Venture Into the Great Unknown: Our Oregon Adventure Part II

Our road trip up to Oregon began on October 15th (2016). We packed up the Blumebulance (our ambulance turned camper van) and headed out on to the open road. We drove west across the beautiful Mojave desert and over to the 5 Freeway North. It was a quiet morning, especially for a Saturday. The sky was permeated with billowy, white clouds layered on top of a light turquoise sky. It sprinkled in intervals as we headed west across the desert. We were brimming with anticipation and excitement. Dennis (my sweetie, also known as my TTG - Tall Tree Guy) had never been to the Pacific Northwest before and I couldn’t wait to see his reaction – although admittedly, I was slightly nervous that he might not love the Oregon Coast as much as I did. Trepidation aside, I had to be confident that he would. He often said that he hadn’t been to Oregon because he thought he might never come back to the desert. That was a good sign that he was going to love it too! We made the long journey up the 5 Freeway North, saving time for the latter part of our trip by taking the most direct route North. The wonderful thing about heading North from Southern California is that the traffic is nowhere near as heavy as it is heading South. We were listening to music and talking so much that I got distracted and we accidentally ended up on Highway 99, headed North. Not too much of a detour, but quite a bit more traffic and about 30 minutes out of the way. Oops! Guess we were just having too much fun to take notice of the highway signs. After realizing we were on Highway 99 (an hour or so into it), we began looking for a route back to the 5 Freeway. We found a link between the two roads and got back on the 5, thank goodness!

We drove through the day and with daylight savings, found it to be dark well before we were ready to pull off the road for the night. We kept driving for a bit and took Highway 20 across to the coast to reach Highway 101 (the coastal highway on the west coast). Highway 20 was a gorgeous and sometimes windy road, but but the rain was coming down so hard I could barely see the pavement or the cars ahead. I was definitely ready to give it up for the night and began looking for an exit or place to stop and stay. Soon after, we passed two pretty awful car accidents where the cars were twisted heaps of metal, laying in the wet, dark road. I have been in two near-death collisions and get extreme anxiety driving in bad weather. Add the natural anxiety to viewing the aftermath of two awful accidents and I was immediately done driving. Dennis had to switch with me and drive on until we reached a place where we could sleep for the night. Before we left, I had bookmarked a website for finding free camp spots - freecampsites.net - to help save money on the trip – especially for our California stops (it’s much more expensive to camp in California). I went to the website on my phone and there was a casino (Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino) on Highway 20 up ahead where we could park and camp for the night in the parking lot. Prior to our trip, we found out that quite a few casino’s will allow people to do that. So kind of them and generous! Hungry for dinner and with the pouring rain and knowing that we would be staying overnight in the casino parking lot, we were on the look out for something to eat before we got to the casino. We stopped at a Foster Freeze and ate burgers under the florescent lights. Not my favorite for ambiance, but we were hungry, it was late and we were running out of options. In hindsight, I realize that we should have eaten at the casino. They would have had food at all hours of the night, lots of options and it would have been great to patronize their business for letting us stay in the parking lot for free. We will definitely do so the next time we stay overnight at a casino. The city we were in was adorably quaint and the entire town rested on the edge of a huge lake. It was so nice there and it didn’t seem to be a coincidence that even the town’s actual name was “Nice”. I was so tired after we ate but feeling so much better after experiencing all of that anxiety on the road. We arrived at the casino, found a flat spot and parked for the night. Camping in a casino parking lot is not ideal. The place was glowing with an abundance of lights – both on the casino facade and in the parking lot. The good thing was that we were only stopping to sleep and then move on in the morning, so we didn’t need any amenities like picnic tables or showers. An added benefit was that it was very safe with all of those lights beaming down onto our van. It poured rain all through the night and into the next morning. Something we knew we’d have to get used to if we moved to the Pacific Northwest. Both of us have always loved the rain. On rainy mornings we always wake up with smiles on our faces and a content feeling in our hearts.

Having made it to the 101 Freeway on the coast, we were thrilled to finally see bits of the ocean here and there off to the left as we drove. Then there were the Redwoods – wow! The wow of all wow's! I had seen them in my youth but hadn’t ever gotten to stop and experience them. As we meandered in and out of these massive trees along the highway, we were stunned by their gargantuan size and their gentle beauty. Light rain fell as we drove with larger drops falling from the tree branches here and there making a splat on the roof of the van. We passed a sign for the famous Chandelier Tree with a hole that cars can drive through and decided to pull off the highway to see it in person. It was a quick and easy jaunt off of the highway and only a few bucks to drive in. Sadly, the Chandelier Tree is not quite big enough for our Blumebulance to travel through it. The woman at the gate warned us that our van wouldn’t fit. I was imagining it to be almost large enough and thus the warning that we might damage the van. It was of no consequence that we couldn’t drive through the actual tree once we began to traverse the narrow road through the magical forest it inhabited. Everywhere we looked was filled with an other-worldly beauty. Sedan-sized ferns, green-yellow moss, and red pine needles painted the ground around the wise, ancient trees. The fog rolled around them as if to make way for the brilliant giants. Arriving at the Chandelier Tree made me chuckle. The woman’s warning at that gate was not necessary as only a regular sized car could pass through. There were no illusions of the Blumebulance fitting in that space. We parked at the Chandelier Tree gift shop and got out to walk and experience their greatness with more than our eyes. We walked through the Chandelier Tree since we couldn’t drive through. It was incredible being in the belly of the tree. It was just tall enough that I didn’t have to duck down to walk through as it barely brushed the top of my head. Stepping back from the tree, we could see why it was named the Chandelier Tree. It has branches that extended out and down like the arms of a chandelier. They glistened with dew drops like the crystals of a chandelier. What an unforgettable experience!

As we explored more of the forest, Dennis found a portion of a tree stump on it’s side that looked like a rip curl wave! He stood in the center and pretended to surf while I took a picture. So cute. I would love to go back there some day for a picnic and to live and breathe among the trees a bit longer. It is truly a magical and wonderful place. Leaving that bit of the forest behind, we traveled out of the little park area and back out on to the highway. There were signs posted on the side of the road that exclaimed “Confusion Hill: Canada or Mexico?!” We soon passed Confusion Hill. It looked a bit like a theme park mixed with a country fair where the creators were all on acid. It looked like fun. We’ll definitely have to venture through next time we’re headed down the highway. We also passed the Sasquatch store that looked like a museum dedicated to the hairy beast. Another fun place to stop on a the way up the coast next time.

Exiting the Redwood Forest, the sky opened up again. We could see the gray sky filled with heavy clouds waiting to rain again and the ocean waves crashing off in the distance. I had wanted to stop in Fort Bragg, California to see the Glass Beach there but we were so impatient to cross the boarder into Oregon that we decided to see the beach on our return home. We did stop for a brief encounter at a beach just before the California/Oregon boarder, Otis Beach. The beach looked as if it were covered in dark, black asphalt that glistened as the suns rays peaked through the clouds. We walked out to the beach and discovered it was covered in teeny tiny bits of rock! The farther out, the larger the rocks, the closer in to shore, the smaller they became. It was absolutely beautiful. This black beach made of glistening rocks. The waves were stormy and towering. We walked around for a bit, exploring and enjoying the ocean air sweeping across our faces. It was cool but pleasant. Back on the road, we crossed the Oregon/California boarder and the real magic began. The ocean, the dunes of sand, the trees covered in moss, the waterfalls, the emerald beauty in every direction were all overwhelming. It is more than a person’s senses can absorb in one trip. Thank goodness I was driving because Dennis couldn’t keep his eyes from drifting back and forth from the trees out to the ocean! He kept exclaiming “Oh my god!” and “Wow, that is so beautiful!” and “Look at that!!” It was like watching a child amazed at all of the colors and flavors of candies in a candy shop. I was having a blast seeing the joy in his face and revisiting old haunts that I have loved for so long.

We drove straight past Bandon and Brookings to get to Gold Beach as quickly as possible. We would go back to Bandon and Brookings on the way home. We had two favorite homes on our list; one was in Gold Beach and the other w