, and on the one year anniversary of our fabulously fun road trip I am finally putting it all into words, or at least I’m going to try starting now…

The idea for this trip started with my friend Torey. We had all been sucked into the “Twilight” phenomenon (I read all 4 books in less than a month, a modern miracle for this slow reader) and there was a certain mysticism surrounding the locations featured in the story. Of course I am always up for a good adventure and this one quickly escalated from a quick visit to Forks, WA to a full scale west coast road trip. We started planning in January and come the end of June we were on our way, first stop Seattle, WA…

 

 

June 29/30, 2011

 

As the ever aggressive travelers we decided it would maximize our vacation time if we took a red eye flight from Atlanta to Seattle on a Wednesday night after work. Even though I am a complete night owl, this was an exhausting decision. As this was Torey’s first flight we made sure he was relaxed and at ease with a nice cup of tea:) He did exceptionally well for his first flight, only cried once… Kidding, he earned his wings without a peep. Now the lady sitting next to me was another story, she peeped really loudly for 3 hours in her sleep. This was after she argued that I should let her sit on the aisle because she frequented the bathroom, um yeah she only moved once the entire flight. Of course after that she was wide awake and ready to chat, I sure hope she had a nice visit with her son in Seattle… Once we landed (at approximately 3am Atlanta time) we went to retrieve our rental car, a lovely new 2011 Ford Fusion, nope sorry all out of those! It went a little something like this… Agent: Ma’am we would like to offer you the opportunity to upgrade to a mid sized SUV. Me: No thanks, we’ll just take the smaller cheaper car we reserved a month ago. Agent: But we can offer you this larger more comfortable SUV for a small upgrade fee of $xx per day. Me: Really ma’am, we are fine with the smaller more fuel efficient vehicle since we’re driving approximately 800 miles in the next 6 days. Agent: Ma’am, we don’t have the vehicle you reserved, we are all out of mid sized cars, I’m sorry. Me: Oh, ok, in that case I would like to offer you the opportunity to upgrade us to the larger more comfortable SUV at no charge since obviously this is your companies fault and not mine. Agent: Yes ma’am, I’ll go get the manager… By this time it’s about 4am in Atlanta, we look over to see Torey snoring on a bench and Joel stumbling into walls in the waiting area, finally we have our keys to the large and comfortable GMC Terrain and it’s off to the hotel we go. As we leave the airport and find our way into downtown Seattle I am suddenly wide awake, I’m sure you all know by now, I love me some bright city lights! I was living in a scene from “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Frasier” or one of my favorite movies ever “Sleepless in Seattle” and a few miles later I was living out a scene from a dream I had once, de ja vu is never not weird folks, but always interesting. About 5am Atlanta time we checked into our Seattle home, The Residence Inn on beautiful Lake Union, we bought a few after midnight snacks and eventually headed to bed (about 6am our time). Needless to say I was exhausted, but after a certain sleepless point this weird thing happens to me, I can’t go to sleep! It’s more annoying than you can imagine, equally annoying was the soundtrack to my sleepless night/morning, imagine a grizzly bear snoring while simultaneously playing the Charlie Brown soundtrack, you get my drift… I finally fell asleep at some point and got about 3 hours before I was wide awake once more. When I woke up Torey was awake too and said “You have to come outside!” Since we live in Georgia these are not words Torey would typically say in June so I was curious as to why he would lure me out onto the balcony, was he going to push me off the ledge for muting his music in the night? When I stepped out I immediately knew the reason he wanted me outside, It was June 30th and it was 55 degrees outside, HEAVEN! I think I squealed, then I begged him to go out jogging with me (he agreed to walk), Mary-Alice and Joel were still sleeping so we left them and ventured out into the cool morning. We walked around Lake Union, Torey took pictures and got to know the locals while I jogged, he even got the scoop on the neighborhood equivalent to Jack Nicholson’s R.P. McMurphy  in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”… We suspect there were bodies in the basement, dum dah dummmm!

After our morning stroll we had some breakfast, compliments of the hotel, then got ready to head out and explore the city. We rode the tram down to the Pike Place Market area where we went shopping in some cool antique stores, this is also where I resisted buying an upholstered chair for $10 and an antique diamond ring for $250, stupid luggage restrictions! We stopped off at a little chocolate shop, let’s just say “The Chocolate Market” had many tasty treats. We quickly found out that Seattle is a friendly city, whoever said you can only find hospitality in the south was wrong. We chatted for a while with the staff and Torey argued with a shop goer that this was the weather of heaven, for that guy it was Hawaii, to each his own I guess. I have to say one of the things I would love most about living in a city is the accessibility to all things, Pike Place Market was simply Amazing… You could find anything you needed there. From fresh locally grown fruits and veggies, all the fresh fish you could ever want (they’ll even throw them to you;)), to large bunches of beautiful fresh flowers for $5-10, they had it all, even freshly brewed coffee from the original Starbucks which of course is infinitely better than all other Starbucks:) We explored a bit more and had lunch before we tried out the Seattle bus system on our way to the Space Needle, now that was a trip! Unfortunately due to space restrictions Mary- Alice and I ended up sitting across from Torey, this was a recipe for comedic disaster… You see when your on a bus with an eclectic mix of demographics it’s probably best to keep your thoughts to yourself, Torey didn’t. Instead he chose to verbalize his fear of catching disease while on board, made accusations that some passengers were potentially transporting a dead body in a black garbage bag and laughed openly as they passed. You know that feeling when you’re in church and you’re not suppose to laugh so everything becomes infinitely more funny, well that was the case here. Mary-Alice and I gave suppressing our laughter a good ol’ college try, but after so long we just couldn’t hold it in any longer. As we burst into fits of giggles that went on for some time we never expected what happened next, you see sometimes I feel like my life is just like a sitcom. Out of nowhere the quiet, small, 30 something Asian man sitting to our left loudly and openly admonished us for our laughter, it went down like this: MA/AD: *loud fits of laughter* Man: “LOOK! I don’t know what you all are laughing at!!!” MA/AD: *silent glances that say Oh my god, have we offended him? I feel like we’re in 3rd grade, and we’re in the principals office!* Man: “But I’d sure like to know, ’cause it’s contagious! *insert donkey laugh here*… I mean really, these things just don’t happen to normal people! We had a nice visit to the Space Needle, this city is the best of both worlds, sweeping vistas of lakes and mountains all in the heart of the city. Now, after the Space Needle we decide to head back to the hotel, please bear in mind I’ve had 3 hours sleep and have been walking around Seattle in boots all day… Should we take the bus again? Nah! Maybe the tram? Nope, can’t find it! Let’s find a taxi? Not one to be found! I know, I know, let’s trust Torey and Joel with our fate, after all google maps says our hotel is just right over there. FYI: Google maps is 2in x 2in, Seattle is 5000miles x 5000 miles! Look guys, shortcut, let’s walk down this deserted highway that is currently a construction zone littered with dead animals and bird flu. I mean of course I’ve always dreamed of playing the role of “Dead Girl #2″ in a movie about the apocalypse, who hasn’t, but this was not really in my plan for the day. As I wondered the deserts of this urban Egypt, singing curses to my leaders and a rousing chorus of “Let My People Go”, I was just about to lose faith when finally I saw light at the end of the tunnel, that light said “Residence Inn”. I was as close to kissing the ground as I’ve ever been when I reached the steps of the hotel. Even amidst all the exhaustion Seattle was one of my favorite places. I love New York and it remains my favorite city on earth thus far but Seattle is right up there at a close 2nd. There’s definitely a good vibe there and even in the heart of the city there was peace, and thus I could definitely stay awhile…

 

 

July 1, 2011

 

The next morning we loaded up our large and comfortable SUV and headed out of the city, but first we stopped for donuts. I had seen this place on TV almost 10 years ago, long before traveling was more than a dream. There are of course differing opinions on the subject, but in my opinion that was the best chocolate glazed donut I’ve ever had. And the chocolate cake variety that I stored away in case of an emergency was equally enjoyable later in the day:) Thank you “Top of the Pot” for a memorable donut experience! We drove north and took a ferry across Puget Sound, bound for Forks, WA and then on to our destination for the night, LaPush. It was a beautiful drive filled with mountains, indescribably beautiful lakes and scary backwoods rest stops. We stopped repeatedly to take photos and dip our hands in the cool clear waters. At the rest stop we saw deer and fields of flowers and a probable serial killer… He approached Mary-Alice and I just as we exited the restroom and hit the deserted trail back to the car, he claimed he wanted to sell us some religious reading material, I fear his religion included putting ladies in his trunk and taking them back to his shack of terror. Fortunately Mary-Alice threw him off with her response of “Sorry, we don’t read!!!” and he scurried away. After a couple of hours of driving we finally reached our intended destination, Forks… Let’s just say this, I’m glad we had more planned for this trip than seeing what this tiny town had to offer. I’m glad that the “Twilight” franchise brought life back to this small logging town, because quite frankly I’d hate to have seen it dead. It took us a total of about 45 mins to see all there was to see. Given the fact that they tore one of the main attractions down and the majority of the movie wasn’t even filmed there, our stay was brief as we decided to forego the $50 bus tour, only after we encountered a few of it’s diehard fanged participants. We left and headed towards our final stop for the night, LaPush, WA. It was only about 30 minutes away but it was getting late and we were getting hungry. When we arrived Mary-Alice, Joel and Torey began to express their fears and question my lodging judgement, I however was not concerned, I had seen pictures and the Internet does not lie, right? I checked us in and we headed to our cabin, we were in a hurry as our only hope of food in this remote and desolate land was closing in less than an hour. When I walked in and looked around I tried to mask my horror and repress the panic attack that was lurking just under the surface. First off it was hot and muggy, the reason, no AC! They didn’t say anything about that on the website. Second, it might serve the house keeping department well to spend a few more days in training. Third, it looked nothing like the pictures online, clearly I was in some parallel universe… Did I mention, no phones, no TV, no Internet? Yes, we were in fact in the twilight zone, no pun intended. Now anyone who knows any of us knows that we are pretty picky about our food (I still won’t eat at Hardee’s because I had to eat there once when I was little and flies and the smell of urine reigned supreme). In this case we only had one choice, the “Rivers Edge Restaurant”, ironic seeing as how it actually sits by the ocean. We were seated by the window so we could enjoy the view of the water and local wildlife including a number of stray cats and birds on the outside and plenty of flies on the inside. I ordered a burger which I’m pretty sure was elk or something other than beef, I know MA ordered a grilled cheese to be safe, not really sure what the boys had as I was dealing with total culture shock. Now I’m a pretty laid back and calm person and don’t freak out often, MA is usually together and in control of any situation, the moral of this story is this, if we’re freaking out it’s really bad! As we sat at our table we tried to convince them that we needed to cut our losses and get out of Dodge, Torey protested that this was all just part of the experience of our trip, my response: “Torey, bed bugs are not an experience!” Our waitress sympathized with our troubles, even offered us clean blankets back in Forks. She was from North Carolina, when we asked her how she ended up in LaPush she said her dad was called to pastor the only church there. I told her that her daddy must be really close to the lord because that was a call I’d just have to hang up on. She also taught at the local school, I’m pretty sure she qualifies for sainthood! After dinner we went back to the “resort” office and after pitching a fit from being told I would have to pay for new clean sheets we were moved to a new cabin. Thank the good lord this one actually looked like the cabin I had booked. Finally after a very long and adventurous day we found a little bit of peace on the most beautiful beach, well 3 of us did, Torey found firecrackers being tossed at his head:) I finally got to dip my toes in the Pacific ocean, it was ice cold and wonderful. Even without the conveniences of modern technology I think I could’ve stayed on that beach for a while, MA and Joel on the other hand had our bags in the car when we returned from our morning beach stroll. I take it they were ready to head on back to civilization;)

 

 

July 2, 2011

 

Now we were loaded into our large and comfortable SUV once more on our way to our next stop, Portland, OR. Along the way we saw our first glimpses of the Pacific coast highway before heading inland to visit Mount St. Helens. As a girl from the south I can honestly say up until this point in my life the largest mountain I had ever seen would be a toss up between Stone and Lookout and they were certainly not snow capped (definitely not in July). We were amazed to drive down the road and suddenly see beautiful mountains jutting into the sky, seemingly out of nowhere. Beauty beyond belief are words I would use to describe the landscapes. We drove up the mountain to the observatory at Mount St. Helens, along the way we saw signs listing the years in which the trees had been replanted after the volcanic eruption in 1980. At the observatory we watched footage of the volcano and the aftermath, not having been alive when this happened it was kind of surreal to see that kind if natural disaster and it’s destruction. The mountain was beautiful, you can’t imagine unless you’ve seen it for yourself, no picture could do it proper justice. Along the way to Portland we ate at some hole in the wall Denny’s knock off where again, they did not serve sweet tea, had never heard of Waffle House or Chick-Fil-A and Torey felt even more secure in his cultured status as he has experience all three (these were his main questions to everyone we met on the trip, few passed the test). After a brief stop at McDonald’s (the sacred keepers of west coast sweet tea) we were on the road again. Once in Portland we had some really good food at the Rock Bottom Brewery, pecan crusted salmon rocks, please bring me some in Georgia?!?! We also tried their public transit system which seemed to be really nice, unfortunately we didn’t have much time here, it did however seem like a city with a small town feel and was exceptionally clean and well kept. I’d definitely like to visit again when I have more time to explore…

 

 

July 3, 2011

 

The next morning we headed out for our day long cruise of the US 101 and it was gorgeous! Oh look there’s a McDonald’s, sweet tea, PULL OVER!!! Back on the road we passed through innumerable little ocean side towns, some quaint and charming, others like a ghost town and not so inviting (there were a few times I swear I heard echoes of the “Deliverance” theme). There isn’t really much I can say about this particular day, after all there are only so many adjectives to describe the majestic beauty of the ocean cliffs and the waves crashing on the rocks that we witnessed that day. Usually when I write words don’t often fail me, it sometimes takes a while to get them all onto paper (or screen) but they never fail, in this case I can honestly say my words fail me. I can however say this, unless you’ve seen it, you cannot understand it and I beg of you to take this trip at least once before you die. It’s simply amazing! Two of my favorite moments occurred near the end of the day. As the sun began to set we came upon a look out point and pulled over to watch. We were on a cliff over looking the Pacific, surrounded by cliffs and trees and friends and I stood in silence and watched the blazing pink and orange sun sink into the ocean. It was one of the most peaceful moments of my life, as close to heaven as I could be on earth. As I stood there I took note of all the people I know or have known that I wished were there to share that moment and I was thankful for those who were. I took extra care to memorize as much as i could, and when I need to find peace in every day life I go back to that cliff and cherish that magical moment. As we left the cliff and headed off the 101 and into the forest it looked exactly like a scene from Jurassic park, I swear I saw a pterodactyl flying. Which leads to my next favorite moment… As soon as we spotted our first giant redwood tree Torey had to pull over and take a picture. It was dark and the photographer was not getting out, someone was kind enough to do more than hang out the window and snap a photo like me. When they returned to the car they let in a visitor and Mary-Alice let out a yelp as it attacked her. Torey, in the backseat, says “oh it’s probably just a mosquito.” It was in fact a mosquito until it found it’s way into the backseat and flew at Torey’s head, at which point it morphed into a gigantic life threatening pterodactyl. Immediately he leaped from the car, squealing and dancing a never before seen jig, I’m pretty sure in the process he broke my arm and possibly one of my ribs. The three remaining passengers of the large and comfortable SUV laughed until we cried, Torey did not and probably still does not think it was funny, sorry pal it was and forever will be hilarious! Thanks for the laugh:) After he rejoined us in the car we drove on into the night on a road that I would equate to the autobahn, Mary-Alice was in hog heaven! Our destination was the Blue Lake Hotel and Casino in Blue Lake, CA and after a long ride we finally arrived around 10pm. Of course it was dark and all we saw were the flashing blue light arches bidding us to our hotel for the night. After check in we were starving and headed down to find food, instead we found crusty the clown working as a short order cook far away from Springfield. This was not a good trip for food! The only other restaurant that was open was holding a very loud karaoke contest but we had no other choice than to sit back and enjoy the entertainment while waiting on our meal. Oh and it was quite entertaining to say the least! After I lost $100 and Torey gained it we all retired for the evening, our last day was quickly approaching and it was a long way to San Francisco.

 

 

July 4, 2011

 

You know it’s funny how things look different in the light of day… When I woke up the next morning to get ready I never thought to look outside. The curtains were still closed in one of the loveliest hotel rooms I have ever been in and not until we were about to leave did I think “Oh, I wonder what the view here is like”. I walked over and pulled the curtains back and immediately heard that wah wah wahhhn sound effect in my head, I started to laugh and said “Oh my god, you have to see this!” Torey walked over to take a peek at the sweeping mountain vista, and by sweeping mountain vista I mean a donkey, in a small muddy pasture, with a rickety old fence. I said “Oh boy, I sure am glad we got here after dark, otherwise we would have just kept driving!” Amazing what a little daylight will do for a place… On our way out of Blue Lake we stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s where a few of the locals fought over which one would take Torey back to their wooded lair, such a stud that one. On the road again we headed for our days destination, San Francisco. Along the way we passed through wine country where peace and serenity seemed to abound, a small town traffic jam due to a Fourth of July parade and temperatures ranging from a steamy 95 degrees to a cool 65 as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. As we arrived in San Francisco at the equivalent of the Beverly Hilton (The Renaissance Stanford Court Hotel) we were greeted by the valet who wanted to take our luggage and our car, our car which after 6 days of travel looked as if a herd of ravenous dorito eating hoarders had attacked the plush interior. As the Clampetts’ piled out of the car grabbing cups, candy wrappers and stolen LaPush beach rocks it appeared as if we were playing a game of Chinese fire drill to a rousing version of dueling banjos.

Once inside we prepared to party! It was the 4th of July and we were looking for some SanFrancisco action, and action we got, well we didn’t get it but somebody did… We had some dinner and headed down to Pier 39 for fireworks, it was crowded and quite intoxicated down there but nothing of interest to report. When we decided to head back to the hotel we traveled through what looked like war torn Beirut away from the crowds and then realized our route home was up hill, the entire way, we can do this right? Wrong! First hill and our thighs are making tiny sparks reminiscent of those back at the pier… We search desperately for a taxi but clearly they are all on holiday over in Sausalito for the night. We walk in the darkness and the tone on the streets kind of reminds me of that scene in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York when Kevin jumps into the safety of a cab from the danger of Central Park and says “Boy! It’s scary out there!” and the grungy cabbie turns around and says “Not much better in here kid!” If I could run at a 90 degree angle I would have scaled that hill… It only becomes more comforting with the 75mph parallel parker and the band of gypsies that poured out of the car and rushed the stairs of a nearby house resembling a fight scene from “The Fast and the Furious”. I thought we were either going to die or undergo some form of west coast gang initiation, thank god neither took place. A nearby cop instructed us to find the only remaining trolley still running in the city, when we arrived we met 500 new friends, also waiting for one trolley to take us all home. After the wait vs walk debate we decided to wait it out. The line moved pretty quickly, we would be home in no time! As the line moved we realized that the public transport stops in the great city of San Francisco have public toilets in these oval pods conveniently masked with ads. Unfortunately we learned this fact from an expert in human trafficking and his ummm lady friend… See, as we stood waiting in line we were approached by a Sammy  Davis Jr look a like carrying a boom box, playing some slow jams. He approaches the “pod” and leans against the wall while attempting to chat with the crowd, we all generally ignore him until he suddenly starts to yell “5 minutes” repeatedly. After approximately 5 minutes he begins to bang on the door with his cane. We are all thinking, ok what’s up here? At this time Torey says “Oh god! I think there are people in there!” I said “NO WAY” and it’s at this point Sammy begins to get even more irate and attempts to kick the door in… It is also at this point that Mary-Alice pulls out her iPhone and begins to record the action. From inside the “pod” we hear yelling and a verbal altercation ensues between Sammy and his friends, another bystander proceeds to inform us that he’s just letting them know, times up, are you kidding me sir? Nope, he’s not, dead serious this one. At this point Sammy is physically rocking the “pod” to and fro and pulling on the door, when the door finally opens out runs a woman wearing glowing red devil horns and a man who informs the crowd “he’s handicapped and needs help to the bathroom”… Sammy emerges from the stall, gathers his boom box and walks away yelling to the crowd “Welcome to San Francisco!” eluding the police who have just shown up at the end of the entertainment portion of the evening. After he’s made his escape a kind elderly lady walks over from the other side and attempts to enter the restroom and we all in unison scream “Nooo!” she turns and Torey says in his slow southern drawl “Ma’am a pimp and his lady friend just left that toilet, you’re gonna want to hold it!” Sorry if that story troubles anyone, live through it and then get back to me! I have been told that San Francisco is really a lovely place to visit, maybe I’ll regain my courage and give it another try someday, but probably not any day soon. After experiencing the 4th of July there, which also included a trolly altercation between a drunken non paying passenger and an elderly trolly attendant, I am not completely convinced that this is the place for me or my future vacations. Quite frankly, I find it hard to believe that Danny Tanner would have ever raised his young impressionable daughters there, nor do I believe there were any milk men or paper boys within a 100 mile radius, just sayin! Thank god we finally made it back to our exceptionally nice and safe hotel and headed off to bed around 2am…

 

July 5, 2011

 

Last day, and I’m pretty sure I have never seen four people more ready to make a flight home… But first I met my uncle for breakfast, I couldn’t fly and drive all the way to San Francisco and not see him before heading home. I had a wonderful omelette with smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers, it was DELICIOUS! Thanks for breakfast uncle, I still wish you would have let me pay, but I’m glad I got to share that memory with you:) Once I was back at the hotel we headed for the airport, now I’m not really sure what happened, but somehow we were running late. Again I reference “Home Alone” in the fact that I could hear “Run Run Rudolph” as we raced to our gate, leaving Torey behind to have his belt, flip flops and any other article of clothing he was wearing inspected. Apparently he looks threatening, who knows what that was about. Thankfully we all made it and I as always enjoyed a lengthy and peaceful flight home…

 

Like I said before, we packed a lifetime of experiences and memories into only six short days. I am so glad I got to experience it with these three people, it would not have been the same with anyone else! I am incredibly blessed to know you guys and call you my very best friends. We may not always see eye to eye, we may not always see each other every day, but we will always love each other no matter where life may take us. (Dear God I think I just almost quoted Celine Dion and Titanic, it’s time to wrap things up!) I cherish every moment, every laugh, even every angry word I spoke when Torey and Joel made me walk all the way across Seattle, because no one else has those memories but us and for all those things I am truly grateful. I will never forget our West Coast Road Trip 2011! Happy Westcoastiversary guys, lets do it again soon, more memories await and I’ll try not to wait an entire year to write it all down next time:)

 

 

What is your favorite road trip memory? I would love to hear all of your best road side stories… amduke25@yahoo.com