Pacific Coast Highway Day 8 – Cannon Beach to Seattle/ Trip Conspectus

Dear Diary,

To be more accurate this post should say; Pacific Coast Highway – Cannon Beach to Astoria, because it was there I decided to head inland and catch the 5 freeway to Seattle, which I easily made in 4 hours.

My reasons for hightailing it to Seattle?  After 7 days on Pacific Coast Highway I was tired and longed to be at my destination where I would spend more than one night, I had finally found the answers I was looking for and more, and finally the Astoria Bridge.

Have you ever seen that bridge in Astoria over the Columbia River? Yikes! Truthfully, that was the tie breaker. If I had just started out on this trek I would’ve said “hell yeah let’s do this”, but I was 7 days into some pretty challenging driving solo.

In short…it scared the crap out of me. If I wanted to drive on water I’d ask Jesus to take the wheel, but I don’t. ‘Nuff said.

Astoria Bridge

Now for the good part of this story…Seattle.

I pulled into town with the usual metropolis view of high-rises and traffic, traffic everywhere.  Any big city can be so intimidating, especially when you have absolutely no idea where you are. But when I finally landed…

Oh. My. Gosh.

Seattle is so much more than I imagined. It reminds me of this coast’s most southern city (San Diego) for how clean it is. Like a sparkling gem between the blue of the sky and the blue of the water (the weather was on it’s best behavior while I was there).

I was a shameless tourist from that point on. I spent time at Pike’s Place Market which has been continuously in operation since it opened in 1907.

PikesMarket

I spent all day here and in Pioneer Square. Just a few words that come to mind when I think of this place…

History, people, coffee, wine, cheese, fish, art, books, music, blue sky, white clouds…never mind, too many wonderful words come to mind and I’ll lose you.

I took a photo of this totem pole, and what is most prevalent is the unbelievably beautiful sky, I just couldn’t get enough of it.

Seattlesky

…and yet another of Pioneer Square…

Seattlesky2

Which sits on Elliot Bay…

Seattleport…and as a shameless tourist how could I leave out the Space Needle?

SpaceNeedle

It was an absolute pleasure to walk this part of town (the only part I got to see actually) where even the alleys were clean and lovely…is it a law to maintain them this way? LA might want to think about incorporating it if so…

Seattlealley

They say there is 697 things to do in Seattle and I’m a little mad at myself that I only did about 4 (I really really wanted to take the underground tour but ran out of time), so I have much work to do when I go back someday. That’s the only way I could bear to say good-bye to most of the places I landed on this trip…to promise myself I would be back (sorry Eureka and Gold Beach, you didn’t make the cut) and soon.

When I finally headed home I was changed. This trip had cleansed my soul and enabled so many truths to bubble up to my sphere of awareness over the 3,000 miles I traveled. The foremost of these is one truth that I have made my mantra.

Guard Your Hope…Not Your Heart.

I had been given the heart of so many and given mine as often on this trip. With the care of God and strangers (including the ghostly friend I made) I was lifted up to see above and beyond the physical, emotional, and soulful pain I had started this journey with.

I was healed in every sense of the word.

Our hearts are meant to be given with abandon to whomever would take or even steal it. Naturally along with all of the rewards of giving your heart, there will be those that break, betray, and reject it…but those are the exceptions, and the heart will recover (even when it seems it never will).

Love is the greatest gift of all, and although it sounds existential, I believe you really do get back what you put out there. So give it wantonly and without limitations or conditions.

But hold onto your hope. Guard it jealously and never let it be lost or stolen. Feed it with the good times to sustain it through the hard times when hope is all that is left. Hope and faith seem so fragile, but they are stronger than we know and are able to guide us through anything.

And I mean anything.

There would be much work to do after I got home to repair the damage done to our relationship…but both my husband and I had been changed by my solo trip and we would start that work as soon as I landed at my front door.

If I ever forget to not be afraid of an uncertain future, how strong I am with only God to guide me, or what it feels like to be very far away from my comfort zone…I shall again hop into my trusty steed and head out to horizons unknown.

As should you, if you don’t know the answer to…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE?

I now know the answer for me, but you need to find the answer for you.

Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible Mustang GT by myself Bucket List Item – check.

This is not the end of my journey dear diary, after returning home we purchased a Harley Davidson motorcycle (I know riiiiiiiight?) and the adventures started anew…

‘Til next time.

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 4 – Gualala to Trinidad, CA

Dear Diary,

I can describe Northern California in just one word – Spectacular.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

Maybe because I knew I would have the shortest drive day thus far ahead of me, or maybe feeling accomplished (having conquered a part of Highway 1 the day before that made the stretch between Carmel and Montereey look like driver’s ed), or maybe just being awoken by a gentle surf, I rose with such a feeling of tranquility.

I would say that on a map Gualala is unremarkable, but my soul had been fed by the Gualala River/Pacific Ocean estuary outside of my window, the redwoods at my back, and the incredible South African transplant I had met the afternoon before. Gualala is quite remarkable in that regard.

I also got to meet and speak with another transplanted (from my area – LA) very young couple who managed the motel where I stayed. They had moved here to make a go of the solitude of this place and hopefully start a family.

I encouraged them to tell me how they felt about their relatively new digs over the complimentary continental breakfast served in the motel office. This is another perk of traveling alone. There is nobody demanding your attention, so you have the luxury of directing it toward absorbing what the moment is offering.

Remember, my husband is the energizer bunny with the AAA personality type. He is always pushing me to hurry, hurry, hurry which leaves no time for anything but the task at hand.

The couple told me they loved Gualala, but the transition had been difficult. The nearest Walmart was 3 hours away (driving time one way) and while they had chosen this place because of it’s remote location, they found themselves longing for the option of stimulation (restaurants, theater, museums, sporting events, amusement parks, etc.) and conveniences (groceries, shopping malls, medical/dental care, etc.) that we who dwell in the city take for granted.

Still, they were not going back. The traffic, fight for parking, crime, cost of living, and the lines you must stand in for ANYTHING kept them on track to continue to adjust. What fantastic role models for braving new frontiers they were.

Yet another notch in my fascinating people belt.

With both my soul and stomach satiated, I packed the pony, put the top down, and hit the road again. I was blazing an unfamiliar trail from here on out. There is nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation of penetrating the perimeters of the familiar, liberating yourself from the chains of your own making that bind you to your quotidian.

I was ever so slightly becoming aware of something else. Just a dawn of awareness if you will.  The only way I can describe it is something twisted, turned, and pulled too tight. Like a rubber band when you twist it around and around while pulling it between your fingers to the point right before it breaks. The pinch points seem to be at each end, but in reality is every twist in-between.

I am not big on self-awareness, not because I have anything against it, I just never had time for such a self-indulgence. When self-awareness has crept in on its own in the past, it was usually as a result of a tragedy or horror. Not anything I wanted to spend any time analyzing that’s for sure.

What I was feeling was entirely new. A gentle awakening. A look inside that however fleeting, was generated by a calm desire to understand the obstacles lying between where I was, and where I wanted to be.

I also become aware that this journey was both physical and metaphysical. This is not something I had planned. Was it as a result of me taking this journey alone? Was it as a result of the time and distance I had put between the year’s events?

All I wanted to accomplish with this trip was to answer the question…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE. I still didn’t have an answer, nor did I have an answer for all of the rest of what was happening. It seemed like I was becoming more of a mess than I was straightening myself out.

The drive between Gualala to the point where I would turn back inland to join the 101 again was nothing less than stunning, and what I had envisioned when planning this journey. The sea became much more untamed than So Cali’s beaches, and I drove so close alongside it that I could feel the spray, taste the salt, and smell its incomparable fragrance.

Fort Bragg

Who needs Calgon? Take me away Pacific.

For the first time I was eager to go inland. I was looking forward to driving through forests of my favorite tree – the California Redwood.

Let me say I am not what you would consider a tree hugger, but when it comes to this tree I would do whatever it took to preserve it. The tallest and longest living tree in the world grows only in this place.

My love affair with these ancient living monoliths began when I first laid eyes on them as a little girl. My mother introduced me to them and her love for them was infectious. She in fact wants her ashes spread among them which is going to be a trick, since I’m sure that’s probably illegal.

I digress.

Since our first meeting, I have spent time with them but in inland places like Sequoia and King’s Canyon Nat’l Parks. Never enough time.

The old growth forests, like its mammalian equivalents the land elephant and ocean whales, were logged nearly into extinction. The giants were so threatened by tourists and loggers alike that the “Save the Redwoods League” was formed at the turn of the century and the preservation fight that continues today was born.

Since it takes a redwood tree 100 to 200 years to mature, every Californian (and for that matter everyone everywhere) should be concerned for their future safety.

Reacquainting myself with them by foot by way of the Newton B. Drury bypass was planned for tomorrow, for today I planned to enjoy them from my convertible by way of highway 271 (old highway 101) that parallels the new highway, but would allow me to drive through the forest on just two lanes.

It didn’t disappoint. I followed the Eel River through these magnificent trees for 31 miles.

Eel River

The sun dappled road and the perfume from these one-of-a-kind trees is like no other. It was so much warmer here that I was actually shedding layers as I drove. The sweet explosion to my senses was intoxicating. A one-dimensional photo leaves so much to be desired in capturing the experience.

giants1

I joined the 101 again to its 8 lane meander through this magnificent stretch of land as it bypasses the Lost Coast, and coincidentally the object of my Next Big Thing.

As I finally got closer to the coast again, the weather changed dramatically from sunny and warm to grey, wet, and cold. I approached Eureka with much anticipation, since I knew this place was lousy with old Victorian homes and a colorful history that only a town built by salty seamen and brawny loggers could render.

I kept putting back on layers with my pink t-shirt, pink sweatshirt, pink ball cap, and finally my new pink Monterey wind breaker with the hood pulled tightly over my ball cap as it started to sprinkle.

Hello Kitty does Pacific Coast Highway.

As I entered into Eureka I was met with a much different sight than I expected, which attributed to it being dramatically worse in my memory than it actually was.

Good people of Eureka, forgive me in advance of what I am about to say.

There was people wandering everywhere on the street in the middle of the weekday, and they seemed to be walking in a daze like zombies. I would later confirm this with a Eureka resident I met in Redding, Eureka has a serious drug problem.

There was quite a bit of police activity, and I became painfully aware that my purse and canon camera were laying on the passenger seat in my convertible for anyone to grab. I felt scared and vulnerable. I didn’t even feel safe enough to pull over and put the convertible top up.

The outskirts of town (despite being on the coast), were industrial and for lack of a better word…ugly. Why had San Francisco done such a good job with its shipping docks, and Eureka so poorly?

In a word…money. Eureka’s long financial descent started with the gold and lumber booms ending over the last century, then the economic hardships of the 70’s, 80’s, and most recently in 2009 had hit this city harder than it could recover from.

I would have thought coming from such a metropolis as the LA area would have better equipped me for this, but I was at a loss to ingest the desperation on Eureka’s streets. In LA prosperity and everything in between co-exist with poverty, but not in this place. There was no tolerance in any of it.

I was so glad I had not planned to bed down here. I couldn’t leave fast enough, and again I apologize to the Eurekans. I know I didn’t give you anything even resembling a chance.

On to my destination of Trinidad, CA. I was terrified at this point that Trinidad was going to be more of the same I had seen in Eureka. I felt very alone and…well, Hello Kittyish. I pulled off of the busy Highway 101 to Trinidad with much trepidation, all the while my mind was scurrying for a plan B.

I was “wowed” as soon as I left the interstate. The sun came out to meet me like a cheerful greeter through the dazzling mossy canopy.

Canopy

I had a heck of a hard time finding where I planned to bed down for the night as it was a Bed and Breakfast and not your standard hotel. While it was beautiful terrain, I was still skeptical about its hospitality.

I finally found my destination and discovered a note on the door “Back in 3 hours”. I knew I was a bit early for check-in, but seriously? Now what was I going to do if I didn’t feel safe here? My window on options was closing fast.

I drove down the street a piece to Patrick’s Point State Park. This photo is not very good (taken from over my windshield again) so you can imagine how green it really was in 3 glorious D.

Patricks Point State Park

Green is not a color I am accustomed to in So. Cali.

After paying the park fee, I struck out with my trusty map of the small park to find, you guessed it, the sea.

I parked and reluctantly left all of my worldly belongings in my trusty steed, and headed out on foot to one of many trails in the park.

And there it was. The mighty Pacific in all her glory.

PatrickPointweb

There was a couple on Outlook Rock (where I took this) that were taking turns snapping photos of each other. I offered to take a photo of them together, and I knew he was from LA by the reluctance with which he handed me his camera.

We have trust issues.

I took the photo and confirmed my suspicions…he was from LA. In fact, he was an oncologist and also on the board of directors for the UCLA cancer research center, where my niece (Susan’s daughter) was working to get her Masters Degree in cellular and molecular biology. When I asked if he knew her, he said he did. Small world eh?

He returned the favor by taking a photo of me with my camera, in all of my Hello Kitty Layers and Steroid Swelled glory.

Outlook & Me

I asked him where he was staying, as this was still a worry for me. He gave me the name of the exact Bed and Breakfast I had booked to stay the night and had found the “be back later” note on.

Thank you God.

It couldn’t be bad if this doctor was staying there. I asked him how he liked it, he stated that they liked it so much they cancelled their plans to spend time in Napa Valley so they could extend their stay.

Thank you again God.

Once again he put someone in my path that renewed my energy, filled me with happiness, and was such a genuine and unique people (both him and his wife) that my life is richer for knowing them.

We parted ways after chatting and I went on to explore the park with a much lighter heart. The sun was beginning its descent and I wanted to take in a little more. The photographic possibilities were endless.

The forest floor…

Forest Floor

The biggest slugs I have ever seen in my life were plentiful (I was careful not to step on one and make a mess of my shoes and their life). Ew.

Giant Slug

I headed back to the B&B and found the door open and my host inside. I had spoken to the owner on the phone when I made the reservation, and at that time she had prompted me to ask if any of the large rooms on the second floor were available for an upgrade.

I did so and she replied “No, we only have the smaller room downstairs available as all of our other guests are staying the week.”

I imagined staying in a coat closet with a toilet.

When I took my key and made my way to my room you can imagine how wrong I was when I opened the door and caught sight of my view.  My Room - Trinidad

Thank you God.

This was the small room? Really? I couldn’t even fit in this photo the office, changing/make-up room (yes a seperate room for that) and ridiculously spacious bathroom, but who cares with this view? And my own stove/heater thingy in my own sitting enclave. I was already sorry I was only staying one night.

I walked out onto the deck and gazed at Turtle Rock outside of my room. Turtle Rock was very loud with barking. What the heck?

I retrieved my hubby’s trusty binoculars (as it turns out the hotel provides them too), and I found the source of the noise…California Sea Lions. They were at the base of the gigantic rock and in the rough water surrounding it.

California Sea Lions Turtle Rock

I found out from the owners that the noise was primarily coming from the male bull of this harem and all of the young males who were attempting to gain access to the rock to rest, challenge, and mate.

The other smaller rocks around Turtle Rock had groups of the pinnipeds as well. I could just make out their shiny coats in the setting sun.

Small colony

I actually went out for a quick meal (opting out of my customary PB&J with trail mix combo) and came back to sit and sip a cup of herbal tea by the fake fire and the most glorious of views.

ViewfromBB

As I sat and watched the sun shine its last rays of the day, I quite unexpectedly felt one of the tight twists in my too tight rubber band give way. The Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement (ever after thought of as the Lupus Link in my mind) I had been in the fight for my life against for a year suddenly didn’t seem like such a heavy burden.

I was finally at peace with it. Suddenly, and with no conscience effort.

I was again mindful of the enigmatic awareness of what, I wasn’t sure. That peaceful self-awareness that had started my day had also ended it with an incredible gift.

The internal war I had waged against the dark passenger that had ravaged my body was over. I was at peace with the Lupus Link, and if it chose to take my life, then so be it. It has been in God’s hands ever since.

Sometimes the biggest battles are not won with will, but with grace.

Until next time dear diary, I leave you with my Trinidad sunset.

Sunset in Trinidad

Pacific Coast Highway Day 3 – Monterey to Gualala, CA

Dear Diary,

I planned on navigating San Francisico on a Sunday because I have been there often enough to know that traffic, like any other large city, can be a headache.

I didn’t want any headaches.

What I didn’t plan into this little scenario of mine was Mother’s Day…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was reluctant to say good-bye to Monterey. It is a destination unto itself, and although I’ve been here twice before, I feel like I have only scratched the surface. The surface of the water I haven’t even begun to touch yet (Monterey Bay is so special).

I will be back Monterey.

I headed north on Highway 1 going inland once again.

Let me say this about Highway 1, what the rest of the world knows as Pacific Coast Highway. Every county through all three states has renamed highway 1 as if by putting a different name to it they can lay claim to it’s notoriety. But they can’t change the number!PCH SignI still had my convertible top down and although I feel like I might be close to the shore, I can’t see it. This is a pretty unremarkable stretch of highway that widens as it goes through the marsh lands and sand dunes.

This was one of the places I was tempted to take 101 as it would have cut off a considerable amount of travel time, but I stayed true to my plan. I wasn’t in a hurry, and my bucket list said Highway 1, not 101.

I am aware that I am only slightly more than halfway through California, yet if I were on the East Coast I would have already gone through 3 states.

45 miles north of Monterey I reach the other end of Monterey Bay where lies the city of Santa Cruz. I wished I had time to stop and play here. I have never been here before but feel like I have after hearing all about it from friends who attended UC Santa Cruz.

It’s beach, boardwalk, seashore amusement park, pier and other unique qualities make it another destination, but I have an unfamiliar and the longest drive day ahead of me so I wistfully move on. I had the feeling I would be sorry, but as it turned out…I wasn’t.

The tundra between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay (another 50 miles north) is all the same; rolling hills, grasslands, marsh, farmsteads, and brush. At least I got to play peak-a-boo with the Pacific Ocean along the way.

The highway meets up with the sea again and it is glorious between Half Moon Bay and San Francisco. The road isn’t challenging, instead it rather lazily follows the shoreline which affords me the luxury of staring at the water and clouds. It is Mother’s Day, and I see families at all of the local beaches picnicking.

This makes me homesick for the first time since I started my lone trek.

I stopped at a beach and had what had become my daily meal “on-the-go”, a PB&J with trail mix. The weather had turned from sunny to grey. I noticed my mood would change accordingly.

I don’t know what came first, the grey or the homesickness, but they did not compliment each other.

I pressed on to what I both adored and dreaded, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Here would be the last place that would be familiar to me. I have spent time in San Francisco on many occasions, and I love it. I didn’t necessarily leave my heart there, but very close.

Over the last 40 years of my life I have been to Chinatown, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, The Wax Museum, Pier 39, Golden Gate Park and Bridge, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, Hyde Street and various other absolutely fantastic points, and again there is so much more I have yet to see, but not today.

As I approach the city, what I dreaded the most happened…gridlock. The sky had grown foggy and misty, and I regretted leaving my top down (you KNOW I mean convertible), but I dared not get off of highway 1 lest I not be able to get back on. The traffic would move just enough so that I couldn’t put it up in traffic, but it wasn’t so bad. Much better than entering the city from the 5, and sitting in traffic there.

I finally reach the Golden Gate Bridge, and as fate would have it, I couldn’t see it. It was shrouded in fog, but I still took a photo from where my car top would be if it wasn’t down. Traffic was bad, so I didn’t take my eyes off of the road, so let me apologize in advance for the dicey photos.

This was what the bridge looked like as I reached what I assumed was the midway point.

Golden Gate 1 And another dicey photo taken from over my windshield…

Golden Gate 2

But this is what it looked like when I disembarked…crazy huh? Notice the traffic at the bottom of the photo. Yeesh.

Golden Gate 3

But the fun was not yet over. It took me another hour just to get to where the 1 and 101 parted ways again.

Then came the most challenging part of the highway that I would encounter. From where the 1 and 101 split to Stinson Beach was another 2 hours.

This is the only stretch where I felt road rage welling up. There was a sign before the hair raising turns started that clearly said “NO VEHICLES OVER 23 FEET ALLOWED”.

Pretty straightforward to me. I didn’t know why just yet…but I would take note, if I had a vehicle over 23 feet.

Evidently others do not take note, and let me add if they were in LA, they would have been set straight pretty quickly. Tour busses would get stuck on those hairpin turns and the road would have to clear in order for them to execute the turns. Not just one or two, but what seemed like at least 20 of them.

The lesson here? Patience Prudence, patience. I am not patient, which is why I’m a Mad Baby Boomer, not Patient Baby Boomer. ‘Nuff said.

After Stinson Beach (which looked like an adorable little beach town, but crowded (which is something I had already grown accustomed to NOT seeing in the last 2 days) so I pressed on through.

I was terrified more than a couple of times along this stretch of road, and quite frankly my nerves were frazzled by the time I reached level ground again.

I nearly got out and kissed it. Silly me, I had no idea what was in store for me later in the day.

Oddly, the next 50 miles to Bodega Bay was lonesome. I had very suddenly been abandoned by all of the traffic at Stinson Beach, and in addition to the grey conditions again (Stinson Beach had been awash in sunshine), I felt insecure.

Had I taken a wrong turn like Day 1?

I had no phone coverage to consult my GPS, no hubby to reassure me, and the road signs seemed very far apart. Tomales Bay was grey, desolate, and downright depressing (and seemingly never-ending). I didn’t even feel jealous of the occasional homestead along it’s marshy shores.

Back inland, and after Bodega Bay I got my wish to be back to the seashore, but I didn’t anticipate how challenging this stretch of highway 1 would be. It certainly didn’t look that bad on Google maps!

I was getting tired, I had been driving now for 6 hours, and I was completely off track as far as where I was with regard to my destination…Gualala.

Had I passed it?

Finally! I came upon something I could easily pinpoint on my paper map (like old school) by way of the Russian River. It was still a little grey, but there was no denying the distinction of this waterway. It meandered beneath me on the highway, but it wasn’t until I crested the mountain and caught site of the estuary that I was left breathless.

Russian River

I looked closer at what I initially thought were very tidy logs along the sand bar, but when I looked closer I realized they were more of my friends the elephant seals. Very smart of them. I’m not sure what the big birds are, city girl remember?

Russian River Elephant Seals

After stretching my legs and breathing in the incredible beauty of this place, I moved on with a much lighter heart. I was exhausted though, and I didn’t know it but the most challenging and treacherous part of this day’s road was still ahead of me.

The next 33 miles would take me another hour to navigate, and by the time I saw Ocean Cove General Store, I was nearing tears at the thought that I had passed Gualala and would have to go back through what I had just endured.

I parked my pony and went into the General Store to confer with someone…anyone…where I was with relation to Gualala.

As I entered the store in my near hysterical state, I could tell the four men inside were enjoying a Sunday rhythm that they must practice regularly. They stopped their easy conversation and looked at me. All four faces.

The one behind the counter said, “Can I help you little lady?”

I replied with a dry mouth and even though I tried to control it, my voice was too high and betrayed me., “Have I passed Gualala?”

They all turned around at that point to fully face me and the same gentleman replied, “No ma’am, it’s another 20 or so miles down the road.”

I replied “Oh thank you so much” with such relief, that one of the other gentleman asked, “Are you driving these parts alone?”

“Yes” I said. I added, “I’m traveling highway 1 to Seattle”.

They all walked toward me while the original gentleman (coming out from behind the counter} said, “Well God Almighty, do you know how long it’s been since we seen a lone woman purist along here?”

“No” I said, “I don’t know how long and I don’t know what a purist is…”

“A purist is someone who sticks to highway 1 to get here. It’s been a long time since we seen a lone female do it. You got guts girl!”

With that, they all took turns patting me on the back and high fiving me.

This did more for me than I can adequately express. I will be eternally grateful to those men. They gave to me a renewed sense of pride, strength, and determination. Never underestimate the power of encouragement and a kind word. Thanks boys.

Ocean Cove

I finally made it to Gualala, and this time I enjoyed the scenery. It reminded me of Colorado, if Colorado was on the ocean. In other words…just beautiful.

I checked into my small room (because that’s all they have in Gualala), but the view was breathtaking. In spite of the fact that I still had no phone reception and would spend the only Mother’s Day to date without speaking to my kids or hubby, I could breathe again.

I found peace here.

I cannot end this day without speaking of the most incredible woman (and her husband) I met on this little path outside my window.

Gualala

She was in her 80’s and was a transplant here in Gualala from her home in South Africa. I asked her if she missed her home, and if she was willing could she tell me about it?

She said, “Yes, I miss it every day of my life” and proceeded to paint the picture with both the good and the bad of the world she had to escape to survive so long ago.

What an incredible gift.

Her last words to me were, “Be careful on your travels my dear, you are rather special.”

Thank you God for sending these incredible people my way, and making both the landscape that I see, and the landscape of those who have indelibly touched my life…so special.

Until next time dear diary.

A Bucket List Value Add – Ricky and Lucy Houseboat Lake Powell

Dear Diary,

I thought I would revisit a “Bucket List Item – Value Added” from years passed. I call this one Ricky and Lucy Houseboat Lake Powell.

I play the part of Lucy which would make my hubby Ricky (and our daughter Little Ricky…let’s just go with it).

We try to take turns with our annual vacations of marking Bucket List items off of our respective lists. September 2000 was his year and Ricky decided we would rent a house boat on Lake Powell.

Lucy alrightThis was my initial response. Alright, let’s try it.

It turned out to be one of my favorite domestic family vacations.

But true to Ricky and Lucy fashion, we had a few hiccups.

Initially we rented the houseboat with another couple (that would make them Fred and Ethel) but at the last minute, they backed out. We decided to go anyway, with me as the co-pilot instead of our friend Fred.

Remember, we are city folk. Not quite the blind leading the blind but almost.

Off we go with a map of Lake Powell and its 2,000 miles of shoreline. We wanted to find a specific place that somebody told us about and was tucked back off of the main lake, supposedly very quiet and private.

LPhouseboat

After a couple of false starts, Ricky told me to jump on the Sea Doo (we were towing 2 behind the houseboat) and check out this particular inlet. In fact, I took this photo and then sped ahead of him.

Since I can go so much faster on the Sea Doo than the houseboat, I jetted into the inlet and sure enough, there it is tucked back behind a couple of hills and turns. I beached the Sea Doo and decided to run, swim, run, swim, run over the little bunny hills and across small chunks of water to flag down Ricky from the mouth of the tucked back spot.

I ran over hill, swam, ran over hill, and nearly collapsed. I couldn’t BREATHE! Whew, out of shape. I run up one of the bunny hills and try to flag him down…but he doesn’t see me.

By then he’s turning the boat around to leave.

Crap.

I run, swim, and barely make it out of the water to run again to the Sea Doo. Already I experience a near drowning and we haven’t even got the houseboat tied down yet.

Props to the aquathoners. I’m not one of them.

I get the Sea Doo back in the water, start it and off I go to try and catch him before he makes it out to the main channel.

I drive up to the boat and flag him from the side. I still can’t breathe.

He opens the captain’s window and says…”where have you been all this time? This is no time to go for a ride, we need to find that place.”

REALLY Captain Bligh (I hope he never finds this blog)? That’s what I thought, but I couldn’t get enough breath to force words out of my mouth. So I just pointed behind us.

Ricky turned the boat around and followed me in the somewhat winding passage into the back inlet, but O.M.Gosh. It was beyond words beautiful.

We finally get the boat tethered to shore and made ourselves at home in our little slice of Southwestern heaven.

SawyerCove2

You can barely see a couple of the hills (in my defense a couple are out of the photo) on the left in the above photo that I tried to run, swim, run, pass out.

SawyerCove

Doesn’t that rock positioned precariously look like a human bust? A large heavy bust. I thought about an earthquake but remembered I was not at home. Since it’s been up there for thousands of years, I reckon 4 more days won’t hurt.

We had dinner and our daughter (Little Ricky remember) fell asleep on one of two full beds that folded out. Big Ricky and I climbed to the roof of the boat and laid on our backs to see the millions of stars he had told me you can see in the desert at night.

Just one problem. No stars.

It was pitch black. I felt like I was on the inside of a cow.

Then it started. Lightening, thunder, and pouring rain. I mean like God opened up the skies and threw everything at us.

Remember, we are from So Cali. We don’t have rain, and on the off chance we do, it is not accompanied by all of this lightening and bone rattling thunder.

Ricky was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Snoring in fact.

I on the other hand, was wide awake. So was Little Ricky.

I climbed in her bed and we sat terrified every time the sky would light up (it seemed like it lit up in many places all at once) and then a clap of thunder would craaaaaaaack over top of us.

Lightening over Lake Powell

Lightening over Lake Powell

Lake Powell storms are legendary, but reading about them and living through them are two entirely different things.

Then I thought about the flash floods I’d read about in order to prepare for this trip.

Wait…weren’t we at the bottom of a very narrow wash between two high cliffs? I pictured us being buried under mounds of mud and water before we could even untether the boat from shore. What do you think happened here?

Sunken Houseboats

That did it. I woke Ricky up.

“We have to move the boat out to the main part of the inlet” I told him.

“Why?” he said.

RickymadI replied a little sheepishly at his tone, “Because we are going to be buried under a flash flood.”

This is the look he gave me and promptly fell back asleep.

So I stayed awake all night worrying and he slept. This is the nature of our relationship.

The next morning this is how it looked while I had my morning coffee. Like nothing had happened.MirrorLP

The next four days were bliss. We used the houseboat as home base and road the Sea Doos, hiked, and found ruins of Native Americans along the way. We went canyon exploring on land and cave/inlet exploring from the water. Pictures cannot do this amazing lake justice. Especially the ones I took pre-digital camera. I had a waterproof disposable I think. Not the best, but you get the idea. I’ve included a few that are not my own. Here is fearless Ricky blazing the trail inside of a water cave. So beautiful. Patcave

There is something to be said for being unplugged and watching the sunset from your own bow (or is it stern?).

Sunsetsawyercove

Little Ricky even caught her first, and last fish. She didn’t much care for it, and still doesn’t.

Shelbyfishing2

 

For all of its beauty, Lake Powell is deceptively treacherous. I had to ride the houseboat leaning over the front railing to watch out for rocks that randomly lurk just under the surface of the water.

The houseboat that came in just as we were leaving had a brand new Malibu ski boat that ended up just like this one on its first trip out to ski in the inlet. Sad but at least nobody was hurt, except the owner’s pride and pocketbook may have taken a fatal hit.

Lake Powell rocks

On our return trip back to the Marina, we discovered that Lake Powell wasn’t done with us yet. A huge storm came out of nowhere (I call it the Perfect Storm because the waves seemed as big as in the movie, though I know they couldn’t have been) while we were trying to cross Wahwheap Bay.

It seemed like we couldn’t get anywhere because both the wind and waves kept pushing us back. When I looked out of the sliding glass door in the back of the boat there was 3 inches of water above the sliding track.

I tried not to panic. I don’t do well in these natural disaster type of situations, I’ll be the first to admit it. My skill set is more around finding parking in LA. Not this. Not this at all.

Then one of those huge tourist boats passed us a bit close and the wake from this deep hulled boat literally went over our little bargain basement sized houseboat. We had to hold on for dear life to keep from being thrown to the floor and then battered as the boat rocked wildly.

Little Ricky was already laying on the bed coloring so thankfully she was good.

The wake wave was so big and powerful, it broke the CHAIN that held shut the swing door to the deck that you enter the boat when the gangplank is down (I don’t know what it’s called obviously. Sorry  excuse for a Captain’s mate, I know) . The water then proceeded to pick up the giant ice chest that resides on the deck and pulled it into the lake.

Ricky is a pretty thrifty guy, in fact, with all of our differences this is the area where we are pretty much the same and why our marriage has endured.

Except I was fine with letting the ice chest go and getting back to the Marina with our lives.

As we were watching this action off of the front of the boat, Little Ricky could be heard yelling – “Oh no, here comes the Sea Doos” from the back of the houseboat. That didn’t sound good. We looked back just in time to see the Sea Doos come riding in on another huge wave and slam into the side of the houseboat.

We were under attack by our own Sea Doos.

Even with all of the rain and wind and waves I could see one of the Sea Doos had sustained a large crack in its hull.

So now we are in a race to make it to the Marina before the Sea Doo sinks.

What does Ricky do now? He says, “Take the wheel and keep the boat facing this direction…I’m going in after the ice chest.”

Lucy scared“YOU’RE WHAT?!?!?!?!?!” I say with a shrill voice.

“I’m not paying to replace that ice chest” he replied.

And with that he was gone off of the front deck into the stormy water. I would have been mad about it, but he didn’t give me time.

I couldn’t even see him from my vantage point. I could see the ice chest and then his arm come over the top of it, but then the boat turned with another wave and wind.

I started up the engines of the twin outboards and tried to turn the boat in the direction he told me to keep it facing.

I had no idea he was under the boat at that point.

I was in a full panic now because I couldn’t find him. The ice chest was there, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Then I see him pop up and pull himself and the ice chest back onto the boat.

He fastened the gate with a bungee cord and back into the houseboat he came, like it never happened.

He said, “Why did you start the boat after I was pulled under it?”

I felt faint.

“You were under the boat?” I said.

“Yeah, I had a helluva time keeping myself from being sucked into the props.”

I couldn’t stand anymore.

I just hugged him while moving him back behind the wheel. Then I had to sit down and regain my composure without bursting into tears.

We hauled ass into the Marina. I mean literally into the dock.

They call it a dock, we call it an emergency stop.

Semantics.

We lived through our Lake Powell Bucket List Value Added vacation.

The houseboat didn’t have a scratch. The Sea Doo did not fair as well, but we had it repaired in time for the next summer.

I could go back there, but I think once might be enough.

Until next time dearest diary.

Bucket List Value Added – A Ghost In My Room

Dear Diary,

Since I am stuck here sidelined from training for The Next Big Thing, I thought I would regale you with tales from bucket list items I have recently been able to check off as complete.

Heceta Head Lighthouse was to be the crown jewel of two weeks of jewels. I had planned my trip very carefully (that’s part of the fun) and had amassed a rather eclectic collection of hotels, motels, and B&B’s with the only pre-requisite being that it had to be on the Pacific Ocean’s shore (the first week anyway, I took an inland route home).

Spending the night in a Lighthouse (keeper’s house) was a bucket list item within a bucket list item (the PCH experience). I had looked forward to it since leaving my home in Southern Cali, and just couldn’t wait to see it up close and personal.

It didn’t disappoint. In fact, pictures cannot do it justice.

A Room With A View - and a Ghost

A Room With A View – and a Ghost

This is the view from my room.

I had checked in fairly early in the afternoon so set out immediately to explore the area. I didn’t know much about the history before I got there, which is out of character for me. I usually do quite a bit of research upfront on travel locations. Maybe because I had so much to plan for the trip, I knew I wanted to stay here so I booked it and moved on.

I will never make that mistake again.

I made the short walk up to the light house, and again I had my breath taken away.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Coming from So. Cali., I am not accustomed to the ferocity of the sea battering the rocky Oregon shoreline. It is indescribably beautiful, but at the same time sends the message that it is in charge. One slip would result in certain death on the crags and rocks below, if not plunged fully into the ocean itself in which you would be battered to death within minutes. Whew, I almost scared myself there.Gold Beach to Cannon Beach 045

No guardrails or fences here. This snapshot was taken on the way to the lighthouse. It can’t be seen from the house or the lighthouse even though it’s between them. Only when you are up close to it and this is as close to the edge as I get folks. Falling from this height into the ocean is most definitely not on my bucket list and is a value add I will most assuredly not allow if I can at all help it.

The beach below my window (Devil’s Elbow State Park, hmmmm I should have known something was up) was my next destination and again, words cannot describe the beauty of the Cape Creek bridge, Cape Creek emptying into the ocean, and the ocean and shoreline beyond. There were more than a few caves along the beach which I would have loved to explore, but it was high tide and I am more than a little respectful of the sea. I know what it can do and I will not challenge it. Gold Beach to Cannon Beach 057House and Bridge

I went back to the Victorian.

There is no food at the Lighthouse Keeper’s B and B (except for breakfast), and both Florence to the south and Yachats to the north were a bit of a drive away. That was fine with me. One of many unexpected perks of traveling alone was I didn’t have to worry about who was hungry and what they wanted to eat. I just made myself a PB&J and a couple of handfuls of trailmix (from supplies I had in my car), followed by a water from my little ice chest and I was good to go.

There was only one other couple in the entire house. Mid-May is not tourist season, and in these parts (at least for me), it was dang cold. I sat in the parlor while they made their dinner in the guest kitchen.

I should explain why this particular Victorian is so unique.

It was actually the Lighthouse Keepers Assistant’s houses. A Victorian duplex if you will. The Head Lighthouse Keeper’s house was demolished in 1940 and the lumber used to build a café in Mapleton, Oregon. This photo was taken in 1900 of both houses before demolition of the foreground house.headkeeperhouse_1900

The Assistant’s duplex (background)was actually designed from a single plan and doubled in the interest of saving time and supplies since this place was so remote.

It is still off the beaten path.

Originally, the two identical homes were separated by a wall which was taken down by the B and B operators (it is actually owned by the State) to make a single dwelling.

That being said, there are still two identical kitchens – one can be used by guests, while the one on our side of the house was used exclusively by the chef. The proprietor was gone as soon as both parties were checked in. He mentioned that there was a woman on site that lived in the basement (accessible only by outside stairs), but that we wouldn’t see her unless we needed her (getting locked out, etc.).

We had the entire 6 bedroom, 2 kitchen, 2 living room, 4 bathroom house to ourselves.

I got to know the other couple. A thoroughly delightful pair from Canada (actually he was originally from Australia with his dreamy accent) who were there celebrating her graduation from medical school.

Heceta Lighthouse and keepers houseIn the above photo, my room is the right hand set of double windows on the second floor. The attic windows are the double set on the third floor. The lighthouse is in the background. The rocky coastline follows the road around to the lighthouse, and around behind where I am standing to take this photo. Heceta is a large outcropping of rocky coastline named for the Spaniard who discovered it in 1755, and evidently lived to tell about it.

After my new friends ate dinner, we started out sitting on the glorious front porch, but because of the cold moved into the parlor.  We lit a nice fire and chatted while they played a board game.

I must comment on the change in weather. While Oregon (at least for my trip) was not sunny So Cal by any stretch of the imagination, it had been partly sunny when I arrived. As the day started to wane, the waves had become even more violent, the sky ominous, and it became bone chillingly cold. Even though it wasn’t raining, everything was wet and slippery. Not a place I would hike in the dark that’s for sure.

I got a feeling for what a lighthouse keeper’s job really must have been like. Not as glamorous as I had imagined.

While we were chatting in front of the fire and watching the storm roll into our little slice of Pacific Coast heaven, the subject of the house being haunted came up.

WHAT?!?!?!?

Exsqueeze me….did you ask me if I knew the place was haunted? Ummm, no. I certainly did not.

The male half of this couple told me to not pay any attention to her, she was the type that if there was one shark in the ocean she would expect to get bit.

Oooooookaaaaay, but this house was a bit smaller than the ocean. This would be like a shark in your swimming pool. Pretty good odds of an encounter I’d say.

While this was slightly unnerving, I didn’t feel ominously threatened or that we were being watched or anything else spooky for that matter.

When I finally got home 2 weeks later, I googled it and is indeed considered one of the most haunted houses in America. Why didn’t I know that going in? Still a mystery to me since I am normally Miss Information. Not mis-information…nevermind.

The next thing we knew the caretaker from downstairs was in the room with us and explained she was only there to close the shutters on the front doors (to protect the delicate stained glass) in preparation for the incoming storm. Incoming storm? Funny, I didn’t know that either. I even had Yachats as a favorite in my Weather Channel app, oh that’s right AT&T…

We invited the caretaker to have a cup of tea and chat in front of the fire which she cheerfully did. We got through the niceties and I went straight for the heart of the matter by asking about ghosts.

“Oh” she said, “we only have one and she is a shy ghost. She is known as “Rue” and rarely appears as a visual specter, the only time we even know she’s here is when she  gets upset from spring cleaning and move everything around.”

I asked…”what do you mean by move everything around?” She replied, “When we close for a week and move everything to the middle of the house to clean and make repairs, sometimes when we come back the next day it’s all put back in its place.”

I wish I had a cleaning ghost like that in my house.

Be careful what you wish for…I know, I know.

I learned from our host the life of an assistant housekeeper’s wife was horrible. She would be subject to surprise white glove inspections and scrutiny by both her husband and the head lighthouse keeper’s wife. No wonder poor Rue is still at it.

This assuaged any fears of paranormal activity because frankly, who can be afraid of a ghost that doesn’t show herself and cleans?

A couple of hours later we had talked ourselves out and all parties bade each other a goodnight. The Canadian couple and I headed up our steep winding stairs and to our respective bedrooms.

This is my room pre-storm and dark.  No frills but who needs a TV or computer with a view like this? Room and View

As I laid down to read before falling asleep, I felt myself become melancholy which is not something I normally allow myself to indulge in. It’s a slippery slope, and I would prefer to dwell on happy thoughts whenever possible. And it’s always possible.

I chalked it up to not being able to talk to my kids for a couple of days (one of which was Mother’s Day), and although I had been able to talk to my hubby the night before, and our conversation was most pleasant, it was still strained. I updated that I was safe on Facebook (the B&B has wi-fi) and got their well wishes on my timeline, but it’s not the same.

Also it was my sister’s birthday, and while I usually try not to dwell on her untimely death (which leads to thoughts of the untimely death of her young daughter), maybe because of the storm and isolation my mood matched the grey turmoil outside.

I propped the window up about a half an inch. Call me crazy, but when you love the ocean as much as I do the sound of it crashing below your window should not be muffled or restrained. It started to rain but was not coming in my window so I left it open a crack.

I closed my eyes but thoughts of my little sister Susan persisted. A life so tragically interrupted (see Do They Know How Much I Loved Them for details). Because of the sudden loss of her young daughter, another life tragically cut short.

I tried to redirect my thoughts to what was on my plate for the next day, calculated where I was on my trip, etc. but the darkness on the edge of my mind was still there.

Then I heard music. Amidst the sound of the rain, the crashing surf, the thunder of the storm, I heard music.

Not music from instruments, but music as if a woman was humming a melody.

And it sounded like it was in my room.

That couldn’t be. There was an old dial up radio in my room but it wasn’t on.

I got up and put my ear to the vent thinking that it might be coming from the woman two stories down, after all old houses are like that right? Wrong, it wasn’t coming from there.

It was following me. It sounded like something a woman would hum if she were trying to put a baby to sleep. Very soft and soothing.

I know. Maybe the female half of the Canadian couple had gotten up to take a bath. The bathroom they used shared a wall with my bedroom. That had to be it.

I opened my bedroom door and stepped out into the hall. The bathroom door was open and the light was off. Nobody in there.

While I had stepped out into the hall, the humming had followed me and gotten even closer to my ear. Eerie, but I wasn’t going to panic because I was not out of options. It could be someone outside.

I highly doubted it on a night like this, but you never know. I stepped back into my room and grabbed the flashlight provided in case of a blackout. I opened the window all the way and shined it outside. Nothing but rain and surf. I shuddered and closed my window and locked it.

The humming continued, and moved when I moved.

Phooey, time to panic. I jumped in bed and pulled my covers up to my chin and shut my eyes so hard I squinted.

I had the overwhelming sensation that if I opened my eyes there would be a face within inches of my face. I knew someone was staring at me, and I knew it was close.

Let me say I am NOT one that has a great deal of experience with the paranormal. I avoid invisible drama. I have enough tangible drama in my life without this kind of thing, thank you very much.

I wasn’t alone in my room. I sensed the person walk around the outside of my bed and sit at the foot of the bed on the other side. I felt it move, and I was not moving.

I am frightened out of my mind at this point. I am not sleeping this night, that’s for sure. Adrenaline is pumping like high performance racing oil in my veins.

I sat up and said, “Rue if it’s you, I would like for you to leave.”

The humming stopped for a moment. It’s as if she was considering it. Then is started back up again, but never as close to me as before. About an hour later, the humming moved out of my room and out of ear shot. Finally!

I awaited dawn which was only a few hours away at this point, as I laid awake with my eyes as big as saucers I’m sure. She didn’t come back, but I was waiting and listening for any sign of company.

The next morning both the Canadian couple and I headed downstairs to breakfast at the same time (as it is served promptly at 8am). I told them about the night’s adventures.

Surprisingly, they had adventures of their own.

Evidently they kept opening their window to get air, and “Rue” kept closing it. Since it was a small wind out window, it was not possible to close on its own. At least they assured me it couldn’t.

When the husband balked at his wife’s suggestion that it could be the ghost, he was promptly held down in his bed without the ability to speak or move.

I’m glad I didn’t balk.

The chef overheard our conversation at breakfast (it is 7 courses after all), and when the Canadian couple left to pack, she approached me about my story.

She asked if I was in mourning or was sad about the loss of a loved one. I said I was, and told her about my sister’s suicide after the death of her daughter.

“Ahhhhhhhhh, that’s it”, she said. “That’s what?” I replied.

The chef said that it is thought “Rue” committed suicide after the death of her small daughter. Although there is no record of such history at the house, there was the grave of a small female child unearthed on the grounds.

I could see it. I can’t imagine having to deal with unbearable grief while being cutoff from the rest of the world.  And the sound of the never ending, nearly deafening crashing surf. While I love it, I think that it might become maddening without transportation to carry me away to silence once in a while, or iTunes and headphones. She would have had no options but to suffer alone.

The chef went on to say that “Rue” has been known to try and comfort those that grieve for loved ones, especially children. Just a month earlier she had put her ghostly hands on the face of a female guest grieving over the death of her son.

Was that what she was doing, trying to hum me to sleep? Trying to help me get my mind off of the loss of my sister and her daughter? Newsflash Rue…you are not conducive to sleep, but come to think of it, you did get my mind off of what I was thinking before you showed up. .

They say she stays in the attic during the day…I was in the house alone within the hour, should I explore it? Should I try to tell her I’m alright? OH HELL NO.

I’m not that girl. I was on my merry way within just a few minutes.

I would go back to Heceta Head Lighthouse in a hot minute with all of its beauty and history…but not by myself. Not without my hubby and an Ambien. Or two.

Until next time dear diary.