The West Coast

Trip Start May 09, 2011
Trip End Jan 13, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 July
Passing through South Bend at the start of our epic coastal journey we noticed mounds and mounds of shells outside the many Oyester Bars we passed.

We stayed at Cape Disappointment so called because of all the ships that grounded and sank trying to cross the mouth of the Columbia River.  One of the ships carrying the first lighthouse materials even sank!

6 July
Stopped at the beach to see the spit built by the US Army Corp to solve the ship wreck problem.  It was pretty impressive to learn that it took them 30 years to build a two mile stretch of rocks into the river to increase the flow and flush out the sand bars; what were they playing at? 

Crossing the bridge at Astoria we saw gulls hovering in the thermal at the edge of the road.

We went to see the 1906 wreck of the British four mast ship the Peter Iredale. 

At Battery Russell the only place in mainland America fired upon by the Japanese during the war we met a woman who swore blind she saw a ghost while taking a picture of one of the dark rooms beneath the battery.  Sure enough there was something very spooky on the image in her camera.  We didn't hang around for long!

We stopped at Tillamook cheese and bought the biggest icecream in the world!

Look no hands - I had to remind Craig to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel whilst driving around a bend at speed.  He keeps driving with his knees!!!!

8 July
we has stayed at Sunset Beach the night before and boy did it deserve it's name (see the photo's).  Whilst trying to find a nearby trail (which we failed to do) we were crashing around in the woods at dusk only afterwards remembering the bear factor!

We visited Shoreacres, the gardens which were once part of an impressive house built by Louis J Simpson, Lumberman and Shipbuilder.  Unfortunately the house burnt down and rebuilding stopped due the great depression.  The building was demolished by the state of Oregon but they did at least resurrect the gardens.  We stopped at Simpsons Reef to see Elephant Seals and Stellar Sealions and one Harbour Seal posing alone on his own rock.  The helpful Marine Biologist hanging about there told us we should see whales at North Cove which we did.  We saw a mother and her calf feeding just off the shore.  Apparently after calving off Baja, California in winter the whales normally migrate to their feeding grounds in Alaska but to do this they must run the gauntlet of killer whales hanging around the Oregon Coast.  I guess this mother decided to take her time and stay close to the shore instead.  They were shallow feeding so we only saw a tail a couple of times as they mostly re-surfaced only breaking the water with their backs.

We stopped at Port Orford for fish and chips and clam strips.

9 July
Last night we stayed at the best camp site so far, Mill Creek in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.  Each individual campsite was surrounded by tall trees, some in their own little dell and others up steps in the embankment.  We met a lovely couple from near San Francisco who gave us loads of information about that city as well as information on China which they had visited several times.

On our journey we pull over at a river which had a sign saying Whale Watch.  Turns out it was another Grey Whale mother and calf but this time taking shelter in the Klamath river mouth.  They were being monitor by rangers but appeared to in good health.  I was able to scrabble down the embankment and sat in a tree for about half an hour listening to the whales coming up for air and occassionally sighting the pair as they passed close to the tree.

10 July
Travelled from Eureka to Ferndale, the most georgous town on our travels.  All victoria buildings spendily painted.  We got chatting to a shop assistant, Hollie, who asked us where we were from.  When we said England the conversation turned to their Royal Highnesses recent visit to California whereupon Hollie said she like Kate Middleton because of her natural look and the fact that she didn't have fake boobies.  We laughed and said we were relying on Harry to marry someone with fake boobies.

Just outside of Ferndale we took the forgotten coast road.  No wonder its forgotton - they forgot to tarmac it all.  Intermittently it would run from tarmac to gravel without warning.  It also had huge potholes in the bits they had remembered to tarmac and an occasional speeding loon coming in the opposite direction usually on two wheels.  At least we made it!

12 July San Francisco
Nevermind the Golden Gate, Richmond Bridge is quite impressive.  It must be about 3 miles long and obviously following some sub sea rock path as its a bit bendy in places.  We parked the car at our hotel in Berkely (not like Berkely Square in London, it was far rougher than that) and caught the BART to Powell Street cable car terminal.  At the station a couple of beggars where holding up a sign saying 'Too ugly to prositute, Too stupid to steal' which I thought was quite funny. 

We walked up to Knob Hill (just a posh area of town) and went to the Grace Catherdral (nice doors) where several pew seats where occupied by tramps and a yoga class appeared to be going on at the back?  Then we wondered down to the tram museum to see the actual cables and wheels which pull the trams.  Then walked down to China town in search of the fortune cookie factory which we couldn't find but luckily enough a tour group arrived just then so we followed them! 

The factory consists of three workers sitting a a machine bending fortune cookies into shape around the fortune itself.  You are treated to a free fortune cookie before being charged 50 cents to take a picture but you've got to hand it to anyone who is willing to be gauped at by probably hundreds of tourists a day as the go about their work.  Armed with a bag of fortune cookies (the sample was nice) we tagged the tour group again who went to see the guy from 'the Pursuit of happiness' play a chineese guitar thingame (no not Will Smith).

San Fran has the biggest China town in North America and the pagoda style buildings date back to the 50s.  Outside the cultural centre huddles of men and occassionally women (but never a mixed huddle) play cards and occassionally Mejong.  It reminded me of the bars in Greece which at tea time are full of men drinking Raki and playing dominoes while the women are presumably at home cooking the dinner.  We had a five course dinner in China Town cafe for less than 20 for both of us).  The meal included pot stickers which I had seen advertised in loads of restaurants but had no idea what they where until the dish arrived.  Turns ou they are like dumplings in water soup but they tasted really nice.

On our way back to Berkely on the BART I sat next to a Tibetan man who complimented me on my smile.  He knew I wasn't from America he said because no-one from America smiles or talks on the train.  I said it was probably the same in all big cities.  Sad he said that people would rather remain strangers.  He had lived in America for many years but aside from his Tibetan friends he was lonely and had not married and had childen.  He left Tibet as they were not allowed to practice their own culture or speak their own language.  Although he is fleunt in Chinese he refuses to speak it and uses only English or Tibetan.  We don't know we're born in Britain really do we.

13 July
We took the cable car up Powell Street to Fishermans Wharf.  First stop Hyde Street Pier and its boat museum with its various craft including a summer house boat from the late 19th century.  Next Ghirardelli Square for a hot fudge sundae - only after ordering one each did it occured to us we could have shared one - oh well.  Third stop Pier 39 and the famous sealions except nobody told them we were coming and we saw only three.  They were off shore breeding apparently.  It took us about half an hour to find our way off the pier as it was packed to the gills with people who, obviously unimpressed by the lack of sealions, had decided to shop and eat instead.  Next stop Pier 33 and the ferry to Alcatraz.  On the way we saw the Golden Gate bridge (after much confusion over which bridge was actually the Golden Gate) and then the welcome message on the doc 'Persons procuring or concealing the escape of prisoners are subject to prosecution and imprisonment'.  Lucky for us their are not prisoners left to be bribed by.  Anyway Alcatraz was brilliant - disney couldn't have done better.  I didn't feel too confortable in the cells (maybe I was a convict in a previous live) but there's much more to it than that.

Back on dry land and we went to the Bondin Bread to stare at people just trying to do their job again - this place was a bit more upmarket though so had full length windows and speakers to the outside.  No charge for photos but when secuumbed to the Cheddar and Jalepeno bread we could only afford one roll to share.  While standing outside sharing our roll a police man pulled up to move on some tramps lounging on a bench when some tourist started chatting to the cop, having photo's taken with him etc.  Now I wouldn't pester a policemen in the UK and a certainly wouldnt pest a cop in the US as they carry guns.

We went to Beuna Vista bar (the inventors of the Irish Coffee they reakon, I told them I didn't believe them) and watched the sunset over the bay while drinking our very expensive coffee.  

Off to china town for another cheap supper then while trying to get the tram back down the hill we accepted directions from a drunk woman.  Do not accept directions from a drunk person - they will only get you lost.  We eventually arrived at the bottom of the hill by foot.  At the BART station we were treated to an improtu Argentine tango from another couple waiting for the train.  When I suggested to Craig that we join in with the few moves we learnt on our cruise last year I got the look.
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