After a full day of sand in our shorts, sun on our backs, and a simple dinner we returned to the beach like nesting turtles to watch the sunset. As we stepped out onto the and we saw the unmistakable spray of a whale’s spout on the horizon not far from the shore.
We believed them to be either grey or humpback whales very close to the shore. Whales are common in this area but not usually at this time of the year. Many locals were noting how unusually close to shore they were. Some saying they could actually hear the whales song.
While the whales were spouting in the evening light we decided to hike once again up the Giant Sand Dune of Pacific City and watch the sun set from that impressive vantage.
While I retraced my steps from earlier in the day Clara and Morgayne decided to take on the steep sand-walled ascent. The views on the way were similar to those earlier in the day, but bathed in magic-hour light. As I walked through a small wooded area towards the top of the dune I encountered a deer making its way home for the evening.
As the girls reached the top we all spotted the deer again, running across the steep west facing slope off-limits as far too dangerous for us.
In the warm bath of sun-set light the girls finally let me take some pictures of them before running off to film their own set of Instagrams, and Snapchat stories to share with their friends.
As the last rays dwindled across the sky we made our way down the great dune and in for the evening. Campfires were set along the beach with families cooking late dinners, playing games, and listening to music. It was a near perfect day. But we could just make out the encroaching cloud of a front on the horizon. There was a storm coming as we lay heads down securely in our trailer for the night.
We gladly left Willits KOA by 9am and headed south on 101 towards Big Sur. We thought perhaps if we made good time we’d could stop by the Winchester House of Mystery or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. But just after getting gas in Ukaiah we took a wrong turn, headed the wrong direction, got stuck on a back road where we couldn’t turn around. So all bet for the day were off. I dropped a few dozen F-Bombs as I tried to turn us around and we ate into our early leave for the day.
One we got ourselves headed in the right direction we settled into the familiar groove of the road trip. Tawny and I ooing and awing over the beautiful landscape while Clara and Cody where heads down in an iPhone or iPad.
Tawny spotted the Francis Ford Coppola Winery out the window as we passed on 101. We missed the exit but took the next and doubled back to visit the winery, knowing we’d see some great movie memorabilia. We weren’t disappointed. A beautiful estate, ample parking for the r-pod, some very tasty wines and some iconic treasures from some of America’s greatest films such as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, as well as some of Sofia Coppola’s films. Thanks to Clara for taking the photos while I was wine tasting.
Next we headed down 101 through Oakland and San Jose (coming within a mile or two of the Adobe Headquarters. I contemplated stopping to say hello to some colleagues and introduce my family…but sabbatical is about escaping work…so I thought better of it and headed on to Gilroy where we provisioned.
We headed on to Monterey but decided not to stop so we could get to our site in Big Sur. Gilroy was 91 degrees, and when we hit Monterey and Carmel it was only 62 and foggy. We headed down the spectacular coastline, with some white-knuckle-cliff-dangling-one-lane-under-construction roads and made our way to the quaintest and cutest little riverside camping and RV park (Riverside Campsite, Big Sur) in Big Sur ever. I love this place. Friendly people, babbling brook, little store, quintessential hippie town nearby, beautiful surroundings. Amazing time. We had great appetizers with a Francis Ford Coppola Claret with a great garlic and pepper flank steak before making enough S'mores to make one sick. A day that started with F-Bombs, ended with new F-Bombs – of Fabulous Day.
I love kitsch. I love American sub-culture. I think that’s why I might love RVing (its too early to tell). The combination of roadside attractions and the RV Park experience may prove to be sociologically fascinating.
Today we left Coos Bay for a long drive. We got a late start because we were busy trying to figure out how to dump our black and grey water for the first time…and drain this stale fresh water and sanitize our tank. It wasn’t to complicated but it got us out of the gate late knowing we had an 8.5 hour drive today and wanted to stop at a few key roadside attractions: Prehistoric Gardens and the Trees of Mystery. But first we had a scenic drive down 101 and the majestic Pacific Coast.
Prehistoric Gardens. Tawny and I came here once on a drive down the coast. We wanted the kids to have a similar experience. The prices have gone up, but they’ve done well in preserving and restoring many of the dinosaurs, and even adding a few new ones. One of my favorite roadside attractions.
From there we drove into California and to the Trees of Mystery – a perennial favorite. Every time we drive down 101 we always stop here. They’ve added a few new attractions with a Sky Trail (Gondola ride) that takes you over the tree canopy. It wasn’t really worth the wait, but its nice to see them investing in this roadside attraction that dates back to the early 60s. A must see.
From the Trees of Mystery (which we finished at 4pm) we realized we still had a 4.5 hour drive on to the Willits KOA where we had made a non-refundable deposit (note to self – check the distance of the campground you reserve before you reserve it). So we drove and drove and drove and drove …and when we were within 15 miles of Willits, CA we were flagged down by a first responder. There had been an accident ahead that had closed 101 (a lumber truck had overturned) and it might be awhile before we could continue, especially because we were in a trailer and the room to get past the wreckage was small.
However, as they started to let cars through we nudge our way into the queue to a shrug and frown of a CHiP but were just able to squeeze ourselves through the wreckage and arrive at the Willits KOA just as everything was closing. Willits KOA Review: Curt. Slightly Rude. Contrived and sterile. Not sure I’d recommend or return. We’ll be heading out early tomorrow morning before the petting zoo and pool open and heading to Big Sur.
Day 2: 358 Miles
Gas: 2.5 Tanks
Fuel Economy: 11 MPG
Average Price: $4.00 a gallon in Oregon, $4.39 in CA!