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Boise and The Oregon Trail

I have always wanted to head west. In elementary school I had a guinea pig named Fievel and I loved playing Oregon Trail. I always knew that the real Oregon Trail was going to be a highlight of my trip and I planned to stop at as many landmarks as I could. One of these landmarks that was featured in the game was the Whitman Mission. There wasn’t really any of the mission left to see, but they had a nice museum and it had a park atmosphere great for leg stretching.

I was happy to get out and stretch my legs. The scenery changes drastically from eastern Washington to Idaho. The desert makes way to vast green hills. I had underestimated the size of the hills in my mind. I was driving along some elevation, but you would look over large amounts of flat land too. I’m so grateful for interstate highways and motor vehicles. Seeing those tracks winding over the sides of hills looked precarious enough without a wagon on them.

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My Alternator’s from Ellensburg

I left Seattle with high hopes to drive a long way and make it to Boise. I never expected Washington State to be so desertous and desolate. I filled up my platypus at a rest stop and kept my fingers crossed. I wondered, “Should I drink the water around here?” Maybe I was a little overly concerned, but I was sorta cautious about driving by the Hanford Site. Hanford was part of the Manhattan Project and is the most contaminated nuclear site in the entire United States.

I trucked on until I saw a large dam. After seeing so much sand and rock, the beautiful blue water grabbed my attention and I decided to take a close look. The Wanapum Dam on the Columbia river is quite impressive, but unfortunately when trying to leave, my car wouldn’t start. I felt really fortunate that my car decided not to start while at a dam’s visitor’s center. I was so happy be in a place where there were employees to help me. After trying to jump my car several times and finding out it wouldn’t jump, I rode to the nearest town with the local tower.

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Seeing Seattle

I booked a bed at the local American Hotel HI in the Asian side of Seattle. Being the friendly hostel veteran that I am, I quickly made friends with another solo traveler – a really sweet girl from Uruguay who was traversing the U.S. after her study abroad. We checked out a local noodle shop and then walked to the harbor. Next door to the hostel was also a dessert shop. It was so colorful that you just had to walk in. The shelves were lined with beautifully decorated cake slices of every flavor. The menu also included every kind of Boba Tea you could imagine.

 

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Tillamook, Sauvie Island and Portland

I left Gold Beach on another overcast and drizzling day and made for Tillamook State Forest. I knew I wanted to visit Portland, but also that I would need to stop somewhere in-between according to the distance I am willing to drive and the money I had. I knew free camping and a coffee shop would see me through. I was also buying time wondering if I should contact my second cousin who I thought might still live in Oregon. Five years my junior, she had always been to me a spoiled princess that required babysitting. When I last saw her she had grown from an attention-needy child into a boy-crazy teenager and I was debating whether I really wanted to visit with someone who I plainly took as annoying.

I stopped at a farmer’s market in Coos Bay to stretch my legs and then in the late afternoon pulled into the state forest. Finding a secluded camping spot turned out to be quite a challenge, as the free camping available was mostly for ATV enthusiasts who were out in full force. I unfortunately damaged my car backing into what I thought was a campsite and into a rock.


The next day, I brushed my teeth and cleaned up in the coffee shop bathroom before going to work. The coffee shop did lack one thing though… outlets. I decided to go find a more suitable work location and stumbled upon the generous and spacious Tillamook Public Library. I also decided to connect with my cousin, after all she is older now and it’s not right to judge someone by their youth.

I grabbed some cheese curds from the Tillamook Cheese factory on my way out-of-town and headed off to meet my cousin Olivia when she got off work. She was very excited that I was in the area and was beyond welcoming. I have several first cousins close to my age and I never really thought about how lonely it must be for her. After all my dad is her first cousin and he’s close to the same age as her dad. Also, all of our family lives in the South and she’s all the way on the opposite end of the country! Read the rest of this entry

Paths Crossed in Gold Beach

Paths Crossed in Gold Beach

I found my way to the house in Gold Beach and pulled in right after John. I saw that old red 4-wheel drive with the platform bed inside and felt so excited that I had the opportunity to see one of my friends from the road again. In Vegas (Viva Las Vegas post) we discussed the possibility of our paths crossing at some point, but by this time I had began to doubt that it was going to happen.

Bless the good folks that let us crash at their houses. We were one in the same. Two sun-tanned road bums show up with loaded down hatchbacks, long hair that we trim ourselves, in dirty clothes, with dirty bodies… having not washed in days. Both not entirely sure when we are going to leave. Both happy to sleep on the floor or in the car. Read the rest of this entry

My Hitchers

After leaving the beautiful still serenity of my campground in the Redwoods (The Journey to Ft. Bragg post), I started looking for a gas station in town. My plan was to make the long drive to Coos Bay, Oregon. I didn’t have a place to stay lined up though, so I was pretty much up for whatever. While I was driving I saw a young couple walking in a ditch down the side of the road and I felt strongly that I should pick them up. I’d never picked up hitchhikers before. I kept driving though and pulled into a nearby gas station to fill up. While filling up my tank, I noticed that the couple had walked to the gas station and set up shop in front of the door with their cardboard sign. I walked up to the boy. He was a short, shrimpy looking kid between the age of 18 and 20. “Where are you looking to go? I’m on my way to Oregon.” He got all excited, “We’re looking to go to Eureka.” “Ok, I’ll give you guys a ride.” “Oh, thank you! What can I do for you? Can I wash your windows?” “Um… ok…” I rearranged my car, while the boy washed my windows.

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The Journey to Ft. Bragg

The Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, I decided to leave San Francisco. I thought that if I left before noon, I’d miss traffic. Everyone in San Francisco seemed to have the same idea.

I spent three hours crawling along the 101 at 20 miles an hour, when I finally decided to take the next exit wherever it may lead. The exit was for Petaluma. A charming little town, I carried my lunch to the park to eat and bought the next book in my series… I had just finished A Storm of Swords. I found many of the stores interesting and I enjoyed walking along the old docks.

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Left My Home in Georgia, Headed to the ‘Frisco Bay

San Francisco is the weirdest place I’ve been. I heard I would love it. I heard I could make way more money if I lived there. Well, I suppose I could make more money if I lived there, but considering the price of rent it wouldn’t really mean very much. The hostel was twice as expensive as any hostel on my trip. In addition to being more expensive, I also had to pay $24 for 24 hours to park my car in a nearby garage. I did the math and determined I wasn’t going to be staying in San Francisco for very long.

The HI San Francisco City Center was one of the most beautiful hostels. I rolled my suitcase across the marble floor of the lobby in the old 1920s hotel feeling elegant. The hostel was filled with unique and beautiful decorations, a chic romantically lit bar and a mezzanine on the second story that overlooked the lobby. They played old black and white movies at night, but I didn’t stay in very much.

I spent some time walking around the neighborhood aka Little Saigon. San Francisco is filled with beautiful architecture, there were interesting shops and galleries in the area to stop in, murals to take pictures of and TONS of homeless people. Actually all of San Francisco is filled with people living on the street, which makes the entire city kinda dirty (um… that poop on the sidewalk probably isn’t dog poop. Dog owners are pretty good about scooping up in California. Sidewalk squatters aren’t quite as considerate.) Feeling a little overwhelmed, I decided to call the one person I know in San Francisco – my friend Robin I met at the hostel in Austin during SXSW. Here’s the recap if you want the background story.

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Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

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Pigeon Point LighthouseAbsolutely beautiful and relaxing, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel is located right over the cliffs from the beach. It is known for its hot tub overlooking the water. The view is amazing. I enjoyed eating dinner and having a few beers with some of the other hostellers. I met lots of interesting people: a lady from the area, coming back after a long time, two guys bicycling the coast and some girls from Europe. Flowers grew all along the cliffs. I heard that many of the flowers are actually non-native and that they were planted there to prevent erosion. It was breathtaking.

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When Yosemite is Your Yard

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The roads from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite wind around and around. I’m not used to mountain driving, but it doesn’t really scare me. You just stay on the road. The height doesn’t really worry me too much, because I keep my eyes on the road. Paying attention is probably the most helpful thing one can do in mountain driving where staying on the road becomes even more important than it is on flat land.

I was happy to rest in Angel’s Camp for a while. A cute little town, I loved how they had clothes hanging over the street. It reminded me of shoes that hang above Spectre in Big Fish. Signs were in every window for the upcoming Culaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee. Apparently Angel’s Camp’s claim to fame is that Mark Twain published a story about a frog from there.

I didn’t really have a place to stay planned out for Yosemite. I thought I’d find a camping spot either inside the park or somewhere nearby. I had heard rumors about maybe some nearby BLM camping. I was caught off guard though when I found out that all the campgrounds in Yosemite were filled to capacity and that there wasn’t any BLM land nearby. I decided the smart thing to do would to be to stop and rent a bear can at least, so if I did make some last-minute camping arrangements than I wouldn’t have to worry about my car being broken into.

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