June 8, 2001, and after two full months of preparation, I finally left Bellingham,
Washington, for my two-month drive around the U.S. As I drove south on
Interstate 5 heading towards Seattle, I thought about how good it felt to be on the
road again, just me and my truck.
Driving through Seattle can be pretty nasty during rush hour, but I drove
through around noon and before I knew it, I was on the other side.
South of Seattle, I cut over to U.S. Highway 101, which is my favorite
highway in America. The Washington section of 101 isn't that
interesting, but the scenery improves considerably after you cross over
the Columbia River Bridge and head into Astoria, Oregon, one of the most
fascinating smaller towns in America.
To kick off my trip around
America, here's Roger Miller singing that classic, King
of the Road.
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I had had more time, I would've driven up to the Astoria column for its spectacular view of the Oregon coast.
Nope, all I had time for was a quick stop at the Astoria Fred Meyer
grocery store to get stocked up with supplies. From there, it was on
to one of my favorite campgrounds at nearby Fort Stevens State Park, where
I cooked up my favorite camping dinner: bratwurst (i.e., "brats")
and beans, certainly not the last time, I was sure, that I'd have a dinner
of brats and beans on this trip.
next morning, I drove a few miles over to Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and
Clark spent a very soggy winter in 1805 after reaching the Pacific Ocean
during their incredible overland journey from St. Louis. After a
couple hours there, I started heading down the spectacular Oregon Coast Highway,
also known as U.S. Highway 101,
and spent the next few days driving all 363 miles
of the highway, enjoying every
minute of it.
I've driven this route dozens of times in my life
but have never gotten tired of it. The Oregon Coast is absolutely
wonderful with its endless miles of sandy beaches and rocky headlands.
It's wonderful, that is, until you get stuck behind some slow-poke RV.
posted Highway 101 travel tips on the following pages:
Above left: My sister Doti and my Dad in Bellingham, Washington. I
don't have many commitments in life -- no wife, kids, house, or pets -- but
I do have some plants, which have apparently surrounded Doti. She's been
kind enough to care for them during my absence.
Above center: The pleasant coastal town of South Bend, Washington on Highway 101.
Above right: A freighter going out to sea at the mouth of the Columbia
River, in northern Oregon. That's Cape Disappointment, Washington
on the far side. This is where the Lewis and Clark expedition finally
reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805 after traveling west for two years, noted in their
journals with the words, "Ocian in View. O the joy."
Above left: Here's Fort Clatsop near present-day Astoria, Oregon, the 1805-06 winter
home of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. It rained almost every day during their 4-month stay
at Fort Clatsop (imagine that, rain in Oregon!). I followed the Lewis
& Clark Trail from St. Louis to Portland during my vacation in 1998 and had
a great time.
Above center: Meriwether Lewis (left) and his Army buddy, William
Clark. Lewis was quiet and introspective while Clark was outgoing and
gregarious. Despite their differences, they got along well during their three-year journey.
Above right: Camping at Fort Stevens State Park near the mouth of the
Columbia River, during the first night of my trip. I cooked up my favorite
dinner here: brats (pronounced "brots"), as in bratwurst.
Above left: The bow section of the
"Peter Iredale" at Fort Stevens State Park. The Iredale was
beached during a storm in 1906 with no loss of life. Every time I visit,
it's a little smaller.
Above center: Ecola State Park on the northern Oregon coast.
Above right: View of Otter Crest and the central Oregon Coast from Cape
Foulweather. The cape was sighted and named by the English explorer,
Captain James Cook, in 1778. Captain Cook is one of my
heroes and I'll be running across his path again in
Australia, I'm sure.
Above left: The "world's smallest harbor"
in Depoe Bay, Oregon.
Above center: My truck and I taking a break at Yachats State Park.
For those non-Oregonians, it's pronounced "Yaw-hots."
Above right: Probably the most photographed view on the Oregon coast, this
is the Heceta Head lighthouse near Florence.
Above left: Although the northern and southern Oregon coasts are rocky,
the central coast is pretty sandy. Enormous sand dunes here stretch for dozens of
miles and are lots of fun to hike down (but not so fun to hike up).
Above center: At the Dunes Overlook Trail, my favorite hike on the Oregon
Above right: Breakfast stop the next morning at Cape Sebastian, which
offers one of the best views on the Oregon coast.
Here I Come (Again)
camping for a couple of nights on the Oregon Coast, I reached the Bay Area
in California where my brother and his family live, and where I grew up in the
1970s. For those of you who
aren't familiar with the Golden State, California is split into three regions:
Bay Area in Northern California (including San Francisco and San
California (including Los Angeles and San Diego), and
else (the part I generally prefer)
growing population, California is probably the most beautiful state
in the U.S. and has more variety than any other state. I've lived in both
Northern California and Southern California, and there's
no place in the world quite like it... for better or worse.
Here's Tony Bennett singing
that classic, I Left My Heart in San Francisco.
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Unfortunately, the Bay Area has changed a lot since I lived there. For one
thing, the average price of a house is now over $500,000 in many areas, way
beyond the means of most anyone except dual-income Silicon Valley engineers.
However, it has perhaps the nicest climate of any place in America, even San
Diego, and despite the congestion and other problems, the Bay Area is still a
darn nice place to live -- if you can afford it, and if you don't mind day after
day of bland, beautiful weather. I mean, no humidity, no tornadoes or
hurricanes, and no hail storms. How boring can you get?
Above left: The wonderful Cal Barrel Road at Prairie Creek Redwoods State
Park in northern California is one of my favorite short drives in America.
It's a three-mile long dirt road that travels through the peaceful redwoods, the
tallest trees in the world.
Above center: A lofty Paul Bunyan and his
sidekick Babe at the Trees of Mystery,
near Crescent City.
Above right: Heading south on Highway 101.
Above left: When I got to San Francisco, the Sunday traffic was
bumper-to-bumper as I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. My Mom's uncle helped
build this bridge in the 1930s.
Above center: The City by the Bay.
Above right: An old high school buddy, Kelly, in San Jose. I
hadn't seen Kelly in several years and it was good to catch up on things.
Kelly's one of the funniest guys I know.
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
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Travels (2001-02) >
U.S. Trip >
June 11, 2001