Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dude, We Be Trippin

Most Monday mornings start with an alarm clock and a commute. My Mondays for the past several months have involved a blood test at the Salt Lake City VA Hospital and physical therapy to recover from a particularly rough round of chemotherapy and to prepare what promised to be a particularly rough treatment regimen in Seattle. Suffice it to say, when the call from the Seattle VA Hospital came to let me know I had a bone marrow donor, I had a flood of mixed emotions. I was relieved that my wait was over, yet the actual treatment would be a tough one. I had been told by a number of people that the bone marrow transplant process was nothing short of a pharmacological miracle. It would take me to death’s door at which time the donor stem cells would be infused and bring me back from the brink. I was elated to get this second lease on life, but I wasn’t so stoked to be getting gravely ill.

My oldest son flew out to Salt Lake Saturday to drive up with me, so we made a regular road trip out of it, replete with junk food, jokes, and a touch of kitsch. It was good to catch up and get to know him a bit better during the drive. My younger son will be flying directly to Seattle next week and the three of us will use the next four months to make up for lost time and have some fun in the middle of what is otherwise a less-than-fun medication staycation.
Our first day on the road was spent crossing the Great Basin – the dramatic stark landscape of Western Utah and most of Nevada. We finished the day driving past Lake Tahoe and over Donner Pass. It was an amazing juxtaposition and reminded me of acquaintances I once knew who typically made dinner reservations under the name “Donner Party” <insert groan here>. The mountains were absolutely beautiful, but it became obvious just how arduous it must have been for 19th century pioneers to cross over the Sierra Nevadas. Spending the night in the Sacramento area, we visited some friends and when we made it back to the hotel, we crashed thoroughly.
My son, Austin, near Shasta, CA.
Leaving Sacramento, we headed northward toward the Redwood Forest, driving through more mountains, arriving at the coast early in the afternoon. Having lived in the south part of the state, the coastline was strikingly different. The fog hanging over the ocean cliffs made for evocative pictures and it was considerably colder than the previous day’s drive. Crossing the Great Basin, we saw 100° to 105° most of the day, but on the coast, it dropped down to nearly 50°. Break out that jacket and turn on the heat in the car!
It's tremendously hard to capture just how big these redwoods are.  If you look at the right side of the downed tree, you can see my son for a size comparison.  These trees are just immense!
We arrived at Redwood Forest National Park about 4:00 and drove through the southern part of the park near the coast. I don’t think any picture can really do justice to the sheer magnitude of these immense trees! I took a few photos with my son in the picture to emphasize how big the trunks are, but looking up, they disappear into the overcast mist and with the forest so eerily silent, it may as well be a scene right out of Jack and the Beanstalk. The drive out of the forest reminded me of scenes from Snow Falling on Cedars. It’s no wonder that the area has brought forth so much out of the fertile imaginations of writers and artists. We ended the day in Eugene, Oregon. We both realized as we turned it that it was the second day we were just so wrapped up in the day that we forgot to eat dinner…but we were both very full.

A few sea lions inside the cave. This is usually an epic King of the Hill battle.
The final day of our road trip took us to Florence, Oregon, a small coastal town that is home to a sea cave that draws sea lions by the hundreds each year during their breeding season. My dad, who is normally pretty stoic when it comes to being a tourist, said that this was one of the places where he was glad he went.  Florence is about 90 minutes from Eugene, so we jogged back over to the coast and found the place. The visitor entrance sits on the coastal highway on a cliff nearly 300 feet above the water.  The scenery, once again, was breathtaking. Standing on the observation about 200 feet above the water, the rocky shelf below must have had nearly 100 sea lions bathing in the sun and making sounds that my son tried to imitate with every belch! His girlfriend is as impressed as his dear ol’ dad. A 200-foot elevator ride took us down into the cave itself.  We were able to get within about 75 feet of a few sea lions that had actually come into the cave, but most of them stayed outside.
Driving down the road, this vista demanded we stop and take a pic. This is just south of Florence, OR.

From there, we hit the road northward again. Austin had originally wanted to visit a couple of places in Portland, but he couldn’t find a specific address, so we’ll have to do that on an upcoming weekend.  Once we crossed the Colombia River, we started to see volcanic mountains off in the distance.  Mt Saint Helens was a figure that held some mystique and I was amazed just how big it seemed from the highway.  I had no idea it was so close to Seattle. That, also, will be a weekend excursion, to be sure.
Arriving in Seattle, it felt nice to see the end of the trip in sight…yet, in reality, it’s just the beginning of the next leg in a larger journey.
Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all!
Today’s music is an instrumental – End of the Road by Umphrey’s McGee