Day Forty Nine: If Green is All There is, Then it’s Green I’ll Have to Be: Washington, Olympic National Park

(Events of Sunday May 3rd, blogged Sunday May 10th)

So, when I optimistically told everyone I would be staying at this beachfront campground in Klaloch for three days, and was myself anticipating a lot of downtime, I underestimated how far apart stuff is in this park, and how slowly you have to drive to get from place to place. I also sussed out that the coveted campsites right on the ocean were going to be hard to come by. Maybe I would have to think about moving around a bit.  But for now I was enjoying where I was, so after a slow paced morning of lazing around camp, I decided to drive northwards a bit toward the Hoh Rainforest and check out an entirely different aspect of the park.

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Not too far down the road I saw a sign for GIANT CEDAR, so we decided to pull over and have a look. It was indeed quite large.

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As we ambled back to the campervannie, a wave of exhaustion over took me. All my energy and excitement from the day before was a distant memory. I sat in the parking area for a bit, taking advantage of a rare spot of cell service to catch up online and even blog a bit, and finally decided that the best course of action was to find a different campground, closer by, and settle in for a nice mid-day snooze. We drove a bit further and found a gorgeous, primeval looking spot just outside the rainforest area. After nearly strangling some innocent children who had the audacity to make cheerful noises while I was trying to check in, I found a site not too far from the Hoh River, and crashed big time.

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By late afternoon I was feeling moderately refreshed and Annie was suitable fed up with the lack of activity, so it seemed an opportune time to stroll over and wander the nearby trials. One problem. No dogs allowed. So, throughout this trip I haven’t always strictly adhered to such draconian admonishments. You may judge if you wish. But I wanted to hike with my dog in a rain forest dadgummit! So, we waited until the tiny trailer Visitor Center had cleared out (it was right across the parking lot from the trail head) and made a ninja stealth foray into the jungle. . . where we were immediately met by two twenty something dudes who persisted in commenting on how old Annie was. They were dog lovers, and meant well, but what would either of us want to hear that for?!  Annie gave them a death glare (OK, cheek nuzzle) and we moved on. The trail we chose is called “Hall of Mosses,” and you will soon see why.

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I don’t know if I’ll be able to convey how GREEN everything: moss, ferns, swamp, leaves… everywhere you looked it was fifty shades of green. The late afternoon light filtered through it like stained glass so that we seemed to be almost swimming in it. And the air just reeked of freshness.

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Speaking of swimming, all the water in here is from melting glaciers higher up in the park. And since the glaciers were formed before we started polluting the water system, all the water is crystal clear and extremely pure. Unfortunately, it’s our polluting the atmosphere and other questionable practices which are causing the glaciers to melt and provide us all this lovely clean water, but you win some you lose some glaciers. In the picture below, the green in the creek is algea/moss at the BOTTOM of the bed, there is at least four inches of water above it.

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And everything wasn’t just green, it was tall and twisted and gnarled.

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Seriously, don’t you just expect a dinosaur to come around the corner at any minute?

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But no dinosaurs appeared, and, as I feared we had already pushed our luck, I decided not to explore a second trail, but instead to head back to camp. Only now I was WIDE AWAKE and full of energy after my afternoon nap break, so on a whim, I thought it might be fun to take Marigold for a spin (the fact that I was at an exciting point in my audio book, The Night Circus, played no part in the decision, I assure you. And lo and behold, as has so often happened on this trip when I nudge myself out of routine or the easy path (although not when I try to force myself through exhaustion), we encountered a bit of serendipity in the form of multiple elk happily dining on the side of the road, with not a care in the world to our approach (and excessive photography session).

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These dudes (or dudettes) are known as Roosevelt Elk-their protection was one of the primary reasons this National Park was established, and they are named for Teddy Roosevelt who was in some regards the father of the National Park Service. They are also the biggest elk in the country. So that was cool. But I was still tired, and a little down, and a little lonely, so we headed back to camp and cuddled up and hoped for a cheerier tomorrow.

Day Forty Eight: Pacific Perfection: Washington (Long Beach, Humptulips, Olympic National Park)

Events of Saturday, May 2nd, blogged Saturday, May 9th

Side Note from May 9th: I’m so fricking tired. After much deliberation with my rapidly shrinking bank account, I bit the bullet and decided to spring for a hotel room last night primarily so I could have WiFi for the blog. Usually that means I can play catch up and do one at night and one in the morning. I’m so exhausted that it’s less than an hour until checkout and I’m just starting the first one. Yesterday marked the final two weeks of the journey, and it’s been amazing and more than I could have hoped for, but I will be so glad to just STOP somewhere and BE.

Anyhoodle . . . I had originally planned to camp when I got to Long Beach, but a quick perusal of the campground at Cape Disappointment was, well . . . disappointing to say the least. There was also a place that looked interesting where you could stay in vintage travel trailers spread across a large field. But it looked a touch skeevy. So I went with the cheapest motel, where the comforter was so polyester that after trying both beds, Annie eventually opted to sleep on the floor. 

But there was a free hot shower and a little laundromat, and the folks who worked there were super nice. AND, it was parked right next door to the holy grail of tacky beach emporiums!

 
I mean this place has it ALL! A dime store Indian with a headdress made out of feather lollipops, vintage coin operated peep shows, mystery urns, EVEN A TWO HEADED CALF!!!

  

    

But the piece de la resistance, the focal point, the Mona Lisa of the whole operation, had to be JAKE THE HALF MAN HALF ALLIGATOR!

  

 Words can not express my profound joy. Trip over, go home now, we’ve reached the pinnacle!

And the hits don’t stop there. This place is just oozing  craptastic kitsch even on the OUTSIDE!

You can pose with the World’s Longest Chopsticks…

  

 The World’s Largest Frying Pan (which is actually a non working replica, because the original – which WAS used – broke, but no worries, they have the handle for you to touch!!

  

 AND! The World’s Largest Razorneck Clam!!!

  

Which . . . wait for it . . . spits water for the low, low bargain price of only twenty five cents!!

 

I think I need to sit down.

We strolled the main street for a bit, and then I decided that with a long drive ahead of us, I would splurge on some “‘Award Winning” clam chowder (every clam chowder I have sampled, or even seen, since Monterey has claimed to be award winning) for now, and some local fried oysters to take for dinner in camp later. (cue dramatic organ notes foreshadowing comedic despair.)

But first – no visit to a seaside town is complete without a walk on the (windy) beach!

  


At last, off we set, puttering along up the scenically spectacular Washington Coast. I stopped at a mini-mart to stock up on groceries and almost left empty handed when it appeared they had no cans of Diet Coke for sale, only my nemesis, the “P” word. Luckily, the lovely cashier stopped me on my way out, asked me what I needed and pointed me to some obviously clandestine boxes she must have tucked away, out of sight of the cola police. Loaded up with a few days worth of supplies, I returned to Marigold, only to find a black and white snout snorfling around the oyster bag which I had completely forgotten about. Luckily, it appears I returned before any damage was done.

On we went, enjoying the sunshine and lovely weather, only to do a double take upon spotting a sign for the tiny hamlet of Humptulips!

 

I drove a bit further, then decided a town with A name like that MUST sell T-shirts, so did my quickest three-point turn and headed back to Humptulips! Interestingly, not only did they not sell Humptulips T-shirts, they only sold Alaska T-shirts. The one clerk working there had been sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and in the name of customer service followed me inside when I entered. Because I didn’t want to seem like I only came in looking for merchandise bearing the name of their uniquely monikered locale, I decided I had to make a purchase. I bought a tomato.

That was to be the end of the excitement for a while, we drove and drove and drove some more and finally made it to Olympic National Park and the much heralded beachfront Klaloch campground! It was spectacularly gorgeous, and still early enough in the day that we had time to dip our paws in the water and frolic away! I think the thought of being basically in the same place for the next three days made both of us a little giddy!

          

So giddy in fact, that I bravely decided to once again bust out the pie iron and finally, at long last, achieved grilled cheese success!

  

It was a truly great day, capped off with yet another perfect ocean sunset-this time with birds!

Day Forty Seven: North by NorthWest : Oregon, Washington

(Events of Friday, May 1st, blogged Wednesday May 6th)

This morning dawned with bright sun and clear skies. And a tad less windy. I strongly considered staying another day, but there appeared to be no room at the inn for the weekend, and the rates were much higher.

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But I did have time to take Annie for a leisurely stroll on the expansive beach. It was low tide, so we could walk right up to a series of rock formations jutting out of the ground known as Neptune’s Garden. During the day they are partially submerged, but we were able to walk right up to the towering monoliths. Of course, I had let my phone battery run low, so the pictures are scant.

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The plan was to spend the day tooling up the Oregon Coast (exploring sites further inward had to be abandoned due to the unanticipated day off, with the aim of making it to Washington by nightfall.

The Oregon Coast is gorgeous, albeit not vastly different from the Northern California Coast: crashing waves, rolling hills of tall pines abutting the shoreline, and tons of rocky outcroppings. I was in search of one outcropping in particular, a spot known as Thor’s Well, a spot on the coast, where cracks in the ground allow the sea water to flood in with the tide, and then explode out with a bang once it fills. I located Thor, and his neighbor, Cook’s Chasm, but for once my timing was terrible. They are really only active around high tide, and we had arrived fairly close to the low point. It was still pretty cool to look at, but I was a bit disappointed not to get to see the spectacle. Ah well. There was a nice little hiking trail for Annie and I to gambol about on for a bit.

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Thor’s Well was just outside of the tiny town of Florence, Oregon, and I decided to take a spin through the area to see what looked interesting. And what did I find? Only a perfect little English tea shop tucked away down a side street! Just yesterday I had been chatting with my dear pals in the TDMG (Twitter Dog Mum Gang) about how run down and ragged I was feeling, and they suggested that was I really needed was the restorative powers of a proper cream tea. And it had set me to craving one, and now, lo and behold, ask the universe for something, and it provides. Lovejoy’s was quirky and welcoming, with cozy loveseats and tasty scones (cream first, then jam), and the somewhat scatterbrained elderly gent who waited on me was well impressed when I requested PG Tips (a brand of tea not easily found here in the States). The whole experience was just what I needed, even if it did leave me longing for my pals in the UK and the mayzin time I had there about this time last year.

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A little bit later, I stopped, as one does, at a random gas station to fill my tank. Before I could blink, a female gas station attendant (which is unusual enough in and of itself) came out, started pumping the gas for me, and, out of the blue, handed me a dog biscuit, asking if I “just had the one back there?” A full service gas station with free dog treats? Now we are BOTH falling in love with the coast! (Lame receipt picture, but I thought it would be weird to take a photo of the attendant , so this is all I gots for illustrative purposes.

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Now you all know I like my “wacky landmarks”. So I had to hit the brakes when we passed by the “World’s Shortest River,” with the succinct if nothing else name of “D”. A little digging reveals that the 440 foot river actually lost its claim to fame in 1989 when the Roe River in Montana was able to boast a shorter length. Not to be outdone, the good people of Lincoln City remeasured the D (which runs into the ocean) at “extreme high tide,” which gave it a length of only 120 feet! Booyah! In your face Roe River! Perhaps weary of such riparian shenanigans, as of 2006 the good folks at Guinness no longer list a category for ‘shortest river”.

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As we traveled further north, our route wound away from the coast, and into farmland and pastures (and yet more cows).

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Late in the afternoon I made it to Astoria, the last stop in Oregon before I crossed this really big bridge into Washington. I wanted to stop, as it had been given high marks by the lady at the Windermere, but the sun was slowly sinking, and we needed to press on.

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We made it to Washington! Huzzah! Since schedule alterations will prevent us from heading up to Vancouver, this will be the northernmost leg of our journey…

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So we celebrate with pizza! (Which was actually pretty mediocre, as was our hotel room at the Rodeway Inn, but beggars can’t be choosers, and the pizza place shares a name with my favorite German Chocolate lab-so it had to be visited!

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Day Forty Six: Time Out: Oregon (Bandon)

(Events of Thursday, April 30th, blogged Tuesday, May 5th)

So I’m in the homestretch now, and it’s looking like it will be hard to string together multiple energy days in a row. For any day that I accomplish a lot, I am wiped out the following one. I woke up in the campground that had been so lovely and inviting only a few hours before, and I just wanted to get out. It was cold and damp, and even though it had working showers, and they were not that far from my campsite, the idea of walking there, and then back with a wet head, was exhausting. As was the idea of boiling water for a simple bowl of oatmeal. Impossible. I dozed a bit, and then decided that perhaps if I drove to a cute little cafe and treated myself to a real breakfast, that would lift my spirits and energy level. (You guys-as I am typing this now, Annie is snuggled next to me in Marigold, and she is making the cutest little snuffly snores. I can’t even tell you.) Anyhow. I located two prime looking candidates on Yelp, and set off. A few miles down the road I found them. Across the street from each other. One with a For Rent sign, and the other with a For Sale sign. *sigh*

So I continued on, and seeing as how basically everything is clustered along Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast, I hoped to just stumble upon something promising.

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Hmm… or maybe not. We drove further. Annie seemed stricken by the same malaise I was…

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Finally, we happened upon the quaint little village of Bandon. Although it was near deserted early on a Thursday, it was right on the ocean, and filled with cute little shops and restaurants. Including the wonderful Bandon Cafe, where I enjoyed something called an “Egg Mitt” which is basically a fried egg on your choice of bagel (I chose cheddar bacon) (Side Note to the Food Police: I only blog about 1/4 of my meals, so while I am not eating as healthily as I might have hoped, I am eating more fruit and protein and healthy thing than it appears. Also, you all give conflicting advice). They even had Diet COKE! But despite these culinary delights, I still felt like crap on a cracker (or maybe a mitt). I decided it was time to take drastic action and just find somewhere halfway decent I could crash, take a shower, and use the WiFi. (Not having WiFI, or even enough cell service to use my MiFi has been the hardest thing for me to deal with this trip. Not being able to blog, or even just reconnect with the world, is a major frustration.)

On the way back to the car to plot my next move, I passed this cool art exhibit featuring faces made out of trash salvaged from the ocean.

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I hit the Jumbo Jackpot when my efforts yielded up Windermere on the Beach. Ridiculously cute little cottages steps from the beach, with ocean views from the bed, kitchen, or dining area, AND I was there on the least day of their low winter rate season! AND the older dude running the place let me go ahead and check in at 11:45-so I’d have almost a full 24 hours to recuperate!

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Did I mentioned his assistant was a little black and white terrier named Booker T Washington? Who roamed the place freely and never uttered a peep the entire time I was there? Hmmm…

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I gave my own terrier assistant a little treat and then flopped on the bed exhausted, only to scroll the internet for the next hour or so because I was too tired to actually sleep.

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Later on I rallied enough for a short stroll on the beach, but it was too windy to linger long.

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And still later, I drove into town and got some amazing clam chowder and Dungeness crab (proteins!) takeout from this little hole in the wall. And enjoyed it on my personal patio watching the sun set over the ocean. If this won’t cure me, nothing will.

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Day Forty Five: I Like Big Trees And I Cannot Lie: California, Oregon

(Events of Wednesday April 29th, blogged Monday May 4th)

I so badly want to catch up with this blog, but I just can’t make any headway. Every time I start to make progress, I hit a long stretch with no internet. As it is I am parked by the side of the road with Annie whining at me, and it’s hardly the relaxed setting for the creative juices to flow in. And this was a fun day I really wanted to do justice. Ah well.

I woke up in better spirits, and as the creepy crappy RV Park gave me no reason to want to linger,  so we set off early for a day of renewed commitment to exploring redwood country and all of its delights, beginning with the fabulously kitschy tourist trap RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET!

Tourist trap isn’t exactly the right term though, because it only cost a dollar and it was really cool. It’s an entire home creatyed entirely out of a single hollowed out log! While it was made to be a traveling exhibition kind of thing back in the 1940s, and I don’t think it was ever lived in, it was surprisingly roomy, and it certainly could have been. Redwoods don’t mess around-they are GINORMOUS!

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There was a small kitchen, bedroom, and living room, and even a completely random framed photograph of an otter!! How’s that for a good omen for the day?

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While the house itself was awesomesauce, the hospitality at the attached gift shop/restaurant, even to the first customer of the day at 8AM was…a tad chilly.

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Unfortunately the “Grandfather Tree” next door was not yet open for the season, so I drove a bit further to… Confuuusssiioonnn Hiiiillllll.

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So Confusion Hill is one of a handful of “mystery vortex spots” scattered around the country, where unexplainable phenomena seem to occur. It was opened in 1949, and I loved it because it’s something of a relic in time to the days when “wacky” roadside attractions were all over the place, and people actually went out and explored the country for entertainment.

Of course you’re nothing in these parts if you don’t have a life size bear or BigFoot carved out of redwood in front of your establishment.

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And a really really big tree helps too. This is the Elbow Tree which is 1200 years old. And counting.

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Unfortunately, most of the exhibits were meant to be toured by non-solo travelers, and a lot of the phenomena consisted of “compare your heights from these two places. Why does the taller person seem shorter?,” kind of things. But the Gravity House was pretty nifty. The first picture is the house as it appears on approach. The second picture is taken with the camera held level to the floor. In the foreground is a wooden chute with water pouring out of it that appears to flow uphill. There were also stations where you could place a golf ball or soda bottle down and of its own volition it would roll upwards. The whole thing actually made me a bit sea sick, so I didn’t linger.

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The place also had a kind of nifty “Twin Towers” tribute area. and a log with notable events through history marked on it to better illustrate the age. The pins start at 1066-Normans conquer Britain, and move through to 1975-Vietnam War ends. Mind boggling.

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And then it was time for the main event. For the first (I think) time on the trip, I actually backtracked for something. I hadn’t been in the mood for it yesterday, but I could NOT come all the way across the country and NOT visit the DRIVE THRU TREE!!!

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Naturally, Marigold, being a lady of a certain size, was not going to fit through an opening designed for the relatively modestly sized automobiles of the 40s and 50s, but we did get to see some other lucky folks drive through.

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AND we got to walk through (several times) I remember counting how many footsteps it was, but that number is lost to time-it was in the double digits though! And – I should point out – this tree is STILL ALIVE and continues to grow and flourish.  I could have stayed here all day, I just thought it was the coolest thing! And they had a pretty kick ass gist shop too!

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But time keeps on spinning, and so must Marigold’s wheels, so we headed back toward where we started from this morning. And about 15 minutes down the road I realized I LEFT MY SELFIE STICK BEHIND!!! DISASTER IOF BIBLICAL PORPORTIONS! There was nothing to be done except to backtrack yet again, explain to the nice lady at the entry station why we didn’t want to pay another $5, PANIC when the selfie stick wasn’t where I remember leaving it by the tree (the funny thing is, I had noticed before we left that I had mislaid it, went to retrieve it, gotten distracted, and forgotten to), and the RELIEF when it turns up behind the counter in the Gift Shop. Whew! Crisis averted.

Several hours into the day we were finally able to progress further northward than we had gotten yesterday. And we headed on to the Avenue of Giants- a roughly 30 mile road running through the heart of the redwoods and with lots of cool places to stop and wander about. It’s sort of hard to wrap your mind around how truly BIG everything is out here, especially when they are ALL big and there’s not a control group for comparison. Your mind defaults to thinking everything is kind of normal sized. But here are a few trees with a medium sized terrier to compare them to. (OK, the third one is really just a cute Annie picture I couldn’t fit in anywhere else. But the Chimney Tree is great-you can stand inside it and walk around.)

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Pictures don’t do justice to  the transcendent peaceful, almost otherwordly feeling you get walking through these dark and quiet and impossibly green places either. John Steinbeck said “the redwoods once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always… from them comes silence and awe… the most irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect.”

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Most of the rest of the day was spent driving up the coast with the goal to get to Oregon and FINALLY be out of California by nightfall. Of course there was the random elk sighting here and there…

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And then… at last… success… Oregon!! The Beaver State! Pacific Wonderland! Things Look Different Here!

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Actually, the coastline looked pretty much the same. Stunningly gorgeous, but pretty much the same…

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Umm… OK.. THAT does look a bit different…

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In yet another bit of serendipity, I stumbled upon a wonderful campground, and found a site perched on a cliff looking over the ocean, and after a stroll to the beach, was treated to one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen. And Annie and I had it all to ourselves.

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Day Forty Four: Even Paradise Gets Old Sometimes : California (Bodega Bay, Fort Bragg, Garberville)

(Events of Tuesday, April 28th, blogged Saturday, May 2nd)

We awoke to a bright, bright, bright sunshiney day-all of the fog had melted away, and this was the new and improved view from our campsite…

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Despite the sun, I woke up feeling sluggish and unmotivated and a bit slimey from the humidity. I dozed much of the morning away. Eventually though I could slug about no longer. It was still a bit chilly and blustery, but the sun was glittering off the water, so we decided to cross the street and take a stroll over on the ocean side of the campground. The pictures make it look a little grayer than it was, but they even had these handy benches where I could sit and scribble in may paper journal while breathing in the salty sea air. The dunes and the sea grass and the brown sand all reminded me of one of my favorite spots for soul nurturing-the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I felt at home for one of the first times on the trip.

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As we were ambling along, a sea gull flew overhead, swooped down right in front of me, snatched a HUGE crab out of the water, and flew down the beach! He couldn’t go too far as the crab probably outweighed him, so we were able to watch from fairly close by as he wrestled with his prey, all the while keeping an eye peeled for stealthy interlopers. (The bird on the left is all: “Doo de doo, nothing to see here, if I’m not looking at you, you can’t see me…” *moonwalks closer*)

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There was also a really cool seaside sculpture, which at first glance just seemed like a bizarrely phallic anomaly, but, upon reading the plaque entitled “Whale Ballet”, and making a closer inspection, turned out to be quite lovely.

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Feeling a bit peckish (pun alert), and having recently been alerted to the fact that Bodega Bay is where Hitchcock’s movie The Birds was set and filmed, I couldn’t resist stopping at this thematically matching roadside eatery.

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The view was spectacular, and the fish and chips were as scrumptious as the ones I had in England. And when I told them I couldn’t decide between the clam chowder or the fish and chips, she offered to give me a half serving of clam chowder free!

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I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this guy keeping his beady eye on us throughout the meal though, so we didn’t tarry.

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Much of the day was spent driving along twisty, turney, slow going Route One. And, as I was in a grumpy mood, and the lack of any real progress along the coast combined with the nausea-inducing, somewhat scary turns, and fatigue were making me even crankier. I was over it. Just wanted to be home. So unimpressed with the (still spectacular) scenery that I barely took any pictures, save for these two, and for the life of me I can’t recall where they were shot or why!

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At one point I saw a sign for a Sea Glass Museum, and since I love the sea and I love glass, I decided to stop in. It was totally lame, and the proprietor never even came out of the back to greet me, but it did inform me that nearby Glass Beach was NOT closed. Never having heard of Glass Beach, but intrigued and in need of a leg stretch, we decided to check it out.

Glass Beach is pretty much what the name implies. The beach area is covered in small pebbles and rounded bits of smooth glass in various colors. The phenomenon occurs because back before we realized polluting the oceans was a bad idea, the residents of Fort Bragg dumped most of their garbage into several nearby “water dumps”. Over time the biodegradable stuff melted away, the scrap metal was salvaged, and the glass and pottery was worn down by the waves into small smooth pieces which wash ashore. It was really cool, and a nice diversion on a gray day, and we only gathered about 1/4 cup worth in an attempt not to be greedy. Since the sump sites are no longer active, the glass supply is dwindling, to the point that some stores (including the sea glass museum) are selling broken glass chunks to be tossed BACK into the waves as a source of replenishment.

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And then there was more driving. And more irritability. And more being cross with myself for managing to be in a bad mood when I was surrounded by blue ocean and scenic views and not trapped in an office somewhere like most people I knew.  It got to the point where I couldn’t even get excited about stopping at cool kitschy tourist traps! Drastic action needed to be taken. So, after considering, and then bypassing several perfectly reasonable state campgrounds, I randomly decided to stop at what was basically a half deserted RV park, where some sketchy looking dudes were revving motorized dirt bikes around, the promised WiFi only worked from one or two parking spaces in front of the office, and the largest and best maintained facility on the property was a looming church.

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Bah!

Day Forty Three: California is a Garden of Eden, a Paradise to Live In or See : California (San Francisco, Bolinas, Bodega Bay)

(Events of Monday, April 27th, blogged Friday, May 1st)

I’ll be honest, I had never been that all fired up to visit San Francisco to begin with. It made the list because it was on the route, and everyone says it’s awesome, and how can you not. But I had thought

of scratching it on several occasions to make room for other things. But SF surprised me (other than just being ridiculously expensive, even more so than California in general). It was coastal, and walkable, and mega dog friendly, and has a lot of historical charm. And one of the main components of that charm is the iconic cable cars. How can you think of San Francisco and NOT think of cable cars?! I had even done my research to learn that dogs are allowed on public transportation, so off we went.

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And we waited in line with some other amiable folks while a guy who looked like Theon GreyJoy twitched and mumbled nearby. Fine. And we got to the front of the line and the driver said: “And your dog is?” Now I HATE cryptic questions like this, but I seem to get them a lot in regards to Annie. Is what? Spayed? Friendly? Black and white? Adorable? WHAT?? I never received the exact answer to that question, but was informed that in order for Annie to board she would need a muzzle. A MUZZLE! The thought of trying to put a muzzle on Annie, and the contempt with which she would hold me in forever after was not worth even the thrill of a cable car ride (also I don’t have a muzzle, and wasn’t about to invest in one just for this). No attempt to convince him of Annie’s peace loving ways would move him, so we were left to watch them ride off without us.

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Next on the list was a visit to Lombard Street, also known as the Most Crooked Street in America. Now, interestingly enough, our motel was on Lombard Street, and in returning to it yesterday we had walked it for at least a mile. And it was straight as an arrow. But apparently this crooked business is really only for a block-so off we went to find the block. Have I mentioned how hilly San Francisco is? It’s mega hilly! Lots of hills. Lots of huffing and puffing. And we made it! This is the bottom of the street, you really need an aerial shot to see how twisted it really is, and I was very sure I didn’t want to attempt it on Marigold.

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And here we are after huffing and puffing our way to the top! I would have liked to get a photo with a better view, but a group of clueless and utterly self absorbed French tourists (two of which you can see below) monopolized the one good spot for far longer than any decent human would, and even after they had taken roughly 857 photos, they then STOOD IN THE SPOT CHATTING AND LOOKING AT THE PICS SO NO ONE ELSE COULD USE IT EITHER! I even made several snarky comments to no avail.

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After all the exertions and annoyances, I figured I had earned a treat. And it didn’t seem right to leave the city without sampling some of it’s legendary Ghirardelli chocolate (MUCH better than Hershey’s for all you furrners who doubt the quality of American chocolate!) So a Salted Caramel Quake Shake was had and boy did that hit the spot! The guys at the ice cream parlor were also super nice and gave Annie a bowl of water and some cute little girls there made a big fuss over her, so in your face Cable Man!

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And with that it was time to continue northward and out of the city across the Golden Gate Bridge.

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On the other side there was a pull off for additional photo ops, which… this classic convertible apparently driven by oversized teddy bears in San Francisco Giants uniforms was also taking advantage of?

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When I returned to the car after my selfie break, it became clear that the teddies had distracted me into making a fatal error. And that I was not the only one who appreciates fine chocolate…

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Lesson learned. (Not.) Our next stop was to be Muir Woods, but when we got there, and I went to pay (read: flash my handy National Park pass), and I gave my standard “one human and one dog” reply when asked how many, the ranger looked as though I had said I was bringing BigFoot himself on to their precious property and in a shocked tone advised me dogs were NOT allowed. Now, I know the National Parks can be strict, but I had yet to come across one that had ZERO areas where a dog could have a little wander. And this was a National Monument which I had found to be much less strict in those regards. So it had never occurred to me Annie wouldn’t even be allowed out of the car. And this was definitely turning out to be NOT her day. So we blew that popsicle stand and drove on further where we could at least check out the scenic overlook of Muir Beach.

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With a little extra time on our hands now, and while getting lost trying to find Point Reyes, we stumbled upon the little hamlet of Bolinas which I had actually pre-researched and then forgotten. But I pulled out all my papers and read how it’s so dog friendly that no dogs are on leashes EVER< and they practically run the joint! Bolinas is a curious place-it’s a little community of nature loving social activists located on a gorgeous coast just 13 miles from a really wealthy city. And they REALLY don’t want to get overrun by tourists, or worse, developers. So there are literally no street signs indicating it’s location, and whenever the county puts one up, the residents tear it down. And it definitely has a funky vibe. The picture on the left is a public meditation space created in response to 9/11.

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And most of the houses have a quirky feel as well.

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The town is surrounded on three sides by water, and the beach is nice, if nothing special.

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But apparently everything is closed on Mondays (and most of the week): the one cafe, the galleries, the gift shop, the museum, everything except Smiley’s Saloon where at 2PM I could hear people inside shouting from across the street, and the co-op/grocery store where I was told in no uncertain terms that dogs were NOT allowed. So it didn’t quite live up to the idyllic wonderland I had imagined in my mind, and we kept on trucking.

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I never did find the beach at Point Reyes (which is supposed to be an AMAZING place to hike), my GPS took me to a parking lot with some inland trails that didn’t allow dogs, and my personal radar located this adorable little bookshop. So the attempt wasn’t a total bust.

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I was starting to get tired, and it didn’t look like I was going to make it to my intended stopping point, so on a whim I pulled in to a random campground on Bodega Bay. The very nice young man collecting fees tried to warn me off by saying how “cold and windy” it was, but I assured him we were made of sterner stuff. And in return we scored a prime spot, right on the bay (views obscured by the misty fog that was rolling in), with hardly anyone around us, and a wind that was not strong enough to rock the van, and a chill that wasn’t deep enough to require me to sleep in a hat. Paradise.

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Day Forty Two: San Francisco Days, San Francisco Nights: California (San Francisco)

(Events of Sunday, April 26th, blogged Thursday, April 30th)

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and it was a glorious morning! And I still had to drag myself out of bed, because man am I getting tired. And I wasn’t the only one in no hurry to rise and shine…

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But rise we must and shine we better, because we have a day chockablock of San Francisco treats ahead of us! First a little spin around the motel property to get our bearings, and tend to our morning ablutions.

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There were loads of colorful flowers everywhere, along with the world’s most patriotic sewer grate.

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Our lodging was just a quick stroll to the Palace of Fine Arts. The Palace was originally built for a big World’s Fair type exhibition in 1915, and though it was only ever intended to be temporary, it was so loved that the people demanded it be preserved. But to what purpose? Since then it’s been home to 18 lighted tennis courts, used for military jeep storage, served as a telephone book distribution center, and even housed a Fire Department!

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A shortish stroll from there brought us to Crissy Field, a gorgeous and huge dog beach with an excellent view of the Golden Gate Bridge!

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I pointed out Alcatraz Island to Annie and threatened to ship her off there if she didn’t cool it with the BARKBARK, but she just laughed in that way that says: “Mom, I could so break out of there before the locks were shut!” And I wouldn’t put it past her.

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Annie even had a brief romp with a chocolate lab, it was a near perfect morning in the sunshine with my toes in the sand and my best girl by my side. I wondered what more we could ask for…

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And the answer was a random market entirely filled with free giveaways including Kind Bars and lip balm and dog treats?! And a tote bag to carry it, and any other goodies I might find, around in? I was so excited I almost did a woogle myself!

Feeling energized, we decided to keep waling to Fisherman’s Wharf. And walk, and walk, and walk we did. We even had to stop at one point and refuel with some of our newly acquired free snacks. And yes, Annie readily agreed that these bunny grahams were indeed her dearest friends.

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At last we made it to the beginning of the wharf, with a great view of the bay, and looking back at the shining city on the hill.

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There were loads of boats milling about on a picture perfect Saturday afternoon, including this one which appeared to be leading its little baby boats behind…

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There were even people SWIMMING in the bay (along with at least one rogue seal I was never able to get a snapshot of).

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After some MORE walking, we made it to the heart of the Wharf area, and it was PACKED with people!

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It was packed and noisy and there were street performers and dumb tourists and blaring music coming from every direction. And then I realized I was having a “shoulda had lunch” moment, when my blood pressure drops, and my energy sags, and I am done. So I’m trying to find a restaurant to accommodate us for lunch, but we’ve made it to Pier 39, which mostly has restaurants with indoor seating only, and this is where the seals hang out, so we can’t leave here without seeing the seals, and by god we are going to see some seals!

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Seals seen. Check. LUNCH NOW! Luckily, I spotted a dog boutique and the lovely fellow running it knew just where to point us for lunch. And it was some of the tastiest Dungeness Crab (and the sweetest Diet Soda) I’ve ever had. The waitress even fashioned a water bowl for Annie out of a to go chowder cup.

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Side Note: almost every restaurant, convenience store, gas station, and taco stand on the West Coast served Diet PEPSI instead of Diet COKE, which is more de rigueur amongst the more discriminating palates of the East Coast. I am so sick of Diet Pepsi I could wail. Add that to the list of things I will be most excited about on my homecoming.

We were duly refreshed, but still tired, and with a long walk home (we did around seven miles that day, in full sun, which for the two of us is a lot!) We made note of the local floralized fauna and were on our way.

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I could tell we would fit right in here, because even the TREES had outfits!

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It was only 4pm once we got back to our suite, and at one point I entertained thoughts of venturing out again for dinner. Or anything. But it was not to be. Stick a fork in us-we were DUN!

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Day Forty One:There’s SNOW in Them Thar Hills! : California (Yosemite, San Francisco)

(Events of Saturday April 25th, blogged Thursday, April 30th)

(Side Note: I really hate being behind because the posts lose so much of their immediacy, and I have to recreate how I was feeling at the time, and half of it has been spoilered on FaceBook, and someday they need to invent worldwide cell service/WiFi.)

SNOW! OMG!OMG!OMG! There is SNOW all over Marigold when I awake! And SNOW falling from the skies and on to the trees! And SNOW making this incredible scenery unbelievably picture postcard wondrous! SNOW!

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And… OMG! It’s falling really fast! And I need to get out of there today! And I have NO idea how a campervannie drives in these sort of conditions. And since I don’t think anyone was expecting this, I doubt the roads have been treated. SNOW! So I quicklikeabunny retrieve all my food from the bear locker, toss my chair in the back and head off to the park store for some proper snow gloves and to get a read on things.

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The place is abuzz with excitement. As I walk in I ask a guy shoveling snow for his thoughts on the roads. I heard words like “chains” and “Level One” but the rest was so unintelligible it wasn’t even worth it to ask him to repeat. Inside I sought out the counsel of a cashier. She said that the roads were TERRIBLE and it was FORBIDDEN to drive without snow chains, punishable by a hefty fine, until you got to the “141” which would take at least a half hour in her opinion. Now I don’t have snow chains, don’t know anything about snow chains, and didn’t relish the thought of the hassle and expense for a half hour of driving. And then I recalled (as I often have on this trip) the advice of my friend Andrew who said “The main two things are to Have Fun and Be Safe. If you’re doing one, make sure you’re also doing the other.” And at 45 I really shouldn’t need to remember someone else telling me to be safe, but it has made me take a few more precautions than I normally would. So I went over to the garage. Where, after a time, the nice gentleman informed me that they were OUT of snow shoes in Marigold’s size. Of course. Well, I tried, and they can’t fine me for something I can’t obtain right? As I left, he also told me that the “141” actually started at the stop sign a block away, so I should be fine in that regard.

As I drove out of the park, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road with scenes like this all around me…

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But before too long, as I went further down in elevation, the snow gradually shifted to rain, and I waved a fond farewell to Yosemite…

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And was left to ponder… is there anything more forlorn than a solitary flip flop in the snow?

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As we drove west, we watched the scenery shift away from Alpine forest, and I peeled off layers of clothing (including the unnecessary snow gloves) as the temperature kept rising.

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As the adrenaline rush faded from the morning’s excitement and the long drive began to wear I decided we needed a bit of a pick-me-up. And what trip to the West Coast is complete without an In N Out burger…served animal style of course!

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The In N Out parking lot was a crowded noisy nightmare, so I drove around a bit trying to find a tranquil spot to dine. Whatever this random town was clearly lacked such niceties, and we were forced to settle for the pack of the van in the parking lot of a questionable looking party supply store. Such is life on the road. Annie remained true to form, and despite being doused in tasty sauce and meat drippings, politely declined the vegetable toppings.(I downloaded the wrong picture-this one shows the bun, which she also ate, but it does have her cute little tongue, whereas the other one was just a sad tomato slice and limp bit of lettuce on a napkin.)

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Tired and frazzled, we finally hit the Bay Bridge and were rolling into San Francisco! Lacking only the requisite flowers in our hair!

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I figured we both needed some fresh air and to stretch our paws a bit, so the first stop was Fort Funston. Perched on bluffs above the ocean, and originally a harbor defense sight for the San Francisco Bay during the Cold War, it’s now a really cool dog park where obedient pups can frolic off leash, and others can… have a nice walk.

It was BEYOND windy, but we poked around on top of the cliffs, wandered down to the beach, and enjoyed some lovely views of the city in the distance. There were loads of other dogs there, and it looked like a lovely place to linger… in calmer weather.

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By now we were growing hungry once again, and, as luck would have it, I happened to know of a happening little sports bar that has customers spilling into the streets by 5pm! The famed and acclaimed Giordano Bros (#2)

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The place was hopping and packed to the gills, but I managed to get a prosecco and personal welcome from the owner himself-Adam DeMezza (brother of my dear friend Mia). I couldn’t stay long, but highly recommend the yummy sandwiches and laid back yet energized atmosphere if you’re ever in the Mission District.

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Adam gave me a tip on driving up to nearby Twin Peaks for the best views of the city. Which was an excellent suggestion and did, in fact, produce the desired views (although viewed through winds at about Warp Factor One Billion), but MYHAPS inadvisable on one and a half glasses of Prosecco on VERY narrow and VERY steep and windy streets, and I MAY now have a passenger side mirror which is lacking the minor detail of a mirror. Onward!

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The weary travelers made their way at last to the adorable Marina Motel which has a cute little courtyard and a kitchenette and is very near Fisherman’s Wharf. Family owned and reasonably priced-couldn’t ask for a better spot to make our newest temporary home.

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