Saturday, September 20, 2008

From San Francisco to Tennessee (photos)

West Coast Sunset

Here is a picture of the pier at Ocean Beach where I spent a lot of my time. It extends out into the water for what seems like nearly a quarter of a mile where people fish, gather, and hangout. A lot of kids would gather along the ocean more to the left of this picture. A rocky coastline had been cemented over and this was where the younger crowd gathered together. I saw kids jump into little pools of water where waves crashed against into the rocks. Two girls were dared into jumping and made it out with gashes covering their legs and blood running down. Another group invited us to come join them saying they had bottles of vodka to help. Unfortunately I had to decline their generous offer saying I had to drive back to the campsite that night. The adventure never ends in California!

Two Palm Trees

This is the same park in San Diego. Just the cactus garden alone was big enough to get lost in. While I meandered off the path I managed to grab this shot with my iPhone which explains the funky color. What made San Diego so interesting was how wide spread it was. You need a car to get anywhere in the entire city. If you look to the right you can see houses off in the distance. To the side of the garden is a vista point where you can see for miles. I saw a biker exercising, riding up hill then down hill again and cars slowly moving along long curved roads.

Shot of GC

This is another shot of Grand Canyon but with my phone’s camera. I picked this one so you could see the shadows of clouds passing overhead. If it weren’t for the tree I think this would be an outstanding picture.

Rainbow over Petrified Forest

Here is another rainbow in the petrified forest. When I first heard about this place I immediately thought how cool it would be to see a stoned forest? This clearly isn’t the case, although that may be a good idea for my book. The petrified trees are all on the ground lying down. You haven’t seen petrified wood until you come here. They have an amazing array of red and brown colors like the soil. Signs all over warn of huge fines if you are caught taking anything from the park. I wanted to risk it but changed my mind, thinking that it would be better to preserve this place for others to see. The Petrified Forest is one of the best drive-by natures I’ve ever encountered.


Look carefully! See the double rainbows? This shot was taken in Arizona sometime between the GC and the Petrified Forest. Isolated storms made for an exciting afternoon and the rainbows were a perfect reward for braving the storms.

Scotti in the desert

When this trip began I made it clear that I wanted to go to a desert at one point. Unfortunately our timing was off and we had to drive through the Mojave Desert at night. Some people would say we were lucky, the temperature was only 105ºF, although I really wanted to spend a whole day in the desert. To compromise we took a pit stop at this vista point after the Grand Canyon. It wasn’t exactly a desert, but it was hot and the ground was a deep red-brown that you could only find in Arizona.

Feet off edge

My best friend Jessica wanted me to hang my feet over the edge of the Grand Canyon when I was there. Tim crouched on another ledge so we could get this shot. He kept telling me to move over and by the time we go this picture it had been several minutes. All that time dangling left me a little light headed and slightly nervous, which explains the face I’m making.

Ocean Beach

The last two days in San Diego were spent here in Ocean Beach, a coastal town just 20 minutes outside of the city, and 40 minutes from our campsite. It reminded me a lot of the shore towns in New Jersey only with a lot more people. Surfing was truly part of the culture here. Everywhere you look you’re guaranteed to see one or two surfboards. I saw one being used as a chair in someone’s yard.
Tim and I met some interesting characters at Ocean Beach. One interesting guy named Stephen who had been living on his own since thirteen. Another kid, whose name I forget, traveled down from Humbolt CA often to visit his grandfather. And Neal, who was visiting from New Mexico with his parents.

Bonsai Trees

There was a Japanese bonsai garden in Balboa Park that Tim and I visited on our second day in San Diego. All over the west coast there is a huge Asian population and San Diego was no exception. They only charged us $3 to get in, Tim told them we were students, and to make up for the difference in cost we put the rest in a donation box. In the middle of the garden was a center built in remembrance of the Japanese Interment Camps of World War II. There were letters displayed of children writing to Congressmen and mayors asking why they and their families, as American citizens, were being held against their will. It was a powerful experience to see how people reacted to our government’s treatment of Japanese-American citizens.

Tim under a Tree

This is Tim posing for his picture under some cool trees in Balboa Park in San Diego. We were in a cactus garden that had countless amounts of cacti species ranging from tall and skinny to short and fat. I wanted to take more pictures of the gardens but my camera’s memory and batteries were about to bite the dust. Ah, the constraints of modern technology!

Scum cactus

I found a cactus that everyone seemed to use for their personal carving practices. This was the first one I saw and after careful investigation found simple, Max loves Jesse and other phrases, accompanied by what looked like Klingon, a Star Trek language, on another piece of the cactus. I guess this is what people carve on when they don’t have trees.

Oil Rig in California

A scary sight to see for an environmentalist. While traveling south along the coast Tim and I saw dozens of these giant oil drilling monsters. Everywhere you go you would see stations set up on land. Their metallic arms pumping endlessly as oil is brought up to feed our nation’s appetite. I spotted a miniature one pumping away in someone’s back yard! As much as I would like to go on about these deadly machine’s affect on the planet, I will refrain, and “save it for the party” as the saying goes.

Palm Trees

One of those moments where you feel like you are in a movie. Jersey boys meet California, a place where the sun always shines and palm trees line the streets!

Redondo Beach

The famous Redondo Beach! Just passing through this area.

LA Artwork

I saw this right outside of the car wash in LA.

LA girls with Scotti

The first exit in LA we took after passing LAX two girls with microphones were shouting for $5 car washes. As I pulled up closer I heard one of them shout “Hello, New Jersey!” enthusiastically. We had traveled 5600 miles at this point with out cleaning Scotti once and after hearing these girls were raising money for their senior class, I couldn’t say no to a car wash. It was an excellent time to get out and stretch, grab a cup of coffee, and soak up the Los Angeles sun. Thank you LA girls for the great car wash!

Coastal Highway Route 1

Later that day Tim shot this picture of me while we stopped at a vista point to stretch. When you travel ina car eight hours a day you need to stretch every now and then. This particular vista point was calm compared to other ones we visited. More often than not the wind blows so strong you feel as if you can be carried away. At one such place I could barely open my car door because of such winds! There’s a reason for the long sleeved shirt; it gets cold by the ocean. I saw it go down to the mid fifties by late afternoon.

Santa Cruz

Tim and I spent a couple of hours in Santa Cruz walking up and down a walkway by the beach. What you see here is a good testament of the cliffy beaches in California. As we’re all used to on the east coast zero elevated sea levels at there shore, here in California you need to climb to the shoreline. The beaches are significantly more ‘alive’ than the ones you find in Jersey.

Purple Flower Portrait

Who is that mysterious person? Tim saw this wall of flowers along a row of apartments a few blocks away from the Haight District. The combination of green in my shirt and the purple flowers inspiried him to take this picture.

San Fran

Out of all the pictures I have of San Francisco I have decided this one most accurately described it. I can’t remember which park this was taken from, although I am guessing Mission Delores Park. One of the coolest parts of this city is its parks. At any part of the city you are within walking distance of a park. Each one has its own flavor of people either walking their dog, taking a bike ride, or merely sitting down with friends enjoying the afternoon. In Beuna Vista Park on Sunday Tim and I were surprised to see a DJ set up blasting dance music to an enthusiastic crowd while legions of picnickers drank wine or beer in the sun. These San Francisco people know how to party!


Ah, the infamous Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. For those who don’t understand the significance of this intersection I will try to enlighten you. In the early 60s during the hippie era many people swarmed to San Francisco and took residence in this part of the city. Today you can see the obvious influence of such a history as peace signs, tie died shirts, and psycadelic styles litter the street. Small, independent businesses line the streets ranging from used clothing stores to tattoo parlors and music stores. At the end of Haight is another famous location, Hippie Hill, where collective groups of eclectic individuals gather daily. When I arrived dusk was near although there were many people still there, either playing soccer or football and some groups of kids had slightly inconspicuous clouds that occasionally rose into the air.

Golden Gate Bridge:

We arrived in San Francisco around mid-day after a late start in a motel in Corte Madera. (Don’t sleep in at motels! The owners get mean real fast.) The myst you see there is a common thing apparently for the Golden Gate Bridge. We couldn’t see the top from where we were. As I drove towards the bridge huge clouds came rolling in off the bay covering the five lane highway in a dense fog. To my surprise, no one even slowed down, and continued their 60mph race to the bridge.

Mountain View from 1:

This is a view from the car on Highway 1, the road known as the Coastal Highway Route, which spans the entire West Coast. What’s so great about the road is how you will see shear cliffs facing the beach and an hour later huge, tree-covered hills. After driving on this road for a few hours I understood what Decemberist singer Colin Meloy was trying to convey in his song, ‘California One / The Youth and Beauty Brigade.”
“And the road a-winding goes
From golden gate to roaring cliff-side
And the light is softly low as our hearts
Become sweetly untied
Beneath the sun of California one”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Is it really over...?

27 – 29 July 2008 – These last few days of our trip were rather uneventful, and some were long. We stayed with family just outside of Washington, DC on the 28th, but continued on to NJ by the 29th. All in all, we were on the road from NJ to NJ again in 46 days, just under 7 weeks. Our country is big, and its beautiful. Hopefully my kids and theirs will get to experience the magnificence as I have, but considering the current trend (from Leopold and Muir to now) I don't have particularly high hopes. At least I have the pictures.... so check them out!

26 July 2008 – After a short night at a rest stop, we began the day early at the Grand Canyon. A stunning vista, we drove along the South rim of the entire canyon and the one adjacent to it. Following the Canyon(s), we continued East and found that we could make it to Petrified Forest National Park... before Sunset! Truly, if our day at the Grand Canyon wasn't spectacular enough, this park made it so and then some. Just don't take any of the petrified wood!

25 July 2008 – Today marks the start of the last leg of our trip. We spent much of the week hanging out with beach bums/locals til today, Friday, but now we've got to head East. And as open and willing I am to like San Diego, I really can't get past how dry the climate is; that and it's an entire city built around supporting the naval construction docks – sorry Joe, San Francisco is still better in my eyes (except the waves do get better here). Enjoying the great weather and the beach, we stayed until the afternoon and then left toward our first stop on the way back.. East – the Grand Canyon!

23 – 24, July 2008 – We moved on Wednesday from our motel to Sweetwater County Park; a gi-normous comic convention in the area made almost all lodging prices skyrocket into the weekend. We spent the enf of the week exploring Balboa Park thoroughly, specifically visiting the Air & Space museum. A phenomenal Star Trek exhibit was on display but it cost a pretty penny; of course, I claimed military discount so I didn't feel so bad seeing it. Chris only got the student discount. It certainly gave me a better appreciation for Star Trek and space. When not at the park, we spent the rest of our time in Ocean Beach, either checking out the farmers market on Weds., or walking along the seawall on Thurs.

21- 22, July 2008 – After leaving Oceanside, we got into San Diego rather early and checked into a nice (somewhat cheap) motel just outside the main part of the City. Once here, we visited Balboa Park and stumbled into the Rose and Cactus gardens. I'm still astounded as to how dry San Diego is, especially for such a popular and growing city. The following day we made our way to the Park again, and found some awesome, cheap sushi place just on the Eastern edge of Ocean Beach, Ca, one of the most relaxed, laid-back sections of the San Diego area.

19 - 20, July 2008 – We continued on and with our tent still wet, rather than plan to camp or stay in a motel, we got in touch with friends of Chris's family. We arrived in Oceanside, Ca, a quiet military town between LA and San Diego and were invited to stay for a few days; needless to say, WE DID. The beaches are amazing, and by this point the water is now really warm (wetsuits in San Fran, none here!) and the waves decent. Unfortunately, I couldn't a board around here, so no surf for me...

18 July 2008 – Today, Friday, we left San Francisco, but only after visiting the beach-side cafe we stopped at on our first day here. After a relaxing morning and afternoon we embarked to the South, continuing along the coastal road with more and more stunning views of the Pacific coast. We planned on camping partway, but found the cooler leaked in the car (again) and our tent got SOAKED, so we stayed in a rather affordable motel (compared to San Fran!) in San Luis Obispo, Ca.

15-17, July 2008 – Exploring San Francisco this week was a monumental excursion, primarily by foot and metro. San Francisco's metro transit is expedient and comprehensive. We walked around downtown Oakland, Golden Gate Park, and the Presidio, Castro, and Mission districts. And the FOOD! We ate a variety of great Far and Middle Eastern foods, typically in the evenings. Suprisingly, we managed to eat relatively cheaply for being in a downtown area.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Photogram? (photos)

Distance Signs at Portland, Oregon

We spent an afternoon in Portland to gather our bearings and supply ourselves for the trip to San Francisco. In the main part of town there is this sign of signs which lists mileage to locations such as Times Squre and Red Square, Moscow, to obscure places like ‘kangaroos.’ (I guess they mean Australia?) Portland itself was a friendly city. Tim and I happened to come when the farmer’s market was in full swing. Lucky for us we were able to score fresh organic berries and even sample a delicious soda made out of strawberries.

Red Wood Giant

Coming to see the Redwood Forest was one of my lifetime goals I set for myself. To actually be there, touching a real redwood tree was beyond words. The entire time there I felt as if I were transported to another world where I was the smallest thing there. The trees towered above everything. Patches of three leaf clovers were even bigger than I had seen them before. Small paths weaved their way through the forest leading to new ones of exploration and adventure. When Tim and I arrived there was a bird hoping between branches, occasionally flying down near us. The entire time there he followed us through the woods as if he were a personal tour guide.

Pacific Coast

The beautiful Pacific coastline. This shot was taken off 101 close to the evening. You haven’t seen a coastline until you see the Pacific. I know I’ve said that before but it’s true.

Rodeo Point

Here we are, the beginning of highway 101, Rodeo Point. When you get onto the road there’s a huge interstate sign painted on the ground reminding you of which road you have just begun, or finished. The wind nearly knocked me over when I got out of the car. This was also my first chance to see the Pacific raging against a rocky cliff. Behind me is about a thirty to forty foot drop towards the ocean.


A modded Ford truck Tim and I encountered on our way out of Portland. The people on the west coast sure are an interesting bunch!

Deer in Olympic

I spotted this guy at Olympic park in Washington. Tim and I were spending some time in the natural hot springs that afternoon, which were an hour’s hike up the mountain. The path used to be on eused by traffic until the ice flow destroyed parts of the road. Occasionally you could see drainage pipes sprouting out from the side of the mountain. The hot springs themselves ranged from small pools that could fit one or two people, to bigger ones which could house a family. The water temperature was so hot you had to get out for a while occasionally. Sulfur made the air smell funky and it made everything slippery to the touch. After a few rough nights of long driving the hot springs made for a relaxing pastime.

Trees at Olympic

Tim spotted this unique display of soil erosion on our way to the hot springs. The trees’ roots are holding the soil together while underneath it slowly falls away. I wouldn’t want to be around when these trees give in to gravity and come crashing down.

Olympic morning

On our way to Olympic Park I made a critical error and missed our exit off I-5. Eventually Tim woke from his nap and alerted me to my mistake and we turned around and rerouted ourselves. This mistake cost us five hours of driving time. Frustrated at myself, and eager to get to the park, I tried making up for it by driving through the night. Our map showed a National Forest at the south end of the park where we could camp. It came to be two in the morning and I was unable to find a campground so I pulled over and slept in the car. To avoid any trouble I woke up before the sun rose and continued the journey north along the eastern side of the Olympic peninsula. Tim snagged this shot of the morning mist coming off a lake as we drove towards Port Angeles.

Victoria Ferry

This shot gives a good look at how small Scottie really is. Tim and I are on a ferry bound for Anacortes, Washington. The ride was a nice reprieve from driving and I took full advantage of my time to read. There’s a wonderful allure to being the foreigner aboard a vessel. You feel unique in your international status and while I rested on a bench I listened to people speaking in French Canadian, Japanese and Korean.

Fond Farewell

This was a difficult time in our journey. Julie made the difficult decision to part ways and strike out on her own towards San Juan Island. She had friends out there who she could stay with. I wish she had decided o stay with us because the trip had barely begun and we had yet to make it to California. I couldn’t argue with her choice though, and all I could do was wish her the best on her own adventures.

Vancouver Water Fall

About thirty minutes outside of Vancouver, BC, by bus, is a rope bridge and hiking park. I cannot remember the name but I do remember the green, moss covered trees and the overwhelming feeling of peace this place instilled in me. Tim and I walked off the path up the mountain away from everyone to sit and meditate. From where we were we could see joggers, hikers and visiting travelers like ourselves.

Shot of Trees in Vancouver Park

This was a fun shot of some trees in Vancouver Park, a different one than the waterfall. Vancouver Park isn’t very different than many parks that you can find in New Jersey. There’s the usual collection of pine trees and oaks and maples, but a very large difference, and this is quite literal, everything is much bigger! I wasn’t able to get a shot that could accurately display this difference in size. The trees are much older than the ones you find in New Jersey, probably because of Canada’s excellent preservation methods. If you ever find yourself in Vancouver I suggest you spend an afternoon exploring this park.

Totem Pole

By the harbor area of the city this totem pole towers over everything else. I found it a bit late in the day so the lighting wasn’t ideal for the picture. I’m glad the airplane came out though.

Vancouver at night

While on a long day trip in the city, Tim and I found ourselves without transit and were forced to walk back to our hostel. In order to get back to the main district we needed to walk across a bridge with traffic moving 50mph right next to us. It got to be a little scary at times, and the thunder storm in the distance didn’t help our enthusiasm. To help cheer myself up, I stopped to take this black and white picture of the city. I didn’t think it would come out this good and I’m proud to have taken this shot. On a side note, Tim and I made it before the rain hit, but lost our way and ended up walking in a complete circle, literally spending an hour doing so. Seeing the same bridge suddenly appear in front of us after an hour of walking wasn’t the highlight of my evening.

Vancouver at day

Here is a shot Tim took of the city as we drove down the main highway, right before the bridge into downtown. You have to remember we arrived in Canada on Canada Day, so the streets were packed with people all celebrating. It was probably the best timing we had the whole road trip. Sometimes, in order for me to make a turn while driving into the city, I had to slowly make my way through people crossing the street at the same time. I felt like I was breaking the law but even though I had a green light, people still crossed unconcerned about oncoming traffic. Vancouver is a rough city!

Danger! Helicopter

Tim spotted this sign as we drove towards Vancouver City. I couldn’t imagine why it was there, sitting among a hedge line, but perhaps there really is a concern I am not aware of.

Border tree

Another one of Tim’s excellent photos. While waiting at the border between the US and Canada Tim snagged a shot of this interesting tree. To this day we don’t know what kind of tree it is, other than something that really grabs the eye. The landscaping around the border is just as impressive, with many different colored flowers and impeccably groomed grasses.

Farm in Washington

This was taken to show just what northern Washington is really like. Once you get past Seattle things start to slow down and if you get off the highway you drive along tractors, rather than cars. Something curious I noticed is that there are a lot of signs which say something along the lines of ‘watch for drunk drivers.’ I asked Tim and Julie what they thought it meant and they considered it could be a reference to the various Indian reservations in the area. While none of us are 100% positive of this deduction we did continue to see these signs all over the west coast, where coincidentally reservations were located.

Scotti taking a break

While we were busy setting up camp in Washington, the night before we arrived at the border, Scotti was taking a break recovering from his long excursions across the country. Poor Scotti, he’s quite the trooper!

Julie and the Troll

An interesting side quest found us under Interstate 5 in Seattle with an actual bridge troll! Lucky for Julie he was cast in stone and was unable to perform his usual troll activities, such as terrorizing those crossing the bridge. Mike and Kim told us about this place while we were staying with them in Seattle. (Thanks again, guys, for giving us a place to stay. Much appreciated!)

Two trash cans

Julie captured these two trash cans together one night on the road at a rest stop.

Bumper Sticker Bus

This bus in Boulder, Colorado didn’t hesitate to express itself. I caught it from afar and had to run to catch up with it so I could grab a shot. I was a little disappointed that the stickers were actually painted on, rather than actual stickers put there by people. Who knew opinions could be so easily manufactured?

Cultural weekend

14 July, Monday -
At 145pm on Monday afternoon, I have got a fair bit done and now to head to the library. This isn't for me a 'fun-only' stop; during my 4th visit I'll need to get some research done to decide if this may be a place for me. Maybe for a while, or not at all.

13 July, Sunday -
After exploring much of downtown San Francisco, I found most non-commercial establishments were closed. Dolores Park was packed, however, and I bet the great weather played a big part in the makeshift rave tent, complete with speakers, DJ, and tables. Such an assortment of diverse groups dancing together is rarely seen, except maybe here.

12 July, Saturday -
A lazy day, after settling into an awesome hotel right in downtown @ 40/nite (+ parking...). Golden Gate Park was way laid-back, but I forgot how chilly it gets just after sunset, even here. Haight Street was a trip, but seemed like almost every square inch was owned. Bummer. I guess Corporate America really can market and manipulate all culture: war culture, consumer culture, culture of fear, ... even counterculture.

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.."

Definitely not. But, like the setting of that one old song (some classic rock-ish/folk-y song of yore), we're here: in San Francisco. I'll update on the past few days below, and upload more pictures tonight... I think I'm beginning to build something of a photographers portfolio...

Friday, July 11 -
Arrival in San Francisco. Spent last night in an inn just outside the city. After a 10 minute ride, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge; my first time seeing it closer than from across the city, even after 4 visits.

On another note, we still have much of California to explore. While I am taken with San Francisco (now my 4th visit in 2 years), Joe R. says San Diego is a very close competitor for 'Awesome City'. Certainly, with a $1 bet on it now, I will find much to like about San Diego... although it definitly has warm water going for it.

Thursday, July 10 -
Yesterday we drove through Oregon via Rt. 101, the coastal route - wholly one of the most scenic stunning roadways in the nation. Portland was nice and I hung out one of the most strongly willful people I have ever met. With a victim-turned-heroine type story, needless to say, I feel I have been let in to the wisdom of a modern-day sage, one no older than I. More on this later, perhaps.

A pleasant day of driving today after crossing into California; though we spent last night in the car - EVERYWHERE along a 35 mile stretch was full (or way overly expensive). We managed to spend a nice afternoon napping and reading in a park along Avenue of Giants in an ancient redwood forst.

Tuesday, July 8 -
We left Olympic National Park today. It's a whole new, wild ecosystem to me - mountainous, temperate rain forest - totally thrilling. For the first time this trip, we got to hike some trails through a park we were staying at - en route we discovered some natural hot springs. Not a bad way to spend a Monday afternoon.

Tonight we spent a night at a rest stop in Washington, we just drove all night and had to stop. Fortunately we're just by the Oregon border so we can get provisioned in Portland tomorrow. Then down to California; we think we'll hit that border tomorrow night.

Sunday, July 6 -
We reached the U.S. again. It took us a while, longer than we though but we avoided another ferry. Chris will drove all through the night to reach Olympic National Park. A wearisome day of travel and movement.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Photos! Before Boulder,

Scotti’s ready!

This was a shot of Scotti in Collingswood just before Tim, Julie and I embarked on our road trip.

Julie in the ‘cave’

We nicknamed the rear seat of the car ‘the cave’ because it felt exactly like that, a cave. There was so much stuff packed into the car that when it came to fitting a third person in they sat right up against all of it. I feel bad for how often Julie had to sit back there while I got a front row seat everyday.

Drum Circle in Washington DC

This is a picture of a drum circle in Washington DC. Part of our first day experience, the three of us spent a few hours in DC gathering food supplies and enjoying some good music. This drum circle happens every Sunday for 40 years in western DC. I’ve gone to it a few times and it can range from just under twenty members to over forty people either grooving to the beat or dancing in the street. It’s always a good time.


Here’s a shot of the Great Plains of Kansas. I remember wanting to see nothing but fields really bad until it was five hours of nothing but fields. The trip wasn’t all that bad because I had great companions and smooth tunes the whole way.

The Delaware Memorial

Another shot of the first day experience. Here we’re driving over the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

More photos from before Boulder, Co.