Friday, October 16, 2009

A Romantic Drive Down the West Coast

When it came time to head back down to California, I asked Woodley if I could plan our trip including a few stops along the way. He agreed and I decided to keep my plans a secret (like he had kept our honeymoon plans a secret). Unfortunately I didn't start planning it until 3 days before we left, but with the help of The Best Places to Kiss in the Northwest and Northern California , I was able to put together a pretty good itinerary very quickly.

On a beautiful sunny morning we said a sad farewell to Bellingham and, with the top down on the convertible, took the scenic Chuckanut Drive down the coast before connecting with I-5.

After only a couple of hours on the road, Woodley was quite surprised when we got off the freeway in Seattle. I think he thought we were going to have lunch with Nicola and Matt (which would have been a good plan) but instead I directed him to the City Center where we stopped and... had lunch at the Seattle Space Needle!

 Although I grew up under 2 hours from Seattle, I had never actually been up in the Space Needle before. Woodley had tried to take me several times, but I was always too scared of the height and the idea of a long, cramped elevator ride. However, I finally decided that it was time and, actually, the elevator ride (less than 2 minutes long) and the height didn't bother me at all! (I was so relieved!)

I was so thrilled that it was a beautiful sunny day and we could see all over Seattle. The seating for the restaurant is right up against the windows so that everyone has an amazing view, and the entire seating area rotates very slowly so that, in a little less than an hour, you pass all the way around the building and get to see the view in all directions.

There was a fireboat practicing out in the bay, we got to see several ferries going to and fro, and there were also lots of seaplanes taking off from Lake Union and flying around the Space Needle. It made for a very exciting lunch. The food was excellent, and I was glad we went for lunch because the prices were  rather high (although not as fantastic as if we had gone for dinner, I hear).

After finishing up with lunch we hit the road again and headed down to Cosmopolis, WA where we visited and spent the night with my good friend Erin and got to meet her husband and beautiful baby boy. Erin and I had been good friends from eight grade through high school but we lost touch with each other since then. Just a couple of months ago she found me on Facebook and I am so thrilled that we have been able to visit and catch up since then. It turns out that she is also at home doing housewifely activities and taking care of her baby. It is always so fun to find out about other women who are housewives!

We had an exciting time with Erin and even got to learn to play Pinochle in the dark when the power went out! All to soon, it was time for us to continue on our trip.

Our second day on the road took us down the Oregon Coast, unfortunately it was quite foggy almost the entire day. As we cross the bridge over the Columbia River and into Oregon the fog make it look almost like we were going up into heaven.

Woodley was again surprised when I directed him away from the highway after only a couple of hours of driving. He began to wonder if we were ever going to make it back to California! :)

We wound through the cute town of Astoria and up to it's highest point where we discovered the amazing Astoria Column. It was built about 100 years ago as a tribute to Lewis and Clark and is covered with reliefs about the settling of the Astoria area.

We hear that on a clear day there is quite an amazing view from the top of the tower but we didn't get to see much of it:

Leaving Astoria, we continued down the coast on 101 until we got to Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is quite a cute little town and we had fun exploring the strip of shops and restaurants near the beach. After reviving ourselves with an excellent lunch of pizza, we hopped over to the beach and took a stroll down to the famous Haystack Rock. Thankfully the fog had cleared up a little bit by this time.

Looking north from Cannon Beach.

Looking south from Cannon Beach.

Unfortunately the tide had already come up around Haystack Rock, but we strolled out it it, avoiding jellyfish and waves as we went, and admired it from a distance.

By the time we reached the rock it was getting late and we had to run back to the car so that we could try to make it down the coast in time for our evening's dinner reservation. However, I wanted to break up our drive a bit with stops every few hours so we pulled over very briefly at a couple of other places along the Oregon coast.

The next stop was at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. My mother has plans to paint watercolor paintings of a bunch of lighthouses so I figured we could stop and take some pictures to send her. Unfortunately the fog had come up again and prevented us from getting a very clear photo of the lighthouse. :)

Can you find the lighthouse?

As we got closer, it became a bit easier to see.

Our next stop was a bit more exciting because both the sun and the fog were going down. It was a very brief stop but we got to see a beautiful bit of the coast at Devil's Churn, a place where the water rushes in and out of a narrow inlet.

The rest of that night's drive was filled with lots more beautiful scenery (which I tried to photograph through the window as we rushed along...)

We ate a delicious dinner at The Wild Rose Bistro in Bandon, OR. The food was fantastic and it is clear that they have an excellent chef. However, the management seemed to be disorganized and since it was a busy night, a bit frantic as well. The tasty dishes soon made us forget our long wait to be seated (despite our reservation and the availability of several tables) though and we would definitely return!

Although it was getting late, we continued on after dinner and finally arrived at Tu Tu Tun Lodge in Gold Beach, OR where I had arranged for us to stay the night. After a long day of driving, the tranquil hotel room was quite a welcome respite. We immediately decided to take advantage of the hot tub on our balcony and it was easy to forget the cramped car as we watched the stars and listened to the river rush by.

In the morning we had breakfast delivered to our room and had a delightful meal gazing at the lovely scenery. (If I had known that "breakfast" would consist of granola, fruit, and 2 very small pastries for the whopping price of $36 plus tax, I think I would have instead found a cute breakfast spot in town. But that was the only downside to the lovely hotel.)

Our lovely room!

Breakfast on the balcony.

Looking back towards our room from the main lodge.

Before leaving, we sat on the dock and watched the river go by.

Before long we were in California! We stopped off in Eureka for lunch and then continued on 101 until we came to the turn off for The Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue of the Giants is a 31 mile stretch of road that follows an old carriage trail next to 101 and winds through some amazing groves of towering old growth  redwood trees.

The redwood trees were amazingly huge and it was so much fun to drive right through them on the narrow road. About 15 miles down The Avenue we stopped to hike the 1/2 mile Founders Grove loop trail.

The trail is dedicated to the men who first had a vision of protecting the old growth redwoods. Their work led to the development of the Humboldt Redwood State Park through which The Avenue winds.

The "Founders Tree" was quite impressive!

Some of the trees had been hollowed out a bit by forest fires and you could even stand up right inside of the living tree!

On our way back to 101, we laughed when we saw this sign for two adjacent towns which reminded us of our friends Phil and Miranda:

We didn't stop much during the rest of our drive, but continued down the coast all day. When 101 finally headed back to connect with I-5, we instead veered off toward the start of Highway 1. It turned out to be quite windy but we enjoyed the the twists and turns of the coast road with its beautiful view.

We had another wonderful dinner along the way and ended up in Gualala, California where we stayed at The Whale Watch Inn. Our room had an amazing spiral stairway leading up to a private bathroom overlooking the water.

We had a nice view of the ocean from our room. Unfortunately it was overcast, but I imagine it would be absolutely stunning on a clear day. 

The staff at The Whale Watch Inn also delivered breakfast to our door in the morning and I was pleased to see that the breakfast, which was included in the price of the room here (as opposed to at Tu Tu Tun Lodge), was substantial and absolutely delicious!! 

We enjoyed it out on the deck while looking out over the ocean!

After checking out, we explored the grounds and discovered a charming wooden staircase leading down to a beautiful beach. (Before that, I had had no idea that you could actually get to the beach so easily from the hotel!) 

All too soon it was time to hop back in the car and complete the last leg of our journey. 

Altogether, our mini vacation down the west coast was fun and very romantic. However, next time I hope we can spend a full week or two rather than just 4 days. There is so much to see and do along the coast! 

But... I kind of have the feeling that next time we drive to Washington we might be doing the fast track up I-5. 


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