Today will be another early day – waking up at 4am. Caleb will walk the dogs before we leave our parking spot only to find another one along side a vineyard when I’m sure that it’s just a grassy patch and not some future bottle of Bordeaux waiting to grow or get picked – not sure on the grape season. An hour later I can wake more refreshed and have the sun’s light to guide us through Napa Valley. This will be our first time and I didn’t want to miss the view.
Wine country is vast and the houses extravagant. We drove 180 miles the first day, over 500 the second, and are trying to set a record today by driving the two days combined. We wouldn’t drive so much usually, but there is so much to see and we need to make it to Alaska where there may be snow, rain, ice, traffic, moose, and other things to contend with. We finally decide that we would choose the Redwoods over Lassen simply because the road to the volcano is still closed due to snow.
We stop at the Calistoga Pioneer Cemetery. I’ve never seen plots laid out like this before. Some are angled to climb the hill and another has three bodies close together with another one behind them – in the same small enclosure. There’s a variety of headstones, most covered in moss, and a baby that died in 1884. We visit the Chimney Tree (the center is burnt out), take the dogs to the beach and enjoy the warm top-sand, and buy some roadside strawberries.
The trees are just as large as we remember – or are they? They are still able to amaze us and Caleb lets me know that the Newton B. Drury Scenic Drive now gets closed at night trying to keep down the effects of wood poaching. While I stare at these giant trees I think of all the times I’ve been here and all the memories associated with them. I’ve walked many of the trails, stopped in many of the groves, touched many of the trees, and smelled the surroundings. I’ve been by myself, with my husband, with my dad, and without my aunt Anita who was able to raise funds in January to go when she was told she had six months to live from lung cancer.
She died at the young age of 56 on May 14 – the day before two people came to pack up most of my things. My cousin Chris called to let me know she was in the hospital the day before and didn’t have long. I called my mom and she was driving herself there. She made it and had time to say goodbye. She called me in the morning to let me know and then Chris called me back. I wanted to be there to comfort him, but he reminded me that she was no longer in pain. I know cancer is painful from a book I read about a stranger’s struggles. I wish I could’ve been closer to my aunt, but I knew so little about her before she went – except that we shared a love for really big trees and Niagara Falls – things beautiful and extraordinary and beyond what we expected.
It sounds like she is missed and there has been an outpouring of emotions on Facebook – our society’s way of mass sharing. She had four sisters who I hope are holding up well as I’m not there to support them or my mom as I take another adventure in my life to make the most of what I have before nature vs. nurture takes its toll on my body and leaves me with a less than capable body on the stretches of road that have less than desirable cell signal for most – for me this is paradise. I’m able to have cell phone free conversations and go hours without hearing buses and ambulances and screaming – things that may be necessary in the city on my corner lot, but something that seems extraneous out here.
I shed a tear to remember all the love and loss these trees now share memories of with me – in my life and theirs, and then set my sights on Crescent City. I’m thrilled that as many times as I’ve driven this road there are still things left unseen. We stop at a memorial and a beach and the people are friendly and the birds singing and the waves crashing. The view is the clearest we’ve ever seen it and we are grateful, but it seems this weather is unkind to elk sightings – also a first. The city comes into the windshield and leaves just as quickly in the rearview. Goodbye California.
The gorse is out today and shining plentifully. I pull over for some photos and notice that this sun-like bright flowering plant is not only yellow, but also comes in a red-yellow variety – another thing to bring a sense of newness to this trip, not that it’s needed. Driving the 101 will bring us across the Thomas Creek Bridge – the tallest in Oregon at 345 feet, built in 1961. Something just as old as the cemetery but new to us is Battle Rock City Park. It’s dedicated to the locals, Dene Tsut Dah, and the pioneers who fought to found the townsite now known as Port Orford.
Another beautiful beach and another loving family with kids wearing ocean finds pretending to be hobos. Caleb unknowingly steps on the hardest piece of kelp we’ve ever found and the other end swings up and cuts my ankle. He leaves me to wallow in pain and search for pity while he climbs the rock formation with a path on it until the mother nearby warns of poison something. She lives nearby and says it won’t be bad unless he’s allergic – not that we know of.
We find out that the Tillamook Cheese Factory will be closed by the time we get there – if we drive really fast and bypass everything. Since this isn’t going to happen we stop in Winchester Bay to see what their market and bakery have to offer. The market has bathrooms for customers only, but is more of an anti-gas station. We walk across the parking lot to the bakery that has slim bread pickings (the jalapeño-cheddar loaf is delicious), wine, jams, sweaters, and sweets galore.
We should buy something to enjoy and then gift to someone, but no long-term tasty items will be purchased that can’t be taken on the plane with us. We get the bread, some smoked black pepper white cheddar cheese (thanks Tillamook), and a slice of cheesecake with Oreos in the middle and red velvet cake on the bottom. The picture looks better than it tastes unless you’re one of those people who like tea with your sugar. I took out the two layers of chocolate frosting and asked for Caleb’s help with the rest.
Now it was time to enjoy the Oregon beaches. We enjoyed the view and the sand of some, watched the dunes go by, and stopped at Carl Washburne to enjoy the sun and driftwood on the beach while the dogs ate and then walked them in the grass next to the bathrooms. We stopped in Nye Beach because we’ve never been, I liked the wood of the buildings and steps, and Caleb wanted one more opportunity to watch a sunset in Oregon – one of my favorite places, but the clouds were choosing otherwise.
We stop near Whale Cove, park the car, and walk up the road to see the waterfall, houses, and beach through the trees. I’m too tired to stop, but we passed Depoe Bay – the smallest navigable harbor in the world at 0.01mi² or six acres. I make it to a church parking lot before Lincoln City as my eyes get heavy. I pull in, turn off the car, and sleep.