Songs from Pearl Jam and Nirvana wafted out of every shop, storefront and car window, making us nostalgic for our college dorms in the early 90s. Where are we? The Pacific Northwest: Home to hundreds of coffee shops, birthplace of grunge music, final destination for both Lewis and Clark and thousands of settlers who set across America on the Oregon Trail.
Our adventures this month took us through Oregon, Washington and throughout Northern California. Here are highlights from our stops in July.
Miles Traveled (in Altima) 2,933 miles
Best Opportunity to Test Michael’s “Jacket of the Year” (Worst Weather Day) The weather forecast for July 17th and 18th wasn’t just for rain; it called for “substantial precipitation.” We don’t know what that means but we guessed we didn’t want to be camping in it. We decided against a backcountry trip into the rainforests of Olympic NP and opted instead for a warm and dry motel room in Anacortes, Wash. Sissies. We know.
Most Talked About Natural Phenomenon ORCAS! We saw hundreds of killer whales from the cliffs of San Juan Island, Wash. We just pulled over along the side of the road and there they were. Here’s a free whale watching tip: just point your binoculars towards the swarms of sight seeing boats. They know where to find what they are looking for.Funniest Billboard – Next to the Mount St. Helen Hotel, Wash: “Hope You Had a Blast!”
Most Out of the Way Site Tie * San Juan Island, Wash. Accessible only by ferry. Luckily, Washington has a great ferry system specializing in frequent and affordable trips around the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. * Getting to the North Cascades NP, Wash. isn’t a problem. But getting to the actual Cascades is, at least when you are driving a Nissan Altima with very low clearance. 18 miles of steep unpaved road lay between us and the most accessible trailhead leading to a peak. Don’t worry ‘Tima, we wouldn’t do that to you, especially since you need to get us home.
Funniest Slogan Tie * Seen on the back of a bakery delivery van near Mount Vernon, Wash: “Drive Carefully. The Loaf You Save Could Be Your Own.” * Shultzy’s Brats and Beer, Seattle, Wash: “Seattle’s Wurst Restaurant.” Get it? Don’t worry. It took Gab a minute or two.
Strangest Endorsement “John Wayne’s Five Star Mufflers,” Port Angeles, Wash.
Most Pleasant Surprise Watching people net smelt at Beach 4 in Olympic NP. We went for a drive to escape the sounds of the crowded campground and came upon a beach full of families and fishers taking advantage of high tide to pull in buckets of tasty little fish. An informal survey of beachgoers told us that most people enjoyed their smelt smoked or fried. Smelt are also super for freezing. Say that 5 times fast.
Most Unpleasant Surprise July 8th at the Covered Bridge Station, Sunny Valley, Ore. Gas prices rose 15 cents in 2 days! Ay yay yay.
Best Adopt-A-Highway Sponsor A section of route 101 east of Sequim, Wash. is maintained “In Memory of Jerry Garcia.” Oh, Jerry! Fare you well, my honey. Fare you well my only true one….
Most Ineffective Spokesperson Seen in Port Angeles, Wash. We didn’t have the heart to tell the rotund teen wearing the dirty “I Fling Poo” T-shirt that he might not be the best person to stand on the roadside and advertise his school’s car wash.
Strangest Roommates The Bean Espresso Coffee Shop shares the same roof as High Caliber Guns on route 101 outside of Port Angeles, Wash. We wonder if caffeine and high caliber rifles are really the best combination.
Most Beautiful View All of them at Mount Rainier NP, Wash.
Ugliest Park Site Surroundings Clear cut forests and tree farms line the roads leading to Olympic National Park. While we understand that people need wood, seeing fields of once towering trees razed and swerving to avoid debris from lumber trucks was hardly the introduction we wanted for one of our most anticipated destinations.
Most Beautiful Capitol Building Salem, Ore. We are suckers for art deco. Betcha didn’t remember Salem was the capital of Oregon, did you?
Most Beautiful Park Site Surroundings San Juan Island NHP. San Juan Island is one of over 700 islands and reefs that make up the San Juan Archipelago, half of which are set aside as wildlife preserves. 240 days of sunshine shine on 3 resident pods (groups) of Orca whales. Bald eagles share the skies with gulls, murres and rhinoceros auklets. And that sky is almost as blue as the deep channels in the Juan de Fuca strait. Need we go on?
Liveliest City Center Portland, Ore. We recommend the Nob Hill neighborhood on a Monday evening. 23rd street was filled with people strolling along enjoying Alotta Gelato. Miser Mondays and a lovely patio at the New Old Lompoc Brewing Company is within walking distance from 50 cents taco night at the Nob Hill Bar and Grill which is located right next door to aforementioned gelato café. Lots to do (and eat) in this lively city connected by a comprehensive public transportation system. It is easy being green!
Longest Day 331 miles on July 5th. We started in Paradise and ended in Eureka. California is a big state.
Biggest Disappointment July 14th. Our morning in Oregon spent searching for Lewis and Clark stamps for our NPS Passport book proved fruitless. Dismal Niche? Rest area was closed. Station Camp? Can’t find it. Fort Columbia? Not paying the parking fee. Chinook County Camps? Can’t find the Visitor Center. Is there one? Cape Disappointment? Not developed yet. A disappointment indeed.
Most Gluttonous Day July 16th. As if Michael’s bourbon burger and Gab’s Dungeness crab chowder at the Port Townsend Public House weren’t enough, we just had to top it off with ice cream at Ebey’s Landing, Wash. Everyone, we mean everyone, was carrying a cone from K’Paws Iskream Worldwide Headquarters. Who were we not to conform?
Cheapest Ballgame Ticket $10. Family night at SafeCo Field. We watched the Seattle Mariners beat the Detroit Tigers 5-3 and saw the sunset over downtown Seattle from our seats on the east side of the stadium. As an added bonus, we found a space for the ‘Tima on the street, saving us well over $10 in parking fees. We would have tried some “Ichirolls” at the sushi stand, but we already ate.
Best Sporting Experience Emerging from the Eugene Emeralds Front Office in Eugene, Ore. with an armful of baseball goodies and Gab’s dad’s pitching stats from 1962. A phone call from the parking lot revealed that Mark conveniently forgot his ERA but was able to name most of his fellow players and the league’s top pitchers. Not bad, dad!
Most Scenic Drive (National Parks) Lassen Volcanic NP, Calif. Snow covered slopes and ice encrusted lakes were exactly what we wanted to see after 100+ degree days in Sacramento, Calif. It felt like a breath mint commercial.
Best Long Hike July 26th. Starting at the Sunset VC in Mount Rainier NP, we took the trail to the second Burroughs Peak, back down to Frozen Lake, up to the Mount Fremont Lookout then back to the Sunset VC using the Sourdough Ridge trail. When we weren’t staring at Rainier’s largest and most impressive glaciers, we were distracted by fields of wild flowers and rolling glacier meadows. Driving to Mount Rainier NP, we anticipated a big mountain formed by a volcano and not much more. We arrived and found hundreds of miles of trails that could be connected and combined to hike as much or as little as we wanted. Mount Rainier is a hiker’s paradise.
We planned this 8.5 mile hike with the help of the lovely Ranger, who graduated from Brown University last year. Here’s to go ol’ Brown!
Highest Price for Gas $2.69 on July 6th at the Shoreline Market, Onck, Calif.
Lowest Price for Gas $2.19 on June 13th at the Chevron, Beaverton, Ore. and full service to boot!
Friendliest People Anacortes, Wash. We met an unforgettable cast of characters at the Rockfish Grill. Michael chatted with a wonderful couple from Bellingham and listened to bad jokes from Salty, the fisherman while Gab and Vanessa, a local baker, discussed cakes. (FYI - Gab loves cake.) Irish Mike, you were right; the Seattle Public Library is amazing. A postcard is on its way.
Best Coffee Shop RayJen Coffee Cafe, Crescent City, Calif. Each table has a DSL plug for your computer and ample space to rest your locally roasted coffee and homemade scone. We spent hours here and they didn’t mind. Good coffee, good vibes – RayJen gets Michael’s vote for favorite coffee shop of the trip.
The Blue Bottle Coffee Shop in Yelm, Wash. deserves a mention here, not necessarily for its coffee or free wifi, but for the girls behind the counter. When a hungry traveler came in and asked for the special of the day, a tuna sandwich, they told him they were out, but offered to make him one if he ran to the store to get tuna. Shortly after that, we overheard their conversation which contained, in no particular order, the following topics: details from one girl’s wedding (occurred a few days ago), underground shelters (“they’re everywhere, you know”), explanations of an unspecified religion, the end of the world (“I’ve done my research, you know”) and Selma Hayek. What a trip.
Most Helpful Roadside Stop The Six Rivers Brewery, McKinleyville, Calif. All we were hoping for was a lunch special. But when fellow patrons saw us pull out our map of the Redwoods NP, we received great hiking (go to Fern Canyon) and camping (Mill Creek is the best) advice AND a tip on where to find the cheapest gas in the area (Klamath).
PS – the meatball sub special was great.
Most Unexpected Local Pronunciation Willamette, Ore. Pronounced Will-AM-ett
Best Giant Statue Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, greeting visitors outside the Trees of Mystery, near Klamath, Calif. Paul towers at over 49 feet. Babe stands tall at 35. What are these Minnesota legends doing so far from home?
Almost Celebrity Sightings Astoria, Ore. Does the Walsh’s house from Goonies count?
We also almost saw the Governator at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The throngs of reporters and cameras posted patiently outside the closed doors of the Governor’s Chambers told us that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the building. We waited around for a while before we got bored and left.
Worst Campground Tie Kalaloch Campground, Olympic NP, Wash. and Altaire Campground, Olympic NP, Wash. Two nights at the Olympic NP developed campgrounds had us running for a cheap motel room for a good night’s rest. At Kalaloch, we were kept up all night by no less than a dozen partying teens with an affinity for bad country music crammed into the space (made for no more than 8 people) behind us. One of our other neighbors warned us his cooler was pilfered not by raccoons but by other campers the evening before. The next night, we retreated to a much smaller and allegedly more remote campground, only to hear generators and the sounds of Fleetwood Mac all night long. If only the former were louder.
Best Campground Mill Creek Campground, Redwoods SP, Calif. The guy at the Six Rivers Brewery was right – this campground is sheltered among majestic trees and rarely fills. We especially liked our site – site #19 – which was raised like a loft above the road.
Best Hotel Experience Larkspur Landing, Sacramento, Calif. The Larkspur Landing calls us like a siren song. We can’t resist its pull – especially when we can get a suite for $40 or less via www.priceline.com. Kitchens stocked with snacks, free high speed internet and VCRs are standard in every room. What sets Larkspur apart is its free video and board game library, free Starbucks coffee available at all hours, its quality breakfast and FREE LAUNDRY machines. Oh man, we love this place.
Most Anticipated Purchase Hair Clippers, Target, Sacramento, Calif. Michael was looking a little shaggy, don’t you think?
Saddest Realization July 19th. Boarding the ferry from San Juan Island back to Anacortes, Wash. This was our final Western stop. All remaining sites send us eastward, closer and closer to the close of USA-C2C.
Sacramento, CA • Marysville, CA • Paradise, CA • Chico, CA • Mineral, CA • Redding, CA • Arcata, CA • Eureka, CA • McKinleyville, CA • Orick, CA • Klamath, CA • Crescent City, CA • Cave Junction, OR • Grants Pass, OR • Eugene, OR • Salem, OR • Beaverton, OR • Portland, OR • Seaside, OR • Astoria, WA • Warrenton, OR • Ilwaco, WA • Aberdeen, WA • Quinault, WA • Forks, WA • Port Angeles, WA • Port Townsend, WA • Coupeville, WA • Anacortes, WA • Friday Harbor, WA • Roche Harbor, WA • Mount Vernon, WA • Marblemount, WA • Newhalem, WA • Winthrop, WA • Twisp, WA • Bridgeport, WA • Grand Coulee, WA • Electric City, WA • Ephrata, WA • Renton, WA • Seattle, WA • Enumclaw, WA • Longmire, WA • Olympia, WA • Toutle, WA • Hillsboro, OR • Portland, OR
Lassen Volcanic NP • Whiskeytown NRA • Redwood NSP • Oregon Caves NM • McLoughlin House NHS • Fort Vancouver NHS • Lewis and Clark NHP • Olympic NP • Ebey’s Landing NHRES • San Juan Island NHP • North Cascades NP • Ross Lake NRA • Lake Roosevelt NRA • Klondike Gold Rush NHP • Mt. Rainier NP • Mount Saint Helens NVM •
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