I studied the map the night before departure. I took note of routes and junctions and picked what I thought would be a simple trip down and around America’s (northern) West Coast. We took the 5 to the 101, detoured on 116 to 1, traveled hundreds of miles north on 395 and made excellent time the whole way. But it wasn’t as simple as it seemed on paper. The 2-dimensional map I studied failed to capture the steep grade and windiness along the coastal cliffs of Mendocino and the mountains marked “Eastern Sierras.” What was a terrifying drive for a newly licensed driver (me) was more than that: an exhilarating and fantastically beautiful trip for the senses. The views were incredible and the air smelled so fresh.
On our way south, we camped in some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
Our meals consisted mostly of peanut butter (and sometimes banana) sandwiches with the occasional takeout meal. Oh, and nightly s’mores.
The trip took two weeks. At times the heat was stifling and the mosquitoes maddening. Sleeping on the hard ground left us sore and chilly and long drives led to leg cramps and hunger. But I fell in love every day with this piece of America. The sights, the sounds, the smells… I mean it, I’m in love. The West is a place full of wilderness and adventure, and I want a piece of it. Someday soon, I will return. In the meantime, I’m thinking that being on the couch is sometimes just as good as being on the road.