I hugged the curves in the road curious what lay ahead, gorgeous views, possibly around the next bend driving North on the 101. The adventure of the open road. The unknown and the unexpected. When my traveling friend and I decided to set out we had only a time frame and a direction. North or South was the question? From previous conversations I had interpreted South to equate San Diego and North to Portland but the night before we headed out, (after I put out feelers to friends and Portlanders for suggestions) he kindly said, “No Destination, only a direction.” North it is. My brain spun out of control for a moment, eagerly hopeful to set eyes and taste buds upon a favorite progressive Pacific NorthWest city of mine until I made amends with myself. Portland can wait. Focus on the adventure of the open road. This is a different trip. Let’s go the coastal route. And just be. We set off lazily, taking our time with the only requirement for the day: deciding on a highway.
Easy. We let highway 101 guide us. Our first pit stop in the quaint and humble turned gourmet town of Healdsburg, which I only had set foot a few months prior en route to Boonville that lead me back with friends. We roamed town checking one high end local grocery to a slightly more affordable one to create a picnic. ‘This town is so quiet, I said aloud.” Almost eerily too quiet. Where are the people?, I wondered. Just as we were about to leave town, we stumbled upon a cool modern day Grange filled with speciality kitchen ware, and gourmet cheeses and salami’s.
I couldn’t resist the offer to sample an array of cheese with an expert explaining what I was tasting. (Hey, I want his job). The road soon beckoned us and with a road trip in winter, day light isn’t on our side. Soon enough we were engulfed by redwood trees racing time and curves in the road for a chance at seeing the sunset.The road was familiar and it dawned on me I had traveled this windy road three years earlier for a birthday weekend in my honor.
We hit the small coastal town of Fort Bragg just in time to watch the sun hide behind the horizon. We pulled over to a gorgeous vista and watched the hues of blue, pink and oranges grace the sky. I looked over as I skipped in my flip flops and California sweatshirt at all the cars parked along the ridge. Everyone else had the same brilliant idea. Watch the beauty of nature from the comforts of the car but we wanted to stretch our legs and feel the cool air on our skin. The folks out of their cars were given my uncovered feet stares. Yes, I’m no longer in the warm Bay Area. We sat a while, listening to the ocean waves crash and faint sounds of locals conversations. I could have stayed a long while but with the sunset, it was cold. Time to bundle up and seek shelter. We asked locals about camping on the beach and were given the local spot but we weren’t prepared to freeze ourselves on the beach and made the quick decision to keep on North.
With no plans and no destinations, no one waiting for us, we could choose wherever, whenever with no right or wrong… but I wanted to see more and stay in a place I hadn’t been before. We continued until the land of Arcata pulling into the nearest McDonald’s to tap into their wifi (two worthwhile things they offer- free internet and bathrooms) to figure out where we would stay. There’s something quite exciting with arriving to a new town without a clue of where we’ll call home for the night. We hoped for bargains on one of the many hotel sites but found out the best rate was what the hotels were offering. Nothing special. (A few nights later tapping into McDonald’s lots) we would realize that hotel booking sites don’t offer great last-minute deals to spontaneous travelers.) We found a local college spot still opened serving all sorts of tasty grub despite school being out for winter break. Small town vibes. Soon after, we tucked in for the night resting up for another long day of the unexpected.
The following morning we tucked into a few shops, the types filled with fun jewelry and eclectic gifts that no one necessarily needs but are nice to treat yourself or buy for someone else. I was happy to find a local coffee shop that felt like a European café with delectable pastries, sumptuous breakfasts and drip coffee. I ordered croissant bread pudding.(Yup, it was my first time. And it was delicious.)
Where will the day lead us?, I wondered. And could I live here? Nah, I think it’s too small and often too overcast. We made our rounds of the city center, hopped in the car and continued on North the coastal route. Oregon greeted us with rain. Lots of it.
Have you ever hopped in the car and gone on a road trip without much of a plan? Could you?
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