Our road trip was nearly over, as was the pleasant weather we had enjoyed for the past two months.
Following a night of heavy rain, we left our cozy abode for two weeks in Sebastopol. Grateful to Jack and Ruth Dunlap, whose Alexa-run household — ‘Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights. Alexa, Good Night (she turned off the house lights and lowered the thermostat)’ — and inspired kitchen design we dream about for our future home —we bid their home goodbye and hitched our Marion to Bertie our Ford Explorer and headed north on Hwy. 101. Jack and Ruth would return home from Hawaii the following morning.
Dusted snow on the Mayacamas Mountains to the east, and the coastal mountains to the west, flew by as we headed for Humboldt State Redwoods and the Avenue of the Giants. Intending to hike among the lords and ladies of the woods, we were turned away by heavy rain. Stopping off at the park’s visitor center at Burlington Campground in Weott, CA, we bought Christmas presents.
We planned to camp in Del Norte County at Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, where the tallest trees in the world grow, including the Hyperion tree, which is 380+ feet tall. However when we pulled off Hwy. 101 to head east on Hwy. 199, we were greeted by a sign whose message warned that snow was imminent and the highway would be closed ahead.
The clock said 5 p.m. and the rain poured. We decided camping would not be fun, as Marion had sprung a leak in one of her window seals and water pooled in on our dinette bench. We phoned the Yachats Inn, where we had made a reservation for the following night and asked if we could book this night as well. The innkeeper assured us our room was available. He would leave our key taped to the office door if we arrived after 9 p.m.
We drove on in the rain, stopping in Brookings OR at a Grocery Outlet, where we ate cold ham sandwiches in the parking lot. Heading north on Hwy. 101, the Oregon Coast Highway, the windshield wipers hypnotized as we listened to CBS Correspondent Connor Knighton narrate Leave Only Footprints, a memoir about his year visiting every national park in 2016 to celebrate its centennial. Bertie’s defroster could barely keep the interior windshield from fogging. Bill wiped the window often to maintain visibility in the rain, while avoiding the glare of oncoming white headlights of southbound traffic.
A recent accident delayed our arrival to Yachats. Just outside of Brookings, traffic was stopped. Two cars ahead of us, we saw that a truck had driven through the guard rail on our side of the road. It faced in the opposite direction. Police cars and emergency vehicles sped by. While the victim was moved to an ambulance, we waited in the dark, hearing the crashing surf next to the highway. Following a half hour wait, and our shaking our heads at how close we had come to being in the accident, we arrived in Yachats after 11 p.m. Bill had driven 512 miles for 14 hours.
The following morning we were grateful to have driven through the night and not stuck on the California/Oregon border in a snowstorm. Our old timey room of knotty pine and white painted cinderblock faced the crashing sea and an occasional blowhole surge would send plumes of water into the air, sounding much like a gray whale spouting.
Exciting to watch the 14-foot surf crash and thunder from the comfort of our little motel room. We went for a walk along a beach access road, enjoying the spume — ocean foam — that formed from the wild sea and pooled into the black basalt that was formed 50 million years ago by erupting volcanoes. The spume brought to mind gods who had brewed steamed milk and sent it frothing along the rocky shoreline. We walked about half a mile to Luna Sea Fish House, which serves freshly caught fish dinners. My halibut fish tacos were superb.
We celebrated Christmas early with our daughter Gillian, who lives in Corvallis, about 75 miles east of Yachats. She works changing tires for semi trucks, farm vehicles and locals. She likes the work and the interesting characters she works with and meets. We enjoyed our two-hour visit, with her room mates Robbie, Thomas, and Elle’s homemade chocolate chip cookies and marshmallows. Driving west along Hwy. 20 through fog that night, Bill said the effort took all of his concentration. We listened to A Christmas Carol, narrated by Tim Curry. It the first time we had ever heard the original tale as written by Charles Dickens in 1843. It held our attention through the dark night and curvy highway.
Friday Dec. 17, we said good-bye to Yachats. We breakfasted in Pacific City, nestled along the scenic Nestucca Estuary. We found the Grateful Bread Bakery by Googling ‘healthy breakfast near me.’ Our Google navigator brought us to a warm and cozy bakery/cafe by the sea with a Grateful Dead decor. The wait staff are fun and the food excellent, served in a bright wood-paneled room with views of the prominent Haystack Rock, at the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area.
The friendly owner Robyn Barcroft, who runs the popular cafe with her husband Jay, told us they installed a drive-through window during Covid to help keep them afloat. And the community supported them. The couple donates its leftover food to a nonprofit. They are closed now until President’s weekend. We were grateful they were open the weekend before Christmas.
We left Pacific City, knowing we will return to this good-vibe community. Driving through the dairying country of Tillamook, I was reminded of Wisconsin. The serene green rolling hills’ soft lines were tempered by the wicked looking haircut shave of brutal clear cutting along some of the slopes.
Enroute to our friends and former neighbors Bert and Beth Guenther, we saw elk grazing alongside the road. We arrived at our friends’ new home, goggling at the grandeur of their posh tiled bathroom, fit for a king. Their windows had terrific views of the meadows and forest outside. They told us their planned coastal garden went awry since the elk eat everything, including shrubs on their deck. We miss them since they moved away last July. Their home was bought by a good Mukilteo family who visits occasionally, but it’s not the same as having everyday great neighbors.
Saying our goodbye to Bert and Beth, we drove for only 15 minutes, before pulling into the Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside KOA Resort, a posh KOA campground, which has won the the KOA Presidents’ and Founders’ awards due to customers’ consistent high ratings. As senior citizens, we paid only $36 for our campsite, with us being the only trailer we could see.
The place is well run and we were grateful for a good electrical hookup, strong wifi, and HEATED bathrooms. We fashioned a towel in the window, taped to the wall by duct tape so that Bill’s bed cushions wouldn’t get wet from the blowing rain. About 1:30 a.m. gale force southerly winds started up, moaning and shaking the trailer every few minutes. Bill went out to visit the bathroom and accidentally kicked my shoe out the door in the pouring rain. He forgot the bathroom pass code and had to pee outside, careful to avoid the wind. We did not sleep well. When reporting this adventure to Bert and Beth, Bert texted an apology, saying they should have invited us to sleep over. We said, it was OK, this weather would give us something to write about later.
The following morning we left, heading toward home. Rain fell as if we were driving in a car wash along I5. I needed a bathroom break around Des Moines. We pulled into a shopping center parking lot, and the grocery and Subway had no public bathrooms. I ran across the parking lot in the pouring rain into a Vietnamese coffee shop. I had to pay $5 for a coffee drink before getting the code that blessedly allowed me a bathroom privilege. Our Google Maps told us the public rest areas were temporarily closed. This is not a fun stretch of the highway, folks.
We were grateful to board the Mukilteo ferry at 4:40 p.m., reveling in the luxury of available restrooms.
Lucky us to be invited to friends Roger and Sheila’s for dinner the following day. Delicious. Our son Raymo arrived Dec. 20th with his doggie Rogelio.
It is Christmas Day and it is snowing. We hiked at Saratoga Woods earlier today. Now Bill’s reading a book by Charmian London, and our orange tomcat Ollie, is keeping him company.
Grateful for our cozy home on this cold snowy afternoon. Blessings on the homeless. May they find shelter from the storm.