Sunday, July 30, 2006

Seattle...Ya Sure Ya Betcha!

I arrived in Seattle a few days ago -just in time for the Ballard Seafood Festival.

That's been one of the things I've always loved about Seattle...It's neighborhoods and the festivals that take place all summer long. There is never a shortage of things to do during the summer here.

I spent Saturday afternoon enjoying a salmon burger and a beer in Ballard with my dear sweet friend Misha. We then zipped up to the other side of town for the Capital Hill Block Party - a street concert that rocked until midnight.

It's great to be back here in the Emerald City, and during the coming weeks I will be filling up the blog with all sorts of new and exciting adventures and photos as I rediscover Seattle and other great spots around the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Postcards from the Oregon Coast

The sea was rough that day...

Another Roadside Attraction

I've always been a huge fan (sucker) for those goofy roadside attractions and curiosities. If you've ever driven through South Dakota you know exactly what I am talking about, because you just had to stop off at the grandaddy of roadside fun - Wall Drug. Their free ice water for the road weary is always a welcomed respite.

I once cajoled my brother and sister to detour a couple hours out of the way so we could make a visit to the Royal Gorge Bridge near Colorado Springs. Okay, they weren't too happy about getting lost and then arriving as the park was closing, but I made up for it by bribing the manager to let us go across the bridge anyway. Anne and Brad complained the whole time - at least until the flash bulbs popped. The two of them lit up like 4 year olds at a birthday party. The highlight of that attraction was standing next to the spot where the television show "That's Incredible" filmed someone setting a world record bunge jump. But, I digress...

Although, fewer and fewer of them exist, America is filled with these silly little roadside attract...err...distractions. However, you usually have to venture off the Interstate and travel the two lane highways and back roads to find them. I say, what the hell, pull over and take a look.

Yesterday, while driving up 101 through northern California and southern Oregon, I found two fine examples:

This cannot be politically correct.

Nor can it be anatomically correct.

Not to be mistaken for Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean.

At this museum, they have taken "stuffing the aminal" quite literally.

Monday, July 24, 2006

King of the Road...

Trailer for sale or rent
Rooms to let...fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but..two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road.

Trailer for sale or rent
Rooms to let...fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but..two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road.

I know every engineer on every train
All of their children, and all of their names
And every handout in every town
And every lock that ain't locked
When no one's around.

I sing,
Trailers for sale or rent
Rooms to let, fifty cents
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but, two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road.

It's been a great relaxing 5 days in Humboldt County and Arcata, but it's time once again to hit the road. The weather has been near perfect, although the locals have been trying to convince me that it's usually grey and overcast most of the time here. I think it's just their way of keeping Arcata a secret from the rest of the country. 

This is one naturally beautiful spot, with friendly people and a town/county with plenty of character and community. The above photos were taken over the weekend at the Arcata Saturday Farmer's Market centered around the town's plaza.

A big thanks again to Jim, Pam, Alexis and Mr. Pickles for treating me like family - I love you guys.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Postcards from Arcata, California - Humboldt County

I had been hoping to take a photo that best epitomizes life in Arcata. I think I found it all with this car. You may CLICK this car photo and you will get a pretty good idea of what life and politics are like in Humboldt County.

There is nothing quite like a walk through the redwoods to clear your mind.

And if you spend enough time in the forest you may even hear the trees conversing.

Arcata's famed town square.

The home of my friends Jim and Pam. Yep, the same friends who invited me to Lake Tahoe also have a home in Arcata. They insisted I come and stay with them here as I work my way up 101. Again, how could I refuse? They built this little gem surrounded by 10 acres of forest. It's like living in a tree house!

Postcards from California's Highway 101

Hugging trees in Northern California

I stopped to use John McCaffrey's roadside facilities and ended up staying for an hour or more. After signing John's guest book, he generously offered some refreshments and great conversation under his makeshift mist filled outdoor lounge. 

John McCaffrey shares his roadside philosophies and witticisms along with some of Humboldt County's finest produce. When traveling along Highway 101, keep an eye out for John's roadside John.
Hitchhiker Ryan. He shared the story of how he had died in a motorcycle accident a few years ago, but was brought back to life by a friend. He says he now lives without fear...until experiencing my driving anyway.

Some of John McCaffrey's eclectic collection of stuff transformed into roadside art.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Slow Down You're Moving Too Fast...

You've got to make the moment last.

When I was a kid, on family road trips, it was always the same old story. Six kids jammed into the family station wagon, van or some boat of a car from 1970 something.

The back seat was my straight jacket. My siblings the prison guards and parents the wardens. It always felt as though I was being transported to some State Penitentiary. When we would cross the river and state lines, I knew I was in real trouble. The ride would be long.

Sandwiched between my fellow prisoners, my feet would be burning up and I'd start to squirm. I would dream of the car slowing enough and making a run for it. Maybe my parents knew the plot being hatched in the back seat and that's why they refused to pull over when any of us would proclaim the need to relieve ourselves, or the opportunity to stretch our legs in the yard. With six kids, it seemed the rules of the road required at least four kids yelling for a pit stop. Only then would my Dad, sensing a back seat riot, pull-over.

Inevitably I would be allowed to lose my shackles, or in laymen's terms, my shoes and socks. Everyone in the car always took delight in telling me to calm down, but the only thing to come down was the window and out would go my naked feet.

I understood then why folks referred to their feet as tired dogs. And like the family pet, my feet delighted in the fresh air slipping through my toes at 55 M.P.H. It's the only time I'd smile on one of these trips.

Those were the days of traveling on two lane highways. When you would pass through vibrant little towns rather than bypass them. And you would see things that didn't exist where you lived. Small town cafes, funky gas stations and peculiar roadside attractions. It was well before the days of acronym travel: Kids with A.D.D. driving in SUVs watching DVDs.

Back then we were just hyper, tired & fighting. The landscape and small towns outside the car window was the only movie worth watching and our imagination created stories behind the towns and doors of little houses dotting the rural landscape or occasional city we'd pass through. Every new city was an interesting place in my mind. I think my brothers and I created C.S.I Peoria back in 1978.

I made an oath to myself back then: When I grew-up and had my hands on the wheel, I'd pull over whenever and wherever I wanted. If a place looked interesting, I'd slow down, pull over to take a closer look. And if I had to go to the bathroom, I wasn't going to "hold it!"

In Laytonville, California along highway 101, just across the Humboldt County line you will find John McCaffrey and his funky machine shed. I pulled over to borrow his bathroom and he pointed across the highway and told me to help myself.

What can I say...I made a promise!

Road Rule #1 - Always stop if you see something interesting.

While on a trip such as this, you never know where you will be from one day to the next. I have always found it to be a great way to travel. When I fell asleep Tuesday night, I was convinced that I would stay in San Francisco for another day. I was finding it pretty relaxing to hang-out in North Beach and at Michelle's apartment. She was encouraging me to stay. We were having a great time together and she has a great space in a great neighborhood.

But something happened during the night. I awoke around 8:AM and decided " a good day to travel."

The day before, I placed an ad on Craigslist offering a ride to north on Highway 101. Gas is now around $3.25 a gallon and I figured it'd be nice to have some help paying for it, along with the company and helping a fellow traveler out. I received a couple of emails, but nothing firm. 

I sprung out of bed...okay...I drug myself out of bed and started to pack-up when the phone rang.

It was an 808 (Hawaii) area code and my initial thought was - "what does Brad (brother) want now?"

Turns out it was a woman responding to my ad. We were going back and forth on times and directions when she said it probably wouldn't workout for her.

So, I says to her I says, "but you've got an 808 area code, that's Hawaii. Where are you from?"

and she says to me she says, "I'm from the Big Island, but I use to live in Seattle."

So, can you guess what I says to her next? know it!

"Well, since you are from Hawaii, I will swing by and pick you up at noon." I couldn't pass-up another Hawaii connection.

Michelle and I said our tearful goodbyes to one another. We are planning to see one another again on Maui sometime later this fall. I then followed her across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin where she was going to work and I was going to pick-up my internet travel companion.

Turns out Susan is a St. Paul native who has recently sold her home in Seattle after some 30 years of living there. She spent some time on the Big Island and her current journey is taking her back to Hawaii, but first she is visiting friends around the west coast and is networking for rides through Craigslist.

The newfangled high-tech hitchhiker for a new millennium. Just put your sign out on the information super-highway and wait for a ride.

We tossed her belonging in the back and hit the road. Destination: Arcata, California and Humboldt County.

It was nice to have someone riding shotgun and we got along well as we discovered all that we had in common between Seattle and Hawaii. Our 4 hour trip up highway 101 turned into 8. The road unwound and we crossed path's with a few unique people along the way. And when we saw something interesting, we stopped.

Be sure to blog on as I will be posting Highway 101 photos and stories later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thanks Michelle!

I'm going up the country, babe don't you wanna go
I'm going up the country, babe don't you wanna go
I'm going to some place where I've never been before

I'm going, I'm going where the water tastes like wine
Well I'm going where the water tastes like wine
We can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time

I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away
I'm gonna leave this city, got to get away
All this fussing and fighting, man, you know I sure can't stay
Now baby, pack your leaving trunk, you know we've got to leave today
Just exactly where we're going I cannot say, but We might even leave

the USA 'Cause there's a brand new game that I want to play
No use of you running, or screaming and crying
'Cause you've got a home as long as I've got mine

Monday, July 17, 2006

More Postcards from San Francisco

The Perfect Slice at Golden Boy Pizza

I'm a big believer in serendipity and I'm also a big believer in good pizza.

I once drove 2000 miles from Iowa City to Port Townsend, Washington for a slice from Waterfront Pizza...hey it's good stuff.

Tonight I was feeling some hunger and hearing some growling from the old Buddha belly. The clock was pushing past 10 p.m. and most of the restaurants in North Beach were pulling the plugs on the neon signs. I pushed on thinking I'd find something worthwhile - this is San Francisco after all.

Standing on the corner of Green St., I spotted a colorful, yet non-descript sign simply stating: Pizza Slice. I thought to myself - "that's exactly what I need"

From the sidewalk, I scanned and salivated at the deep, square pans lining the window. My search was over. I stepped inside, bellied up to the bar and rubbed elbows with everyone else in the know about this place. I ordered a square and washed it down with a beer. Mmmmm, that was so good...I ordered another.

Have you ever been in a restaurant so perfectly cluttered that you know nobody planned for it to turn out that way? I'm not talking anything like that crap they put on the walls at Applebee's. Golden Boy's walls are plastered with photos, stickers, and random paraphernalia and memorabilia from long forgotten everyday San Francisco life. Combine this with an inspiring soundtrack filling the narrow space along witha damn good slice of pizza and you've got magic happening here. 

I learned from the lady sitting next to me that the place has been around for awhile now and that I would probably find it listed in guide books should I go looking. 

To paraphrase: "Guide book? I don't need no stinking guide book." Who needs a guide book when I've got serendipity leading me?