A journey up the Pacific coast, part two

PART TWO! Are part twos ever as good as part ones? I think not, with maybe the exception being Austin Powers:The Spy Who Shagged Me, Home Alone: Lost in New York, and hopefully this blog post. 

When I left off, Ariel and I had just waved goodbye to Sequoia, the man in the night dress who gave us shelter, sofas, and a coffee table full o' weed. (Since my last post, Sequoia has given Ariel and I a review on couchsurfing. It reads "REALLY SWEET PEEPS." I did not add the all caps; that was his choice. What a guy, man.)

Eureka to Eugene: 

Ariel and I awoke with a plan. We would leave Sequoia's house bright and early so that we'd arrive in Eugene at a somewhat decent hour and avoid the hyperventilating that had occurred the previous evening. 

The drive to Eugene was breezy. After a mere four hours, we were in the second largest city in Oregon. The minute we arrived in that state, I could sense something was different. A layer of gray had melted over the earth, covering everything in a Patagonia jacket smelling of incense, musky cologne, and marijuana. The surrounding fauna was a shade green I thought could never be found in the United States, and 70% of the buildings were painted with mushrooms. There were coffee drive-thrus and waterfalls. It was a weird fairy land, if the fairies were lumberjacks who loved macchiatos and shrooms.

Maybe it was the fact that we were finally able to shower, or maybe it was because we arrived somewhere while it was still light outside, but nothing looked as good as that Eugene hostel. We had our own room and all of the bars were in walking distance (!!!). Making use of this valuable time to get some local flavor, Ariel and I put on our “going out outfits” (AKA denim shirts, yoga pants, and high-heeled boots), and went to the paint the town red at the Pizza Research Institute. 

The Pizza Research Institute, though to my knowledge was conducting no pizza research, scored major brownie points. For one, they served their cocktails (I had sangria) in ENORMOUS goblets. There were fat pieces of fruit bobbing up and down, all of which continued to soak up the sweet, boozy nectar. Ariel and I split a salad and each got a personal pizza, both of which came topped with a mountain of different cheeses and veggies. Now, the pizza at PRI wouldn’t fall into any category that was named after a city, but it was fucking delicious. The crust had seeds in it and it was perfectly browned and chewy. The vegetables and cheeses tasted like Greg-the-Waiter had grown them in his back pocket. It wasn’t anything you’d see in any trendy NY/LA restaurant, but it was doughy and cheesey and vegetable-y and everything I wanted to put into my mouth. Aforementioned boozy fruit was the perfect dessert. 

After dinner, Ariel and I moseyed across the street to dive bar with to check out a local Americana band. We began with a glass of wine and a shot of whiskey, and then proceeded to make our way onto the dance floor and rolls our heads with some Eugene-locals. 

The next bar is where things get a bit foggy. It was half arcade, which despite my living in a metropolis, I had never been to before. (Barcades, is what I think the kids are calling them?) Regardless, the whole thing is a bit fuzzy.  I did wake up with a piece of pizza in my purse and an email from an old man named Bill, saying that he enjoyed our conversation regarding the Oregon County Fair. Based on those clues, it sounds like it was a pretty lovely evening. 

Eugene to Astoria:

The next day began with only a slight hangover, some kombucha, and more sunlight than I believed to be possible in central Oregon. This was perfect, considering that Ariel and I had set aside this afternoon to be the one that we ventured into Ashland’s hot springs. For those who may not know, hot springs are basically Mother Nature’s way of telling us that, regardless of how old we get, she wants us to take off our clothes and play in the water. 

Your only form of payment is bravery - hot springs are popular. And in a place like Oregon, where no one seems to work real jobs, the place can get several visitors on a Tuesday afternoon. We arrived around 11am, and there were already a handful of folks skipping naked through the greenery, frolicking like small European children on the beach. 

The last time I was naked in public was my senior year of college when I did a  lap around my friend’s house wearing nothing but a pair of Nike’s and a friendship bracelet. (I’m not one for showing off Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, and the Cheshire Cat, but….when in Rome.) Ariel and I both through caution (and our underthings) to the wind, and climbed in among a small cluster of Oregon's finest.  

Floating in the hot springs was similar to what I can imagine it feels like to be a mythological creature. At any moment, I half-expected Zeus to parade in disguised as a horse, or witness Vertumnus attempt to woo the spritely Pomona. It barely felt real. Oregon is truly a rainforest, with thick layers of moss painting every tree branch and life inching its way out of every surface. 

I didn’t want to put on my clothes and stop running my fingers over the smooth, wet stones. I wanted to be naked forever, like Tommy Pickles in this episode of Rugrats.  (Also, mental note to add "Naked Forever" to the list of novels I'd eventually like to write.) When the time came for our departure, Ariel and I pulled on our clothes and repacked the car to head up to Astoria.

The drive was quick, and we arrived at our hostel with just enough time to finish a bottle of wine and find a seafood restaurant. But the scariest part of Astoria was the journey down the boardwalk. It wasn't really dangerous, but halfway to dinner we heard the most terrifying wails and wimpers. It turned out to be the sounds of elephant seal mating calls, which upon learning, ended up serving as a nice soundtrack to our oysters and chicken sandwiches. 

Astoria to Bainbridge Island: 

Astoria is located on the Washington coastline, only a stone’s through away from some infamous Goonies moments. It’s also the last leg of Lewis and Clark’s cross-country trek, and they really couldn’t have found a worse spot to end up. Don’t get me wrong; Astoria is breathtaking and worth a visit, but that’s only when you have a bed, an umbrella, and at least some form of shelter. It’s right on the water, and in January this means it’s going to get cold, windy, and foggy. The 101 took us across a ginormous bridge, and it looked as if we were heading straight into purgatory. The nearby landmarks were labeled “Dismal Point” and “Cape Disappointment.” Oof. Rough days, Lewis and Clark. 

We waved goodbye to the coastline, migrating towards Ariel’s uncle’s place on Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge doesn't feel real. In the middle of winter, it’s foggy and green, brimming with a gray mist that seems to billow in from every direction. It’s the kind of place one would envision roaming if they were suddenly orphaned and decided to live life in the style of the Boxcar Children. Had it not been raining and dangerous, I’d have wanted to kick off my shoes and muddle through the dirt, looking for storybook berry patches and rabbit holes. 

But Ariel and I had an agenda. We had to be leaving Bainbridge (by ferry) by FIVE so that we could get to Bainbridge by SIX so that I could get to a meeting by SEVEN (despite the carefree nature of this trip, I had not stopped working. Gas money, to my dismay, does not grow on trees.) By this time, the rain was pounding, making our first drive through Seattle more stressful than romantic. Cars were honking. I was apologizing. It was so scary that at one point, Ariel looked at me and said, “Should we fire drill this?” And then we switched spots in the middle of the intersection.

Luckily, break time came for the weary travelers. While I was in my meeting, Ariel went in search of a bar. Her journey was most fruitful, because when I went to meet up with her, I discovered that she had picked one of the fanciest joints in that part of Seattle. And had somehow scored us glass after glass of free champagne. I keep her around for a reason. 

We sat in the corner, shamelessly flirting with the bartenders all while hoping that our luck would not run out. In an attempt to look really fancy, we ordered a plate of oysters, and then proceeded to write haikus on napkins. (The Fitzgeralds would have been so proud!)

The feeling of our arrival that evening was bittersweet. It was wonderful to settle in the Bainbridge house that evening, stripping down into our birthday suits and pretending to be mermaids in the middle of some mossy lagoon. But I couldn't help but feel as though we were living in a fantasy. This is typical of travel, I've learned. It's like living in a bubble; one where you get to spend your days in cars and your evenings in hottubs. 

I began to wonder if these feelings of diving into the unknown were the high from vacation, or if they could indeed by be my reality. Is a life on the road something I could build, or even something I wanted? Where is the line between work and adventure? Could they be combined? And if so, how?

The answer still hasn't made itself clear, but when it does, you'll be the first to know. 

- Stay cozy