This is my first real contribution to the blog aside from some proof reading, and a bit of detail work with Francesca. Francesca has set the bar really high, so please don’t throw tomatoes right away.
Leaving Oregon and heading to California was a mixed blessing for me. While I felt complete in Oregon and I was truly excited to see the redwoods, friends and family, getting to California meant we were a step closer to the camping portion of the BT coming to an end. The last 5 months with these 3 amazing ladies have been among the best in my life!!
We left Bend OR on a rainy afternoon and headed southwest towards the Northern California coast and the giant redwoods within. We were on a schedule for the first time of the trip as we had made several plans over the coming weeks and we also had a to catch to Spain ( which was looking more and more like we were going to need to change). Having the set schedule, really made me appreciate just how free-form and loose the first 4 months had been- we stayed as long as a place warranted, moving on when ready, not when planned. We camped just outside the California state line on a forest service road, made a quick dutch oven Spanikopita in the rain, played card games and went to bed. The next morning we got up early and headed toward the biggest trees in the world, which were atop my BT list. We lumbered(ha) through Jedediah Smith State Park and the road side trees were bigger than any trees we had ever seen. On Vancouver Island we checked out several of the biggest trees there, a giant Sitka spruce and the largest Douglass fir in Canada, and they were not even close to the size of the seemingly unnamed roadside redwoods. Our first stop was in Crescent City California (9th state of the trip) and got the 411 on the state and national parks to the south and headed out. We did stop by a dock outside Crescent City to see a bunch of seals and sea lions lounging in the sun on the way. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park was the next stop. We did a few great hikes to some amazing trees.
The girls have been excited to get Junior Ranger badges along the way at the National Parks we have visited and the Redwoods were no exception. After the girls completed the booklets, we checked out the visitor center, and the girls were sworn in to protect the redwoods! We jumped back in to the rig and continued south towards Humbolt Redwoods State Park and the “Avenue of the Giants”. The Avenue of the Giants is an incredible 30 mile road through huge redwood stands leading through several small towns and Humbolt Redwoods State Park. We camped for the night in a great campground surrounded by redwoods. While geologically speaking the redwoods are a flash in the pan, but as far as living things go, they are ancient and you could really feel the time embedded in these old growth forests. It was an honor to sleep among these trees! The next morning we went for a hike in the Founders Grove and were again blown away by the trees! The Founders Grove has a lot of downed trees and it was amazing to walk the length of 350+ foot trees as they lay on the ground- this really provided a scale you could not quite grasp looking up at the standing giants. Walking in these forests, below the thick canopy, sparse under growth and huge trunks really gave the feel of a spiritual place. As we were leaving, I asked Isla if she liked the redwoods and she put the redwoods at the 2nd best stop on the BT (behind Mt. Rushmore).
After a quick stop at the visitors center to see a really cool RV made out of a hollowed out redwood log in the 1920’s that I had read about several month ago, we headed south to Bolinas California to visit my mom (Grandma Juju).
We arrived to a warm welcome and surprisingly balmy temps in Bolinas! The kids quickly made themselves at home, playing with all the toys in the toy drawer, drawing with the pastels and crafting- basically spreading out from the camper and getting ahold of new gear! We had a great afternoon and evening just catching up, hanging out with Juju and of course putting her washing machine and dryer to the test. The next morning Francesca and I headed out for a long walk together- always nice to grab a bit of time with my lady! While we were walking the girls headed out with Juju to pick lemons and apples at a friends house. We then all went over to Stinson Beach for a long walk and some awesome tacos at the Siren Restaurant, at the base of an old life guard station. The girls then started playing in the water, jumping the small waves, running back and forth, laughing their infectious laugh- a pretty awesome scene made all the more special as my Mom got a glimpse of what this trip has been like. On the way back from the beach we went to the local pumpkin patch, grabbed a couple pumpkins and went home to carve them. After several more loads of laundry, we sat down to another fine home cooked meal.
The next morning we leisurely packed up and with the girl’s bellies full of grandma’s French Toast we said goodbye to Juju and headed across the bay to Berkeley. We planned to stay with my high school buddy Chandler and his family for 2 nights- including Halloween. Chandler’s neighborhood on Halloween is absolutely crazy with trick or treaters (in the thousands) and the girls were super excited to celebrate! Halloween was definitely a cause for homesickness for the girls and we wanted them to know we had a plan for them to have the opportunity to trick or treat in a “normal” situation, not making the rounds in some remote campground. As mentioned earlier in the blog, Rigdiculous is not the ideal rig for small city streets with overhanging street trees and combat parking with permits required. When we arrived we met Chrissy and caught up for a bit and then unloaded our stuff for a couple of nights and then took the rig over to my friend Todd’s house where we were going to park the rig in his driveway. It barely fit through the gate, but Rigdiculous was safe and secure in dry dock! That night Todd had organized a group of our great friends from high school to all meet up (some brought their kids) for dinner and beers. It was amazing to be together with such long term friends- most of whom I had known for over 40 years! That night I was asked again and again what were the highlights of the trip, best places, most fun activity etc, but what really stands out to me as the best part was this uninterrupted, fun, close time with Francesca and the girls- I will always be thankful for this time with them! It was super fun to watch all of our kids become fast friends. Isla and Ellie went home early to go to hang out with Chandler and his family. The girls have become so brave on this trip and were eager to go on their own adventure. After all the kids had gone home several of us went out for a few more drinks and it was a truly fun late night - including the obligatory late night pizza slices after drinking!
The next morning was Halloween and we began the day helping decorate the house and getting ready for the coming evening’s onslaught of trick or treaters. Chandler and I did manage to sneak out for a fun Mountain bike ride between tasks. Francesca and I raided the costume boxes at both Todd’s and Chandler’s houses and pieced together a couple of costumes. The girls were super excited for Halloween and we had ordered some costumes for them a few weeks before and they were waiting at Juju’s when we had arrived there.
The festivities in Berkeley did not disappoint and we all had a great time! The next morning we packed up, said our goodbyes and headed out, with our next destination being a rendezvous with my brother and his family in Southwestern Utah for a weekend of camping, mountain biking and hanging out. It was a 2 day drive out to Utah with a nights camp on the way. We camped at a pretty mediocre camp spot down an old abandoned dirt road outside of Barstow California with hwy 58 rumbling in the distance. We were however, treated to one of the best sunsets of the trip and we had a great time playing music and cooking dinner while watching the sky change from the bright colors of sunset to the black of night.
This evening was definitely one of the unremarkable times of life, that make life truly remarkable!! Our stay in California was short on time, but not on great friends and family.