The brink of the Baja

12 12 2013

Gazing out at yet another mesmerizing Pacific sunset, going down at Ocean Beach in San Diego, not only does this moment mark another 360 degree rotation of the Earth’s axis, but also the ending of a chapter, the first chapter of our journey. It’s been 6 weeks since we left, and according to Joni’s odometer, it’s been about 7,000 km since we left Vancouver. We’ve travelled through Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and California, approximately following this route.

We’ve enjoyed the Columbia Gorge, steamy hot springs, the Oregon coast, the majestic Redwoods (especially Fern Canyon), the streets and street cars of San Francisco, connecting with faces new and old in Big Sur, countless flights of beer, the farm folk of Ojai, the geological wonders and magnificent panoramas of Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, the bright lights of Vegas, the desert winds of the Mojave, new friends and bouldering in Joshua Tree, the saving grace of nice people of Slab City and now the sunshine of San Diego.

Sadly, our trio has now became a duo as Jenelle flew back to family and frigid temperatures in Ontario. Nonetheless, our journey continues and a new chapter begins as we enter new land – Mexico! But before getting to that, we’ll take a brief pause here to slap on some new brake pads, do laundry, mail our Christmas letters, and show you a few snaps from the past 7,000 kilometres.

Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park - the backdrop to the Jurassic Park films. Thanks for sending us this way, Shandel!

Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park – the backdrop to the Jurassic Park films. Thanks for sending us this way, Shandel!

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A bearded forest creature we encountered in Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

A bearded forest creature we encountered in Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Don is the best trolley driver in San Fran!

Don is the best trolley driver in San Fran!

Frolicking by the seaside in Santa Barbara

Frolicking by the seaside in Santa Barbara

 

Enjoying a flight of Figueroa Mountain brew. Notice Firehall product placement!

Enjoying a flight of Figueroa Mountain brew. Notice Firehall product placement!

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park

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Where's Westy?

Where’s Westy?

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Stirring up the dust

Stirring up the dust

Atop Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley NP

Atop Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley NP

The most stunning sunset I've ever seen at Dante's View, Death Valley

The most stunning sunset I’ve ever seen at Dante’s View, Death Valley

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Soaring into the Grand Canyon at Ooh Aah Point

Soaring into the Grand Canyon at Ooh Aah Point

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The deserted Mojave Desert

The deserted Mojave Desert

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

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Salvation Mountain (as you might recall from "Into the Wild")

Salvation Mountain (as you might recall from “Into the Wild”)

Our attempt to summit Salvation Mountain failed, or rather, it succeeded but not without getting stuck on top. The chains were worth a try, but weren't enough. Thanks to the Slab City folks for the tug.

Our attempt to summit Salvation Mountain failed, or rather, it succeeded but not without getting stuck on top. The chains were worth a try, but they weren’t enough. Shovel neither.

But thanks to the pleasant and friendly residents of Slab City for the gentle tug, we were eventually able to get off the top of Salvation Moutain and continue down the road and to the coast. Better go enjoy the sand and sunshine before the Earth makes another rotation!

Why don’t we drive through the night,
And we’ll wake up down in Mexico…

 





Updated route

24 11 2013

Here’s the latest of our route map. We’ve now landed in Ojai, California where we hope to find some farm work to get our hands dirty and make our hearts happy!





Joni’s staples

24 11 2013

Oh, good golly. I can’t believe we’ve been on the road for over three weeks already. We’ve seen and done so much, it’s hard to know where to begin. Our Vanagon Joni has quickly become home for the three of us. We’re living well – cooking wholesome meals on our double propane burners (plenty of oats, quinoa, rice and veggies, carrots, apples, and about a jar of peanut butter every few days…we’re trying to cut back!), singing lots (to our wide-ranging collection of tunes as well as making up our own diddies), exploring the new and changing landscapes, and of course, giggling and laughing (the deep in the belly kind).

In addition to peanut butter, we also have a few other van staples:

  1. The sombrero. I acquired this sombrero at the merch tent at the Ponderosa Music Fest in Rock Creek for a mere $3. In a van that doubles as your home, space is highly valuable, so Olivia rationally pointed out that maybe the sombrero wasn’t the most practical of items. As a result, it was determined that I would have to prove its importance and the 30-day sombrero challenge was born. Originally, the rules were that I would have to wear the sombrero for at least an hour every day for 30 days. Luckily, these rules haven’t been strictly enforced. Nonetheless, the sombrero is not squished into a corner of the van and it makes regular appearances. It goes without saying that we all recognize its significance to our journey and I won’t be forced to give it up.

    Liv & I on our morning stroll to North Head Lighthouse in Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington (just before we crossed the Astoria bridge into Oregon)

    The sombrero makes an appearance on our morning stroll in Cape Disappointment State Park in southern Washington (just before crossing the Astoria bridge into Oregon)

  2. The Firehall Brewery growler. The best of memorabilia from my time working at the Firehall this summer. Now that I’m too far from the Oakanagan to refill it with Stoked Ember or Holy Smoke Stout, my growler is experiencing new brews. And luckily, the Pacific Northwest is renowned for its craft beer, so our trip has also been a bit of a rendezvous of breweries – Elysian (Seattle), Pints (Portland), Deschutes (Bend, OR), Eel River – the first certified organic brewery in the US (Fortuna, CA), Rogue Ales (based in Newport, OR but we visited the pub in San Fran) and most recently, Figueroa Mountain (Santa Barbara, CA). In Seattle, I picked up a nifty beer tasting notebook complete with a flavour wheel to complete for each beer, as well as room for all the stats (ABV, IBU, OG, TG, etc.).
    An impressive 12-sample flight of organic brews at Eel River Brewing

    An impressive 12-sample flight of organic brews at Eel River Brewing

    Jenelle's flight (with a free 7th sample of our server's choice) at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR

    Jenelle’s flight (with a free 7th sample of our server’s favourite) at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR

  3. The musical instruments – a ukelele (Duke the Uke), a harmonica, a melodica, a couple of kazoos, spoons and just about anything else we can find.
  4. Dino. Handmade, fleece, pink and complete with a head and tail. I accumulated this cozy dinosaur costume for a mere $3 from the thrift store in Oliver. No regrets! It has kept me warm many a chilly nights while still in BC as well as interior Oregon. It has also facilitated many laughs.

    Dino and Joni Estevanagon somewhere in Oregon

    Dino and Joni Estevanagon somewhere in Oregon

  5. The Kodak Funsaver. Despite the plethora of camera technology ranging from ultra high quality digital cameras to super convenient phone cameras, nothing quite beats the fun of a disposable film camera, not to mention the anticipation as you wait until the roll of film is finished and developed before seeing the photos. So, of course, we have one of these to try to save some of the fun.
  6. 20W50 motor oil. Quite possibly most important of all. While we’re sipping on craft beers, Joni’s drink of choice is some high grade oil. Originally, we were using a lower grade, but found she wasn’t running so smoothly. Upon consultation with a VW mechanic in Cambria, CA, we were recommended a switch. I’ve just bought a 5-quart jug, so hopefully it will quench Joni’s thirst and keep her running smoothly.

Here’s a few other photos from the Washington and Oregon leg of our journey that might offer the essence of van life…

Striking a pose in Squamish Valley, post-breakfast at Fergie's and pre-departure from Squamish

Striking a pose in Squamish Valley, post-breakfast at Fergie’s and pre-departure from Squamish

Enjoying a picnic in the park (Volunteer Park, Seattle)

Found this cute, elderly couple having a picnic in the park

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Cheese samples, ice cream and a VW "Baby Loaf" to boot at the Tillamook Cheese Factory

Cheese samples, ice cream and a VW “Baby Loaf” made us very happy about our stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory in northern OR

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Sipping on one fine cocktail at the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland. Notice the shelves of whiskey and library ladders in the background!

Sipping on a fine cocktail at the Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland. Notice the shelves of whiskey and library ladders in the background!

A disgustingly delicous donut with chocolate icing, Oreo crumbs and peanut butter drizzle at Voodoo Donuts in Portland

A disgustingly delicous donut with chocolate icing, Oreo crumbs and peanut butter drizzle at Voodoo Donuts in Portland

Overlooking the Colombia River Gorge just west of Multnomah Falls

Overlooking the Colombia River Gorge just west of Multnomah Falls

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On the road again

30 05 2012

My time on the farm has sadly come to an end. I definitely have more to say about my experience there, which will come at a later date. For now, I am going to practice being “present” and update you on my new adventure…my motorcycle trip down the coast to northern California, then east, all the way back to home sweet home in Ontario. The first leg of the journey is down the coast, camping and couchsurfing along the way. Then, I’ll head east around Sacramento, where I plan to

take a day or two and visit a friend. After that, a few longer days across the dessert (Nevada and Utah), then by mid-next week, I’ll meet my dad and a Wiarton gang in Colorado and we’ll make the rest of the journey together. Until then though, I’m more or less on my own. That’s alright though. As much as I love community and think life without people would be meaningless, I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf at heart. Also, I find that I meet more people when traveling on my own too.

Waiting to board the early morning ferry in Fulford Harbour

I’ve just finished my third day on the road, and I’m now landed just across the California state line in Crescent City. Monday morning I left the farm on Salt Spring, first taking the ferry from Fulford to Swartz Bay, then going to Victoria and jumping on another boat across to Port Angeles, Washington. After a moderate degree of interrogation from the border patrol, I was welcomed into the great U.S. of A.! My first brief stop was the Olympic National Park visitor center, right in Port Angeles, then down the highway. I drove as far as Olympia, with a beautiful side trip off the highway to Port Townsend. I also stopped at a cool nursery in Brinnon for the free wi-fi. A combination I never would have predicted. Despite there being more clearcuts than what would be ideal, it was a lovely drive through some majestic forest and a bit of coast. I landed in Olympia around 5 pm and met up with my first couchsurfing host of the trip, Teddy. Even though I didn’t go that far, my first day of riding kinda kicked my butt and I was pretty tired.

I headed out of Olympia around 8:30, after a quick stop at McDonald’s for free wi-fi (to load directions on my phone until I find myself a good road atlas) and some milk for my raw oats. On a mission to get my Canadian cash exchanged, I stopped at several banks in hopes of success. It proved a lot more difficult than expected, but eventually found one that would accept my paper funny money and give me some of the cotton/linen variety. I crossed several bridges, but the most remarkable of which was the one between Washington to Oregon into Astoria, which spanned a whole 14 miles!

The Astoria–Megler Bridge, spanning 14 miles across the Columbia River

I also stopped at a beautiful beach at Seaside and had a heavenly nap in the warm sand. Cannon Beach was another highlight and I wish I could have stayed their longer!

A perfect spot of a siesta in Seaside, Oregon

A perfect spot of a siesta in Seaside, Oregon

I finally landed in Newport close to 8 PM, once again pretty tired from a long day. I maybe diddle daddled a bit too much in Seaside which made for a more exhausting final stretch. However, in this final stretch I did fit in a stop at the cheese factory in Tillamook and sampled some cheese, toured the factory and treated myself to some German Chocolate Cake ice cream. When I arrived in Newport, it was like arriving to a little piece of heaven, just a block from the beach. The warm shower was divine, then I chatted with my host for an hour or so over some nice wine and some delicious fritters she had made. Then off to bed (not couch!) in a room of my own! It felt like I was staying in a quaint little B & B, but for free!

Hitting the jackpot with a luxury “couch” in Newport

This morning I got a bit of an earlier start, or at least felt more organized when I left. I continued south on the beautiful Hwy 101. My first stop was for coffee about 25 miles down the road at a place called the Green Salmon. It was really good and was just the kind of start I needed. They also had a cute little used book exchange. What a great idea! You could buy a book for $4 or exchange one for $2. I was tempted, but restrained myself, after all I already have a handful of books loaded in my saddlebags. Aside from gas, my next memorable stop was at the farmers’ market in Coos Bay where I had my first strawberries (other than the handful I had at Foxglove before I left) and had a nice chat with a man at the master gardeners booth where they offer free gardening advice – another great idea! A few more miles down the road (with plenty of singing, and even making up a few songs of my own!) and I stopped at McDonald’s for wi-fi to check in with my host and a Reese McFlurry. While I was sitting outside on my phone, a man drove up next to me and called me over. I went over and he handed me a wad of bills. He said, “I don’t know why, but I feel I should give you something. I hope this gets you a few more miles down the road.” After he left, I counted it and the bills totaled $51. Wow! That’s over two days worth of gas! And now, here I am in Crescent City, California! It feels great to be in California, but I must admit that the Oregon Coast is absolutely stunning and doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves! I can’t believe I had contemplated skipping the coast and going through Portland instead. My only problem is trying to look to the beautiful scenery while also watching the road!

Despite my best efforts at regular sunscreen re-application, I can feel the warmth of my sunkissed cheeks. I can also feel the slight ache in my lower back that is calling out for more yoga. But more on the pains and pleasures of motorcycling later. For now, I’m just living the dream. So, please don’t wake me up!