Apologies everyone for the lack of updates lately. *Spoiler Alert* We have made it back to Portland and our time has been consumed by family and friends, as well as job hunting and figuring out what to do with the bus.
Where we left off, we had been in San Francisco for several days enjoying some great friends and an amazing city. After we said our goodbyes we climbed back aboard our trusty Bird and continued our trek north. We stopped to visit some family outside Redding for a few days, and had a great time exploring some back roads in the mountains. The bus does surprisingly well on rough gravel roads. There is something to be said for the robust build quality of an old Blue Bird school bus. Lindsey and I talked it over and decided that we would have much more fun following the coast up to Oregon, rather than taking I5 straight through the middle. We didn’t want to trip to end, so extending it by an extra 2-3 days was a welcome idea.
Leaving Redding we headed west on highway 299, winding our way up and down through the mountains. It was hot out but we were really enjoying the drive, these were some of the greatest driving roads I have been on for a while. The closer we got to the coast and the further we got into the forest the more it cooled down. We marveled at the beautiful scenery going by, and even though I had to really hustle the bus along the curvy road we were really enjoying the drive. Little did I know what waited ahead would make me regret that statement later. We passed a few hitchhikers along the highway, but they always seemed to be waiting along the guardrails next to a steep drop off where there was no room to pull over, so we continued along without extra passengers.
Pretty soon we were turned off 299 at Douglas City and headed down highway 3 south. The road got a little narrower but it wasn’t enough to cause alarm. We were really enjoying ourselves now, cruising through some beautiful forests and along some small rivers. It was so nice to be out of arid Southern California and see so much greenery and water flowing. Eventually we turned onto highway 36 and made for the coast. This is where things got interesting, as the road narrowed so much that most of it didn’t have a yellow center line. We snaked our way around the mountain for miles, trying not to look over the side at the steep drops. Crossing our fingers at every switchback, hoping there wasn’t another vehicle coming from the other direction, as we needed most of the road just to negotiate the turn. Fortunately we managed to squeeze by all the oncoming traffic and eventually made it out onto the foothills where the road opened up again. By the time we got to the bottom I was a sweaty mess. This was definitely one of the most harrowing roads we have been on so far.
Meeting up with highway 101 again we headed to Fortuna, where we planned to spend the night. A few days earlier Lindsey had found the Eel River Brewing Company online, and learned that they allow overnight RV camping, which we eagerly took them up on. We found the brewery and parked in their large gravel back lot, which was perfect for the bus. It was so nice to relax with some cold fresh beer after such an intense day of driving.
Spending a peaceful night in the bus we got up early and hit the road. We stopped at a state beach just north of Eureka and made some breakfast, then walked down to the water and enjoyed the cold sand on our bare feet. Driving along the coast through the chilly early morning fog made me nostalgic for the days I spent with my grandparents at the beach when I was growing up. The smell of the ocean rolling in the open window just added to the experience.
We continued our drive north, stopping at a few overlooks to watch the mighty Pacific crash against the rocks. Pretty soon we found a scenic byway that led us through the Redwoods National Park, where we were awe struck by the size and beauty of the old trees. Parking the bus at the base of some of these trees we marveled at their immense size, making us feel so tiny and unimportant. I can see how the Redwoods hold such a sacred place in many peoples minds and hearts, and I can’t wait to go back and spend some more time camping and exploring around the park.
As we drove north toward Crescent City a new reality hit us: it was only a few more miles until we crossed into Oregon, and a couple more days until we were back home in Portland. This brought feelings of elation at being back home after a year and a half, and also sadness, for the New Oregon Trail was coming to an end. It was hard to be too sad though, as it was a gorgeous August day to be driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, with the water so blue and the forests so green. It sure feels nice to be back on the West Coast.