Pacific Northwest Road Trip

We're a few weeks shy of one year since our last big road trip, which took us 2,700+ miles across the country from our home in Charlotte, NC to our new home of San Francisco, CA. It was Memorial Weekend 2012, and the 7 days we spent driving and exploring sparked something in us that continues to flicker. Now when we look at a map, we look at places we haven't been and think about when we can go. It's like we won't be satisfied until we see every single section of the country with our own eyes.

Road trips allow you to take what you need, not be tied down to rules and you're free to change your mind as many times as you'd like. There's no spontaneity flying in the air. You can't roll your window down, stick your head out, or take your dogs that also like to stick their heads out. 

We've been terrible about blogging since we arrived in SF (not that anyone was looking but Matt's Mom) but it's probably because when we're not working, we're busy trying to see and soak up just about every part of the city, the Bay area and beyond. We've had a ton of visitors who have helped give us an excuse to do things like run across the Golden Gate Bridge, take trips to the wine country, drive up the coast . . . Getting in the car and just going is so easy to do here and the weather is always awesome.  

Back to the point of this post: we have been iItching for a longer trip than our usual day trips, so we've decided to take 10 days and head from San Francisco to as far north as Seattle, with various stops along the way.  

Poster sold here. 

Poster sold here

Here's what we have planned:

1 night in Mt. Shasta (4 hour drive from San Francisco)

1 night in Crater Lake (3 hour drive from Mt. Shasta)

3 nights in Seattle (7 hour drive from Crater Lake)

1 night in Mount Rainier State Park (1 hour 45 minute drive from Seattle)

4 nights in Portland (2 and a half hours from Mount Rainier)

Luckily we have family and friends to stay with in both Seattle and Portland, an SUV with a fresh oil change, and laptops to keep on top of work. 

We leave Monday. We're excited.

I'm not sure if we'll blog, but we'll share photos on Instagram. (Moms, don't ask.)

June 1-15 2012: Our first two weeks.

We didn't waste any time having visitors or exploring our new home. 

The day after we arrived, our friends Paul and Jessica came through from New York on their way to a wedding in Napa. Jess snapped this picture of us in downtown Mill Valley right before we all had lunch outside in the perfect Northern California air. 

If you still can't picture what Mill Valley is like from what I described in my last blog post, this photo does a good job of summing it up: 

Wealthy with serious wheels. 

That weekend, apparently we weren't tired of driving yet, so we took a quick trip about 40 miles up the coast to The Marshall Store, a little seafood shack with a-maz-ing oysters and seafood chowder. 

Even if you're not an oyster fan, I don't know many people who wouldn't love this place. These oysters were nothing like I've ever had before. And because I put cheese on top of everything but cereal, I ordered mine Rockefeller style and Matt ordered smoked barbecue. 

Monday, June 3 was our 7-year anniversary. We celebrated that evening at Bungalow 44, a great little restaurant two blocks from where we're living. (Warning: Cougars at the bar!)

But before it was time for dinner, it was time for Matt to go back to work. While he was in the city, I decided it was a good time to do a little internet housekeeping and prepare myself for any introductions to agencies in San Francisco.  

Little did I know changing my LinkedIn profile city from Charlotte, NC to San Francisco Bay Area would land me a gig the following day at a digital shop. Their recruiter reached out to me and set up a chat with their creative director. He invited to come in and help pitch a new piece of business. For the next two weeks, I spent time in their office in the city and working some from home. And I had a blast. The people were super friendly. I got invited to lunch with the cool kids. And every afternoon someone would offer you a glass of wine or a beer. Yes, please. 

What wasn't necessarily fun, however, was trying to find dog care for the pups, figuring out how to get them where they needed to be, then drive to the ferry building, find a parking spot, make the ferry on time and then walk to the office. I had to do that whole routine in reverse at the end of the day, so I got a small taste (including dog hair) of what it would be like to be a working Mom. It was exhausting. And I'll NEVER wear wedges to walk city blocks again. 

I will say taking public transportation, especially across the gorgeous San Francisco Bay, certainly helps ease the pain. I can't imagine there being a better commute than this anywhere. 

On the other side of my ferry ride home for the first few days, I was not greeted with wagging tails. Sage and Simon absolutely HATED going to doggie daycare. I know they hated it because when I would pick them up, Simon would almost hyperventilate for the first hour he was with me and Sage wouldn't even look my way unless I had some sort of a meaty bone. I realize they are dogs, but they are also our family. And after finding out I was paying a fortune to have them put in cages for a few hours of the day, they weren't the only ones who were unhappy.

We tried one more doggie daycare and one inexperienced woman we found from doing some corkboard research at the local dog park—but neither worked out. On a recommendation of a friend, we finally found a new dog sitter that the dogs love. Her name is Claudia. She takes them (and other dogs) on a morning hike in the mountains and there is no hyperventilating when I pick them up. 

On 6.6.12, my friend Molly had her baby girl, Mae Macleod. Another future camper for Camp KK, opening date TBD. This is the chick you want to pick first to be on your tug-of-war team. I can assure you of that. 

That Saturday, we went into the city to look at an apartment for rent (it sucked) and ending up taking the dogs down to Crissy Field and the beach. Sage stole a half of a bagel with cream cheese off of someone's picnic blanket, but walking along the water while people are sailing and surfing with views of the Golden Gate and mountains is pretty surreal. 

Sunday we took a quick trip 40 minutes up to Napa to see Matt's friend Gene and his wife, Kimberly. They were on a trip with two other couples and we met them at Domaine Carneros winery. It was fantastic. 

As far as we have experienced, you don't get the Sunday blues around here. There's too much to do on the weekends! Which completely motivates me to keep working. I want us to do it all. 

Day 7: We survived and arrived.

I didn't think I was going to ever fall asleep in our tent / shed / cabin. But I did.

For fear of what I thought lurked in the woods, I also didn't think we'd wake up. 

But when I opened my eyes, I saw this:

And then I sat up. Simon was awake, too. 

WE SURVIVED! 

Matt was as giddy as a North Dakota boy could be. 

Since we got up with the birds, we were antsy to drive our last few hours of our 7-day road trip. So we loaded up and headed out. 

The drive was just as breathtaking as it was the day before. 

There was so much coastline and so many beaches, we decided to stop to let the pups take one last lap around the sand. I'm not sure where we stopped, but it didn't matter. Every beach along this stretch is amazing. Flowers grow on the edge of cliffs and I couldn't stop thinking about how this was the most beautiful place I've ever been. 

It was still early in the morning and no one was around, so we had the entire beach to ourselves. 

We drove through Monterrey, Santa Cruz, and other adorable ritzy California coastal towns. We stopped to take pictures of two road signs. One that said "Towne", which is my friend's daughter's name. And one that said "Young Love" which is the street our friends from YoungHouseLove.com should live on should they ever decide to live on the West Coast. 

We made our way all the way up Route 1 and eventually over the city's iconic Golden Gate bridge.

Holy crap. This is my new home? 

A few miles on the other side of the bridge, we arrived in our new temporary hometown of Mill Valley. It's a city I like describe as a storybook town with storybook weather at the base of Mount Tamalpais. It's a place where dogs and kids and people who look like they walked right off the pages of an REI catalog peacefully live. There's a bank, a movie theatre, a quaint grocery/market, little coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, and an adorable town square. And it's all less than 15 miles from the heart of San Francisco. 

We walked into where Matt's been temporarily living (one-room guest cottage behind a house) and he said, "I cleaned out the closet so you could use it."

I opened the closet door and there was one hanger inside holding a jacket I've been wanting since we took a trip to Maine over a year ago. Surprise! 

(No judging. I hadn't showered since sleeping in the tent/shed/cabin.)

As soon as I stopped jumping around in my new jacket, I went out to the car to start unloading. And that's when I met "her". 

Her: Excuse me, do you know the guy who lives there? 

Me: Hello, yes - that's my husband, Matt.

Her: Well, will you tell him he can not leave these trash cans here. Ever. 

Me: Oh, I'm sorry. He must have moved them so we could park our car. We just arrived from a 7-day road trip. I'll have him move them right away. 

I went inside and told Matt to move the trash cans. At this time I called "her" "your neighbor". She was the first person I'd met in Mill Valley and she didn't fit anywhere in an REI catalog or a storybook. Well, maybe Disney storys with witches. She'd fit in those books for sure. 

We unloaded the car, rested for a while and then I started searching craigslist to see if any new apartments in the city had popped up while we were on our trip.

I found a listing that sounded great and convinced Matt to drive into the city and look at it. Afterwards we were going to meet a friend of his for dinner. 

We left at 6:30 pm, drove into the city, decided the pretty cool apartment I saw online was actually a shabby slanted sh*t hole we would never live in. But we enjoyed dinner at a great Mexican restaurant in The Mission neighborhood and then got back to Mill Valley at 11:30 pm. 

It was pitch black when we pulled into the driveway, but I saw Matt take a note off of the gate that leads to our front door. At the same time we opened our gate, "her" opened her door and screamed YOUR DOGS HAVE BEEN BARKING SINCE 5:30! And then she slammed her door. 

When we got in, the dogs were a little out of sorts. And I don't blame them. They were used to a big house and yard in North Carolina and here they were in a one-room strange place. We thought they'd just sleep like they always do, but apparently they had other plans.  

KK: What did the note say? 

Matt handed me this: 

I can't tell you exactly what was going through my mind, but I can say my heart was pounding, my fists were clenched and I laid awake in bed for hours thinking of the words I could use to write "her" a letter that would make her feel like a terrible human being. Or at the very least, an ugly witch. 

Total miles this day: 157 

Day 6: Big Sur Surprise

I started my morning in Bakersfield checking in on my friend Molly who is pregnant and due any day. And then, this happened: 

I said a few words for the baby birds (sniff) and then helped Matt pack up the car so we could head the 210 miles out to the coast and up to Big Sur. 

The first thing we noticed when we got out of the city were miles of farms that looked like this: 

KK: I think they are ferns. 

Matt: I'll pull over. Ask the farmer. 

I jumped out and asked the man in the work truck what these farms were growing. He only spoke Spanish and at first I didn't understand what he said, so he showed me. 

Man: Almendras.

KK: Oh, almonds! ¿Y que es este? (I pointed to the "ferns".)

Man: Zanahoria. (As he pulled a GIANT carrot out of the ground.)

This experience counted as science for the week, so I thanked my new friend for the lesson and we were on our way. 

We stopped in Paso Robles for a burger at Good Ol' Burgers. The town felt like a lake town where people come to vacation, so there were things like this we had to do.

Oh come on. You would have done it, too. 

Pretty soon we were on Route 1 And this is the exact place where our jaws hit the floor and we didn't close them until we reached our final destination for the day. 

Here's what we were looking at: 

Just south of Point Piedras Blancas, we saw a sign for Elephant Seal Beach. I don't think words can describe what it was like to see hundreds of elephant seals covering a shoreline. This wasn't like a trip to the zoo. It. was. insane. 

These seals are HUGE. Sage could not figure out what she was looking at. 

And I couldn't stop saying LOOK AT THESE THINGS!  

I mean LOOK AT THESE THINGS!

But Matt had a bigger surprise in store for me in Big Sur. So we hopped back in the car and continued to point and squeal about everything we saw along our drive. This is a drive that is within a few hours of our new home. This is nothing like Texas. And definitely not like North Dakota. This was going to be our new backyard? Wow. 

Then we arrived at Big Sur Campground and Cabins, where we were staying for the night.  

At first, I was excited. We were in Big Sur! We were surrounded by Redwoods. It smelled amazing. 

Matt said he rented us a cabin. It was the last night of our trip, so I was up for an adventure. But I knew he was up to no good when he came back from checking us in and he looked like this: 

Seriously. He looked like that. I had the camera ready.

But in my head, all I saw was this:

Do you see the resemblance? 

He giggled (yes, giggled) as he drove us down past a community bath house (red flag!) and basketball court. I saw a few small cabins nestled in under the giant redwood trees. Then I saw people crowded around tents, cooking on small charcoal grills. Next to the tents, I saw what looked like a shed. It had four wood walls, a plastic corregated-like roof and thick army green canvas curtains that were rolled up so you could see inside. 

Matt: There it is. 

KK: There's what?

This is what he was pointing at. Our "cabin" for the night. 

The dogs got down to their dinner and I couldn't form words to let Matt know what I was truly feeling, so I dug into our road trip cooler looking for a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, we forgot to pack a corkscrew. 

Matt: It's just for one night. Look how cool this is! 

I guess the look on my face made Matt realize I needed a quick change of scenery. So we got in the car and drove 2 miles to Pfeiffer Beach. 

Now THIS was the Big Sur I wanted to see.

You would have thought the pups had been kenneled their entire lives. They ran up and down the beach, up sandy hills, jumped over rocks. People were pointing and smiling. These dogs were having a total blast. 

The sun was about to set and we had heard from more than one friend we needed to try Nepenthe for dinner.

The restaurant sits high up on a cliff and overlooks the ocean. For as far as your eyes can see, you just see blue. There's a huge outdoor patio with a fireplace and all of the tables face the ocean. Inside, the wall facing the ocean is all glass. Matt and I kept saying how we wished everyone we knew were with us. 

We ordered a bottle of wine and an appetizer—goat cheese and roasted garlic—inside at the bar while we waited for our table outside. It was clear this was a favorite for locals and frequent vistors. (I'm super skilled at eavesdropping.)

After dinner, we headed back to our "cabin", brushed our teeth with our neighbors, slid the homemade wood lock over the door (totally safe) and got into bed. I was certain I was about to be part of the opening sequence to a horror movie. Simon agreed. Chhchhchhchh hahahaha....

Total miles this day: 210