Monday, December 13, 2010

My 2010 List

I first put this up over on the Culture Gulag, but so JD can enjoy it as well, here it is.

This has been a really strange year for music. I don't know what to think about it. I'm not sure if it's just me getting old, or what. Anyhow, my list for 2010.

Songs that I liked

Ariel Pink - Fright Night (Nevermore)
This album is fairly eclectic. It didn't make it in to heavy rotation, but this song is quite amazing.

Wolf Parade - Yulia & Oh You, Old Thing
The more I think about it the more I'm disappointed in this album. The last four songs should have been released as an EP. These two in particular are amazing.

Liars - Scissor & The Overachievers
These songs take me back to their wonderful self titled album. The rest doesn't stack up.

Dr. Dog - Shadow People
I don't know why I like this band or this song. Really catchy though, in a classic rock sort of way.

The Arcade Fire - Wasted Hours
This is a hauntingly lovely song. There's other moments on the album but I really do like this song.

Stuff that really bored me and I didn't think it would

Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
Superchunk was never great as a super-poppy punkish band type entity. They got great when they mellowed out over the last few albums. I don't like this trip back in time. I struggle to listen all the way through. This actually makes me a bit sad. I actually bought tickets to see them and forgot about the show. Totally missed it. That's not a ringing endorsement.

Les Savy Fav - Root For Ruin
I can't recall any song on this album.

LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
This is the swan song?

The Thermals - Personal Life
I listened to this album 5 times. What the hell?

David Cross - Bigger and Blacker
Oh my god. This is so unfunny.

There's actually just a really huge list of things that slot in to this category. Caribou. Belle & Sebastian. Department of Eagles (yes. I know. Stuff written and recorded years ago. Still...) Figurines.

Stuff that was almost there

The Walkmen - Lisbon
There's no Walkmen bangers here, but I liked it.

She & Him - Volume 2
Volume 1 wasn't even all that great, as an album. It just had 4-5 really fantastic songs. I've listened to this a bit. Once again, there are some great moments here. Just less so than the first one.

Really good stuff

The Morning Benders - Big Echo
The first few times I listened to this, I really liked it. Saw them live at the Media Club and they blew me away. These kids are good.

Girl Talk - All Day
Man, what a guy. He does several things here, but the biggest thing he does is that he elevates almost every song. I wish that he would be a bit more subtle at times (for example, at the end, it would have been way better if he hadn't used any of the vocals from Imagine and just left it with the melody). This guy blows me away. Even though you can probably only listen to it a few times.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Bradford has had his moments over the last few years. But when you couple this with the last Atlas Sound, it really shows that he owns this moment in time. Their live show is pretty damn great. He's putting out an amazing album every year. It's all very impressive.

Beach House - Teen Dreams
True story. I had no idea that it was a woman singing until I saw them live. And, from the same show...

Bachelorette - My Electric Family
Ya, this didn't come out this year. So what?

Aziz Asnari - Intimate Moments...
Yes. I know. Not music. The encore sucks, but this is an amazingly funny piece of stand-up. I only listened to it once, of course, but it was memorable.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Who wants adventure when you can just keep speaking English? Why everybody should go to Hawaii.

Every single time I go to a tropical destination I end up on the toilet for at least 10% of the trip. This is not an exageration. This is the unfortunate truth.

Wanting some sun, a bit of relaxation and some adventure without difficulty, we decided on a trip to Hawaii. Kauai specifically. Yes, fear of the toilet sent me to Hawaii. Here's why you should go/what you should do when you get there.

Marvel at the chickens
Chickens everywhere.

Rent a convertible Mustang

Half of all Kauai seems to be travelling in one of two cars: A Toyota pick-up truck or a convertible Mustang. I'll let you guess which one contains the tourists.

Ordinarily, I would not be caught dead in a convertible Mustang. It's a mid-life crisis coated with a thick layer of processed cheese. Too much for me. However, the rental car company did not have the agreed upon budget sub-compact in stock, so we were faced with a free upgrade into either a: Mazda 6, Hardtop Mustang or the Convertible. I mean, you'd be kind of stupid not to take the convertible, right?
And thank God for my ability to send my pride packing back to Canada. I learned to love the Mustang. I embraced the freedom of no roof and pretty much refused to drive anywhere with the top up. It should come with no top at all, as far as I'm concerned. The benefits? Well, with the top down you can actually see where you're driving! (There's some nasty blind spots with the roof up) Want to take a photograph? Of anything? Just stick the camera in the air and fire away.

Hawaii needs to be experienced in a convertible.

Go Snorkeling

I'm ordinarily frightened of fish. I actually don't like swimming where there is anything living that can potentially touch or brush up against me. Weeds. Fish. Small children. Anything. I prefer a nice lake devoid of any creature or plant. But that all changes when you go to Hawaii. There are so many reefs and they're all filled with fish. Big fish. Little fish. Bright fish. Dull fish. And somehow, they're not scary. They do their thing, you watch and everything is okay. Your best bet is to probably bring your own mask and snorkel (or buy them there at any of the numerous dive shops) and rent flippers so they don't take up all of your luggage space.

Even better...

Take a boat ride up the Napali Coast and out to Ni'ihau for even better snorkeling

There are seemingly hundreds of tour guides that will take your money, put you in a boat and haul you up the Napali Coast and back. There are only two that will do the same trip but include a side trip out to Ni'ihau. And there is only one company that offers these trips up daily. You'll pay a lot no matter how you do it and the Ni'ihau jaunt will add a few dollars to the total, but the extra dollars are definitely worth it.
First of all, you'll see dolphins. The water out near Ni'ihau is crawling with dolphins. We did see a couple frolicking in the waves up on the Napali, but nothing compared to Ni'ihau. It was like somebody had kept those poor little guys in a cage for a week straight and just let them out for 10 minutes while our boat travelled through the area. Dolphin pandemonium. Jumping. Diving. Spinning (they are Spinner Dolphins, after all). They went crazy. It was awesome.
Next, you'll get some great snorkeling. We parked off the coast of Lehua (an even smaller island just off the coast of Ni'ihau) and got some fantastic snorkeling in about 25 feet of water. Huge schools of fish. All sorts of starfishy and urchiny things. A seal even sauntered through the area for a while.
Throw in the sunrise, dramatic Napali Coast views, the decent lunch spread and the free-flowing booze on the return ride home (I had one beer, but there was this pretty old guy that was pounding them back) and this becomes a really easy decision.
Stay in the South

We ended up in Poipu because all the guide books told us to. More sun. Less fearsome surf. Etc. While not perfect, there are many reasons to stay in Poipu. First and foremost is that you're never more than an hour-and-a-half from any point on the island. The "problem" with Kauai is that there is no road that goes all the way around the island. The Northernmost road and the Westernmost road end no more than 12 or so miles from one another, but it will probably take you at least 2 hours or more to get from one to the other. If you stay near either of these points you most likely won't be able to experience the opposite side of the island. If you stay in Poipu, everything is a fairly manageable drive. However...

Stay in the North

The North is just so beautiful. Better beaches. Better surf (in the winter). More animals. Less tourists. The only reason we didn't stay in the North is that all the guide books warned us about the excessive rain, treacherous surf, angry locals and land-adapted sharks. From what we saw, the books are full of crap. You won't be able to make it to some of the Southern/Western sights (Waimea Canyon, etc.) but it might be worth the trade-off.

Surf in Hanalei Bay

Every book/website/guy on the corner seemed to warn about the angry locals, overly large waves and hungry sharks of Hanalei Bay. We decided to surf there anyhow.

We rented gear from Hawaiian Surfing Adventures. It's perfect. Cheap rates. Right on the Beach. Half-owned by a Canadian. We ended up on some large, soft-top boards because we didn't see the huge rack of standard boards hiding behind them. Oh well. They helped keep us somewhat dry on the 15 minute paddle out to the (serious) waves. (there are some kiddie waves lapping the shore closer in)

Once we got out to the waves, it was the friendliest local scene I've ever experienced. Keep to the sidelines for 10 minutes or so, see how things go, don't step on any toes and the locals will become more than helpful. Pretty quickly I had people cheering me on every time I paddled for a wave. Once I finally got up, I almost collided with some other dude before I figured out he was there and made a quick turn. When I apologized he said "No problem! Take as many as you want, I'm out here every day." It was refreshing.

While we were out there, we ran in to Mitchell, the non-Canadian half of the Hawaiin Surfing Adventures ownership. He paddled over, hopped in the water and coached us on to several waves. It was fantastic. We ended our day with some wonderful tacos/burritos from Pat's Taqueria which quietly sits waiting for you in the parking lot.

Eat at Banana Joe's Fruit Stand

Banana Joe's is just North of Kilaueau, so you will drive right by it if you head to the North. Banana Joe's offers up some local food products and a small kitchen that produces magic. Hand written on some small signs on the wall is the days menu of smoothies and frosties. There's usually 2 options for each. The smoothie is self explanatory and you're welcome to waste your life and order one of these. The real action is on the frostie. The Banana Joe's frostie goes on my list of "Best things that I've ever put in my mouth." Nothing more than frozen fruit blended into an ice cream like consistency, the frostie provides a taste explosion that is so beyond the sum of its parts its like a hydrogen bomb created by mixing a couple of firecrackers with some lighter fluid. Alchemy. A taste sensation. Get one after going to the...

Kilaueau Lighthouse and Nature Preserve

I've always wanted to see an Albatross. I never thought that when I finally saw an Albatross it would be overshadowed by hundreds of equally large frigate birds.
Pay your 10 dollars and check out the views from the Lighthouse. If you're lucky you'll get to experience the Frigate Birds dive-bombing. If they poop on you it's good luck. Lots and lots of good luck

Paddle Surf at Kalapaki Beach

Right in the heart of Lihue is Kalapaki Beach. This is the friendliest surf in town and it's not terribly crowded as it sits wedged between the shipyard and downtown. The surf was small, so we rented stand up paddle boards.

Stand up surfing seems almost perfect for the person comfortable with standing up on a surfboard, not 100% certain how to read waves and not in good enough shape to paddle a surfboard around for more than an hour. So, pretty much made for me.

We surfed for an hour-and-a-half until my leash broke and I almost got run over/into a fist fight with an angry local after getting stranded into the middle of the set. Who would have thought the aggro locals would show up on the baby set in front of a large hotel?

Drive up the Waimea Canyon. Perhaps go for a hike

There are some beautiful beaches on the west coast. Above them is the Waimea Canyon. You can drive to the top and get some spectacular views of both the canyon and the Napali Coast. There are countless hikes, but you need to choose wisely. Some of them are quite long and you can't see much from the trees.


Eat at the Shrimp Station

Right at the bottom of the road to the Waimea is the Shrimp Station. Go for a battered and fried option. And then...

Eat at the Koloa Fish Market (or the Deli next door)

Maybe not right afterwards. But at some point, you should try some of the different Poke or a giant sandwich from the deli.

Hang out on Aliomanu Beach

It's not too difficult to find but it will take some doing. I think the locals hid the "Beach Access" signs. Probably halfway between Ka'paa and Kilaeau. Both times we went it was deserted. No surf and decent snorkeling. Although, Andrea saw some sort of giant eel/piece of seaweed and got out pretty fast.

Paddle the Wailua River

This was the last thing we did before we got on the airplane. You can check out the river from the lookout at Opeaka'a Falls on the hill above the valley. We actually drove halfway up the valley and rented from the Hawaiian Village beneath the falls. 90% of the other people
had to paddle up from the mouth. As a result, we were able to paddle up past the usual attractions and see a nice deserted stretch of river.
There's a nice 20 minute hike in to (not so) Secret Falls. There's the Fern Grotto. That's about it. But it's just nice to get on to a calm piece of water and see some of the interesting shrubbery up close.

Check out Wailua Falls

Just outside of Poipu is Wailua Falls. The falls are kind of dull, but there's some nice views of the hills on the drive up. As well, there's a troupe of basket weavers that hang out and give away baskets if you look friendly. No joke. We forced 5 dollars upon them for the first one and they gave us another in return. I felt like an idiot hauling them home on the airplane, but that's the price you pay as a tourist.

Monday, November 8, 2010

This is easily the most scared I have ever been in my life

It seems like there are two culturally acceptable ways to really scare the crap out of yourself: Bungee jumping and skydiving. There's other far more frightening things that one can do in life, but they are generally fringe activities that involve watermelon sized cojones and well developed law avoidance techniques. I've long thought that skydiving doesn't seem so bad (the potential impact seems distant and avoidable) but bungee jumping has always seemed like something that would really scare the hell out of me. I guess sometimes we do indeed have some sense of ourselves.

So, yesterday, after determining the weather would cooperate, Andrea and I figured that a nice bungee jump would be the best way to celebrate my birthday (hooray for me!). We hopped in the car and slowly made our way up to Whistler, making stops along the way.

Lesson 1 - There's some nice sights on the way up to Whistler when you're not in a rush.

We stopped at both the falls near Squamish and at the eagle viewing area in Brackendale. The falls are a nice, quick little walk into the woods and offer a spectacular view of lots of falling water. The eagle viewing offered a view of some glorious fall colours, a few confused aquatic mammals (seals?), lots of dogs and a couple of eagles. This was essentially a scouting run for later in the eagle season. Both are worth the detour.
Eventually, we arrived at Whistler Bungee. The turn-off is about 20 seconds down the road from the entrance to the Olympic Nordic Center. It's a few kilometers in to the bungee zone and left me yearning for rear wheel drive and no passengers. Eventually, the bungee jumping bridge looms overhead, you park your car and hike yourself to the top.

Lesson 2 - Bungee jumping places want you to think you are fat.

Seriously. They must add at least 10 pounds on to their scale. There's no way I weigh that much. No way.

The bridge spans the canyon and there are some lovely viewing areas on the far side. We hiked around for a bit and watched from a distance as others jumped. It really did not seem scary to me at this point.
We hiked back on to the bridge and watched some dudes jump. Andrea decided at this point that she would go first, or else she probably wouldn't go at all. In hindsight, this was probably best for all of us.

Lesson 3 - Australians and New Zealanders love this kind of stuff.

Drive around New Zealand and it's amazing how creatize they are in figuring out ways to disrepect nature and turn it in to a carnival ride. The abundance of Australians at Whistler Bungee hints that perhaps New Zealand does not have a monopoly on this behaviour.

Lesson 4 - Things can progress with uncomfortable rapidity.

There you are, standing on this giant bridge. Then they just kind of throw a harness on you and you're ready to go. Andrea got strapped in and I still had no real feelings of what was coming. I took a few prep photos and then she was strapped in and out on the edge. Quick countdown and she was off. Screaming the whole way down, but holding remarkable form. The Aussies seemed to be genuinely impressed that she elected to go head first and that she held her swan dive all the way to the bottom. Guess which one is the professional shot!
Lesson 5 - Terror can set in very quickly.

There was one guy set up to jump before me, and then it was my turn to get strapped in. Things began to abruptly change. In a matter of seconds, I went from not really worrying or thinking about things to having genuine thoughts of not being able to go through with this. I really started to feel a bit scared. The Aussies start to lay it on pretty thick with feigned incompetence and doomsday scenario instructions. I honestly was just not paying attention to what they were saying.

So there you are, strapped in, a bungee tied to your chest hands pushing you out on to the little diving board. It's humourous to watch the Aussies manhandle the petrified tourists out in to the jumping position and it would probably have been impossible for me to go through with it without the expert handling of this crew. Terrified is not a strong enough word. The mind becomes incapable of even coming up with an excuse for going through with it. You're out on this tiny little platform, there's a burly Australian blocking your path of return, there's people ahead of you (girls even!) that were strong enough to go through with it, there's this gaping hole of water staring back up at's beyond terror. It's fear of failure battling fear of death. It's your mind telling you that this is incredibly stupid while at the same time telling you that many people have done this before you and you will be okay. It's unnatural.

Lesson 6 - Go backwards.

On the drive up, my thoughts were on maximizing the experience. "How do I get the most of a 20 second experience?" I worried that I might miss out on the full impact. I worried that it would be over with too quickly. I stupidly decided that head first was the best way to go.

I stood there, peering off this massively tall structure. The countdown started and I was 100% certain that I would not be able to go through with it. It's down to three and your mind is peeing it's pants with terror. The countdown is over and there's absolutely no choice other than to George Bush (plunge in headfirst with no thoughts of the consequences) or Michael Ignatieff (explain away your failure with long-winded, verbiose claims of superiority). I jumped.
This is where "go backwards" becomes advice that you should take. It's easy to hold your shit together for the first few seconds of freefall. Then your feet start drifting higher and higher above your head and you THINK YOU WILL DIE! It does not matter that you know something is tied to you. The earth is coming at you faster and faster. Even if that cord does manage to hold you, your body is not in the right position. Things are going to go badly. If I hadn't peed beforehand I would have wet myself. My arms started flailing. I was not at my best. This is actually the precise moment that I really thought I might die, captured from two different angles.
Eventually, things start to sort themselves out. You're not facing down anymore. You're not really sure what direction you're facing. You're no longer going down, but it still feels completely wrong and scary. They say that the best feeling is at the top of the first bounce, but at this point I have not regained my faculties enough to in any way comprehend that this is an enjoyable moment. Around here I gripped the big puffy end of the bungee like a scared baby. "Don't put your arms anywhere in front of you" I remember them saying up top, but I don't care. I just don't care at all. I grip it and I'm scared and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Lesson 7 - It eventually gets better.

It finally reaches a point where things aren't so bad. I relax my arms a bit. I become conscious of my shrunken cojones pinched in my harness/jean diaper. I let out a wail of relief and profanities. I feel good about life. I bounce around for a while and become conscious of how stupid I just looked, how pathetic my jump was and how I'm really only half a man. I don't really care though.

Eventually, they hoist you back up and things feel better and you get a bit of a crazed look in your eyes. Ya, I have a moustache.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Steve the Bike is Finished

Steve the Bike is more or less complete. New brake levers, brake pads, rear derailleur, fenders, basket...that's about it.

I rode it to work yesterday, just to try it out. It's a bit more work than my road bike, but that could just be the lack of seat height for me. It shifts okay, brakes acceptably. I'm pretty happy with it for now. I think Andrea is too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I might be down $5000.

I don't have much to add with this years Ucluelet trip. A few new photos.
I did catch a really big salmon though. 28 pounds. It took a while to get it in the boat. After it was all done the guide asked me if I'd managed to purchase a ticket for the Ucluelet fishing derby. I didn't. It was the largest salmon up to that point in the season in Ucluelet (that had been reported) so there was a good chance I could have won the $5000 prize for the month of June. Oh well. I'm hoping somebody can bring something in before the end of the month so that I don't feel too badly about not buying a ticket.
The fish was so big that this guy couldn't even swallow the head. It took him a few minutes to wrestle it in to manageable pieces. There were birds and eagles diving at him. It was a bit of a scene.

New Project Bike

This guys is a bit different and not for me, but this is the next project.
It's in pretty great condition but needs some work. New cables. Fenders. Brake levers. Maybe a new rear derailleur. Tires eventually. Maybe wheels. A new basket. I'll probably just do the basics to start off.

I wanted to get some new brakes for it and couldn't find anything via the usual routes. I went into Mighty Riders:

Me - Hey, I'm looking for some new brakes for this bike.

Them - What's wrong with those?

Me - Well...these ones don't work. I'm going to replace the levers and cables, but if there is a cheap option I'd like to just replace these.

Them - Those will probably work fine if you do all that and change the brake pads. Besides, we don't have anything that will work.

Me - Could you order something in?

Them - I guess so. I wouldn't really bother though. That thing looks brand new anyway.

I like Mighty Riders. It's funny when shops don't seem to be able to get motivated to order something in for you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Coastal Trip

I've been wanting to head on back down the Oregon/California coast for a few years now. It finally happened.

Day 1 - Portland

Man, I really love Portland. I don't really get it. There's so many great pubs. So many great restaurants. So many great stores. Powell's. Real Estate is cheap. Close to surf. Okay for riding. Decent for skiing. I kind of want to live there.

We met up with Dan at some sort of crazy hippie market. I feel like every time I go to Portland, there's some sort of crazy hippie market going on somewhere. It's always the same sorts of people selling stuff. It just seems to kind of move around from place to place. This one shut down a major city street for 10-20 blocks.

I mentioned good Portland food above and this trip was no exception. We hit up a tapas place and it was some of the best Tapas I've ever had. Decent portions. Good food. Lots of Sangria. It was pretty great.

The other thing about Portland is that every time I go, Dan seems to take us to a new neighbourhood that I've never seen. This time there were three. His new house - neighbourhood I've never seen. The market - neighbourhood I've never seen. Restaurant - neighbourhood I've never seen.

Back in Dan's neighbourhood we went to the neighbourhood tiki bar which was packed full due to the Karaoke night. After a few mojitos and some free chicken we called it a night and staggered home due to the large amounts of alcohol.

The other great thing about Portland...real estate. Dan is renting this giant four level townhouse. He has roomates kind of jammed all over the place and has the top floor to himself. We slept in his closet! It was huge. And then woke up with a bit of a hangover.

Day 2 - Astoria and the North Oregon Coast

First steps of the day were a trip to Powell's and then a trip to Trader Joe's. I bought a big bag of books that I then had to shuffle around in the back of the car for the next week and we bought some groceries. I really like Trader Joe's but some of the lustre feels to be wearing off a tiny bit. The hummus is good, but not quite like I remember. The salsa is pretty good still. Their chips are a bit salty. Peanut butter cups still kick some pretty good ass. But I feel less sad now about no Trader Joes in Canada. I can't really explain this.

The drive to Astoria is fairly interesting. You follow the Columbia River for most of it and there's some really weird things on the Columbia River. Giant bridges! Pulp Mills! Boats! It's alright.

Astoria itself is a fairly neat place. We spotted a bunch of tents on the side of the road and pulled over. It was a BBQ competition. One guy had a BBQ that was a giant trailer. It must have had 8'x12' of grilling surface. It was crazy.

There are a few things I would recommend doing in Astoria. First, go check out the Sea Lions down by the docks. Next, drive to the top of the hill and climb the tower for the view. Both are worthwhile.
Fort Stephens is just west of Astoria. There is a beach with an old shipwreck so went and had a look. Luna went crazy.
The day was getting on and we hadn't made much progress, so we drove down the coast for a while, through some very beautiful areas, trying to find a campsite. On the way, we actually drove by two separate pizza places advertising gluten free crusts. We figured it was a sign from god and took our campsite finding more seriously.

We ended up in the Barview Jetty County Park. It was strange. There were some kind of trashy campsites. Some rednecks hanging around drinking Bud under a tree. And then we found this desolate stretch of campsites right on the beach. We were about 20 feet from a really beautiful stretch of beach. We quickly set up camp and then headed back up the coast to Rockaway Beach for gluten free pizza.
The waitress was overly friendly and gave us the breakdown of why they went gluten free (her daughter). She asked many, many questions about Canada because it's, you know, foreign.

This stretch of coastline, from Astoria down to Rockaway Beach is amazing, not that far and worth a visit. I want to go back.

Day 3 - Central Oregon Coast

The next day we had big plans. Big, big plans. It started in Tillamook.

Tillamook itself is not that exciting. But it is home of Tillamook Cheese and the Tillamook Cheese Factory. I had no idea what to expect, but it is awesome. You climb up some stairs and all of a sudden you have a full on view of the packaging floor from a glass lined mezzanine. There's videos, poster boards, everything. Over to the left is the curding and pressing processes. More videos. Etc. It's amazingly similar to brewing and packaging beer, but there's way more people involved. It's really cool.
When you come back down the stairs there's a set of bins filled with samples of cheese. Cheese curds, different aged cheddar, monterey jack. I'm not a huge cold cheese fan but I ate some nonetheless. Andrea went nuts. Then we had ice cream for breakfast.

The ice cream was fantastic. The creepiest teenager alive served us. It was like he was brainwashed by the tourist/cheese board into giving tourists the friendliest/weirdest experience of Tillamook.

After the cheese factory we went to the Air Museum. The air museum is in an old world war II era blimp hanger. It's an amazing building, made almost entirely of wood. The size of it is staggering and once you watch the video outlining its history and construction you'll just shake your head at how they filled the second one that used to sit next door with hay and caused it to burn down.
The planes in the air museum are also very cool. Most of them are in flying condition and owned by some old guy that flies them around with his grandson. It's an impressive collection of airplanes and they're all in immaculate condition. Of course, the whole hangar isn't filled with planes. One half is set aside for motorhome storage, maximizing the chances of another blimp hangar fire.

From Tillamook, we drove back out to the coast and hiked out a ways on the Bayocean Spit before checking out the rest of Cape Meares. Luna went crazy again on the beach, until a shit-covered dog started smelling her and causing problems.
The Cape Meares Lighthouse is in a state park and juts out into the ocean with a bay on either side. Each bay is filled with birds (that you can't really see) and bird-watching types. We looked for puffins but couldn't see them so went down to check out the lighthouse.

The lighthouse has a long history that I can't remember. Unfortunately, almost a year to the day previous to our visit, a couple of rednecks drove up to it and shot it all out with a high-powered rifle. $500,000 in damage. Their arraignment was scheduled for a few days after our visit. I never did find out what happened to them. You can see the damage in the photo.

We kept on trucking down the coast to Cape Lookout State Park. Cape Lookout sticks way, way out into the ocean (2.5 miles from the parking lot to the end of the cape). It was about a 2 hour hike, round trip. It was beautiful scenery, but we probably could have gotten the gist of it at the first lookout, 1/3 of the way in. Oh well. We needed the exercise. There was supposed to be great whale viewing from the end of the Cape (we heard this about many different places down the coast) and got our first taste of whale abandonment.
Once again, it felt like we'd burned a lot of the day and hadn't made much forward progress, so we started driving with vigor.

We drove down and down and down the coast through lots of little towns. Some pretty. Some not so much. We were targeting Yachats, and after a bit of driving around, we ended up in this great little rental place.

A guy and his girlfriend moved down to Yachats from Portland to escape the grind and take over their grandmothers hotel. It's not really a hotel, more like 6 or 7 small cottages. Are place was nice enough. Very rustic. But they took dogs and were very friendly. They guided us to the Luna Sea Restaurant.

It sounded awful, but it was absolutely fantastic. The owner is a fisherman who catches his own fish and then serves it in the restaurant. I had a mix of cod, halibut and salmon. The salmon was amazing and I've learned that I prefer a firm fish for fish and chips. They even pan fried up a gluten free set for andrea. It was so good. So very good.

Day 4 - South Oregon Coast

The next day started with rain, which kind of sucked and put a crimp on some of our plans. Just south of Yachats is a mountain that supposedly gives "the best view of the Oregon Coast". It was fogged in.
Instead, we opted to head for the beach and some tide pools. Once again, Luna was ecstatic.

After that, we headed south to the Dunes. We tried to hike in a spot that was supposedly free of motorized vehicles (it wasn't). It was supposed to be a mile hike to the coast, but it was too windy so we just ran around for a little while. Poor Luna looked like a sand-person dog. We packed it in before it was blinded and headed over the California border.
We hit the northern tip of the redwoods and tried to find a campsite. It's pretty expensive to camp in California, so we hunted around a bit before settling on the Jedediah Smith State Park. Before that, we checked out a small county park with 10-12 spots. It was like Deliverance. There was this creepy abandoned tent. The caretakers site looked like something the Clampett's would live in. We got the hell out of there as quickly as we could and enjoyed our camp on the edge of a river, surrounded by Redwoods.

Day 5 - Northern California Coast

It rained and rained and rained today, so we were forced to view the redwoods through the windshield. We drove this amazing dirt road from Crescent City back towards Jedediah Smith Park. It was funny to be on a road with everybody else hunched over their steering wheel, driving at 10 miles per hour. We got out and poked around a bit before heading down the Coast.
We checked out a few other spots....some whale-watching spots with no whales. Some elk-watching spots with lots of elk. It was good. Wet, but good.
We then headed in to Arcata for an amazing mexican lunch at Rita's. It was so good. We also checked out the Arcata Co-op which was amazing. Bulk gluten free Soy Sauce! Fresh hops and brewing supplies over by the beer selection! It was good.

South of Arcata, we drove through some creepy logging towns before side-tracking a bit for more redwoods - The Avenue of the Giants.

The rain had dried up by this point so we had some chances to poke around and take some pictures.
Just south of that is the windiest road ever that cuts off the main highway and heads for the coast. We hit the coast in the craziest of light (of course, no pictures) before trucking through Fort Bragg and spending the night in Mendicino.

Mendicino is close enough to San Francisco to attract a crazy yuppie/hippie mixed bag of expensiveness. We eventually found a weird hotel at the top of the hill that would take Luna. It was a bit too late to set up a tent anywhere.

Oh. I forgot. We stopped on a beach. Luna went crazy. The light was perfect. There was this really crazy hippie guy that kept talking to Andrea. I gave her about a thousand chances to get out of the conversation but she didn't take them. It took a while to get away from him.

Day 6 - North to Central California

Today was a lot of driving. We started with the pygmy forest, just south of Mendicino. In theory, it sounded pretty neat (trees several hundreds of years old but only a few fee high), but in practice it wasn't (small, bush like trees). We kept driving.
This stretch of coast is very beautiful. We stopped in lots of spots and took photos. We eventually made our way to Bodega Bay where we found a great little fish and chips shack. It looked terrible, but they were very gluten free accomodating and had nice fresh fish. It was good.
From Bodega Bay took a lot longer to San Francisco than expected. We hugged the coastline and eventually popped out just shy of the Golden Gate. I was running low on gas so we entered the Sausalito maze in search of diesel. It took a while and we finally found it after a lot of backtracking.

San Francisco held us up for a bit but we eventually reached the coast again and started looking for a campsite. The stretch of coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz is very nice, but very crowded. We saw some terrible campsites and eventually found ourselves near Pescadero. I passed up the most beautiful photograph I could ever expect to take (rows and rows of cabbage in front of a picturesque lighthouse in sunset lighting) and we eventually found a nice campsite in the hills above Pescadero.

The light was fading and we were trying to catch dinner at this great gastropub in Pescadero. We had it perfectly timed out. We set up the camp in about 10 minutes and were putting the finishing touches to it before heading for dinner. Then I discovered that the air mattress was leaking.

We looked at one another for about 10 seconds, then took the camp down as quickly as it went up. I likened it to an awful Amazing Race Challenge (In this roadblock, teams will erect camp as quickly as possible, before taking it down again. Mechanically inclined teams could leap ahead with a good performance, or face challenges with finicky equipment). We drove by the gastropub (it was packed...a one horse town, devoid of human life and the parking lot was packed) but decided that it would put our arrival time in Santa Cruz at too late a time.

Our first choice was camping. Our second choice was staying with a friend in Santa Cruz. Our third choice was driving around Santa Cruz for a couple of hours looking for a suitable hotel that took dogs. Option 3 it was, and we of course ended up right back at the first hotel we had visited after visiting 8-10 others. It was about 11:30 at this time and we asked the front desk guy where there was a good place to eat. "'s more a question of what's open." I was happy though, as we ended up at the Santa Cruz Diner, a place I would never have been able to visit under more reasonable circumstances. I had a big steak, a huge salad and a glass of iced tea. It was marvelous.

Day 7 - Big Sur

We woke up sort of not early, made a quick pit stop at Trader Joes (I asked a guy from the ACLU to babysit Luna out front while he asked for donations. Some homeless guys stole a bunch of samples to feed to her while we shopped) and then we bought a new air mattress and headed for Big Sur.

There were a bunch of hikes and stuff I wanted to do near Big Sur. We knew it would be busy, so we were focussed on getting there before noon. We blasted through Monterrey and eventually made it to Big Sur. At this point, we knew we were in trouble when our back-up plan campsite with 230 spots had the "Campsite Full" sign out front. "230 spots! They'll for sure have room." We drove and drove and drove to some forest service roads quite a ways south of Big Sur. "Campsite Full"
We kept driving, checked out the Sea Lion beach, and drove into our last ditch campsite option near San Simeon, in the shadow of the Hearst Castle. It was crazy windy and there were a bunch of rednecks setting up old school pup tents that were blowing all over the place. It was pretty much a parking lot with grass. It was at this point that I got a text from my friend in Santa Cruz "Big Sur campsites are always full. Do you want directions to a good spot that is always empty." I just about cried.
We headed inland from there and drove north up the 101. This is a crazy agriculture area. At one point, we drove through non-stop grapevines for about 20 minutes at Freeway speeds. There were also some oil derrick forests and lots of lettuce. Our destination was Fremont Peak State Park. If this didn't work out, we were screwed.

We eventually climbed and climbed and climbed. Almost all of the sites were reserved. Luckily for the next day. We set up camp and started cooking dinner as a crazy windstorm rolled in. It was a beautiful spot though with great views of the valley. Oh ya. We'd driven from 10AM until 8AM and ended up about 45 minutes west of where we had started. We saw a lot, but I didn't consider this to be our most successful day.

Day 8 - Driving Home

The night was cold. I don't know how Luna kept so warm, but she seemed shockingly content down at the bottom of the tent. We packed up and drove back down the mountain. On the way I saw the Hollister Hills State Recreation Area and I thought about moving to California and buying a dirtbike. Miles and miles of bermed dirt tracks up and down the mountain. It looked amazing.

Once we were on the highway, we made the decision to drive through Napa via Oakland and Berkley. We also made the decision to have lunch at In-And-Out-Burger.

We easily drove by 10-15 In-And-Out-Burgers. Each one we saw as the exit disappeared into the rear-view mirror. It was crazy. Like they'd planned it to piss off tourists. This wasn't a big deal until we somehow missed the turn-off where the 880 morphs into the 80 and the 880 North turns into the 880 West and heads over the Bay Bridge. We waited in line for 20 minutes, paid our 5 dollar toll, drove halfway across to Treasure Island, turned around and were back on track. More and more In-And-Outs disappeared into the rearview until we finally found the turn-off for Napa.
Napa is a parking lot full of idiots. The roads barely move. It's crazy. It took so long to move at all. We drove past a bunch of huge wineries packed full of cars, hung a right and headed east to the I-5. Not worth it.

We drove for a few hours up the I-5, stopped for gas and (christ have mercy on us) discovered the furthest North In-And-Out-Burger in Redding. I ate so much food. I just about killed myself.

We kept heading north. Hit SNOW at the pass near Mt. Shasta (it wasn't a night for camping) and then hit Ashland for another tour of hotel/motels, before settling on a half-dodgy one. Ashland seems nice.

Day 9 - Finally Home

The final day was a lot of driving. Bad Mexican food in Eugene. Another Powell's/Anthropologie/REI visit in Portland. PF Chang's in Seattle. Duty Free at the Peace Arch. Home by Midnight. Good times.