Thursday, January 26, 2006

Graduate School Tour Day 4 - Onward to Oregon

        Thursday was the 2nd day of vacation driving up the west coast towards Oregon.  After I Cimg1962popped in my contacts I got an early start under blue skies at about 8 am.  It was really beautiful to see the cove I slept in under the early morning sun (see picture).  I followed route 1 up the coast for a few hours before it took a turn inland to meet up with Route 101 in Leggett, CA.  I came across a sign that said "Curves - next 35 miles".  What followed was the most unbelievable drive through the mountains I have ever been on.  Every 150 feet there were hair pin turns with 15mph signs posted everywhere.  These turns were sometimes I full 180 degree, crank the wheel and hold on, turns. I popped the itrip fm broadcaster on my ipod and put on my Ministry of Sound electronica playlist and hit the gas!  I was tearing around the corners at nearly 40mph, my body being tossed from side to side by centrifugal force.    Once again I fully endorse the Chevy Cobalt.  It handled the corners like a champ and the tires held firmly.  Only a few times, due to me pushing my luck, did I find myself drifting around the corners with the tires sliding.  I stopped at what appeared to be the highest point in the climb and ran up a ridge to take some photos of the amazing landscape.  TheCimg1975 contrast of colors betwen the green tree tops, blue sky and white clouds sitting in the valley was amazing.  On the way down from the mountains to Leggett I could feel the brakes melting when I hit the pedal because I was still accelerating into the turns having a blast going downhill.  After crossing the beautiful tourquise green Eel river at Leggett I said goodbye to Route 1 for good (or so I thought - See the Miami post).  At this point it was a little before noon and I was still far from the Oregon Boarder so I began to worry a little bit about making it all the way but as soon as I jumped onto Route 101 and saw the 65mph speed limit my fears evaporated as I put the pedal to the floor.
        After a quick Burger King lunch in Fortuna, CA I continued on to the Redwood National Park following the Eel river most of the way.  When I was younger I visited the park with my parents but I was amazed all over again to drive through a forest of 200ft tall trees.  I stopped at the famous Cimg1981Grandfather tree for some pictures (click the photo to check out the specs on that beast!).  Everything out west is bigger.  The mountains, the cliffs, the trees, etc etc.  From a distance it doesn't look that much bigger but then when you are closer you notice that those tiny green trees you were looking at miles back are actually 200 foot tall monsters and the hill you saw was really a 5,000ft tall mountain.  There were lots of tourist shops but once again I was one of a very few people on the road.  I passed by a Big Foot roadside shack that appeared to sell everything and anything about the mysterious monster that supposedly roams the northern califiornian coast. 
    After the Redwoods route 101 returned to the coast and it began to drizzle - appropriate as I was entering the pacific northwest.  In just over 24 hours I had gone from 70 degrees, sun, palm trees and surfers to 50 degrees, drizzle, giant redwoods, and Big Foots!  What a change, and I hadn't even left the state of California yet!  The rain made everything more colorful.  The contrastCimg1986 between the red bark of the trees, the tourquoise blue of the rivers and the deep green of the forest growth was amazing, especially in the misty wetness of a recent rain.  Unlike the suny arid rocks of southern california this area seemed to be overgrowing with plant life.  Every inch of soil was covered with something green growing on it!  Even the trees overgrowing the roadway were litterally covered with green moss and vines.  If it wasn't for the mountainous hillsides this part of the country would be the most fertile place to plant crops.    
        Route 101 quietly entered Oregon and the drizzle began to pick up a little bit.  About 15 miles into Oregon I saw something that I hadn't thought about yet.  Driving through Big Sur I didn't think much about the roadside being built precariously into the very steep mountainside but when I came across the first landslide of many in Oregon and Washington the danger became real to me.  I Tiogalandslide2remembered watching on the news about the record rainfall both Oregon and Washington were recieving and the flooding that went along with it but hadn't thought much about it until I saw the road in front of me buried in boulders and mud.  The picture on the left is what happens in a slide.  I wasn't able to get any pictures of the a few of the ones I saw but they were much worse and bigger than the one pictured.  The first slide I saw was a minor one and traffic was able to move around it but later in the day I saw a slide that blew my mind.  A 100ft section of the road had literrally just cracked and sank down the hillside nearly 40 feet.  Construction crews had piled up gravel in it's place to allow motorists to pass through but I couldn't help imagining what it would have felt like to have been on the road when it happene: driving along, listening to music and then all of a sudden the road in front of you begins to rise into the sky as you sink downward on the mountain towards the cliffs and freezing Pacific Ocean below.  So once again I was alone with no cell phone or radio reception on windy coastal roads but now I was on slippery pavement attached to water saturated slopes that could slide away from the mountainside taking the trees, the road and me into the ocean below.  I unbuckled my seatbelt again....

    In the afternoon I was witness to a gory site.  Two elk ran into the road in front of me and the first one ran directly into a large logging truck which promptly pulvarized the poor animal.  The other elk looked like it was going to investigate or try to cross as well so I honked and steered the car at it to scare it into the woods.  I was shuffling around in the back seat to find something ICimg1997 could use to grab the carcass off the road when a rough looking man in his 40's in a 1980's pickup pulled up, nodded to me (could probably see I was a dumb tourist fumbling to try to help out), walked into the road, threw a dirty pair of gloves on and heaved the dead animal into the woods.  He nodded to me, got in his truck and drove away as if he did it on a daily basis.  One of the reasons I love to travel is encountering interesting locals like him from all parts of the country.  He didn't say a word to me, just nodded and smiled. 
    The Oregon coast in general was less mountainous than the californian coast on route 1 but it was just as beautiful.  Giant basalt rock formations called sea stacks studded the coastline.  some Cimg1995were the size of small houses, others the size of large buidlings.  The basalt magma was created by the collision of the Juan De Fuca tectonic plate with the North American one.  This magma rose to the surface to form massive volcanoes such as Mt. Hood, Mt. Ranier, and Mt. St. Helens and also along the coast line over millions of years.  The surrounding earth erodes much faster than these sea stacks so when the waves erode the beach away the only thing that is left are the stacks.  The only place in the world with a comparable coastline is the Southcoast of Australia.  ( a little geology lesson for ya).  Check out the pictures to and the people on the beach to get a perspective of the size of them.   Route 101 along the Oregon coast is not as curvy as Route 1 so I was able to cruise along at 75mph making good time.  Right at sunset the clouds began to break up allowing for beautiful pictures of the coastline and sea stacks against the setting sun. 
        I ended up driving about an hour in the dark until I got to Newport, OR which is about an hour from Oregon State.  It was 8pm and I decided I'd rather just get a cheap hotel room on the coast and then drive inland to the college in the morning.  I pulled over at the Newport City Center Motel because it had a sign advertising $25 rooms.  I walked in with my Boston Red Sox hat on and Cimg2005 owner, a nice asian man in his 40's, gave me a big smile walked into his living room and retrieved the same exact hat off his mantle saying that his son is at B.U.!  He asked me where I was from and we then found out that I was born in the next town over from where he grew up in Buffalo, NY.  So he happily hooked me up with a room for $20 bucks and gave me a couple sodas to drink as well.  The room wasn't big but it was warm and had a bed, which after a long day of driving was all I needed!  I even got to watch Earl and The Office on NBC before passing out!


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