The drive home

October 30th, 2005

I hung around Portland for about a week, which was enough to fall in love with the city all over again. I knew I had to set some sort of deadline to get home, otherwise I never would have left. So, I decided to head back to see the craziness that is Madison, Wisconsin on the Saturday before Halloween. I then found out that a band I know from Minneapolis would be playing in Rochester, Minnesota (only an hour short of home) on Friday night, so it worked perfectly.

I left Wednesday morning, giving me three good days of driving, about 600 miles and 10 hours each day. It just so happens that Missoula, MT was around 600 miles from Portland, and I had to stop and see a friend there anyway.

In Deer Lodge, Montana (about 90 miles out of Missoula), on my second day of driving, the Little Escort that Could hit a milestone that many probably doubted would happen a year and a half ago.

That’s right, 150,000 miles. The scenery in Deer Lodge provided a nice backdrop for some portraits of the fabled green machine. It had been raining all day, but the clouds literally cleared for only 20 minutes or so, before the next storm front blew in.

Then, it was about another 600 miles to Deadwood, South Dakota, where I was hoping to continue the good fortune I had last time, on my way out to Montana this summer. Unfortunately, the cards were not in my favor this time, so I opted for the highly economical Hotel l’Escort instead of a conventional room.

That choice paid off the next morning, as I woke up and stepped out of the car to watch this amazing sunrise.

The third day of driving, across the boringest of boring terrains in the world (the Great Plains) was done with little fanfare (other than that sunrise of course). I did, however, finally stop at Wall Drug, the famously horrendous tourist trap in South Dakota, which I had passed by a number of times on various road trips. Since I had breakfast at Wall Drug, I figured it was only appropriate that I eat lunch at South Dakota’s famously horrendouser tourist trap, the Corn Palace in Mitchell. They are every bit as worthless as you might imagine, but you gotta see them at least once.

I made it to Rochester just fine, and I had a great time seeing old friends at the concert, in particular a good friend who has been traveling South America for the past couple years. I thought she had gone off to Thailand, but it turned out she wasn’t leaving for a couple weeks. It also turned out that her car was in Madison and she needed a ride back there the following day. So I did, indeed, make it to the Halloween festivities in Madison, but I didn’t take any pictures or stick around for the teargas. It was fun nonetheless.

Oregon

October 20th, 2005

Assuming I’d be moving there and would therefore have plenty of time to enjoy it, I didn’t get to see the Oregon coast at all last year. It was one of the many lessons I learned about not making plans around what you assume will happen in the future. Seeing as how I didn’t move there last year, I made sure to see the coast this time. Of course, it was raining most of the time, but that’s to be expected there in October.

Here are some photos from Cannon Beach, Oregon and its famous Haystack Rock.

The weather was gorgeous in Portland for the remaining five or so days Shaney and I had together before she flew back to Ohio. We went on a couple great bike rides with great views of town, but unfortunately the little camera I normally take wasn’t working, so I didn’t take many pictures. Again, I was thinking that I’ll have plenty of time to take photos once I move there this year….

Here are some pictures of the sunset we caught from Mt. Tabor park, on Portland’s southeast side.

Olympic Peninsula

October 18th, 2005

We spent a couple of rainy days on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, little of which is not national park or forest land. It has the only temperate climate rainforest in the continental U.S., but it also has giant, glacier-capped mountains and even areas of desert. It’s one of the most diverse places in the U.S., which is quite amazing, considering how small it is.

We went to the Hoh Rainforest first, which is the rainiest spot in the lower 48 states, getting 12 feet of rain a year. Yes, 140+ inches. That amount of rain produces some amazing scenery. We were also lucky to see a bunch of elk casually graze and walk by as we ate breakfast.

We spent the night along the western coast of the Olympic Peninsula at the Kalaloch campground. It wasn’t exactly raining, but there was quite a bit of moisture in the air. This is a picture from our campsite, taken in the afternoon. If you look close, through the mist, there are a bunch of people digging for clams during the low tide. It was very eerie to watch, because people would disappear and reappear in and out of the mist. At first we only saw a couple people, but there was actually around 40-50 in all.

It was a full moon that night, which was somewhat obscured by clouds, but the moon was visible for a while in the morning.

One of my favorites. A wind-shaped tree at our campsite.

We had taken a walk along the beach the evening we got there, but didn’t take our cameras. A few miles up the coast, we found a little enclave of unique rocks and formations, so we went back up there in the morning to take some photos. The skies were clear over the ocean for a little while, and the sun kept wanting to come out, but there was still a lot of moisture in the air and it never really cleared up.

Again, the tree by our campsite.

One of the clammers we talked to said it was worth the detour to drive down the coast near Moclips, Washington, where he used to own a house. There’s nothing too exciting about Moclips, except for the Pacific Beach Highway. The Little Escort that Could continued to amaze as he drove along the beach and even into the Pacific Ocean. It may have only been a few inches deep, when some waves flowed in, but still something most cars have never done.

Victoria

October 16th, 2005

I was hoping to go sea kayaking in Tofino, since I wasn’t able to last year, but since the rains came pouring down again, we headed to Victoria. We got into town in the evening, and we stayed with my friend Conor, whom I met while studying in Germany in the summer of 2003. It was good to see him again, as he’ll be heading to Cambridge next fall to begin his PhD. We finally had sunny weather the following day, which we spent walking around, shopping and eating.

Here is one of the more interesting street performers I’ve seen.

The harbor was very pretty after sunset.

The building lit up in the background is the Legislature, where my friend Conor works.

Tofino

October 14th, 2005

Last year, I was very fortunate to hear about Tofino, a little town on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island. It has been growing in popularity with tourists over the last decade, but it’s still not overblown…yet (it was named in a recent outdoors magazine as one of the “30 next best places on earth”). Just being on that island makes it less accessible than most places, but coupled with its further remoteness on that island makes it even less-known.

The town lies at the norther tip of a peninsula, at the terminus of highway 4, which is a little slow and windy, to say the least. It takes about 4 hours to drive the 200km (120mi) to get there from the ferry terminal at Nanaimo (or 300km and 5 hours from Victoria), but it is a very magical place that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t know anyone who has visited Tofino and not fallen in love with it. The town itself is simple and very quaint, but it’s the natural beauty of the area that is really the treasure. It’s a rainforest with mountains, giant cedars, lush vegetation, lots of animals, untouched beaches stretching for miles, whale-watching, hot springs, surfing, fishing, kayaking and so much more. I think the reason you fall in love with the place is that you don’t think that there are still places this diverse and beautiful that haven’t been overdeveloped and ruined.

After spending a day in Whistler, we took the late ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo and spent the night in Coombs, a small town on Vancouver Island that is home to the Old Country Market. This market is famous for its goats on the roof. Yes, the roof had grass on it, and goats walk around on the roof. While that aspect of the place is pretty cheesy, the market itself is pretty amazing. They have great local produce, a great bakery and restaurant, and a wide array of foods and housewares from all over the world. It’s a great place to spend a rainy day, and it was of course pouring rain when we were there.

We arrived in Tofino around 4pm, still pouring down rain, and we were planning on staying at the hostel, which was $22/person/night for a bunk in a room with six beds. But we decided to check out a place advertising 2 nights for $95. Good thing we checked, because it was quite a little treasure…the Bedwell Place Guest House. The room normally goes for $110/night in the summer, but it was now the off season and not many people were around. They only have 3 units too (ours being the cheapest), so we were lucky to get it.

The rain finally stopped in the evening, and we went for a walk around town. The forecast for the next couple days said the rain was going to continue, and it was getting pretty frustrating by now that it had rained everywhere we had been over the past couple weeks, save a few cloudy days. Luckily, however, the next day was merely overcast and drizzling occasionally, with no heavy rain. So we enjoyed it to the fullest.

First, we went for a long walk/run on the beach to Schooner Cove, where we sat around watching the waves crash into the rocks for a while.

After leaving Schooner Cove, I dragged Shaney along on a hike of redemption. Last year, while in Tofino, I was told about a plane that crashed in the forest during World War II. The trail, I was told, began off a certain section of the road and was marked by pink ribbons in the trees. Without getting into too many details, I was about 200 feet away from the correct trail, so I never found the plane, and I almost spent the night in the woods (my camera flash ended up saving me, believe it or not). Anyway, we took the correct trail and found the plane this time. It was a little muddy, and Shaney wasn’t too happy with that, but in the end, we both thought it was well worth the hike.

A mushroom we found in the beginning.

Even though you know what you’re going to find, it’s still very eerie to come upon a plane that crashed in the woods over 50 years ago.

After hiking out, we hoped to catch a beautiful sunset on Chesterman Beach, but it remained overcast with a little rain, so it wasn’t all that spectacular. I really liked this picture though.

Finally, a few shots from the Tofino harbor, looking south, west, and north.