Roadtrippin’ the Palouse – A Wanderer’s Guide to the Rolling Hills of Eastern Washington

This was Days 16-20 of a fabulous Fall road trip a couple of years ago. This leg was Seattle to Ellensburg to Pullman, Washington — 289 miles. If you fly, Spokane is the closest airport.

Holiday Inn Express, Pullman, $121/night with a AAA discount + $20/night pet fee. Nice, recently-renovated hotel. Big room; lots of green space to walk the dog, and they don’t mind if you leave the dog in the room (they even give you a tag for the door that says Do Not Disturb/Dog Napping) (love that!). Located close to Washington State University, so be sure to book in advance on football game weekends. This is football country!

I’d wanted to visit The Palouse, famous for its photogenic landscapes, for years and finally made it part of my long roadtrip home (the move from California back to my home state, Missouri).  Most photographers visit in the spring when the rolling hills of eastern Washington are like green velvet, but I think Fall in The Palouse is absolutely gorgeous, in a whole other beautiful way. I was there towards the end of October, long after the wheat harvest, and I used Pullman as my headquarters and spent 4 days wandering aimlessly around The Palouse, which I highly recommend. If your time is more restricted there are lots of local photographers there who offer photo tours, but I really enjoy wandering.

Fair warning: I include a LOT of highway shots from behind the wheel. I do it to remember the journey, and hopefully share the thrill of discovery. You can discover the beautiful red barn when I do, resting peacefully just off the highway in a beautiful field, or perched precariously near the highway curve because it was there long before the highway interrupted.

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Road Trip – Dinosaurs, Crabs, and Another Lighthouse

Gold Beach to Bandon-by-the-Sea, Oregon,  55 miles

Another beautiful day on Highway 101…

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, ObsessiveHobbyist.com


PREHISTORIC GARDENS

http://www.prehistoricgardens.com/

This one was a surprise. I automatically stop at all roadside attractions — just can’t resist the kitsch. But I didn’t expect an education. The gardens here are so well-maintained, and the information about the gardens and the dinosaurs is presented on friendly, easy-to-digest signs along the way. The most fun thing was to see the real size of dinosaurs in person (yep, they were huge).

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Jackpot – Gold Beach, Oregon

Gold Beach is really all about the beach. Make sure you find a hotel with an oceanfront view and access (I loved the Pacific Reef Inn), and spend your time beachcombing and watching gorgeous sunsets.

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Roadside Attractions – Klamath, California to Gold Beach, Oregon

75 miles
Gas $2.75/gallon (thank you, Oregon!)
Pacific Reef Inn, Gold Beach
$99/night + $20 pet fee
Oceanfront room with full ocean view and private patio

Before cruising out of Klamath (minus several $$$ left behind in the Redwood Casino), I cruised through town. Whenever I’m in redwood country I feel compelled to drive through a tree. It’s not PC, I know, but you kinda have to admire the business model, at least. All day long, Jewel at Tour Thru Tree (I think Drive-Thru Tree was already taken) sits there (or goes to the post office and leaves a note), collecting $5. And there can’t be much maintenance on a 785-year-old tree.

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Highway 1 Fun – Point Arena, California to Eureka, California

180 miles
Gas $2.86/gallon in Fort Bragg, California
Red Lion Inn, Eureka
$71/night + $15 pet fee
Nice big room with a view of Humboldt Bay. Very nice staff. Location not great (can’t walk to anything), but there’s a restaurant on-site.

Beautiful weather today — unusually warm for October, 82 degrees. Just 40 miles north of Point Arena is Mendocino.

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Coastal Cruising – Carmel, California to Point Arena, California

260 miles
Gas $2.69/gallon (awesome!)

Wharf Master’s Inn, http://wharfmasters.com
$139 + $15 dog fee
http://pointarena.net

There’s only one way you should travel from Carmel…via Highway 1. South is Big Sur, but I’m headed North this time. There are so many adorable little coastal towns and stopovers…Moss Landing, Santa Cruz, Swanton Berry Farm, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco. My destination today was Point Arena, a quaint little town I’d passed through several times on my way to Mendocino. I always wanted to stop, but when you only have 2-day weekends you have to make tough choices. This trip is about making those other choices…stopping everywhere I want to, taking an exit that entices, following signs to antique stores, Mystery Holes, and ghost towns.

The first stop is Moss Landing, 22 miles north of Carmel and home to some of the best whale-watching cruises on the coast. I’ve always done the Blue Ocean trips — it’s a nice 60-foot boat with a top deck the other boats don’t have, and the onboard naturalist, Kate, is friendly, informative, and genuinely enthusiastic. These photos are from trips this past year…

Santa Cruz is a cool, funky,  counter-culture center filled with old hippies, young hippies, surfers, and homeless people. The Boardwalk is an old-fashioned Coney Island-style carnival, right on the beach. I recently spent a dreamy night at Dream Inn, on the beach just north of the Boardwalk and the wharf — it’s a great location, but is unfortunately not dog-friendly. 😦

The beach area gets lots of attention, but downtown Santa Cruz is funky fun, with cool vintage shops, sidewalk cafes, bookstores (with actual books), and antiques.

Swanton Berry Farm is my secret stopover. You might pass right by the cool vintage pick-up truck with the giant strawberry in the back and never know what you’re missing. This charming u-pick farm is a great stop on your way to San Francisco. The friendly farm store has an “honor till” — you throw your money in the drawer and make your own change, for delicious fresh strawberries, jam, scones, fair trade coffee. If you have time, sit a spell and play dominoes. This place reminds me of a great fruit stand on the old highway between Charleston and Beaufort, South Carolina. It’s got a very laidback, southern vibe.

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, http://ObsessiveHobbyist.com

Half Moon Bay is a sweet coastal town. The main street is not on the beach, but a few blocks inland. A great dog-friendly hotel is the Half Moon Bay Inn, right in the middle of Main Street. Another 28 miles up Highway 1 and you’re in San Francisco. Highway 1 actually becomes 19th Avenue through San Fran, sending you right through the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. I took Highway 101 up to Petaluma, then cut over to Bodega Bay to re-join Highway 1 (you can cut over earlier, but I like stopping over in pretty Petaluma). This San Francisco suburb has it all. A funky history, funky stores, and a funky future. And you know that “funky” is one of my favorite adjectives, awarded only to the most-interesting places I run across.

From Petaluma it’s an easy hop over to Bodega Bay on the coast, most famous as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.” Then straight up Highway 1 to Point Arena, population 473. I rolled in about 6:00, just in time for a pretty Pacific sunset. Stayed at the Wharf Master’s Inn, home to the home of the Wharf Master, originally. It’s now an inn, built around the original 1865 home, which you can also stay in. It’s on the hill above Point Arena Cove and the pier, and provides a spectacular view. But don’t think about staying here if you can’t do stairs — they’re everywhere! And funky wooden sculptures. The cove and wharf are small, with a very East Coast feel. The beaches are rocky, so not much fun for dog-walking or sunning, but I did see surfers and kayakers.

The town of Point Arena is just about 3 blocks long, with some cute stores.

But the undeniable star of Point Arena is the Point Arena Lighthouse.

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, ObsessiveHobbyist.com

The 115-foot lighthouse is the tallest on the West Coast. Originally built in 1869, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 seriously damaged the lighthouse. If not for the staircase, it would have fallen. But it proved easier to rebuild it than repair it, so the current lighthouse dates from 1908. It costs $7.50 to enter, and they give tours of the museum and the lighthouse every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas, 10:00-3:30. It was SO WINDY when I was there that I could barely stand up (I later found sand in my ears!), so it’s easy to see why there were so many shipwrecks (plus, those big rocks didn’t help much).

WHICH WAY NEXT???
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MY PHOTO GALLERIES

The Long Road Home… or…Mid-Life Evolution, part 2

Why???

That seems to be the universal question when I tell people I’m leaving California’s central coast to move to Missouri. But they all understand the answer: for family. What they don’t know is that Missouri is a beautiful state, the people are nice…I mean really nice. My parents are getting older and I want to spend time with them while I can — I left Missouri for California 34 years ago, so…it’s time.  The worst thing about Missouri is the winters. When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1981 I thought…what took me so long? And…if everyone has a choice, then why doesn’t everyone live in California? And it was a blast…33 years in Los Angeles, and the last year-and-a-half in Pebble Beach. Pretty good. (Someday I’ll insert a link here with more details).

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