The Diaries: Redwoods, San Francisco, Steinbeck and the Beach
Left Portland yesterday, first headed South on the freeway, before meeting up with the coast as the evening settled in, accompanied by tumbles of clouds and fog.
The beam from a lighthouse circles timidly, wrapped in shrouds of mist. Monolithic sea stacks stand lone against the breaking waves.
Though undoubtedly beautiful during the day, the coastal 101 winds sometimes treacherously in the depths of night. I’m exhausted when we reach Eureka, at the border of Oregon and Northern California, near the Redwoods National Park.
Redrik’s still slightly concerned about the * and has booked a room, to make sure he’s rid of it. I elect, cheaply, to sleep in the car – soon, soon it will be over.
We have dinner in an empty 24/7 diner.
The next morning, head back up into Oregon country, seeking some pictures. Stop by the state border, at Brookings, and purchase a liquor bottle – one of the cheapest I’ve seen all round the country.
Spend some time talking by a beach overlook. Start sipping away (have I been saying this a lot lately or what?).
Redrik’s still unsure about his future plans. He has not yet been accepted by the schools he’s applied to. His heartache remains in a fragile state.
(On my end, I’ve been lazy for the last two weeks, and have failed to maintain the regularity of online updates. On the other hand, I think I‘ve collected enough content for the film, and we succeeded in completing the itinerary of part 2, adding many missing pieces to the puzzle. California is ‘known territory’ so to speak, seen during part 1.)
Drive a few miles down into the Redwoods and into the lot of Trees of Mystery, a privatized site sitting within the National Park’s boundaries. And hard to miss thanks to the giant sculpture of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe.
Both of us are taken aback by the $15 entrance fee for what seems like a short walk through trees, albeit some of the grandest, most magnificent ones in the world (in contrast, the National Park itself is free).
Walk up to the entrance to inspect it. A wooden hinge door, which opens only from the outside in. Fees are collected at the exit.
“Wait for me here. I’ll be back in five minutes, you can go afterwards.”
Jog up snapping some rushed pictures. The redwoods tower benignly, whispering tales of their own. When I return, Redrik is walking up the path, his white cup still in hand.
“What’re you doing?”
“I left the gate open.”
“Why didn’t you wait? Anyway, try hurry, I’ll be waiting.”
Of course, the gate is closed. Which is strange since I haven’t seen anybody else walk up the pathway. Glance through the fence. Going to have pull some ninja skills. Hoist myself above the gate and jump noiselessly to the other side.
Or so I thought. A staffer greets me coldly.
Muster some awkward and not the least convincing excuses, truthfully claiming that we were just taking a quick peek. Not sure what’s about to happen. Redrik soon returns and we make a move for the car, but the staffer is waiting for us on the lot.
From within the shop, other workers stare scornfully. We’re both look a lil’ drunk (Redrik more so since he’s not driving), and are still dutifully carrying white cups in hand. Explain to the staffer that we were just taking a quick look, that we can’t afford the fee, and so on. I guess seeing the convertible with northeastern plates does little to alleviate his doubts.
But he lets us go. Sorry!
Stop soon after in Eureka. Picnic on a bench overlooking a crescent bay, fettered with sea stacks. Redrik gets to napping, I hike around a trail surrounded by the sea.
A beautiful day. As the afternoon lulls, the skies change, again, abruptly. Wispy clouds shade the yellowing sun as we get back on the road.
Stop to get gas and mistakenly, but happily, stumble onto The Avenue of the Giants. It’s night time. The road’s tricky. We’re both tired. Switch seats. Drive robot-like to Santa Rosa, near Sonoma Valley. Park anywhere, and crash.
Awoke in Santa Rosa, after another night in the car. Arrived in San Francisco, down the scenic 101 and over the Golden Gate, which I had yet to see from up close (this had led to the solid realization that completion of the project would entail another trip).
Drive around, give Redrik the ‘tour’, we have some Chinese plate lunch in the Mission District.
We’ve now started to discuss ‘plans’ for after the trip – neither of us really knows where our lives are headed towards.
Redrik’s not quite sure, thinking of staying in LA for a bit. ‘s gotta figure things out. I’d like to join some family and friends in a pretty place after the trip, and get to the editing and scripting of the movie. That and sleep in an actual bed, far away from any gas-driven vehicle.
Have some apple cider at a coffee house. Book a hostel near Union Square.
Redrik warns me (after the fact) of some of the rave reviews, including:
- bunk bed, shaky, feels like sleeping on stilts
- common shower room, soapless
- one reviewer (further reinforcing our choice of a ‘private room’ – the luxury of being past our prime hostel-travelling days) awoke to find a bum sleeping in his dorm room, after someone had inadvertently forgotten to close the front door
- another reviewer complained of being bitten by bed bugs, a mild offense relative to what ensued. When complaining to the receptionist of being bitten, the latter simply asked: “Are the bites fresh?” The disgruntled customer, upon seeing the hostel manager, repeated his complaint, only to hear from the manager: “Are the bites fresh?”
It’s really not that bad. I guess we’re getting soft, or old. Later, walk to ‘Little Italy’ and eat at a Thai restaurant in disguise.
“We are Thai restaurant allowed to have TVs. Please do not call us sports bar.”
Unrestful night. Neither of us dares to make use of the allotted comforters. I awake regularly as the bunk bed tilts from side to side, nose stuffy from a draft. At 5, Redrik exits the room, primed by the subtle graze of what may have been (but likely wasn’t) a bed bug.
Awake listless, Redrik’s still wandering about. A cloud-fogged day in San Francisco. Shocking.
Have breakfast on the third floor of the hostel, meet some of the peeps, some artsy girls, guys:
“I’ve lost my job, what am I supposed to do?” says a weeping Californian teacher on TV.
“One thing’s for sure, you gotta stop being a bitch,” says a man with a Jamaican accent.
Redrik returns: “At 5am, it’s like walking in a zombie town.” He’s referring to the number of junkies and destitute-looking hordes which roam the streets of downtown in the hours of gloom.
He decides to catch up on some rest, I wander about San Francisco. Long hike from Union Square to the Golden Gate. Sit on the pier for a long time, hoping to perhaps catch a few rays of sunlight to get pictures of the ever-fogged bridge. To no avail.
As I walk up towards the bridge, meet Daphne, who’s visiting from Europe. We chat as we take in the view of the Bay. She’s only been here a few days (she’s visiting friends in LA) but has witnessed her share of San Franciscan flavors, including some nudist street parties.
Somehow I manage to miss out on all these eccentricities when I’m visiting SF.
Take the long walk back to Union Square, knees a-killing from the extended stays in the car, and the innumerable hills, feet squashed by tight shoes.
Later, from a conversation overheard by Les Nuits de Paris, near the hostel:
“This is a respectable massage parlor.”
From the looks of it, I would have thought it to be anything but a respectable massage parlor.
“I know, I was just…”
“And you were looking for sex.”
“No, but I was told…”
“Who told you?”
“I suggest you step out of here.”
I divert my eyes, to avoid adding my insult to his injury.
Daphne calls, she may be interested in going down to LA with us: she’s had some poor experiences with carpooling coming up to SF, and thinks it’ll be more fun with us.
There are two French dudes, in their early twenties, who’ve been travelling all the way up from the southern tip of Argentina to here (advisory: expect the reverse itinerary from yours truly some day in the future…), sleeping in hostels all over South and Central America, who are shocked by the griminess of this particular hostel.
Guess that says a lot. Convene with Daphne to talk tomorrow morning to decide if we’ll leave together. Spend another night on the wobbly bunk bed.
Visit the Mission District, get some interviews in a vintage fashion store. Have some roast chicken and potatoes at a local joint.
Meet up with Redrik, and Daphne, who’ll be coming along. And off we are. To Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles.
Stop by Salinas, pay some respects to Steinbeck, and get some pictures of the museum and his childhood home.
Get to Santa Barbara in the evening. Again, we’ve managed to miss sunset while driving. College town, the main street swarms frenzily. Some drinks at a club.
As the night lingers, a girl passes out in front of the bar, another is getting groped by a stranger, her upturned skirt revealing a bare ass. Nobody seems to care.
We park near the beach. I’d like to sleep there, so would Daphne. We have two sleeping bags, I repeatedly invite her to use one, misunderstanding Redrik’s resistance. When he gets a chance:
“She can’t sleep in it.”
“Because it’s full of the *.”
“I thought it would be gone by now?”
“Well it’s back.”
Sleep on the beach, in my sleeping bag, one of the most comfortable nights so far.
Daphne weighs it out and ends up sleeping on the beach too, without a sleeping bag. Cool. The barges creek and the stars twinkle high.
It’s been nearly 9,000 miles and two months on the road. But things do turn out alright, when given time. We’re almost there.