January 23, 2016

West Coast 4: Santa Cruz & Highway 1

I went from big city San Francisco to little city Santa Cruz along Highway 1.  I'm stubborn, it's beautiful, but honestly it was so early in the morning (7! how does anyone do anything at 7!) I barely remember it.  And it only took about two hours, which, psh, was a hop skip and a jump at this point.

Santa Cruz was sunny and small and before I did anything else, I went to the laundromat and dumped all my clothes into a washer named Babe and a dryer named Phil.  I didn't make these up, they were stickered onto the machines.  Laundromats are cool things!  This one was all cheerful with ocean murals painted on the walls and a couple dogs in the back and maybe I was making it up, but I felt a sense of camaraderie there.
At the recommendation of a Little River friend, I went to Cafe Brazil for takeout lunch and got this delicious mess of veggies and plantains and bread and we took it to the beach and I sat in the sand with my bare feet and shorts and laughed at Bix and tried not to get sand in my food.  They had a boardwalk, which was very exciting in theory and from afar, but in reality it was sort of not operating for the winter season.  Bix made friends though.
We did the pier too, which was decidedly more exciting because it had smoothies AND seals.  Big old fat seals that lounged and barked on the beams below.  Bixby didn't know what to make of them, but I thought they were GREAT.
Let me now say my couchsurfing hosts were stupendous.  Top notch.  Among the best couchsurf hosts I had the entire journey.  They lived in a beautiful old ranch-style house with gardens in the backyard, and I was there such a perfect night because they were having a get-together in their home.  We made taco accoutrements and sat around a long picnic table outside and spooned food onto our plates.  It was just one of those nights, you know?  Dogs underfoot, music playing, a general earthy connectedness, ice cream sundaes for dessert.  Stellar.

I was going to a Bombadil concert, of course, and everybody helped get my bike ready, because goodness knows that poor thing wasn't used enough.  Tires pumped up, lights borrowed, leather jacket on, Samantha and I zipped on over to the tiny bar to see the Bombi-boys play one more time.  It was by far their smallest concert, we passed around the set list and called out the songs, and everybody got one dedicated to them - mine was "Learning to Let Go."  I rode home chilly and happy through the empty Santa Cruz streets.
We peaced pretty early the next morning, crossing paths with the hosts as they were on their way to go surfing.  Bixby, handsome devil that he is, was offered a modeling gig with American Eagle while we were getting Starbucks, but we had to say "thanks but no" and continue on down the road.  This was a big day for us, because (drum roll please!) it was the day of Bixby Bridge, my little knucklehead's namesake.  It did not disappoint, although the significance of it went completely over Bixby's head.  "It's his name!" I told people, who probably thought I was nuts.
And then one of my very favorite things happened.  I'd been all bummed about the sea lions being out of their cave up in Oregon, but I was driving down the highway, and there were suddenly little brown government signs advertising elephant seals on the right.  We pulled off, of course, and hopped out of the car, and there were the seals.  Hundreds and hundreds of them, sunning mostly, flopping sand onto their bellies and backs.  Occasionally one would make its way down the beach and into the water, and two of the males chest-bumped in the shallow waves.  Bixby watched and watched.  "These are your mermaids," I told him.  They didn't have to be there at all, that was my favorite part.  This wasn't any sort of zoo.  The fence built was to keep people out of the seals, and the seals had the whole wide ocean to disappear into whenever they felt like it.  They just felt like being on this beach, being ogled by travelers who marched down the boardwalks to stare at the seals and then get back into their cars and continue on the Pacific Coast Highway.  Magical!  And then!  Because California is The Coolest, right after the seals, I had to pull over again because someone had put zebras in their cow pasture.  Why not!
Aaand then I got In-N-Out Burger, and despite the obvious vegetarian handicap it was delicious.  Chocolate milkshake FTW!
The end!

January 21, 2016

West Coast 3: San Francisco

I think I've built up San Francisco in my mind since about 2010, when I started following blogger Dear Baby (now Brave in Love) who lived here and made it seem like an absolute dream.  She talked about Haight Street and posted pictures of herself wearing a gorgeous crinoline in parks and on buildings with beautiful trees and skylines behind her.  It seemed like my place.  And then, magically enough, she moved to Raleigh.  There are places North Carolina clicks with, I've found, and those places are the ones I adore the most.  Burlington, VT; Miami; Seattle; San Francisco - these are all also places with invisible spiderwebs branching back to the land of the pines.  I was stooooked for San Fran.
However.  My first twenty-fourish hours in San Francisco were not actually in San Francisco.  They were spent in Sausalito, and those were some of the most ridiculous hours of my life.  A Couchsurf host had reached out to me and offered a few days on his sailboat.  I'm a sucker for a good boat, so I double checked my pepper spray and clicked confirm.  I had three pals that night, three co-couchsurfers.  They were hip European boys named Alex, Michael, and Joffrey, and I could have kissed them, I was so glad to not go into this adventure alone.  Because Jacob looked slightly like a lunatic.  A lunatic with a boat.
Once we met up with Captain Jacob, he rowed us individually out to his sailboat, except me and Bix doubled up (timeout: BIX RODE A KAYAK).  The ship was a grubby little thing with lots of rubble and a sad toilet and no motor and absolutely not enough room for five people and a dog to sleep comfortably.  We went with it though, me and the guys, and Alex and Michael circled the sailboat in the kayak with a scrub brush, cleaning the boat of the algae Jacob said would hinder our sailing.  Which never happened.  After we'd gotten all ready - no algae, sails up, Bix firmly fastened into his brand new lifejacket - Jacob realized he'd anchored the boat close enough to shore that with the tide out, the keel was definitely stuck in the mud and we were going exactly nowhere.  He got jokey, I got tight-lipped, and the guys laughed nervously at his ramblings.
We went to shore after that and had possibly the worst tour of Sausalito that's ever been given.  We saw the very closed construction site of a tall ship, and they all went into a grocery store while I waited outside with Bix, and then we trespassed somewhere for some reason that I didn't fully comprehend.  Jacob rowed each of us and a twelve-pack of Budweiser back to the boat, where they all smoked a thousand cigarettes and we meditated.  I woke up the next morning unrested and uncomfortable but! relieved Jacob hadn't sailed us out into the middle of the ocean.
Bix and I took off ASAP through the cute side of Sausalito (guess what! there is one! go there instead!) and over the Golden Gate Bridge.  I drove in the truck and RV lane so we could go slowly, passing awestruck underneath the giant red arches.  I love bridges, I've loved every bridge Bix and I have driven over, and that's been a lot, but the Golden Gate Bridge was something special.

First things first was actually getting presentable for the day, which meant hitting up a Panera and changing/bathing??? in the bathroom.  Hashtag traveler problems.  But I got a bagel and felt much better with a clean face, and then I met up with Bombadil James, Stacy, and Nick for a tour of Haight Street and Golden Gate Park.  I adored Haight, all the quirky little shops and the quirky little people and their quirky little dogs and restaurants wafting pizza, Indian, coffee smells onto the sidewalk.  We went into the absolute biggest record store I've ever seen and thumbed through copies of Springsteen and Sylvan Esso records.  Bixby was even offered drugs when we went to the park, which he politely declined.
Then the Bombadil boys and I split up, them to get ready for their concert and me to meet the Couchsurf host who wasn't dangerous but I didn't care for so he's not gonna get any more blog time than exactly that.  I showered in approximately 33 degree water and got dressed for the concert and bought food at a place called Yamo where the women running the show were rude and they made me wait outside and their tofu curry was kinda bad anyway.  So if you're in San Francisco, probably don't go there.  (Guess who recommended it.)  (It was the Couchsurf host.)
filed under: places i slept
And then I went to Brick and Mortar for the Bombadil show!  There were two whole openers, and they were both lots of fun.  Bombadil was fab, as always, and there were a good number of people who'd moved from the Triangle and knew the songs and were excited to stand in front of the stage and dance around.  As it turned out, I knew a couple of them, had met them years and years before anyway.  We didn't figure it out until after we'd started listing mutual friends, but it was still nice to see some sort of familiar faces!
The next day was heavenly.  It was one of those days where everything just aligned and everything I did was good.  A few of my friends had sent lists of things to do and eat, and I just did as much as I could and had the most wonderful time.  My day started off with hot chocolate with fresh whipped cream and a slice of chocolate cake from Tartine Bakery, and it's hard to go wrong when your day opens with that much chocolate.  Bixby and I drove over to Baker Beach, where he got a little off leash time (San Francisco is SO dog friendly) and we saw the Golden Gate Bridge from afar, framed in all its glory by rock cliffs and bay water and blue skies peeking through the clouds.  There was also a gigantic dead seal washed up onto the sand, which Bix was extremely interested in checking out but made me feel nauseous so we avoided that one.
MOVING ON we went to another little downtowny bit of San Francisco to visit Green Apple Books, which is actually two sweet little stores with an assortment of used and new books.  I accidentally walked out with two from each store to add to my ever-growing collection that's now spilling over the sides of the paper bag they gave me at Powell's Books in Portland.  Lunch was across/down the street at Cafe Bunn Mi - have you ever even heard of a tofu sandwich?  They just put tofu.  On bread.  With carrots and sauce and stuff.  And you want to eat it forever.  And also you can, because it's enormous.  Tada!
I went back to Haight Street after that, because I'd made a shopping promise to myself, and that promise was that if I found THE PERFECT JACKET, I could buy that and only that.  And in a little store called Ambiance, I found it: black, faux leather, zippery, on sale, all mine.  To be featured in maaaany pictures to come.  We celebrated by heading to Fort Mason and walk walk walking all over the place, we saw the Golden Gate Bridge from the other side and Azkaban Alcatraz and people swimming in the freezing cold water and it was the brightest, breeziest, most beautiful day in that San Francisco city.  We wrapped it all up by snagging some killer mexican food at Mission Street Tacos, and the next morning, early early, Bix and I drove out of the city, south to Santa Cruz.
Bye, ya weird, happy, dancey, smelly, beautiful city.

January 12, 2016

WWOOF 9: Little River

First off, I should probably acknowledge that the Great Road Trip of 2015 is long over and this post is many months overdue, BUT my excuse is that Little River is the last place I WWOOFed and CouchSurfing is a lot faster paced than WWOOFing so I would have had to chip into my adventure time to write about everything that was happening and then I would have had less happen.  Forgive me if the posts become less word-focused and more picture-focused from here on out (at least until I catch up to present day life).


Little River was the deep breath I took between West Coast cities.  After meeting the Pacific Ocean for real for the very first ever time, seeing redwoods and wild seals, a night in a Eureka motel, and hours of driving down skinny green highways with steep dropoffs, I arrived at Pegasus Farm.
This is what I remember:

1) My three full and two half days there slipped by quickly.  I remade beds and vacuumed floors in their cabins.  Bix and I went on long walks through the fog and trees.  The people were kind and there was a transitory sense about the place.  It had been used as a sort of refuge for women who were having a rough time in their lives, housing them in a spare room or in the tiny, perfect cabins.  When they were low on money and all the women had found safe places to live, they transitioned the cabins to Airbnb rooms.  One was named Sunlit and the other was Ohm, and I liked the cleaning part more than I expected - stripping flannel sheets and replacing them, vacuuming the traveler dust out of the rugs, refilling the glass water bottles.  People had set up and taken down rooms for me so many times on this journey, and now it was my turn.
2) Because they were carpenters/artists, they had the most beautiful furniture.  Decades ago, when cutting down redwoods was still legal, some logging company had dammed up a river, chopped down a bunch of the giants, laid them into the dry riverbed, and released the dam to send the redwoods floating down the river.  The guy who owned the farm and his brother lived in Little River their whole lives, and back in the 70s or 80s, they'd realized there were redwoods left at the bottom of the river and somehow dragged them out of the river using barges and scuba gear.  They turned the redwoods into richly striped tables and beds and bookshelves.  If I was made of money I would have bought everything at their art opening, but I am not and I had to settle for smoothing it over and over with my palms, tracing the ebbs and rings in the wood with my fingertips.
3) The WWOOFiest thing I did was the potatoes.  I loved this.  They sent me out into the garden with a fork - the shovel-sized farming kind, not the eating kind - and had me stab the earth and pull out the tiny round potatoes that surfaced.  I washed them and cut them into little cubes with "help" from Mari, and then, because I slept in, someone boiled them, and then under someone else's direction, I turned those potatoes into potato salad.  I was so proud of that potato salad it was silly, but I so loved how I was nearly the only human in the entire world who had touched the potatoes before they went into people's mouths.  That's something I took away from WWOOFing, that I want to eat food that is 100% mine - planted and grown and watered and harvested and prepared by just me.
4) They had an outdoor shower on the back porch with absolutely no semblance of privacy.  I eyed it the whole time I was there, considered showering at the risk of exposing myself to the various people who lived at Pegasus Farm.  In a beautiful twist, somehow, on Sunday afternoon, everybody left.  The residents of the farm scattered one by one, until it was just me and Bixby left.  And I took advantage, took the most wonderful shower with the sunshine and the redwoods and then drank wine on the porch while it was still warm outside.
5) I don't remember the names of the couple who lived in the barn (it was finished inside, like a house, but we still called it the barn), but their daughter's name was Mari and she loved Bixby so much that when I entered a room, she would ask, "Dog?"  Her mother had recently weaned her and she cried a lot, but she was also learning to yodel, so things kind of balanced out.  We both had an affinity for avocado toast.