A bit more about where I’ve been for the past few days.
At 11:15am mountain time on the 28th of August, I officially checked off my 50th state when I drove across the Snake river from Idaho into Oregon.
Thought that ought to be noted.
As I approached Portland, it occured to me that I was going to end up coming into the city right in the middle of rush hour, so I needed some sort of a diversion until the traffic calmed down. Fortunately, this realization came to me right near the exit to go to Mt. Hood, so I went.
Mt. Hood is hard to miss. It sticks over 11,000 feet up into the Oregon air, at least a couple thousand feet higher than any other peak around it. It’s quite striking, although smoke from a fire down near Bend made it a bit harder to view from afar.
I never really was able to confirm it because there aren’t those convienient little placards that the National Park Service places every ten feet in places like Yellowstone, but because it’s so much higher than everything around it and the way the rock lies, I assume Mt. Hood is a dormant volcano.
At least, I hope it’s dormant. Otherwise, Portland’s kinda fucked.
I was disappointed that I didn’t get to spend more time in Portland, but I liked it a lot. It reminded me a little of Seattle, since those are the two places on the West Coast that try to make everything walkable.
It’s significantly easier to do this in Portland, however, since the hills have a much lower Bitchiness factor, being far less steep than the ones in Seattle. I got the impression that Portland’s a little more laid-back than Seattle, although that may have been more a product of all the hippies I saw than anything else.
It’s a nice little town, and I’m probably gonna go back and explore more when I have more time and money.
Miss Cleo’s infamous Oregon town, I continued a CRC tradition started by Mark and stopped at the Carl’s Jr. she used to work at for lunch. It’s a gorgeous place, but I can see how it’d drive you crazy living out in the middle of fucking nowhere. Especially if you are the cosmopolitan Miss Cleo.
The Redwoods, which you find by driving down into California from Grant’s Pass, are really cool. Like Devil’s Tower, they’re something that you really can’t comprehend the size of until you’re standing next to them, realizing that the tree you’re looking at is almost 1000 years old and is thicker than you are tall.
The one amusing thing I saw was this site labeled “Big Tree.” I thought, that’s kind of like having something labeled “Big Building” in Chicago. But they’re not fucking around on this tree. It’s over 1500 years old and significantly bigger than any of the other trees I saw. Quite bizarre.
As I was coming down from the Redwoods, Katy called while I was in Arcata (home of the Arcata Eye and its famous police log, which is good for a laugh) getting some gas, and it turned out she was in Eureka visiting her boyfriend, so I ended up having dinner with them, which was good fun.
Eureka is the seat of the famous Humboldt County, home of what is allegedly the nation’s best weed. Not that I’ve personally comparison shopped, but its renown reached to the halls of my seriously baked high school, so it’s gotta be pretty good.
It was somewhat amusing to see the very large number of bail bond places across from the Humboldt County Courthouse, along with the rather hippie-looking gentleman fueling up what appeared to be a $40,000 pickup truck when I got gas. Way to keep it on the down low there, slick.
I decided to drive all the way into Redding that night, which doesn’t look particularly far on a map, but it’s over some rather treacherous mountain passes, so it takes about three and a half hours.
I didn’t realize exactly how windy these passes were, so I had a fun little rollercoaster ride of an evening, dealing with pissed-off locals who couldn’t understand why in the world anyone wanted to drive less than 20 miles over speed limit on a road full of hairpin turns in the dark, and gestured at me accordingly. Or at least I think they did.
Redding is basically a town of motels and sleazy bars, all of which were full with Labor Day revelers. Or people like me, who just wanted some fucking sleep.
I went through Sacramento to get to where I was going to go rafting, which was kind of cool in that I got to see the State House (palm trees on the lawn and all) of my new state. However, everything was closed for the holiday weekend, so I’ll have to come back if I want to see anything historic.
I went whitewater rafting on the middle fork of the American river, which was pretty fun, despite Meghan’s warning that it wasn’t going to be anything horribly difficult. Megan, I believe, is somewhat spoiled becauase she referred to the water as downright wimpy.
I wouldn’t say it was tremendously difficult, but it was not, as she said “the kind of water where you can’t just float down in a tube with your beer floating behind you.” It was somewhat more challenging than that.
Rafting is always kind of fun because they stick you in a raft with assorted weirdos and an overmuscled, sunburned guide and try to get you all to get along. My group consisted of two mid-level Sacramento bureaucrats and two girls who had recently graduated from a Catholic high school, and me.
The guide, of course, flirted with the jailbait girls (one was a cheerleader, natch) until he started to get pissed off by their constant screaming over every wimpy rapid, and their concern that the duct tape they had to use to hold on their flip-flops (they failed to read the part of the instructions about river-safe shoes) would *gasp* give them an icky tan line!
Uch! As if!
I’m very lucky that the next few times I will have to deal with people like this, I will not be holding an object like a boat paddle, because it’s severely tempting to whack annoying people when you’re just holding something like that whilst they blather.
Anyway, they eventually loosened up and the trip ended up being quite fun. I’m desperate to get back up to run things like the Trinity river, which has a nicely gnarly class 5 section that I drove by between Eureka and Redding. One of these days…
After I was done rafting, I ended up driving up to Lake Tahoe and spending the night up there. It’s really, really, really gorgeous up there, although the 6,000 foot elevation jump that takes place within the space of about an hour will do a number on you, especially if you’re already sore from say, rafting.
I stayed at a little motel by the north end of Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City, and I didn’t really do much after I arrived besides have some pretty decent Mexican food at the place next to the hotel because I was so goddamn tired. So I got up early the next morning and decided, well, I’ve got time. I’ll drive around.
So I ended up driving all the way around the lake, which is about a three hour tour. Fortunately, it’s difficult to get stranded a la Gilligan & Co., especially on Labor Day weekend because there are eight bajillion people there.
The drive around the lake is really, really beautiful, although attempting not to hit the numerous bicyclists who choose to ride in the road can get a little harrowing. The lake is unusually clear for a body of water that is a) that large or b) in California and Nevada.
From what I could gather from the roadside placards, the reason it’s so clear (you can see the bottom as far as 65 feet down, which is pretty much unheard of in oceans and other lakes) is that it’s largely snowmelt runoff, and the snow is generally pretty pure.
Like most of the other stuff I saw on this leg of the trip, I wish I had more time, and I’m probably going to come back some day.
So of course, every local in Tahoe I asked how long it would take me to get to San Fransico vastly overestimated how much time it would take, so I took my time-killing plan, since I was about six hours earlier than I had initially thought I was going to be: I went to wine country.
A ridiculously large amount of wine is produced by this region that looks like a combination of France and Spain: Spain because of the architecture and France because of, duh, the wineries.
The larger wineries tend to offer tours to attract customers to places where only their wine is sold. The smaller wineries have adopted every stretch of highway they can get their hands on, for both advertising and environmental-point purposes, and hope people remember them at the numerous liquor stores in the area.
Despite the confused scenery, it’s quite beautiful watching the hills roll by with perfectly aligned rows of grapevines covering them almost as far as the eye can see. It’s nice and calming.
Alas, my decision to make this trip on Labor Day once again came back to bite me in the ass, since most of the actual places where you could take a tour of the winery and do some wine-tasting (also known as free drinking) were closed.
And then I arrived in San Fransico. Well, Berkley, more accurately. And I’ll write a bit more about this lovely place once I’m done experiencing it.