[Traveling Tales] A Leisurely Road Trip Down the West Coast

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been told that there’s only one constant in life, and all ironies aside – that constant is change.  As with the old adage ‘this too shall pass‘, I’ve developed a thicker skin and a willful resolve in the understanding that no matter what I’m doing or the trajectory of my life, the chances of a roller coaster moment is coming are high – so hold on and enjoy the ride.  The ups, downs and in-betweens are all wonderful side-effects of this passionate, purposeful and perpetual, journey around the sun.  This past year alone has been a crazy one, it started with a bang on a social high and it’s ending on a more personal, yet equally loud, roar – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The holidays have always provided me ample time for retrospect, possible due to the lack of a social circle in Oregon – but mostly because of the long flight up and almost two hour drive in from Portland to Corvallis once the plane lands.  Even though I’m not originally from Oregon, my dad is and I’ve felt like it’s been my second (well, technicality third home for my entire life).  Since I was a wee little one, I’ve been frequenting California’s stately neighbor to North.  Plus, now that my dad is inching towards retirement he’s left the busy, bustling and vibrant city life of San Francisco behind while trading it for the slower paced, quieter, country life of  Corvallis; where the claim to fame is green grass, football and Oregon State University.

Since they’d spent the last few months moving, my step-mom was over the moon excited to see us for two reasons – it’d been almost four months since the last time the family got together and she couldn’t wait to unload whatever household items they didn’t need into our possession.  Whether her excitement was from Column A or Column B simply didn’t faze us – we were over the moon about both! Originally when we discussed how we were bringing it all back to Los Angeles, we’d considered renting a van or renting a U-Haul, and had jokingly mentioned that we could just fill the old ’98 Ford Expedition  for a full fledged, super fun road trip – maybe we’d bring it back later in the year and use it as an excuse to come visit again; the options felt endless! Instead of laughing at us, they mused that we might as well just keep the truck since all it had been doing over the last give years was gathering rust and spiderwebs in the garage.  Without missing a beat, we jumped with joy and resolved we’d only have to book a one way flight to Oregon – and could spend the tail end of it road tripping down through Oregon to San Francisco and then on to Los Angeles.  Sure, we had the chance to travel down this path when heading to and from Shambhala but we’d always been in such a rush and never seemed to have the time to smell the proverbial roses or bask in the delightful Oregon sunshine.

If you’re not from Oregon, one of the first things to understand about traveling during Thanksgiving Break is that you’re going to find yourself in a bit of traffic from the Civil War Game.  Every year after Thanksgiving, the Eugene based University of Oregon Ducks take on the OSU Beavers for what’s contended to be the 5th largest college football rivalry in the United States.
If you’re a football fan, it’s a proper time to rejoice – but if you’re trying to make your way down the 5 to California, beware – because there’s really only one major freeway and depending on your timing you might just get stuck in it.  That’s literally the only weekend of the year I’ve ever seen traffic in Oregon. Instead of getting stuck in traffic, we decided to not only leave early but to take every detour we saw fit – we were in the mood to enjoy ourselves and for once we weren’t rushing back to LA on zero energy!

Our first stop was the little known Corvallis BMX Park on the edge of the city where the Marys River and the Williamette River collide.   Some parts were too waterlog to risk, others were too icy to entertain – but throughout it all it was an enjoyable adventure, even when we had to look up exactly what poision oak really looks like. Then we were off, off and away to a rest stop near Oakland, Oregon that looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale with vibrant greens, radiant yellows and blossoming reds.  Time had come to a standstill while we stood there, laughing like five year olds as we waltzed the empty paths around the field, enraptured by our momentary microcosm.

By the time we reached Mt.Ashland, it felt as though we’d experienced the brevity of all the seasons in just a few short hours.  First a cool breeze and sparse sunshine, blossoming into sunshowers and scattered clouds as we climbed our way into an indescribable winter wonderland.  Squealing like a schoolgirl that hadn’t seen snow more than a handful of times in her life, I pleaded with Danny to pull over at each and every turnout so we could embrace the snowfall, dance on the purity of the ground… and apparently have a snowball fight or two.

By sunset, we’d conquered Yreka and saw a beautiful orange and magenta shimmer off of snowcapped Mt.Shasta

We got to Menlo Park late that night, to wake up to the excitement of a stunning Saturday in the Bay Area.  It’d been forever since we’d had a day to just spend some time with my mother and I was beyond happy that she could host us for the weekend.  We spent the day gallivanting around the Bay Area to all my former stomping grounds – Strolling through Menlo Park, and into Atherton where my old High School was to grab lunch downtown at Le Boulanger, then into Palo Alto, Stanford Campus and my favorite hidden gem of a botanical garden. It was a whirlwind few days with a lot of driving and a ton of walking, but it felt great to stretch the limbs, expand the mind and really connect with my family and my fiance.

 

[Oh, Snap] A Quiet Corvallis Morning

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

In Los Angeles, and essentially anywhere in California, we’re subjected to a go-go-go mentality intermixed with a fast paced lifestyle. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like we can fit a whole 24 hours in the day – zipping around from task to task, our heads are in the air and our feet rarely touch the ground; how many times have you wished for an extra minute here and there to smell the roses, or for the scenic way home.

Instead, we rush from one frame of mind to the next, often never even delving into our innermost complexities and questions in order to meet some imagined deadline.  We hurry in hushed tones, seeking approval before self acceptance, forgetting to kindle our inner fire before choosing to passionately  ignite the world around us.  Too often, we’re required to put ourselves last – to place our universe on life’s back burner while living up to standards we never agreed to, yet can’t avoid trying to live up to.

At those times, we need to let the world around us dissolve as we turn inwards to our hopes and dreams, wishes and desires. The external world doesn’t understand your emotional richness or personal passions; instead, we’re erroneously adhering to an apathetic formula where money and time are interlaced. The tangibility of having is deemed better than the effortlessness of giving and somehow,  presents have become more meaningful than presence.  With heightened access to social media, our haves become have-nots as we compare to contrast, stacking ourselves against the world in continued contempt.

Every once in a while, we need to be released from the societal shackles that made us believe we continually have more to prove to the universe and instead focus on what we can give to ourselves. The bustling and hustling of everyday life doesn’t allow us to fully marinate within the moment, allowing a full undulating understanding of our personal growth and maturation. Take a step back and see yourself from a birds eye view, sink into the full weight of a second, take it slowly and then take it twice.  It’s only within quiet moments of meditation that we’re able to truly evolve.

I’ve only been in Oregon for less than 36 hours but I already feel my muscles limbering from the top of my crown to the tips of my toes.  I’ve been awakened, reinvigorated, ready to take on the world while fanning my own flames. I feel myself growing, evolving, understanding my minutiae contrasted with the novel nuances in emotion.  In stark difference, of how I live in Los Angeles it’s quiet life, life surrounded by the whimsical wilderness of nature and the breathtaking beauty of Oregon’s lush landscape.  It’s simpler here, slower, calming and all sorts of cathartic. The weather has been blissfully blustery with a sprinkling of sunshine almost unprecedented here this time of year.  It’s a paradigm shift, and I’m curiously caught in mid-swing.




  

 

[Oh, Snap] Weekend Wanderlust Along California’s Coastline

“We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”
Alan W. Watts

When life seems overwhelming and bubbling over, it’s important to take some personal time and marinate in the purity of the moment. Whether its work or social life, the cure for emotional chaos and calamity is the warmth of the wilderness and the nurture of nature. This past weekend, I took a wonderful little trip up and down the California coast on the historic Pacific Coast Highway with Danny and a few of our friends, leisurely exploring nooks and crannies and enjoying each other’s company.  Danny and I had done the drive before a few years ago, but we always found ourselves wishing we had more time to explore tide pools, coves, caves and the great outdoors – so this time, we made a point being leisurely and letting it all soak in.

Constructed over the course of several decades, California’s Highway 1 began segmented construction in 1911 to connect coastal communities.  Commonly just referred to as The 1 or the PCH, depending on which leg of the journey you’re on, the route was completed through the Big Sur region in 1939 after securing funding from Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression. After cruising along the 101 into Santa Barbara, we jumped on the 1 in San Luis Obisbo and took a necessary lunch break in Morro Bay where its almost obligatory to get the clam chowder.

Our pit stop took us to the Otter Rock Cafe and man, oh man – was it ever delicious!  I had to get some clam chowder in a bread bowl and a Bloody Mary after the table over dished some elated dirt on them, and then some oysters on the half shell to top it all off.   Leaving Morro Bay, we set our sights on San Simeon’s Elephant Seal Vista Point. I’ve never seen so many of them – they’re loud, a little bit ridiculous looking, in my opinion they’re one of the few living remnants of God’s sense of humor.  There were literally hundreds of them lazing around various coastal beaches, from young pups to more mature seals.

After leaving San Simeon, we were off and away to Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey, winding the roads with wanderlust in our eyes and adventure in our veins.  We finally reached Monterey around dinner time and took a nice Uber into the Warf area and searched for a worth dinner spot.  After some searching, we found ourselves at Lallapalooza, and let me tell you – their specialty drinks are phenomenal; I had a Skytini with cucumber, mint and Hypnotiq and it was refreshingly fantastic.  With some bar hopping under our belt, we resigned ourselves to our hotel in Seaside for the night so we could get a roaring start to our Sunday funday.

My #1 objective for the weekend: find us some tidepools.  I don’t know about you guys. but growing up I loved searching through the tide pools for brightly colored creatures and slippery souls.  Sea urchins, starfish, hermit crabs, sea anemones  – you name it, if it’s in a tide pool I will undoubtedly think it’s awesome.  Our first stop on Sunday was at Del Monte Beach just outside of Seaside, then we were on the road again – more concerned about the journey than our final destination. After scouting a few beaches we found ourselves at Garrapata State Park, just a few notches south of Monterey. The park is host to wonderful hiking trails up and down the coast and on clear days it’s wonderful for dolphin watching – we even saw a pod!  For the more daring it’s just a hop, skip and a jump down to beach level, and more importantly – you guessed it –  tide pools!

On closer inspection, the tide pools evolved into technicolor colonies – so gorgeous!

Visually, there’s something so simple yet stunning about peach flowers against a bright blue sky and I can’t help but try and capture it. I actually took a really similar picture last time Danny and I came through the area, but it was just so delightful that I had to snap another.

One of my personal favorite things about hiking along the cliffs was seeing bits and pieces of old abalone, muscle and clam shells glistening and sparkling in the dirt.

After a leisurely, lovely stroll through the park we were off, off and away – but not without first losing my phone in the car, then finding it, the trunk almost coming open on the drive, rushing out to close it and flinging my phone into the sand….so that five minutes later I’d actually lost it and we had to do a major search along the roadside for the next fifteen minutes. Good news is that we found it, glistening in all it’s rose pink glory in the bright Autumn sky; never a dull moment when you’re with me, I promise. 😉  On our way up the coast we strolled through the area around Pfeiffer Beach near sunset and made a mental note to come back the next day and I’m so thrilled we did, there was so much wilderness to explore – including rocks that had been pulverized so much that a cave had been created in the middle of it, and there was a completely hidden cove with so many stacks of rocks – it was beautiful!

Last, but certainly not least, we caught a stunning sunset near Lafler Canyon – the cotton candy, sorbet skies are permanently etched in my mind and not in my phone because I found myself enjoying the moonrise too much to care – retrospectively, maybe I should’ve asked to stop but the memories will live on.

From start to finish, this past weekend was one for the books and a completely necessary deviation from the normal, routine of everyday life – an escape from the fast paced, high anxiety world that’s part of some weird reinforcement cycle that I’m most certainly an integral part of.  As a self proclaimed city kitty, this time away from the sheeple and masses reaffirmed to me that I’ve been overwhelmed with life, over-inundated with work, tasks and relationships and haven’t taken the proper time to reset myself, to meet myself at my core and be unshakable, to find solace in a moment without flustering over the past or fumbling into the future.  A weekend without cell phone reception, wrapped up in conversations that ranged from trivial and hilarious to insightful, inspiring and compelling. Before our journey, I felt a dark cloud over my head and an unshakable awkward, anxious feeling but after a weekend swept up in nature and seduced by the open sea air, I found myself calm and collected upon my return to Los Angeles – a change that was hopefully deeply imprinted upon me. Though to be fair, I could always use a good excuse to escape again.

 I can’t wait for our next weekend getaway and am already looking up fun routes to and from Oregon for Thanksgiving! When’s the last time you got away for the weekend and where did your wanderlust inspire you to wander to?