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Observations from the road: The “On the Edge” edition

Claire with a California Redwood

At times, Wednesday’s ride seemed as long as a California redwood is tall.

Claire and I were on Day 13 of the Not All Who Wander Are Lost tour (a.k.a., the “length of the country” portion), and perhaps it had to do with it being the 13th day, but there were some weird things happening along the way.  We left Portland, Oregon at 8:30 a.m. and didn’t arrive in Eureka, California until around 6:30 p.m. for what was supposed to be a 7 hour trip.  (Darn those Google maps algorithms.)  The portions on the “straight and narrow” path of I-5 could give a guy and his daughter the blues.  Rest areas that we really needed were closing up due to “bear activity.” Ah, but those crooked roads through the mountains, the redwoods, and along the beautiful California coast…now that’s when we felt we were alive and on the edge of the world.

We had to take I-5 down to Grants Pass.  The Oregon landscape is changing and beautiful through this part of the country,  but the drive on the interstate is still somewhat mind numbing. However, at Grants Pass, one gets on Highway 199 for a harrowing and curvy drive through the mountains that makes the Going to the Sun road in Glacier seem tame in comparison.  Then we switched over to Highway 101 to go through the redwood forests and along the northern California coast.

That was magical.

So after an evening dinner of scallops  (Claire) and grilled halibut (me) at the Cafe Waterfront, I sat down in our room in the historic Eureka Inn to begin to pull together thoughts from the day…only to fall asleep about 30 minutes later. So this is a Thursday morning post of a new group of Observations From the Road – this time the “On the Edge” edition.

Grants Pass to Eureka

The straight and narrow can give you the blues – I don’t know if it was the interstate, the rain that stayed with us much of the morning, or events outside the car, but Claire and I were both pretty quiet on the drive to Grants Pass.  I happened to notice that a number of tunes came up on our various playlists that had to do with the theme of leaving or having the blues, including The Band Perry’s hit Chainsaw (another of those country songs dealing with tattoo-like hearts), Dolly Parton’s I’m Gone (a silly tune that just makes me laugh), some Ray Charles and Eric Clapton, and even David Bromberg’s crazy I’ll Take You Back (“when rattlesnakes have knees, and money grows on trees…”). Now there’s an eclectic collection of tunes for you!  We did talk about depression in connection with Robin Williams’ death, and Claire helped me understand more about this illness. But I was glad to get to Grants Pass and get off the interstate.

It's the Climate Sign in Grants Pass
Sidewalk Sign in Grants Pass

Grants Pass has a way with signs – As we pulled into the historic Main Street of Grants Pass, Oregon, we were greeted with the “It’s the Climate” sign across the road. This is a throwback to signs that used to be located across the street back in the day.  There were also a number of creative store signs (see above for a local wine bar), and there is a great one I didn’t catch as you leave town to head into the National Redwood Forest. The signs in Grants Pass helped lift our spirits (and no, we didn’t even have a beer at lunch today).

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the demise of the rectangular hay bale have been greatly exaggerated – I wrote in the Jeez, Montana is a Big State edition of Observations From the Road that the round hay bales had won the hay bale war.  Well, I just hadn’t been to Oregon yet, where there were miles and miles of road with farms that still use the good, old-fashioned rectangular hay bales. I did notice that many were being stored in barns (and most barns are still rectangular or square, not round).  And I also noticed that Oregon is one of only two states (New Jersey is the other) that still provides full service at the gas pump. Now, I’m not suggesting they are holding on to the past or anything…just saying…

California Elk

When they say “Watch out for elk crossing the road” they mean it – Several times along the road yesterday, we saw “Elk crossing” signs.  Yeah, right.  Well, at one point we drove by a whole field of elk, and I slammed on the brakes so Claire could jump out and try and get a picture.  It was tough, though, because the trees along the road were pretty full. She was unable capture a good picture of the ones with the big antlers (although she did report back on the smell…enough said).  However, while I was pulled over on the side of the road and she was 50-75 steps behind me taking pictures, what walks out of the woods on the other side of the road but a single elk.  Now, we had seen signs in the park saying “Stay away from the elk” so I yell to Claire, who doesn’t hear me, of course.  Luckily, this lonely elk, separated from the rest, was just taking an easy stroll.  Claire finally returns to the car…and then she wants to go around and get in for a closer shot!  Jeez…does she want to give her father a heart attack! Nonetheless, we got our elk shot and Claire managed to get back to the car safely.

California Coast

The reports of the beauty of the California coastline along the coastal highway are not exaggerated – Even with fog rolling in at inopportune moments, the coastline in this part of the country is pretty stunning.  Claire was able to capture this picture, but there were many places where we could see but the cloud cover made it difficult to get a decent shot.  You’ll just have to believe us!

So, on our 13th day of travel we felt we were “on the edge” in several ways. Our morning was spent a bit on the edge emotionally. Then we felt we were on the edge of the road, ready to tumble down at any moment, along Highway 199. Finally, the California coastline can give you the “edge of the world” sense. So when Lady Gaga’s On the Edge of Glory popped up on Claire’s playlist, I said to myself, “That’s today’s tune!” (And yes, I may be trying to reach a younger demographic than my normal readers with the Lady Gaga reference…this is especially for Andrew and Jason). Claire’s version was the full-band extravaganza, but I found two beautiful piano-only versions on video which take the song down to its essence (and also show what a wonderful singer Gaga is). She says that she wrote this with her grandfather in mind and talks about how we need to live our lives on the edge.  That seemed to be a perfect fit for yesterday’s ride.  Enjoy.

More to come…


1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Observations From the Road (The “Thankfulness” Edition) | More to Come...

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