We woke in the morning and packed our luggage (clothing bins) into the Element. We dragged our feet but kept our hopes high that today would hold wonders and lift our spirits. Waze guided us to the redwoods and we made sure to choose every scenic drive the roadways offered to see the most we could. The first tree with a name was the Grandfather Tree, an incredibly massive tree that touts being over 1800 years old. What that really meant was that we had to go to the other side of the parking lot in order to get it all in one photo. Standing at the base makes one feel minuscule in comparison.
Taking our time, we meandered along the coast line soaking in the sheer size of the redwoods, basking in the scenery. We stopped and grabbed lunch at the Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe, the ladies there were kind enough to feed us even though they were closing early for the holiday weekend. We ate in the car, parked on the main road, and watched as the bustling town slowed to a crawl. With bellies full, we continued to meander up the coast poking in and out of the redwoods. It’s incredible how high these massive giants reach towards the sky.
We became so engaged in the scenery, we completely forgot about a place to stay at the end of the drive. This normally is not a problem except we also failed to realize that everyone would be out for the holiday weekend, resulting in no available campgrounds anywhere. Why? Because 4th of July means camping! So we did the next best thing – we spent our first night in a Walmart parking lot. Truthfully it was better than we had expected. We had many neighbors in the form of RV’s. Thankfully it was a 24-hour supercenter and we found a space wedged between 2 parking islands and began to set up the car for the night. After putting up our curtains and laying out the bed, we went into Walmart to stretch our legs, wander through the aisles and pick up the little bits of things we may need along our journey (also to go to the bathroom one final time before we bunkered down for the night). Our new Walmart neighbors decided that since it was after all a holiday weekend, they would entertain us before bed by putting on a firework show and shouting drunkenly at the explosions and one another.
After a surprisingly good night sleep we woke up the next morning, packed up our miniature home, and headed North toward Eugene, Oregon where we would be spending our 4th of July. While traveling along we finally found a restaurant that was opened named Cornucopia, and sat down to enjoy lunch. Concerned about where we would park for the night, we began searching for a campground early in the day. This proved to be the right decision as we were fortunate enough to find one campground that had only a handful of spaces left, Eugene Kamping World. After scouting the available sites, we made our way to the space that would work best for us and pitched. We were lucky enough to be able to see portions of multiple fireworks shows while relaxing in our lawn chairs and drinking some Oregon Pinot Noir.
As the sun hit our tent we arose and broke down camp to make our way towards Portland where we would be exploring for a few days with our friends Dez and Jason. Before getting to their house we decided we needed some caffeine to pry open our eyes and some wine to share for the evening. We stopped on the waterfront at a coffee shop, and walked along the river to see what was around, stopping into the Bottle Bodega where they want to find the right bottle for the job. After some great conversation we thanked the shop owner and made it to the Pittman house. We had just enough time for a quick shower before heading out to Portobello for an incredibly delicious dinner. For dessert we opted to head to a gluten free bakery nearby that also offered vegan options for Jason. We spent the rest of the night at the Pittman’s for a glorious TV binge of Rick and Morty.
When we woke up the next morning both Dez and Jason had to go to work, leaving Joe and I to our own devices. We started the day by headed to New Cascadia for brunch. New Cascadia is a 100% dedicated gluten free bakery that is nestled in some back streets…and it’s incredible! Everything is scratch made in house; you can taste the love. After filling ourselves up we decided to walk off the added carb weight by walking aimlessly in the Rose Gardens, followed by a hearty hike up the hill to the Japanese Gardens. Breathtaking views of the city of Portland laid down in a valley below our feet and invited us to take a moment to enjoy its peacefulness.
After completing our tour of the Japanese Garden, we headed back towards the Rose Garden and treated ourselves to some shaved ice as a welcome treat from the persistent Oregon sun. After spending the majority of the day amidst nature and flowers, we decided to give our sinuses a break and head back to Dez and Jason. They wanted to bring us to one of their favorite overlook sites, a place they call “The Castle”, that is atop a hill and looks out over the city of Portland and the southerly border of Washington. After looking out over the horizon for a while, we decided it was time for more of what Portland does best – food! We settled down for dinner at Vita Café, where I enjoyed a heaping plate of chili cheese fries, nachos and a chicken fried steak made of tempeh. Ridiculous! After dinner it was back to the homestead for more binge watching of Rick and Morty- my new favorite television show.
The next morning Dez was able to get off from work, so she took us to brunch at the Tin Shed Garden Cafe, and then brought us around the city to all of her favorite shops including an oddity shop called Paxton Gate and an old school arcade called Ground Kontrol (where the currency was quarters and not tokens). We played Pac-Man, X-Men, and even had a Dance, Dance, Revolution battle. Dez was kind enough to bring us all over so that we could get a real feel of what Portland was like. Around late afternoon we went back to the house and met up with Jason to go to New Seasons Market a grocery store that was very similar to Sprouts. We picked up stuff to make dinner (Roasted Cauliflower Parmesan Pasta Deliciousness) and laughed about just how much we had in common with our food selections and shopping habits.
True to Portland form (and the theme of our trip) It rained a bit, so we were happy to spend the night finishing Rick and Morty and watching “Samurai Cop”; a delightfully terrible movie about a man who takes down a Japanese crime gang (sometimes it’s his real hair and sometimes it’s a wig). Since it was our last night, we ended up staying up a little bit later than we should have, but it was well worth it for good company. We had fallen in love with Portland, and were very sad to leave it behind.
Bright and early the next morning we hit the road to Seattle for our trip to the top of the Space Needle. After purchasing our tickets to the observation deck we overheard someone discussing brunch at a revolving restaurant at the top called “Skycity”. The brunch includes your ticket to the observation deck and they offered a limited number of gluten free items. We were told they had a last minute cancellation this morning and if we decided to take the table for two they would refund our original tickets. Needless to say we decided to eat a three course brunch in the rotating restaurant at the top of the Space Needle (47 minutes for a 360-degree rotation). Fancy food eaten, we strolled over to the observation deck and proceeded to weave our way around the throngs of tourists now ascending on the needle as the rain begrudgingly gave way too sunshine. After spending a good amount of time looking over Seattle, we decided it was time to start driving again and tick down as many miles as we could for our next destination. Today would be our first day traveling East, both an exciting accomplishment and a somber moment of realization there was as much behind us as there was in front of us.
We watched as Seattle and the Pacific Northwest began to disappear in our mirrors. We drove through beautiful mountain passes and a valley made of gold with a sky so vast and blue it seemed endless. Spokane Valley Washington drew near and we decided on dinner at Twigs Bistro and afterwards stayed in a tiny corner of a Walmart parking lot. In the midst of a sea of RV’s was our little unassuming orange Element, happy to take a refuge for the night.