Day One: We left Houston on Saturday, January 16 at lunchtime; it was really emotional and sad to say good-bye to my parents. Our first stop was Fort Worth, Texas where we visited some of our favorite places from when we lived there and then stayed the night with our good friends Amie and Kendra. I am sad to say I did not take any pictures of our dinner and fun times with Amie and Kendra. AJ and I both really love those girls, they are so much fun!
Day Two: We got up at 4:30 AM (!) and left Amie and Kendra’s by 5. We drove A LOT this day – from Fort Worth, Texas to Williams, Arizona (that would be in the Northwest corner of Arizona). We stopped in Albuquerque and ate at The Owl Café, which was neat because I remember eating there when I was a kid with my family. Driving on Interstate 40 through New Mexico and Arizona we couldn’t help but notice that there is NOTHING out there. NOTHING. Hardly any signs of humanity – which is kind of cool – but also kind of weird, especially when you’re from over-populated Houston. We drove through most of Arizona in the dark, which was kind of sad. I really wanted to see Flagstaff because I’ve heard it’s really pretty. We stayed in a Motel 6 just past Flagstaff, in Williams. The most surprising thing about Arizona was the snow! A lot of the mountains in the desert had snow on one side of them or at the top, but once we got near Flagstaff and Williams there was snow EVERYWHERE! When I think Arizona, I do not think snow. When we got to the hotel we were pretty exhausted, so we pretty much went to bed really quickly.
Day Three: We slept in a tiny bit since we were so exhausted from the previous day and then we headed out to The Grand Canyon! I was really impressed with the town of Williams – it was adorable! It reminded me of a tiny, little ski town you would find in Colorado. We stopped at a cute little coffee shop and got some of the best coffee I’ve had in a long time and then headed to the canyon. While we were driving a snow storm blew in. Let me explain something to you: I am from Houston. I have rarely seen even an inch of snow. The only snow I’ve ever truly been in was on a ski trip with my church in college. This snow in Arizona was THICK and…blustery! And beautiful! I was in awe….and kind of terrified. I don’t know how to drive in snow! Thankfully, AJ’s a little braver than me and she drove like a pro in that snow (that rhymes!). The only bad part was that there was ZERO visibility for The Grand Canyon. Yep, zip, nilch, nada. We couldn’t seen a darn thing. Just smoky, white clouds. Now I have seen The Grand Canyon twice before, but this was AJ’s first time. I was so disappointed for her. We’ve been talking about going to The Grand Canyon for years and when we finally got to go we couldn’t even see it! How frustrating. But we still made the most of the experience – we walked to several “view points” and tried to make out some of the canyon walls. I truly enjoyed the snow and it’s kind of neat to say you’ve been to The Grand Canyon when it was covered in snow.
From The Grand Canyon we drove on to Nevada. AJ had never been to Arizona or Nevada and we got to cross The Hoover Dam! We parked and walked across the dam and that was fun. Then we drove on to Las Vegas and we got there right at nightfall – which was perfect – I wanted AJ to see the strip all lit up. We parked and did a little gambling at The Riviera; we played 2 slot machines and spent a grand total of $2. We also “won” a grand total of 35 cents – which means we lost $1. 65. I just couldn’t justify losing more than that when I’m currently unemployed and moving to a new state. Just driving down Las Vegas Boulevard is a crazy experience. I can see how if you had a little money to spend staying on the strip, going to a show, and doing a little gambling could be a really fun vacation. But I’m never too sad to leave Vegas either. Not really my kind of place.
We drove on to Bakersfield, California and stayed in another lovely Motel 6.
Day Four: We drove from Bakersfield to San Luis Obispo. This drive was comprised of rolling green hills, lots of drizzly rain, and tight curves. I honestly, sincerely felt like I was driving in Ireland. I just recently saw that movie Leap Year and I felt like I was living it (all except the part with the cute Irish guy); there was NOTHING out there and I had to drive about 30 mph the entire way so that we didn’t go flying off of a slippery cliff! By the time we got to San Luis Obispo I was kind of exhausted. We walked around a bit and ate lunch in that picturesque town and then headed for The Pacific Coast Highway on Highway One. This is the day that I started to realize and marvel in a profound way at just how beautiful the state of California is; I mean, WOW. Gorgeous. I understand why everyone wants to live there. I don’t think I have ever seen anything so naturally pretty. Green valleys, mountains, the woods, the ocean, rolling hills, cliffs, waterfalls. Highway One from San Luis Obispo to Monterey is just breathtaking. I had seen it once before, and it was AJ’s first time, but I don’t think those views would ever cease to amaze me. It’s almost too much beauty – it’s like my senses can’t handle it all. We had a mixture of rain and sun this day and that was kind of neat. I love the fresh, clean, cool feel that the dampness gave everything (that’s why I’m moving to Portland!) and the smell – oh if you could have smelled that drive! Eucalyptus trees (I think!) smell divine.
From Monterey we drove all the way to San Francisco. I know, we’re kind of crazy. San Francisco wasn’t originally in our plan, but I couldn’t resist. I LOVE San Francisco. If the cost of living was less and/or if I have a for-sure job lined up, I might me moving to SF instead of Portland. That city is so fun and so unbelievably beautiful.
Day Five: We stayed in a scary little Motel 6 in Southern San Francisco. The next morning we woke up, it was pouring rain, and we drove into town to eat breakfast at Sears Fine Foods! AJ and I LOVE Sears Fine Foods. When we went to San Francisco in December 2008 we ate at Sears twice and were kind of obsessed with it. However, the last time we were in SF we didn’t have a car. This time we discovered that parking in SF is not easy or fun. And walking in the rain without an umbrella isn’t too high on the fun-meter either. But the French toast with strawberries made our troubles worth every second. And we were seated in the window where we could watch the busy SF street.
After breakfast we had had enough of SF and we headed further into Northern California. Once we got north of SF we entered territory I had never been in before. I’ve been on a car trip to SF before and I’ve flown into Portland, but I’ve never been in the area between SF and Portland.
We purposely planned our route so that we would go through Redwood National Park. If you had asked me before this trip I would have told you that I thought the Pacific Highway was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. After the trip, I think Redwood National Park might be tied for number one or a very close number two; it’s gorgeous! At certain points the highway would narrow to two lanes and the giant redwoods were lining the very edges of the highway and the tree limbs above the car completely blocked the sky and it was like being in a fairy tale forest. Breathtaking, majestic trees – at one point the branches of the trees were dusted with snow and it was almost more than I could take! I have never seen such beautiful woods.
Of course we stopped to take pictures with the huge trees. From the car I had thought, that’s a BIG tree! From up close I exclaimed, that tree is ridiculous! How on earth could it be so freaking huge?!?!
Within the idyllic setting of that dense forest we finally entered the state of Oregon. By then it was pitch dark outside. We debated about whether to drive on to Eugene or stop earlier than that so that we could make the majority of the Oregon drive in the daylight. Ultimately we decided to spend the night in Grants Pass and we splurged and stayed at a Super 8 Motel. After all those Motel 6’s we really felt like we were living it up! Haha.
The next morning we set out from Grants Pass all the way to Portland – the whole goal of the trip! On the way we saw tons of beautiful trees and mountains, Eugene, The University of Oregon, Salem, the capital, and finally Portland (Portland is at the edge of the Oregon-Washington line).
So, it was a fantastic trip, I loved it! I love road trips and this was a good one…and with one of my favorite people on earth. I couldn't have asked for a better way to get to Portland. In fact I might have been willing to move to Portland JUST so that we could go on this road trip. I’m not saying I did that or anything…
As great as the road trip was, it also made it harder to face the reality of my new life in Portland. I have a very unclear road ahead of me, but I am optimistic that I am here for a reason, that overall this is going to be a great experience, and that I’m about to learn a lot.
Thank you AJ for making that journey with me and for being the best friend I could ever, ever ask for.