Day 8: We’re Home!

We woke up early on our final day to get an early start. While we only would be driving for about 6.5 hours to get to Portland, we needed to be at our new apartment before the office closed to get our keys.  We also wanted to build in extra time in case of weather delays from the snow and ice that had struck Northwest Oregon and caused road closures and stranded cards.  While it had been a couple days since the storm hit we could still see advisories on tripcheck.com including some areas where we were being advised to carry snow chains.

As we drove north into the Cascade region California continued to impress us with views of snow capped mountains.  We were firmly into the PNW now! Being surrounded by Douglas Firs just makes me so happy for some reason.

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Oregon greeted us with a blanket of snow even. Sorry for all the car pics as we didn’t have to time to stop and take photos. Plus we were good and ready to be off the road.

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We lucked out and didn’t find any icy roads until we got to Portland and our apartment is just a few turns off of the interstate.  We go in, got the keys and a tour of our new place. It’s just as nice as we had hoped and are quite pleased.  Now we just have to wait for our furniture and belonging to get here…

Well, this concludes our road trip from ATL to PDX but we plan on updating the blog with more stories of Portland and other trips we take all over the West, and hopefully the world. We’re just getting started!

Day 7: PCH & San Francisco

Our hotel in Morro Bay was only a few blocks from the water and fishing docks but it was too dark to know this when we checked in.  However, we could hear something odd while walking Maggie before bed the previous night… seals?! We got up early this morning to walk down and investigate. A group of sea otters were awaiting our arrival in front of boats and a calm ocean.

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But this wouldn’t be our only wildlife surprise today.  Shortly after we started our way up the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), we happened upon a muddy overlook with a small crowd of people looking over the railing.  We stopped to see and were thrilled by what we saw. A small colony of elephant seals were relaxing and playing at the shore.

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As we made our way north up the coast we were not too pleased with the weather that was greeting us.  We had mostly avoided rain and clouds on this trip but today would prove to be quite nasty at times.  I was worried that we might not even be able to see much of the coast at all due to the fog.  But I was surprised by the vistas that awaited us.

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Mile after mile of jagged coast unveiled itself to us as we crested every curve and peak.  The teal waters, white foam, and steamy grey air met with dark earth, golden grass, and green moss. We stopped frequently to take photos. Sometimes powerful gust of wind would blow open or shut the car door or send rain sideways onto my coat and face. Mud was underfoot at every pull off and I tried my hardest to keep my phone and camera dry.

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With white knuckles I finally relinquished the wheel to Amy for the final stretch of the drive into San Francisco.  The weather was not improving and we barely made it into town before it was completely dark.  We were just barely able to catch a few glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge in the mist.

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After stopping for dinner at a pier, we learned a very hard lesson about leaving the city over the Bay Bridge: don’t try go anywhere during or anytime soon after rush hour.  It took us an hour just to get on the bridge in the most stressful traffic I have ever endured.  We made it out and drove for a few more hours on to Redding.  California proved itself to be simultaneously the most beautiful and stressful part of our driving adventure.

Day 6: El Matador State Park

From Beverly Hills we went West to El Matador State Park but not before getting stuck in traffic on I-5.  Now that the true LA experience was over we took a windy, high speed, mountainous highway towards the coast.  The sun was nearing the horizon as we pulled up to our destination and we were awestruck by the view.  We joined picnickers and photogs down a steep flight of stairs to the beach as our fingers started clicking away at our cameras.

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There were a handful of decadent mansions adjacent to and above the park. While too sprawling for my taste, the design of this one was quite nice.

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We then left the park for Morro Bay where we would rest up and prepare for the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). On the way out we stopped once more at Point Mugu for a final salutation to the Sun.

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Day 6: Los Angeles

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On Day 6, we left Barstow, a desert town in Southern California, for LA. We knew we were getting close when a dense smog dimmed our view of the valley as we made it through a chain of mountains. We were really surprised to see how thick it was.

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We thought we would start by seeing Long Beach in memory of Amy’s brother.  Even though it was Dec 14th, the temperature was high 60’s to low 70’s.  Maggie really loved Rosie’s Dog Beach and ran around we me like a crazed animal.

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Next we went to Beverly Hills and to see the Hollywood sign (yaaaaay we’re such tourist!). After sitting in lots of traffic I decided to detour up a windy residential road and am very glad I did.  McMansions practically built on top of one another all the way up.  And the view of the city was awesome, save for the smog of course.

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After that we stopped at a highly rated taco stand for the LA street food experience.  They served up some of the cheapest and best tacos I’ve had yet.

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And, of course, the Hollywood sign.

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Next up, we head North to El Matador State Park.

Day 5: Volcanoes Near Flagstaff!

Flagstaff was surprisingly Alpine and cold!  Not what I expected for Arizona but it was a nice change to see evergreens and snowy mountains after leaving a desert. Right in the  central northern part of the state lies a field of cinder cones (ie volcanoes) that form a group of mountains. We drove into Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and were delightfully surprised at what we found–lava flows!

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Fields of craggy, dark grey, igneous rock left over from an eruption that happened about 1,000 years ago.

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Another thing that was quite interesting to me was the color and texture of some of the surrounding mountains.  There were fields of what looked like perfectly landscaped gravel as though a landscaper had put them there.

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Below, you can see a crater left behind by an eruption.

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On the way out we stopped to take pictures of the breathtaking Humphreys Peak, the highest peak in Arizona. It looks like a cloud got caught on the peak while trying to pass over.

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Tonight we will cross over into California and stop over in Barstow for the night.  Then on to Los Angeles!

Day 5: Petrified Forest & Painted Desert

The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are right next to each other and they were our first stops for today.  First, we drove around the Painted Desert. You can see why it’s called this with all the vibrant colors.

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Then we drove south to the Petrified Forest.  This is not a forest, but rather was a forest over 200 million years ago.  Now it’s a desert sprinkled with petrified logs.

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Basically, long ago there was a tropical rain forest here and the trees all fell into a river basin as they died.  The river covered them with silt and the water brought various minerals, like quartz, that then deposited themselves into the logs. Then they were preserved and buried for millions of years.  Now they are being exposed here by erosion.

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If you look closely you can see all the colors left behind by the minerals.  Beautiful!

Next up, we drive westward to Flagstaff to Sunset Crater.

7 States and 2775+ Miles

Hello from California. Logan has been doing a great job with the posts so far, but I figured it was time for one from me. We’ve traveled over 7 states (most of which I’ve never been) and over 2775 miles. It’s amazing to me to think that 5 days ago this whole journey started with our dog (Maggie) wondering what in the world was going on while packing for the move.

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All this time in the car and staying in a different place every night has started to make me a little crazy. That being said, here’s some of the funny and odd things I’ve seen so far.

Some of the national parks allow dogs, so we’ve taken Maggie with us to a few sites. She apparently doesn’t understand the dangers of cliffs and on several occasions has jumped up on the walls scaring me half to death.

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I’ve determined that one of the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument needs to be my new home. The view was great, but I’m thinking it might be too cold in the winter.

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On our way through New Mexico I started to get a little stir-crazy in the car, so Maggie got to see how comfortable the neck pillow is. (She was clearly not amused.) Maggie has been such a trooper with all the hours traveling in the car, staying in a different hotel every night, and putting up with my shenanigans.

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I found some military tanks which helped pass the time while driving through the flat, dry parts of Arizona.

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Today we made it to the Petrified Forest National Park, where Logan decided he was the bird whisperer and was communing with the birds.

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Towards the end of the day, I found the longest train (10 extra points for those who play Ticket to Ride)! I swear that we kept passing the same train multiple times throughout the day. At one point I was trying to race it, only to realize that you really can’t race a train.

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I’m excited to begin our travel up the California coast over the next few days and making the final stretch into Portland.