Jeff lived in the Bay Area in the 70’s. He moved there around the fifth grade (he went to school in Mountain View) and on our trip he had planned to show us some special places from his past. When we got to Santa Clara, though, he was in for a surprise. It had changed so much since he had last been there and he could hardly believe his eyes. He expected it to be different, but it didn’t even look like the same place. I had been warned about the traffic in San Francisco before we drove down, and we had hoped to avoid it as much as possible, though I didn’t know what to expect because I had never been there before. I thought on the “outskirts” the traffic wouldn’t be so bad (?), but the traffic… yikes!
We met wonderful people at Stitches West and it was fun making new connections. The traffic, however, was the downside of the trip for us. Though I had no vehicle when I lived in Portland and either walked wherever I needed to go or took public transportation, I later drove through the city on trips. And I’ve driven in Seattle before. So Portland and Seattle were my experiences with city traffic. I’m not a fan of city traffic and I found it frustrating to be at a constant standstill, and to have traffic all times of day (not even being able to avoid it when it wasn’t rush hour.) But the traffic we experienced when we went on our most recent trip in the Bay Area was something else altogether.
Cars were driving at insane speeds, then stopping suddenly, tailgating to a dangerous degree, cutting people off, not letting cars in, and swerving in and out like madmen. The hotel where we stayed was not all that far from the convention center where Stitches West was held (only a short trip on the interstate, three quick exits down), but going back and forth each day was terrifying. I think the most disturbing part of the traffic for us was the intensity of the angry, aggressive driving. I know some people reading this will say… Hello! Welcome to city traffic! But for those like us who are not used to it, it was unlike anything we’d ever experienced before.
By the time we would get to the show each morning or make it back to our hotel at night, our nerves were fried from the short commute and we would ask each other “How do people drive in this and keep their sanity?!” Jeff said it would have been easier for him if he had been the only one in the car, but since he was driving with his family in the car and had us to protect, driving around there was stressful to the utmost degree. He saved us from far too many near collisions in the short amount of time that we were down there. Later he joked that the only way he would drive around there again was if we had some impervious tank to drive in that couldn’t be smashed by reckless vehicles whirring past at insane speeds. (I teased him that when we got back home he wouldn’t complain about the drivers where we live anymore.)
Needless to say, Jeff didn’t take us on a drive down memory lane because we all desperately wanted to get away from that traffic as soon as the show was done. We were all disappointed that we didn’t get to go to his old stomping grounds, but the way things had changed we weren’t sure if they would still be there at all. I have never been to San Francisco before and would like to see the city sometime (perhaps flying in, walking everywhere, and taking public transportation?), but we didn’t do any sightseeing in the area while we were down there, so all I saw was concrete and highway from our trips back and forth from the hotel to the convention center and back.
All that being said, since we didn’t get to explore that area (and we were in great need of soothing our fried nerves), we wanted to make our trip back fun and relaxing, and see beautiful parts of California at the same time. We were ready to get home, but wanted to enjoy the journey on our return trip. We decided to drive back on 101, the coastal route, rather than I-5 that we had driven down on. On the Monday morning we headed out (after packing up our booth at the show on Sunday night), our first plan of action was to get away from the city traffic as soon as possible. Then we took a road just south of Napa and Sonoma. The farther we got from the traffic, the more relaxed we felt. I had never seen that area before and have heard so many good things. Even though we didn’t get to see the actual towns of Napa and Sonoma (I want to go back and explore there someday), I did get a feel for the area by seeing rolling hills covered in grapes. It was beautiful.
We hadn’t seen a bathroom in awhile and finally pulled over at the Schellville Grill. We also needed to find a gas station and get our bearings on our directions. We were all happy that we ended up there by accident because Jeff got some organic smoked meat and they had one of Bracken’s favorite things on the menu (sweet potato fries.) Their garlic fries were covered in fresh pressed garlic (yum!) and I helped Jeff eat some of his because I knew he would have a hard time eating them all. (Ha!)
We planned to break the drive up into two days and stay overnight the first evening in Arcata, but it was getting dark and we needed some dinner. We ended up stopping in Garberville and staying there. The only thing was I didn’t realize how small of a town it was and most of the restaurants were closed, there was hardly anything open that night. We ended up going to the grocery store and then having a picnic in our motel room. The room was freezing and I wasn’t feeling in very high spirits (I wanted to go out to eat to a warm meal and go to bed.) Jeff worked at making a gourmet picnic and was all smiles, and I joked “So I guess you are going to make the best of the situation, then?” I felt better when the room warmed up and I ate some food.
The next morning we found a gem of a restaurant before we hit the road. The Lost French Man had some seriously delicious food, using all organic fruits and vegetables. My body feels really good on a grain-free diet and I hadn’t had bread in a long time, but Jeff and I both ordered their breakfast sandwich (BEAT- bacon, egg, arugula, and tomato) on gluten-free bread, and were very glad we did. It was so good. Their smoothies and fresh juice blends were amazing too. (This is a very small sampling of their menu. It’s a restaurant I would definitely recommend visiting if you’re in the area.)
Jeff pointed out eucalyptus trees along the drive. The smell is one of his favorites and brings him right back to his memories living in California with eucalyptus trees growing all around. We saw a whole herd of elk on the side of the road (at Elk Country) so we pulled over and drove slowly by. (All the pictures were taken from inside the car and it was a delight to get to see them so close.) That was a fun and unexpected part of our drive back. We saw huge, magnificent redwood trees. (Though I hardly got any pictures of those.) And then… then we were back in Oregon and we kept our promise to Bracken, which was to stop by the beach on the way home. We found perfect little white pebbles, and other little treasures, and felt the glorious wind on our faces. It felt good to get out and stretch after sitting in the car for far too long. The coastal drive was a longer drive, but it was more relaxing for us.
That California sunshine felt so warm and good (and we saw such beautiful places), but I must say that we were all very glad to be back in Oregon, even when the sunshine left and the clouds came as we drove north along the coast. It seems every time we leave, we appreciate coming home to Oregon even more. It sure feels good to be home, doesn’t it?