The open road. Even better with an open schedule. I love a good road trip, to just about anywhere, really, and the trip down the Pacific coast of the U.S. is just tops. The other times that I’ve done this trip, I’ve driven the coastline down from Washington into Oregon and then California, taking I-5 back up to save a bit of time. This trip I’ve done the reverse, which worked out well for planning visits with friends and family along the way. So far it’s gone a little something like this…
I had just wrapped up a relaxing three weeks of house & pet sitting in Seattle for some new friends, and it was just what I needed. Some down time to ease back into life in the U.S. after nearly a year abroad. I had under-estimated what that process would be like; probably because I’ve never had to do it before, but also because I am typically fairly grounded in any environment, so I figured it wouldn’t be so bad. Uh… It’s safe to say that I struggled with it, and am still struggling a bit. Life in the U.S. is so different from many of the places that I visited, none more so than Africa. But since I’ve covered this topic a bit already in previous posts, I’ll simply say that every American should travel to another country, preferably on another continent, at least once in their life. Game changer.
I loaded up the car and got on the road on a Friday, spending my first weekend in Salem, Oregon visiting one of my dearest friends and her family, complete with two dogs always happy for as much affection as possible. It had been a couple of years since my last visit, and it was great to see how much the kids have grown, yet still small enough for snuggles from Aunt Stacy.
On Monday I left to drive through the rest of western Oregon and into northern California, with an overnight stay in Redding. So much of that drive is just beautiful — the evergreen trees that eventually give way to the redwood forests of northern California, the snow-covered peaks of Mount Shasta with a majestic farewell as you pass through the very southern end of the Cascade Mountain range.
After an overnight stay in Redding, I drove from there to the San Francisco Bay area, where my dad lives in Hayward, south of Oakland on the East Bay. We always have a good time, often with a trip to Half Moon Bay on the coast, or an afternoon in Sausalito, or some other day jaunt in the area. I was also able to meet up with a friend who was one of my inspirations for my trip to Africa, sharing stories of our travels and the ways in which it’s changed our lives for the better, even if it’s shaken things up a bit. In all the right ways. And I can’t wait for what’s next for each of us, as well as so many of the other friends with whom I’ve shared parts of this journey.
After the SF Bay Area, it was south to Thousand Oaks in Ventura county, which is north of LA and east of Malibu, staying with another one of my long-time friends and her adorable family. They surprised me with a wild-life themed welcome home cake, complete with animal print candles. The closest thing to wild animal decorations they had at the bakery were dinosaur figures, which was hilarious and a somehow perfect fit. Their two kids are fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, and so super cute. My ugly cry moment was telling my friend what a good mom she is, and realizing how happy I am for her that she has these two amazing little beings in her life, as well as a fabulous guy. One of my greatest joys is seeing my friends happy — whatever that means for them — and to see them be the best person they can be, whether that’s as a parent, or a civil rights advocate, or an animal lover, a world traveler, an adventure seeker, or simply a good person. My emotions have deepened over this last year. I know… how was that even possible? Have you met me? It’s funny how getting even more tuned in to not only the world around you, and all across the globe, but the world within you will do this. I’ll still kick your ass, though. So don’t sass me.
Heading south from there on Tuesday morning, I made my way through LA and all the way to San Diego, finding my way to yet another friend’s place in Point Loma, on the west side of the bay, across from downtown. While I hadn’t explored this part of San Diego on my past trips, it felt immediately familiar and comfortable to me somehow, which I figured out within a day or so: it reminds me of the West Seattle area of Seattle, since it’s on a pennisula across a bay from the city, close to downtown without still being in it, with a small town feel to the neighborhood, although the area is quite large. I arrived on Tuesday and had a great time catching up with my friend over some yummy fish tacos at a great place on the water. Another little detail I’ve noticed is that many of the streets in this neighborhood are named after the great writers and philosophers, so that’s fun.
I slept in a bit on Wedneday, and took a mid-morning walk along the water, all the way to the local Fisherman’s Terminal and back, enjoying the views of the bay, marinas, a waterfront homes. In the afternoon, I took a drive over to Coronado and through some of the quaint neighborhoods with their lovely homes and beautifully landscaped yards, and ventured into Old Town in the evening for some good Mexican food. Today I vistited the Cabrillo National Monument on the southern end of the pennisula, with views of the entire San Diego area and Pacific Ocean, complete with an old lighthouse. I took the road down to the ocean, walking along the paths where I was greeted by the fresh salt air and mist of the sea spray. Perfection. This afternoon was a trip downtown to the waterfront, having lunch at a restaurant on the water, watching all the naval ships, including a huge aircraft carrier, sail on by. I walked down the prommenade to where the USS Midway is docked, now a museum, and since I had taken the tour on a past trip, this time I just admired her from a distance, and all the aircraft parked on her deck as part of the museum. Quite a sight. I drove through the Gaslamp Quarter, which is analgalous to Seattle’s Pioneer Square, another of one this city’s great neighborhoods.
Tomorrow I will likely visit the incomparable Balboa Park, with its beautiful gardens and architecture, and then dust of my Aunt Stacy cape again for the next round of adventures with friends’ kiddos this weekend, which is always a hoot. I’ll be here through the weekend, and probably into the first part of next week, and then make my way back up the coast, enjoying it all along the way.
You know what to say, so say it with me…