Our USA/Canada/Alaska trip is two weeks away. There’s a pile of “layers” on the spare bed for packing ideas. Given our autumn is still managing to produce temps in the mid-20s, and by all accounts the northern hemisphere spring has not yet properly sprung, I’m packing cautiously.
Thought I’d detail our plans, in the hope of receiving lots of helpful suggestions for what to do . . . this trip is a first for both Bill and me.
We arrive in San Francisco about 9am on Monday 21st May, having taken off some thirteen hours prior – – – on Monday 21st May 🙂 I’ve booked an olde-worlde hotel in the Pacific Heights area which will either transpire to be charming; or noisy with bad plumbing. Fingers crossed for the former as we will be there for five nights.
Our only commitment is a morning on Alcatraz. I’ve looked at hop-on hop-off buses and there are three operators. So confusing! A trip to Sausalito is definitely in the mix, and perhaps a side trip to Muir Heads.
Meanwhile two friends will have flown in to join us, so on the Saturday morning we pick up a hire car and head for the open road – kind of like Thelma and Louise except we aren’t skinny and we don’t need to pick up Brad Pitt as we will have our own already 🙂
The good news? It’s the Memorial Day weekend. The bad news? It was tricky to get a single night’s accommodation. We head north up the Pacific Coast Highway to a seaside motel in Gualala (pronunciation TBA), via Point Reyes, Tomales Bay, Bodega, Bodega Bay, Jenner and Timber Cove. A stop to the famous scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Birds’ is a must.
Still in Northern California, we travel up the Mendocino coast and into the land of the giant redwoods. Assuming I get time to write, expect to see the quintessential tourist shot of our car being driven through a tree. As part of my ambition to mix up the hotel experiences we stay that night at a casino motel in Loleta, which may – or not – be good.
Our next leg takes us up to the small town of Bandon, where we are booked into a country inn. We’ll continue to hug the coastline, which appears to have any number of scenic stops and more redwoods. And lighthouses. I may subject my travelling companions to at least three on this day’s drive. This is also the day we cross the border into Oregon.
A shorter drive for the next day into Newport (OR) with many, many stops along the way to see the coastline, rock formations, blowhole – maybe even a seal lion colony. And a lighthouse. No wait – two lighthouses 🙂 We’ll also travel along a stretch of sand dunes. We may also come across something to do with the Coquille Indian tribe of this area. I’m excited too about our stay at Sylvia Beach Hotel. Bill and I are in the Herman Melville room and our travelling companions in the Emily Dickinson. The hotel comes complete with a resident cat. We are booked for dinner there too, which is a communal affair. We hope it will be busy so we get the chance to meet lots of other visitors.
Would you believe there is another lighthouse after we leave Newport? We’ll catch the Yaquina lighthouse on our drive up to Astoria, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps we will lunch at the Tillamook cheese factory along the way. And I imagine this is the day we will hear quite a bit about the Lewis and Clark expedition of the early 1800s. Our bed that night is our first of this trip in a B&B, a 100-year-old Victorian home.
We want to see the Spruce Goose, “the largest wooden plane ever constructed,” and it is at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in the inland town of McMinnville, so we now turn away from our Pacific Ocean adventure and back-track a little, before proceeding on to our accommodation in Milwaukie, outside of Portland. Here we will rest our weary heads for the next three nights at the second of our B&B experiences.
The Portland Rose Festival will be in full swing. We’ll be too early for the Grand Floral Parade, but perhaps we will catch the Starlight Parade on the Saturday night. Whatever transpires, we do hope to see the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. We’d also love to take a trek down the Columbia River out to the Multnomah Falls.
Meantime though, I have discovered some long-lost relatives living in this area, and we have recently been in contact – so watch this space for further developments 🙂 It’s an amazing story. In 1890 (not a mis-print) my great-grandmother lost custody of her first two children, a boy and a girl. The youngest daughter of that girl is still alive and living in Oregon!
Turning north toward Washington state, we visit the Mt St Helens volcano en route to Seattle, our destination for the next four nights. Bill and I are staying with friends, so will drop off our companions at a hotel where a fifth member of our party will have checked-in earlier in the day. We have a bunch of ideas of what to do in Seattle, but nothing booked yet. Some of us are keen on a Boeing Factory Tour which if we get in early should leave us the afternoon back in Seattle centre.
Leaving the hire car in Seattle we then turn our attention to Canada. It’ll be an early start at the Clipper terminal, to make the three hour crossing by water to Victoria BC, our home for the next four nights.
Three weeks in and we reach the end of our independent journey leg, and that might be an appropriate place to pause this story. Even though the next few weeks are part of an escorted tour, there will still be plenty of free time opportunities. So I’ll cover that itinerary in Part 2.