The trip down the highway 1 (more commonly called Pacific coast highway or PCH) was a fantastic part of my December road trip. The coastline is so beautiful that I was compelled to stop every few miles to shoot video. This is from the PCH near Eureka, California just after dawn on December 9, 2009.
Trying to boil this three week trip into a comprehensive synopsis may prove difficult. It was a trip that had been loosely on the drawing board all summer long (since somewhere around the time of the southern US driving trip.) My main goals of the trip were to visit Portland, drive the Pacific Coast Highway and visit my dad in Pahrump, Nevada. To that end I accomplished those goals. The wonderful bonuses of the trip were all the things that I did not anticipate going into the drive. First and foremost I LOVE the solitude of driving by myself. I am perfectly happy inside my own head driving with an audio book letting new vistas wash over my eyes through my windshield. It is a Zen-like experience for me. I tend to get bored easily, but not while I am driving. At no point was I weary of driving even with the 5500 miles of it on this trip. Also unexpected on the trip were the beautiful things along the way that I did not know existed. Twin falls in Idaho, part of the Snake River Canyon, was breathtaking. It was not really tourist season and the temperature was cool along my route. This actually made the trip better for me. There was a huge parking lot for visitors at Twin Falls and I was the only car there. It was as if the whole thing was just for me. Other unexpected natural wonders came during the last 45 miles into Portland, driving the Columbia River highway (US 84). The highway snakes along the Columbia River valley with mountains flanking both sides of the river. Numerous waterfalls emerge from the mountains along the route. I had no idea all of it was there.
Couchsurfing also played an integral part in the success of the trip and although I have surfed a lot before it never ceases to amaze me how wonderful people are everywhere. I met some very interesting people along the way and glimpsed into the lives of people who are very different than I in so many ways. Equally unforeseen was how long it would take to get down the PCH with the sightseeing involved. Ultimately San Francisco and Los Angeles were culled from the trip. (It WILL be a separate trip). My original plan was to head from Las Vegas back up through Denver and cut across the middle of the United States to get back home. Due to some winter weather I detoured to a more southerly route that included Phoenix, Albuquerque and Tulsa. All unplanned, yet wonderful, stops in my journey. Thanks to this detour I met a couple of hitchhikers in Santa Rosa and took them to Henryetta, Oklahoma. They were fascinating people and the 500 miles that we rode together certainly flew by.
The things that I expected to be wonderful, were. Visiting Portland with Christine was delightful. She was a wonderful hostess and lives in a really kick-ass town. She promised me micro brews before I even arrived and instead delivered a frickn winter micro brew FESTIVAL that was fantastic! It was downtown Portland and had a wonderful assortment of beers from all around the Pacific Northwest. She has a great little apartment in a suburb called Lake Oswego with a wonderful couch. We also hit Multnomah Falls (the picture with the bridge across the waterfall). Local bars in Lake Oswego had great beers on tap and were lively.
PCH, which I expected to be a cornerstone of the trip, certainly was. I drove it from Tillamook, Oregon to Eureka, California. It was beautiful every bit of the drive, and pulling over for the ‘scenic overlooks’ was practically mandatory. I shot close to an hour of video from various places on the coast during frequent view stops. Visiting my dad in Pahrump, Nevada was great as well. The atomic bomb museum in Vegas was fantastic and they had a stupendous collection of ‘ground zero’ artifacts. The south detour through Phoenix, and then New Mexico was uneventful and did not have a lot of scenery as compared to the rest of the drive although I did manage to get a sunset picture just outside of Albuquerque.
The cost of this trip was nominal considering the three weeks of entertainment and lifetime of memories involved. I averaged 27 miles per gallon for 5500 or so miles for a total of 203 gallons of gas. Approximate average per gallon rate during my trip was $2.60 for a total of $530 worth of gas. I couchsurfed or stayed with friends or family all but three of the nights. (Three nights were hotel nights, 35 dollar/night average for the hotels including a 33 dollar stay at the Excaliber in Vegas) so 105 for hotels. I ate peanut butter and honey on tortillas one or two meals a day and when I ate out it was inexpensive. I probably checked out of the three weeks for a total of less than $950 and had a spectacular time of it.
I am not sure where my future plans will take me although I am thinking a one week stay in Washington, D.C. and a one week stay in Manhattan will be in the next trip, couchsurfing of course….
Thanks for reading
Today was day eleven and the last day of PCH. I got an early start just before eight a.m. and headed back out onto California highway 101. As I hit the last of town there was a traffic jam because of elk crossing the road. As I went past I rolled down the passenger side window and got a good elk “head and shoulders profile” shot.
I got out of the car a couple of more times for photos and video before getting off of 101. The second picture is the pacific ocean crashing the beach just after sunrise. The third is a couple of giant redwoods on either side of the highway. The final picture is a house that still had frost on the roof, ground, and trees.
I ended up covering about 700 miles today total. I am skipping San Francisco and Los Angeles because I spent so much time in Portland. SF and LA were only going to be two days each and that would not have been enough anyway (good excuse for another drive). Tomorrow a leisurely 300 miles to Las Vegas.
So far on this trip I have covered the daily distance that I intended. This was not the case on the PCH. There are excellent turnoffs and state parks what seems like every five miles, and I stopped at a lot of them yesterday. I put in twelve hours on the road and still only made it about 360 miles. Around every corner and over every hill there were miles long stretches of beach with crazy rocky or evergreen covered cliffs. The waves were cresting fifteen feet and the spray was going twenty-five feet in the air. The sound is this low bass rumble that you can feel in your gut. I understand why people are drawn here.
Today I have a lot of miles to cover. The goal is Fresno, California. Part of the trip is Pacific Coast Highway, then I turn inland for the rest of the drive.
Day seven and eight were touristy uneventful days. Spent a lot of time catching up with Christine and checking out Oregon nightlife which is great. Today, December 7th, we drove to Pacific City in Oregon on the coast. It is a beautiful town on the pacific with great oceanscapes. The temperature was twenty-nine degrees so cold was the word of the day. Even though the temperature was not agreeable there were still hardcore drysuit surfers making it look warm. Tomorrow morning I am hitting the Pacific Coast Highway, (highway 101). It is supposed to be one of the most picturesque drives in America.