Road trips make for a lot of togetherness. Crammed in the car togetherness. Crammed into one hotel room togetherness. Deciding what to eat for each meal togetherness. Sharing two chargers across 4 devices togetherness. Togetherness, no matter what scenery is out the window.
But family bonding rarely gets more scenic than when driving up the coast of the Pacific Northwest. For this Spring Break 2019, we started in San Francisco and hugged the coast up to Portland, Oregon 700 miles away. Google Maps may call this an 11-12 hour trip by highway. But we took the scenic slow coastal way over 6 days. Via a handful of Best Westerns and one fancy hotel splurge along the banks of the Rogue River, we meandered our way up coast.
A few highlights:
San Francisco: Passover Seders & Old Friends
When we moved out to San Francisco back in 2000, we found ourselves 3,000 miles away from home on a Passover that fell mid-week. We weren’t going to use precious vacation days to fly home. So we hosted, ourselves. 20 people. In our one-bedroom apartment. We moved our bed and bedroom furniture into our walk-in closet, rented folding tables and chairs, and crowded our friends in for a festive, rowdy seder – which was formative/memorable for me in that we were both the “kids” and the “adults” at the same time (oh to be in our 20s again). We have wonderful memories of these seders and are still in touch with many of the friends who were part of that fun. In touch enough that we went to their seders this year. A shout out to the Moscowitz-Sadickmans and the Besser-Sobels for taking in us wandering Jews for seder, to cousins Vicki & Dennis for always hosting us with such kindness and flexibility, and to cousin Nate for the fun tour of Berkeley on 4/20!!
And while we loved seeing family & friends, the girls’ SF highlight: In & Out Burger, “animal style” with the paper hat and everything (eaten the day before passover…)
Day 1 – The “Drive Through Redwoods” and In & Out Fail
We hightailed it to Eureka, with pull-ins to see redwoods and coastal bluffs along the way. We were excited to see Ukiah, but it turns out it was Easter Sunday when we passed through – and either people there are waaaay religiously observant there, or just too stoned to open anything on a Sunday. (Adam is betting on the latter.) The catastrophe of the day was that the last In & Out Burger in Northern California we would pass before hitting Oregon was closed when we tried to go. The girls had lobbied long and hard that they should not be deprived of In & Out, despite Passover. (If you’ve lived in California and know In & Out, you know what I am talking about!). We made an In & Out “take the buns off” deal with the kids. It passed muster with us (barely). But apparently, not with In & Out on the Easter Sunday of Passover week. No animal style for the girls that day. And no more In & Out for the rest of the trip, which got complained about daily.
We pushed north to Willits – “The Gateway to the Redwoods” – and into Eureka. Of course we had to stop and see the tacky tourist Drive Through Tree – a redwood tree so wide you can drive through it. We got a bit concerned about the clearance as we were mid-way through in our rented SUV, and exhaled a sigh of relief when made it through the tree with our side mirrors intact.
Real Californians Skinny Dip: The real highlight was the hike down by the Eel River. We pulled into a small parking area just off the 101, hiked through some trees to a rocky patch in the sun down by the river. We were skipping stones and admiring the view when some real Northern Californians – folk musicians, it turns out, on the way home from a music meet up – came by. They wanted to swim, but they didn’t have bathing suits and didn’t want to finish their drive in wet clothes. They asked if we minded if they went in au natural. Fine by us not-too-uptight east coasters. So in they went. Four of them. Some in underwear. Some not. My one regret of this trip was that I did not stripping down and join them. But that water was COLD. Brave Vivi, however, was inspired and took a plunge in her underwear & sports bra. I’ve never been prouder!
Day 2: Getting Jewy on Day Two-y in Eureka, Arcata, Trinidad & Crescent City
Once the fog clears, the northern CA coast is really quite striking. We enjoyed walking around the marinas here – which are not the touristic kind, but the real fishing boat kind. We were not up early enough to see the haul, but suffice it to say, every restaurant sells crab and oysters and salmon. Highlight of the day was stumbling upon Los Bagels, which not only had bagels – but also homemade matzah. Eureka was not the kind of town where we thought other Jews were, and if there were Jews, they would likely be the bongos-on-the-beach kind (aka, Shelley style) versus Passover observant matzah eaters (Adam style). He’s pretty sure that particular matzah wasn’t hecktured. But it wasn’t leavened either, so all was good in his eyes. It tasted like…matzah. Meh.
A stop in at a bagel store can’t really pass as an authentically Jewish experience, though. We had to one up it with a totally spontaneous run-in with Chabad. Once we found the Los Bagels, we realized there must be some Jews around due to the proximity of nearby Humboldt State U.. And with Jewish college kids comes Chabad. At the Humboldt State Marine Research Lab touch tank, I spotted what looked to be tzit-tzit flying in the wind. I looked up and saw a beard and a kippah. So of course I started a conversation. They were the local Chabad family, who had two nights before hosted 50 people for seder.
The Rebbe, this chabadnik told us, was called to send an emissary/shliach to the Jewish students of Humboldt State U, who tend to be “non-conformists.” It’s “the non-conformists who are going to change the world,” this rabbi told us the Rebbe had said.
We agree, but we were also wondering if – given where we were and what the student population looked like – the term “non-conformists” was the Chabad euphemism for “stoners.” The Chabad family tried to give us matzah (we already had boxes in the car) and invite us over for a pesadik meal. But we were heading north and the Chabad House was south. So we bid shalom and hag sameach.
Day 3: Splurging & Getty Smelly on the Rogue River in Oregon
More coast. More redwoods, although the last of them – as the redwood range ends and the big trees in Oregon become cyprus and firs. So we crossed from Crescent City, CA into Oregon with lots more short stops to see the tall redwood trees and to overlook huge boulders in the ocean. The California coast is more known for its cliffs and bluffs, the Oregon coast for these massive beach boulders – huge rock formations just off the coast. Formed by lava flow, they were once attached to the coast, but years of erosion separated them and they’ve formed all sorts of cool craggly inlets and beaches and shorebird nesting areas. Not as dramatic as the California Coast, but dramatic nonetheless.
After two nights in Best Westerns (which are fine, really, with pools, hot tubs, 24 hour coffee & free breakfasts), we splurged on the Tu Tu Tin Lodge a few miles inland on the banks of the Rogue River. We were on the fence about the splurge, but the 4:30pm happy hour with complementary wine and snacks convinced us, and we got our money’s worth sipping Oregon pinot noirs. We took advantage of their bocce court, life-size jenga, and even attempted to hit small balls into holes (some may call that “golf”, but the way we played, I’m not sure it’s fair to call it that) at their three-hole course.
Gettin’ Smelly With It: They had a wonderful firepit by the river. We built a wonderful fire. We were wearing our sweatshirts and jackets and long pants. But then in the morning, everything smelled like campfire smoke. And because we are all carry-on for this 10 day trip, it’s not like we had extra jackets or sweatshirts. So we’ve smelled like campfire since this lovely experience. Even after leaving our coats outside overnight, twice, we still reek of campfire. Ech.
Day 4: There may be a mutiny if we see more trees
We took a morning hike through an “old growth forest” that had never been logged. The Cyprus and Fir were amazing, but the girls were not impressed. They officially reached their capacity for tall trees. It didn’t help that Adam had procured a pamphlet guide to the hike, and read aloud again and again about the trees and moss and ferns we were seeing. Endlessly fascinating to him. Moderately interesting to me. Torture to the girls. But it was a beautiful part of the world and we are glad we did the hike, and then we promised the girls NO MORE TREES.
So, we pointed the car back to the coast, and as luck would have it, we were not too far from the famous Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. So we took a scenic hike over the dunes to the ocean, and made plans to go “dune bashing” in a high speed buggy in the morning. Overnighted in the cute town of Florence. Did they have a Best Western? Of course! I am collecting lots of rewards on my newly opened Best Western account…
Day 5: Dune bashing, sea lions and into Stoner City (I mean, Eugene)
We “bashed some dunes” in our own private dune buggy. Adam adamantly refused to go, due to fear of speed, heights and racing down big high hills. But one of us had to show the kids a good time. And with all my deficiencies as a parent, taking my kids on adventures is not one of them. I jumped off a cliff with Zara in Zimbabwe, for goodness sake, so I could handle the dune bashing, right? Well, I did get terribly motion sick. But it was fun to shriek and scream and bond with the girls by clutching hands in terror midway through the ride. Vivi wanted me to tell him to go slower and Zara wanted me to ask for our ride to end early (I guess we all got a bit motion sick), but there was no way I was going to ask to cut the experience short. That is not what CrazyTraveler travel is about. No one puked, everyone screamed, and we all had fun. But we were admittedly all a bit relieved to get in our slow and steady Nissan Rogue rental car at the end of the experience to head to our next destination: the Sea Lion Caves.
The caves are cool because you first look out from a cliff towering over the seat to see rocks where sea lions are sunning themselves. Then you take an elevator about 20 stories down into the bottom of a huge cave carved into the cliffs, where even more sea lions are playing, swimming and chilling on the rocks. Nature? check. Wildlife? check. Snack bar with ice cream and popcorn? check check.
Days 6 & 7: Eugene, Portland & Meeting the Original Vivi
We ended our trip with a day in Eugene and a day in Portland. Eugene is the home to the main campus of University of Oregon. The overall vibe on the streets was cool and we had fun trying different coffees and kambuchas. But the cannabis dispensaries on practically every corner of Eugene did not paint the most positive picture of the town for us. But it was a fun detour.
We got lucky our one day in Portland with a day of sun. We went on a morning bike tour to get a sense of the city, checked out the different art districts and neighborhoods, shopped at the flagship Nike store (Nike was “born” and HQ’s in Oregon), and found a cool second-hand outdoor gear store, and loaded up on thermal underwear and ski jackets for the winter season ahead.
Highlight: my Vivi had a chance to meet the “original Vivi” – a distant cousin of mine who I had met only once or twice when I was growing up. But I always remembered her unusual name. Through another cousin I recently reconnect with, I tracked down “Big Vivi” – whose been in Portland for many years and herself has two grown children. We stayed with Big Vivi and her husband Aaron, and had a wonderful family reunion catching up on stories of relatives long-deceased but still alive in spirit and memory. It was wonderful fun.
We had a great trip. Lots of family togetherness. Lots of devices. Minimal chargers. And fortunately, minimal fights. A good time was had by all. Most of the time. Or at least, a few minutes each day. In sum, it was a lot of driving. And with the exception of a few nights at our cousins’ houses, we moved hotels each night – so the packing/unpacking, unloading/re-loading the car took its toll. And while Oregon was lovely, it’s no coastal California. If we had to pick between this drive and CA’s Highway 1, we’d say Highway 1 is our preferred scenic drive route. To us, California is so magical that it can even turn In & Out Burger kosher for pesach!
But we are CrazyTravelers. We love seeing new places. Checking out new scenery. And putting pins onto new locations on the “family road trips” map that hangs prominently in our kitchen. Thanks to this trip, we have new pushpins to add in Northern California and Oregon. It’s been reeeeeaaaallllll fun!
The Other Duckers Speak:
“TOP 5” Road Trip Lists
- Walking around Fisherman’s wharf and seeing the sea lions there
- In & Out Burger
- Walking around Berkeley and seeing cousin Nate
- Spending time with my family & seeing cousin Vicki, aunt Dahlia and Uncle Kenny, cousins Jesse & Jenni and meeting “big Vivi” in Portland
- Walking on the beaches and swimming in the hotel pools and hot tubs
- The drive-through redwood tree we went through in our car
- Shopping in the local beach towns
- Watching waves and sunsets
- The good meals we had
- The riding in a dune buggy through the sand dunes
- Chilling with my phone in the hotel rooms
- In & Out Burger
- Seders with old friends
- Reunions with West Coast Duckers and Orwigs and Groaners
- The one fog-less sunset on the beach in Crescent City
- Redwood hikes and driving the Highway of Giants
- Beach hike at the mouth of the Eel River
- Seeing dramatic coast lines, cliffs and rocky beaches & new places to pin on my map
- Watching my kids bond and treat each other as friends as well as sisters and travel-mates
- Taking advantage of “don’t do drugs” teaching opportunities when walking around with the kids and passing dispensary after dispensary after dispensary. I’m all for live and let live/everything in moderation, but still, in No Cal and Oregon teachable moments abounded.
- Getting teased by my kids – I don’t always love when they “laugh” at me and my silly mannerisms and habits, but I know it comes from a place of love.
- Making my daily iMovies of our trip highlights and sharing them with my family (and via Facebook/Instagram) each night. It is fun culling down the day’s adventures into 60 seconds of highlights.