Our penultimate stop in Tacoma, www.traveltacoma.com which is just south of Seattle, brings us to our 23rd state, Washington. We definitely have a much better idea of the location of half of the “contiguous 48 states” than we had before we began our travels. Though some of those yet to be explored remain ”in the middle somewhere” This was another convenient stop – and I’d read about a glass museum that sounded interesting. We arrived having driven up the I-5 through Portland, yes I loved that bit…not! Several lanes of fast moving traffic (afterwards I learnt we didn’t drop below 60 miles an hour all the way through) several acres of overpasses, underpasses, exits to the left, exits to the right, bridges, 18 wheeler trucks etc. just about everything I’ve come to know …and hate! However, unscathed and without going wrong, we emerged the other side and continued to Tacoma. Here we were pleasantly surprised. Obviously a very busy port with an industrial heritage forged mainly through lumber and fishing, much is being done to rejuvenate the city centre. You may recall the location even if you don’t remember the name. The bridge across the Tacoma narrows, a mile stretch across the Puget Sound is that one in the famous b/w clip which swayed and twisted as traffic crossed it in high winds and it was here in 1980 that Mt. St. Helen erupted covering miles around in volcanic ash. The trees that were flattened were used to build the Tacoma dome, an exhibition/sports venue, which is the largest timber built dome in the world. Add to these some more interesting facts…There’s a free tram that runs along the centre, Bing Crosby was born here; as was Gary Larson (of Far Side fame) it has the tallest totem pole (from 1 tree) in N. America, Dale Chihuly of glass sculpture fame was born here and has several pieces of work displayed around town. Back in 1911 Frank Mars and his wife began making and selling candy from their Tacoma home! We were also treated to the annual Daffodil Parade – admittedly we gave up watching after the first one +half hours but where else would we have seen floats decorated with daffs, along with a multitude of marching bands and cheer leaders, the mounted Sheriff and his posse together with various council dignitaries in a random collection of vintage cars and even the odd golf trolley??…oh and the Beatles…check out the pictures! We also took in the nearby Gig Harbour, (the other side of that wobbly bridge, thankfully it wasn’t windy). A delightful fishing community with roots set down by eastern European settlers in the late 1800’s some of their descendents still live and work there.
We certainly chose the right day to walk with the giants; today dawned wet, grey and groggy. We must be going north! Our destination was to be the rather romantically sounding, Crescent City. It sits almost on the northern border of California and Oregon. Chosen because of its location rather than for any other reason it was a convenient stop on the 101. Now on the pacific coast, we drove for many miles right alongside that mighty ocean, angry seas, profound outcrops, dramatic views, a route we have found to be a pleasant drive, even in inclement weather! All along the road now, evidence of the lumbering that is so important here. From the hillsides systematically stripped of their timber coating, to the logging trucks that thunder by carrying once noble cargo and the piles of sawn wood awaiting despatch. Once in Crescent City we found our waterlogged site, almost on the beach. How different the picture might have been…it’s been good to travel along the coast after so much desert, to have a crescendo of forest to one side and the mighty ocean to the other. Although it has been nice not to be on the interstate, we couldn’t really relax on these twisty, winding roads – never sure what might be around the next bend!
April 18th today we crossed our 22nd state line as we travelled to Salem in Oregon. Immediately apparent was the improvement in road quality and the road signs and heh… there are signs made for us RVr’s. directing us to specific RV parking. No more Wal-Marts?
The drama continued to unfold along the road. Another soggy day with … rockslides, road slides, tsunami evacuation routes, elks, high winds; what else is there to negotiate? We felt we were RVSAILN! This continuation on the 101, was a route that we revised in the light of weather reports last night warning that a section of the I-5 had been closed because of snow – and that they were only allowing vehicles fitted with snow chains through!! – Snow chains, they weren’t in the plan. So we avoided that mountain pass and cut in land to the I-5 further north. And when we reached our destination – another wash for Toad. I think we’ve washed him more than any other car we’ve ever owned, but he really was fifthy after dutifully following Bree unquestioningly, for more that 300 miles! The duck that greeted us on our arrival at our campsite said it all! Though Malc, who as we know has a weakness for birds, later made friends with him Oh by the way only in America…”Hurry on down to the Ice Cream Social…”isn’t local radio wonderful?
A better day today, Thursday (19th) Malc took a day off from driving as we spent the day in Salem. A town with a proud past rooted in the opening of the Pacific Railway and a lumbering heritage. Solid brick buildings, once thriving mercantile businesses now house the usual offices and shops. The city is Oregon’s state capitol and home to the Willamette University founded in the late 1880’s.It sits in the Willamette valley, a rich agricultural area which boasts several flower festivals and “agri-tourism” The river frontage is undergoing a revival with the help of industries that once blighted the area.
Today we were humbled by Giants…we drove along the Avenue of Giants, which stretches for about 30 miles winding back and forth across the 101. We saw literally perhaps 15 people all day – this is our kind of country. Time to stop, time to gaze, time to just be in awe of this magical place. No words can really describe the majesty of these magnificent trees, trees that have stood here almost since the beginning of time. I know now why the Americans have invented the word “awesome” it’s for times and places like this. The average age of the Redwoods in this area is 600 years , they are HUGE, you can stand inside the ones that have lost their centre to fire, though still remain alive; you can hug those so big you can’t even get your arms part of the way round, you can drive through the one that still grows skywards even though it’s completely hollow. But all the while it’s as if you should seek permission to be here, permission to touch, and permission to look! The silence commands that you whisper, the sunlight shines a spotlight on the undergrowth as you pass by the tall reverent sentinels of the forest, an insignificant being in this wondrous backdrop. But all around are those that have fallen… perhaps brought down by wind, perhaps because they are dead, but even in death they fulfil a purpose. The forest lives on with the help of nutrients from decaying material. They lie amongst their comrades, proud to the end, entirely beautiful as they burst with all manner of new life. So many shades of green you cannot imagine the palette that nature has summoned for her use, each hue exaggerated with piercing burst of sunlight. But all around is deafening quiet; the birds that inhabit the utmost canopy soar over the ocean during the day, returning to roost only at dusk. The multitude of life beneath your feet marches on silently, unseen and unheard. Each turn in the path unveils another magical scene almost to fantastic to be real.
There are a couple of disconcerting elements though, take the “widow makers” for example…(Malc is holding one in one of our pictures) in times of drought these huge trees “shed” branches in order to conserve water and nutrients. Said branches could come from hundreds of feet up, said branches fall to the ground rapidly, said branches pierce what ever they happen to hit, be it person, ground or whatever!! Periodic creaking that broke the silence as we walked, had us not knowing whether to peer upwards or run like h—. Then there’s the poison oak (the “pretty” light green creeper) that decorates trunks and ground alike, OK it only gives you a nasty, itchy rash for 36 hours or so, but no thanks!
Some “interesting” facts:
- This area has about 60 – 80” of rain a year – no wonder it’s green!
- The knobbly bits on the tree trunks are “burls” they contain dormant buds to renew growth if the tree dies.
- The trees release an unbelievable amount of water in to the atmosphere – up to 500 gallons a day!
- It may take up to 400 yrs for a fallen tree to rot down completely
- Each ton of tree has taken 100 tons of water to grow
All of which is “awesome”!
Ever northward now, we followed the 101, a route highly recommended by many fellow Rvers ( we consider ourselves proper Rvers now – we have been on the road for nearly 6months and apart from full timers that’s probably equivalent to those who spend just one month a year for 6 years!) It was an interesting journey, no more monotonous miles on the interstate, now it is small settlements, twisting, turning roads, steep gradients and, as we travel north forests and streams. Wild flowers adorning the roadside, trees bursting into springtime bloom. It does take a bit longer and probably a bit more fuel but it’s worth it. There are still the roads that stretch into the unknown, far off into the distance before us, holding secrets that they gently reveal as we pass along them. We are camped at Giant Redwood RV Camp; it’s an idyllic spot, nestled beside the river Eel and right in the heart of Redwood country. This wondrous environment seems to sit easier upon our shoulders, the peace and tranquillity is both calming and invigorating at the same time. We arrived just in time to catch the visitors centre: before it closed, this allowed us to plan for tomorrow and also to wander along a short trail that gave us a glimpse of the awe inspiring, humbling trees that are so famous. When you stand beside something that has lived through all the chapters of history, that’s part of “geological” time you not only feel very small, but very insignificant too. We are but a dot in earth’s journey. Check out the piccies they speak for themselves. We rounded off the day beside the river at the campsite where BBQ’d chops and courgettes tasted so good. This is what our adventure is all about.
http://www.humboldtredwoods.org/kellogglog.htm This item is amazing, what a man…but for him people like us might not be able to visit as we are able to do today.
This mornings news carried a pertinent item: Today on Friday 13th the bell in the tower at Winchester House will toll 13 times today on the 13th hour, in honour of Sarah.
As planned we made our way into San Francisco today, eager to see as many of the sites as we could. Like any other city, it is bustling and crowded, the freeways packed with those bumper hungry drivers (though somehow on these roads its more acceptable, the traffic keeps flowing and everyone’s happy, no one needs to stop, just exit at the right moment-providing there is that all important sign of course) The impossible hills were just as we expected, the cable cars trundled up and down laden with tourists hanging from the side, I’d wanted to ride one, but would have spent most of our time queuing to do so, I suppose any time is busy in such a popular tourist city. We were lucky enough to have chosen a fairly clear day so the views were spectacular. Our first good sight of the Golden gate was from one of those hills, just after we had climbed Lombard St. This is reputed to be the crookedest St in the world and having seen it I think it probably is! Not for the faint hearted driver. The view from the top was well worth the climb, though I think I shall pay for it tomorrow. All the guides tell you it is a tourists dream as all the sights are close together, easily walkable; which they are, but unfortunately my poor old knees don’t do too well on the downhill – must remember to do my stretches before I get into bed. We wandered along Fisherman’s Warf, unfazed by all the historic vessels; I suppose that’s because of where we live! We sat at the end, Malc pondering what it would be like to sail under the bridge, me, wondering what it was like for all those interned in Alcatraz – did you know that it was the only state prison with hot showers? – supplied so the prisoners did not become accustomed to cold water – they might think about escape!
Thursday 12th April
With time marching on we have travelled north to the highly recommended Nappa valley. From here we will journey the 40 odd miles into San Francisco, in Toad.
We did manage to pull over at one however, we had to – Van Der Heyden winery – took some piccies for you Janice & Eddie we’ll e mail them. The valley is pretty, the row upon row of vines meticulously planted and neatly pruned follow every contour like statues ready to march when the order comes; wineries line the route many offering other attractions like art collections and gardens, besides the wine tasting. The houses are spectacular, each one a tribute to the owner. Perhaps we just caught it at the wrong time, who knows but we certainly weren’t able to do it justice that’s for sure. Nappa itself had all the usual outlets, but if you ignored these and stuck to downtown, it was very pleasant, beautiful “old” houses along “comfortable “ streets. It’s actually becoming quite common to accept the look of admiration upon your listener’s face, when you tell them that you live in a Victorian home back in England!