I finally got a day off work, so my friend and I decided to head to the coast to celebrate her birthday. After having a leisurely morning (going to pick up my swim trunks from where I work as a lifeguard, running home to grab a forgotten wallet, and finding my debit card denied when trying to fill up gas, so, you know, leisurely in a completely non-leisurely way), we finally made our way to the coast. We had stocked up on audiobooks, banana chips, and cameras (all roadtrip essentials), and took I-5 until we hit Grants Pass, where we turned southwest. To head to the coast from Ashland, there is no direct way.
Keep this map in mind, because you see that little town called Gasquet (pronounced: Gas-kee)(population: probably 17 and a few chickens)? That will be important later in the story.
The drive on 199 is stunning. It follows the Smith River for parts and the windy road offers vistas of small rocky canyons, azure water, and the occasional white water rafters who are braving the cold. Our first stop was a small waterfall that had formed as a result of the previous day’s rain.
It was strangely beautiful, and my friend got a picture of me that I rather like. We continued on, through the tunnel that is a sign that the end of the highway is near, and into the giant Redwoods, heralding the beauty of the west coast, and splitting from 199 heading north to Brookings. For those who haven’t been before, the beach just north, Harris Beach, is simply stunning. Giant behemoths of rock jut out of the coastline, a crumbling homage to the subduction of the oceanic to the continental crust. Driftwood has accrued on one side of the beach, forming a kind of disjointed bridge across a small creek that feeds into the ocean. We watched as people ran with their dogs, mothers held onto unstable toddlers, and seagulls danced across the ebbing waves. Right above the beach is a campground I have stayed at a couple times, never enough. And beside that is a nice rest area where I have also stayed when I realized either the campsite was full or I didn’t have enough cash to afford it.
It was at this beach that we were so busy taking pictures that we didn’t realize the size of some of the waves, and ended up getting our pants quite wet. The day was nice, though, and we walked back with our shoes and cameras in hand. After leaving Brookings (and awkwardly changing in the car under the cover of towels), we headed south towards Trinidad. On the way, we stopped to drive though a tree, and ended up getting to Trinidad right as the sun was setting. The wind was blowing, and the sky was melting before us. We decided to grab dinner after, at the Trinidad Eatery (world renowned by my family for their clam chowder), bought some souvenirs for the road home, and started the windy drive back to Ashland.
Somewhere along the way, my ‘check engine’ light came on in our ’98 Honda CRV. Being the car-savvy person I was, I pulled over and looked at the few things I actually know how to check: air filter, oil, tire pressure, transmission fluid, coolant, loose gas cap, etc. Everything looked fine, and a quick google search told me that I should be fine if I kept driving. So of course I did, and after about 15 miles, the engine started losing power and the front end would shake as violently as our the cheap washing machines in our apartment complex at the end of a cycle. We decided not to keep driving at this point, pulling over north of Gasquet, at the little turn off where the waterfall was that we had stopped at before. We barely had enough service to call out, as again, Gasquet is out in the relative middle of nowhere. Luckily, my parents, avid travelers themselves, had AAA auto insurance and we were able to get a midnight tow back to a hotel in Crescent City. The ride there was… awkward to say the least. Our driver looked like a good guy who had just got the call to drive on the windy road to Gasquet in the middle of the night, and we were accompanied by a small,young, sad-looking hitchhiker called “Beans” who was trying to make her way to Eugene. We dropped her off in Hioutchi, an equally small but well-lit hamlet that would allow Beans to be scene while thumbing for a ride, and the drive mumbled something like “My girlfriend probably wouldn’t like it if I brought back a 17 year old girl” and it was the sort of comment uncomfortable people make trying to make a comfortable conversation.
We spent the night in the first hotel we came to, and the hot shower and warm bed was a relief after the potential of spending the night in the cold car. Also, the weird penguin documentary that was on television didn’t hurt.
The next morning, we were picked up by a friendly driver named “Micheal” who seemed Jolly, and was kind enough to drive us all the way back to Ashland. We offered a tip, which he refused, and we were back on track with our lives. Relatively. We found out that when we had our transmission worked on at an earlier date, three screws were missing, and these eventually led to the axle pushing out the axle grease and essentially causing $500 worth of damage. That being said, the little car (whom I have named Sheila, for reasons unknown to even me) carried us all the way to the ocean vistas, and tried damn hard to get us back. Even with our day trip turning into an overnighter, the memories of the great Pacific Ocean, beach sunsets, and car troubles will no doubt make this a birthday story that will be passed on. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. It is trips like these that become stories that are told around campfires, with beers, and with laughs. I can’t wait until the next one.
Until next time, never stop adventuring.