CALIFORNIA! An update because we finally have WIFI not on our phones!

Day one: January 11

Jill was up until 2 last night finishing up things that had to be done before we left, I packed it in at a more reasonable hour of midnight.  This did not prevent Ru from waking us up at 6:30 by jumping on us as per normal.

We had initially thought to catch the 7 am ferry off the island, but being Sunday that sailing was canceled, so we had decided to aim for the 8:45 instead.  However, by 7:30 it was clear that was un realistic, so we switched to the 9:45.  As it was, we barely made that, due in part to the fact that I had left the keys in the ignition and the battery was too drained to start the car.  We managed to jump it and still make the ferry with a solid 2 minutes to spare.  We were the last car on.  Not exactly an auspicious start.

We filled up in Campbell River and exchanged our rather disreputable looking propane tank for a new one.  The drive south was actually more challenging than usual.  Firstly, the trillium kind of limits the car to about 100 km/h maximum.  Secondly, the girls seem to need to stop for pee breaks.  Our lunch and supply stop in Duncan was a little more leisurely than it should have been, and we didn’t roll out of there until 1:30, with a 2:30 deadline to make our reservation for the ferry to Port Angeles.

Jill and the girls went into food comas and slept the rest of the way to Victoria, missing out on some incredibly dense fog over the Malahat.  We arrived right at 2:30, but I don’t think it was really necessary to be there that early.  We had lots of time to clear customs.

Due to the fog, the ferry ride didn’t offer much scenery.  Instead, we pretty much ran laps for the entire crossing to get the kids to burn off some steam.  Sadly, I think it just made them more energetic.

Once in Port Angeles, we headed straight to the Walmart to camp in the parking lot.  It’s not a store we frequent, in fact we’ve never been into the one in Campbell River, but we’re taking the “When in Rome” approach, and what is more American than shopping at Walmart?

We bought some supplies for dinner, including a bottle of Moscato for a whole $2.97.  Seriously, I can’t get the bottle, labels and closure for that price, let alone put wine in the bottle!

After the pre-bedtime bathroom run to Walmart, I took the girls around a bit, and came across the gun section.  The hot pink rifle was particularly fetching.


Day 2

I woke up at 6:20 and put on the catalytic propane heater.  Neither Jill nor I felt comfortable letting it run while we were all asleep (lest we sleep forever) so it had gotten a wee bit chilly in the trillium over night.  We used the Walmart washrooms a couple more times before we left, at about 8:30
The 101 was pretty much empty for the first hour or so, and even when we got stuck behind people (unbelievable as it was that there were slower people than us on the road) they were good about using the pullouts and letting us by.

The scenery was pretty much the same as the Sunshine Coast, trees (including the occasional arbutus), water and rocks.

We had lunch in a little restaurant in Montesano.  The girls had wayyyyy too much energy and we had to run around a bit on our way back to the car.  The sun was shining and it was about 12ºC, so our sprits were up.  Sadly the clouds rolled in again before we got to the coast.

The bridge to Astoria was pretty impressive.  It’s about 5km long and has a suspension bridge at one end with a spiral approach.  Miwa had been very excited to see it but had fallen asleep about a half hour before we got there.  We tried to wake her up but to no avail. So Jill took a video and we showed it to her later.  Not quite the same, but she seemed satisfied.

Seaside, Oregon was where we ended the day, at around 2:30 in the afternoon.  Somehow our 4.5 hours of estimated driving time had turned into a 7 hour journey!  I guess when you add in the coffee, gas, pee and lunch breaks it makes sense, but that’s a lot of time to keep two kids locked in a seat!  We may not make it as far as we thought we would.

We are staying at a gated campground that has all the luxuries including included showers, laundry and the pool.  However, not sure if we’ll be able to make the pool as it opens at 9 and closed last night at 6 to children.  The campground is typical RV campground, which is to say, gravel pad, a sad picnic table and full hookup, packed cheek to jowl in as little space as possible.  Fortunately the grounds were pretty much empty.

We set up and un-hooked to go check out the town of Seaside, reputedly quite picturesque.  The beach and Promenade (or esplanade and Mother persisted in calling it)  were quite lovely.  The town itself was quite clearly a seasonal tourist trap.  We even almost got sucked into a time-share presentation!  They had a shark display in the lobby which drew the kids in, then came the sales pitch.  We quickly grabbed the kids and ran for the door.

We made a quick stop to grab some food and wine at the Safeway before filling up and heading back to the campground for dinner.  So far, we are going through a lot more gas than we were anticipating. Towing an extra 600 kg refrigerator shaped mass appears to have an impact on fuel economy.  Go figure.

Day 3

The day dawned clear and sunny, and despite our plans for a leisurely start to the day, we were on the road at 9:15.  My dad like to start his truck about 10-15 minutes before we are ready to go.  The sound of a running engine fills me with the feeling that I’m not moving fast enough, and that perhaps the person that started the engine is trying to tell me to get my ass in gear.

Our first stop was a pleasant little town called Rockaway Bay.  It was chosen completely at random, the timing just happened to be right.  As I pulled into the parking lot, Miwa was saying “Can I go to the playground?” and Jill and I were saying, “Sorry Miwa there is no playground, maybe later.”  However, Miwa has playground ESP, and there was indeed a playground.  There was also a coffee shop for the adults.

cali3 cali4 cali2
Most of our time was actually spent on the beach, or more accurately, Ru and Miwa played in a creek that ran through the sand to the ocean, while Jill and I constantly badgered them to not get wet.

There was a spectacular arch rock formation and miles of beach, and the town existed entirely in the 1/2 block between Highway 101 and the pacific ocean.  In retrospect, we perhaps should have spent a day here rather than just a coffee break.

Between Rockaway Bay and Lincoln City, where we stopped for lunch, there was a nice little pastoral inland interlude.  Lots of cows and small farms in rolling hills somewhat reminiscent of Tuscany.

Lincoln City was right on the ocean, and again was chosen as a stopping point by sheer coincidence of time and parking. Fortunately, there was a restaurant nearby, and by even greater turn of fortune, said restaurant had really good food.  Sadly neither Jill nor I can accurately recollect the name of the restaurant, but if you ever go through Lincoln City and stop at the public parking lot with the crappy tourist information booth just across a little bridge as you head south, the restaurant on the ocean, just back across the little bridge is pretty good.

The coast line after Lincoln City is nothing less than spectacular. Sheer cliffs arise from the churning waters of the Pacific, and every second bay is called something like “Devil’s Punch Bowl” or “Devil’s Churn”.  It was along this stretch that Jill and I decided that we preferred the long sandy type beaches to the suck-your-child-from-the-rocks type beaches.  Despite the latter being more pleasing to the eye.

The destination for the night was Jessie M. Honeyman state park, but when we arrived, we learned that it was a 2.5 mile walk to the water!  So we doubled back through Florence to the Alder Dunes Campground, only to discover that it was a 2.5 mile walk to the water.  Apparently, this is not a good place to be if you want to get to the ocean.

The site we ended up at was relatively rustic, no power or water at the site.  There wasn’t even any firewood available.  However, when I asked the park ranger for firewood, and he let me down, I pressed my advantage and got him to let me use his power outlet to plug in the rice cooker that we brought along.  Oh, what wussy campers we have become!

Somehow, Jill and I went through 1 650 ml bottle of craft beer and 2 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, forcing us to drink the remainder of Mother’s Yellow Tail Riesling.  Clearly we need at least 3 bottles of wine on had at any given time.  Lesson learned.  Tomorrow  we will stock up at Safeway so this never happens again.

As I finish this post, it is 9pm and while Ru-chan is snoring softly, Miwa is still wide awake.  They have both been up late since we started this trip, perhaps this is a contributing factor in the higher than normal ethanol intake?  Coping mechanism anyone?

Day 4

An oddity occured today, we were up before my parents!  We had breakfast done and were cleaning up camp by 8, and actually rolled out of the campsite by 8:30 or so.  However, we weren’t intending to go far, and we just made a brief stop in Florence for food and gas ($2.079/ gal which translates to about $0.65 canadian per litre) before heading to the nearest beach.

The beach was on the far side of a massive sand dune, and we had it to ourselves for miles in each direction.  We didn’t see anyone else at all.  The girls had great fun playing in a driftwood fort.

cali6 cali7 Cali8 cali9 cali10 cali11 cali12
We then went a bit further to a beach in the river estuary where some seals were playing, and once again the girls had a great time playing on the beach.

We didn’t get back to highway 101 until noon, so our travel day had a pretty late start.

The highway south of Florence tended to dramatic cliff hugging curves with spectacular views of waves pounding the rocky shores. We made frequent stops to admire the view.

However, such spectacle is exhausting, so by 3:30, we were looking for the next stop, even though we were an hour and a half short of our intended waypoint.  We pulled into Harris Beach State Campground and received a karmic balance for our poor success with the camping last night.  The view from our site was amazing, and the playground was a huge hit.

We finished off the evening with dinner by the campfire followed by some singing and a successful Jiffy-Pop.

Definitely the best campsite to date.



The view from the Trillium door!Cali14

Typical girls!

Day 5

Today kicked off with an amazing sunrise followed by a walk down to the beach.  Definitely of the suck-your-child-to-death style of beach.  Lots of rocks and narrow sand beaches.  Very nice to look at though and the sand was deep enough to bury Ru-chan’s poo.


(Jill also climbed this, got to about where Ben is and realised that it was not a good idea then slowly scrabbled back down while holding on for dear life.  Jill is scared of heights…..)

We took turns packing up and supervising at the playground and were on the road by 10am.  The coastline was once again a winding road alternating between inland forest stretches and rocky sea cliffs.

On one of the inland stretches we passed the worst runaway lane ever.  It ran directly parallel to the highway, right up to the point where the highway had a bridge over a steep gully, and the runaway lane didn’t…  I guess the last thought of the poor soul who had to take that lane would probably be, “Seriously?”

The next runaway lane was much more reasonable with an nice up hill section after it left the highway.

For lunch we aimed to visit the town of Trinidad.  We accidentally got off the highway 3 exits too early, but that was okay as the road wound along the coast and had some very nice views.  After 1300km of travel, I figured I had a handle on what to expect when I saw a “Rough road ahead” sign.  Generally not much, but on this case, it was actually an understatement.  After hitting the “rough” patch at about 30MPH vs the advised 20, I actually had to come to a complete stop before everyone stopped screaming.

The town of Trinidad seemed quite nice; a grocery store, gas station and a couple of cafes.  Also, it had a bit of a harbor.  It consisted of a pier and about 20 boats moored to buoys.  There was still a lot of swell though, and watching the boats heave and roll made us all a little queasy.

Jill’s highlight of the day was when she was asked for her ID to buy some wine at the grocery store, she hasn’t been ID’d since her 30th!  I just wish she’d asked how old the cashier thought she looked, since the cashier looked a little taken aback when she saw the birthdate.  She must have thought Jill was under 21 at least. Lucky me!

After Trinidad, the highway headed inland to the redwood forest and the temperature dropped from 17 down to 11.

Along the highway, the forest didn’t seem all that impressive, not even as nice as Cathedral Grove.  It wasn’t until we called it a day and pulled off the highway for Burlington Campground in Humbolt State Park that the forest became impressive.  Then the trees crowded the road, and I had to drive over the centre line a couple times for fear of the Trillium hitting a trunk.

The campsite was dim and cool, and not dissimilar from many sites along Vancouver Island except for the Large trees across the road. We bought a bundle of firewood for $8, and I did the math on price per cord; $1365.  I should ditch this engineering crap and start selling wood in California.

We let the girls have 4 marshmallows each, then locked them in the Trillium and watched them bounce off the walls while we sipped wine around the fire.  The bed was a disaster when we came in, but it was fun to watch and listen to them dance and sing “Starships” by Nicki Minaj.

Day 6

After a breakfast of delicious thick sliced bacon and scrambled eggs, we went for a walk around the “Nature Trail” at the campground.  There were some very large trees, but for me the “highlight” was the lost camera lens cap.  I noticed the cap was missing at the far end of the loop, and ran all the way back to the beginning of the loop looking for it.

I finally found it, and ran to catch up with everyone else, but buy the time I caught up, they were back to the beginning of the loop!

The drive from the campsite to our next stop (soon to be revealed) was un-remarkable except for the general steepness of the grade.

Our next stop was the world famous Chandelier Tree.  More popularly known as the place where you can drive through the middle of a tree.
The hole in the tree would not admit a Trillium, so we couldn’t drive through.  In fact, I figure only about 20% of cars would fit. It is a pretty small hole.

We then headed west, and shortly after pulling out, we saw a sign that said. “Narrow winding road, next 22 miles.

Boy, was that an understatement.  I don’t think I got above 2nd gear for the next hour.  It was a very slow, tortuous progress towards the coast.

Once we got to the coast though, it was some of the most spectacular scenery to date.  Cliffs and ocean and ranch land blended in a near perfect ratio.  There was also the most insane set of switchbacks ever.  Seriously.  I was in first gear for most of it, and hoping to whatever power might hear my plea that I not stall out on a corner.

cali20 Cali21 cali22 cali23
Lunch proved an elusive endeavour as the town we planned to have lunch in was closed for the season.  We had to go to Fort Bragg before we found a restaurant, and had our first taste of Mexican food.  I hope to have much more before the trip is done.

Sadly, Ru-chan’s portion of lunch came back up about a half hour later on a twisty, windy section.  The campsites were few and far between, and we didn’t pay enough attention to her pleas to stop. So she puked allover herself and her seat.  She was fine shortly thereafter, but the car has the acrid smell of vomit lingering on the edge of perception.

After Ru reminded us of the 3 pm quitting time, we elected to pull into the next available camp ground.  It was actually an Nice-ish campground, and would have had a lovely view of the ocean, if there hadn’t been so much mist.  We did take a drive down to the ocean, but it was so dramatic, we didn’t want the girls within a kilometer of it.

We had a pleasant dinner and ghost stories around the fire.  The kids went to sleep  with minimal fuss, and Jill and I opened up the 3rd bottle of wine.

Day 7

Since there was nothing worth staying for at the campsite, we tried a different approach today and had a small breakfast early, then hit the road.  As soon as we started the car, something sounded wrong, so I crawled under the car and sure enough, a part of the exhaust system had broken completely.  The car was way too loud for the rest of the day.

Once again the road was insane.  More ranch land than yesterday, lots of cows very close to the road, and no fences between in many cases!  Just what the road needed, one more hazard.

We stopped to fill up for gas, but the station didn’t have diesel, so my parents went on to the next station.  Unfortunately, the next station turned out to be past the next fork in the road, and my parents took the wrong fork.  We didn’t figure this out for quite some time, as there wasn’t any stations with diesel, or any cell service for about an hour.  Rather, I should say, we didn’t confirm it, for as soon as we made the turn, I said, “I bet my parents took the other road.”

The first wrong turn was on the beginning of their woes though. They ended up in the wrong lane on the Golden Gate, and thus ended up in downtown San Francisco.  Every turn they made just led to a worse situation.  Eventually, they stopped up traffic in a major intersection and were escorted out of town by the police to restore order.

Our day was much more civilized.  Highway 1 wound through some more ranch land, and then along the shore of an inlet.  We ended up having lunch on an amazing beach (Stinson Beach) just before the road headed into the mountains (more slow winding roads that were built in an age when life was less dear) on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate was big, but really, when you are on it, it isn’t much to look at, and we were not interested in taking another narrow winding road just to look at a bridge at this point.  We just took the most direct route through and out of town.

All of the view points and pull outs were packed.  I guess it is a long weekend down here and everyone is trying to get out of town.

My parents were well ahead at this point, so they located the “campground” for the evening.  It is a typical RV park, everyone is jammed in close together.  More like a parking lot really.

cali24 cali25 cali26 cali27