101 and Beach Rocks

Another factor of my recent excursion was going throughout the Southern Oregon Coast via US Route 101. This route is set up on the Pacific Coast of this country, and a lot of its course almost touches the ocean, but some of it is a bit inland. As there is nothing like this road on the East Coast, this magical route is still a novelty for me, and I love exploring it in new sections  each time I am near the ocean.

We drove up Route 101 from Arcata, California, to the Oregon border, where we stopped in the small town of Brookings. An elderly gas station attendant recommended us to follow the signs to a coast guard station in order to access the beach.

We backtracked on 101 over a bridge, and drove down the hill to a small parking lot loaded with RVs and trucks. Some people were enjoying barbecues under awnings, and others were comparing stories about their traveling dogs. With all of these large vehicles, I thought it looked very American.

Of course the salty breeze, cold waters, rigid rock formations and sandy surface were extremely refreshing after a long car ride, but the most interesting part of this beach was this weird overlook area on top of a cliff. There was a lighthouse, two American flags, and a statue that seemed to replicate the over-arching Jesus I have seen in photos from some famous park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was a fan of this unusual combination.

After the big cat zoo, we also stopped by the coastal part of Bandon, Oregon. The arching geological formations looked very sharp, the air was cold and strong, and some of the rocks were engulfed by shellfish on their surfaces. It was definitely not much of a tourist spot, and seemed to be frequented by locals and their canine companions who came out dressed in outer wear, trained to protect themselves from the elements.

We also stopped in some area around Coos Bay, Oregon, which I’ve seen as a designated dot on state maps many times before. It took a while to get to an actual beach spot, with a lot of winding through commercial strips with stores all closed for Sunday, followed by sharp turns that led us to roads lined with different RV parks.

We finally got to some small beach enclosure. There were a few women actually going into the shallow cold water, who appeared to be shivering in their bikinis and huddling into themselves for warmth.

We went off to a rock formation area, and I was happy I decided to wear my hiking boots, as its hard surface was all caked with holes of surprise mud. Though very aesthetically stimulating, it smelled somewhat like rotted seaweed and the oil from canned anchovies. Nevertheless, we were able to ignore the stench, climb up a rock and enjoy lunch with a view.

Northwest Urban Lakes

While I was in Seattle, I randomly decided to go to a place called Green Lake. I thought it would be some small pond of no importance in some public park, but I was very surprised at its reality.

It turned out to be a decent-sized lake, with people all around swimming, diving off the diving boards, sun bathing, sailing, fishing and paddling. The water was remarkably clear for it being in such a densely populated city, and its shore was lined with a path with lots of lovely trees, flowers and blackberry bushes.

I was surprised at how clean the water was, I actually got in for a bit and went for a walk, far enough that the water would not hit the tip of my shorts. Others enjoyed the park by circling the lake, and there were lots of dog walkers, parents with strollers and joggers that look like they came there a lot.

Back in Portland, I wanted to go check out Laurelhurst Park in Southeast, the urban lake I am most familiar with. Though not Greek Lake, it is a pleasant place to daze off at the brown waters and watch the turtles basking and the ducks waddling.

I was surprised to find this lake had been immensely reduced. It was locked off entirely by a steel fence, and some sign said that they were draining the lake and taking the fish out.

There was one part where you could get sort of near where the lake used to be, and this was fortunately the area that you could also feed the ducks. The sign on the fence said that the birds would go elsewhere and then return once they refilled the water, but I guess a few of them were too stubborn to move. These birds were all funneling their beaks throughout the bleak mud, to navigate their new fraction of a swimming hole that was really a small puddle.

We fed them some burger buns through and over the fence, and talked about how strange this place now looked.

Coming and Going

Come summertime, Portland turns into a new place. The sun shines, and people breeze by on their bikes, showing off their cherished cut-off clothing that they have had in storage all year, looking forward to the magic day they do not have to suffer from constant dampness.

I was sitting on the bench the other day and a woman noticed how smiley everyone had become, as they had certainly earned it. I absolutely agree with that, as I’ve visited places where it is nice all year round, and no one appreciates it. I remember when I was in school in upstate New York, the first day of sun was so cherished, and everyone was out on their picnic blankets or playing volleyball or chess in the communal dorm yards. When the sun was nearing sunset, and the shadows would encompass our space, we would always move our blanket down a few feet over and over to catch the continuous rays.

I’ve been trying to watch the sunset every night that it’s clear. I’m skipping tonight because it is cloudy. However, I did watch it from my roof three days in a row, which was quite a treat. I get a spectacular view of the sun setting over the hills of pine-infested trees on the west side of the Willamette to the West, and then an interesting shadowed view of Mount Saint Helens to the North. This volcano looks white from its snow during the day, but during sunset, it gets shades of mystical purple.

I went to the bluffs off of Skidmore Street a couple nights ago, and that was quite a scene. People had picnics already set up, and were sipping wine and eating cheese and waiting for the magic colors to appear upon the solar descent.

Tomorrow, I shall leave. Though enjoyable in this weather, I’ve been here pretty much all alone, with no one to share my experience with, unless you count my cats. I’m looking forward to my flight to New York tomorrow night. Although it’s supposed to be hot and sticky and mosquito infested, I’m excited to see new old faces. I’m excited to see the trees have turned into summer, with their full leaves in stock and on display, because I was there last in Spring when everything was just budding. I have about a dozen potential plans I’d love to turn into reality, and I hope I have more to do than I expect.

Driving to Cali

For this year’s birthday, I took a trip down to Northern California, amongst new frontiers. I’ve seen the entrance into this part of the country driving south via I-5, through excessively trashy Redding, California, to extremely impressive Mount Shasta. This time, we took a new route that will always stand out to me.

My friend in Humboldt told my boyfriend and I of a girl who was driving down from Portland to Arcata, California. We found out that she bought a car, and was driving her old Rodeo truck and her new 1983 Honda Accord southward and westward, to where we wanted to be. We at first went along the familiar way down the greenery and mountainous territory of Oregon, from the clustered traffic jams on suspended freeway ramps, to get out of Portland during rush hour, through boring Salem and then through youthful Eugene. We stopped in Eugene, and then got back on the road and enjoyed the steep inclines and declines that this sprawl-less little city exhibits when it goes straight from the compact college town to lush rural and forested areas.

Strange rest areas came about southward, with little pregnant, mewing cats and passing-through people going to relieve themselves or stretch, checking you out to guess your story while you observe them to think of why they are in such a strange place on this freeway in the middle of nowhere. Driving down through exits I hardly recognized and hill formations I vaguely knew that I became impressed by in the past; it was so interesting to travel by car again. Trapped in the city I usually am, bound by my bicycle and Trimet transit services, put off by flat tires or expired transfers. My boyfriend and I switched off driving sessions, accelerating and decelerating, hitting the brakes and the gas, and changing CDs.

Pass on through California through new territory, and get that friendly inter-state inspection of police officers asking if you have any fruits, vegetables or produce in your vehicle.

Magically, once you cross the Oregon-California border, all of the clouds go away and the sun starts shining!

Through new mountains, new pine trees and new rock formations that resemble Oregon but are highlighted differently by the obvious sunshine. Trying to decide if this territory actually looks different from back home or if my perspective has become tainted by the drab, constant overcast. Forward through the Redwood Forests, not sure if I’ve ever seen a Redwood in the past, but now sure that I do see them passing by on the left and right of my vision out of the simple white station wagon.

Down to the coast, through Crescent City, meet the 101 Pacific Highway and continue on. See the sunny and sandy and windy ocean beaches full of humans and leashless dogs that no one really tells you about, or what a foreigner would initially think of California to be like. Keep the window cracked a little, keep the CD selection diverse, follow the girl in the Rodeo truck in front of us to finish our temporary western odyssey.

Visiting the Capital

Today I went to Salem, Oregon, to get a few documents notarized. This journey started out by us taking the MAX Light Rail to the Greyhound station downtown and waiting in a long line of tired people, before they let us know that there were no reservations under either of our names even though my boyfriend had booked the ticket the previous night.

So we then walked to Powell’s Books and sat in the cafe and managed to luckily find a rideshare off craigslist. It was fortunate that I brought my laptop! We sat there for a while and read and zoned out a bit and drank some Jasmine tea. All the while I was trying to figure out my way of getting to Arcata, CA, next week, and possibly extending my flight back here from New York, neither of which I’ve successfully completed yet.

The ride was not bad. The rest of the people were going to Eugene. I’m familiarizing myself a little more each time with I-5 South, passing places like Tigard and Lake Oswego, which were in the past a bunch of unassociated names. The driver was nice, she passed the exit of her town, Canby, and told us how she grew up on a farm there, and how Canby is just a bunch of churches, fast food places and a few gas stations. We drove through the plains of farmlands and passed random exit signs.

When we finally got to the outskirts of Salem, we talked about how it resembled so many outskirts of American cities we have seen in the past and will see in the future. The men in the car talked about their hiking trips in the woods of Montana or North Carolina, and having shock after entrance upon these anywhere locations in the USA.

It was raining heavily when we were dropped off by Capital Street. We walked by the buildings labeled by their respective bureaucracies, whether they were transportation, taxes, and finally to human services or whatever it was called. We had a productive time of walking down the dim, marble halls, finding the office and finally getting our documents stamped and signed and sealed with a gold Oregon state sticker. We then got to wait at a bus stop outside this building and stare at the Oregon state capital building, which I’ve passed on the Greyhound bus before. A bunch of school children who were on a field trip there were exiting the capital and boarding the yellow school buses, and they did not seem too interested.

We took an express bus from Salem to the Wilsonville Transit Center, where we got on a WES commuter train. I had never even seen one of these trains before, let alone ride one. We passed through some rural areas which were either green and vast or recently developed with ugly suburban houses that all looked the same. On we rode to the Beaverton Transit Center, where we hopped on the MAX, and rode it to downtown Portland, over the bridge, past the Rose Quarter Convention Center and finally to the 6 bus. This whole ride was about 2.5 hours.

It was reassuring to come back to Portland with our documents finally officialized. I hope I will not ever return to Salem again.

Riding Around Town

Portland can be a very pleasant city to ride around on bicycle. One of the reasons I decided to move here was because I would not have to buy a car. Sure there is public transport, but the city is set up especially nice for biking, and you do not have to squish against some unpleasant people.

Riding is especially fun when it is actually nice out and you are not being massacred by the thunderless rain, trying to keep your plastic hood shelled over your head by working against the force of the wind.

I think my favorite ride in Portland is from my house to the St Johns neighborhood via Willamette Boulevard. This is a long street that goes along the carved out road on the cliffs viewing the Willamette River down below. On part of this ride, you get an opportunity to see the hills of Forest Park on the West Side of the river. When you look at Forest Park from this perspective, you get a greater view on how the short trees change according to the season, whether light green in spring or deep green in summer, or red and brown in fall or naked in winter, against the pines that firmly stand forever tall and deeply green. You also get a wonderful view of downtown Portland, in a way that is always distantly hazy, and you can see the small and vague skyline, the fields of industrial, white warehouses, the Union Pacific tracks and the assortment of notable bridges.

Once you pass the university of Portland part, you are then in a largely residential area full of gridded small houses that usually have assorted yard sales in the warmer months. Further down, you begin to see the top of the minty green St John’s Bridge in the air from the distance, knowing you are approaching your destination.

The St John’s Bridge is especially scenic to ride under and look at the symmetry. It is situated above Cathedral Park, which is a manicured grassy field with loopy paths that take one straight downhill into the Willamette River shore. Though I would not recommend swimming in this river, some people do in fact enjoy it.

The St Johns neighborhood is a satisfying place to finally lock up your bike, full of friendly small businesses and casual strollers during the daytime hours. I’m fortunate that I live close enough to but far enough from St John’s to enjoy my journey and destination at a somewhat short reach.

Cannon Beach

I think Cannon Beach, Oregon is one of the most gorgeous places on the Pacific Coast. Maybe it isn’t all Beach Boys surfer ecstasy or beefy men working out on Venice Beach, but it definitely has its own thing going on. The rock formations are certainly one of the best parts of Cannon Beach, I’ve never seen anything like these on the Atlantic Ocean.

I love how in Oregon the forest goes up until the coast, where it ends right before the sand. Really tall, old pine trees make the best compliment to the yellow sandy shores and the clear blue water’s incoming waves. I feel like anywhere you go around here is some crazy pristine nature experience where you realize human architecture and city lights can never quite top the aesthetic potential the earth has.

I went to Cannon Beach last week, and though I had to bundle up a little, it was really enjoyable. I went there last summer for a few hours, and though it was incredibly beautiful, it was quite cloudy, hazy and humid. This time, it was clear and crisp and of course breezy, but not crowded because it was not high season, and the ocean was a lovely stark blue contrast below the sky’s subtle blue tone.

On the actual beach part, the windy, salty cool air was another appropriate contrast to the soft and hot sand on the ground.