Days 3 and 4: Oregon Coast

img_20190627_122321310We made it to Oregon on Thursday. I always forget that even though San Francisco is Northern California, it is the beginning of the top third of the state. It takes a while to get all the way to Oregon, but we made it.

img_20190627_122129158We started the day at Big Lagoon beach in California (but you can almost see Oregon from there). It was a pebbly beach and adults were seemingly looking for buried treasure. We asked an older couple and they told us they were looking for agates. Mahru asked if the tides wash the agates up, but the woman said, “There are lots of theories, but it’s really just luck.” I like that. They were really cute. The man held up one stone and said, “I don’t think this is an agate, but she gave it to me because it’s heart-shaped.” Awwwww.

We stayed in Coos Bay at Sunset Bay State Park on Thursday night, which meant that the facilities were a little lesser and the child factor was high. At the privately run RV parks and campgrounds we had stayed at in California, there were no children. The state parks here are overrun. Not that I don’t like children, but it is a different atmosphere. On our way out, our first full day in Oregon, we stopped at South Jetty Beach near Florence before seriously hitting the road.

img_20190628_152328202img_20190628_160706295_burst000_cover_topimg_20190628_162454902_hdrWe drove on 1 until it ceased to exist and then 101, which mostly hugs the coast, or at least hugs it enough that we were oohing and aahing around every bend. Beach and forest right up against each other makes for spectacular viewing. Friday was our longest driving day, 5.5 hours, but we broke it up with an other beach walk and then fish and chips and a stroll around Newport, a cute little fishing town. How can we be in a fishing town and not eat fish and chips. We ate salmon and rockfish and chips at Ocean Bleu. Yum. The Depoe Bay beer hit the spot, too.

We arrived at Fort Stevens State Park at about 8 that evening. Luckily, check-in was until 8. Not so luckily, we were sandwiched between two huge groups with lots of kids. Oh well, we could handle it for one night.

Day 3: Beach and Trees

 

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Ten Mile Beach in Fort Bragg

Today we had a leisurely morning. It was misty/rainy and Mahru just needed some extra sleep. We hadn’t figured out how to create a real-size bed the first night in the Jucy so she was a little cramped up. We got it now! Every day we learn something new or perfect our packing system.

img_20190626_124044490_burst000_cover_topOnce we hit the road, we went to a dog-friendly beach about 10 miles up the 1 called Ten Mile Beach–hmmm. Really, I think it is a 10-mile beach, but not all of it is dog-friendly. I was afraid it would be cold (I’m always afraid it will be cold) but it was perfect. The dunes blocked any breeze and the sun peeked out a few times. People had made tepees out of driftwood and there were several rock caves. The tide was out so we had plenty of walking room.

img_20190626_152410531img_20190626_152431942_hdrFrom there, we headed up 1. More windy, mountain roads, yay! We hooked up with 101 when 1 petered out, but it was still beautiful. Around 2:30ish we started getting peckish and decided to hit a state park for a picnic. Voila! We weren’t far out from Humbolt Redwoods State Park and the Avenue of the Giants. Perfect. We ate lunch at the visitor center picnic area surrounded by 2,000-year-old trees. Whenever you are feeling full of yourself, I recommend the grandiosity of nature. Old growth redwoods are a fine choice.

We only had about an hour and 20 minutes left to reach our final destination for the day: Patrick’s Point. No problem. We did have to go through Eureka, which we agreed sounded like a really cool place: Eureka! There’s gold in them thar hills, but turned out to be an anywhere USA, rundown, strip mall heaven. The best feature was Costco, where we stopped for much cheaper gas before heading north to Trinidad.

 

Road Trip Day 2

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Crank that penthouse up

Leftover curry with egg scramble. Yum! Once we got the show on the road, we stopped for coffee, because of all the things we could forget, we forget the coffee cone for the pour-over. Not cool! We went to Point Reyes Station for Bovine Bakery, which had really, really good coffee. Mahru said she’s been going there for years and it’s always been that good. We also got to play show-and-tell with the Jucy. It elicits stares and questions and we are happy to chat about it. Maybe we should become brand ambassadors except that the latch on the penthouse opened again and we had to stop to fix it. This time I put a twig in it to create a crossbar. So far, so good. The other little snag with it (aside from having to crank it 54 times to pop it up) is that it doesn’t fall flat when I crank it closed and I have to shove it into alignment and then stuff the tent up under it.

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Pelicans!

img_20190625_113957733_hdrNext, off to Limantour Beach, which allows dogs. Bijan had a blast and it was incredibly beautiful. The clouds were stringy and wispy (see pic), the air was crisp and salty, and the sand (as always) felt great between my toes. After a couple of hours, we headed back to the Jucy and hit the road for Fort Bragg. We took 101 through Petaluma and Santa Rosa, where you can still see some of the aftermath of the Tubbs Fire in November 2017. We headed west on 128 for my favorite kind of driving: twisty, windy mountain roads (my favorite type too – not!) overlooking the ocean and we got to drive them for miles. For a while, we were driving through redwoods. Sometimes I really miss California. We did encounter a driver who braked about every 5 feet, which mostly made us laugh.

Our campground outside Fort Bragg is very quiet. I think we are the only ones in our area and each spot is surrounded by trees. If I couldn’t hear road noise, I would think Mahru and I were the only people on Earth. I’m not sure how I feel about that (umm…hello….I would hope that if you are one of two people on earth — you might want me to be the other). I’m not into post-apocalypse. Earlier in the evening, we met a couple who gave us some pointers for a good beach walk and wine tasting/picnic area tomorrow.

Quote of the day today is from Mahru: Sweater dogs are useless.”

First Night on the Road

This will all be posted late because connectivity is not happening. So, we picked up the Jucy, threw everything in and took off for Point Reyes. Yes, I know, not a very long trip, but we spent most of the day preparing the house, packing up, and getting ready to leave. We didn’t get the Jucy until 2 either.

img_20190624_140734351_hdrThis thing is bigger than it looks. We packed a ton of stuff in it. Suitcases, food, dog, bedding, pots and pans, beer and wine—all the essentials. So far the only hitch we have had is that one of the latches to the “penthouse” or the pop-up sleeping tent unhooked and the tent crept out and was flapping in the breeze. Luckily, a nice woman on the 580 honked and pointed and we got the idea. For a big, awkward-looking vehicle, the ride is smooth and the handling very manageable.

We arrived at the Olema campground at about 5 p.m., set up camp, went for a walk, and made a delicious curry vegetable dinner, but oops! We forgot a can opener. Luckily, people in RVs seem to have everything you could ever need. Thanks neighbor. Our spot was in a meadow where we had a view of the hills and witnessed a very colorful sunset.

It is a little chilly in the pop-up, so I’m really glad we have a sleeping bag. It didn’t make getting up in the middle of the night to pee any easier, but at least I could crawl back into the warmth quickly except for the weird animal noises. Coyotes? Maybe, but I’m not really sure. I’m glad they were distant.

The Day Before We Hit the Road

img_20190623_115201028-1Sunday was mostly a get ready for the trip day, so we went to two very exciting and exotic places: Trader Joe’s and Target! Gotta stock up for the driving. Did you know that Trader Joe’s now has Takis? The world is complete. One amazing reason people live in the Bay Area is that no matter where you go, the views are spectacular. For instance, above is a picture of the panorama from the dog park. It’s hazy, but that’s San Francisco back there. I’d probably walk my dog more if I were looking at that when I did it.

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In the evening, we went for a wine tasting on the Oakland Urban Wine Trail in Jack London Square. Eight wineries have tasting rooms within a few blocks of each other. Mahru is a member of the Brooklyn West Winery so that’s where we headed. The people were friendly, and the business is so new that Mahru knows the wine-maker and some of the staff. That made it feel cozy even though it was crowded, especially for a Sunday night right before closing (at 6 p.m.), and Bijan was allowed to come with us. I am not a wine critic just a wine drinker, but I really enjoyed the cabernet and tempranillo, which is Brooklyn West’s signature wine. I sure liked the sound of the name. Apparently, Brooklyn Basin is a depression of land on the waterfront that used to be industrial and now–you guessed it–is another upscale “urban community.” Yawn. Not only is it a little trite at this point, but when I look around and see all the tent cities and people living under bridges, it’s also just another example of how crazy Bay Area real estate is despite efforts to create “affordable” housing. Define affordable around here.

Anyway, we got some takeout sushi at Sushi Go Go, a small, local chain whose schtick is that all their outlets are in gas stations. We ended the evening chilling in the back yard and are now excited to get our Jucy and hit the road!

P.S.: Connectivity on the coast will be spotty, so I am not sure if and when I will be posting again, but don’t worry, I will make sure you don’t miss a bit of the trip.

Hiking and Wondering

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Bear Creek Trail at Point Reyes

Saturday was beautiful and sunny. I loved it. No jacket necessary. Finally. We headed up to Point Reyes National Seashore after dropping the dog at day care. No dogs allowed on national park trails and Bijan has some separation anxiety. I mention this because we had to be back by 7 p.m. to pick him up. We were going to do a trail on a spit of land that pokes into the Pacific on one side and Drake’s Bay on the other, but we were lazy and got a late start and the trailhead is about 30 minutes into the park by car. Instead, we hiked from the Bear Valley Trail from the visitors center. The trail is mostly flat with very gradual incline, nice after Friday for my legs, which are Midwestern (read: flat, Flat, FLAAAAT) acclimated.

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Zion shirt, Costa Rica bandana

I am 95 percent sure I have done this trail before, long ago when I lived in the Bay Area, but I don’t ever remember seeing so much water. It’s been raining around here for a couple of winters now, so everything is green and the walk was verdant and smelled of fresh vegetation. Aaah.

As we walked, I thought, as I have done in the past when I hike, that an interesting research project (if it hasn’t already been done) would be to study who says hello to whom on the trail. I’ve noticed that young men tend to ignore us old ladies. (Are they afraid we’ll yell at them because their chores aren’t done?) What about other group, gender, race, and age dynamics? There’s a ton of material there. Hiking is a different social situation and self-selecting and I am really curious about what the norms are. I just handed someone a great sociology project. Go for it and let me know.

First Full Day

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A blue heron helped kick off our hike.

We were so busy yesterday, I didn’t have a chance to write, but I”m still feeling the effects of our hike. Did you flatlanders know that there are these huge mounds of land called hills and they are harder to walk up? Yes, it’s true. Yesterday we went to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and did a 3.5 mile hike into the hills about the beach. It was beautiful and only took a couple of hours. So strange how crowded the Bay Area is, but the open spaces feel so free. Mahru’s dog, who you met yesterday, loved the hike, too. We think he found a rattlesnake just inches off trail in the brush. We heard it, but didn’t see it. That’s fine by me.

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Just cool enough for a hike (which means a little too cool for me) but gorgeous views.

img_20190621_163637698_hdr-1.jpgAfter lunch, we stopped at the Columbia sportswear employee store and did some “I don’t need this” shopping by which I mean I walk around with things I like and then put them back because I don’t need them. We were really killing time until the East Brother brewery opened at 4. We each had a light, lemony pilsner called Bo Pils. Perfect for after a hike. The brewery is in a Richmond  industrial park and has some picnic benches outside, so we sat in the East Bay shade and relaxed. We got there right at 4, when it opens, but there were already a couple of people there. By the time we left, it was filling up. There’s no food, so a revolving list of food trucks parks outside. Yesterday was Thai. We didn’t eat any, but Mahru said she had and recommends it.

Then, we headed back to Oakland to get ready for an open mike and poetry slam. Once a month, MLK Cafe, an Ethiopian restaurant that also serves burgers and pizza, hosts the Root Slam. The community is welcoming and the artists obviously find great inspiration and support though the organization and events. Plus, they can write and perform! Just listening to other people’s stories and views makes it worth the trip. The food is pretty good, too, but shout out to my own neighbor, Eden, who makes the best Eritrean food ever. By the time we got home from that, I brushed my teeth and crashed.

P.S.: So far, the traffic is not nearly as bad as I imaged it would be. Maybe my bar was very low.

Guess What I Found? West Coast Part 1

So, loyal readers (all 4 of you), remember the lead up to our Costa Rica trip? Remember the drama of my lost passport. Well … I found it. It was in the secret top compartment of a backpack I haven’t used since we went to Morocco two years ago. That never even occurred to me. Oh well. Good stories came out of it and it all ended well. And now I have my souvenir stamps and Chinese visa back.

Here I sit at O’Hare as my flight to SFO gets pushed back more and more. Please explain how once a plane is in the air, it can change its flight time. We were told that there was an earlier delay at the plane’s last stop, but apparently the earlier delay is a current delay or the arrival time wouldn’t keep changing. First 11:45, then 12:22, then 12:15. We took off at 12:50. At least I don’t have to be anywhere on the other end. Plus, I downloaded some books and a bunch of Jessica Jones episodes.

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Bijan the cattle dog

I have already forgotten what my friend and I were going to do today, but I know it involved driving back and forth from San Francisco to Oakland a couple of times. Hmmm. That will be more fun as rush hour approaches, although I bet it’s always rush hour on the Bay Bridge. Perhaps this trip will remind me why I don’t want to live in the Bay Area again.

…Finally made it. No surprise, there was traffic so by the time we got to Oakland, it was already 5 p.m. We took a quick trip to Berkeley Bowl West, but didn’t really explore there. I could eat really well if that were my regular grocery store! Then we picked up Bijan at doggie day care, made Greek salad and hummus and spent the evening chilling and catching up. So far, so good!

Ugh, I’ve Been Lazy

OK, I’ve been less that inspired these last few weeks. It’s tough to get motivated when your big, summer road trip is on the back burner and it’s 55 degrees and drizzling. You’ll be thrilled to know that I’m back! My trip to the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest begins Thursday and I will be writing daily (or almost daily).

So far, my friend has us scheduled for a couple of hikes, a poetry slam, and a picnic with the foster parents of refugee children. And that’s all before we leave Oakland. I think our first night on the road will be spent camping at Point Reyes. Can’t go wrong there.

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First stop: Oakland

There was some possibility that my friend’s foster child would be on the trip with us, but he is still in Niger as far as we know. That grand adventure will begin after I am home. I must say that I am a bit relieved by that. A 12-year-old refugee boy who speaks no English probably does not need his introduction to the United States to be two 50-something women driving him up the coast in an RV so we can hike and talk nonstop.

The plan, developed entirely by my friend, has us driving up Hwy 1 through California and Oregon for 5 days of camping and then cut over to I-5 to get to Port Townsend, Wash., and Seattle for some chill hanging out time. Then, I will fly home from there leaving my friend to make the drive back solo (unless you count her dog). I feel a little bad about that, but I am sure Steven will be tired of bachelor life with my dog by then (hahahahaha…oops…I meant…Absolutely..I will surely be tired of bachelor life).

Where’s the zero?

We apologize, we haven’t been writing for the last few weeks. I would like to claim that there are good reasons, but really there haven’t been. It was my birthday a few weeks ago, then Sue’s was this week, we had a bunch of stuff to do around the house and work, as always is busy—but really, we have just been a bit lazy.

I got an email from a friend of mine with the title of this post as a subject and instantly I knew what happened. He stole my vacation. I know! What kind of friend steals your vacation, and how did he steal my vacation?

As many of you know, I am an accountant and a bit of a numbers geek. Yup, imagine that, a guy who spends all day looking at numbers goes home and thinks about them some more.

The tablet

Like most of you, I learned that zero was invented by the Arabs and spread to the West along with Arabic numerals as part of the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. However, a few years ago, I read a book called “Finding Zero: A Mathematicians Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers.” It was really interesting and the author stated that a tablet found in Cambodia has a zero that predates the Ottoman Empire by 500 years; based on carbon dating, it is the oldest zero ever found. The tablet is now in a museum in Phnom Penh. This is a link to an article that he wrote in Smithsonian magazine. I was fascinated and knew that I had to convince Sue we had to see it. (Can you imagine that conversation? Steven: I have a great idea for a vacation. Sue: Where? Steven: Cambodia to see the oldest known zero!!!!. Sue: Um, yeah. How about someplace interesting? I am completely on board for Cambodia and if a zero gets Steven there, so be it.) We had a quick look at what that trip would be like and decided that it wouldn’t be this year.

One quick point that I would like to mention that the Bodelian library at Oxford University has a manuscript called the Bakhshali that some people claim has the oldest known zero. However, this is disputed by some as the manuscript has a number of parts from different ages and the zero in the manuscript is being used as decimal place holder rather than a “true zero.” (Did you all follow that? There’s a difference between signifying nothing and holding a place in, say, the number 101.)

All of which leads me to my stolen vacation. I have been talking my friends (and really anyone who is willing to listen to me) about wanting to go to Southeast Asia, to see, among other things this tablet. So what happens? My friend sends the above mentioned email, with the photo gloating that he had reached the holy zero place before me!

I hate my friend.