Editor’s Note: I’m back from my little jaunt on the West coast! It was amazing and I have so much inspiration to share. From the beautiful sights to the beautiful lessons learned from our ultimate destination of the World Domination Summit, the trip was a beautiful chapter of life. My brother and I took the trip together with my newly restored Elsie, a 1960 Shasta Deluxe, exploring Northern California, the Oregon coast, Portland and everything in between.
To hopefully inspire you in your everyday adventures and dreams, I’ve decided to share my personal essay of the past weeks. It will be posted in Part I, Part II and Part III and feature photography from the trip as well as the story behind Elsie. I hope you enjoy it!
Elsie won’t budge. She smokes, she cranks, she stubbornly stays. We coax her to one shop to diagnose and it’s closed. Another shop and nowhere to leave her overnight to hopefully be healed and back on the enticing road in the morning. Nowhere to land, but a quiet neighborhood park on a quiet street in Petaluma, CA. There’s something to be said about sleeping on a 45 degree angle, illegally boondocking, and waking up and walking outside in front of an unbeknownst a.m. yoga class. But, I’ll let you come up with that. Quickly running back in the car, we set off with a fire extinguisher between my legs in nervous anticipation for arriving at the now third auto place without Elsie catching on fire. The second wouldn’t work on my ol’ gal. The third shop was eager and happy to begin investigation on Elsie’s stubborn feet. As the testing began, we were released in to the nervous unknown to explore the town for the day.
It was a perfect place to force a stop. God knew all along. We could’ve easily encountered Elsie’s surprising stubbornness going 75mph on the highway. The adventure would’ve ended for all of us. Petaluma is the exact kind of place we wanted to find and it indeed happened without prior plan. The best experiences often do, don’t you think? We refueled at the most delicately quaint and passionate bakery café called Della Fattoria, indulging on a delightfully prepared breakfast and what Ryan still claims to this day is the best coffee he’s ever had. I loved that place. I loved having a plump and chewy molasses cookie at 8 in the morning and I loved having to tour through the entire kitchen set up just to use the bathroom. It made me want to eat more of the their food, walking through the energy and craft produced in methodically creative passion. Of course, with my senses increasing in life, I was able to notice this all. I was able to notice the woman staring at her artfully topped espresso in great delight and the lady next to me switching seats with her elder to protect her from the energy of the jostling counter. Do you get why your mind wanders to the road now? Do you see how awakening your senses also awakens your creativity? It was sad to walk out of that café, knowing that it wouldn’t be any anytime soon I could return.
“Bodega Bay is just 45 min away,” Elsie’s technician suggested. We pointed West and finally met the ocean. It was cold and alive with wind. We dipped our toes in the murky sand wondering how Hithcock was able to dream one of the most memorable thrillers to this day. I looked around for birds to try and put myself in the film’s scene, but they were few and far between. Anxious to get back to Elsie, we started to head back, stopping only when a sign made us realize we had a hankering for crab mac and cheese and hot chowder.
I specialize in awkward timing. © Whim and Fancy
On our way back, I couldn’t help but focus on Elsie’s fate. It was enough to mourn one day away from her, but what if there were more? We couldn’t wait any longer on our trip, we had a final destination to attain. I prayed for a miracle, but alas, it wasn’t meant to happen. “She needs a whole new axle,” the technician explained, “and they don’t make her kind any more. We need to either custom build one or retrofit a modern one. It will take about 2-3 weeks.” Cue stomach drop. Enter mild to moderate breakdown. All the blood, sweat and tears I (and my more than generous family) had poured into her and now she can’t even make it to the ocean? I have to leave her, go on without one of the main reasons for the trip? There was extreme disappointment, anger, embarrassment, failure and frustration all rolled up into one emotional outbreak. I thought I triple checked every renovation, upgrade and maintenance needed for ol’ Elsie. Turns out the wheel bearings weren’t greased when the new tires went on. Thus, they were grinding and aching and moaning across three states before they finally managed to cause the demise of the entire axle. Make sure the wheel bearings are greased. Seriously, Trailer Owning 101. It’s the first thing I learned, actually. I was so disappointed.
I know it’s just a trailer to some. But, for me, it was more. It was a chance to create another story and open a new door in life. More than that, my family made some significant sacrifices for her me. “I’m sorry Nay,” my brother consoled. I felt bad letting him down. We were both so excited for it. And I still knew that all the adventure lie ahead, just instead of via trailer it would be via tent. I just needed a little time to mourn and adjust expectations, you know? After drying off from the monsoon of emotion and unloading the trailer contents in the car, I reminded myself that another story will still be created and a new door would still be opened. In fact, it reminded me (once again) that I’m not in control of my story and, instead, I’m in control of only how I respond to my story as it unfolds before me. I found an odd glimpse of beauty in that uncertainty of life.
Driving off into the sunset sans Elsie, I caught a glimpse of the Francis Ford Coppola winery (I absolutely love Sophia Coppola, so we had to stop). Ah, what a perfect time to reflect on another day. It was a good lift of emotions, a restart that could be easily ignited with a new experience ahead. Actually, I’ve found that is the primary way for me to build up and move on after any trial in life. A new experience. Every breakup, every disappointment, every cusp between hardship and learning is jolted into new momentum with experiencing something new. A new hobby, a new club, a new sport, a new hair color, a new outfit. In this case, a simple new experience at a winery. And, of course, all the new experiences to follow helped even more tremendously.
As night fell all around us, we finally hit the ocean. I knew it as soon as the curvy road presented us with a vast freeing break of landscape coated in midnight black. I could smell it in the air and feel it in my hands as the wind rushed by. Where would we sleep tonight? Right by this magnificent wonder. The one wonder we are missing in beautiful Colorado. The ocean wasn’t far from the campsite we ultimately chose. We pitched our tent in darkness and fell into an exhausted slumber awakening only when we were fully renewed for the remaining quest ahead.
Bigfoot country. Actually, Redwood country. Both are equally intoxicating in their magnitude. Of course, the Redwoods don’t hold a candle to Bigfoot in my mind. They are magnificent. Magnificent in size looking up and over. They form a tall canopy that coolly blocks life from the sun and only occasionally lets the rays greet the greenery as if for the first time. They are stunning.
And quite musical. In fact, I think that’s where the tale of Bigfoot began. When you walk through the vastness of the Avenue of the Giants you are silenced in awe of their size. You feel instantly insignificant in the presence of their domineering age and stature. I kept hearing instruments. “Is there a band playing?” I ask my brother. Then, I hear a faint humanlike scream. My thoughts immediately go to Bigfoot. Oh gosh, here I go. But wait. It’s the trees! Each tree makes a unique song as it stubbornly sways in the comparatively weak wind. Some moan, some scream, some sing tenor, some bass, some soprano. It’s beautifully haunting.
Naturally, we find a place to set up our tent right among these historic creatures. Over whiskey, poetry, and smoke, my brother and I get to know these ancients and sleep peacefully among their symphony.
Onward we trek. Wearing the scent of campfire (the signature Colorado perfume) we set forth in search of the perfect place to celebrate our country’s independence. Camping was in our mind until we stopped at the little Oregon coastal town of Florence. Stopping at their main inn in the historic downtown, we instead settle on a cheap room near the boardwalk. After a delicious and fresh seafood dinner in a cozy eatery, we sit among the townsfolk and delightfully indulge in a blazing display under the stars. Happy Birthday, America. We cheers to new friends at the local watering hole and delightfully reminisce on how great this movie is so far.
Oh my gosh, how I love Oregon. It reminds me so much of Colorado only with the vast blue ocean at its rim. Driving up the Oregon Coast Highway, I marvel at each coastal town and break often to photograph the ocean splashing against the lush, green landscape. Music is crucial here. It carries us along the winding highway set perfectly with the crashing waves, massive trees and rolling mountainsides. Beach House’s latest album, Bloom, fits perfectly with its ethereal voice and crescendoing melodies.
We head straight for Cannon Beach, of course stopping at Tillamook and Blue Heron cheese factories along the way. My brother and I are suckers for cheese and it was a nice break. Approaching Cannon Beach, I quickly fall in love with its charm. We have no idea where to camp, but end up miraculously finding a perfect RV park right near the beach with a grassy plot to set up our tent. We grab a bottle of wine and take the short walk to the beach right as the sun begins to set behind the endless ocean. Now, being from Colorado, I’ve seen more than my share of heart-tingling sunsets, but this… this sunset may have very well topped a lifetime of them. The sand acted as a pure glass surface, reflecting bold reds, oranges, pinks and purples as the blue-crimson waves crashed over the palatte in anxious joy for another. My mind was still and couldn’t help being overwhelmed with the sound of crashing waves, graceful birds and whispering misty fog.
I quietly wonder if people who live here are as jaded with this sight as I am with the beauty of my Colorado home. I’m sure they know it exists like I do at home, but I can’t help but wonder if every day their breath is a little less taken away as their human nature calls it into familiar habit.
This trip has indulged in its due purpose and awakened my senses in pure delight. It’s even worked on the beauty I see back at home. But that doesn’t mean I still don't crave the sight of unfamiliar beauty like this. It’s exhilarating and it’s all within reach. A whole world of it. I feel so incredibly blessed to live on God’s most beautiful work of art. I indeed intend to explore as much of this gift as I can possibly cover.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in the same place your whole life and never travel. I sadly am all too familiar with how our human brains closes us in a familiar box of comfort, place, and habit. But, don’t be fooled by its apparent warmth at night. Only when your senses are alive, are you truly living as you were made to. Your soul was meant to explore, to discover, to learn, and to do it with ample feeling. Your life is meant to be lived and noticed. Unfortunately, with all the innovation in our society today, it’s easy to loose sight of this. We miss so much in multitasking and trying to be as efficient as possible to keep up with the seemingly important demands of society. We sometimes confuse this with the word life. Life is demanding, life is busy, we say. That’s not life. That’s just expectations you’ve accepted from society and the community around you. To experience life and all its treasures is to slow down and notice its beauty and its lessons unfolding in a quiet whisper before you. I have to constantly remind myself of this. And trips like this, where they heighten my senses and show me unfamiliar beauty are the perfect medicine to get back to the wellspring of life. Your soul, alive and fed with heightened senses.
How can there possibly be more than this? Well, now we head into Portland for a weekend of beautiful lessons and inspiration from another of God’s magnificent creations – people who are alive and living in their own unique purpose.
Look out for Part III next week!