Sunday, 8 January 2012

Pacific Coast Highways.

In Canada there are no highways that parallel the Pacific coastline for any distance whereas, in the United States, there are highways all the way from northern Washington to southern California. It is about one of these that I am now writing.

First, though, automobiles.

When I moved back to Vancouver I was driving the Ford Maverick which I had purchased shortly after I arrived in Ottawa. As you may have noted, I put many miles on that odometer so the car began to play out.

Once I was employed by Gordon Fabrics I felt affluent enough to go shopping for a replacement vehicle. When Dad passed away he was driving a Pontiac Acadian which my kid brother inherited. Just before I went shopping for a new car he traded in the Acadian for a Pontiac Firebird. Not to be outdone, I went to a GM dealership and drove away with a Camaro Z28. No more chugging up mountain passes - then I was able to sail all the way up in the passing lane. That ability was pertinent through one section of Interstate 5 - between Medford, Oregon and Yreka, California - where there is a mountain pass.

                                Mt Baker - the most northern of the West Coast active volcanoes

The quickest route to drive is I-5 from the International Border to Central California, Los Angeles and San Diego. As well as saving time, there are the attractions of gaining fairly closeup views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood and Mount Shasta - all a part of the volcanic chain along the West Coast. Yes, Mount Lassen and Mount St Helen's are a part of that chain as well but those peaks are situated further back and are not so obvious from the highway.

                                 Mt Rainier as viewed from downtown Seattle, Washington

When I did not have a tight schedule I indulged myself by driving on secondary highways and, therefore, different scenery. For instance, during one vacation trip I decided to really take my time. I drove down to Olympia, Washington and then north on Highway 101 all the way around the Olympic Peninsula. At a viewpoint near the northern end of that route I stopped and looked down below me at the town of Port Angeles and then across Juan de Fuca Strait to Victoria.

                                      A lonely lighthouse perched on a ledge along that coast.

Turning back southwards the highway began to hug the Coast with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean and the crashing surf where the ocean swell met the huge boulders along the shore.

 That route took me to a bridge across the Columbia River to the town of Astoria, Oregon.

I am adding photos which belong to Michael. He drove along the Oregon Coast quite recently.

Further south are many beaches and, beside a number of them, are camp grounds. I had a tent and sleeping bag with me so I camped in one of them with a large sand dune between me and the ocean - I could still hear the crashing surf - and scrub brush between me and the highway. I had fantasized about a dip in the ocean surf but, as I am a non-swimmer, I decided to be sensible and get no more than my toes wet.

Again, this photo is courtesy of Michael W. currently of Vancouver, B.C. This view is similar to the beach where I camped for the night.


A couple of times I drove all the way down I-5 to Ashland and then took a secondary highway southwest to where it met Highway 101 near Crescent City, California. The drive along that other highway through the coast mountains was quite pretty and with the big attraction for me of the Oregon Caves which I toured. Very beautiful and fairly extensive.

Going south from Crescent City to Eureka, California (a different town than Yreka, California which is situated alongside the inland I-5) the highway passes through the Redwood National Forest. Along that stretch of highway is 'Trees of Mystery' which is a privately operated tourist attraction. Whereas privately run 'tourist attractions' are, in my opinion, too full of kitsch to be attractive, that one - in the middle of the giant trees - is awesome - if you can get past the recording of Gracie Fields singing "Bless this House" at a huge hollow tree (the same kitsch was used at the Jenolan Caves in the hills east of Sydney, Australia and in one of the more colorful caverns).

South of the Redwood National Forest the highway passes the busy seaport of Eureka and then agricultural towns like Ukiah and Santa Rosa and then through the lovely northern outer suburbs of San Francisco in famous Marin County. This route leads to the Golden Gate Bridge and the 'City-by-the-Bay'.

On another trip (to the UFMCC General Conference in Sacramento) I opted to spend a few days in the gay tourist area on the Russian River at Guerneville. This was in June and not yet 'High Season' so camping sites were readily available. I chose a site that was beside the river and underneath a nice tree. When it came time for me to strike camp I discovered that that tree was infested with earwigs which were all over my camping gear as well, Yuck!!!!

While there I explored some of the surrounding areas.

One drive was along the highway that followed the river bank to Jenner-by-the-Sea where large sand dunes formed a bay. The beach was beautiful white sand through which the river estuary meandered. On the beach were a number of tourists as well as a number of sea lions and each was in perfect harmony with the other.

From there I drove south to the community of Bodega Bay which is the locale used by Alfred Hitchcock for his film "The Birds". From there I retraced my route and drove north to the village of Mendocino and then inland to Ukiah and back to Guerneville. The highway along the coast was a two lane road that meandered all over the place affording wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean.

Also, while at Guerneville, I had to go up to Sacramento for some pre-Conference meetings. Being the adventurous person that I am, I did not use the faster highways but drove across country to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Using that route I was able to drive by the property that was once owned by the writer Jack London.

Famous rulers and politiicans do not grab me as much as do famous authors and/or artists.

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