On June 8, 2001, after two months of preparation, I finally left for my two-month drive around the
U.S. I said goodbye to my dad and my sister, Doti, then hopped in my truck and headed down Interstate 5
towards Seattle. As I drove south, I thought about how good it felt to be on the road again, just me
and my truck. I felt like the king of the world in the movie "Titanic" -- or maybe the king of the road.
To kick off my trip around America, here's Roger Miller singing
the classic traveling song, King of the Road.
Driving through Seattle can be pretty nasty during rush hour, but I hit it 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 Highway 101, though on the coast, really isn't that interesting but the scenery improves considerably
after you cross over the Columbia River Bridge and head into Astoria, Oregon. Astoria, I believe, is one of the most
fascinating smaller towns in America, largely because of its geography lying at the mouth of the Columbia River. And
even better, it's where "The Goonies" was filmed.
If I had had more time I would've gone up to the Astoria Column, which offers one of the most spectacular views of the Oregon coast.
But it was late in the afternoon, so instead I made a quick stop at the 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: brats (as in Johnsonville bratwurst) and beans. It's certainly not the last time, I was sure, that I'd eat brats and beans on this trip.
Above: Breakfast stop at Cape Sebastian, which offers one of the best views of the southern Oregon coast.
The next morning I drove a few miles over to Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent a soggy winter in 1805 after they had reached
the Pacific Ocean during their incredible overland journey from St. Louis. I spent a couple hours there, then continued down the
spectacular U.S. Highway 101, known here as the Oregon Coast Highway. I spent the next two days driving the entire length of the
highway, all 363 miles of it, and enjoyed every minute.
I've driven down the Oregon Coast Highway dozens of times in my life but have never gotten tired of it. The Oregon coast,
with its endless miles of sandy beaches and rocky headlands, is absolutely beautiful and the drive is wonderful. It's wonderful, that
is, until you get stuck behind some slow-poke RV, which I did many times.
I've put together a few pages with my Highway 101 Travel Tips, which I've posted here:
Above left: My sister Doti and my dad in Bellingham, Washington the evening before I left on my trip. I don't
have many commitments -- no wife, kids, house, or pets -- but I do have some plants, which have surrounded Doti. She's been kind enough to care
for them during my absence. Thanks Doti!
Above right: The pleasant coastal town of South Bend, Washington on Highway 101.
Above left: Camping at Fort Stevens State Park near the mouth of the Columbia River, during the first night
of my trip. I cooked up some brats (as in bratwurst) for dinner -- the first of many such meals, I'm sure!
Above right: The bow section of the ship "Peter Iredale" at Fort Stevens State Park.
The Iredale was a steam-powered sailing ship that beached here during a storm in 1906 with no loss of life. Every time I visit,
it's a little smaller.
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 four-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: Ecola State Park on the northern Oregon coast.
Above left: The beautiful town of Depoe Bay, Oregon, with its oceanfront view.
Above right: The "world's smallest harbor" is in Depoe Bay.
Above left: 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 in Australia,
Above center: My truck taking a break at Yachats State Park (pronounced "Ya-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 quite 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 right: At the Dunes Overlook Trail, my favorite hike on the Oregon Coast.
Coming Back to California
After camping for a couple of nights on the Oregon coast, I reached the Bay Area in California where my brother and his family live. It's
also 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:
The Bay Area in Northern California (including San Francisco and San Jose)
Southern California (including Los Angeles and San Diego), and
Everything else. This is the part I generally prefer.
Despite it's growing population and the ridiculously-high housing prices, I still love California because it's the most beautiful and
varied state in the U.S. I've lived in both northern and southern California, spending 10 years there, and there's no place in the world like it.
As I crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge and drove into The City, I thought about Tony Bennett's classic, I Left My Heart in San Francisco.
But unfortunately, the Bay Area has changed a lot since I lived there in the 1970s. For one thing, the average price of a
house is now over $500,000 in many areas, well beyond the means of most anyone except dual-income Silicon Valley engineers.
However, the Bay Area has perhaps the nicest climate of any place in America, even San Diego.
Despite the congestion and other problems, the Bay Area is still a nice place to live -- if you can afford it and
don't mind day after day of boring-but-beautiful weather. There's no humidity, tornadoes, hurricanes or hail storms there.
I mean, how boring can you get?
Above left: A lofty Paul Bunyan and his trusty sidekick, Babe, at the Trees of Mystery, near Crescent City.
Above center: 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 winds through the peaceful redwoods, the tallest trees in the world.
Above right: Heading south on Highway 101.
Above left: The Sunday traffic was bumper-to-bumper as I crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge heading into San Francisco.
My great-uncle uncle, Henry Swang, helped build this bridge in the 1930s.
Above center: The City by the Bay -- or just "The City" as locals call it.
Above right: An old high school buddy, Kelly, in San Jose. Kelly is one of the funniest guys I know. I
hadn't seen him in several years and it was great to catch up.