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Day 1 - Pasadena to Oregon
It's 7:30 in the a.m. when my friend Gina and I pile into the car for
the trip to the wilds of Seattle. We're taking the scenic route and I've
got it all planned where we're going.
However, in spite of that "scenic" qualifier, our first leg will be
up the 5 through the San Joaquin Valley, which is classed as the antithesis
of "scenic." The only thing I've got to keep me interested, visually, is
trying to locate where a couple of big lakes were here/are on "Trolley
We're heading towards San Francisco and a crossing of the Golden Gate
(via the Bay Bridge), then towards Redwood country and to do that and actually
still have light
to see redwoods once we get there, we have to get
through the first part of the trip as soon as possible. That proves to
be over the usual six hours or so. It would have been shorter, but we stopped
in Santa Nella to eat at "Anderson's Split Pea Soup Restaurant."
Anderson's is kinda a California icon. There are four of the restaurants
in the state all of them placed (as far as I can tell) to be as far
from people as possible (Santa Nella, fer example, basically is
the restaurant, plus a motel and gas station or two and is at least fifty
miles from any other
town with more than ten-thousand people in
it). So, how do they survive (I mean, besides licensing their name for
the canned soup)? Well, for most of the way there, as you drive you'll
see signs saying "Only 252 (or whatever) miles to Anderson's Split Pea
Soup." On the 5, you'll start seeing them as soon as you get past San Fernando
(or going south as soon as you cross the Oregon border).
Now, on all my trips north & south to cons and whatnot, I've been
to stop there to eat, but either I didn't have the time,
or it was two in the morning, or I really
just wanted to get where
I was going fast as possible. So I kept missing it. This
I recommend the namesake split-pea soup, but avoid the calamari. It
has both the appearance and most of the taste of scrambled eggs (don't
ask me how).
couple of hours later, we hit the Bay Area and headed for the Bay Bridge
to San Francisco. Once across the bridge, the freeway disappeared and we
made our way across surface streets (always an adventure in San Francisco)
towards the Golden Gate.
Once there, we stopped for about half an hour to do the tourist thing
at the bridge. Now this was the really weird part. You see, it was sunny...and
clear...and a comfortable temperature...in San Francisco!
It was actually a gorgeous day I've never seen one better and it was
probably the only
day like that San Francisco will get all year
(it was Mark Twain who wrote "the coldest winter I ever spent was one summer
in San Francisco").
After taking some really good pictures of the bridge, the city, and
Alcatraz, we piled back in the car and headed north on the 101 as fast
as possible (we were an hour or two behind schedule) for the redwoods.
bit proved to be much farther than I remembered. In fact, it wasn't until
nearly a hundred and fifty miles later, just past Willits, that we started
hitting the big trees. Once we did, however, we pulled off the main 101
onto the "Scenic Alternate" (actually, the old pre-freeway 101) to actually
enjoy them a bit. In Leggett, we stopped to drive through Chandelier Tree,
then continued north on the scenic route (the "Avenue of the Giants").
We also made a stop at a touristy gift shop or two.
However, by now it was nine-ish and the sun was doing it's slow fade in the west.
We rejoined the main 101 in Redcrest, but it was dark by the time we hit
Eureka. That slowed our drive down considerably, because between Eureka
and Crescent City (pretty much on the Oregon border), the 101 is two lanes of narrowness that twists back and forth
and up and down along the coastal mountains. Neither of us (for once, I'm
on a trip where someone else
can drive too) was willing to drive
what you'd call "fast" for much of the trip (well, what we'd
fast, anyway). Still, by eleven or so, we're pulling into Crescent City
for a brief stop to eat dinner.
Soon we're off again, this time jogging northeast on the 199, back to
the 5. We twist through the dark coastal forests, climb into the mountains
(passing a semi that almost rolled off the road) and at around one a.m.
reach Grants Pass and return to the 5.
Day 2 - Oregon to Seattle - Con Thursday
Now we're zipping through the Oregon night. Dawn hits us just pass Salem,
and we stop for a few photos.
Gina's driving and I'm napping as we tool through Portland
and cross the
bridge over the Columbia into Washington.
Much to my surprise, the day has once again dawned clear and sunny,
and for the first time ever, I'm actually able to see the battered peak
of Mount St. Helens - something it has always
been too cloudy to do such before.
By now, however, even with the naps, I'm getting a little punchy. We've
been driving more
twenty-four hours (my previous limit) and as usual I didn't get a lot of
sleep the night before we left (just once
, just once...). Still,
we're now only a couple of hours away from Seattle. Those two hours eventually
pass by, and we're getting off the 5 in downtown Seattle, for a three-block
drive to the hotel.
We park, check in (surprisingly early), move stuff up to the room, and
wash off twenty-six hours of road grime. Then I go off in search of the
was about in the center of downtown as it's possible to get, and
tons of interesting things circled around it. "Gameworks"
one of a new
chain of major-league videogame parlors was right across the street (our
room's windows looked out at it, abet from fifteen floors up), so was a
"Planet Hollywood." Across another street from the hotel was a F.A.O. Swartz.
The monorail terminal was about three blocks away, the Space Needle at the
other end of that. "Pike Place Market", a harbor-side collection of shops,
stores, and restaurants was six blocks away. The farthest we had to walk
to anything was a restaurant eight blocks away.
And the whole time we were there, Seattle was bright and sunny. Oh,
on Saturday morning, it rained briefly, but it cleared up before noon and
as it turned out, we weren't to hit real
clouds and rain until the
Like most cons on their first day, Westercon
was a little slow, a little quiet. I started planning what
panels I wanted to see, and when the Huckster's room opened, checked that
was a major disappointment. As Gina said It's smaller
than the one at Gallifrey
It wasn't quite - but for a major Westercon (note that Gally is a very
small con) it was, well, trivial
Other things that bugged me about an otherwise fairly well run con.
The entire film and video program for the convention was run over the hotel's
video channel. Oh, there were a couple of rooms that had TV's to show this
program but since the exact same thing was on back in your
room, why bother? There was also no anime program.
The Art show (when I finally found it) was up on the very top floor
of the hotel - which wouldn't have been so bad if you didn't have to dig
through the program book for a couple of hours to find out this fact. And
speaking of the program book, let's talk about the pocket program.
First, like almost all "pocket programs" I've ever seen, it did not
fit in a standard pocket. But more annoying was how difficult it made it
to find out anything about the panels it listed. First, you looked at the
grid to see what was on when. Because they'd chosen this wonky little manual-typewriter-style
font to do it in (okay, so it was part of the Fiftieth Westercon theme
of "Westercon, Past, Present, Future" - it was still a bitch to read...)
they couldn't put a very long name in any of the grid boxes. So you had
to flip to another section of the pocket program to cross-reference the
shortened name with a list to find out what the full title was. But then,
you had to note down the number
for that title, and go to the program
and another list to find out a description of what the program
...and about a tenth of the time, the only thing the program book had
for a description was the title.
Gina and I got together again for dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants
which was very good (I had this spicy shrimp thing). However, by now we're
wondering where Manoa and Edward are.
My friend Manoa (from Vancouver, BC) was coming down with her S.O. Edward
to the convention, and they were going to share the room with us (at $130
a night, you need people to share with...). But I had expected them by,
well, late afternoon at the latest (Manoa was a little vague about exact
times). Night continued on, though, and they still hadn't arrived.
After dinner, I went off to do the rounds of some of the parties. In
spite of being totally zoned from the trip, it wasn't until very late that
evening that I got back to the room and crashed. Then, at about two in
the morning, Manoa and Edward finally arrived...
Day 3 - Con Friday - Fourth of July!
It's the Fourth of July in Seattle, and we spent it mostly at the con.
And Pathfinder arrived, so the convention's TV's were turned to CNN so
that everyone could watch the first pictures download. Gina and I spent
a couple of hours watching that.
However, we did all
get together to go see Men In Black
at the theater across the street (eighteen screens, half of them playing
"MiB", so the movie was basically playing every half-hour from ten a.m.
till midnight) and then go off to a very nice Korean/Japanese restaurant
a few blocks away. Satiated, and walking back to the hotel, the evening's
fireworks began. They were still going on by the time we reached our room
so we got to watch a very nice show from our window (including the more
private displays of illegal fireworks that would sprout from places about
town, including the alley between Gameworks and Planet Hollywood). I then
spent the rest of the evening doing the parties.
Day 4 - Con Saturday
More convention. I tried to go to all the panels with Jack Cohen - who
I really liked as a speaker - on them. Later that afternoon,
Gina and I walked over to the monorail station and took it to go visit
the Space Needle and Seattle Center (site of the old World's Fair). The
monorail itself is
silly. It's only got about a mile of track and two stops: Downtown and
Seattle Center. Seattle Center has a small amusement park, a Children's
museum, the big Pacific Science Center museum (closed, by the time we got there, darn it),
some shops and food places, the Space Needle (which we were not about
to spend the eighteen bucks or so to ride up into) and this really cool
The fountain is a giant golf-ball-ish metal structure sitting at the
bottom of a sort of artificial crater.
Water randomly spouts out of several of the holes that pockmark it's surface,
which made some lovely rainbows. But unlike almost every
fountain I've ever seen, the builders here not only acknowledged that the
kids were going to play in it, they actually built ramps down into the
bottom of the "crater" so that it'd be easy to get
down to it. Yes,
remarkable as it sounds, here was a public fountain that actually invited
people to come and play in it. And the kids were.
We headed back after that for more con. I ended up at a midnight (of
course) showing of Rocky Horror
before heading off to more parties,
Day 5 - Con Sunday
The convention was pretty much winding down by now, so much so even
the "Dead Dog" party was, well, dead. After it's official closing, all
four of tried to think of a place to eat, and ended up at Gameworks - which has various fast-food class foods along with the games. Afterwards,
we went to see My Best Friend's Wedding
then it was back to the
hotel for our final night's stay.
Day 6 - Seattle to Grants Pass
The day dawned slightly cloudy as we crawled out of our respective beds
and began packing to check out. Manoa and Edward had to be at the train
station by 7:30, so we gathered up stuff as fast as possible, and dragged
it down to the car. I checked out, and we were off on the streets of Seattle.
The Amtrak station wasn't too far away, but it was in a direction we
hadn't really investigated during our walks about the town. A pity too,
because Seattle's old town - "Pioneer Square" - was down there and looked
very interesting. Oh well, maybe next trip. We got a little confused trying
to follow the signs to the station entrance, but soon Gina and I were saying
goodbye to Manoa and Edward as they headed inside to catch their train
headed off to catch our ferry.
The plan for the day was to take one of the ferries across Puget Sound
to the Olympic Peninsula, then drive around the peninsula and down the
coast seeing the sights until we hooked back up with the 5 near Portland.
We drove onto the ferry at Pier 52 and chugged across the waters towards
Bainbridge Island. As we sailed west, the cloud cover got heavier and heavier
and by the time we docked, the sky was totally steel-grey.
Arriving on Bainbridge, we got gas, then began our trip around the peninsula.
Actually, we had to cross over a couple of bridges (one from the island,
the other over the Hood Canal) before we met up with the 101 and the main
portion of the peninsula, but along the way we passed through some nice
small towns (effectively "suburbs" of Seattle) and some pretty scenery.
Once on the 101 we were soon driving through a mix of forest and heavily
logged forest. On the trip, we only skimmed an edge of Olympic National
Park, so most of the land we drove through was privately owned by lumber
companies. Trees came in large blocks of different sizes (the trees and
the blocks), usually accompanied by a sign that told when it was last logged,
and when it was next scheduled to be so.
reached the town of Port Angeles, where we could see the island of Vancouver
out across the strait, got slightly lost, then continued on.
A few miles later, Gina pointed out a sign towards a fish hatchery and
we decided to jog over to take a look. The "jog" off the 101 got longer
with no sign of the hatchery and we were just about ready to turn around
when we hit this park/campground on the coast. We decided to get out and
It proved to be a lovely site. Dense forest worked its way to the edges
of bluffs that overlooked the tidepools below. By a
lucky chance, we arrived pretty much at low tide, so were able to walk
down to the pools and investigate all the nifty sea life within them. Bright
orange starfish, kiwi-green anenomies, and tiny little mottled fish abounded
in every pool. The bluff faces were covered in a coat of deep green foliage
with the occasional trickle of a spring dripping down them. Absolutely
On the road again, we decided to follow the small 112 along the coast
until we hit the 113 to go back to the 101 instead of simply backtracking.
Along the way we stopped occasionally to take pictures of the wonderful
landscape under the now brooding grey sky.
we reached it, the 113 proved to follow a small river back inland. As we
followed it, we finally hit our first real rain of the entire trip. It
would continue to at least drizzle on us all the way to Aberdeen.
Now heading south, the trees grew taller on each side of the road, and
the undergrowth heavier as we got into the true rainforest area of the
peninsula. Ferns, moss, and stumps covered with the green growth of new
By now feeling a little bit peckish, we had brunch in Ruby Beach. I
had the salmon, on the theory that to go to Washington and not
some point eat salmon was Just Not Done. Fortunately, it was pretty good
Unfortunately, Gina was now starting to get sick, with all the symptoms
of a case of the flu. As the trip progressed, she got worse and this would
leave me with all the driving while she tried to rest.
we were way
behind my tentative schedule. I had hoped that we would
reach Crescent City back in California by nightfall, so that we could stop
there and have time to take the 1 down the coast to the Bay Area. But it
was becoming increasingly obvious that we couldn't make it that far, even
though I had already decided to cut back to the 5 at Aberdeen rather than
following the 101 all the way down to the Columbia River. I tagged Grants
Pass as our new stop for the night.
Reaching the 5, we burned our way south, stopping only at the occasional
rest stop and in Portland to get some ibuprophin for Gina. Night fell at
about the same point of the route that dawn had risen on the way up. We
didn't reach Grants Pass until about midnight, at which point we found
a Motel 6 and crashed for the night.
Day 7 Grants Pass to Pasadena Home!
Depressingly early the next day, with Gina still sick, we headed off
down the 199 back to California. This was my first time driving the 199
actually in daylight, so I spent a lot of time trying to watch the scenery
not driving off the edge of the road into the river. At Crescent
City, we returned to the 101 heading south. Soon, we stopped for breakfast
at "Trees Of Mystery"
- or rather, the restaurant across the road from
"Trees Of Mystery."
"ToM" is a typical tourist-trap affair, comparable to the "drive through
a tree" thing we'd hit on the way up, or the "Grand Canyon Caverns" that
I visited on my Route 66 trip
. We only stopped
long enough to eat and didn't visit (or pay money for) the trees. I had
some rather impressive pancakes, "impressive" because apparently they took
the name rather literally and each pancake was the diameter of, well, a
were now traveling through territory that we'd hit at night on the way
up, so we could both go faster - and not want to, because we could now
things. In Redwoods National Park, we pulled off to go visit
some of the trees for a while. I love redwoods.
It was pretty obvious by now that if we wanted to get back home by any
reasonable time (and as both of us needed to be at work the next day, it
had to be reasonable), cutting over to the 1 at Leggett was now out and
our only hope was to drive as fast as possible. I also realized that "fast
as possible" was necessary so that we didn't hit the Bay Area at rush hour,
which could add a very frustrating hour or so to our trip.
Gina was sleeping or trying to most of time, very sick, as I drove south.
The miles and, unfortunately, the hours scrolled by and by around four
we were driving through San Rafael, heading for the last of the Bay Area's
big bridges - the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. It totally lacks the style
of the Golden Gate - or even the Bay Bridge - but it did have the advantage
that we wouldn't have to go through downtown San Francisco's late afternoon
traffic. Instead, we went through Richmond, Berkeley and Oakland, only
hitting minor tie-ups, until we reached the 580 and our route back to the
Much of the part of the trip is kinda a blur to me. I was driving in
the eighties most of the way, the vibrations from the road kept screwing
up the CD player, and as the sun set, we were just at the southern end
of San Joaquin valley. Darkness descended pretty quickly as we climbed
the Tejon Pass, passed by Magic Mountain, and soon dropped back into the
Los Angeles basin. At about ten p.m., two very tired and one very sick
people arrived back in Pasadena.
Oh, and as it turned out, Gina didn't just have the flu, but a case
© July 30th, 1997 by David
Links pretty continually - yet only occasionally - updated.