Driving the route from Montana to Northern California, I was met with heavy nostalgia for my childhood and the numerous summer road trips my family would take down these same highways in conquest of the beauty and adventure awaiting on the Pacific Coast. It was interesting to note which things changed and which stayed the same. For example, there was a roadside rest stop in Washington State where I vividly recall feeding seagulls as a kid—at the time they hovered near my face as I threw them McDonalds french fries—and sure enough their descendants were still there begging for scraps. I felt bad that I may have played a role in their inherited junk food addiction.
One thing that did evolve from the past was the method with which we navigated. My partner brought his Garmin and it made getting to our destination pretty brainless. Even driving through the freeways of Portland was a breeze as it guided me into the exact lanes I needed to be in at all times. It made me respect my father and his own inherent skill in this area. Yes, maps existed (and I’m sure my mother was a great help in deciphering them) but I can’t imagine trekking through a place I didn’t know, with a kid and a dog and a small trailer (not to mention the freakin’ SIZE of vehicles from the past - we drove a wood-panelled station wagon the size of a boat) and not being stressed out at where the next gas station, washroom or hotel with vacancy might be. I feel I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in an unconnected world.
In Kennewick, Washington, I had the next donut in my summer of donuts. Near our hotel was a Krispy Kreme and I had to make a pilgrimage. I’ve had them before but never, ever a hot, fresh glazed straight out of the oven. When the employee asked me what I wanted, I made mention of this and he was flabbergasted. How was it possible that someone has never tried their original classic? It was, after all, quite famous. I explained how I was from Canada and we didn’t even have Krispy Kreme up there. He took pity and gave me free donuts which were delicious. It was unexpected and the employee’s friendliness was a highlight of my trip.
Within a few days, we made it to the hilly southern region of Oregon where we stayed at another KOA in a town called Grant’s Pass. Our cabin overlooked “Jumpoff Joe Creek”, a watering hole that was at the bottom of a small waterfall. It was July 4 but the campground was surprisingly still and quiet - there was a fireworks ban and most families present celebrated America’s independence with a simple flickering campfire and the soothing soundtrack of nature. We made barbecued cajun chicken with corn-on-the-cob and did same. The next day, we briefly visited a Wal-Mart in Grant’s Pass where we discovered that Oregon is an open carry state; my partner was shocked at a father walking around the grocery aisles with his kids while a gun rested in a holster around his waist. I warned him not to stare … and that we should shop at Target in the future.
The majestic Redwood Forest of Northern California was one of our major destinations during this road trip. It did not disappoint. I didn’t fully appreciate it when I was a kid but this time around, as an adult who has travelled and seen some of the best of the world, I will state that it is one of the most magical places on earth. We spent days hiking through its trails, in the shadow of giants thousands of years old. The silence was something I noted in particular; we were so deep within nature that any noise pollution of modern life was completely non-existent. No whir of the highway. Not even a faint text notification reaching a fellow hiker’s phone. The aural were birds and the pounding of our feet on the dirt trail. I was sad to leave.