a gouda day

This was my second encounter with the giants of the Redwood Forest. And yet again, I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time among them. I feel I could spend ages soaking in the silence and antiquity of those redwoods.
Traveling with a dog can present issues when you want to do a lot of hiking in national parks and such. We did find an unpaved road closed off to cars where we were allowed to take Jedi. He was happy to sprint through puddles and sniff lots of plants and be outside of the car for a little while. It was raining pretty intently, so we got wet. But it was a nice walk.

We traveled on, pulling off on the coast and preparing some Annie’s for lunch. Well, Sunita did the preparing. I ran back and forth to the edge of the water and let the freezing water wash over my happy-to-be-free-of-winter-layers feet.

Other than the redwoods, day two didn’t involve any hugely touristy events. We arrived in the well-kept little city of Santa Rosa by early evening. Here we visited two places where our coworker, Molly, used to work. One of which was an Irish pub called Stout Brothers. The vibe wasn’t quite the calm-and-buzzing pub atmosphere I’ve come to love in Ireland, but it was a cool place and it made me happy.

Our sleeping options in Santa Rosa were…nonexistent apparently. We sought out a truck stop, which turned out to be just a gas station. Then we drove for awhile without finding anything promising. So Sunita ended up just driving to Fairfield, where we would start the next day at the Jelly Belly factory (her stop, not mine). We pulled off on a not-so-busy side street and found a not-too-bright-yet-not-completely-unlit spot to park. It’s funny, there aren’t too many circumstances in which you look for poorly lit places at night, particularly as a woman. But when you are sleeping in a car, not having bright lights flooding in is very appealing. Plus, sharing the car with a [as my dad put it] ‘slightly aggressive dog’ is a pretty compelling way to allay any fear. When we awoke in the morning, we found ourselves parked across from a fleet of postal trucks. After the Jelly Belly factory, it was straight to San Francisco. Unlike my previous visit, it was a blue sky, sunny day.

We parked the car as close to the Golden Gate bridge as possible, which wasn’t very close at all. But there was a really nice trail system that led to it. Once there, we met up with Sunita’s friend Gregg and took a stroll in the sunshine. All the sun and walking brought on some fierce appetites. We found a restaurant specializing in various grilled cheese sandwiches and naturally ate there. I was, after all traveling with a cheese whore. However, we were running short on time, as the real event of the day was within minutes of commencing. We speed-walked (I speed-walked, they continued their strolling) to the unmistakable blue and yellow striped Grand Chapiteau that houses Cirque du Soleil.

I first was properly introduced to Cirque by a Wwoof host’s son who was obsessed. We watched , Varekai, Alegría, Fire Within, 20 Years Under the Sun….Finian had seen each dozens of times before, and I didn’t fail to match his enthusiasm. Ever since then it has been a goal of mine to see a show live. The one we were to see was Amaluna. I was not disappointed. It’s amazing to be in a room of such awesomely talented and practiced people. Being there is a hugely different experience than watching it on a screen. I loved feeling the floorboards thump as performers ran past me in the aisles, hearing the focused breathing of the balancing goddess, just being immersed. I’m definitely glad I got to experience it, though I think the only show I’d pay so much to go to in the future is Varekai, which is my favorite.

grand chapiteaugrand chapiteau beneath
But Cirque Du Soleil was not the end of our evening. My friends Valerie and Alex met up for dinner with us in Palo Alto, where they now live. We went and had delicious hummus, and then just spent a few hours chatting at their place. We slept again in the car, beside a park a few streets away from their house.


first the familiar

Our latest road trip commenced accompanied by the crooning of ‘California’ by Phantom Planet. Because ‘California, here we cooooooooooooooome’ was precisely the agenda. With the next eleven days free, we packed ourselves, Jedi, and an awful lot of Annie’s mac n cheese into Sunita’s Subaru and headed down the coast.

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In our little corner of the country it was a typical greyish, wettish day where the passing evergreens are tall, layered silhouettes. Varying shades of dark against a luminescent grey sky. My favorite kind of day, especially for driving about. We had a few stops scheduled before our endpoint for the day: somewhere near the redwoods in northern California. A few unplanned ones snuck in along the way, as is wont to happen on all good road trips.

Astoria is a must for Sunita and me when we’re passing anywhere nearby. We dropped by The Rusty Cup, which is a tiny, lovely coffee shop I had discovered a few weeks prior with my friend Lola. I had a Pumpkin Pie Chai Latte (possibly the best warm beverage I’ve ever had?). And since we were in Astoria, we made a visit to the Goonies house. From there we could hear the sea lions of Astoria out near the water. So naturally we went and said hello to them. However, our real stop in Astoria was the Fort George Brewery, where we grabbed a growler of pumpkin beer to go.  Soon after we came to Tillamook, whereby we purchased a plethora of cheese which was intended for the making of copious grilled cheeses.

Instead of driving the efficient, time and gas saving route, we took the scenic, beautiful, coastal 101. A sacrifice well worth the reward. The harsh waves of the Pacific Ocean are a dramatic contrast to the flat, calm waves of the Gulf of Mexico I grew up with. My eyes can’t take in enough of the giant swells fighting towards the shore. I am also very unused to cold beaches. I’ve never been partial to the warm, salty water in Florida; it feels like swimming in urine. But the cold, unobstructed wind that frequents the beaches here at this time of year is admittedly difficult to get used to. No matter, I still adore it. The ocean will never cease to captivate me.

Through research I discovered that camping anywhere close to the Redwoods is a spendy experience. Consequently, we had thought to car camp in Crescent City. But seeing as it’s a thoroughly sketchy city, and we wanted to get a bit closer to where we planned to hike the following day, we passed it by. Without regret. Instead Sunita found a large pull-off peering over the ocean and we slept there. It was raining heavily (a welcome change from the continual mist Olympians mistake as rain), and the wind was tumultuous and intense. I slept fitfully, with mostly-sleepy-but-slightly-wakeful worries about the roof box flying off. However, upon waking it was still in place, and we weren’t flooded or windswept into the sea.

Sunita and I have a sort of routine where she awakens obscenely early and starts driving and I wake a few hours later when the sun decides it’s a good time to start the day. She does most of the driving for two reasons: partially because she enjoys it, and partially because I’m a horrible driver (which I finally got her to admit on this trip). I, therefore, have been deemed the permanent DJ. Jedi’s role is to attempt to climb into the front seat as often as possible, despite being reprimanded every single time. And making the car smell with his intense farts. And that’s a lot of what comprises our driving stretches.