Back to California (Aug 9 2016)


Wow. I slept surprisingly well! Unlike the Walmart parking lot at Clearlake, there were no leaf blowers, no street sweepers. And the rush of traffic on the I-5 is such soothing white noise.

From Grants Pass, it is Highway 199 to the coast, going through the Siskiyou National Forest, then the Smith National Forest. When we were on this road last year, there was no agricultural inspection at the border but today there is.

There is a lot more traffic – cars, RVs and motorcycles. And more sunshine!

Back on 101 to Cresent City, where we stop for some lunch at a Mexican place (most authentic chile rellenos this side of the border!) then, another stop at Kamp Klamath, at the mouth of the Klamath River. Aaron who we met in Baja runs the camp here but he was away in Medford so we just had a peek inside.


Could not resist taking a shot of the birds nesting in the eaves of the camp office.

The Newton B. Drury Parkway is a 9-mile road through Prairie Creek Redwood State Park and just as magical as the Avenue of the Giants. Unfortunately, the park was packed and we couldn’t stop by the visitor’s center for lack of parking.

“Man, there was a time when no one came out here,” Big Dog whines. “Too many people!”

There is camping here and trails to Gold Bluff Beach as well as Fern Canyon. We’ll have to come back during the off-season.

StoneLagoon1It’s so unusual to have such nice weather at the coast in the summer and it makes us stop at Stone Lagoon but it is too windy for kayaking. And just when I am wondering where the elk are this time of year, there is a wild herd in a meadow south of Orick.

From there, it is a short distance to Arcata and the end of this roadtrip, but Bailey is not getting out of Sprockets.

“More! I want more!” she pleads. Yes, we will have more. Many, many more.


Dunes and Dairy Farms (Aug 4 2016)


In the morning, after coffee, we take a walk up a trail to the dunes. I wanted to see the dunes up close and with the unpredictable weather, who knew what we’d see from the overlook. A short trail takes you right into the silky dunes. Unlike the dunes at Death Valley, these flow right out of the woods. There are also evergreens growing in patches inside the dunes here and there. The dunes are tall and soft and Bailey jumps around with excitement. It would have been fun to have had a sled to go down the steep dunes!

OregonDunes2OregonDunes3OregonDunes10It’s close to noon when we leave camp, passing more creeks, lakes and other watery things. The Umpqua River empties into Winchester Bay, home to the Umpqua Lighthouse (which we blow off, since it is very foggy right at the coast). The Umpqua River Bridge is another McCullough bridge and a “swing-span” bridge.

SiuslawRiverBridge2Our first stop is Florence, a pretty tourist town along the Siuslaw River. (Another McCullough bridge going across it!) Old Town is along the river, with shops and restaurants, many on the waterfront.


There aren’t a whole lot of legal pot shops in Oregon but every town, no matter how small, seems to have at least one. The other thing that is unique is that at gas stations they have to pump your gas, by law, and prices are a lot less than California (maybe because there is no sales tax?) In Florence, we stop at one gas station with inexpensive diesel but it is bio diesel and the attendant isn’t sure if it’s okay for our rig (we think so) and tells us to go up the street for #2 diesel. (There is also something called PUC diesel but apparently that’s only for commercial vehicles.)

We need to stop for lunch and turn off to the Darlingtonia State Wayside. It’s a lushly wooded area with boardwalks going over a mass of Darlingtonias. These are alien-shaped carnivorous plants, also known as cobra lilies. They’re probably great for bug control!

Darlingtonia2Darlingtonia4Speaking of plants, this part of the coast must be good flower growing land because there are many floral farms and honor stands with bouquets along the road.

AlseaBayBridge2Alsea Bay in Waldport has another big bridge but this one was a new bridge built in 1991. The old one was a Conde McCullough bridge, built in 1936, and it was the first and only large coastal bridge designed by him to be replaced. At the south end is the Alsea Bridge Interpretive Center — we had to poke our heads in to see the historical displays and bridge miniatures.

We just drive by Yaquina, Newport, Nye Beach, Agate Beach and other tourist spots. The weather just doesn’t make us want to stop. Unlike Cape Foulweather. How can you resist a place with a name like that! Apparently, Captain Cook stopped here when winds were 100mph. Today, it is just mostly fogged in.

Crossing more McCullough bridges — Rocky Creek Bridge, Depoe Bay Bridge — we drive through the town of Depoe Bay with the world’s smallest navigable harbor, then through Lincoln City, another congested town, then through the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and North Pole. We keep rolling right through Neskowin and Beaver (“Wouldn’t it be terrible if your family name was Beaver and they named you Harry?”) to Munson Creek Falls. A short drive down a dirt road takes you to the trailhead. From there, it’s about a quarter mile walk through Sitka spruce and Western red cedar to the highest waterfall on the coast, at 319 feet. It’s a pretty waterfall, in a jungly little canyon.


We were way hungry by now and couldn’t wait to get to Tillamook for some food! Once there (an old-timey logging town feel) we find the Pelican Brewery at the north end of town and go in for beers and food. The beers are good and so is the food – we have the smoked oyster roll and a cup of clam chowder – but the service needs some tweeking.

Breweries are big in Oregon. This state has the most craft breweries per capita; Portland has more than any other city; there are more than 194 brewing companies in 72 towns.

Just out of town is the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It’s a large touristy place, with throngs all sampling their cheeses (again, cheddar and jack only, plus curds) We taste everything and buy another bag of curds. We’re really getting into them!

I thought the Tillamook people were one company but it seems like it’s a dairy association, like Humboldt Creamery used to be. Out here, almost every farmer is a dairy farmer and there are plenty of happy black and white dairy cows.

TillamookAirMuseum2Now it was really getting late. A few miles ahead, I spot a sign for a county park — the Kilchis River County Campground.

It’s a nice county park on the Kilchis River with several camp sites but when we find out that they want nearly $40 for the night, we bail. There’s a turnout on the road not too far away, so we just park there for the night. No one disturbs us, it’s quiet with hardly any traffic and we have plenty of privacy in the dark.

Up the Oregon Coast (Aug 3 2016)

SouthernOregonCoastWe just got to Arcata a few days ago but Big Dog wants to go on a mini-roadtrip already! He’s a restless sleeper, but maybe he’s just restless, period.

We mull the idea of going inland to Whiskeytown and Lassen, but it’s probably way too hot now, so we decide to head north on 101 for a while.

It’s overcast as we leave Arcata and the traffic is heavier with all the roadwork going on. Not to mention the summer travelers. The Trees of Mystery roadside attraction near Crescent City has throngs of visitors.

Beyond Crescent City, it is new road for me and Sprockets. Just beyond it is the Oregon border, but even before we make it to the border, we see our first billboard for a legal pot place. It’s called High Tides.

“Wonder if there’ll be tons of Big Box Pot Shops?”

“With names like Dave’s Doobtown, Stoneyland, Mary Jane’s Little Shop of Budz, Canna Emporium…”

Highway 101 as it goes along the 363-mile coast of Oregon is the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway and was designated as an “All-American Road” in 2002.

There’s a Visitor Center just beyond the border where we stop to get a bunch of maps and info. Bailey can’t go into the building but Oregon is a pretty dog-friendly state and even here, they have set out water bowls for the mutts.

We have to wait to get back on 101 – there’s a convoy of firetrucks, EMT vehicles and police cars, all flashing lights. It’s a parade of sorts. When the official vehicles pass by, we get into the line of regular cars but a big truck in front of us pulls into the left lane, so we do too and slowly drive parallel to the official vehicles. We weren’t supposed to! Now, we have to move back in – right into the parade! Crazy.

They all turn off at a memorial park just before the town of Brookings – Harbor where we stop for a bite.

Our first stop after lunch is just before the Thomas Creek Bridge, said to be the highest one in Oregon, crossing 345 feet above the creek. I read that there is a viewpoint south of the bridge so we stop there but trees block everything and there doesn’t seem to be a path to anything. Strike out.

Whalerock2The Samuel Boardman State Park runs 12 miles of coastline and there are little turnouts where you can see interesting natural features. It’s cold and windy and off-and-on foggy. The rocky coast doesn’t feel too different from parts of Northern California. From Whaleshead Trailhead you can see an island that looks like a whale. We also get to see Natural Bridges Cove and Arch Rock.

Many rivers come out to the Pacific on the Oregon coast, so there are just as many bridges. One of the famous bridge designers was a man named Conde McCullough and we come to the first one of his bridges at Gold Beach, where the Rogue River empties into the ocean. This is the I.L. Patterson Memorial Bridge, the first in the US to be built with prestressed concrete.


Port Orford is the oldest town on the Oregon coast (est. 1851) and a fishing village with no harbor. Vessels are hoisted from the water!


There are also many, many lighthouses on the coast, probably because so much of it is rocky and maybe also because up here, the seas tend to be rougher. But with the crappy weather, we did not spend any time either driving to the lighthouses or looking at them.

We do drive into Bandon Old Town, another rustic seaside town, stopping by the Face Rock Creamery. Like the Loleta Cheese Factory in Humboldt, you can taste many samples of their cheddar and jack cheeses. Some were quite tasty but we wound up buying a bag of cheese curds and a bright red wax-encased summer sausage. Should be good road food.

Coos Bay/North Bend is a bustling little city, with another McCullough bridge: the Conde McCullough Memorial Bridge that spans the Bay. It was the longest bridge along the coast when it was built in 1936.

CondeMcCulloughMemorialBridge2The Oregon Dunes, a huge 40-mile National Recreation Area, starts after Coos Bay and you see a bunch of ATV rental places as you approach the Dunes. We pull into the Elk Creek Campground that butts up against the dunes and leads to the John Dellenback Dunes Trail. There’s a nice open area with empty sites around for us. Most of the campers were on the dunes side, in the forested areas and there were several big families so it was good that we were off on our own.

Bailey, free from her leash at last, runs around and claims the spot as ours, growling at other people and dogs walking by.

“No trespassing! No Trespassing!”


Back Behind the Redwood Curtain (July 30 2016)

After a furious Fruit Season at the ranch, we are heading back up the coast to Arcata. We don’t know where we will spend the night but it’s unlikely we will get all the way up there today.

A wildfire’s been blazing near Big Sur and we start to smell smoke as we approach the Salinas Valley. It thickens near King City and by Gilroy it is dense (and fighting with Big Time Garlic Smells – is the Garlic Festival going on right now?) and remains until we get through San Jose. We’re on Highway 280 now.

I always look forward to the statue of Padre Junipero Serra pointing the way, next to the highway near Palo Alto. It’s a terrible rendition and looks as much like Yoda as it does Father Serra.

“Did we pass Yoda yet?”

“No, I think it’s coming up.”

“Was it before or after Yoda House?” That’s the name I’ve given to the strange bubbly stucco house with rounded roofs and organic form. It’s actually more popularly known as the “Flintstone House.”

Yoda House comes first, a beacon of bright orange on the hill. And then, Father Junipero Yoda appears, in his dune-colored glory, his index finger pointing accusingly.

We make “pull my finger” jokes about it each time we pass by. Immature us, we never tire of it.

We should have known better than to be traveling on a weekend because as we enter San Francisco, we find ourselves in the worse congestion ever.

“My god, it’s taking us 2 hours to get from the south end of San Francisco to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge!”

“And look at all those people on the bridge!”

It wasn’t even a very nice day.

Photo from a better (and less congested) day. Suicide Prevention Hotlines abound here.

“Did it just take us an hour to cross the bay?”

The heatwave has not abated and gets hotter and hotter as we go up into Mendocino. Hopland is so sizzling, we just have to stop for a beer.

“Let’s get dinner at Taqueria Maria in Willits!”

Taqueria Maria is a simple Mexican diner with terrific food, as well as groceries and sundries. We found this place last year and it has become our favorite spot for chow. The tacos were as tasty as ever and the tostada with ceviche was still huge and yummmm.

Hunger sated, we power on, cruising through Standish Hickey to see if there are any campsites open (no) and keep going …all the way to Garberville. It’s getting dark.

“I don’t want to drive in the dark,” says Big Dog. “Not through the best part of 101.”

Just outside of town is a quarry. It’s gated and locked and probably won’t be open until Monday so we just park in front of their gate for the night.


Highway 101 – Part 2 (June 12 2016)

dsc07371Big Dog and Bailey pick me up in Berkeley in the late morning and we begin the long haul north. Big Dog is already in a foul mood from getting badly lost on his way to my friend’s house in Berkeley – he’s gotten too used to having his own personal navigator (me) – and the traffic towards the Richmond Bridge is absolutely horrific.

We don’t like this stretch between SF and just beyond Santa Rosa. It’s mostly a blur of fast driving, agitated drivers, agile maneuvering. Every time we make this trip, I am astounded and a bit heartbroken at the development between Salinas and Santa Rosa. New lanes keep appearing on the highway, towns are getting bypassed.

But then, the last strip mall falls behind you and you are back in Rural California. Shopping centers are replaced by rolling hills covered in grapes; pretty little farmhouses take the place of ugly McMansions.

For me, Northern California begins with the first tie-dye village of Hopland, home of Real Goods, the solar people.

Willits is “Gateway to the Redwoods” according to the big sign that greets visitors traveling north, or “Heart of Mendocino County” if you are traveling south. They are 2 sides of the same sign that spans Route 101 now. But not for long. A bypass has been under construction and soon, you will have to get off 101 to drive through the town.

From here north is my favorite part of 101. There’s Richardson’s Grove and the Standish-Hickey State Park with its giant redwoods. And you can’t forget the roadside attractions, either. Confusion Hill (Is Seeing Believing?), the One Tree House, carved inside a real tree (Believe it or not!), the One Log House, the Drive Thru Tree, the Bigfoot souvenir shop.

Route 101 goes through, or by, other tie-dye towns as it snakes along with the Eel River. Garberville, Redway… then the Pacific Lumber Company town of Scotia. Everyone who lives there works for The Company, or services those who do.

As the redwoods open up, there are fields and wetlands and green, green pastures where mom and kid cows munch, lounge and frolic. Then, finally the Eureka/Arcata area, circled by the tallest redwoods, teensy slivers of sandbars and breathtaking wetlands.

dsc06476The Redwood Curtain used to be much thicker and Arcata, a pretty little town of fanciful Victorian architecture, colorful denizens and majestic redwoods, was much more hidden. Today, it seems to be on everyone’s map and the town is filled with out-of-towners.

But some things remain the same.

A few years ago, as we arrived and were driving through downtown Arcata, an old hippie stood in front of our truck at a stop sign and “flew” his glass pipe over the hood of our vehicle like a benediction. Nice to be back!


Highway 101 – Part 1 (June 11 2016)

Sprockets, Big Dog and Tanuki are on the road again, but this time, with Bailey, the Blue-eyed Bitch.

She’s the border collie-terrier mix that adopted us over the past several years and has become my Best Friend. No one knows how it happened but she was living on her own as a street girl for years before Animal Services trapped her. (Bailey was almost too smart for them and it took weeks for them to get her.)

“My mom took one look at her and adopted her, but she was too wild,” explained K, one of our ranch residents. “So she told me to find her a new home.”

Yes. Pretty, but with a serious personality disorder. It was easy for K to find a new home, but once there, Bailey bit her new owner and got sent back. Lucky me.

“We understand each other,” I told K. It takes a bitch to know a bitch.

dsc06269“Are you sure you want to take her to Arcata?” asked Big Dog.

No. I wasn’t sure at all. But as our departure kept getting pushed back, I would lie awake at night stressing about leaving her behind, so at the last minute, we packed up her blanket, toys, collar, leash and food with the rest of our stuff going north.

I was scheduled to attend an anti-nuke gathering in San Francisco and Berkeley, so we left in the morning, going up Highway 41 from the coast to Atascadero, then onto 101 towards San Francisco.

Bailey is good in a vehicle but it was new being in Sprockets and sharing the front seat with me.

“She should be in the back,” Big Dog warned, but The Bitch has a mind of her own and there is no telling her what to do.

Bailey’s “other” favorite seat


Humboldt is where Big Dog went to University, became an adult, had adventures, ran restaurants, made a documentary, started buying real estate, formed a corporation… In other words, roots spread deep and wide. He’s been on this route a million times but in the last decade plus, so have I.

I know all the north-south highways in California like the back of my hand now and used to pride myself in being a damn good cheap gas spotter. Today, thanks to the Gas Buddy app, my talents have become obsolete.

Though Interstate 5 has many attractions (not the least of which is the amazing feedlot in Coalinga), my favorite route is the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and Highway 101. Through the Central Coast region, it is all rolling hills, vineyards, oaks and cattle. Then, the land flattens out into a giant agrarian vista. It’s fun to try to guess what’s growing out there. There’re always different kinds of lettuce. Some tomatoes, beans… and, of course, at Gilroy it’s garlic, garlic, garlic. The AIR smells like garlic. They don’t call it the Garlic Capital of the World for nothing! And as you’re daydreaming about Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley, all too soon you approach the Bay Area.

Traffic is terrible. I thought I had hours to spare, but now it looks like I will get to The City just in time.

Big Dog and Bailey continue across the Bay and on to Orinda to spend the night at his friend’s place. As they roll away, I see Bailey has completely taken over my seat.

Activist friends at Union Square in SF

Welcome to the Jungle (May 29 2015)

nasties14The 2nd leg of the journey went as smoothly as the first, with a brief stop at JW’s office in Eureka to drop off the box of 2-buck chuck for his wife (who had discovered the break-in), then on to Arcata.

The yard had turned into a jungle! With nasturtiums completely taking over the back entry – the path, outside, the walls on both sides of the path, the gate – and I had to hack my way through to get in. The yard was covered in weeds and grass 4 to 5 feet high. Yep. The place sure looked vacant!

But the break-in was really weird. B said there were towels on the floor and dishes in the sink. She washed the towels but I knew one of them was my floor mat. The dishes were in a square tub and she just took them out and brought them back as was but the dishes didn’t look at all dirty. Of course I washed them, but it was almost as if someone had come in, dried off, eaten with our dishes and utensils and then gone away to wash them and bring them back. Very bizarre!