Wild Wild West

This poison oak is healing so slowly I think we might have our next vacation right around the corner before it’s all gone. Seriously – I can barely bend my arm because my skin is tight and swollen, not to mention blister-laden. But I continue to nurse the wounds by applying calamine lotion liberally a few times each day, wrapping it in bandages, and staring at it constantly – but like watching a pot of water and willing it to boil, it doesn’t help. Slow and steady wins the race, this time.

Fortunately I have the Hubs around to help out with the things that seem really easy but are much harder when you only have one arm that works in its entirety – doing extra dish duty, cleaning up after me, fastening bra straps, etc. Good times.

But just look at him and that cute little smirk on his face. I am very lucky to have him around 360 out of 365 days of the year. The 9 that we recently spent together on the west coast will probably go down as some of my favorites. So, let’s talk about that vacation. And no worries – there’s food involved, at least a little of it! Ok, a lot.

It all started with a flight to Portland, Oregon. But let’s not forget the nice crotch shot that Hubs got in the Denver airport while waiting for our connecting flight. Nothing starts vacation like a crotch shot. However, I prefer to think of nice, green forests and beautiful blue skies like this here. Once we got into Tillamook State Park, we knew we were in for a treat on this vacay, and we’d only driven an hour.

Of course, it’s no vacation without a few culinary excursions, and to kick that off in style, we stopped by the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a quick tour, a sampling of cheese via a toasted sandwich, and shot of a supposedly dead hairstyle – the rat-tail. Only in Tillamook, folks.

Following some bird-watching, cookie-eating, and various sight-seeing, we made our way to Yachats for lodging and the freshest fish & chips on earth. Day 1 was none-too-bad.

A very zealous someone had the nerve to plan a day starting at 6 am in order to catch the sunrise at glorious Cape Perpetua, which we had all to ourselves. After complaining only a little, I decided it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. By the way, does my hair look especially orange there or what? Must be the purple… Or maybe I’m trying to distract you from thinking that I look extra sleepy… which would be true. Remember – 6 a.m.

Afterwards we checked out a lighthouse, listened to the barking of sea lions, and drove.

We drove a little more after that. Good thing we like driving so much.

The ocean views were in and out for most of the drive. But thanks to this trusty sign painted in the road, we were able to find a secluded area in a small Oregon town that had hidden away this jewel of a view:

Of course, this is a road trip, so we did have to get back to driving, and we made our way into California. It was then that we came upon the first of many forests. Redwood trees reaching far, far into the sky, clovers the size of your fist, and quiet aside from an occasional bird or shuffle of a foot, or perhaps the wind blowing through the leaves of the ferns at our feet. Look how tiny those people look!

It was here, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, that we were finally able to harness our Jedi powers, and successfully lifted many a tree blocking the civilians’ way. It’s too bad said Force couldn’t prevent poison oak, speeding tickets, or an iPhone 4 from shattering. Maybe with a little more training…

Using all those powers made us dizzy, an apparent side-effect we did not read about:

Then we cut loose: I got to touch Babe’s balls (and Hubs didn’t even mind!), and Hubs got himself a little bit crunk. Klamath folk don’t mess around with their beverages, that’s for sure.

Day 3 was touch and go. A 4-mile hike, which included a significant, treacherous hike up the same hill we’d speeded down the hour before, left us sweaty, hungry, and in need of a change of clothes. But after a granola bar, some mountain scenery, and a conversation with tipsy bikers, we made like lightening, and bolted.

And by bolted, I mean I bolted. Somewhere along the lines I was graced with the presence of California’s finest at my car-side and handed a nice thin sheet of pink yellow paper. “G’day ma’am”. What a loser. Anyway, it was nothing a burger and a banana shake couldn’t fix. Thank you, Ferndale.

[Look at Hubs, all suave.]

A burger and a shake, and one of the most beautiful areas of coastline I’ve ever seen, The Lost Coast. A-mazing. I’ll stop talking for a moment and show you a few pictures:

Needless to say, we could have stopped there and called it vacation. But instead, we continued on south through Mendocino, caught a gorgeous sunset, and made our way through winding curve after winding curve, to Healdsburg.

You’ve probably heard me say this before (and don’t judge), but is it really vacation without a little wine tasting? Of course, we just had to choose the hottest day of the year in Healdsburg (ok, maybe it’s an exaggeration, but it might not be) to rent bikes, but after a bunch of sweating (and yes, one time we even stopped and walked the bikes up the big ass hill) we met our reward(s). We finished off the day in Napa with a milkshake, a meal at Bottega (sadly, one of my chef-crushes, Michael Chiarello, was not there), and a good night’s sleep.

We awoke to another hot day and managed to keep the top down for about 45 minutes. Following a trip to the Oxbow Public Market, thanks to a recommendation by my new friend, Brenda, we headed out, breakfast and fresh fruit in hand, for more wine. You didn’t think we’d taste wine for just one day, did ya? Shame on you!

Of course, the wineries were great and all, but the highlight of the day was yet to come. Said friend, Brenda, managed to procure a French Laundry reservation for Hubs and I (!!!!), which I’ve probably thought about every day for the last two months, and needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store. Don’t worry, I kept it together.

Well, sorta…

Did I mention we also hit up Morimoto’s new digs for drinks and an appetizer? As if we needed it, but we couldn’t resist checking out the space. In short, both were just lovely. Don’t let this picture of Hubs fool you – he was annoyed at the couple next to us at FL; they’d just gotten engaged and she talked incessantly about the wedding she’d already planned. It’s gonna take place on the east coast, just so ya know…

We’d left Wednesday open, and good thing. Turns out, my new buddy has a pretty cool boyfriend who offered to show us a few of Napa’s more private wineries while she worked. We grabbed some great wine, checked out a chicken coop and some very tasty balsamic vinegar, and even got a behind the scenes glance at the fancy new Trinchero kitchen. But even more importantly, we had an awesome day hanging out with Ted, meeting their friends (also, learning about his upcoming, now past, trip to Burning Man) and learning about life in Napa. Both of them seemed like people we’d known forever, and I can’t wait to head back to visit again – thanks again, Brenda & Ted!

The rest of the day wasn’t bad, either. We ended the day in ultra-foggy San Francisco, grabbed some Bi-Rite, and made our way to Berkeley where we had one of the freshest, most down-to-earth dinners I’ve ever consumed – Chez Panisse. I doubt I’ll ever have an heirloom tomato as good as the ones I had there. We both agreed – cost, hype, and quantity aside – this was the best meal of the trip. Hands down.

It seemed like this vacation would never end, and I mean that in a totally good way. Something about driving down the country, doing our own thing, on our own schedule, was very relaxing. But after leaving SF, I realized we only had two full days left! And there was plenty left to see and do – first stop was Pescadero Point, where we checked out another lighthouse (apparently one that’s photographed often), and then we made our way on to Santa Cruz.

The boardwalk was like something out of a kids’ movie – a miniature fair on the beach, with fried twinkies, giant donuts, and a roller coaster! We couldn’t leave without a roller coaster ride and a quick walk to the ocean. Oh, and a pretzel. We are Wetzels, after all…

After tossing some money away at the Mystery Spot, we left Santa Cruz behind and headed for Monterey. If you’ve never been there, you have to check out the 17-mile drive – a gorgeous private scenic drive, lots of cypress trees and rich people, and gorgeous views.

It was a strange day – it seemed the sun only visited Santa Cruz that day, as the rest of the day was dreary and overcast. Speaking of dreary, do you like my creepy dead tree picture? I was playing with the editing features on my camera – I’m a little addicted to the “retro” button.

Anyway, we were so excited to have a “fancy hotel room” that we really just chilled out in it for most of our time there. Plus, they gave us fresh-baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies when we checked in, so we had to eat those pronto. We did make it out for a ‘just ok’ dinner on the Wharf, caught some shots of some ‘coons, and then lounged on the ultra fluffy bed and watched a little tv. Unfortunately, Hubs was unable to find ‘Bad Girls’ Club’, his new favorite show. I was ok with that.

The term “go out with a bang” is relevant here. Our final day was a day we knew’d be full of cool stuff. And aside from the seemingly homeless person  yelling at me in McDonalds and the car crash in Big Sur, it was. Our first stop was immediately south of Monterey, the Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel. The park ranger was so proud of this place, shaking his head with wonder and delight after describing each stopping point to us. Now that’s a guy who loves his job :). We don’t blame him.

The sun had peeked through the clouds when we left the park, and we made our way to Big Sur, a 90-mile drive of rugged coastline, and some of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see. I couldn’t get over the disparities between the east and west coasts of the US; having grown up on the east coast, I’m accustomed to crowded beaches, houses on stilts, and windows boarded up during hurricane season. I remember surf shops and Dairy Queens on every corner, and piers lined up and down the beaches, full of fishing poles. You don’t see that here – you see rocks, cliffs, and water. It is remarkable, to say the least.

We ran into some more of what we kept calling “lucky cows” – the ones who get to live their lives on a beach, roaming the countryside. I bet that, even if they knew they’d be slaughtered and fed to us months later, they wouldn’t mind. If you got to live here day in and day out, would you?

p.s. this is the gorgeous stop that I’m close to certain housed that poison oak bush that lovingly caressed my arm. I crept down a little ‘unmarked’ hill on the left to take some pictures. gggrrrrr.

The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park wasn’t bad either. This is the only natural waterfall that flows directly into the Pacific. I bet they’ll film an episode of The Bachelorette down there, eh? Or maybe they already have…

We thought about going to Hearst Castle, but seeing as how the indoor tours were sold out, we took it as a sign that it wasn’t worth the trip up. I mean, who needs to see a castle when you have a coastline like that? So we zoomed in to take a shot, called it a day, and drove south a bit. Oh, but we did get one last night of fine dining – Olive Garden! I couldn’t resist once I got that salad and breadsticks idea in my head, and plus, we hadn’t eaten there in 6 years. Yumtown.

To wrap up the trip, we started the morning with a food fight (long story) and cruised on into Santa Barbara.

Which, by the way, is a beautiful city. Donned with terra cotta-roofed Spanish style houses, the city is nestled between the ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains, and the downtown area is cute as can be. Had our flight not been in a few hours, I would have stayed there a little longer, but maybe one day we’ll head back, if only for the horchata that I heard was to die for.

We didn’t see any famous people in Malibu, but we did find one last stop for fresh fish and chips, where we sat to eat while gazing at the Pacific Ocean for one final time before heading into Los Angeles.

Ironically enough (or maybe Hubs planned it this way), his favorite band, Rush, just happened to get a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood not too long ago. We had just enough time to drive over, nail a $2 parking spot on Hollywood Blvd, and locate it. If The French Laundry is my candy store, then this would have been his.

And with that, friends, this trip to the Wild Wild West has come to a close. Just like last year’s trip out to Napa, I am once again in love with this place, especially after driving down some of the most breathtaking coastlines I’ve ever seen. It’s humbling, calming even, to see how pure, how untouched some areas of the world are. And while being home from vacation is certainly no walk in the park, that work we do week after week makes the days we don’t so much more special.

So special, and so so wild.

Not enough pictures for ya? There’s plenty more right here. Have at it!

Vacation Links:

Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook, OR
Luna Sea Fish House, Yachats, OR

Bear Republic Brewery, Healdsburg, CA
Ridge Winery, Healdsburg, CA
Seghesio Winery, Healdsburg, CA
Summers Winery, Calistoga, CA
Artesa Winery, Napa, CA
Deerfield Winery, Kenwood, CA
Terra Valentine Winery, St Helena, CA
The Terraces Winery, St Helena, CA

No Brand Burger Stand, Ferndale, CA
Morimoto Napa, Napa, CA
Bottega, Yountville, CA
Bouchon Bakery, Yountville, CA
The French Laundry,  Yountville, CA
Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco, CA
Chez Panisse, Berkeley, CA
Cafe Campesino, Santa Cruz, CA
Old Fisherman’s Grotto, Monterey, CA
Nepenthe, Big Sur, CA
Malibu Seafood, Malibu, CA

10 thoughts on “Wild Wild West

  1. Wonderful post, and great photography! The subject matter does help a bit though, doesn’t it? I didn’t want your post to end! I absolutely love the all-American road trip idea. We went to Maine 2 years ago and it was one of my favorite trips.

  2. Lauren says:

    sounds like a pretty perfect vacation. would you say it was better than counseling about genetics? some great places to try next time i’m out there!

  3. Kenna – thanks! I’d love to hit up the east coast and do the same thing. well, at least the top part – the southeast is an area we’ve driven all too many times!

    Lauren – well, hello! hmmm…… does anything beat genetic counseling? ha ha ha. hope all is well your way!

    John – thanks!, and definitely a jolly good time ;).

    Jenn – indeed! yeah, anytime i need to relax, i’ll just reread this post and peruse the pics. i definitely want to spend more time in Portland – will be making a long weekend trip in the future, that’s for sure!

  4. Susan says:

    Loved this post! Your new camera took great pictures. I always learn more about your happenings from your posts than talking to my son – your “hubs”!! Love you, Susan

  5. What an awesome vacation. Those are some nice places you dined at. Did you bring a copy of the FL cookbook for Keller to sign?

    We just got back from the East Coast, I think I like the West better.

  6. holy crap, this really is a dueling vacation post!! 🙂 LOVE THE PICS!!! i feel the need to schedule a west coast vacation now. but as you may have guessed, our big change is going to prevent us from doing so for… quite some time 😉

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