Special Note: It’s all Honey’s fault this has taken so long. 🙂
Like I said before, we made it to Las Vegas in one piece. There was no snow or fog to slow us down but instead of 17 hours it took 3 days.
We retrieved our boat Monday – the guy keeping it for me never called to find out if I’d taken it or it was stolen, and I haven’t heard from him since – and devised a method to lower the totes from the third floor balcony on an anchor rope instead of walking the stairs repeatedly. It upset the neighbors a little, but we parked the boat in the handicapped space (closest to our apartment) and parked the Rover in front of it. They probably didn’t appreciate us throwing the leaky air mattress off the balcony either; it made a sound like cannon when it landed and probably woke everyone up. We waited until 5:30am for that. I smiled all the way to the dumpster. That horrible thing will never torture us again!!
We rolled out for the coast at 6am. Our ever-changing itinerary still wasn’t finalized; we just played it by ear the whole way. It felt good to get on the road and just leave it all behind, heading for a new adventure; even though it was towards a place I’ve known all my life. Two hours later we arrived at the coast in a little town called Cannon Beach. We parked in a dead-end road with stairs leading down to the sand. It was amazingly beautiful and I think we stayed all of 10 minutes. It was so freaking cold with the wind coming in from the sea even Honey couldn’t stay out in it. He took pictures and dashed for the car. When he’ll admit its cold – it’s pretty damn cold. I drove on and eventually stopped somewhere for breakfast at Denny’s. I attempted to blog along the way and even wrote a journal entry from the breakfast table, but it didn’t flow and I couldn’t keep up and enjoy myself at the same time. That Denny’s was the nicest one I’ve ever been to: sparkling clean (including the bathrooms), brand new modern interior, classic black and white photographs on the walls, and all the staff said “Ma’am” and “Sir”. It’s a shame I can’t remember exactly where I was at the time.
We passed through several small towns, some perched almost directly on the beach, and others close but far enough away to take advantage of the climate for farming. There were a lot of farms. Once we got near Tillamook there were dairy cow farms for miles. The factory for Tillamook Cheese is visible from the highway; we did the “we are not worthy” bow in passing. You can’t get it down here, but Tillamook also makes yogurt and some fine ice cream (there’s your useless factoid for the day). It is beautiful country to drive through and a nice change from the flat desert I’m used to. I think by then I’d skidded off the road about six times so Honey could jump out and take pictures. Newport found us at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, one of the places we’d planned to stop. It was nice but also a little disappointing. There were a lot of rockfish, a few sharks, a lot of birds that all looked the same to me, some awesome jelly fish, seahorses, and a red octopus I could have stared at for the rest of my life. Simply mesmerizing. I touched some starfish and an anemone, which gave me the willies. They’re a little sticky and rubbery and I expected it to sting but it didn’t. I bought a cup of coffee on the way out and we tried to contact our generous host, who would not be receiving us that night because it was 2:30pm in the afternoon and there was no way we’d make Reno. We headed for Winston where the Wildlife Safari is and figured we’d drive till we were tired and then camp in the car at a rest stop. We never did find the rest stop; the sign for Winston appeared before we found one. Luckily we found an RV park practically across the street from the safari entrance and the manager was still awake and cut us a deal. I was asleep about 3 minutes after snuggling into my blanket. We didn’t realize until the following morning, but we’d turned a 5-hour drive into a 14-hour day.
The following morning also revealed to me a badly swollen right ankle. Good thing the safari is a drive thru because I was hobbling like an old lady. We topped off the gas tank and tried a local diner for breakfast. Carri’s Diner is one of those tiny buildings where it doesn’t look like a kitchen and dining room would even fit and the parking lot is always packed. We ordered biscuits and gravy, thinking we’d get a little side plate like you do back home with a lonely biscuit cut in half. What arrived instead was a breakfast platter with 4 biscuit halves and enough gravy to sink a small boat; one plate for each of us. It now occupies the top spot of my ‘best biscuits and gravy’ list. All homemade, fluffy biscuits, sausage gravy, and enough of it to satisfy even me. We took leftovers; it was still awesome cold the following day.
The Wildlife Safari is home to one of the few, if not the only, captive cheetah breeding programs in the US. It’s a good half mile drive away from the highway and has paw prints painted on the road for you to follow. There was practically no one there when we arrived besides staff. After dropping the boat in the parking lot, we proceeded into the animal habitats at a crawl slower than the required 10 mph with many stops for pictures. The first section was for the animals of the African plains; there were giraffes, rhinoceroses, zebra, and several other four-legged critters I didn’t immediately recognize living together in a huge open field. Unfortunately, the rhino where all the way at the back sleeping against the fence. I was excited by the prospect of sharing the road with them, but it was apparently too early. The hippo was a no-show – yeah, they let you drive thru the hippo enclosure – we looked hard but didn’t see any bubbles or waggling ears. The bison were very accommodating, probably because their feed troughs were right by the roadside and it was breakfast time. Honey mentioned these didn’t have the heavy musk scent like the wild ones in Yellowstone National Park. They were also completely
unconcerned by our presence. The bear section kinda bummed me out. We’ve been to Bear Country in South Dakota and there you literally drive thru where the bears live. We had one that was half blind bump down one side of the car. Here, however, the bears are kept away from the road by electric fences, and you’re not supposed to stop because their curiosity will get them shocked. We circled the loop twice and moved on. A huge two-humped camel walked right in front of the car with an “I’m more important than you” expression. Later on we got a good look at a female Siberian tiger named Leah. The cheetahs were beautiful, at least what of them you could see. They stayed far from the fences closest to the road and blended away into the grass. I think it took us two hours to get back to the parking lot. Took a bathroom break and discovered there were more animals and a petting zoo around the gift shop. There were some very twitchy little monkeys, a piebald deer that couldn’t be released due to leg problems, a goat that smiled at me, and a lone cheetah who also lounged at the back of the enclosure. We saw the lions from here (apparently we missed them on the drive), a sleeping porcupine, and heard without actually witnessing the lemur equivalent of the pimp hand being put down. They live on an island
surrounded by a mote (I guess they can’t swim). I saw one right before he walked into the house and them all hell broke loose, screaming and screeching bloody murder like I’ve never heard (and probably you either). We bought a pin to decorate the headliner of the Rover (our new tradition), avoided the “poo candy”, and hit the road to Reno. We wanted to see Crater Lake, but the back entrance I took nearly got us plowed into a snow bank. The snow plough had cleared the road for about 300 feet and then just stopped, leaving an 8 foot high wall of snow that didn’t immediately register for what it was. I managed to get from 55 mph to stop with 5 or 6 feet to spare. The only other entrance was several hours out of the way, so we just put it on the list of things to see on the ‘Big Trip’, as we’ve come to call it. We didn’t make it to Reno until 11pm. By then both my ankles and feet looked like balloon people and I was glad not to sleep in the car.
Thursday morning we slept in. Our hosts made us breakfast and we took our time catching up on the last 8 years. We’d planned to see Bodie ghost town, Mono Lake, and Death Valley…
I’m exhausted. More in a minute…