Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pacific Coast Highway and Redwood Forest

In making plans and preparations we debated how many days to drive. How to balance a leisurely road trip with plenty of time to stop and sightsee, with the knowledge that the kids would likely not tolerate too many days in the car? Should we spend 3 days of less driving each, or 2 days with more driving but getting to San Francisco sooner? Two days would cut down on an extra food and hotel stays. However, would the days be too long? Would we feel too rushed? Bryan and I discussed at length our goals of the road trip and eventually decided on two days in the car, but in order to have plenty of time to stop when we had a hankering to...we made plans to start our drive plenty early each morning.

So we got our little crew up at the crack of dawn, placed all three of them in the back seat and pointed our rental car south towards Oregon and eventually California.

The kids fell asleep pretty much immediately. Which in some ways was kind of nice because it gave Bryan and me a chance to talk one-on-one a bit with the pretty Washington scenery flashing by. The kiddos woke up right around the time we hit the Oregon coast. And...oh. Just wow. You know? Driving along the coast with the waves crashing just off the right of the highway...only to then climb up into the mountains for a bit, twisting and turning and coming out on a cliff with the ocean down below. Just incredibly beautiful...I wanted to stop at every single viewpoint, but decided that the whole drive was a viewpoint and to just be alert to everything out my window. And really, if I wanted to stop, Bryan was more than willing to pull over.

When we weren't staring out the window in awe, we played a Harry Potter trivia game, read Fablehaven out loud, and listened to the Hamilton soundtrack. (Bryan sure was a good sport about it all...especially the Hamilton part.) ;)

We stopped at the Tilamook Cheese Factory for a late lunch. More grilled cheese sandwich varieties than you could shake a stick at! We sampled the cheese and took the tour, and then continued on our way with ice cream to go.

We were told that of all the beaches and cute little towns we'd pass, we really needed to make sure to stop at Cannon Beach. Umm, yes! I would happily go back and spend a week there...the town was darling and the beach was likely one of the most beautiful I have ever been to. It was overcast, windy and super chilly, but again,, you know? (And yes, Haystack Rock look familiar to you because Goonies was indeed filmed here. Admission...I've never seen Goonies so this fun fact was pointed out to me by my husband and son.)

We finished up our long, but memorable day of driving in Coos Bay, Oregon. Strangely enough, I think this was one of the kids' favorite parts of the trip. I'm not sure why, but Brandon to this day still talks about that little motel in Oregon where we all climbed into bed and watched Home Alone on TV together before falling asleep for the night. "That was SO awesome, Mom!" Maybe it was all of us together, or laughing so hard, or the idea that we were watching a Christmas movie in August...who knows. But for some reason, it was a highlight.

The next morning we left super early and continued on our way. It wasn't too long before we entered California and into the Redwood Forest. And of course no one could stop themselves from singing This Land Is Your Land...seeing as every single one of us, including Bryan and me, had learned it in elementary school:
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me. 
Because we are just that kind of family...who knows a song for pretty much any occasion.

We pulled over at a place that was called Trees of Mystery that yes, does sound rather touristy. And maybe it was. But after paying the entrance fee, we got to hike some very cool trails and see some ridiculously large Redwood trees. And then take a gondola ride up into the tops of the trees where the view was nothing short of spectacular. Then because we decided that we were "experienced" enough hikers, we decided to hike down the steep and rocky trail rather than take the gondola back. I figured all the over the top warnings were purely to dissuade older folks or families with young kids, or people wearing inappropriate hiking shoes from taking the trail...because really, how hard could it really be, right? Umm...we figured out pretty fast that they were seriously not kidding! It was intensely steep and very rocky and my poor legs were jelly by the time we made it down. But it was so worth it!

(This picture of my tree hugger Julianne, is one of my very favorites from the whole trip.)

I wish I had got a picture of it, but at one point we started seeing what looked like smoke up ahead. We debated for a minute or two thinking surely it must be fog, but then started smelling that tale tell campfire smell. It wasn't too much later that traffic slowed way down and we found ourselves witness to a forest fire. It was right on the side of the road. Flames jumping up into the trees, right there in front of our eyes. Firefighters were on site already and climbing up the bank from the road into the masses of trees to fight the fire. Cars were pulling over to the right so they could watch. Frankly, I kind of wished we had too because well, wow. That's not a sight you see every day. But we continued on...and smelled that smoky smell for a good long while afterwards.

Towards the end of the Redwood Forest I instructed Bryan to follow the signs to a place where for five bucks you could drive through the middle of a Redwood Tree. Bryan was very reluctant to make this detour, thinking it a rather silly tourist trap. And yes! It completely was! But am I glad we did it? You betcha!

We drove through wineries and farms and small towns...and finally made our way across the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco right as it was starting to getting dark.

Up next: San Francisco

Recap of our time in Seattle

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