Day Fifty Three: Island Paradise: Washington (Orcas Island)

Events of Thursday, May 7th, blogged Thursday, May 14th

Let me just start by saying that I LOVED Orcas Island. Probably as much as I loved Anacortes, but not in the sense that I could ever actually live there. For whatever reason my “livability analysis” often hinges on the proximity of a movie theater. It’s not even like I go to movies all that often, but somehow movie theaters have become proxies for “entertainment and leisure activities.” If there’s no movie theatre anywhere remotely close, then there is likely a dearth of other things to do as well. You can take the girl out of the suburbs, but. . .

Anyhow- it was a fairly sunny day and Moran State Park, where we were camped, also encompasses Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans. Now one could hike or bike a VERY steep two mile incline, but Annie and I decided Marigold should get a peek at the top as well. OK fine, I still can’t walk up hills! Nevertheless, the view was AH.MAY.ZING! Islands floating adrift in the blue blue Salish Sea. Pictures can’t do it justice! I literally gasped at some of the views.

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We even met a nice (older, married) local gent who HAD biked up and offered to take our photo. AND he gave us an excellent tip on a sunset spot for later. And that photo on the left? Those white mountains peeking up in the distance? That’s CANADA! (Cue “I can see Canada from my house” jokes. Not all that funny actually.) Hi Canada – sorry we couldn’t make it up there this time. Maybe I need to plan for Campervannie Two: Canadian Boogaloo!

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I may have mentioned yesterday that the island is chock a block full of artists and artisans, with probably the most iconic being the Crow Valley Pottery – a studio opened in 1959 in an old log cabin that has been producing locally-made pottery ever since. I was lucky enough to find a shop selling some vintage pieces from the seventies and bought myself a cute cereal bowl. After wasting close to two hours to get a mediocre sandwich from an understaffed cafe who also seemed to find me and the other woman dining alone invisible, I spent a fair amount of time browsing the shops and admiring the art. For anyone who has ever been to Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, this place reminded me a little bit of it. Mandatory ferry ride and all.

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OK. So. Remember that picture I showed you yesterday of Indian Island off the coast of Eastsound? Well check it out today! There is a muddy gravel bar stretching out allowing entry!! We happened to stumble upon one of the magical 40 days when the island is accessible by foot! Huzzah!

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So access it by foot (and paw) we did! Really cool! As we made it to the other side, there was a young blonde woman sitting on a rock eating something out of a paper bag. Annie was all up in her face, and strongly resisting my attempts to pull her away. I was a bit surprised at her enthusiasm until the woman said: “Oh this is just chocolate, you wouldn’t like this.” Err… Annie begs to differ. Butler women LOVE chocolate. It may even surpass a dead mouse.

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The island was a small mound with a path leading through hundreds of tiny wildflowers and nice views to the town we had just left. It was a beautiful day and the sun made the sea positively glitter.

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Alas, when we were almost to the top of the mound, there was an “Island Guardian” there who said dogs weren’t allowed up at the peak as there were several Oystercatcher (a type of shore bird) nests that needed protecting. Now THIS was a restriction that I could understand! (Also I love oystercatchers, they have these awesome vivid orange beaks that contrast with their black and white plumage.) So we went down and wandered the rocks at the base of the island and I even found a wee little crab!

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Feeling some heretofore unknown burst of energy (and not yet realizing it would be fleeting), I decided to take Annie on a four-mile hike around one of the lakes near our campground – Mountain Lake. It was beautiful, we had the trail to ourselves, the surrounding pines made the air impossibly fresh . . . and 2/3 of the way through I was DONE! Stick a fork in me and slap on a toe tag. That last mile was a slog, and as we were walking in a circle, there was no way to guage how far we had come or how far we had left to go, so for all I knew we could have had three miles left. When I came around a curve to what I thought would be the parking lot and it wasn’t, I nearly wept. But hindsight is a marvelous thing, and from the distance of a week the memory is entirely fond.

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Can you tell my enthusiasm is mostly feigned at this point?

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After the march . . . errr . . . walk, we took a much needed nap in Marigold, and then headed out to what I was told was the beach all the locals visited to see the sunset. Turns out there were only two other people there. And they were from Oregon! It was heaven – I brought the last of my food from Gere-A-Deli and we had a picnic on the sand while watching small boats sail by, loons dive for fish, and the sun gently sink into the sea.

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You can’t see it, but there’s a snow capped mountain peak looming through the pink haze behind me. It is going to be REALLY hard to leave this place.

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Day Fifty Two: We Will (Drive) a Thousand Miles, to Reach the Shores of Emerald Isles: Washington (Anacortes, Orcas Island)

Events of Wednesday, May 7th, blogged Wednesday, May 14th

It got a little chilly overnight, so someone decided to join me in the sleeping bag for some warming cuddles . . .

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Once we finally warmed up enough to properly greet the day, Annie and I wandered back down to the beach in hopes of spotting our flippered friend again. I think I saw his head bobbing off in the distance, but I couldn’t be sure. Annie really enjoyed sniffing around the beach and was having so much fun, she even voluntarily paddled out into the water… perhaps looking for any leftover fish??

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Another fun feature of this campground is a two-mile loop drive that encircles it, offering lovely ocean and forest views. We were planning to ride through in Marigold, and the loop is supposed to open to vehicles by 10am, but when the loopkeeper seemed to be running late I realized – DUH – why don’t we walk it instead? MUCH better idea. We were able to get a far more spectacular look at the views, Annie encountered another dog that inspired her to do playful zoomies, AND we found more random woodland poetry!

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The morning was already off to a great start, and we hadn’t even been to downtown Anacortes proper. Time to rectify that. Side Note: my friend Jason informs me that Anacortes is named after the wife of the founding father . . . ANNIE Curtis-how cool is that?!

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Downtown Anacortes is pretty darn near perfect. Lots of yummy restaurants, TWO bookstores, quaint shops, a RECORD store, a movie theatre, a grocery store, random Bigfoot sightings, and the ocean, ALL within walking distance. And you GOTTA love a town that goes the extra mile to make even the trash cans fit the motif!

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Since I was planning on hopping another ferry and heading to Orcas Island, I thought it might be nice to grab a bite to eat first, and maybe some nosh to take with. Jason had recommended a place with the (perfect for a pun loving art history major) name of Gere-A-Deli, and OHMYGOD everything I ate there was BEYOND amazing. Nothing fancy-just super fresh, and super tasty.

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So this is finally the food post that Grace has been waiting for. I had the Thai Peanut Chicken Wrap with a side of to-die-for coleslaw (and I’m not even a big fan of coleslaw)! It sounds like a simple little sandwich, and I don’t know how to describe it properly, but it practically sang in my mouth. Then I got some sort of lemony quinoa mixed with corn to take with, and it was so good I’m seriously going to write for the recipe when I get home. And don’t get me started on what they cryptically call a ‘Panda Bear’, but which is essentially a Hostess Cupcake as reimagined on Mount Olympus. Heaven!!

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As Jason was batting 1000 with his suggestions, after lunch and a stroll through town . . . (Side Note: could there BE a cooler way to set up a cookbook section in a bookstore?)

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. . . I decided to take another one of his tips and drive to the top of Cap Sante for a sweeping view of the whole town. Gorgeous!

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While we were up there, this just happened to randomly drive by, and I only wish I could have gotten a side-by-side shot with Marigold.

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Anyhoodle, as much as I really hated to say goodbye to this little hamlet I was rapidly falling in love with, it was time to check out the San Juan Islands, and in particular Orcas Island. And that meant it was time for another ferry boat ride. But at least this time I was prepared. But first! There was an hour wait to board. Doh!

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Annie seemed a bit calmer loading onto the boat this time, so I decided to risk it and go for a little stroll on the deck (I also really needed to pee and it wasn’t a SheWee apropos sort of place) and do a reverse “King of the World” pose . . .

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But someone started barking so long and loud I could literally hear her one deck up and on the other side of the boat even OVER all the other clatter and commotion. So I went back to Marigold and enjoyed the views from there as best I could.

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Orcas Island is the “Just Right” intermediary between (relatively) crowded and touristy San Juan Island, and basically primitive backcountry Lopez Island, the two other main islands in the chain. This one is mainly rolling farmland and forest punctuated by cute little towns filled with artwork by local artisans. And there are a LOT of talented artisans on Orcas. Unfortunately, lingering in Anacortes and improperly managing the ferry schedule meant I arrived just as most things were closing up. So Annie and I took a leisurely stroll through the seaside town of Eastsound to kill some time. The town itself is super quaint, but see this? That mound in the water is Indian Island and it is only accessible by foot, and only on 40 days per year, and only at low tide. Clearly, right now is not one of those times. Remember this.

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A good chunk of the island is incorporated into Moran State Park, which was created by the CCC fellas back in the 1930s, and has lakes, trails, mountains . . . and wonderful campsites. . .

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Plans to take the ferry over to San Juan tomorrow evaporated as I was growing increasingly enamored with Orcas, so we had a leisurely evening, a Gere-A-Deli quinoa dinner with a touch of Panda Bear cake for dessert, and fell asleep two happy campers.

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Day Fifty One: If I Had A Boat I’d Go Out on the Ocean, and If I Had a Campervan I’d Ride Her on My Boat: Washington (Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, Anacortes)

Events of Tuesday, May 5th, blogged Monday, May 11th

Things were still pretty wet and drizzly in the morning, so we may have had some extended cuddle time before rousting ourselves up and about for the day.

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It also didn’t seem like the most opportune time to make yet another attempt on the verboten trails, so we packed up camp rather quickly and started heading north for the final stop in our Olympic Park journey – Hurricane Ridge. The drive was the standard issue scenic loveliness I’d come to expect, passing rivers and lakes and stunning vistas.

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We made it to the bustling metropolis of Port Angeles, which is sort of half in and half out of the National Park, and which had a proper Visitor Center as well as information on the road up to Hurricane Ridge (which is said to boast spectacular mountain views.) The center also had a webcam which showed conditions on the road up. Which were basically an impenetrable blanket of fog. And 32 degree temperatures. So it would be a 90-minute round trip if we made no stops, for what the ranger called “possible brief windows” of visibility. I think we’ll take a pass.

On to Plan B. Plan B just sort of materialized in front of us when I happened to notice a sign for a short trail leading off the parking lot, and thought Annie might enjoy some exercise even if we weren’t going to be seeing anything spectacular. Or were we . . .

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About ten minutes into what I thought was just another walk through some lovely forest, I stumbled upon a sign that I initially bypassed as thinking it some generic informational text about the type of growth here or some project that was being funded (I was a lot more interested in these signs on Days 1-30).

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But a second one, a bit further along, caught my eye more closely. It was POETRY! Scattered randomly along the woodland trail! Nature themed poems – at least ten of them – to be contemplated whilst strolling in nature! Awesome Sauce!

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I was super tickled by the signs, so much so that we actually DID get lost for a bit (I was clued in when I noticed we hadn’t seen any poems for awhile), but a few detours and wrong turns just brought us to narrow slippery bridges and cool tree formations so it was all good.

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So we finish our walk, and we’re sitting in Marigold in the back corner of a large parking lot, under some trees, no one around, and as my guard has relaxed considerably over the last weeks of living out of a vehicle, I decided to do a quick change from my fleecy top into a short-sleeved T as the day had warmed considerably. It’s at this moment that a man appears from nowhere to ask if I’m “with a company?” (??) I guess meaning’ is this a corporate van of some sort,’ and carries on chatting, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I’m frantically pressing a crumpled shirt over my (sports bra covered) torso. Jog on random dude!

With that it was time for lunch, no worries food police, I got the grilled fish burger. I did, like a moron, go through the drive-thru lane that is really designed for vehicles containing a passenger with thumbs and the ability to handle monetary transactions, so had to actually get out of the vehicle and walk up.

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And I thought it was mega cool that the “Thank you for Coming” sign appears to be translated into some of the local Native languages as well. Can anyone confirm (or deny)? (Update: Rob confirms that at least one of the languages is Salish.)

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This was in someone’s front yard. It fascinates and terrifies me, and I want one. They also had two ceramic deer bedecked in shiny tinsel wreaths. In May.

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Most of the afternoon was spent driving up the coast en-route to the little town of Anacortes, and, ideally, onward to Orcas Island. We passed through several cute little hamlets along the way.

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But, although I was in high spirits, it was another day when I was going on close to 80 hours without a shower, running on fumes, and not firing on all cylinders . . .

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Which may be why I had no idea we were going to be boarding a ferryboat until we were basically at the pay window. Like, I was literally looking at the GPS thinking “Why is it taking us this random route down to the waterfront?” DUH!

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Annie did NOT like the ferry with all of its  loud noises, and motion even though the car was stopped, and fumes, and other cars packed in like sardines. I tried to walk around a bit (she was not permitted to leave the car, although had we walked onto the ferry instead of driven, she could have. Bureaucracy!), but when I did, she went went into major panic mode, so I spent most of the trip lying in the back with her.

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By the time we got to Anacortes I was once again running out of steam as seems to happen earlier and earlier the longer our journey continues. I needed to find a place to stay, but I was torn. An old friend from high school who had once lived in these parts, Jason, had recommended a campground near the water. But part of me craved a proper shower and bed and my beloved WiFi. But the other part of me is getting increasingly stressed about the finances of this whole operation. And I was tired and brain fried and in no position to properly weigh the pros and cons. And in those instances I usually go with the easier option which would have been a hotel. But for whatever reason, and after driving through the campsite and rejecting it initially, I chose the campground. BEST. DECISION. EVER. Not only did it have a lovely little beachfront area where one could sit and watch the waves . . .

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Not only were there deer frolicking mere feet from where I parked . . .

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BUT I GOT TO HAND FEED FISH TO A ONE-EYED SEAL!! Add that to the Bucket List so it can be crossed off!

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Later I learned that this SAME visually impaired sea mammal had been visiting the dock even when my friend Jason was here, twelve years prior. Kinda wild that two teenagers from a high school on the East Coast could end up hanging with the same seal 3,000 miles away and over a decade apart. The world is strange and magical. Now keeping Annie away from the seal and the fish was no small feat, and the seal wore an uncannily identical expression to her FEED ME face, but it was SO worth it!

Afterwards I took a shower which always makes me feel loads better than I remember it will, and Annie and I wandered back to the beach for another glorious sunset. I could get used to this.

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Day Fifty: Forks in the Road: Washington (Olympic National Park)

Events of Monday, May 4th, blogged Sunday, May 10th

It rained all night. Which was good, in that it washed all the dead bugs off the windshield, and not totally unexpected as, well …. DUH… RAIN FOREST!

My initial plan for the morning was to launch another sneak attack on the dog unfriendly rainforest trails, but I did not anticipate the rangers arriving at 8am, which was just as I was heading over. Scratch that. The next idea was to drive out to Rialto Beach to see the wild and rugged coast that Olympic is also known for. And on the way, it just so happened I would pass through a little town called Forks.

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You may, or, like me, may not, know that Forks is the setting for a “moderately” popular book and movie series known as Twilight. Not only were the novels set here, but the movies were filmed here as well, as you will find within seconds of setting foot in the Visitors Center. We were more than happy to set foot in there though, as soon as we saw this sign on the door.

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Prior to the Twilight phenomenon, Forks’ major industry had been logging and timber. But once the conservation movement, and the protection it afforded to much of the nearby forest areas, brought about serious declines in that area, the town fell on hard times.

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So it’s no surprise that most of the residents have embraced the Twilight phenomena whole hog, as it has literally doubled tourism numbers and even brought international visitors to this tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Many of the local businesses are grabbing on with both hands.

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Once you’ve stocked up on all the Twilight themed tchotchkes your wallet will allow, you can tour locations from the movie including: Bella and Edward’s houses, the high school, the police station, and you can even pose by a replica of Bella’s truck . . .

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All of this excitement can really work up an appetite, so, as the Twilight Lounge had recently shut its doors, I stopped for a burger at Sully’s (which offers a special Bella burger, but it had pineapple on it of all the godawful things, so I took a pass). Sully’s does serve exceedingly cheerful beverages though.

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I will say that the foggy, misty, murky atmosphere of a town surrounded by dense towering pine forests and two Native American reservations really does seem to fit the feel of the Twilight series remarkably well. Supposedly the author, Stephanie Meyer, had never even visited the town prior to writing the novels. She chose Forks for its distinction in being the least sunny place in the entirety of the United States, enabling her to have vampires walking around freely in the daylight.

Speaking of vampires, they were NOT ALLOWED as we traveled further down the road to the tinier town of La Push where the werewolf dudes hold sway.

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The clouds, which had been pouring rain off and on most of the afternoon, lifted as we pulled into First Beach in La Push, but it was so freaking windy I couldn’t bear to do more than snap a few quick photos of the rocky “islands” (more properly known as seastacks), interrupting a seagull confab in the process, and hop back in Marigold.

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FINALLY we made it to Rialto Beach. And it was just as wild and wooly as promised! The waves CRASHED on the shore. The wind WHOOSHED around our heads, and storm clouds hung low and threatening. The whole place felt alive with energy. It was GREAT! (Note: all of these photos are in color, it just doesn’t look that way. My hat and Annie’s collar were about the only things not shown in shades of gray. Quite a change from yesterday’s explosion of green.)

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The beach was LITTERED with huge bleached drift logs – once towering spruce trees that had fallen from the cliffs and been tossed ashore by the pounding waves. I had to scramble quite a bit to make any headway, but Annie made short work of it.

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It was very cold and very damp and VERY windy, but I was in love with the raw elemental nature of the place and the sharp tangy smell of the ocean and would have stayed all day.

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Given the weather conditions, I decided beach camping was a less than ideal option, so we headed back to our rain forest haven, passing our friendly neighborhood elk out again for their “twilight” foraging . . .

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The good news is, I had managed to score a PRIMO campsite, directly on the Hoh River, which is hard to distinguish from the gravel bar that runs down the middle, as it too is a slate gray. This murky color of the water is caused by “glacial flour,” basically the tiny residual particles remaining from centuries of rocks being scraped and worn down by the glaciers that formed this waterway.

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The bad news is, the rain had become ever more persistent, and attempts to wait it out in the cozy confines of Marigold were to no avail. It was to be a damp dinner.

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Some of us got creative, and, wanting to be able to enjoy the rush of the river, rigged up a towel over the two open side doors of the van to serve as a de facto awning (since the Camper Van rental place had failed to provide a van with a preinstalled one as I had requested), and were able to enjoy the fire well into the evening.

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Others of us . . . preferred to stay as dry as possible.

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Oh, and a question . . . an open door, a flag that says Open, an Open sign on the open door, and . . . a Closed sign in the window?? What gives Forks?

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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!