The trek north

Posted in:

Lake Arrowhead, CA — Oregon Coast

Today is March 2nd, as opposed to March 3 (as I mistakenly wrote in the gas log) or February 31, as Berck’s watch thinks.

I haven’t journaled much because we’ve been heading up the left coast, generally a windy way. I can’t type very well when it’s curvy because the laptop flies out of my lap. But now we’re heading inland into Oregon, and the road is a much straighter.

We just stopped at a McDonald’s to use the bathroom. My policy is usually that I’ve eaten a bunch of McDonald’s hamburgers without having used their toilets, so I’m justified in using their toilets without buying their hamburgers. Except that I think we’re probably about even now. I still might have felt fine about ducking in and back out, but there was NO ONE at the counter, and the cashier greeted me when I walked in. It’s now a little past noon, and there’s a line. Ah well. But I felt like some french fries, so I ordered a small fry, despite the fact that there was none listed on the menu, only a “MEDIUM” for $1.69. “One dollar,” said the cashier. When my order came up, someone yelled, “One Value Fry!” I figured that was me. It wasn’t very small. Berck fussed at me for spending money at “that place.” “We could have stopped at Dairy Queen and gotten a Blizzard!” Berck likes the idea of public restrooms you pay for, like they have in Europe. I guess paying 25 cents is better than a dollar or two. But that’s the way we do it in this country.

We left Lake Arrowhead and had lunch with Berck’s dad where he works in Apple Valley. Then we headed north across the high desert, then west over a ridge of thousands of windmills, through mountains that looked like pictures of New Zealand, into a flat valley full of almond trees in bloom, and over a windy road into some high, dry hills.

By then it was time to find a place to pitch our tent, so we headed for the nearest National Forest. We turned off the highway onto a paved road with grass growing in the cracks. That became a dirt road with a notice, “NOT ADVISABLE IN WET WEATHER.” Fortunately, the road was good and eventually brought us to a campground. We couldn’t figure out how much to pay or where to get a “Forest Adventure Pass” that we weren’t supposed to park without. So we camped for free. Everything was soaked from the storms that week, but somehow we got a fire going hot enough to heat up a can of chili we found in the trunk.

The next morning we drove through what looked like Wales to me, the Lake District to Berck, though we both agreed the grassy hills needed more stone walls. California has some beautiful countryside.

We finally made it to the coast and started up California 1. We should have timed our drive up the coast in the middle of the week…it was pretty full of weekend riders.

The noise Berck worried about until the folks in Grand Junction told him it was probably “valve noise” suddenly got worse. In fact, it got REALLY loud. We were worried we weren’t going to make it to San Jose. Berck pulled off at one of the few gas stations along the route and opened the hood. “The only thing it could possibly be besides a valve blowing is exhaust noise,” he said. Sure enough, one of the header pipes was cracked. We were quite relieved to have such a minor thing go wrong, but our relief turned to headaches from the noise and exhaust coming straight into the cabin when we had the vent on. Berck put some epoxy on the crack yesterday. I think it helped a lot, but he has his doubts.

We called up Brandon Downey in San Jose as we approached, but he called us back to tell us he was in Seattle for the weekend. Oops. We’ll visit him when we head back down.

So we drove California 35, which is an amazing one-lane road that follows the ridge separating the Bay Area from the Pacific. Then we headed for the nearest campground, a beach site in Half Moon Bay. It was closed. ARGH! We stopped at a taqueria for some super quesadillas and Mexican Coke for the first food we’d consumed since the Ultimate Cheeseburgers at the Jack-in-the-Box we’d visited for breakfast. Then we headed through the twilight, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge to the next nearest campground. This was in a labyrinth of a park on the north end of the bridge where it took us a good half hour to just find the closed visitor center. There was also a campground alright, but it was quite a walk away from the parking lot, which warned us not to park overnight without a permit. Well, how the heck do you get such a permit?? We gave up and headed further north to China Camp State Park. The weather was lovely, it was pitch black, and we were exhausted, so we didn’t even bother pitching the tent and simply slept out beneath the waxing moon.

In the morning we cut our way through the rolling hills separating us from the coast, then drove 1 until its end joining US 101, found a state park to camp, and then headed up the road a few miles to the first town we’d hit in hours. Berck screeched to a stop in front of a trattoria and tried to order gnocchi, but they were out, so he settled for raveoli. I had a burger, and we split a pitcher of Fat Tire. Then we headed back to the state park only to find that the campground was “CLOSED FOR SEASON.” Now what?? So we drove north until we got to the next state park campground which was fortunately open. By now it was completely dark and raining, but with the help of the headlights, we managed to get the tent up without getting too wet. The bathrooms had coin operated showers, which almost made up for the $13 a night fee, but the power went out in the night, so no showers in the morning (which Berck discovered AFTER taking all his clothes off). We also discovered that we were camped in a redwood forest. Pretty cool.

It started raining again right before we got up, so a rather wet rain tarp went into the tent bag. Fortunately, the weather cleared up for a beautiful day of driving up the Oregon coast. We camped at a state park within sound of the surf and surrounded by moss covered conifers. Berck wanted to spring the four bucks it would take to get a bundle of dry firewood, but I told him I could gather enough for a couple hot cans of chili. A couple hours, an empty lighter fluid can, every bit of scrap paper in the car, and a lot of lungwork later, we finally got my pile of soggy (not wet, soggy) pine branches to ignite. And hot chili we did have.

It’s weird to be so far north but not cold. In the desert on the Mexico border, our drinking water would freeze at night. But up here in the Northwest, near the border with Canada, it gets chilly but not very cold. Just rainy.

On Tuesday morning we had showers with unlimited HOT water, which made the $13 fee worth it. Well, it was for me anyway; Berck says he had lukewarm squirts (I guess I used it all up).