I look down a year’s length of road and, picking up my hitherto neglected tale as of August 2015, allow me, dear friend, to continue.
I had a lovely time resting in Montana, although I had planned on working more than I ended up actually doing. I didn’t realize traveling could be so tiring! I did, however, revisit those long, meditative trenches of pig-weed engulfed Montanan crops with which I had acquainted myself in the previous anum. The earthiness, while an unenticing way to spend my precious days at home (which was, perhaps, why I didn’t spend as many of them there as sounded logical beforehand), did invite a pleasant earthy-roundedness to my homecoming. There is something very soothing to the spirit about literally rolling up one’s sleeves and getting one’s hands into the ground of a place.
I went on a lot of walks and loved getting to go to The Event at Rebecca Farm – the largest English Equestrian event in Montana and one of the largest in the world of its kind now, I believe – which almost always draws a few Olympians to compete and a variety of international horse and rider teams as well. The Flathead area also has an amazing sky, no?
Having grown up training and having planned on going professional with horses before being shanghaied by college, it is a real treat to go see such a posh event near the beautiful Flathead Lake, a body of water in which my sister and I took the liberty of indulging (not pictured above).
The jumps look significantly larger in person…
The event also attracts a large number of local and traveling artisan booths – tons of incredible artwork, which I neglected to photograph. This, however, was one of my favorites:
On the way home I passed this sign, which I found helpful since I had been thinking that being back in Montana was less exotic than some areas recently explored:
I also finally hiked one of the biggest peaks in our Mountain range (Trapper Peak) with a college friend who I had discovered lived in the same area! After a drive up to 6,000 ft of altitude, one hikes the remaining 6,000 ft over the course of 5.5 or 6 miles.
The peak is all boulder hopping ;D.
A lot of my time, though, was spent trying not to stress, as I had decided way back in January (right after I knew I was going to Texas) that after making it to the British Isles if I could, I wanted to land myself in Northern California for a bit and maybe think about finding longer-term work out there.
This was another of those “I think this is where I’m supposed to go, so it will work out somehow” things…
It was difficult, though, as I was starting to feel the effects of uprooting more and more acutely every time I left somewhere I had been staying – the security, affection, familiarity. I had, in fact, been getting sick almost without fail every time I had to travel, either immediately before or immediately after. I think my body was becoming sincerely protestant over the issue.
It had worked out like this, though: after I had made the decision and while in Texas, I found it would work out perfectly with my little sister’s plans to attend a college in Oregon. My Mom hates traveling, so if I could take the sis on the way that would be great. We also planned to go visit my brother in San Fransisco. It was a bit of a leap of faith for her, as we were going to take all of the stuff she would want for the two years the degree would take her before she had technically been accepted, as they wanted to do the in-person interview before deciding. The tickets she had bought long before also ended up being rather synchronistically oriented within the plans we already had to visit my brother (she, unusually, had a layover in Portland before coming home, so if she was accepted she could just get picked up from their shuttle at the airport and if she wasn’t she could go home).
Sistah TARIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPP!! XD
This was the first time us sisters had done a road-trip together! And she hadn’t done any major ones since she was a tiny tot, so this was a bit of a special event, especially since she was going off to college! And that meant I wasn’t doing this bit solo! Which was also really nice in a lot of ways.
After frantically trying to get my things together very last minute (and unfortunately delaying our trip by several hours), we swung by the Silverwood Amusement Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that we hadn’t been to in eleven years. It was, alas, a little lack-luster compared to our perspectives as kids (when it was a very special event – it was awesome when we were younger!) and we got there late with some long lines, but it was still nice to relive. Water slides are always good. I also made the mistake of disrecommending a burger to her when we were about to go on a roller-coaster, but the line was long enough that she probably would have been fine and the food vendors were closed by the time we got out, even though the park was still open for a couple more hours! She (unintentionally, I’m sure) paid me back by insisting on going on a water ride that left my soaked to the bone and shivering for the remainder of our time ;). After the park closed, we drove to a random back road (I was hoping to find one with trees, but there were only fields), rearranged my carful of her things, ate a me-style travel meal of canned chili and romaine lettuce (she lamented her burger) and snuggled under blankets in the back of the Intrepid’s fold-down seats. My dinner choice was, perhaps… not thoroughly thought through…
In the morning we changed under blankets, brushed our teeth again out of water bottles, and started off for Portland. Sis drove a fair bit, as she would continue to do periodically throughout the trip (which was a fun “new” for her, since she had never done any Interstate driving) and it was amazing how nice it was to be a passenger for a while after doing a couple full laps around the U.S. solo and be able to look out the windows for extended periods of time without worrying that I was probably drifting off the road (again, not *cough* saying I hadn’t looked out the window for long… but the peace of mind was a nice addition).
After an uneventful ride we stopped for a bit to hike the beautiful trail around the 611ft Multnomah falls outside of Portland – the tallest waterfall in Oregon and the second-tallest year-round waterfall in America. We then had a lovely visit with one of my college housemates as she hosted us overnight.
The next day we got sis dropped off for an unexpected overnight visit at the college, and then set off the next day to visit another couple of college friends – a nearest and dearest and, in fact, a couple – who had just had their baby the night before! (In fact, she had asked me to delay my planned visit a day or two a few weeks back and lo! Baby birthing right when she thought it would be – exactly a week early). That was the first baby of my friend-group in college and being able to meet the mini-them (that was weird – baby of TWO friends) and share their first moments together was a unique and very special treat.
I only got to spend a couple of hours with them as we had to nip straight over to the coast to make our way down to San Fransisco and had a schedule to keep. We were again blessed by, well, another family of friends – this time the parents of another one of my closest college friends – in Coos Bay, within view of the coast – but we didn’t have a lot of time to get down there if we didn’t want to keep them up late. Now, my sister has a very romantic bent (in the classical sense of the dark-and-stormy, windswept scapes, and moving imagination sense) and had always had a thing for her idea of the ocean, but couldn’t really remember it since she was probably only 7 the last time she had been. I wish we had had a bit more time to indulge her thirst to soak in the sea air, but we were able to at least get a taster on our way down. It was absolutely painful insisting that we keep moving as she was indulging in every grain of sand between her toes, every crest reaching the shore, every hair that whipped across her face and sea-themed garb…
We arrived only a little late with them welcoming us heartily and driving us happily to search town, which had mostly closed down, so that they could take us to a fresh fish dinner. We almost never eat out and almost never have access to fresh fish, so that was a special treat. I adore them anyways, so the little bit of time we got together was incredibly nice and the dinner they took us to gave us a proper sit-down chat, which was lovely, along with the amazing meal :9”. I honestly am having a hard time trying to summarize what could be a very lengthy narrative of this trip without stopping every paragraph with my almost overwhelming sense of gratitude for everyone who welcomed and hosted us along the way. I’ll let you read between the lines in that regard, so long as you promise to do so.
I think this will have to be a two-parter also…
With a morning farewell after a good night’s rest we continued down the coast. We had originally planned on going all the way to San Fran, but when we got home from the restaurant we realized that that would be a really long day of driving even if we didn’t want to stop and smell the redwoods (again, my sister had never seen them and I mean, seriously, how can you drive just past or through that stretch of country and not?), so my friend’s parents had called a brother and sister-in-law in Fort Bragg, four hours north of the city, to see if we could stay with them. It worked perfectly for us. We were able to say a quick hello to my uncle in Grants Pass and then nipped over, if memory serves, to Hwy 101 so we could zip through the redwoods on our way to our next oasis. I had already been looking on HelpX to see what sort of places I might be able to find to stay after the week with our brother was up and the top of my list was a BnB in Fort Bragg! So I thought we might be able to catch a glimpse of it. We took our time a little bit, always with me cutting things on the short side, but still able to get some cool stops in. At one point we saw a sign for a little trek just a bit off the road towards – something I had never seen – the Chandelier tree, and it was a momentous occasion to record the Intrepid‘s passage.
It was also really funny because we kept passing and being passed by the same mustard-yellow hippie van the entire afternoon (we’d pass them, then later pull out, pull back in and pass them again…) and the second or third day after we arrived in SF I saw what I am sure was the exact same van in the same neighborhood as us (although I suppose if ever there were to be two mustard-yellow hippie vans in the same area it would be there…). It made for a fun sense of adventure community.
We had a close shave as gas stations were, er, not very frequent in the forest (fellow adventurers take note please) and I kept thinking we would see one at sooome point. We ended up coasting as much as possible down the hills in the very hilly, windy Hwy 1 just North of Fort Bragg at about 10:00 at night. I was crossing my fingers hoping we wouldn’t get caught in the bottom of a very narrow strip of road, in a dip, on a turn, with periodic pickups with campers behind them going both ways – which was essentially every turn for that last quarter tank of gas at least. It was a bit of a nervous hour, quite especially half-hour, and most certainly especially ten minutes…. I kept thinking that when we were driving either up or down the fumes would loft to the wrong side of my tank and we would be either hiking or camping O_o.
It wouldn’t be so bad if I were alone, but I had my little sister with me! Such bad form for a veteran. Heaven be praised, we did puff and sputter our way to a gas station just north of town (which was super expensive, but hey, it was gas – and of course that’s what they’re, literally, banking on). After something of an unintentional exploration of the area looking for the house, we finally made it to my friend’s aunt and uncle’s home. They had stayed up and had kept a beautiful meal warm for us, which was entirely unexpected and so nice – my travel and nutritional habits not inclining me to eat much en route, but valuing food immensely. It was so homey too. I tend to think of survival ability as the biggest boon, but when people go above and beyond with true hospitality it truly touches my spirit and I realize how I think that it’s actually that which is the most nourishing to a human. It is so humbling. They let us shower and set us up in a lovely guest room to rest again with appreciation before arising and removing ourselves first thing in the misty morning.
We set off again and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Mendocino coast before going inland to continue on Hwy 101 (again, if memory serves), as Hwy 1 would have taken nearly twice as long. My sister got to impress me with her ability to navigate the treacherous part of the coastal road (an initiation rite, as well as an excuse not to drive for a while ;)) before it bent inwards from the coast.
We arrived in the, at the time, warm and sunny city in the late morning/early afternoon and got to soak in the California feel of the colorful stucco houses in the Bernal Heights area, where my brother was waiting for us.
We had a glorious week.
It was the first time outside of Christmas breaks that the three of us siblings had time to spend with all three of us, and just the three of us, in probably six years – and such a fun adventure!
My brother spoils us whenever we meet him and this week was no exception – he really went all-out to make our visit special :). He took us to all sorts of cool places to eat out – and San Fran is one of the best cities for eats in the country – several times a day and, as I said, we almost never eat out, so it’s really a treat. We frequented a lot of ethnic restaurants especially that we just don’t have in Montana. We did a little bit of helping him move from his old apartment in Bernal Heights to his new one – a much better priced, better apartment in the not-yet-as-developed Tenderloin, we went up on hilltops to overlook the city, went on a bookstore and niftiness-boutique search in the Mission district, went to the beach (and Sis spent aaaaaaall the time in the waves – I did a combo of sand-sun, wave-play, and beach-jog/shell pickup…My car smelled like fish until I left California…), had a delicious home-cooked meal and a meet-and-visit from his newly special lady, went to an aquarium (with huuuuuge sucker fish!), butterfly house, and large science museum, wandered a park and Chinese tea-garden, spent a day in being mellow, and had a surprise at the very end of the week that remained a secret until immediately prior to our experience…
When at last my brother revealed our surprise! He had rented a sailboat (and captain) for us to be whisked over San Fransisco Bay for the afternoon! It even managed to be a sunny day! 😀
Aside from the sailorly coarseness of our nautical helmsman, which I opted to ignore by sunning myself at the far front of the vessel, it was a truly lovely afternoon. He was at least informative of some history and my Brother had invited two friends of his to accompany us, which diluted our rough guide. One was young lady musician born and raised in his new neighborhood of the Tenderloin (historically not the most affluent quadrant) and her style was a nice, down-to-earth, creative, evocative addition. The other was a later-middle-aged man-poet. We had some eloquent and engaging conversations ranging from the early electoral – and other – agitations in the political sphere to the living poetry of diving into the bay after a drifting water-bottle (which was very refreshing). My sister and I especially enjoyed leaning hard-over from the mast on sharp turns to soak as intimately as possible in the high-speed salty spray.
Finally, on the last day before my sister’s flight to start school (did I mention she had been accepted??), we took a jaunt to the south.
It was in anticipation of a special couple of days that we headed towards Monterey, driving the beautiful route down (accidentally took the road that wasn’t next to the coast, alas for my sister, but it was still lovely). We stayed in an Air BnB house in Santa Rosa (treated again by my brother), ordered pizza, and my Brother and I had a nostalgia trip over the shows Wishbone (about a little Jack-Russel Terrier dog drawing parallels between his owner’s life and classic literature) and the old Star Trek (“The Next Generation” with Picard) whilst initiating my sister into their worlds. Our Nana used to send us tapes of those shows since we didn’t have TV, but that was when our sister was a mere babe. We were all tired – especially my Brother – but we had a great time pulling a late one over reminiscences and Youtube. The next day we went down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Us older two had been before, but sis hadn’t and it was great fun to experience everything afresh as a part of that maiden experience – and I got Urchin sucker-hugs ^_^. She got to pet a stingray that kept coming back to her and felt she made a friend too. Then we watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie starring Ian McAllen, had a sunset walk along the coast, ate a delicious Thai dinner, and walked back through trees bedecked in twinkle lights. That was a rather magical time – our anticipation was not disappointed.
After dropping off a smiling sis at the airport for her new adventure I got on to solidifying mine. I had looked into several HelpX places within about four hours of San Fran, but the only one I actually had any interest in was that Bed and Breakfast in Fort Bragg. My brother’s new apartment didn’t have internet (which, since his job is techie, he prefers) and we had been around and about so much I hadn’t been able to do much actual inquiring. Fortunately the one email I had sent out to the proprietor of the establishment had not only been received but accepted! She had an immediate opening for the following month. I had planned on being in the area until Thanksgiving (this is still the end of August), when we all had plans to go to my Uncle’s in Southern California, but a month was a generous head-start, especially since many HelpX hosts do not like to commit for more than a week or two and, I admit, I was inclined to be in one place as much as possible by this point.
Having thus arranged another shelter for my traveling pate on the morrow, and enjoying the remaining hours in my brother’s presence and domicile, I slept.