My husband joined me in San Francisco and I was very pleased to have his company for a week of the trip. The plan was to head north from San Francisco towards Portland, Oregon and then start the journey east along the Lewis & Clark trail through the Columbia Gorge and across the Lolo Pass before heading south for a few days in Yellowstone. I had been concerned that at this junction, with much of the trip complete and our youngest almost finished with finals, I would be tempted to whiz through the Pacific Northwest and ‘book it’ back to our home in Michigan. Indeed, I’ve wrestled those impulses each day this week but so far have kept them in check.
Northern California was a vast unknown to me prior to the trip and I was eager to the drive it. After the thrilling drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, we continued through the towns and suburbs along Redwood Highway-101 towards Eureka which was to be our evening’s destination. Soon the hilly suburbs gave way to rolling hills of vineyards as we skirted the Sonoma wine country (exploring the wine country would have to be another trip). At Leggett, we followed signs to the drive-thru tree; how could we possibly resist such a claim. It was the first of several hokey mom and pop roadside attractions in the area. Others included a house in a tree, a tree chimney and several Big Foot references. While we only paid for the Chandelier Drive-Thru tree, we did take the Avenue of the Giants. This is a 31-mile scenic highway that is a Redwood wonderland. We stopped several times to see, photograph, touch, smell, and explore these wonders of nature. We were eventually turned back to the highway when we encountered rangers and firefighters dealing with a large branch (looked like a huge tree) that had blocked the Avenue. I commented several times that the woods reminded me of the ‘forest moon of Endor’ from the Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. I did not see any ewoks but did learn that George Lucas shot the scenes for the movie in the Redwood Forest.
Sometime along the drive, we decided that rather than staying in Eureka, which has seen better days, and taking 101 up towards Portland, we would alter our course so that we could take Interstate-5 and then we could go to In-N-Out Burger for dinner in Redding. This change in plans would add three extra hours of driving but would make for a much faster and easier drive to Portland the following day. It seemed a worthwhile endeavor, especially since this would be our final opportunity to go to In-N-Out Burger. Let me say, that the In-N-Out cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milkshake were worth the three hours of intense driving on a two-lane highway through mountains and alongside a raging river which had dozens upon dozens of curves and switchbacks.