Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Trip Up the West Coast of America

Last Monday, my dad and I embarked on a 5-day road trip up the west coast of America, from Orange County to Seattle.  Instead of taking the 5, we mostly stuck to Pacific Coast Highway, and sometimes the 101.  We gave ourselves lots of time to stop and enjoy the sights along this beautiful journey.  I've decided to share a kind of photo essay of our trip (some of the photos were taken by my dad, Jac).  Our first stop was Chumash Painted Cave State Park, just north of Santa Barbara.

The sign next to the cave read: “The walls inside the cave above you are covered with mysterious red, black, and white images.  Who were the artists who created these paintings?  Why did they choose this cave for their canvas?  What do the intricate images mean?  We know the artists were Chumash—the people who have lived in this area for thousands of years.  They were probably shamans or priests who came to this cave seeking power or spiritual strength as they tried to influence supernatural beings and forces to intervene in human affairs.  They used charcoal, red ochre, and powdered shells for their paints, but the meaning of the images they created was lost with the destruction of their way of life.  These paintings are a tangible connection that ties us to our ancestors."

A bit north of the Chumash Painted Cave, along Stage Coach Road (so-named because it was once used by stage coaches as they wound their way through the San Marcos Pass) we came upon a place called Cold Spring Tavern.  The sign outside read: "In 1886 this tavern was known as “Cold Spring Relay Station.”  In those days sturdy stagecoaches known as “mud wagons” traveled the rugged San Marcos Pass.  It was here horses were changed and passengers rested and enjoyed the noon-day meal.  In 1900 the Doulton family bought the old tavern with its adjoining acres.  In 1941 they sold it to the Ovington family whose daughter Audrey Ovington owns it to this day."

We continued north, eventually making our way back to the coast, passing Lake Cachuma.

Between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo lies a small agricultural town named Guadelupe.  Just west of town is the Guadelupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.  It was on these coastal sand dunes that legendary director Cecil B. Demille filmed The Ten Commandments, transforming this strange landscape into ancient Egypt.  After filming, he buried the giant sphynxes and pyramids in the dunes, where they remain to this day.  

We stopped for lunch in Pismo Beach.  My dad was eager for me to try the clam chowder at Splash Cafe.  There was a long line, but it was totally worth it.  We sat on the pier and had a lovely lunch.  I figured out that the secret ingredient of Spash's chowder is mushrooms.

Now, the normal next stop would be Hearst Castle, which is in San Simeon.  Instead, my dad and I decided to visit "The Poor Man's Hearst Castle," aka Nitt Witt Ridge.  It's in Cambria (just south of San Simeon).  Built over a period of 51 years by the local trash man, Art Beal, this is now on the state register of historic places. A total treasure of folk art/architecture.  The sign outside reads: "Nitt Witt Ridge, one of California’s remarkable twentieth century folk art environments, is the creation of Arthur Harold Beal (aka Der Tinkerpaw or Captain Nitt Witt), a Cambria Pines pioneer, who sculpted the land using hand tools and indigenous materials, remarkable inventiveness, and self-taught skills.  A blend of native materials and contemporary elements, impressive in its sheer mass and meticulous placement, it is a revealing memorial to Art’s unique cosmic humor and zest for life."  We got a tour of Nitt Witt Ridge by the owner, Michael.

Next we drove through Big Sur, which is pobably the most beautiful stretch of coastline in the western United States.  

We stopped at the Henry Miller Library and Book Store, where the iconic American writer lived.  I picked up two of his books: Tropic of Cancer, and another one on Big Sur.

We stayed the night in Salinas, just north of Monterey.  In the morning, we woke up and headed to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose.  It was built over the course of 38 years under the supervision of Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester, owner of the Winchester gun company. Believing that the house was haunted by the ghosts of people killed by Winchester guns, Sarah, under advice from a 19th century spiritualist, never stopped building her house, with staircases to nowhere, doors that open to walls, and other strange architectural tricks, to keep keep the ghosts at bay. The house has over 160 rooms.  We took a guided tour of this amazingly strange house.

We drove through San Francisco, checked out The Castro and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here's a picture of the coast near Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco.

We stopped at Fort Ross, a former Russian settlement that dates back to before California was part of the United States.  A sign outside the fort read: "In the early 1800s, Fort Ross was a thriving international community on the edge of the Spanish frontier.  In 1812, the Russian-American Company (RAC) built For Ross at Metini, a centuries-old Kayasha village.  The Fort had two purposes. The first was to supply food to the RAC’s Alaskan settlements.  The second was to serve as a base for hunting sea otters and fur seals.  Russians, Native Alaskans, and Kayasha lived and worked at the Fort.  The RAC did business with merchants and dignitaries from Mexico, the United States, and Europe throughout Alta California."

There's a Russian Orthodox church in the fort.

Coastal northern California is very sparsely populated.  Most of the towns you drive through were once mining centers, established around the Gold Rush.  We passed through the little town of Mendocino, which had these interesting buildings.

We stayed the night in Fort Bragg, another little coastal town that was probably once a mining town.  Fort Bragg is home to North Coast Brewing Company, which makes a very good stout called Old Rasputin.  That night, my dad and I had pizza and beer at a local pub, and I had a pint of Old Rasputin.

The next morning, we continued north and checked out a stretch of coastline known as "The Lost Coast" because it is totally undeveloped and is only accessible by small, winding roads.  We headed toward Shelter Cove, and checked out Black Sands beach, which is one of the most unique and beautiful beaches I've ever seen.

We drove through Redwood Country, past trees that are hundreds of years old, feeling very small.

We had dinner in Eureka, at the Samoa Cookhouse, which used to be part of an old lumber mill.  The sign outside read: "This is the last lumber camp style cookhouse in operation in North America.  This cookhouse was originally opened as part of Samoa, one of the last company owned towns in the United States, established by the Vance Lumber Company.  The original building is the four left-most dormer windows.  The major additions were made to house the kitchen staff.  Meals have been served here continuously for over 105 years.  Only employees were served here until the late 1960s when it was opened to the public by Johnny Fillman."  There was also a little museum area with old lumber implements.

We drove through Klamath, and took pictures with giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox at the Trees of Mystery.

We stayed the night in Crescent City, near the top of California.  In the morning, we continued up the Oregon coast, which is also full of little old logging towns.  We stopped briefly in Bandon.

We had lunch in Winchester Bay, which is famous for its sand dunes.  It was really astonishing.  Whole pine forests grew out of sand.  There were lots of people cruising around on dune buggies.

About halfway up the Oregon coast, we headed inland to the 5 freeway, so we passed through Eugene and Salem on our way to Portland.  We stopped at Salem to check out the capitol building, which was kind of creepy because there was a big bas relief sculpture outside which read "Westward the star of empire takes its way," referring of course to the Amerian empire, aka Manifest Destiny, which displaced a lot of people.  There is certainly a dark side to the American west.

We arrived in Portland in the evening, and had dinner and drinks at this dive bar/former bowling alley called The Spare Room.  They had a lounge band and the overall vibe was pretty weird and awesome.

We stayed the night in Portland, and the next morning cruised around downtown, checking out Voodoo Donuts and Powell's books, which is definitely the largest and coolest bookstore I've ever been to.  It takes up an entire city block!  

In the afternoon, we drove up into Washington state and arrived in the town of Poulsbo, where my brother and his family live, where I stayed for a week.  The next morning, I cruised around downtown Poulsbo, which is an old Scandinavian port town.  It has three book stores and three local breweries.  Sweet!

Poulsbo has an Aquarium/Marince Science Center, which I checked out.  I got to touch a starfish.

The next day, we drove to Port Gamble, on the Kitsap Peninsula, near the Hood Canal. It's an old lumber town which is now a National Historic Landmark. Port Gamble has amazing BBQ, a general store with a seashell museum, and a lovely view.

The next day I took the ferry from Bainbridge Island into Seattle.  It's cool to watch the Seattle skyline slowly get bigger.

Near the ferry landing is the Seattle Aquarium, which I'd never been to, so I went.  Here are some of the beautiful sea creatures I saw.

Then I headed over to the famous Pike Place Market, which is the setting of a scene in Sleepless in Seattle.  Because it was the middle of the summer and the height of tourist season, Pike Place was super crowded.  Across from Pike Place is the first Starbucks ever.  There was a huge line to get in, and people were taking selfies and family portraits outside, like it was Mecca.

From downtown Seattle, where Pike Place is, you can take a monorail to the Seattle Center, where there are lots of cool museums, and the Space Needle.

Right by the Space Needle is the Chihuly Museum, which features the glass artwork of northwest based artist Dale Chihuly.  I don't typically go for "glass art," but some of Chihuly's pieces are pretty astonishing, especially given their huge scale.

There is a room in the Chihuly museum which features the photographs of Seattle photographer Edward S. Curtis, an amazing figure who devoted his life to documenting the people and culture of Native Amerian tribes throughout the USA.  There's a fantastic book about him called Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward S. Curtis, by Timothy Egan.

Then I headed over to the Experience Music Project, which is a music/culture museum.  The most interesting thing about the EMP is the building itself, which was designed by the great contemporary architect Frank Gehry.

From the Seattle Center, I walked up Queen Anne hill to the neighborhood where I lived during my first two years of college.  This is the view from Kerry Park.

From Queen Anne, I walked over to the Fremont neighborhood, and had to get a picture of this local landmark, the troll who lives under the Ballard Bridge.

From Fremont, I took a bus over to the University District, where the University of Washington is.  It's a really beautiful campus, especially the library. 

I took another bus from the U District over to Capitol Hill, which is a really hip/artsy/gay neighborhood.  They have rainbow crosswalks!

Then I headed back to the Waterfront, and had dinner at Ivars.

I took the ferry back to Bainbridge Island a little after 8pm, just as the sun was setting over the water.

The next day, I rented a kayak and paddled around Liberty Bay in Poulsbo.

On the last full day of my trip, I drove with my mom, dad, and nephew Jonas to Olympic National Park, home of Mt. Olympus and the Olympic Mountains.  We drove up to a place called Hurricane Ridge, from which we could see for miles around.  It was super beautiful.

Tomorrow I will fly back home to Orange County, and thus my adventure up the west coast of the United States of America comes to a close.

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