Trek Across America—A Digital Diary
Written on August 30, 2016
So, we drove across America. Who's we? Four of us: Tom, Even, Francis, and Libby (that's me). The trip lasted sixteen days and...well, it was quite an experience. This post is going to be a bit fragmented, as there's no way I will be able to include all that occurred or all that I desire to express. However, I figure that I should just allow myself to write freely and share whatever feels memorable/important to me.
Here's a general synopsis of our route:
1. Portland, Maine to Milan, Ohio
2. Milan, Ohio to Mitchell, South Dakota
3. Mitchell, South Dakota to Bozeman, Montana
4. Bozeman, Montana to Hood River, Oregon
5. Hood River, Oregon to Seaside, Oregon
6. Seaside, Oregon to Waldport, Oregon
7. Waldport, Oregon to Crescent City, California
8. Crescent City, California to Potter Valley, California
9. Potter Valley, California to San Fransisco, California
10. San Francisco, California to Monterey Bay, California
11. San Francisco, California to Big Sur, California
12. Big Sur, California to Camarillo, California
13. Camarillo, California to Laguna Beach/Manhattan Beach, California
The first four days were long (from Maine to Oregon), as we spent about fourteen hours in the car per day. Day one was meaningful—we took a pitstop at Francis's grandmother's house midday, where we were greeted with warm hugs, delightful (& dairy-free) blueberry buckle, and hot coffee to fuel our next seven hours. We talked of travel, school, baking, art, and so much more. The visit left me feeling reflective—incredibly sentimental, present, and mindful of myself and what lies ahead in life for me.
...and, like we did often, we then hit the road. Days 1-3 entailed Comfort Inns (maybe one was a Country Suite?), Subway for dinner nearly every night (sandwiches really are great car food), throwback Black Eyed Peas music, conversations/debates about time and whether or not it is overly valued by/emphasized in our society, etcetera.
America is a very large place. The thing I found most interesting about covering so much ground in such little time involved how many small-town-America cultures we were able to experience from state to state as we stopped for food, bathroom breaks, and driver switcheroos—how lifestyle differs so much from place to place and how incredibly diverse our country is in every sense.
We stopped for lunch in a town called Morris, Illinois one day at a diner known as The Weitz Cafe. The town itself had an eerie yet soothing vibe. Adele's voice rang through the speakers that lined either side of Main Street. There were no tunes playing in the restaurant itself—just murmurs from the ladies lunching at the table to our right, dishes clinking in the kitchen, and a man at the front discussing the day's pie flavors with the waitress (who was also the hostess and cashier). That's another thing I learned—pie is a big thing at diners...and in America...who knew? The interactions we had in this diner were minimal, as it wasn't very crowded. Also, we were undoubtedly the only people under sixty-five in the whole place. After a burger each (I think I actually got a chicken burger), a milkshake for Tom, and fries all around, we hopped back in the car and set off again.
South Dakota surprised me. From miles and miles of corn fields, to the historic Wall Drug (www.walldrug.com—I didn't know this existed until we drove by it, but apparently it's a huge tourist attraction), to the MAGICAL Badlands National Park—the state has much more to offer than people give it credit for (I would particularly recommend visiting the Badlands. We debated driving through, but I'm so glad we ended up detouring a bit and experiencing the breathtaking canyons and rock spires amid the sprawling grasslands).
Bozeman, Montana was beautiful as well. My aunt was kind enough to let us stay with her for the night. If you ever get the chance to visit Bozeman, make sure to stop by The Nova Cafe (www.thenovacafe.com) for breakfast or brunch—it's one of my aunt's favorite places and we absolutely understood why upon tasting the delicious food and sitting amid the vibrant, retro space. Tip: snag a temporary tattoo from the basket at the front—I adorned myself with the one depicting a scull and crossbones through an illustration of a fried egg and two strips of bacon...
We began camping once we made it to Oregon.
Our first stop was Hood River. We arrived pretty late in the evening (around 8ish) and had a thoroughly horrible meal at a Mexican restaurant downtown (it was funny though—the whole dining experience was just super bizarre, as the wait staff was very inattentive, the food itself was pretty shitty, and all of us were deliriously over-hungry). Also, on our way back to the car after eating, we saw a woman getting arrested which was strange...Something was definitely off about Hood River, yet I found the town incredibly intriguing nonetheless. It was now dark and we still needed to make it to our campsite (Lost Lake Resort—lostlakeresort.org), which was about 45 minutes away. Although we were feeling sleepy, we cranked the tunes and put our game faces on. Francis was behind the wheel, I sat copilot, and there was magic in the air. Although it was dark, the sky was a deep purple color and the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hood glowed stoically against the night sky. The road was windy, the air was crisp, and the wilderness surrounding us was pulsing with life. This was truly one of the most memorable and meaningful moments of the whole trip.
We woke up at our campsite the next day and hit the road once again—and we had one goal in mind: to finally reach the Pacific Ocean. Destination? Seaside, Oregon.
Upon arriving in Seaside, we were surrounded by barefoot pedestrians, neon signs, and salty air. We made our way to the boardwalk, where we then proceeded to (very blatantly) park illegally, jump out of the car, and run (which I struggled to do, as I had developed a fever...but that's a whole other story) through the thick fog until our toes touched the sweet sea of the West Coast. Thanks to the fog bank, we weren't aware that it was low tide...AKA it felt like we just kept running...and running...and running. This, too, was an incredibly strange experience—it was quite cold out, so we were running past people wrapped in flannels making bonfires on the beach while it was still quite light out. We also passed an abandoned office chair sitting uncharacteristically (and alone) atop the sand...It was enlivening though—not just the moment of reaching the Pacific Ocean, but also the journey to get there (figuratively and literally).
Subsequent to Seaside, we made our way down the breathtaking coast of Oregon (taking the Pacific Coast Highway) and eventually ventured into Northern California. The sea was blue, the sand was soft, the grass was tall, the trees were towering, and the cliffs were dramatic. The air was cold both when we crept into our tents at night and when we emerged in the morning. James Mercer's mesmerizing voice sounded through the car speakers on repeat. Coffee (or the boys' particular caffeinated beverage of choice, SToK) pulsated through our veins. Wonder, curiosity, and awe glistened in our eyes.
Other memorable moments included...
• We rented an Airbnb in Potter Valley, California (AKA Wine Country). The two-bedroom home was absolutely STUNNING, tucked in among sprawling vineyards and rolling peaks. This was the first time we had access to a kitchen (we didn't need to pull out our Coleman camping stove this time!), so we made a delicious dinner and an even more tasty (and hearty!) breakfast the next morning. Here's the link to the place where we stayed: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10686425?s=VIgeNWOr&sug=51
• Upon waking up in San Francisco, Francis and I got up early and embarked on a breakfast adventure. We ended up stumbling upon a place called Blue Bottle Coffee on Mint Street (bluebottlecoffee.com/cafes/mint-plaza)—and, here, we had one of the most memorable coffee experiences ever. We ordered the Ethiopian Siphon (a very sophisticated method of brewing explained here). It's a bit too complex for me to try to explain, but LONG STORY SHORT: the coffee was ridiculous delicious—light, bold, rich, and insanely flavorful. The food we ordered was incredibly tasty as well. Upon leaving, our bellies were happy, we felt fueled and energized for the day, and we had had some truly wonderful interactions with the staff at Blue Bottle. Also, I may or may not have solidified my tattoo idea whilst on this unadorned yet very meaningful adventure...
• Camping in Big Sur and waking up to the view that's featured in the picture above...
• Antiquing in Hermosa Beach at Stars Antique Market
I'm going to leave it there, as I don't want to feel like I "got it all." Why? There's no way to capture it all, let alone try to EXPRESS it all. My goal in writing this post was simply to relish in some of the infinite beautiful memories that were made on our journey. I don't want to have some sort of "closing remarks" where I say how incredible the trip was and how grateful I am for the opportunity (indeed neither of those things are false, but consciously stating those things has a cheapening effect). So, I'll leave you with this.