In 1967 my father bought a Pontiac Catalina and a dingy old travel trailer and took his girlfriend, my brother and me on a road trip. Over the next 8 weeks we drove 13,498 miles, visited 51 parks, and saw wonders like geysers, redwoods, grizzlies, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The trip made an indelible impression, cementing my appreciation for the natural world and the American landscape. This summer Pamela and I hope to repeat the experience for our family.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dave: Old Friends

After the Korean tacos we headed out to Santa Monica to meet Bruce Favish and Roma. We had lunch at a little bistro on the sidewalk on the Third Street Promenade.

Santa Monica is denser and busier than ever, but still entertaining. Pamela and I kept saying, "I recognize this side of the street but that side is completely new." It's been 16 years since we lived here. They have the nerve to keep changing things since we left.

After lunch we strolled on the palisades to get a little taste of the ocean views.

Then it was time to battle traffic on the way back to the Gentiles. Oh my god, the traffic is never-ending here. I know when you live here you learn how to structure your life to avoid traffic. As a visitor, however, it's so daunting. Makes us so glad to be living in sleepy western Massachusetts.

That night Ralph and Karen invited a dozen or so of our old friends over and whipped up a great meal of shish kabob with their typical easy grace. We spent several hours visiting with Steve and Patty, their kids, Jon Root, Bruce and Roma, Sue DiJulio, and Bruce Carter, who we had not seen in a dozen years or so. It was great to reconnect with all of them.

What a great time we had with Ralph and Karen and all our other LA friends.

Dave: Mexican and Korean Tacos

We left Lark and Linden in the Bay Area. Lark will be staying with the Jurisichs, Linden with the Wicinas family. They are flying home, unaccompanied, on Tuesday. We are worried about that, but I guess it's a growing experience--for them and us.

After getting the kids squared away, Pamela and I blasted down the 5 to LA, arriving just after rush hour (meaning about 1 AM). Ha ha. That's a joke. There is no end to the rush hour in LA! We got there around 7 PM and decided to visit our favorite burrito stand, Tito's Tacos. It was as filling as every. We even remembered the details of our typical order Perhaps the only difference is that everyone now stares at their phones while they wait for their food. I'm not sure that's an improvement.

Then we headed over to the Gentile's, who welcomed us to their home with typical easy-going hospitality. It was great to visit with Karen and Ralph. Their lives are on the cusp of some changes. Noah is about to leave for college. Karen has started a new job in San Francisco, and they are pondering how to set up a new pattern for their lives that allows for Karen to work while Ralph keeps a foothold in Los Angeles.

The next day Pamela and I did a drive-by of Frank Gehry's Disney Hall, which was wonderful. We were supposed to meet Bruce Favish for lunch in Santa Monica but we were also intrigued by a phenomenon we had read about, Korean tacos.

Pamela got online and determined that one of the Korean taco trucks would be on the west side this afternoon. So we set our navigation system and prepared our taste buds. Our plan was to eat a little pre-lunch.

We arrived in a parking lot behind a non-descript office building in Brentwood. There are a few people hanging around. After a few minutes they all start queuing up. Pretty soon there are 35 people standing in a line in a parking lot, but no sign of the truck. It's supposed to show up at noon, but noon passes and no truck. Lots of people consult their phones. Word goes out that the truck is delayed 30 minutes for mechanical problems. One of the reasons I had heard about the Korean taco trucks was because they are often cited as one of the first practical uses for Twitter. The crowd can tell you when the blessed truck is in your neighborhood. We saw this in action while we waited.

Pamela and I had a few minutes to spare and this was such a strange event we decide to wait it out. Finally the truck rolls up. The driver apologizes but everyone grovels and says, "No problem." Clearly these people LOVE these tacos and don't want to mess with the driver.

I have to say, the tacos were incredibly good. Slightly sweet, fairly spicey, excellent meat. A most unique taste combination. We only had one each. I could have eaten five. Although it was just a few bites, it was one of best meals we have had on the whole trip. No wonder people are lining up in parking lots.

Dave: The Spirit of the National Parks

We spent a day in the Bay Area. In the morning, we went to John Muir's house in Martinez, something we had never done while living there.

Last winter Linden and I had watched the PBS special about the national parks, and Linden became very interested in John Muir. We thought it fitting to visit his home. After all, it was his legacy that preserved so much of the wild lands we saw on this trip.

Surprisingly, Muir lived in a large Italianate home on a hill in Martinez, amidst a large property filled with fruit trees. (He had to wisdom to marry well, and eventually he inherited this big house from his father-in-law.) It was interesting to see Muir's home and develop some images of him that differ from the iconic shots, such as he andTeddy Roosevelt on top of Half Dome.

Afterward I went back to my brother's and did some BMC work while Pamela and the kids went into the city to visit Chinatown, Ferry Plaza, and other fun sites.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Tuesday, July 27

9:20 Left Best Western in Fort Bragg

10:20 Settled on a bakery/cafe in Mendocino for breakfast. Ordered bagels and cream cheese and combined them with the smoked salmon we had purchased on the Klamath Indian reservation. This combination, along with the best coffee we've had in weeks, made an excellent breakfast.

10:45 Pamela strolled through Mendocino while Dave, Lark, and Linden walked along the headlands, looking down into the coves and sea caves. The headlands walk was excellent, even though the blackberries that grow everywhere are not yet ripe.

12:30 Left Mendocino

1:30 Stopped at the Standish winery for tasting. It's an old apple press. Our visit was not an entertaining as a visit Pamela paid here in 2007 with Bruce and Linda. The winery is in the process of being sold, under court order, as a result of a family dispute. We bought an excellent dry rose.

1:50 Stopped at the Goldeneye vineyard. Sat out on their beautiful patio over looking the vineyards while the fountains splashes. We drank a toast to our friend Linda who was with Pamela in this same place in 2007. She passed away last fall and we miss her.

2:30 Stopped at the so called General Store in Booneville for a late lunch. Food was very good.

3:30 Finished listening to Jane Eyre, after many long days. We all liked it a lot, even though we felt Charlotte could have used an editor. She seemed to repeat her points a bit often.

4:15 Stopped in the upscale town of Healdsburg for coffee and a late afternoon treat.

6:23 Arrived at Wicinas west. Mileage: 58989 (approximately 6,000 miles since we left Fallbrook, 4 and a half weeks ago.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Monday, July 26

9:20 Leave the Inn of the Beachcomber.

9:30 Stop at a scenic point to view ocean rocks and take pictures with the Jurisich family. One of the rocks has a cool sea tunnel carved through it.

10:00 Stop in Brookings to buy cherries and nectarines as a roadside stand.

10:15 Stop at Dutch Bros. Coffee for coffee and hot chocolate. Very hot coffee!

10:40 Enter California and had to surrender cherries we just bought. We were allowed to proceed to the safety zone and eat as many cherries as we could before surrendering the rest.

10:52 Coffee now cool enough to drink.

11:35 Searching for a charcuterie in Crescent City. Fail to find it. Have to stop at Safeway for picnic supplies.

12:15 Photo op of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox.

12:20 Purchase some smoked salmon from the Klamath Trading Post.

12:30 Entered Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

1:11 After making an incredibly beautiful drive through the redwoods, we meet Jurisichs at the visitors center and picnic at Big Tree, which, as you might guess, is an exceptionally big redwood. Then we take a three mile hike through Cathedral Grove. At the very end, Linden and I peel off and head our own way, convinced that everyone else is heading the wrong way. We are correct, and we spend the next half hour driving between Big Tree and the next trailhead looking for our compatriots. Eventually they find their way back to Big Tree.

4:30 Say goodbye to the Jurisichs for now.

4:45 Stop at visitors center for Redwoods National Park for my last patch of the trip.

6:30 Swing through Garberville looking for lodging and restaurants. There are a couple decent looking motels, but the restaurants are all pretty grim and the town seems to be crawling with grubby, pseudo-hippies. We push on for Leggett.

7:00 There is nothing in Leggett. We have no choice but to head for Fort Bragg, but that’s a torturous 50 mile drive, starting with 22 miles through narrow winding roads. The kids have become extremely good road trip travelers and tonight they get to prove it as we make this long drive without a single complaint, despite the fact we are all starving.

8:45 Stop at the North Coast Brewery and Grill in Fort Bragg and devour some nachos. Then proceed to dinner

9:45 Check into a Best Western in Fort Bragg for our last night of the trip.


Sunday, July 25

8:55 Departed Double Tree Inn

915 Breakfast at the Grand Central Bakery on Hawthorne in SW. Ate good pastries and bought some excellent breakfast for today’s picnic lunch. Lark had bread and water—her choice.

9:55 Safeway stop for picnic supplies.

11:55 Stop for gas in Eugene. Trying to get hold of Betsy Finegan to set up a rendezvous on the Oregon coast tonight. We are driving up the Willammette Valley. It looks a lot like Napa except it’s a little more green and a little less posh.

12:15 Stop at a Farmer’s Market in Drain but they forgot the farmers. Now we are making a beautiful drive along the Umpqua River valley.

1:40 Stop at the Visitor’s Center for Oregon Dunes. We are looking for a good picnic spot. They ask, “Are you here for the buggies?” Everyone rides ATVs on the huge dunes along the coast here. Pamela says no.

2:00 We stop at a picnic area along the beach but it’s dusty, grim, and infested with ATVs. We push on.

2:15 We stop at a very pretty picnic area near the Umpqua lighthouse. We eat a hasty picnic lunch while the fog rolls over us. Too cold to sit down. Also, we are short on rations as we never did find fresh fruit. Today chocolate covered blueberries will have to serve as fruit.

4:05 Stop at a beach overlook in Port Orford. Beautiful view of some sea haystacks, or water hoodoos, as we call them. We looked as some beautiful flowering snapweasels.

5:00 Arrive at our motel, the Inn of the Beachcomber in Gold Beach. This was a great piece of Internet research combined with some luck. We reserved two rooms, one for us and one for the Jurisich’s. Our very nicely appointed rooms had decks looking out over the dunes. Jump off the deck, cross a lawn, take a trail through the dunes, and you’re on a huge long stretch of beach that’s largely deserted. The weather has cleared and it’s a great time to be there.

We have a wonderful night with the Jurisich family. We take a long long walk on the beautiful beach, all the way to a couple distant water hoodoos. Linden builds some elaborate sand fairy structures. Pamela and Betsy visit on the deck. The fathers and kids play Frisbee and soccer on the grass outside the deck. We order take-out seafood from a local restaurant and eat at a picnic table on the lawn and drink beer.

Later on the girls take a flashlight and take a walk on the beach. They see a bonfire and they have been telling Linden that hoboes gather on the beach around bonfires. Only then they can’t find their way back to the hotel. It’s tricky to find the path through the dunes. Eventually they end up at a neighboring hotel and have to make their way home. Right around the time they return, we are realizing they have been gone a suspiciously long time and are about to send out the police. But, all’s well that ends well.

A most excellent night. I would gladly come back to the Inn of the Beachcomber.

Dave: Portland - Berkeley on Steroids

Portland seems like a great place to be 28 years old.

We rolled into Portland on a Friday night at dinner time. Using her “game mom,” Pamela had scoped out a good, cheap restaurant called Pok Pok. Using our GPS system, nicknamed Penelope because she is the woman’s voice on the Odyssey we are driving, we found the place easily after passing many other bars and restaurants that were hopping with life.

Pok Pok must indeed be a great place because it was a two hour wait to be seated. Pamela returned to her game mom while the rest of us listened to our stomachs growling.

She found another place called Por que no? Penelope led us there in a few minutes. There were 20 people in a line snaking out the door.

We gave up and ate at the Dingo grill, a Mexican place across the street. It was decent and we ate at a table on the street, which was fun. It was a warm night.

This part of Portland seems like a giant Berkeley. Lots of single family homes, tightly spaced. Long, pre-war commercial strips revitalized with restaurants, galleries, vintage clothing stores, etc. And lots of youngish people, many of them riding bicycles. There are bikes everywhere and plenty of bike lanes. Everybody seems very environmentally conscious. I'll bet George Bush is not popular here.

After dinner we checked into the Double Tree Inn, near the Lloyd Center. This is a fairly lifeless area, but the hotel was luxurious. Again it was the result of some good Internet scouting from Pamela.

In the morning we went to the Saturday Market. Pamela and I were envisioning something like San Franciso’s Ferry Plaza Market. Instead it was more like a big, weekly crafts fair with some food booths.

We pushed on to Powell’s City of Books. What a great bookstore! Linden in particular was in seventh heaven. She’s been flying through books on this trip. The area around Powell’s has become interesting too. When we were here 20 years ago it seemed rather desolate. Now it’s upscale, with an Anthropologie, a Sur la Table, and a Whole Foods right across the street.

After several false starts we finally end up eating lunch from a band of foot carts. Although we had to stand, the food was excellent. I had a very good gyro.

Then, after some more tramping around and a consultation with the game mom, we drove to an excellent French-style bakery and cafĂ© where we had some cold drinks and little pastries. The weather is in the mid-90s—very un-Portland.

We returned to the hotel to cool off in the pool. Then we got dressed up and met Nate Herrmann, son of our friends Bruce and Erin. Nate has just finished his sophomore year at Reed and is spending the summer in Portland.

We had a very good dinner at a very stiff hotel restaurant, a recommendation from some waitress that Pamela accosted. Then we drove to Reed, where we had ice cream and Nate led us on a moonlight tour of the campus. We learned all about life at the library, where Nate is working, and the nuclear reactor in the Psychology building—probably the only Pscyh Department in the country that has its own nuclear reactor.

It was great to see Nate. He’s grown up a lot in the last year. Lark and Linden aren’t so sure about that. But, it’s clear he’s doing well at Reed and pleasing to see how he's matured.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


July 23

7:15 Dave visits the largest spruce tree in the world, a five minute walk from our motel, and he does that before breakfast.

9:00 Rest of family pays respects to the three. It's huge! 56 feet in circumference, 191 feet tall. Estimated to be 1000 years old.

9:45 Stopped at Lake Quinalt Lodge for coffee. It's a beautiful WPA-era building. Pamela and Dave start planning a return visit.

10:15 Take a loop trail through the rain forest. Lots of undergrowth and big trees, though we see no ferns bigger than a sub-zero. (Yesterday a ranger promised us ferns as big as houses, or at least VWs.) The trail crosses a nice stream several times and we have several rounds of Pooh sticks. Linden wins 2-1-1. In places lots of the big trees are downed, their rootballs turned on their side and 15 feet around. A huge windstorm in 2007 with sustained winds of 90 mph took down all the trees.

11:30 Stop for a short hike to the largest red cedar in the world, 63 feet in circumference. It's mostly hollow inside. The hollow space goes up a hundred feet or more and has a cathedral feel. In many places wood is shaped like stalactites. It's a very cool hike to this tree, with lots of big trees festooned with moss, their trail winding through their roots.

12:00 Say goodbye to Olympic National Park.

1:00 Stop at a miserable supermarket in Aberdeen for picnic provisions. After leaving, we have a rolling picnic of salami, cheese, bread. We've been amazed at how widespread good bread is these days. Sadly, no good bread at this store in depressed and depressing Aberdeen.

3:15 Stop for gas and a driver change as we begin the drive up to Mt. St. Helens.

4:10 Stop at the John Ridge Observation Center to see the mountain. Listen to a ranger talk and learn many interesting facts about the blast at St. Helens. If you stacked the debris from the explosion up on a football field, it would stretch up 150 miles.

7:15 Stop outside a restaurant in Portland called Pok Pok. Pamela says it's a good place and that must be true because it's a two hour wait to get in.

7:40 Stop outside another good restaurant with a very long queue out the door. We give up on the good restaurants and go to a Mexican place across the street. Food is adequate and we sit at a table on the street, which is fun. We are in a very lively part of Portland. Lots of people, mostly young, on the street.

9:15 Check into the Double Tree Inn in the Lloyd Center part of Portland. Pamela was able to score a very reasonable room rate through Price Line, since we had not made arrangements before this afternoon. Listen to Jane Eyre before retiring.


Thurday, July 22

7:45 Dave and Pamela get up early and leave our room at the Port Angeles Inn in Port Angeles, WA so we can get the oil changed in the Honda and do some laundry. Pamela gets out at a truly depressing laundromat in a seedy part of Port Angeles (not sure there's another other part). Dave proceeds to Jiffy Lube.

10:20 Check out of the Port Angeles Inn. We liked this motel, and not just because it had two twin beds and we didn't have to listen to the kids shouting "You crossed the line!" It had an incredible view of Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

10:30 Get coffee at Bella Rose Coffee House. It was a popular hangout. Lark and Linden bought a cool coffee mug made by a Washington potter.

10:50 Arrive Olympic National Park visitors center.

11:18 Leave visitor center after getting patch, map, and postcard. Linden purchased a buffalo tooth and bead necklace from a native American gentleman selling them in the center.

12:05 Reached top of Hurricane Ridge. Found snow and celebrated Christmas in July by eating red and green Skittles and singing "This year let's have Christmas in July."

12:20 Picnicked while viewing Olympic Mountains. The highest summit, Mt. Olympus, remained in clouds, but otherwise it was a spectacular day. Fought off aggressive gray jays and hordes of chipmunks who wanted to share our picnic. Jokingly said another nearby party must have been a funeral because everybody was wearing black (jeans and tee shirts). As we left we realized it really was a funeral. Or more probably a wake. An an excellent place to have one, I must say.

2:11 Stuck in another National Park traffic jam.

3:00 Hiked to Sol Duc Falls through rain-forest like habitat (not technically rain forest because this area only gets 80 inches of rain a year, not the 200 further west on the peninsula). We feel like hobbits hiking amoung the big trees.

3:55 Decide to proceed around the peninsula and try to find a motel somewhere rather than backtrack around the peninsula. This decision takes much discussion since we are heading into an empty quarter and may wind up being on the road for many hours.

5:00 Entered Forks, WA. Bizarre combination of a down and out logging town, native Americans, all interspersed with hordes of teenagers wandering around looking for signs of vampires made famous through the "Twilight" series of novels.

5:15 After failing to find any place that sells little food items (that is, cookies), we stop at a supermarket and clean out a group of people having a bake sale. We talk with them for a while about the strange Twilight phenomenon. They laugh because the town just decided to tear down the high school and build a new one, just when thousands of people want to come to town to look at the high school.

5:50 Pass many areas along roadside that have been heavily logged.

6:00 Stop to view Pacific Ocean beach. Beautiful and desolate. No people in sight.

6:30 Stopped in Quinalt at the Rain Forest Resort Inn, a pleasant if slightly shabby motel with a fabulous view looking over Lake Quinalt. Luckily Pamela was able to snag a reservation here using her smart phone (known as her "gamemom" to the people of the back seat.

7:00 Walk across street to Salmon House Restaurant. Have a pretty good meal of salmon and trout while Lark and Linden use the breaks between courses to run wildly across the big lawn between the restaurant and the lake.

9:00 Back in motel room, Pamela and Lark engage in some personal hygiene while we listen to Jane Eyre.

Pamela: Laundry Day

I’m sitting in a grungy laundromat in Port Angeles listening to 50s rock & roll while my three tubs of laundry chug away. Dave is off at Jiffy Lube getting the oil changed and Lark and Linden are back at the Port Angeles Inn asleep. Yes, we still have mundane chores to do while on vacation.

Yesterday we had a lovely day in Victoria, British Columbia. We took the 8 o’clock ferry over, playing cards and waiting for the fog to lift so we might spot orcas. The fog lifted as if by magic just as we approached the harbor. No whales though.

Once through immigration we hopped on a creaky double-decker bus and took off for Butchart Gardens. On the way we talked with two other families who were making similar trips to ours. One family from Florida left on June 5th and won’t be home until just before school starts—and they were camping the whole time! The kids (both girls our girl’s ages) had a glazed look about them. In contrast Lark and Linden are the life of the party—even if it was only 9:30 a.m.

Our bus driver gave us a very Canadian tour telling us all about Canada’s health care (they are all very happy with it), telling very mild, polite jokes, and saying a-boot often.

The gardens were spectacular with gorgeous blossoms everywhere. Hard to imagine they only have 60 gardeners. Dave said they must have hundreds of weeders. Linden promptly decided to start redesigning our yard at home. We told her to have at it!

After the gardens, we spent a pleasant afternoon strolling around Victoria. The Royal BC Museum was remarkable. It’s collection of Pacific Northwest native art was stunning. Rooms full of towering totem poles. Masks depicting the entire pantheon of native mythology, spirits, and heroes. Basket work with intricate designs of orca and ravens. Along the harbor native people were carving, weaving and selling their wares. It was a nice continuation of what we saw earlier, even if it was only for the sake of tourists.

The day ended with a ferry trip back to the U.S. The wind and rising tide made for an adventurous roller-coaster ride. Not so good if you get seasick but, as all of us seemed to be good sailors, it was a lot of fun.

So now it’s back to the mundane—laundry and oil changes. More adventures will ensue before this trip is over but taking a breather for chores and a bit of reality isn’t a bad thing.


Wednesday, July 20

3:45 Take the Bainbridge Island Ferry from Seattle

5:30 After walking around Port Townsend for a while, we finally settle on dinner at a Thai restaurant. Lark decides she like Thai food.

8:30 Arrive at the Port Angeles Inn in Port Angeles. Try to turn in early because we have to get up early the next day to take the ferry to Victoria, BC. but first we have to listen to Jane Ayre.