Monday, July 25, 2011

California-Oregon Road Trip: The Conclusion

You might want to read the last couple of entries before this one if you haven't yet. Otherwise, this won't make as much sense.

Wednesday, July 20
Destination: Crescent City, CA

Crescent City Harbor at sunset

We left shortly before 9 AM, with the expectation that it was supposed to be a very hot day. No worries, as we were headed toward the coast (where it was significantly cooler). Shortly after we left Travis AFB, we were cruising through Napa. I couldn't let the opportunity pass to do at least one wine tasting, even though we had a rather ambitious agenda for the day.

Lance indulged me, and we stopped at Beringer, where I spent a perfectly pleasant half hour sipping wine and talking to the nice woman who poured my tastings. I walked out with 2 bottles of yummy sparkling White Zinfandel and a souvenir glass.

Beringer Winery, Napa

A short time later, we were back on the road. Lance turned off on some side road that led to what is (allegedly) the world's largest petrified redwood forest, but we decided to skip it once we got there. We just didn't want to risk paying the price of admission for possible disappointment, but we looked around the tiny museum for a few minutes before moving on.

I have to admit, as much as we hate tourist traps, we somehow felt like we were obligated to pay $5 to drive through a tree. However, we didn't even get to do that, since there was a very large group standing in front of it, who refused to move when they saw our car (RUDE! I was inclined to ask them to reimburse us since they wouldn't let us get what we paid for). After a few minutes, we got sick of waiting for them and just parked in the parking lot to explore that area for a bit.

It wasn't until we got to The Avenue of the Giants that things got really impressive.
Avenue of the Giants

What can I say about these ancient, majestic trees? They make you feel small and insignificant, and that's not a bad thing. I had this feeling quite often throughout the trip at different locations.

After we finished our detour through The Avenue of the Giants, we met back up with the 101 and continued our journey toward the coast. Of course, we continued to drive through the redwoods and even caught sight of a herd of Roosevelt Elk.

Around dinnertime, we made it to Crescent City. We checked into the Lighthouse Inn right at the entrance to town on the 101. Our room had an ocean view. It was spacious, clean, and comfortable. And our room was discounted to the lowest possible rate, so we stayed overnight for less than $100. I liked this hotel. The decor is nautical meets Grandma, but we enjoyed our stay there.

After checking in, we went next door to the Northwoods Restaurant. It was crowded, and the service was slow, but our server apologized over and over again. She did the best she could under the circumstances. The food was delicious. Lance had a burger. I got Chicken Jerusalem, which was chicken, mushrooms and artichokes in a white wine cream sauce. It was accompanied by dinner rolls, garlic pasta, steamed veggies and a trip to their salad bar. We were definitely stuffed. I don't think I even got through half my meal before I had to give up.

A huge meal should always be followed by a leisurely walk. So we strolled along Crescent City Harbor just as the sun was setting. It was a beautiful end to our busy but fun day.

Thursday, July 21
Destination: Tillamook, OR

Tillamook Cheese Factory

We left Crescent City shortly before 9 AM. It was a bit foggy and chilly. By the time we got to Oregon (a relatively short drive from there), the sun was out and it promised to be a beautiful day.

We had no particular agenda, except to get to Tillamook. And yes, it was all for the cheese. On the way, Lance and I just pulled over at whatever scenic viewpoints interested us, and there were A LOT. The Oregon coast boasts some of the most stunning scenery I have ever been privileged to see in all my travels.

If you have never taken a trip on the Pacific Coast Highway, do so. You won't regret it, I promise.

I loved all the coastal towns we drove through. I could've stopped at every one and poked into the cute little shops or eaten at the local spots. But we drove through most of them (with a short detour in Newport). Alas, we didn't have the time to explore further, since we needed to get to Tillamook by 6 PM if we wanted time to go to the cheese factory. And as for eats on the road, we had a picnic at some random lake we just happened to be driving by around lunchtime. We were a bit inland at that point. But it was near the Oregon Dunes.

I think it was around 5 PM or so that we arrived in Tillamook. We easily found our hotel - The Ashley Inn - which was just a stone's throw from the Tillamook Cheese Factory. I didn't even plan it that way. We checked in, got settled into our room, and headed off to cheese heaven.

We both wanted to order the macaroni and cheese at their cafe. We were disappointed to learn that they were out of mac and cheese. So we both ended up ordering grilled cheese sandwiches, which were good, but not what we were craving. I must say that their french fries were some of the best I ever had.

The actual self-guided tour part of our visit didn't take too long. I took more pleasure in shopping at their impressive food shop (they not only sell dairy products, but they also sell a lot of things that pair well with their cheeses). We bought 3 packages of their "squeeky cheese" (cheese curds), 1 package of smoked medium cheddar, 1 package of smoked vintage white extra sharp cheddar, and some fudge. And we stopped at their ice cream shop before we left. How can you resist?

We didn't do anything else after that. Lance was tired after a day of driving, so we just watched TV back at our hotel room.

Friday, July 22
Destination: HOME!

Within an hour of leaving Tillamook, we were at the most superlative beach I have ever seen in my life. I didn't even care that it was about 58 degrees and overcast. I was squishing sand between my toes and dipping my feet in the tidepools. It was heaven.

Cannon Beach, OR

This was Cannon Beach, and I could stay there for the rest of my life. The tide was out, so we were able to walk right up to Haystack Rock, which at 235 feet tall, is the third tallest intertidal structure in the world (so sayeth Wikipedia). Signs marked the prohibited areas, because Haystack Rock is a sanctuary for birds. It's most famous for its puffins, but we didn't see any.

I saw a lot of sea anemones, starfish, and other ocean critters in the tidepools.

My only regret is that we didn't stay longer in town, but Lance wanted to make a stop in Astoria too and we had to pick up the dogs from boarding before the vet closed.


We stopped there, but we didn't really do anything. I took a few pictures of the Columbia River and the Washington side. We got glimpses of some of the major tourist attractions. I just think we both kind of ran out of steam and just wanted to get home. I thought Astoria was very cute though, from what I saw of it. I can see why this has been the setting for movies such as "The Goonies" and "Short Circuit."

We crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Washington State. For awhile, there were no signs of civilization and it was time to think about lunch. The first town we hit wasn't very promising. Shortly after, we entered a town called Raymond. That didn't look too promising either, until I saw a Golden Arches. I'm not really a big fan of McDonald's. As fast food goes, it's probably my least favorite. But when you're out in the middle of nowhere and there are few other options...

It wasn't bad, all things considered. But once we hit the road again, we had discovered that a Dairy Queen was less than a mile away from McD's. Rats.

That was our last stop until home.

This vacation was one of the best we've had together since our marriage, in my opinion. I thought nothing could top Europe. I still love Europe, don't get me wrong. But there is something about discovering the beauty within your own country. And I felt a real sense of peace and relaxation, not having to worry about currency exchanges or language/cultural differences.

I look forward to our move to Washington D.C., but I will miss the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

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