top of page

Pacific Coast Road Trip, Pt. 1 — There and Back Again

In what seems like — okay, actually WAS — a multiple-year excursion, I have finally made the transition from California Girl to full time resident of the Pacific Northwest.


It’s a place where I’ve long dreamed to live, though I never imagined the twisty course that would bring me here.

This 900 mile leap was more than just a physical packing-up-of-boxes and hanging over my head a different roof, which belongs to the sweet man who’s welcomed me into his life. I’d been in Los Angeles for almost 30 years, and crammed a few careers, 11 homes, a 20 year marriage and one widowhood into that time. It was not a transition that would happen lightly or quickly.


Valley lights


I wanted to integrate myself seamlessly into my new home, so there would just one day be a sense of cozy domesticity, rather than his wondering where all the hangers went or where all those shoes came from. So instead of hiring a mover and arriving with a garage-ful of boxes, I decided on the sneak attack. I packed up my car with the essentials (computer, champagne, chocolate, books) and made a few little road trips north.


Oysterville light


Ten trips and 12 months later, I finally transported the rest of my “essentials” (more books, The Cuisinart, everythinginmypantry), and have a new respect for movers.

But I also have a new appreciation for the country between my old and new homes — Northern California’s canopies of ancient trees, the sea stacks and and epic cloudscapes of the Oregon coast, the bridges stringing together coastal villages, the beacons lighting the way home.

Yaquina Head Light, Oregon

Yaquina Head Light, Oregon


There’s nothing more tantalizing than a road trip. It’s an excuse to get behind the wheel and propel yourself towards certain serendipity — not as oxymoronic as it sounds.

What other mode of travel lets you take that overlooked fork in the highway, fueling you with a sense of anticipation at what you might find down the road — be it a ghost town, secret waterfall or Buddhist monastery?

Burney Creek -- lots of water

Burney Creek — lots of water

Shasta Lake -- not as much

Shasta Lake — not as much


But, more than that, the tick of the odometer gives you the time and space to pull the focus away from your own life, leaving you to wonder about the journeys of others.

What led people to these places? What made them stay, or leave? Which all leads back to your own inner questions, and the answers that come while cruising along the cliffs of California’s Highway 1, or venturing off the Interstate.

Mt. Shasta in fall

Mt. Shasta in fall


I’ve now made the drive back and forth in all four seasons, beginning in the winter of 2013 after celebrating Christmas in L.A.

My first waypoint north, and last south, is always San Jose, to impose on (and spend time with) my oldest brother, recently retired from IBM and long a denizen of that other Valley.


With its “

Christmas in the Park” festival, San Jose was dressed up for the holidays. A martini from Original Joe’s, an old-school Italian steakhouse in the historic downtown, made it even more twinkly.


It was a festive sendoff to territory unknown — the vast and gorgeous wildernesses of northern California and southern Oregon — before making landfall in the light of Oysterville.


A month later, my dear friend Lynne flew into a freezing Portland to be my co-pilot on my return trip south.

After less than 24 hours in that groovy small city, (to which I now return often, leaving a trail of donut crumbs and sticky coasters), we zipped down the I-5 and across the 30 West towards Newport, my new favorite town on the Oregon coast. It has a small but wonderful Aquarium, one fake and one real lighthouse, and perhaps more notably, two Rogue Ales Brew Pubs.

This beacon beckons....

This beacon beckons….


…but this one’s for realz.


We dragged ourselves away from the Yaquina Head Lighthouse hours later, cruising in afternoon winter light down the Oregon coastline, which is always spoken about in hushed tones as being so beautiful. And now I speak of it in hushed tones — it is that beautiful.

Oregon Coast

We arrived too late in the day to explore the Oregon Dunes, but in time for a spectacular sunset.


HDR but no filters – the sky was actually THOSE COLORS.


We drove on into the night, stopping now and then to “stretch our legs,” take in the the crystalline coastal air and marvel at the sequined sky.

Our destination was Crescent City, CA, the most tsunami-unfriendly location on the west coast, which we used as a launch pad for a day in the California Redwoods (more to come on the Redwoods in a future post).

Jedediah Smith State Park

Lynne trying to fit 'em in her camera

Lynne trying to fit ’em in her camera

Welcome amenity!

Welcome amenity!

After too brief an excursion amongst the trees that so inspired John Muir, we continued south through the famed Humboldt fog to just past Garberville, where we were greeted in our room in the Benbow Historic Inn by a welcome carafe of sherry.


The next day, after a dinner stopover in San Jose, we overnighted at the home of friends in Paso Robles. It was my first time in the “pass of the oaks,” the  California wine country that is making a push to overtake that one further north.

Our hosts are serious oenophiles, and treated us to tastings at several of their favorite wineries, including Pomar Junction and Tobin James Cellars.



At Tobin James’ tasting room, we sipped rose´s and nibbled some complimentary gourmet tasties at an 1860 mahogany bar which once hosted more infamous James’ — Jesse and brother Frank — and bears a bullet hole as a badge of testament to its less genteel history.


The fine end to our excursion south was a late lunch in Pismo Beach, a favorite central coast town.


After the frigid temperatures of Oregon and northern California, we were tempted to linger, but LA was calling and I needed to get loaded and locked for my next journey home.

Welcome home, sugar.

Welcome home, sugar.


Well over a year has passed since I began my transition to my new home.

Perhaps it took longer than I (and probably my boyfriend, friends and family) expected, but it took as long as it needed.

So often we are tempted to get somewhere as fast as possible, but what might you miss if you rush past? It might be a road you never thought of taking…


…a new friend…


…or the sign that welcomes you home.




N E V E R  M I S S  A  P O S T

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page