At this point in my trip I realise I’m fallen a bit behind schedule. I spent about week longer in around LA than intended, and am determined to make up time. To that end, when I finish my early lunch in San Francisco from our last episode, I hop in the car and tear on over the width of California to get to Yosemite. Don’t worry, even though I’ll only be able to spend a couple of hours in Yosemite, I’m sure I’ll be able to see everything there is to see—
Okay, let’s back track a minute. We peel out of San Fran on the interstate and the freeways, making pretty good time. Pretty soon, though, all the major roads go north-south and you’re down to smaller (… RV-clogged) roads. When you get closer to the park the going is slower, due to the roads, but the roads themselves are much more fun:
(I have a note in my journal that says, not for the first time, “Fun roads, bad drivers”, although noting that as unusual is, itself, quite unusual at this point.) There are a lot of beautiful waterfalls in the park, including the smaller, more intimate ones:
And the ones on a slightly larger scale:
One of the reasons I came to Yosemite was not just for the park itself, but what lay on the other side: Mono Lake. That’s a lake and not some hideaway camp for kids with mono. From the pictures it has some incredible looking limestone formations around its shores and is well worth seeing. There’s also the nearby Bodie state park, which has preserved a ghost town and you know I like poking them. Unfortunately the road to get to them is closed due to the weather. My GPS suggests an alternative route: just a quick 13 hour detour around the edge of the park. Well, that rather puts a halt to my exploring adventures for the day. And, indeed, ends this furtive spurt going east. Here’s as far as I got:
I head back north-west, aiming to end up somewhere near the PCH again. On the way I pass the oddly named “Chinese Camp” (Pop. 126) and can only assume such a name comes from a rich and non-racist history. Further along, as darkness falls, the madness creeps in. I end up singing along to most of Bruce Springsteen’s Live In New York album. While waiting at a railroad crossing I join in with “Jungleland” and Clarence Clemons’ spectacular sax solo. Unfortunately I couldn’t do the dear departed Clemons’ justice and, in fact, made a screeching noise so unbearable that even I couldn’t stand to hear myself make it. Not for the first time, I thought it would’ve been nice to have someone else on this trip. Not for the first time, the rest of the human world has been glad that I’m on my own. It’s been a long day: this morning I woke up, went to Alcatraz, had lunch, went to Yosemite and had supper in Ukiah – a journey of about 500 miles in total. Not bad for a day trip.
In the morning I’m heading north and winding my way back to Route 1. My terrible lack of planning sometimes bites me, sometimes it ends up leading to great unexpected experiences. This morning is one of the latter: I pick up Route 20 at Willits to get across to the coast. This is a lovely bit of road which curves and sweeps down into Jackson State Forest. It’s a great environment to drive through, it’s a well-maintained road and, most surprising of all: everyone’s well behaved. The drivers on this stretch are polite, responsible, they use the overtaking pull offs appropriately. It was really a magical stretch.
I come out the other side at Fort Bragg and witness a near-miss with an idiot jumping a red light, so it’s nice to know I haven’t left the country or anything. Ever since I left San Francisco the weather’s been a bit more dreich and apparently having such nice weather in SF wasn’t especially common. An hour or two up the road – which has drawn away from the coast into forests and the sky doesn’t look promising at all. I have time to pull over in Leggett, CA, to visit a tree so big they… put… a… Look, I can’t really understand the logic behind this, but here’s a tree that you can drive through:
Faced with beings of such vast scales, both in terms of sheer size and longevity, it can be hard to come up with something appropriate to capture the sentiment. Fortunately, here is where the National Parks Service excels:
This National Park sits with Route 101 (Route 1 joins 101 at Leggett – is that what the hole in the tree symbolises—no, still don’t get it) going through it, so it’s more of a quick wave as I head north. The roads here still take you through some fantastic country, but I notice someone has turned down the draw distance:
By the time I get to Crescent City, near the Oregon border, the rain has begun in earnest. I grab dinner and head away from Route 101 as it hugs the cost, instead heading over to join the I5 as conditions worsen. I am reminded of the old meteorological adage: “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain”, and I’m inspired to find one that summarises Oregon: “The rain in Oregon falls mainly fucking everywhere”.
A quick trip through Eugene and it’s onto Salem for the evening. The night gets most of the rain so the morning starts grey, but drier. I have a date with Portland later, but this morning’s activities take me out east, following along the Columbia River in pursuit of waterfalls. Y’see, years and years back, when I was just a little hormone-ravaged teenager, I came across some fantastic pictures of a place called Multnomah Falls and they’re around here somewhere. En route, I find this:
Sitting atop Crown Point, this structure, called Vista House, was originally intended to be an observatory. When that didn’t pan out, it became a memorial to inferior Windows iterations alongside 8’n’Fete, the annual fair in Kentucky, and ME, oh God Why, ME? State Park. Inside there isn’t terribly much – the building itself is nice enough, there’s a gift shop and some lavatories. Don’t get me wrong, the latter was appreciated, but hardly worth writing home about.
Onwards, then, to our waterfall hunt. A little ways down the road is Latourell Falls:
Fine falls indeed, but one hopes for something with a bit more… I’m not just “majesty” is the mot juste, perhaps instead: “balls-soakingly-wet”. I give you Multnomah Falls:
Before you can even get close to the falls themselves you’re buffeted by the swathes of mist that are kicked out. The bridge closer up is close to walking through walls of water. (Yes, for those following at home: when it finally stops raining, I find something that makes me feel like it is). After I’ve had a nice refreshing shower (and checked my camera still works), it’s time to amble back to Portland for the evening. The city of Portland has a slogan and philosophy somewhat apart from the other great cities I’ve visited: New York City is, most famously, “the city that never sleeps”, Reno and it’s “the biggest little city in the world”, Detroit and “Why, oh God, why?” (Detroit is also the location of the ME State Park). Portland’s, as I say, is a bit more outré:
A noble aspiration, but unfortunately this philosophy seems to have filtered down to the city planning department: the road system bewildered my GPS. My confused Iron Lady on several occasions tried to direct me down the wrong way of a one-way street before giving up. I did eventually, I think by sheer willpower, manage to make it to my destination: Voodoo Doughnuts.
I’d first heard of this place before I had landed on this continent. It was spoken with a mad kind of reverence. Judging from the crowd that’s attracted to it on a Wednesday evening, it appears as popular with locals as with misty-eyed travellers. There’s a queue out of the door, even at this odd hour and I’m caught thinking of a much friendlier version of the Soup Nazi. The ladies and gentlemen behind the counter seem perfectly friendly though, the only source of tension comes from people propping the door open when they are in the hinterland between in-shop and out.
Amongst Voodoo Doughnuts’ varied offerings is the cock’n’balls doughnut, with a cream filling and covered in chocolate frosting. I decide against this as I know just one won’t satisfy me. (Flavour, I mean. Perverts). At other end of the scale is the Coffin of Voodoo Doughnuts featuring 36 different doughnuts. This, I feel, might be slight overkill for a guy who doesn’t even like doughnuts that much. I settle for the happy medium of a box of a dozen mixed.
Now, one of the reasons Voodoo Doughnuts has become a standout is its strange collection of types, from the humble plain doughnut, through to ones with cayenne pepper dusting and, inevitably, bacon doughnuts (with maple syrup frosting). I make one bite into my first randomly chosen doughnut (a “Grape Ape” doughnut, I believe) when I realise my mistake: how on Earth am I supposed to finish all these by myself? As I check into my hotel in Washington state (oh yeah, by the way, I ended the night in Ocean Shores, WA. Sorry Oregon, I warned you I was in a rush), I end up abandoning a couple of doughnuts to the ladies at reception, who were quite excited at Voodoo’s fabled offerings. (I feel, even though all of that was innocent, ever since I wrote “cock’n’balls doughnut” it’s all come across as innuendo).
Even then, I still have 3/4 of the box left. How will I ever finish these off without getting diabetes? If that cliffhanger doesn’t have you hurrying back to hear the next update then… well… some other stuff happens in Washington State.