Duck! Our Last Few Days in Iceland

ushs

The homestay in Hvammstang was run by a woman named Oddney who lives with her husband and kids in a nice historic home on a fijord of Hunaflo. We got there not long after the other guests, a couple from Australia on a getaway for a couple of weeks. Was nice to spend some time chatting with them and Oddney before going out for dinner. Upon returning, I shared some of my favorite dark chocolate biscuits with them, Mrs. Vittes. They knew them well, having come from England themselves and we got to spend a bit more time with them before going to bed. Breakfast the next morning was neat. The kitchen overlooks the water and we all spent time scanning the waves looking for whales. While we had no luck, our hostess told us stories of other sightings by other groups.

icelandsheep

Look! Sheep!

Out on the road again, we wasted no time getting into trouble. We had stopped briefly to look at another hot pool installation before continuing to head west. As we were driving, two big ducks took off from our right and flew right across our hood. Instinctively, we ducked, but windshields can’t do that and we hit one of them right in the chest! He slipped … or maybe it was slid up the windshield right in front of my face, over the hood  leaving a thin purple streak behind and disappeared. We did not look back, we did not stop.

duck

It Looked Like This One

Funnily enough, when we stopped a few miles down the road at the shark museum, they had a stuffed duck that looked similar. I had to take a picture. The museum though, was the real reason for the stop. The Bjarnarhofn shark museum educates on how Greenland sharks are prepared to make a safe, edible Icelandic traditional food. The sharks are no longer hunted, just harvested and sent to this museum if they’re found in the net and  are actually poisonous if eaten directly after being caught due to the amount of uric acid that runs through their bodies like an antifreeze. Works great at keeping them alive in the deep, but not so good for human consumption. So, they cut them up into chunks that are then layered in crates and left for four to five months. This dries them some and lets some of the ammonia dissipate. Afterwards, they hang the chunks individually to cure the rest of the way. Yes. We tried it. No, we did not take any home. Marc did get the t-shirt though.

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Marc Takes A Bite

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He’s Smiling Because The Wind Is At His Front

We spent a restful night in Olafsvik, and I even cooked. It was nice to get someplace early and just chill after a shower and I even got to cook a simple dinner. Our hosts were a nice couple of characters with a country music performing past and really helpful in suggesting sights ahead. We had our last destinations planned pretty quickly.

Our first stop the next morning was at the end of an extremely rocky, pitted, one lane dirt road that is officially known as the most western part of Iceland and maybe, depending on who you ask, of Europe too.. There is a lighthouse at Snaefellbaer and cliffs populated by many species of birds. So many in fact, that they used to routinely harvest eggs to sell. Pretty neat, eh?

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wsterpe

Rolling on, we did this awesome climb up the side of a volcano, got to stand in the caldera and tried to take some cool pictures. My phone was having problems though and that’s all we were using for pictures this trip. it was so overcast that nothing much turned out well, but at least we got some exercise.

Next stop, was the fictional entrance from the Jules Verne’s classic story,  Journey To The Center of The Earth. map

Vatnshellir cave is  actually a lava tube, and is believed to be between six to eight thousand years old.  We descended a long spiral staircase and went deep into the cave. It gets so quiet down there, and the total darkness when all the flashlights go off  was pretty amazing.

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Looking For Adventure!

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The Staircase Lit By 10 Flashlights

We came above again and could immediately appreciate how much warmer it was up top. The cave had a few stalagtites and stalagmites, and bizzarly enough an 80 year old skeleton of a fox that had died down there but it was also chilly and somewhat damp. Much better up top.

Traveling on, we came to Hellnar and a hike that had been recommended as particularly good.

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Isn’t It Gorgeous?

While we didn’t do the whole walk, we did hike out and explore the caves at the edge before following the path for a bit.

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Marc Strikes A Pose

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Seen From the Path. That’s Snaefellsjokull Glacier In The Background

The rest of the trip back to Reykjavik was pretty uneventful, if a little uneven. The roads are a little bumpy  so I couldn’t fall asleep except when going through the tunnel north of the city. Remember the green moss-covered lava fields we saw at the start of the trip? We had a bit more of that too before we made it back to the city and some new digs.

Our last morning dawned bright and cool. We found our favorite pastry shop for a quick nosh before getting in a little souvenir hunting before we left.

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Rykavik Morning

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Accidental Kitty Ambassador. Cats were seen  practically every place we went.  

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Interspersed w/ the souvenir shops were some private residences. Isn’t this beautiful?

 

So, Iceland was seriously cool and I’m not punning. We’re already trying to figure out when we can go back for a long weekend. I’d like another shot at the northern lights. I’ve got the right camera now and Marc knows how to use it. LOL. Love to all who read this far. Next post will be short as, I swear!

 

 

 

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Iceland! The Golden Circle and Points East!

Breakfast Spot (1)

We got an almost early start our third day in Iceland, having to stop briefly for fresh croissants to eat in the car. The intention was to begin the drive around the ring road and hit the sites that  are highlighted along The Golden Circle. If you go for a tour, the buses do a loop out and back to Reykjavik that covers about 190 miles. We just went out and kept going.

Our first stop was premature, but we did finally locate Pingvellir National Park. The mass of cars and tour busses in the parking lot giving it away. This beautiful spot is where you can see a clear boundary between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic plates. Literally! There is a nice walking path but prior research had informed us that it’s also possible to skindive and see the break between the plates from underneath the very cold, very clear water. We chose the hike option. Lol.

PingvillierPlates

The path is directly between the plates

It wasn’t too far to the next stop but before we got to the Geysers, we had to stop so I could pet some horses. We saw so many horses in our travels around Iceland and it’s hard to believe that most of them are for riding. One of our homestays, has a hand in the industry and they educated us that it’s just the foals that are eaten, and the rest are used for riding. The horse I met seemed unsocialized, and I  well believed it could end up on a plate somewhere. No judgements here. About 10% of me wanted to try it but the majority said no and we didn’t actually see it on too many menu’s anyway.

Horses

Sorry, I have nothing to feed you. Let’s just say we’re even!

The next spot featured two geysers. One of which, Geysir, seems to have stopped erupting after an earthquake years ago. The other one though, is quite active. Stokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes and it was fun to stand outside the rope barrier along with 100 other people all going, “oh! oh!” every time the water would heave upwards. It always seemed to fake us out too, which led to much laughter.

After enjoying the show, we ended up climbing the small mountain behind the geysers for a little exercise and a different perspective. Quite beautiful from up there and you could seriously see for miles. TopOThe World

Our last interest point of the day was Gullfoss waterfall. This natural wonder is just an amazing site for tourists and even from a good half miles away, you cold feel the power from the rushing water and a definite drop in temperature from the spray hanging in the air. I understand that Iceland considered using if to generate power, but settled on just maintaining in as a tourist attraction instead.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss

Marc and I found our accommodations for the night pretty easily, but had a bit more trouble figuring out what to buy at the local grocery store for dinner. It’s hard to do when everything is in Icelandic and pictures can sometimes be misleading. We ended up with some pork ribs (they may have been heavily preserved, tasted like it) and some potato salad. Our digs had a hot tub so we had a great lazy evening of soaking, reading, having cocktails and dinner. The best part of the day, I cannot show you though. Marc woke me up and hurried me outside to see the Aurora Borealis. I had read that the earliest it could be seen was August 20th and so I wasn’t trying to get my hopes up, but there it was! A faint green glimmer in the sky that moved very fast and was gone in less than 10 minutes. How cool is that??!!

I’d like to say we got an early start the next day, but who am I kidding? After a breakfast of leftover croissant, bread and tea, we gathered up the trash, packed the car and took off. The sun was brilliant and the roads were sparsely traveled. We got gas and then found our first interest point of the day. Seljalandsfoss waterfall was beautiful and  is the location for a lot of wedding pictures. You can also hike up behind the falls and with our rain coats on, we were up to the challenge!Waterfall

Does anyone remember that volcano that erupted in Iceland back in 2010? It disrupted air travel for weeks and really brought attention to the whole country as newscasters tried (and mostly failed) to pronounce Eyjafjallajokull. We found it! Seems the buildings at the base all needed to be rebuilt, but a truck rumbling over the cattle gate and scaring the hell out of me seemed to mean that life was pretty much back to normal there.

eyjafjallajokull

How’d you like to live here? The offending volcano in the background.

We motored on and stopped when I saw this cute little house in the side of a mountain. Turns out, this is one of about 200 man-made caves that can only be found in the south of Iceland. This one is pretty deep and was used to store hay. It’s so deep, that another cave runs perpendicular to it and was used as a forge. We didn’t go in, having too many miles to go, but it’s really picturesque, eh?

Rutshellir

Tour buses led us to our next destination. The black sand beach  called Reynisfjara  is close to the southernmost tip of Iceland  and we were totally surprised to round a corner on the beach to see the basalt sea stacks  under the mountain. A small cave undercut the mountain and little sea birds called Puffins were constantly flying from the cliffs above out to the ocean.

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BlackBeach2

Near the mouth of the cave. Good geological formations everywhere!

A word about food…. by now, we had a goodly supply of interesting potato chip flavors and we were trying to stay stocked up on apples, but we hadn’t quite clued in yet to the whole you can drive for miles and hours and never see a restaurant or a gas station. So we had a lot of lunches featuring paprika or Mexican peppers and cream chips or Doritos cool American  (read ranch flavor) chips. Dinners were usually much better! We were aiming for dinner in Hofn that night, as they are known as the best place for langoustines in the country. We just had to get there first.

Stream

A beautiful stream in the middle of nowhere.

After that pretty stream, we drove through some of the most monotonous countryside I’ve ever seen. Take rocks, cover them with moss, and then put that on both sides of the road for a couple of hours. Relieve the monotony by spotting the occasional big black bird perched on a rock but otherwise, that’s all there is. They even warn you somewhat on the maps. There is a big swath of green from the black sand beach all the way up to the Vatnajokull glacier. This is what it looks like in person:

Nothing

I never want to see this again and I’m pretty sure Marc feels the same way.

We did finally drive out of it and our attention was distracted by the massive glacier that loomed ever closer. We got out to stretch our legs and take a closer look at the first turn off we came to.  There are warnings posted to be careful and a plaque honoring two young Germans who went missing years ago and were never found. We picked our way over a rough path besides the glacier for some cool pictures.

Glacier

From there, it was another good hour or so to Hofn and that wonderful dinner. Then, another two hours or so to get to our stopping place for the evening. Thank goodness it doesn’t get dark until 10:30 or so at night. We were able to check out the mountains and the scenery almost until we arrived. Marc had booked a unique/ nostalgic spot for us and our host was this wonderful 65+ woman who seems to make her living as a homestay. Anna was great and so were the digs! Especially after the drive we had that day!

Hofn dinner

Langoustines with salad and potato. Marc chose the ‘Duck & Dive’ which included duck confit.

Camper:Eidur

Feeling great after a good nights sleep. Kind of like being in NZ again. Thank you Marc!

Iceland! The Reykjavik Experience!

ReykjavikLake

Tjornin: Icelandic for The Lake or The Pond

Wow! Has it been a whole year since I’ve gone on vacation? It sure felt like it. Especially the last few weeks leading up to our departure. Marc had set a goal of one new country a year and when I heard that you can fly to Iceland in about the same time it takes to get to the west coast, I was in!

Our flight was relatively easy although the cabin itself was freezing! Marc was kind enough to jump up to snag my coat from my carry on shortly before we departed, only to get yelled at by the crew. ” I’m sorry, it’s my fault! ” I yelled loudly to defend him , ” I thought I would only be cold once we got there!” That seemed to defuse the situation and I wore that coat half the way there. I think WOW airlines likes to acclimate people to their destination as on the way home, it was really warm.

We landed in Keflavik at about 6 am on Sunday morning to a surreal world of rain and foggy mist hanging in the air. The time change is just four hours ahead of the East coast, but when you leave at seven pm, you kind of miss a nights sleep. This probably contributed a bit to the alienness we experienced our first day there.

We drove about 45 minutes to get to Reykjavik through a green and gray landscape of rocks and moss with the occasional  seagull flying by. I think we passed one small town, but it was almost a ‘blink and you missed it’ kind of deal. We were more entranced with the radio and seeing what Icelanders are listening to. Turns out they are big into 90’s nostalgia and I know I heard a Brittney Spears song followed by a reworked version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Heavy metal style!

Once we found our digs for the night, we parked the car and started exploring. At 7 a.m., not much is open yet, but we found the Einar Johnsson grounds open to the elements and to visitors. He was Iceland’s first sculptor and died in 1954, at which time his home and grounds were turned into a museum and sculpture garden. His work is very powerful and found in several parts of Iceland. Neat to see the rain on the sculptures too!

InarJohnssonStatue

We had heard that Iceland is big on pastries and breads and it didn’t take us too long to find a good spot for breakfast. The  cinnamon roll was fabulous and it was so neat to hear the polyglot of languages swirling around us as we savored  our meal.

Pastries

The rest of the day was broken up by short naps; stolen wherever  and whenever we could, a trip out to a lighthouse, hunting for a natural hot spring that someone had pointed out to Marc on a map (found it too, but it was more for feet than anything else), and soaking in a nearby spa that was recommended to us as a good place to meet locals. They had much to say about immigration and tourism, not all of it positive, but it was good to get some different perspectives, and to ride a water slide again! A great way to wind down after a crazy first day.

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Grotta Lighthouse in Reykjavik

Our second day in Reykjavik was cool and sunny. After an early morning cup of tea,  and an apple, we went out to do some more exploring around town. Iceland has about 320,000 people and 200 thousand of those live here in Reykjavik. We headed up the hill and turned in at the sculpture garden again to get a different perspective in the sunshine.

Sculp2

As we were strolling the grounds, we started chatting with a young woman enjoying the sunshine. Birna was sitting on the grass enjoying a cigarette and, as she told us later, waiting for her class to start. We all sat in the sun, warm enough to take our jackets off and   have a cross cultural experience with this cool artist! She’s a painter and does the most beautiful tatted lace. We also talked about the music scene and she showed us a music video of one on her friends. Olafur Analds featuring her friend Nanna Byndisilmards. The song is called Particles.

Birna

Birna showed us a couple of her favorite streets on the way to a coffee shop close to her class. We parted in  brightly lit square after sipping tea and being harassed by a some opportunistic bees.

We continued down to the waterfront, and found the spiffy cool sculpture honoring the Vikings.

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Solfar (Sun Voyager) Sculpture

As we continued to walk the streets, we got a sense of how accessible and sensibly laid out everything is and that you can pretty much walk everywhere you want to go if you have several hours available. We got to Harpa for a neat little four wall and a ceiling nature movie experience before turning inward again towards our hotel. That’s when we found the coolest little gem of a cemetery. Hollavallagardur  is the oldest cemetery in Reykjavik and was opened in 1838. Amazing to walk through the narrow, lanes between graves green with moss and age.  Mature trees sometimes growing directly  above.

We found embassy row and a nice park by the lake, and more amazing art work.

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Do you see stealth Marc in his Elven cloak of hiding?

There was some relaxing back at the hotel before we went out for dinner. The lateness of the sunset meant that we could go have dinner, and then head to a prime viewing spot. The summit of the little park boasts a sculpture of the first settler to Iceland, Ingolfur Arnarson. Who did the statue? Einar Jonsson. Of course. A great way to end the day.

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Gorgeous, Isn’t it?

Pacific Coast Dreams: California!

Glass Beach1

Our last two days involved a LOT of driving. We had the option of taking it a bit more leisurely and not getting to see much of San Fransisco, or doing a push and spending a whole day there.  Ultimately we, or rather I, chose the whole day. I’d not been and really wanted to check it out. Unfortunately though, that meant other things got a bit tight.

We stopped in Fort Bragg in late afternoon. Inside MacKerricher state park is a beach known as Glass Beach. In the early 1900’s they used to use certain spots off the cliffs as town dumps. When one spot filled up and fires wouldn’t reduce it further, they’d start a new one. They did this until 1967 when  it seems they realized what a horrible thing they’d been doing and they cleaned up the beaches. They removed the stuff that wouldn’t break down and left the glass behind as it was of no harm and kinda pretty. Now, the place gets  a ton of tourists every day and while they ask folks not to collect the glass, everyone does. The stuff that’s left is  usually not much bigger than grains of rice. Nice beach though, and still fun to look.

Glassbeach2

We saw the most beach glass at a little place right outside of town called (appropriately enough) The Sea Glass Gallery and Museum. Run by a salty old dog named Captain Cass, he makes jewelry, leads the occasional tour and hosts a free museum displaying a wide variety of sea glass with informative displays. Marc and he really hit it off and they chatted for a bit while I gawked and snapped pictures. He also sells chunks of half tumbled glass that people can buy to chuck into the ocean as a reseeding effort. Due to the constant grinding action of the waves, and people’s tendency to want to take home a few souvenirs,  the amount of glass on the beaches is being reduced  all the time. Made me want to start collecting glass shards to throw overboard the next time I’m at the beach. How cool would that be to be part of someone else’s lucky find?

Glassbeach3

Vaseline glass. It glows under black lights.

We managed to get a couple of tramps to lighthouses in on one day. Our first was to Point Cabrillo lighthouse. It was a nice half mile walk mostly down a slight slope to get to the isolated station. The only sounds, the occasional cry of a gull or the far off bark of  a seal. The view was amazing and we even got lucky enough to spot a couple of seals relaxing in the sunshine offshore.

LighthouseCoast

PointCabrillo

Can you see the seals?

Can you see the seals?

There was a quick stop in Mendocino for lunch before we had to get on the road again. Gotta say the town was beautiful and we’re sorry to have missed seeing more of it. But here’s a quick picture of a beautiful repurposed church I took on the way out-of-town:Mendocino church

Next up was the Point Arena Lighthouse located on the Mendonoma coast. This point of land is the closest to Hawaii in the continental US and the lighthouse itself is the tallest on the pacific  coast. While we decided not to climb to the top, we did stay for the guided tour of the museum below and saw a beautiful Fresnel lens on display. These were used to reflect lights out to sea and  by  the series of light flashes, length of time between flashes and colors associated with the flashes, ships at sea  could figure out where they were. These lenses were made in France, shipped here and elaborately reconstructed in the towers.

FresnelLense

Got it! We like to play tag with lighthouses.

Got it! We like to play tag with lighthouses.

The rest of the day was spent in a nausea inducing drive trying to follow the coast the rest of the way to San Fransisco. Honestly, for anyone taking this route north to south, we would recommend not bothering. By this point, you’ve seen plenty of the coast and the roads through here are rough, very twisty and with big variances in altitude. Instead, take Highway 1 to 101 south and save yourselves some time. By pushing hard, we were able to make it to the Golden Gate bridge right as the sun was setting. It was very windy, but an amazing view.

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It’s a good thing we did visit the bridge that afternoon. The next morning, the whole place was shrouded in a fog so thick it was hard to see five feet in front of you. In the morning, we went to a scenic overlook called Twin Peaks park that sits near the center of San Fransisco. From the top, we could see 180 degree views of the bay area. It was weirdly beautiful with patches of fog pushed by strong winds alternately revealing and hiding the surroundings. Nature playing peekaboo, if you will.

Twin Peaks, SF      Hunger was the impetus to move on to our next destination. The world-famous Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fransisco is a tourists dream. The  area is loaded with seafood restaurants, buskers,  charter boats and shops  of all kinds willing to sell you whatever you’re missing. We got really lucky to get a parking spot right in the middle of the craziness that validated with a restaurant visit. While it wasn’t the best crab cake I’ve ever had, it was far from the worst. What a first world problem, eh?

FWSF

Alcatraz lurks disturbingly offshore.

Alcatraz lurks disturbingly offshore.

One of the neatest things we found while walking around Fisherman’s Wharf was a place called Musee Mecanique. In a unasuming building right next to the water is this huge collection of antique penny arcade games gathered by the late Edward Zelinsky. He started collecting them in 1933 and there is an amazing variety of games of skill, fortune tellers, early peep shows and even matchstick artwork made by the inmates of Alcatraz on display inside. Best of all, everything works and you can play anything inside! I think the latest games I saw might have been from the 70’s, and there weren’t many of them.

Matchstick Ferris Wheel. Echo's of Seattle?

Matchstick Ferris Wheel. Echo’s of Seattle?

What was he looking at?

What was he looking at?

Palm Reader

The Magic Ray! My fortune read: You delight in high-minded pursuits, your love for domestic pleasure is pronounced in all your actions, you make a devoted companion. Those who deal with you must do so gently and persuasively….

We had three more destinations in mind for the day and we needed to get to them fast! First up was Lombard street. Known unofficially as the twistiest street in the world, it was eight switchbacks in a one block area. It goes one way only on red brick pavement and  seems to be constantly  navigated by tourists. Kinda feel sorry for anyone who lives there, but then again, you’d have to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Lombard Street

Lombard Street

We booked from there over to the old ruins of the Sutro baths on the western side of San Fransisco. Built by a former mayor of San Fransisco, these were the largest indoor swimming pools in the world for their time. Unfortunately, they never made any real money and closed in 1966. While they were being dismantled, arson was responsible for destroying what was left and the developer took the money and ran. Now, it’s a part of national park service and a home for all kinds of birds with hiking trails and a couple of small restaurants where you can sit and people watch and bird watch from a warm, non windy spot inside.  It’s also is a great spot for wedding pictures.

Sutrobaths

Our last stop was really special. We managed to hit the Castro district of San Fransisco on the first day of Pride on June 26th. The same day that the Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a right afforded to all people in our country, gay or straight! The atmosphere was jubilant and the energy of the crowd was amazing. People were walking around with the biggest smiles and the most outlandish costumes, hugging and cheering and just generally carrying on as you do at a Pride celebration.

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We had so much fun just generally being part of the celebration, people watching, doing a little shopping and getting some photos taken with other celebrants. What an amazing way to end an awesome trip.

wedding celebration

We wanted to find a place to eat in the middle of the chaos, but the lines were super long and in the end, we opted to leave the party and head back towards our hotel. We ended up at this cool little family owned taqueria near our hotel that had the most amazing food. Our last night was spent eating authentic mexican food and watching the San Fransisco Giants baseball team play a tight game against the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies won, 32 to 40 at the last minute and I think we were all a little deflated after that.  Still, the food was great and it was really neat to share that time with the family.

Our trip home was uneventful and the supershuttle got us home safe and sound.  I swear I needed a vacation after my vacation. LOL. Luckily, at that time I wasn’t working that much so it wasn’t too hard to get rested up again. Would we do it again? Definitely! Although next time we’re thinking of sticking to the Seattle area and participating in the bike ride and exploring Olympic National Park/ Forest.  There are so many places we want to visit and only so much vacation time to go around so we have to be judicious. But traveling with Marc is the best part of any trip. He sure knows how to fit a bunch of stuff in a short time and make the most of any trip. Looking forward to the next trip already!

T2

 

Bye all and thanks for following along with us on Chasing Summer!

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Dreams: Oregon to California

Mingus Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

Mingus Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

After a night spent sleeping close to the road. We woke up to a world filled with fog outside our window. We ate breakfast and watched the mist recede back across the bay while eating stockpiled Ranier cherries, apples and jerky. When it was clear to the bridge, we took off. Our first stop was a cute little neighborhood park. Mingus park is beautifully maintained and had an easy one mile trail around a lake with an open section guarded aggressively by geese and a beautiful wooded section with a Japanese theme and a few friendly cats smoozing for pets. What a great start to the day, eh?

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Marc meets a Tyrannosaur at Prehistoric Gardens

Next up was  a kinda kitschy, but eminently cool roadside attraction called Prehistoric Gardens. Being located inside an Oregon rainforest gives this park of life-sized dinosaur replicas an even greater sense of realism and it was fun to compare ourselves to the models. We talked to the owner on the way out and she  told us about her grandparents building the park back in the 1950’s and her commitment to keeping it going. Needless to say, the kids we saw along the way loved it… and so did the adults!

Big brontosaurus and teeny me!

Big Brontosaurus and teeny me!

Pteranodon

 

I bet you’re wondering how much stuff two people can fit into one day. The answer is a helluva lot actually, when Marc is driving. LOL. I’m going to skip the last two stops for the day but suffice to say we saw another lighthouse from a distance ( missed the low tide window and didn’t want to wade through icy cold water). Also saw another cool rock formation at a scenic outlook, and crossed into California. Odd to have to go through an agriculture checkpoint from one state to another.

Day six was dedicated to finding Redwoods.  Marc headed us down the road toward Lady Bird Johnson’s Grove. On the way though,  we had to stop for a couple of photo op’s. I mean, how often do you come across gigantic statues of Paul Bunyan and Blue or wild elk?

Paul Bunyon and Blue

Paul Bunyan and Blue.See Marc underneath Paul’s foot?

Elk! They were wholly unimpressed with me.

Elk! They were wholly unimpressed with me.

We met our first redwood trees at a spot that felt almost sacred. Lady Bird Johnson was one of many people who realized early on that the Redwood trees were special and needed to be protected from commercial logging and timber industries before there was nothing left for future generations. This 300 acre grove was dedicated to her in 1969. It’s quite different from the Kauri’s in New Zealand. Here, a lot of the trees are hollowed out and blackened in spots from periodic forest fires that clear ground cover and new opportunities for life. Interestingly, fire  doesn’t necessarily  kills these trees because  their bark is a thickly insulating layer their sap is mostly water.  It was a beautiful tramp in an almost hushed atmosphere  with cool clean air brushing my cheeks occasionally as we investigated the forest.

LBJPark

We drove on refreshed, towards Avenue of the Giants and Humboldt Redwoods state park. This is a thirty-two mile driving tour through groves of Redwoods that are named for the folks that paid to preserve them or the towns they’re inside. There are trails, campgrounds,  and overlooks with plenty of pull off spots and souvenir shops along the side of the road. We saw fallen giants and victorious survivors along the way and took plenty of pictures.

 

Fallen Giant

Toppled Redwood tree. Massive, eh?

The Immortal Tree. This tree has survived fire, loging axes, lightening, and floods. It's between 950-1000 years old.

The Immortal Tree. This tree has survived fire, logging axes, lightening, and floods. It’s between 950-1000 years old.

The Eternal Treehouse. Used at various times to house people, supplies, or livestock. Hollowed redwood base.

The Eternal Treehouse. Used at various times to house people, supplies, or livestock. Hollowed redwood base.

Just driving through

Just driving through!

Yes, I had to do it too

Yes, I had to do it too!

It got hot as we drove out of the forest. Amazing what those massive trees do to cool the temperature down. We kept our eyes open for a spot where we could reach the river for a skinny dip, but the one potential spot  we found without people we began to realize may have been being set up for an illegal pot growing operation and we got the hell out of there. Still, the scenery in the distance was awesome.

NiceView

Wow! No wonder I was tired when we got back home! Four posts into the trip and I think I should stop here so no one gets too tired reading all this at one time. One more to go. I’m sure of it now. Thanks for following me and see you again soon on Chasing Summer!

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Dreams: Oregon

Right, so last time we met, our heroe’s had just driven off into the sunset south towards new adventures. The first of which was a visit to the Astoria column. Marc had looked it up and it seemed interesting so off we went. It is the highest point in Astoria and is decorated with paintings on the outside showing different significant events in the history of the area, This is what we found when we got there

Astoria1

Look! It’s a giant condom  covered column!

This is what it's supposed to look like.

This is what it’s supposed to look like.

Gotta love city workers. Marc asked why they were still collecting a parking fee when there was nothing to see.  We were told our contribution actually made us park members for a whole year and we could come back any time with our receipt for free entrance into the park. *Laughs* Really guys? Still, it was a nice enough spot. You could see for miles and miles and it was a beautiful day. We moved on though as we still had miles to go.

AstroiaShipwreck

This is the wreck of the Peter Iredale. It sits inside part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historic parks network. It ran aground in 1906 on Clatsopt Spit due to a mix of foul conditions. Fog, a rising tide and a harsh squall combined to push the ship up onto the sands. They were going to try to  tow it back out to sea, but good conditions didn’t combine in a timely enough manner and the ship was sold for scrap. The Captain’s final toast to his ship,

” May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands.” I wouldn’t say they’re bleaching, more like rusting away, with less and less remaining every year according to one local we talked to. The kids love it though. Neat jungle gym, eh?

Haystack1

Things took a bit of a bizarre turn as we continued down the coast. Our next stop was Cannon Beach to visit Haystack rock. See that lovely sunshine up above? We drove through beautiful forests with the sun shining down through the trees and glimpses of beach off to the left as we got closer and closer. Then, we turned a corner and dropped into  something else altogether different.

Haystack2

Haystack Rock @ high tide

Fog, or a foggish mist that dimmed the sun and put a haze on everything in front of us. Haystack rock looked pretty cool. It’s 275 feet high ( 72 meters for my NZ friends) and  it really does dominate the landscape. At low tide you can walk over to it although we didn’t get that lucky though.  There are two large needles off to the left, but I didn’t get any really great shots of them. People were hanging out, walking the shoreline and a few kids playing at the water’s edge. Not really a beach day as I think of it, but then it is a lot cooler than in the summertime.

We holed up at a rather nice little place in Rockaway Beach that night called the Seaview Motel. It was a one-off place than nonetheless did not skimp on the fresh towels, or cleanliness. The town is known for steam engine rides and beaches that are great for building bonfires on. There was also a neat little geologic feature off shore:RockawayBeach

We got a somewhat early start  the next dayand continued south. I had been seeing signs for the Tillamook jerky outlet and since I know Marc absolutely loves jerky, we had to stop in. The outlet store is right next to their production building and man did they have all kinds of jerky. Heck, they had jerky I’d never even thought of, like turkey nuggets. Suffice to say, we bought our fair share.

TillamookFO

Marc pays homage

Next stop was the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon coast and a nice chance to stretch our legs for a short jaunt to the point. Cape Mears is not active anymore,  and was switched off in 2014. Now it functions as a  small park for the public and a learning and appreciation center for lighthouses. We actually got to go inside this one for free and the guides gave a nice little tour.

Cape Mears1

Winding our way upwards

Winding our way upwards

There is also a really amazing Sitka Spruce pine tree a short hike away from the lighthouse.  Called the Octopus Tree, no one knows why it formed like it did as they don’t usually grow like this. Some think that some native Americans trained the tree to grow like this, but it’s really all conjecture. Pretty cool though, eh?

Believed to be between 250-300 years old. The tree, not me!

Believed to be between 250-300 years old. The tree, not me!

We were on our way to a famous cave where all the sea lions like to gather when I spotted a whole bunch of them taking a nap on a sandbar. We stopped and grabbed the binoculars for a little wild animal gazing and probably ended up saving ourselves as little coin as this was free. LOL.

Lazy Sealions

Lazy Sea lions

We did one more quick stop for the day before quitting for the evening. I so wanted to do this tramp, but the stairs and steepness of the cliff was daunting so in the end, it was deemed easier to just take a couple of snaps. This is called Devil’s Churn.

Devils Churn

We stayed at this weird little motel right off the highway. The big draw was ocean views but it was more like we looked out onto the bay really. Did get to see a beautiful sunset though so it was all good.

OSunset

Gonna stop here for now so no one, including myself gets too overwhelmed.  Hopefully, I can keep it to one more post to finish up. Thanks for following along and see you next time on Chasing Summer!

Pacific Coast Dreams: Seattle, Washington

SeattleWheelCara

Man! This working for a living is tough! You really gotta plot and plan to get the max vacation time possible. Then, be inventive with your destinations and take advantage of every coincidence and opportunity. I’m smiling as I say that. I managed to get ten days off work in a row and we decided to spend ’em traveling the Pacific coast highway. After spending some time getting advice from a friend (thanks Denny!), Marc booked us airfare to and a rental car in Seattle, Washington. We have a friend there who we called ahead of time and he told us about a cool little local happening the day after we got there. Then, three days before we left, I saw a Facebook post from my cousin showing her family had just settled in Seattle. Wild right?

We got an early flight so we’d have a bit more time to explore Seattle. Waiting at the gate was a bit of fun. We were surrounded by a group of elderly Japanese tourists who must have had hearing problems as they were pretty loud as the talked amongst themselves. Then they pulled out their breakfast while we were eating ours. I must admit, their corn on the cob looked pretty tasty. Really wanted to try that.

The flight went quickly and in no time we were at the hotel. Hills. Hills everywhere and homeless people here and there camped  right next to the highways. Never seen that before. After dropping off the luggage, we headed down the hill to the waterfront. We really needed to stretch our legs after the flight and were eager to see the city. The Seattle Great Wheel dominates the shoreline but isn’t the only attraction present. Antique shops, restaurants, an aquarium and multiple open docks line Alaskan Way. With a nice walk behind us, we hit the ferris wheel.  After seeing everything at ground level, how cool to see it all from up high. When it opened in 2012, it was the tallest ferris wheel on the west coast at 175 feet. The lines were minimal for a Friday afternoon and we managed to get a glass enclosed car all to ourselves.

Wheel2

We climbed the hill back to our hotel to get ready for dinner and that’s when the fun really started. My cousin called and asked us to meet them in 10. Unfortunately, I was in the shower at the time and the car was in lock down at a pay parking lot. In the end, Kelly and the crew came down and met us at our hotel and we went out in search of gelato. Yes, we walked down that hill again but ended up at a restaurant for a drink and desert for the kids. I think Kelly and I figured out that the last time we met was when Gerald was one or two years old. Now he’s sixteen and wow! Tall and handsome, just like his dad. It was great to meet everyone and Kelly and I got to catch up on about 15-20 years of gossip about all the kin back home in North Carolina before we had to leave for dinner. Next time we come, we’ll be staying with them. Lol.

Me & Cousin Kelly

Me & Cousin Kelly

Gerald and

Gerald and Erin, practically all grown up!

We ended our first day in Seattle with dinner at an amazing restaurant. Wild Ginger  does awesome asian food and has been voted most popular restaurant in the pacific northwest for eleven years running! I would highly recommend it. They serve everything family style and small portions so you can try a bit more. The wild boar and everything else was so incredible that it made the  Pad Thai that would have been great anywhere else, just seem commonplace. We ended up getting it boxed to go with the idea of giving it to the first homeless person we saw. It’s harder to tell whose homeless though at 10;30 at night and we ended up giving it to our afternoon hotel clerk. We caught him coming down the hill as we were struggling up.

Catch That Fish!

Catch That Fish!

Our second day, we started by going back down the hill to Pikes Place Market. There is a fish shop inside  that specializes in putting on a bit of a show whenever anyone orders a fish and they’re kinda famous for it. Sadly, there were more people hanging out for the show than actually ordering anything, but I did see one fish fly. See those crabs up there? They also sold it in cups with an awesome seafood sauce. It was so good! The market is huge and has vendors for anything you can think of. I guess you can say we grazed our way through and bought some supplies for the parade/festival  later too.

MarketFlowers

The Freemont Solstice Fair has been going down for forty years and thanks to our friend Chris, we got to experience a pretty neat event. I believe what hooked us was the fifteen hundred naked, body painted cyclists that precede the parade every year.  These folks run the gamut of ages and abilities when it comes to body paint. Not everyone gets totally naked, but definitely a more relaxed vibe out there.

Hunt

I think the boots were real

BluePaintedLadies

She had the most beautiful painted on corset.

She had the most beautiful painted on corset

Our friend Chris managed to find us in the throng on people lining the parade route right before the floats began to arrive. We had a few minutes to chat before the bands, dancers and floats started past us. He still looks the same… maybe less stressed as he’d just finished applying for tenure. Didn’t take long for me to realize that this parade is wholly put on by the local population. There are no corporate sponsors and it was interesting to see protest floats among the celebrants.

Paradestart

Sun

Blow

Chris

Protest group w/ Black American flag and oil drums being rolled down the street. I think they were protesting drilling off shore. Oh, and our friend Chris.

We hung out with Chris for a while, watching the parade and catching up before he took us to Gasworks park to meet up  with a friend of his. Gasworks park is amazing! The site was originally for converting coal to gas, but with the importation of natural gas in the 1950’s, the place was rendered obsolete and was shut down. Instead of just tearing everything down though, it was acquired by the city which eventually cleaned it up, painted parts of it and made it safe to be used as a park. The overflow from the park found its way here. There were food trucks, people having BBQ’s and picnic’s, slack line walkers, acrobats, jugglers, and bands performing everywhere you looked.

Acrobats and a Slackline Walker

Acrobats and a Slackline Walker

MGasworks

Marc strikes a pose!

Cgasworks

Coolio!

After an awesome day of festivities, food and mostly naked people, it was time to move on. We had hundreds of miles of pacific coast highway to cover and less and less time to make it all happen. We moved on that evening, headed south, talking about the day and all that we’d seen. In search of a hotel room on the way and new sights to see. As the sun was setting and we rounded a corner on the highway, we had one more moment that took our breath and all conversation away. Mt Rainer, that magnificent snow-capped mountain dominating the distance. We watched it until it got too dark to see and then stopped for the night. Ready for some sleep and a fresh start to the morning.

I wish that for all of you too. A good nights sleep and a fresh start every morning with the opportunity to have a great experience every day with people you love. I think there will be two more parts to our West coast trip so stay tuned peeps! It’s always interesting.