Trip Start Jan 12, 2007
Trip End Nov 19, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, January 26, 2007

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January 19, 2007

The yurt cabins in South Beach State Park on Oregon's famed coast were advertised as being heated. They were anything but.

We hunkered down in one the second night of our trip, somehow managing to survive the sub-zero temperatures.

It soon became apparent, however, that we were not the only objects that had froze over night.

Just after we pulled out the state park, a few kilometres south of Newport, the van's stick shift froze. It was only the third day of the road trip and were off to an inauspicious start.

The first two garages we had the van towed to didn't have a clue about working on a VW van.

The mechanic at the third garage winced as he gave us the diagnosis: we needed a new transmission and clutch, it would take five days for the parts to be shipped and installed, and none of it would come cheap.

Newport is not the jewel of the Oregon coast. Busy Highway 101 - lined with big box stores, fast food restaurants and car dealerships - is its main street. To make matters worse, the Pacific Northwest was being ravaged by a record cold spell.

The only saving grace was that it is still possible to find "motor inn" motels next to the highway for $30 per night.

The decently appointed and conveniently located Newport Motor Inn motel came with a TV and a microwave, allowing us to dull the pain by drinking Widmer hefeweizen and watching 10 hours back-to-back-to-back of "Top Chef" episodes (we are devasted that Sam didn't make it to the final two);

The fact that Adrienne called 911 the second night to report a domestic dispute in the room above us should be overlooked. Days were spent at McDonalds, Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart. I liked McDonalds the best as they offer free small coffees between 6 and 8 am.

Before leaving home, we had managed to put $25,000 in our war chest to fund the trip.

But by the time we pulled out of Newport five days later, our wallets were $3,000 lighter and I was worried that our year-long adventure would in fact turn out be three months heading down the Baja and back up again.

At least we had declined the offer of having a big good-bye party.

- - -

January 20, 2007

The woman pouring vino at Hanna Winery & Vineyard in Sonoma had driven down the Baja a handful of times and we were as eager to gulp down her stories as we were her red wine.

The sun had finally greeted us when we crossed from Oregon into California but we had still been forced to tough out another freezing night of camping at Dean Creek Resort in Redway, California.

Redway, we were later told, is known for pot growers and low-flying police helicopters.

By the time we reached downtown Sonoma, the weather was a balmy 18 degrees and the town square was swollen with families out for a stroll. We could smell fresh cut grass and meat grilling on the barbeques.

Our stop at Hanna Winery & Vineyard was followed by a second stop at Ravenswood and a third at Cline Cellers and by end of the day, our spirits had lifted and the glow had retuned to our faces, if not our view of the trip.

We concluded that would be able recover from the "Newport Experience" after all.

- - -

January 21, 2007

We spent an early morning on a low bluff watching transfixed as hundreds and hundreds of elephant seals jostled and tusseled, snorted and bellowed, primped and preened on the Piedras Blancas Rookery.

The Rookery is near San Simeon, not far from the start of the long driveway into Hearst Castle.

According to the Friends of the Elephant Seal website, up to 15,000 of the seals occupy these tiny strips of beach twice each year, coming out of the water in the summer to molt and then again in the winter to give birth and rest.

We had cut out to the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) at Monterey the day before our elephant seal encounter so that we could meander on the 17 Mile Drive through historic Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest.

The Pacific Coast Highway, which snakes high around central California's jagged coastline, is one of the most spectucular, but also exhausting, stretches of the road anywhere in North America.

As late afternoon turned to evening, it became clear that we would not be able to reach Los Osos, our destination, until after dark.

The decision to stop at the scenically located Mill Creek Campsite - just off the highway, about 100 miles south of Carmel and 80 miles north of Los Osis - turned out to be the right one if for no other reason than we had one of the most spectacular sunsets we were to witness in the entire trip.
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Brian on

This looks like one great vacation, but every vacation in Santa Barbara is always so enjoyable. Did you guys camp? Thats awesome! I've always wanted to do that at El Cap but I never find the opportunity to do so! Soon though! This is just more motivation to get out there and get it done. I always seem to stay at the South Coast Inn ( near UCSB. Great place to stay and so nice!

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