Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 18: San Jose to Fresno

We had breakfast this morning with Jordan at a place called (I think) the Country Inn. It was very yummy. We finally left San Jose around 11 am and headed for Fresno.

We hadn’t been on Highway 101 for long when suddenly the traffic backed up. This was very surprising, heading in that direction at that time of day. A red Saturn in front of us momentarily peeked into the left shoulder, perhaps to see if he could pass the traffic by driving along the shoulder. Just at that moment, a California Highway Patrol cruiser came up the shoulder. The Saturn got back into the lane in time, but the cruiser paused briefly and said sternly to the guy driving the Saturn, “Don’t do that.” We were highly entertained by this.

The traffic cleared up just a few miles later (it was due to an accident, which we passed) and we were able to cruise after that. We passed through Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world, and indeed it smelled very strongly of garlic.

Casa de FrutaWe stopped at Casa de Fruta, which is an important stop for all of us who drove during our childhoods from the Central Valley to the Bay Area. It’s on Pacheco Pass, Highway 152. Dave had never experienced it before, so I wanted him to see it. Plus I wanted to buy some fruit there. It’s hard to describe, other than to explain that Dave said it “has nothing on South Dakota” in terms of tackiness. It does have “Casa de Sweets”, “Casa de Wine”, “Casa de Choo-Choo” (the train), and “Casa de Diesel” (Dave’s favorite), among other delights. We didn’t spend a lot of time checking out all of the individual casas, but Dave did get a sense of the wonder that is Casa de Fruta.

The rest of the drive to Fresno was very smooth – Highway 152 through Los Banos, west across the Central Valley to Highway 99, then south to scenic Fresno. We got to my parents’ house around 2 pm, chilled with my mom for a while, had an early dinner, then went to watch my sister’s softball game (and play with my one-year-old nephew).

The most important part is that it was only 99 degrees when we arrived, which my mom asserts is significantly cooler than 100+. Apparently we brought the nice weather down with us from the north.

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 17: South Bay

We spent a leisurely morning hanging out with our friends and their kids, bade farewell around 10:30 am, and drove off.

Memorial HallFirst stop: Stanford University, for the 11 o’clock campus tour. We didn’t really leave ourselves enough time for parking, so Dave had to drop me off, drive around campus for 15 minutes to find parking, then find the tour group. Somehow he managed to do all this, though he missed a lot of the interesting explanation of the history of the university. The tour was pretty good, and fairly short (about 50 minutes). After it ended, we went up the Hoover Tower, though we were surprised that we had to pay $2 each to go up. It offered great views of Stanford, Palo Alto, and the surrounding area. We walked around campus a bit, then got into our car and drove off.

Jordan Hall and Hoover Tower
We needed to spend a bit of time online to get information about some of our next stops, so we asked the tour guide at the Hoover Tower if there was a Panera nearby. He said that the nearest Panera was in San Francisco. We told him that really all we were looking for was a place to have lunch and access free wi-fi. He recommended a place called University Cafe, just a bit down the road in Palo Alto, which we found fairly easily.

University Cafe is a European-style cafe with a somewhat frou-frou menu, though the food was tasty. They did indeed have free wi-fi, so of course a number of people were just hanging out with their computers and a cup of coffee. Most of the people there were having lunch, though. Dave and I were highly amused at the couple at the table next to us, who apparently were meeting for the first time after connecting via an online dating site. It seemed to have gone well for them, thankfully.

Sun Microsystems World HeadquartersWe left Palo Alto around 2 pm and headed to Santa Clara, where Dave wanted to see the Sun Microsystems headquarters before the name changed to Oracle. It was actually a cool campus, the center of which is an historical site called Agnews Historic Park. We didn’t look around much, but it seemed pretty interesting.

Apple HeadquartersNext stop: Cupertino, to see what the Apple world headquarters looks like. It’s what you would expect. We didn’t poke around here either, though it seemed to have a huge Apple store inside, open to the public.

At last we drove to San Jose, to hang out with our friends Jordan and Becca and their 6-year-old daughter Jada. They invited us to play bocce ball at the nearby park, where there are official bocce ball courts. It started out badly for Team Miller, but the finale came down to the wire. (It was actually unclear who had won; it depended on whether we allowed the rules to be interpreted by the old man spectating on the adjacent park bench, or if we played by Jordan and Becca’s much laxer rules.)

We had a delicious dinner of grilled chicken at their home, and then I went with Jordan to his church’s prayer meeting (he is the pastor of Almaden Neighborhood Church. Dave stayed home and played Wii with Jada, and reportedly was beat a couple of times. After Jordan and I returned, Jada was in bed, and the grownups got to play Wii for a while. It was a nice day – low mileage- and a relaxing evening.

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 16: Northern California Coast

The Travelodge in Eureka has a pathetic breakfast. It was a tiny counter in the check-in office, offering a couple of different kinds of cereal, some danishes, and coffee. There wasn’t really anyplace to sit, so Dave took his danish and I took my cereal back to our room. We brewed some tea in the room’s coffeemaker (creating tea tinged with a coffee flavoring… yum…), got ready, and hit the road by 9 am.

We continued down Highway 101. The weather was similar to the day before – overcast at times, often bright and sunny, and sometimes foggy. When we got to Humboldt Redwoods State Park the highway was closed, and all traffic was being diverted to the scenic drive “Avenue of the Giants”. Even though we were trying to keep a good pace to get to Santa Rosa at lunchtime, we took this as an opportunity to see more redwoods.

Downed Redwood with Ferns and MossThe Avenue of the Giants is an auto tour through the redwoods located in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. There are eight different scenic stops, numbered from south to north. We stopped at the first stop on the north end (Auto Tour Stop #8), read a bit about the park, and walked a few yards down the trail to take some photos of the redwood grove. A guy and his teenage son were coming out of the woods and assured us that the 2.5 mile loop hike was quite nice. Unfortunately it was more time commitment than we were really able to make at that point, but it did seem like a nice hike. On the opposite side of the road were some “baby” redwoods that had been planted maybe 25 years ago, and of course they were already tall and beautiful.

Not much further down, we stopped at Auto Tour Stop #7, Chandler Grove. We got out and took a look at the trailhead sign to find that it offered two short hikes through the grove, of 0.2 and 0.3 miles each. We figured we would check it out… until we got close to the trail and discovered that there was SO MUCH poison oak along the trail. The trail we were about to start down was also really overgrown – a guarantee that I would get poison oak rash and end up in urgent care begging for Prednisone. (I’m terrifically allergic.) So that was a no-go. We hiked up the wider trail for a couple of yards just to see a few of the larger trees away from the road, and I was careful not to touch anything. As we hiked back down to the car I tried to be very careful not to slip and fall into the evil plants.

Eel River
We continued down Avenue of the Giants and I admired the tall redwoods through the sunroof while Dave drove. We came to a bend in the Eel River with a railroad truss bridge across it, and found around the next bend that it was Auto Tour Stop #6, Dyerville. Apparently on the spot where the interpretive signs were placed, it had once been a small but busy town. Over time as the town of Dyerville died, the spot basically got bulldozed to become the hill we were now standing on – you couldn’t even tell there had once been a town there. Strange feeling. Not much explanation of the train bridge though, which is what I really wanted to know more about – for some reason one of the spans was shaped differently from the rest.

The detour ended shortly after that, and we could have returned to Highway 101. Instead we decided to go a bit further and stop at the Visitor’s Center. We got some postcards and saw a big labeled redwood stump, which had the bark rings labeled with significant events that happened the year the ring had grown.

We left the Visitor’s Center at 11 am, and were back on Highway 101 by 11:15 am. We were now behind by an hour. We spent the next three hours just driving, driving driving. It was hard to believe that we could drive for that long and make (seemingly) so little progress. The scenery was picturesque, of course – driving through Mendocino and Sonoma counties, there are plenty of vineyards to admire and cute little towns that might be fun to poke around in. But we really were tired of poking around at this point, and just wanted to get to where we were going.

Menu at Russian RiverWe finally arrived in Santa Rosa after 2:15 pm, more than ready for lunch. Our destination was the Russian River Brewery & Restaurant, where of course the main purpose was for Dave to check out the beer. I had a focaccia (which was really more like a pizza without sauce than what I was expecting) and Dave had a chicken sandwich. He also enjoyed the Pliny the Elder beer (a double IPA) and Damnation, a Belgian-style ale. According to the website, you can ask for a tour of the brewery, but Dave wasn’t interested enough, and we were behind our schedule.

The next brewery Dave wanted to visit was Lagunitas in Petaluma. He had read on their website that those wanting to take a tour should call to find out the tour schedule. He called them as we were ready to leave Santa Rosa, and were told that the tour was at 3 pm. Of course, by this time it was 3:45 pm. Dave was told that they had a beer garden in the afternoon, Wednesdays through Sundays, but of course it was Tuesday. We debated whether or not to go, and decided we might as well show up and see what was there.

We arrived at Lagunitas around 4 pm and just kinda wandered in. There was a gate in front of a yard, indicating that there was a beer garden, so we followed the path into the enclosed area that seemed to be the beer garden. We walked toward the building that we expected to be the store, and found a small bar, and a receptionist desk with some T-shirts for sale hanging behind her.

As soon as we walked in, two guys sitting at a high-top table looked up to see us, and one of them said, “You can’t come in here wearing that T-shirt!” Dave was wearing his newly purchased University of Illinois T-shirt, and the guy explained that he was a Wisconsin guy. He turned out to be the contractor doing the work to turn the part-time beer garden into a full-time brewpub. The two of them chatted with us for a few minutes and the other guy told us that he would be happy to give us a tour once the two of them were done with their meeting, if we were willing to wait about 15 minutes.

Dave and I hung out in the beer garden and chilled out, waiting… not knowing who this was, who was about to give us a personal tour, but suspecting that he might be a pretty important guy there at Lagunitas. We found out later that it was Ron Lindenbusch, whose official title apparently is “Beer Weasel”, but is probably more accurately described as the director of sales and marketing – certainly one of the top guys there. (Can I use the word exec?) When he was done with his meeting, he said, “Come on, let’s find some beer.” He took us over to the main building, walked over to the bottling line, and pulled out a couple of cold bottles of IPA. He and Dave sipped on them as he showed us around the brewery. He was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the high-tech brewing equipment, and allowed us to get up close and personal with the beer-making in process. Our tour was frequently interrupted by passing conversations with employees who were still on-shift (all of whom had cups of beer in their hands), needing to talk to him about various things. The tour ended, not in the store as official tours should, but with the three of us standing around chatting with another one of the Lagunitas employees, getting the dirt on problems they’ve had with some of their distributors. It was fascinating.

Golden Gate BridgeWe finally got back on the road around 5:15 pm and headed for the beautiful city of San Francisco. At least, it’s beautiful when you can see it. We were heading to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, hoping to get a nice photo of it from the overlook just to the north of it. However, as we got closer to the bridge, we could see that this wasn’t going to happen today – the entire bridge and city was engulfed in a fog bank. Just for kicks, we pulled off at Battery Spencer and gamely hiked up to the overlook. We couldn’t see more than 30 feet or so. If we hadn’t been able to hear the traffic going by below, we wouldn’t have been able to tell there was a bridge there – or anything for that matter. Certainly you couldn’t tell that the gorgeous City by the Bay was just a couple of miles away, or that the bay itself was below us.

There is a never-to-be-appropriately-attributed saying that “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” The couple of hours we spent in the city were true to these words. It was cold and windy up there on the overlook, so we dashed back to our car and drove across the bridge. When we got to the tollbooth, the operator advised us to take down our EZ Pass, because apparently it is common for people to break into automobiles to steal FasTrak transponders, and ours might fall victim even though it’s from out of state. Thanks for the advice! We then drove across the city (up some stereotypically steep and serious hills, thankful for the automatic transmission) and enjoyed being back in civilization.

We had dinner at a brewpub called the 21st Amendment. Not a particularly creative name, in my opinion – I think there’s a pub with that name in every city I’ve ever lived in, and I don’t think they’re related to each other. But, the place was cool. They brew their own beer, so Dave got to enjoy a few more craft brews. We got there a little after 6:30 pm, and the place was packed, seemingly with people about to head over to the Giants game, which was two blocks away. I sorta wished we were going to the baseball game, because I haven’t yet been to AT&T Park, but Dave reminded me how miserable it would be to sit outside in the cold and fog. We enjoyed our dinner (salads) and the ambiance, then headed to San Mateo, where we spent the night at the home of our friends Don and Tarrah. We were highly entertained by their two children, who are 3 1/2 and 2.

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 15: Oregon Coast and California Redwoods

This morning the alarm went off at 7 am, and as we tried to motivate to get up, we could hear the birds outside our tent. For a few minutes they were the typical happy little bird noises. Then we started hearing a crazy bird that sounded like a seagull that had been tutored by a parrot. Once we got outside the tent we saw it atop a tall dead tree – a raven! Not what we expected.

We had a bit of breakfast and broke camp, and then headed up the hill adjacent to our campground to see the view from the Perpetua scenic overlook. From above, we could see the Devil’s Churn and the cove we had hiked around last night. There was a very light fog on the coastline, so the visibility was rather good. In the sunlight, the scene looked much less creepy than it had last night!

Looking out over Cape Perpetua

We were on the road by 9:30 am, continuing our drive down Highway 101. We stopped for a few minutes at Heceta Head Lighthouse, hoping to get a photo. It’s an Oregon State Park, so our National Parks pass was useless – meaning we would have to pay $3 to park and walk around. They did a good job of hiding the lighthouse behind some trees so you can’t photograph it from the parking lot. Even more clever, when we got around a couple more curves in the road, they managed to hide the lighthouse in a fog bank so we couldn’t photograph it from the overlook!

Dunes at Joaquin Miller State ParkAt 10:30 am we stopped for gas in Florence, at a Fred Meyer that had beach sand dunes directly behind it. A couple of miles later, we pulled off the highway into the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. We hiked up one of the dunes to take some pictures. I took off my shoes before walking up, knowing that my Chuck Taylors would get filled with sand otherwise. I was glad I did – it was actually easier hiking up the dune by digging in my bare feet. Plus, the sand was delightful – soft, dry, and warm.

We got back on the road and drove for quite some time. We passed two construction projects featuring the logo, though there was not a lot of actual work going on that we could see. The signs insisted that the projects are “Putting Oregon back to work”. Driving on Highway 101 is, I suppose, a unique experience. It’s hard to avoid getting stuck behind an RV, logging truck, and/or the occasional porta-potty carrier or trash truck. The weather changes every quarter mile or so, from dense fog to bright sunshine and everything in between.

Oregon CoastWe breezed through North Bend and Coos Bay around quarter to 12 and just kept on going. About an hour later, just north of Ophir, we came to a spot that was really beautiful, so we stopped to take some photos. The large rocks were cool formations, the water was blue, there were no people on the beaches, there wasn’t anyone climbing around below the rocks taking photos. If this spot had been in California and 20 degrees warmer, the whole place would have been swarmed with people. Actually, go to Morro Bay and check out Morro Rock, and this would be the un-touristy pristine version.

We stopped for lunch in Gold Beach around 1:30 pm. We bypassed Dairy Queen and Subway in favor of the Panther’s Den Pizza and Deli, so named in honor of the high school (you can guess the mascot) across the street. It was decorated with jerseys, cheerleader uniforms, awards, and photos of Panther athletic events. We got there just as a small crew (about five guys) of construction workers were also getting there for lunch. I think the place was overwhelmed by all the business, because it took a long time for our pizza to arrive at our table. In the meantime, we watched the VH1 Classic special that was on, and when that ended, the cook gave the remote to the construction workers and we watched the nonstop Michael Vick news on numerous versions of ESPN. The pizza was yummy, but the stop was long – we didn’t drive off until 2:20 pm.

The next large town was Brookings, which we breezed through. Shortly after that, we came to the California border. We were stopped at the agricultural inspection station, where we had to vow that we didn’t have any out-of-state produce. Then the inspector gave us a newsletter for the Redwoods parks, which Dave perused while I continued driving.

Crescent City was not much further down the road, and we stopped there at the Redwoods Information Center. We were glad we did, because we got some good recommendations from the ranger there. She advised us that the best old-growth redwood groves were in nearby Jedediah Smith State Park, and that it would be worth our time to go there rather than to the more touristy National Park further south.

Fallen Redwood at Jedediah Smith State ParkSo we drove into the state park and soon found ourselves driving down a gravel road through some very dusty redwood groves. It was beautiful and peaceful, especially with Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” album playing through our car stereo and the motor on our hybrid vehicle on silent mode, as we gazed up through the sun roof.

The giant redwoods are amazingly beautiful, and you just get the sense that you’re looking at something ancient. In these groves are trees up to 2500 years old, and are also the tallest living things on earth. Aside from those unusual features, one of my favorite things about the redwoods are the quality of the foliage. The branches start perhaps 100 feet up the trunk of the tree. The branches are very short, so they tend to bunch around the tree a bit. They have a puffy, feathery quality to them that is really unique.

Smith River
We stopped to hike in Stout Grove, a small area just filled with beautiful, huge, old-growth redwoods. The loop trail here was short, easy, and flat. We took a little spur off the loop trail where we crossed a tiny bridge across a creek, then a longer bridge across the Smith River. The water was gorgeous – so clear, calm, sparkly, and warm! The water was pretty shallow – probably not much more than 2 feet in most places. If we could have spent another hour here, it would have been fun to wade around in the water. I watched wistfully as a group of rafters paddled up the river, just making it under the 3′ clearance of the bridge.

We knew it was time to leave when three grizzled rednecks arrived at the shore on their bikes and were yelling to each other so loud it could be heard across the river. One of them dove into the shallow water headfirst with all his clothes on. As we hiked past them to return to the loop trail, I noticed that they had a fat little chihuahua. What a strange group when the chihuahua is the calm, normal one.

We left the grove around 5:30 pm and headed out of the park. We got back to Crescent City, and stopped for a while at Starbucks to go online and plan our next steps. We determined that we didn’t need to do the scenic tour in Redwoods National Park, and aimed ourselves for Eureka. We were in Starbucks much longer than planned, and didn’t leave until about 7 pm.

Back on Highway 101, we stayed focused and drove all the way to Eureka without stopping, getting there around 8:30 pm. We checked into the Travelodge, where we had reserved a room while online at Starbucks.

The motel was only a few blocks from the brewpub where we had decided to eat dinner, the Lost Coast Brewery. Dave ordered the 10 beer taster, which allowed him to sample 10 of Lost Coast’s brews. He recommends the Alleycat Ale, the Downtown Brown, and the 8 Ball Stout. The taster also included three different fruity beers, which weren’t really his thing. A misunderstanding with the waiter caused me to order a liter of the house red wine, which I gamely drank about half of. For dinner, I had beef stew with sourdough bread, while Dave got the wings sampler. The guys sitting at the table next to us – sales guys, as it turned out – were very friendly and chatty. One of them leaned over at the beginning and asked Dave what he was going to order for dinner. I think the surprised and put-off expression that Dave reacted with was sufficient to keep him from doing much chatting with us for the rest of the evening. They turned their attentions to the couple on the other side of them, who turned out to be from Washington DC… but we didn’t get involved in the chit-chat.

The restaurant closed at 10 pm, and we were still finishing up. Though the waiter brought our check way before we were done eating, when we were actually ready to pay and leave, he was nowhere to be found. Finally he came and took care of the bill and we headed out. On our way back to the motel we walked around downtown Eureka for a few extra blocks to see what we could see (I thought there might be some beach on the west side of town, but it looked to be a very dark marina instead). There wasn’t a lot going on, and even the few bars and restaurants seemed to be shutting down. So we headed back to the Travelodge and enjoyed some Jon Stewart instead.

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 14: Washington to Oregon

This morning we had to say goodbye to dear Madison, who was very sad to see Uncle Dave and Aunt Jenn leave. We had such a nice visit with her and Kim!

After filling up the gas tank at Costco, we were on the road by 10:15 am. The morning was very focused on getting some miles behind us. We only saw one State Patrol, and in Centralia I saw another logo.

Around 11:30 am we passed Mount St. Helens from I-5. Last night, as we planned today’s route, we considered a stop there, but realized that in order to get a good viewpoint of the volcano, we would end up spending at least two hours off the interstate – not just a quick photo op.

Heron at Ridgefield National Wildlife RefugeAt about noon we left the interstate because I was hoping to get some nice photos of the Columbia River before we crossed into Portland. We ended up at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, which – as it turns out – does not offer views of the river. It was a fun little detour, though. The park has a 30 minute (very slow, along a gravel road) loop through the wetlands, which allows views of various kinds of wildlife. We saw a lot of birds, including ducks, cranes, and storks. We stopped to watch a sizeable flock of cranes, and I noticed some little brown things playing in the water. The way they were moving, they didn’t look like ducks. I pulled out the tiny binoculars we have, and couldn’t see quite clearly, but they looked to be otters. Unfortunately as soon as I started watching them, they decided to stay quite still and stare at us. Too bad – watching otters play is one of my favorite things.

We got back on the highway around 1 pm. As we neared Portland, I saw a sign for a Birkenstock outlet, and we got off the freeway to try to find it. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch that detail as we sped past the sign, so we never found it. No cheap Birks for Dave, alas!

Oregon State LineShortly thereafter we crossed a large steel truss bridge over the Columbia River, taking us both into Oregon and into Portland. I really like Portland, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop and explore the city, so we kept driving until we found ourselves on the suburban outskirts. I pulled into the first Carl’s Jr I could find, and were so happy to have yummy Western Bacon Cheeseburgers for lunch as we drove.

Continuing on, we exited I-5 about an hour later, and drove west through Corvallis, past Oregon State University. After this, the terrain quickly transitioned from farmland to hilly timberland. The road was way slower than we wanted to go. Though it was beautiful and shaded, we were very focused on getting to our destination on time.

Rogue NationOur goal for the day was the Rogue Brewing Co. in Newport, OR. They offer brewery tours every two hours, and we were determined to get there in time for the 4 pm tour. We also really needed to use the restroom, but we couldn’t stop for a quick potty break because we knew we would miss the tour.

Indeed we were correct. We got there just as the tour was starting. Actually, I missed the beginning, because I dropped Dave off to see what the situation was while I parked the car. Fortunately the tour was quick-and-dirty, lasted only about 45 minutes, and didn’t include a tasting. Instead, they drop us in the gift shop, encouraged us to visit the ROgue Distillery across the parking lot for a 5 pm tour, and have dinner in the pub upstairs.

Selections from the Rogue DistilleryAfter a much-needed break, Dave and I wandered over to the distillery to inquire about the promised tour. The bartender there told us that he was just wiped out from the two tours he gave today, so he was just doing tastings instead of a tour. From what I could tell, the distillery consisted of the equipment found in that 60′ by 30′ room, so Dave and I were scratching our heads to figure out what could be so exhausting about giving the tour. Whatever – I was really just there for the whiskey. And I found that the Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey is DELICIOUS. At $40 per bottle, though, I wasn’t about to take it home with me. Dave also tried their white gin and pink gin, and I tasted the hazelnut rum (very unusual). Since we were really there for the beer, though, we headed back over to the brewpub.

Dave tried three different tasting trays, which consist of four 3 oz glasses. (Though I really wanted some more of the tasty whiskey, I had Pepsi.) The way Rogue does it is really great – you choose which four beers you’d like to try, write it on a little chart, and they bring back the chart with the beers. Dave enjoyed the Juniper Pale Ale and the Hazelnut Brown. The Chocolate Stout was also good, and he found the Chipotle Ale interesting (in a surprisingly positive way). We also ate a light dinner and got a kick out of the bartenders. We asked one of the bartenders, who was named Jenn, why they had taps for Coors Light and Budweiser. She said that they actually do have those on tap, because of a deal with their distributor. She said she hadn’t had to pour too many of them. Why anyone would come to the Rogue Brewery, where you can choose from a selection of 38 craft brews, and order Coors Light was something that Dave and I had a hard time grasping.

Newport was VERY foggy, so we didn’t spend much time there once we were done at the brewpub. Plus we needed to get down the road and try to find ourselves a camp site. We left around 6:30 pm, while it was still reasonably light outside (though dark because of the fog). We drove south along the coast for a while, and pulled over to one of the National Forest Service campgrounds to ask for recommendations on where to camp. There were sites available at this campground, but the ranger also give us some information about a couple of the campgrounds a little further down the road. Though we were hoping to get a little further, she didn’t seem to know much about the campgrounds 30 or so miles to the south.

Based on her information, we decided to aim for a campground at Cape Perpetua, which was about 7 miles further down the road. It was a lovely little campground, and we got a great spot, with the tent site completely surrounded by trees and just along a little stream. We got there around 7 pm and set up our tent before it got too dark.

Then we did something that we should NEVER do. We set off for a mini hike at dusk without flashlights. Of course there was no sunset because it was quite foggy, though we could see the moon above the edge of the clouds. We walked back along the road to the ocean, which was a short way, then down to the tidepools and to a spot called Devil’s Churn. The lighting was creepy and the sea was moody. We walked along the base of the cliffs and were careful not to get eaten by the ocean.

Cape PerpetuaOn our way back to the campground from the shore, we took a trail instead of the road. (At that hour, I felt it was not very safe or smart to be walking where cars would be zooming past us.) Once we got across the road and into the trail, it was getting very dark. Fortunately it was a well kept trail (mostly anyway) so we found our way back to the campground without any incidents. STILL! We couldn’t believe we were being such stupid hikers.

We returned to the campground around 9:30 pm and played Phase 10 in our tent for a while. When we were getting ready for bed, we noticed that we could see amazing stars through the clearing above the campground road! We were surprised that the fog had disappeared, and we gazed up for just a bit. We headed for bed around 11 pm.

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 13: Mount Rainier

Mt. Rainier Peeking from the CloudsToday was the first day of our trip when neither Dave nor I had to drive even one mile! Of course that doesn’t mean we lounged in Kim’s backyard all day. Kim drove us up to Mount Rainier, which I’ve already mentioned is a permanent fixture in the Seattle skyline. Puyallup isn’t too far from Mount Rainier, so we decided it would be worth a little day trip. Kim had never been, and Madison hasn’t been to the mountains very often, so it was a good choice for all of us.

We left Kim’s around 12 noon, and got to Mount Rainier National Park at 1:15 pm. It took approximately another half an hour to arrive at the Visitor’s Center at Paradise. It was PACKED. There were people circling the parking lot hoping to get a spot, though nobody seemed to be leaving. We talked to an employee in the parking lot, and he directed us to a small picnic area about 1/2 mile back.

We had a happy little picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, pretzels, and fig newtons. It was sunny but not too hot. We couldn’t see the top of the mountain from our picnic table, but we walked to the end of the parking lot and could see the mountain. Mount Rainier is covered in glaciers, so when you look up at the mountain, you can see a whole lot of snow. (Note: We probably saw more glaciers here than when we were in Glacier National Park.) Unfortunately a large cloud was starting to roll in.

Jenn and Madison in the SnowWe drove back toward the visitor’s center, where it continued to be madness. We continued along the road and found a nice place to park on the side of the road just for a few minutes. Kim, Madison, and I admired the mountain and the meadow while Dave took a bunch of pictures. We could see the top of the mountain for just a few minutes until the cloud started to overtake it. We kept driving and stopped at a couple of spots to get out and admire various waterfalls. Overall, it was a nice relaxing day, and thankfully Kim didn’t mind driving us there and back.

In the evening, Kim’s parents hosted a BBQ so we could meet all of Kim’s family (she has two sisters and a brother, which also involves a bunch of kids), and got to see my Aunt Ann, as well as my cousin Liz and her family. A fun and relaxing evening!

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 12: More touring in Seattle

Today we did a lot of inefficient running around, but it was okay. In the morning, Kim, Dave, and I discussed the plan for meeting up at this evening’s Mariners game. We left the house around 10:15 am, but didn’t get on the road until around 11:15 am because we lost an hour getting gas and running some other errands.

We finally got to Seattle at 12 noon, and our first stop was the ballpark. Seattle’s baseball stadium (Safeco Field) and football stadium (Qwest Field) are right next to each other, south of the city a couple of blocks from the waterfront. We drove around Safeco Field and pulled up to the parking garage for Qwest Field, and found that they were charging $5 for parking for the day. Score! We got an awesome parking spot for a bargain price, and didn’t have to worry about the car for the rest of the day.

We poked around in the Mariners Team Store for a few minutes, then bought our tickets. They were kinda expensive compared to what we’re used to paying – we can see an Orioles game on a Tuesday night for only $8. Granted that this was a Friday, but our upper left field tickets were $27 each. At least we saved ourselves $4.50 per ticket by buying them at the park instead of from Ticketmaster.

From there, we walked to Pioneer Square, which was less than a mile. We got there and found that the next available Underground tour was more than an hour later, so we bought tickets for 4 pm. Since it was on our way back to the ballpark anyway, we could do the tour before we went to the game.

With the baseball tickets and Pioneer Square Underground Square tickets safely in my purse, we walked less than a mile up downtown, past several Starbucks, past the Seattle Art Museum, to Pikes Place Market.

Pike's Place MarketPikes Place is world famous. The fish market there has been immortalized by a management video training series called “Fish!”, though many visitors find out about it through more typical tourist methods. It’s just really fun to watch the guys at the fish market throw the fish around, call-and-response the orders, and mess around with the tourists by having them hold live crawfish or make dead monkfish jump when tourists least expect it.

There are also scores – hundreds? – of different shops, stalls, and restaurants selling just about anything you might want – from fresh fish, produce, and cut flowers to kitschy tourist tchotchkes to art, clothing, or vintage comic books. Anything you might want, you can probably get at Pikes Place, or perhaps across the street at one of the other similar markets such as Sanitary Public Market. Some of the wares are actually somewhat affordable – the fresh fruit and vegetables looked so good and for such a great deal I wished I could buy several pounds’ worth – and some is a total ripoff.

We had lunch at a restaurant called Lowells Seafood, which was not at all a bargain, but it was good seafood. Dave had fish & chips, and I had a crab cake roll (which was surprisingly spicy). The setup of the restaurant is interesting. On the second floor, you can be seated and have table service. Otherwise, you order your food at the counter on the first floor, pay for it and get a number, and then find yourself a seat on either the first or third floors. Of course the place is packed, so you have to look out to see when someone else is leaving and grab their table while it is being bussed. Your food to you a bit later. Most of the tables are at or near the window, so you can look out onto the waterfront while you’re waiting.

After lunch, we headed up to the monorail. I have often said that I think the Seattle monorail is silly, but in this case it actually served a public transportation purpose. We didn’t have a lot of time to get to Seattle Center and then back to Pioneer Square, and it’s over a mile and a half to walk from Pikes Place. So, we walked up to the Westlake Center mall in the middle of downtown, which is the other terminus for the monorail. For $4 each, you get a round trip on the monorail (and we had a $1 coupon), saving a mile’s walk up to Seattle Center. Plus the monorail drives right through Frank Gehry’s crazy curves of the Experience Music Project. We found as we went through that you get a pretty cool glimpse into the Sky Church from the monorail as you drive through.

Our goal was to go up the Space Needle, take a few quick photos, and high-tail it back to Pioneer Square. But when we finally got in line for the Space Needle, we realized that was a crazy idea. It was about 3 pm, and the line just to get tickets was kinda long. I inquired at the window and was told that the line would take about 10 minutes. Dave inquired further inside at the information desk. He learned that once inside, there’s perhaps a 10 minute wait to go up the elevator, but that the line would be quite a bit longer to take the elevator down. We realized that the math wasn’t working in our favor, so we got out of line and decided we really didn’t need to go up the Space Needle on this trip. Too bad, because the weather was ideal for it today, but que sera sera.

We bought our Seattle postcards, then wandered over to check out Seattle Center’s fountain, which looks like a shiny crashed asteroid. Then we caught the monorail back to downtown, and hoofed it back to Pioneer Square just in time for the 4 pm tour.

The Pioneer Square Underground Tour is unique. Actually, Pioneer Square itself is unique. It is one of the first neighborhoods to be designated a U.S. National Historic District, due to the efforts of Bill Speidel, who is also the father of the Underground Tour. Instead of being torn down to build condos and parking garages, Pioneer Square maintains some of its original character from the turn of the century.

Bank Vault in the Seattle UndergroundThe Underground Tour exists because when Seattle was first founded, it wasn’t planned very well, and it wasn’t until about a decade later that the city realized that it really needed to build the city 12′ to 30′ higher than the original streets. When the new streets were built at levels that allowed residents to avoid problems due to tides and sewage, then the original first floors (and second, in some cases) of the buildings were now located under the streets. However, the original sidewalks to those buildings remained, so the neighborhood is actually navigable at this level. To get the rest of the story, I recommend visiting Seattle, buying Bill Speidel’s book “Sons of the Profits”, or both. The tour was pretty interesting, to be walking around beneath the city’s sidewalks, though the tour guide’s stories (tales of sewage, brothels, murders, and more) were more interesting than the sites we visited while underground.

After the tour, we were both pretty tired. We went across the street to Starbucks, and actually sat in Starbucks to rest and caff up. I guess it was a typical Seattle experience, except that nowadays, sitting in Starbucks is a pretty typical experience just about anywhere.

It was getting to be about 6 pm when we headed back to the car to get jackets, then went into the stadium. They gave us Franklin Gutierrez bobblehead dolls – just what I always wanted! We entered Safeco Field at the center field entrance and immediately found ourselves practically on the field. We were surprised to be so close to the field. Particularly surprising is that the bullpens are separated from the crowds by only a chain link fence, so if you want to stand there and heckle the opposing team’s pitchers during the game, it would be easy to do so.

Safeco Panorama

Dave and I walked around the entire stadium at field level, to see what there was, and to get some views from around the stadium. Considering the amount of public art we had seen so far around the city of Seattle, we weren’t surprised to find some in the stadium as well – baseball themed, of course. We were just about to head up to our seats when Kim called to say that she and Madison were pulling up to the stadium. We could see her car as she turned the corner, so we gave her some instructions to get to the garage, and then waited for her and Madison to walk back. We pushed their tickets to them through the gates, and once they had entered the ballpark, we all took the extremely fast escalators (scary for a four-year-old!) up to the upper deck. The seats were pretty good, with good sightlines to home plate, though the view of the left field corner was obstructed.

At the beginning of the 3rd inning, Kim, Madison, and I took a walk around the stadium to get food and beverages. We were gone for kinda a long time, but we were really surprised to find that it was the 6th inning when we got back to our seats! The game was going really fast, and not in favor of the Mariners. Things slowed down in the 9th, when the Indians scored several more runs, finishing the game at 9-0 Cleveland. The game was over by 10 pm – pretty quick for an American League game.

We saw SO many State Patrol on the way home, making up the entire tally for the day: 6 in all.

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 11: Seattle Center

Our focus today was to see the sights in Seattle Center, which is where the Space Needle, the monorail, and the Experience Music Project are, among numerous other attractions.

We drove up from Puyallup and arrived around 11 am. We poked around a bit, and, feeling undercaffeinated, we stopped at the Starbucks – actually our first Starbucks experience in Seattle.

The EMP at Seattle CenterThe Experience Music Project was what we most wanted to see while in Seattle, so we headed that direction. We started by walking around the entire building just to take it in. You’ll see from the photos that it is a very unusual building. Those who are familiar with architect Frank Gehry will already know all about this project; the rest of you may be surprised by the cacophony of color, shape, and materials. It’s hard to describe, challenging to photograph well, and difficult to come up with an answer for the question, “Why?” Ultimately you just have to accept the building for what it is, let the experience happen to you – much like the museum itself. When we first walked in, there was an interactive kiosk that explained how the building was designed and built, which we found interesting and helpful.

Video Wall inside the Sky ChurchEntering the museum itself, the first place you enter is the Sky Church. It’s a tall, open space with perfect acoustics and a huge video screen (read a more detailed description by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer), where a wide variety of recorded music is played all day long. Stand in the middle of the room and it’s a great place to just experience the music – a great way to start the museum’s overall experience.

Just inside the turnstile was a small case with a tribute to Michael Jackson, displaying the white sequined glove and a black sequined jacket, with a short eulogy. Very appropriate.

Beyond that, in the middle of the museum’s center space, was a sculpture called “Roots and Branches”, a 35 ft cyclone-shaped structure made entirely of guitars and a few other instruments. It actually plays itself – it is computer-programmed to play the 600 instruments that compose the structure, and the music it makes is surprisingly enjoyable.

After entering, we turned our attention to the Jimi Hendrix exhibit, which was really spectacular. It was a really great mixture of artifacts, text, video, and audio. It provided a lot of info about Jimi while also giving visitors a chance to really experience his music. We were impressed. Adjacent to this exhibit was a video screening room that shows a loop of several videos about Jimi, which we sat and watched for about 10 minutes (the entire playlist of videos would require nearly an hour of one’s time).

We then checked out the Guitar Gallery, which was a slightly more conventional museum exhibit, displaying explanations of the evolution of the electric guitar along with examples of rare guitars to illustrate each milestone. In the center of this exhibit, though, was a video looping through various famous guitarists, giving the visitor a chance to hear and see the evolution as well.

The next gallery featured the evolution of music in the Northwest, which was also very well-done, informative, and enjoyable. Believe it or not, it was not just about the grunge movement of the late 80s-early 90s, though the gallery basically culminated with that. Dave and I spent a lot of time in that part of the exhibit. *smile*

Across the hall was an exhibit of oral histories by perhaps hundreds of musicians and other artists, telling their stories about their experiences. This was also very interactive – a number of computers with headphones are set up, each focusing on a different topic, with different video clips that the visitor could choose from to illustrate that particular topic. There are also audio-only versions that one can listen to on iPods, as well as at least one video screen playing to a space in the corner of the room. There’s also a little booth where you can record your own oral history of how music has impacted your life. (Not something Dave and I were really interested in doing.)

Upstairs was the sound lab, which is set up with a number of stations to allow visitors to try out different rock instruments. The stations have an interactive computer tutorial to walk you through what you need to do to play the drum kit, guitar, keyboard, mixing board, etc. There are also a number of tiny rooms along the walls with various instruments where you can go inside by yourself (or with a couple of friends) and just jam. The whole place was very overwhelming, because there were a whole lot of people (especially children) and everyone was queuing up to vie for one of the spots. I also suspect that this is probably a lot more fun and interesting for those who don’t see musical instruments and/or A/V equipment often. Of all of the things offered in this room, the drum kit was the only thing that Dave and I don’t either have at home or have regular access to. I lost interest pretty quickly, and spent some time listening to the guitar sculpture while Dave played with the drum kit.

Space Needle Reflection 2We had been in the museum for a few hours and it was getting to be mid-afternoon, so we left the museum and went over to the food court for lunch. Dave had Chinese while I got teriyaki, and we were glad to have a chance to sit still and eat for a bit.

After eating, we walked around outside for a little bit, taking photos. It had been overcast all morning, but we thought it would have burned off by this time (it was after 3 pm). Since it was still quite overcast, we determined that this wasn’t a good day to go up in the Space Needle, so we decided to save that for tomorrow.

We went back to the Sky Church, where they were scheduled to play the video of Jimi Hendrix doing the Star Spangled Banner. (This is something they have scheduled at specific times over the course of the day.) We carefully stood in the middle of the space so we could get the full effect. It was incredible – I highly recommend it. Overall, I highly recommend the Experience Music Project – it really is what the name suggests.

The EMP is actually the EMP-SFM, which is “Experience Music Project – Science Fiction Museum”. Also featured currently is a traveling exhibit called “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World”. I had been meaning to see this exhibit when it was at the Smithsonian a while back, and was glad to get the chance to finally see it. This exhibit is really enjoyable, interactive, and informative – if it comes to a museum near you, don’t miss out.

We were running out of time, so we breezed through the Sci Fi Museum’s exhibits, which were surprisingly of a more conventional museum design. Yes, there were some videos and a couple of interactive exhibits, but mostly it was a lot of artifacts stuffed into cases, and a lot of text. We were pretty fatigued at that point anyway, and less interested in the subject matter.

We left Seattle Center around 5 pm and headed to the Capitol Hill area to meet up with our friend Shana at the Elysian Fields Brewpub. Dave enjoyed a couple of selections from their beer menu, and it was great to catch up with Shana, who we hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a quick happy-hour visit, because we all had dinner plans.

Bridge TrollDave and I then drove up to Fremont to see our friend Susanna. She took us on a walking tour of various public art installations around Fremont, which was really fun. We saw the Fremont drawbridge open for some sailboats to go under, and then we walked along the canal to get to dinner. We had dinner at Brouwer’s Cafe, a spot well known to beer lovers. Dinner was delicious, the menu featured a number of beers that were unknown to Dave (surprisingly), and it was really great to hang out with Susanna.

It was a late night, and a long drive home. Surprisingly the State Patrol tally for today was only 4… largely because we just weren’t on the freeways much.

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 10: Driving tour of Seattle area

Today was a lovely day. We slept in, attended to some household things (such as laundry), and generally took our time. It was overcast and not particularly warm, but the weather report promised that the sun would come out by mid-day.

We drove up I-405 on the eastern side of the Seattle metropolitan area, aiming for Snohomish County. On our way, as we drove through Redmond, our curiosity got the best of us, and we had to take a detour to see if we could find Microsoft. The AAA Tour Book said that there was a visitor center, and listed the address. We found the address, Building 127 on the Microsoft campus. It was unassuming and gave no indication of being a visitor center. (It would appear that AAA gave us wrong information about which building is the visitor center.) We drove around a bit more and found more and more Microsoft buildings – indeed, just like a campus, with a special Microsoft shuttle bus and lots of people coming and going to lunch, meetings, etc. It was a little surreal, and we actually got lost a bit before we finally found our way back onto the highway.

Maltby CafeBack on track, we drove up to pick up our friend Kim, who is living on her aunt’s farm in a small town called Maltby. For lunch, Kim took us to a cute diner in the tiny town’s center, called Maltby Cafe. The portions are huge (their cinnamon roll itself could probably serve 8 people) and the menu covers a lot of options. It had been over a year since we last saw each other, so it was good to catch up and also to have some yummy lunch. After a couple of hours of a leisurely lunch, we dropped Kim off at home.

On the way back to the interstate, we saw a couple of unmarked State Patrol cars that had pulled over another victim. Total tally for today: 5.

As a little tour of Puget Sound, we took the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston. The timing was great – the ferry was there and ready to be boarded, and it wasn’t too crowded. The trip across the Sound is 35 minutes, and we stood on the sun deck and enjoyed the ride, the weather (sunny by now, though hazy), and the beautiful views.

Puget Sound

Mt. Rainier from Puget SoundOnce across the Sound, we drove down the Kitsap Peninsula (part of the way on Miller Bay Road, which of course we enjoyed). We then crossed the Agate Passage bridge onto Bainbridge Island. We stopped at a couple of spots to take photos. Once we got to the ferry terminal, we decided that it would be faster and easier to cross again than to drive the entire way back to Puyallup. Of course, the real reason to take the ferry from Bainbridge to Seattle is that it’s an incredible view of Seattle, and really the best way to get good photos of the city.

The timing was perfect again – a good thing this time, since this ferry runs somewhat less frequently. Once across, we decided to head back to Puyallup. We made good time driving down the HOV lane on I-5, and had a nice dinner at home with Madison and Kim.

Cross Country Trip

Road Trip Day 9: From Idaho through Washington

La Quinta InnThe La Quinta Inn in Coeur d’Alene was quite decent overall. Pluses: soft, comfy beds; excellent breakfast bar selection; good customer service; easy-to-find location off the highway; clean. Minuses: slow internet connection; hot tub not hot; shower curtain was hung in a weird way so that it didn’t close all the way. Really not much to complain about.

We were up by 7:45 am; made it to the breakfast bar around 8:45 am (and thankfully it didn’t close promptly at 9 am, the advertised time); and were on the road around 9:30 am.

We crossed into Washington State and fairly shortly got off the highway in Spokane Valley to do a bit of shopping. When we got back on the highway, Dave commented on how much traffic there was. We shortly found out why: there were several State Patrol cars driving around enforcing the 60 mph limit. Yikes! I then remembered from previous experiences that the speed limits in Washington State are diligently enforced.

The tally of State Patrol cars we saw today: 11. And most of them had someone pulled over.

Washington State is a fascinating place to drive through. At Washington’s eastern edge on I-90, you drive through typical suburbia in going through Spokane. Outside the city are forested gentle hills for a bit, which then give way to miles and miles of wide open spaces. In some places it is almost desert-like. Most of it is pure farmland – cattle grazing land and lots of wheat and other grains.

Crossing the Columbia RiverWe drove for a long time, carefully driving no more than 5 mph over the speed limit, with no incident. Around quarter to 1 we stopped at a “scenic overlook”, not really knowing what we would see. It was a good stop -an excellent view of the Columbia River Gorge. We will see the Columbia again when we cross from Washington into the Portland area.

Carol's - Yum!About half an hour later we stopped for lunch. It was a place called Kittitas, and if there was a town there, we didn’t see it. There was just a gas station and this place called Carol’s. We just barely saw the billboard for it 1/2 mile before the exit, which said “eat in – take out – drive thru”. We didn’t know what to expect, but we figured it would work. Well, it was quite delicious. It was basically a diner but the service was quick enough to beat Wendy’s for brevity-of-stay. I had probably the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had. Dave had a BLT that was good, and they served us Pepsi. I love the ubiquity of Pepsi (as opposed to Coke) here in the Northwest.

Cascade MountainsBack on the road, we drove through a bit more farmland, then crossed through some hills, drove through another valley, then finally got to the mountains. We also drove through some road construction, but it didn’t slow us down much. Two of the highway construction projects had stimulus project logos; and all of the Washington road construction signs say “Washington Jobs Now”.

We stopped at an outlet mall in North Bend to do some shopping around 3 pm. When we got back on the highway, we were only on I-90 for a bit longer before we turned off on to Rte 18 to start heading south.

It was at this point that I remembered that the Seattle area has some of the worst traffic in the country (though not #3 as I had thought), and here we were, traveling just as rush hour was starting. It took us an hour and a half to go 47 miles.

Finally we arrived at Puyallup at 4:30 pm and were greeted cheerfully by our soon-to-turn-4 niece Madison and her mom Kim. We hung out and played in the backyard with Madison. We went out to dinner at The Ram Restaurant and Brewery, a small chain that recently opened a location near Kim’s house. Then home to read Madison some bedtime stories and call it a night!