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October 26, 2004: Road to home

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Over the past two days I have spent more time in a car than I ever really wanted to in the space of 48 hours. See, we had this grand plan that on the way home, instead of going the direct route, we’d meander down the Oregon coast, check out all the cute little coastal towns, and eventually make our way through the redwoods once we hit California, and end up back home refreshed after having such a scenic adventure.

Ha ha. This plan did not, of course, take into account that there would be a storm involving much rain and dreary grayness and people who do not know how to drive in the aforementioned rain and grayness, and also fog.

We got an early start yesterday, giving hugs goodbye to my little sister and niece, and drove off, armed with various maps of the Oregon coastline, graciously provided by my brother-in-law. It was starting to look a little ominous in the sky at that point but we didn’t think it would be that much of a problem. Ah well.

The Oregon coast is gorgeous, but then anyone who’s ever driven that way knows that. It’s lined with dozens of charming little towns full of nautical themed shops, and adorable bed and breakfasts. We stopped in Seaside for lunch because I wanted to check it out as a possible spot for future whole-family gatherings, but by then it was raining and pretty dismal. So instead of wandering around, checking out the town, we found a parking spot and dashed into what turned out to be a lovely little restaurant, where we had clam chowder and salads and homemade bread for lunch, and contented ourselves with perusing the tourist publications about the town instead of seeing it for ourselves.

I think if it had been decent weather we would have made far better time down the coast, but that wasn’t to be. We took a brief stop in Tillamook and found a little place that sold cheeses and jellies and other edibles, to pick up a few thank-you gifts for my parents, who looked after the feline horde for us while we were away. But then it was right back in the car, driving and driving and driving.

There are sea lion caves just north of Florence and we’d been hoping to get to them in time. But the storm-induced delay meant that they’d closed by the time we made it there. In fact, to make matters even more fun, not only did we have to contend with the storm, we also had to contend with impending road construction. Even though the highway wasn’t going to be completely shut off until later in the evening, a tunnel just before the sea lion caves was being worked on, and they only were allowing one lane to go through at a time.

Driving along the ocean is, at least, pretty impressive when it’s stormy. If there’d been more time, I would have liked to stop and just admire the view of the waves crashing against the rocks below. We did stop, briefly, at the sea lion caves, and peered over the railing, but didn’t stay outside very long because the wind was pretty fierce by that point.

After peering at the map and figuring out how much further we had to go, we eventually decided that continuing down the coast was probably not the best idea, especially if the storm didn’t clear up by the next morning. So instead we headed inland, back toward I-5, and ended up finding a lovely stretch of road that most tourists probably don’t see. It was off the regular route, so what few spots of civilization we spotted were mainly mining or factory type towns. But in the evening, with the fog rolling in, and the mountains and the trees all around, it was just gorgeous. We made our way to Eugene and tracked down a fast food place for dinner, managing to get pretty soaked in our brief dash from car to restaurant, since it was pouring by then. And then once we finally figured out how to actually *get* to I-5, Richard called ahead to the place in Ashland we’d stayed before. Luckily, it being the off season, they had a room, so we slogged on through the rain and got to the hotel to spend the night.

Today, of course, the weather decided to play nicely again – probably because it knew that we had given up on our coastal meanderings and so there was just no point in all that grey and gloom any more. The drive was fairly uneventful, because I-5 just is not the most exciting highway to drive along. But there was one nice surprise. As we headed through the mountains, and came up on Shasta, we started seeing snow along the road. Turns out that storm (or perhaps an earlier one we conveniently missed on our drive up) had dumped quite a lot of snow in the area. The plows had obviously already been through, so it wasn’t a problem on the road (lucky for us since we don’t have chains for this car!), but it was just breathtaking. Eventually I couldn’t stand it any longer so we pulled off at the next exit and found a place that looked mostly untouched, and we got out to tromp around in the snow and take pictures. It was as if we were walking around in the middle of a Christmas card. There was a little path I could see, off the side of the road, and I surprised myself by managing to take this shot, which turned out far better than I could have hoped. The fog was just clearing from the trees, but enough remained to provide that misty feeling. It made me miss living in snow.

So now we are home again, having put close to 2000 miles on the car. The cats are thrilled to see us, of course. There is laundry to do and mail to sort and groceries to purchase before we get back into our regular routine. I wish we’d had more time to explore – there was so much of Oregon we didn’t get a chance to see. But that will have to wait for our next road trip, which is not going to be for a while because I think if I have to spend another 18 hours at one stretch in a car, no matter how lovely the scenery outside, I may go ever so slightly mad.

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