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Westcoast Road Trip

April 29, 2013

April just blew my mind. Seriously. The month started off with an amazing two week roadtrip down to San Francisco and back with my beloved. It has been a crazy year so far with Inner Fire and I was really lucky to have the time to sneak away for some R&R. I had been wanting to drive down the coast for some time, especially to visit one of my best friends Barbie in San Francisco.

The trip started in Portland, Oregon. After watching Portlandia, I wanted to see if this place lived up to the “stuck in the 90′s” hype that they always make fun of in the show. Well I would have to agree that any place that still manages to keep independent used CD stores open has a little 90′s vibe going on. It was a really funky town, dotted with food carts, cool coffee shops and craft breweries all over the place. Of course, we had to check out the largest independent bookstore in the world, Powell’s Books. We spent hours in there! That place seriously blew my mind. There was an eco-conscious vibe to the whole city too. One burger joint ( Little Big Burger) we went to didn’t even have a trash can. The receptacles read: “compost, compost, recycling”. AND they put truffle oil on their fries. Am I in heaven or something?! We LOVED the Pearl District. There was this yoga studio called Yoga Pearl that had THE MOST AMAZING health food bar I have ever seen. There is nothing better than a tall glass of carrot-beet-apple-spinach- kale-ginger juice after a yoga class. Yum!

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After Portland, we drove back up through Washington to start our coastal adventure from Astoria, OR. Astoria is a quaint historic town with a nice walkable waterfront. We loved checking out all the historic buildings. From Astoria, we drove down to Seaside and Cannon Beach. It started to rain as soon as we hit the coast, which was a bit of a bummer, but we picked up some emergency rubber boots which helped us brave the stormy weather (those yellow boots show up in the majority of the photos we took!). It was actually really nice to be on the beach in the rain. There was a cleansing atmosphere in the air. I remember walking up to Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach and just wanting to dance and sing in the rain.

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The natural beauty of the Oregon coast did not end there. The drive is so breathtaking with so many rocky cliffsides and parks to check out along the way. The coast has a certain rawness that is both inspiring and humbling. You see the fierce ocean breaking against the rocks, slowly chiseling out arches and spires in the landscape. Walking out on the cliffs and rocky protrusions, you can see the ocean dance and tease you with its massive breaking waves. Sometimes it’s calm and sometimes it surprises you with a huge crashing wave that climbs up the side of a rock to meet you.

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We continued south towards Newport and checked out some cool things like the Tillamook Cheese Factory on the way. We got to see some cheese getting made and even tried samples! The ice cream lineup was basically out the door there. We skipped the dairy and continued on towards the fishing town of Newport. In Newport, we had THE best seafood ever at a place called Local Ocean Seafoods. Amazing! We checked out the town and then headed down past a few natural gems, including the lovely cape Perpetua and some sand dunes. We saw lots of birds and cute little lighthouses along the way. We even saw a natural Sea Lion cave filled with hundreds of barking Sea Lions. We made it to a small town called Bandon after that, where we stayed in a sweet little motel right by the ocean. Pretty much every little town along the coast has an “old town” strip that throws you back to the historic trading activity that happened back in the day. After Bandon, we headed straight for Crescent City, California.

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As soon as you leave Oregon and enter California, you realize two things: 1) you should have filled up your gas tank in Oregon and 2) Mexican restaurants reign supreme here. If northern Californians know how to do something well, it’s cook Mexican food (I’m guessing that goes for the whole of California too). We also had a little tasting of the amazingly magical Redwood forests of the Del Norte county (more on that later). Because we were planning on meeting some friends in San Francisco, we booked it from Crescent City to San Fran in a day. Luckily, the I-5 in California is pretty scenic, with rolling hills covered with grapevines painting the landscape. Also, by then, the weather finally started to turn and we saw sunshine for the first time since Portland.

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We rolled into San Franscisco, pretty much the hilliest city I’ve ever seen in the world. The whole city is only 7×7 miles but it takes for freaking EVER to get anywhere. Luckily we had some locals to get us oriented. We stayed in the Mission District. It was nice to spend a couple of days away from “tourist” mode. We spent a couple nights unwinding, playing Cards Against Humanity, cooking dinner, eating Humphry Slocombe ice cream and enjoying good conversation with friends. I got to check out my friend Barbie’s yoga classes and we even got a chance to visit the Googleplex, where her husband Richard works. I’ve gotta say, the Googleplex BLEW MY MIND. It’s like Disneyland for nerds. Everything is free for employees. They had everything anyone could ever ask for: free [delicious] food everywhere, recreation facilities, beach volleyball court, bowling alley, Google bikes, nap pods, games rooms, music rooms, self-driving vehicles, BEER ON TAP. I couldn’t believe it. It took us two hours to go through the whole tour. “Wow, just wow.” was all I could think of. It was cray-cray!
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The next day, we spent an obligatory day of touristing and checked out some mad views at the top of the Mosaic Staircase, the Embarcadero,  Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Trolleys, etc. The weather was unusually hot for that time of year. We both didn’t put on enough sunscreen. Oops. We didn’t have nearly enough time to check out everything, but it was nice to have a local experience with Barbie and Richard.
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From San Francisco, we drove north on the #1 highway up the California Coast. This is was probably the windiest road I’ve ever been on, with multiple switchbacks right on the edge of the cliff. It was breathtaking. Finally, we had the sun and got to see the beauty of the coast set against the backdrop of a glorious blue sky. We continued along the coast and just had a field day soaking up the beauty of it all. We pulled over on a random pull-out and decided to walk down a path towards the water. What we found was nothing short of paradise. It was late in the day and the sun was so warm and inviting. We walked through tall grasses and ended up on a slope that had a full view of the ocean. There was no civilization for miles. We looked back up to the hill over the road and saw a few cattle just standing on the hillside. It looked like the kind of picture you would find on the label of a yogurt container or something. I couldn’t believe how high up those cows were! I sat on the grassy slope overlooking the ocean and meditated. I felt such an intense feeling of joy that day. My boyfriend captured it in some lovely photos too. We then laid on the grass and soaked up the evening sun, just feeling more blissed out than ever. I will never forget it!

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We wanted to stay there forever, but the daylight way fleeting, so we ended up in the historic town of Mendocino. It was absolutely quaint! We pulled up late one night to a little pub called Patterson’s, where we met a local artist who talked to us about the unique natural history of the area. It was great to talk to a local and get some tips on what we should check out. We took a nice little stroll around the old town the next day. The place was dotted with remnants of times past, like old water towers and classic haunted-looking hotels.
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After that we continued on through Redwood Country. We had skipped much of it on the way down so we made an effort to check out as much as we could on the way back. There is really nothing like driving through a grove of ancient trees. We drove along a highway called the “Avenue of the Giants” and were mindblown by the size of these trees. Some were 50+ feet around! We stopped often to walk through the groves. I think my neck hurt from looking up so much. It was like walking through a natural cathedral. I hugged a lot of them. There is nothing quite like hugging a 2000 year old living thing. It was nothing short of a spiritual experience. We even drove through one! We spent the whole day driving through the forests and then made it all the way up to Eureka, CA.

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Eureka is a really cool place too. It’s super Victorian with old embellished houses and mansions. The old town was really nice to walk through, with a cute little waterfront area at the end of it. We had an amazing meal at a place called Five Eleven. The food was healthy, organic and simply to die for! Yum! After Eureka, we drove through some more Redwood groves and made it back to Portland in a day. We had to go back to check out the Saturday Outdoor Market, the largest open air market in America. It was packed full with some seriously professional artisans. I’ve never seen such sophisticated set ups in my life. People were basically bringing mini houses to display their goods. Portland knows what’s up!  The food, beer and people were awesome! We also checked out some nearby waterfalls (Multnomah Falls) before heading home. What an amazing trip!

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All in all, this trip was definitely what I needed to unwind and re-connect with both myself and my boyfriend. Two weeks was barely enough time to see what the US west coast has to offer. We had such a blast and I’m sure we’ll do it again soon.

Thanks for reading!
Namaste,
Leah

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