Friday, May 27, 2016

Up the West Coast

Highway 101, just North of the California/Oregon border
With the exception of San Diego to LA and a small section of the far northern, extra twisty end of California Highway 1, I have driven the entire coast of California, Oregon and Washington at one point or another prior to this trip. However, it's the stretch of US Highway 101 between Crescent City, California and Newport, Oregon that I haven't driven in well over 20 years. As we are currently, slowly making my way up that particular 230 mile stretch of Highway 101, I got to thinking a bit about my past history with this portion of our road trip.

Before I tell you about that trip 20 years ago, I need to go further back in time to my introduction to the road trips. As a child my parents would shuttle me and my brothers most every summer the 1,750 miles from Seattle to Canadian, Texas to visit my grandparents. However, my memories of those childhood trips are mostly of the places we stopped along the way such as any motel with a swimming pool and Hole N' The Rock. It wasn't until college where I truly fell in love with the driving portion of the road trip. Perhaps it started with reading Kerouac's "On the Road" and "The Dharma Bums", then later looking for any road trip I could be a part of, such as one weekend drive from Pullman, Washington to Oakland, California for a Grateful Dead concert that I didn't even have tickets for.
The southern Oregon coast is amazingly beautiful!
However, the trip that really cemented my love for the road trip was the one that was completed over 20 years ago on the last time I drove the stretch of Highway 101 between Crescent City, California and Newport, Oregon. It was after I had graduated from Washington State University and I received what I considered my graduation present from my mother: use of her Texaco gas card. I don't think that use of her gas card was really meant as a graduation present, rather it was a means to allow me to drive to Texas and help out on the family ranch. During that trip I drove all over the Southwest making my way to Texas. When my work finished up in Texas my friend Chris flew down to join me for the drive back home to Seattle. I didn't have a lot of money on that trip, and I remember at times we fed ourselves with burritos purchased at Texaco food marts with my mother's gas card. When we visited Carlsbad Caverns, the $5 admission for the cave tour was paid for with quarters, nickels, and dimes scrounged from the car.

As we reached the West Coast near  Los Angeles we headed North up the Pacific Coast Highway. The windy road did a number on my 1988 Pontiac Grand Prix's breaks. By the time we reached San Francisco I had to take the car in for some expensive break repairs (luckily funded by my parents). The trip had already taken longer than intended and it was time for Chris to return home to Seattle. I said goodbye to Chris as he flew home to Seattle. I was lucky to have my college buddy Kelly offer me a place to stay with him and his brother in Walnut Creek as my car was in the shop over the weekend. It was during that visit that I was provided with my first experience with sushi (I think I had told Kelly I wanted to have a typical California meal). With my car in the shop for the weekend, and nowhere to go or way to get there I was invited to join Kelly for a visit to his parents in Chico, California (home of one of my favorite beers Sierra Nevada).

When the Grand Prix made it out of the shop, I decided it was time to make my final push all the way to Seattle up Highway 101 from San Francisco. I drove most of the nearly 900 miles in a single push driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and on up Highway 101. I made at least one stop in Oregon along the coast to sleep in the car for a few hours before continuing up the coast eventually cutting over to I-5 north of Newport, Oregon, and heading home. This is pretty close to the path we will probably take, but we will take much longer to cover those 900 miles.

I don't think the idea of me and my family being on this 9 month trip was something my mother particularly liked. Maybe it wasn't the road trip so much as having her two of her grand daughters away for so long. However, I think in many ways, she is the one that cemented my love of the road trip by giving me use of that gas card 20 years ago. And thank you mom for never making me pay you back for those many hundreds of miles of gas you bought for me.  I truly love road trips, and with this trip I don't think I've fully become the "King of the Road Trip", but perhaps a Duke or something.

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