Los Angeles, CA to Portland, OR
22.03.2016 - 23.03.2016
Aaron works at a school an hour’s commute from his house, so he wakes up at 6am to get there on time. That meant today, I had to wake up at 6am. I'm not a morning person. He helped me carry my bags out to my car several blocks away (because LA parking) and we parted ways as the sun was just about to rise. It was going to be a long day. Luckily, if I made it to Portland, OR by tonight, I would be able to meet up with my best friend and partner-in-crime -- Christian, like the religion. He was checking out the Pacific Northwest for jobs and already had a hotel booked downtown for tonight. Already used to the cozy life of sleeping in a real bed, I was not quite ready to give that up for a night in the car somewhere on the way to Oregon. Besides, the chance to see my friend in the weirdest city I could think of was definitely worth making the 20hr drive in one day...right?
Unfortunately, the foggy morning was bleak and dreary, making it hard to get energized for my long drive. And predictably, somewhere along the way to the scenic Highway 1 (“The Big Sur”) I took a wrong turn. But it became the best mistake I’ve made on the trip.
I was suddenly in rolling hills of the most vivid green I’d ever seen. They were coated with wildflowers, especially along the road of the rollercoaster county highway I was taking. I had no idea where I was going at this point, my phone had no signal, and I hadn’t brought a map for California thinking I’d easily have signal everywhere I’d be. It just gave me an excuse to take this beautiful road as far as I could until I found a way to the coast. Despite mild panic I would be lost forever, I couldn't stop smiling.
After a couple hours driving through this wonderland, I found a connection to a highway and that took me West to the last remaining section of the Big Sur. When the road finally ran along the ocean, I flew out of my car to snap photos as proof of my eventual success.
The remaining road I caught along the coastline was brief and the rest of the scenic drive was through a thickly forested segment of highway with huge hills and bends (and a 50mph speed limit everyone was disobeying by at least 20mph). It was like a rollercoaster, minus the automatic part and with added danger. The wild ride took me straight into San Jose where I stopped to get a coffee at one of the 30 hipster coffee shops downtown.
The road was starting to take me through mountains again, and kept getting more beautiful. I didn’t stop again until I reached the border of California and Oregon, at a little town called “Weed, CA” (I needed to see what the name was about). Turns out the city has nothing to do with the state’s favorite drug, but they definitely went all out when they realized people would buy a tshirt with the city name on it. Souvenirs with weed puns were everywhere in town.
I watched an amazing sunset from behind huge purple mountains in the distance that I was headed straight towards. Then the sky blackened and it began to thunderstorm, just in time for me to enter some more swerving and hilly roads. The drive was a bit nervewracking and I was getting tired at this point (it had been about 15 hours of driving by now). I think I spent more money today on coffee stops alone than I spent total any other day of my trip.
My last stop was for gas in a creepy small town in the middle of Oregon, where a man came up to my car and ushered for me to roll down the window. I was a bit overcaffeinated and paranoid and I panicked and drove off and tried another gas station, where the same thing happened. At this one, I tentatively rolled down my window to ask what he wanted. It turns out in this city they didn’t allow self-serve gasoline, and the attendant pumped for me while I watched in awe (I’d never seen one of these stations before). I tipped him, and I'm still not sure if I was supposed to do that.
At this point it was only a couple more hours to Portland, and even though I was beyond exhausted and my foot was getting sore from pushing on the pedal, I powered through, desperate for a shower and sleep.
As soon as I pulled up to the hotel, I was awestruck by how beautifully luxurious it was, paid for by his incredibly generous parents in order to start this segment of the trip off right. Even better, the hotel theme was classic movies!
We threw my muddy bags onto the spotless carpet with a bit of guilt and ducked out to make it to a famously eccentric bar called the Paymaster’s Lounge before bar close. I was grateful to guzzle a couple local craft beers after the stressful drive while we observed the locals in their natural habitat. In the back, they had these crazy vending machines with “mystery” prizes, books, and other strange paraphenelia. We picked the “?,” the “What’s your Spirit Animal,” and “Scary Things” options and ended up with a pack of seeds and a toy elephant, and a homemade book of handdrawn “scary” things. I have a new favorite bar.
We returned to the hotel late, and I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep so fast.