(Ed. note: Edvin and his friends flew to Portland, Oregon, rented a Crown Vic, and took to the back roads. These are his observations (along with my responses to them). I'll be rendevzous-ing with them this evening in San Francisco.)
When we arrived in Portland after 16 hours of traveling and waiting we were pretty knackered. We went to pick up our blue whale from Budget (Crown Vic), left our stuff at the motel and headed into the city to look for some food. Portland is weird, but somehow it felt really cozy and relaxed. A bit European in a liberal sense, but weirder.
The following day we headed east on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Wow! The scenery was something else. Reminded me very much of the Alps in Europe. After the river we turned south and the scenery changed completely. Suddenly we were surrounded by huge fields and a while later something prairie-like. The miles just racked up. Slept in Madras, OR.
The next day we carried on thru Oregon. We saw some really long and absolutely straight roads and a lot of really small towns. We tried to drive around Crater Lake, but the road was still completely snowed in. We ate lunch at Rogue River Gorge and enjoyed once again a totally different scenery than before. The way nature keeps changing around us is astonishing. Once we passed the slightly depressing lower part of Oregon and entered California, we were once again in for a surprise. The first Giant Sequoias we saw caught us off guard and really amazed us. We spotted an Econolodge in Crescent City and drank a few beers before sleeping.
On Tuesday we set off south along the 101. First we decided to check out the Native American reservation of Hoopa Valley. This turned out interesting as the narrow winding road just kept on rising until we were starting to get worried if our brakes could take the descent. Then the road surface turned to gravel. Then mud. This made for an interesting twenty miles, but the scenery was great and we even saw a wild bear cub. Then our maps didn't match the road we were driving, so we ended up descending the mountain blind on a really narrow and rough road (for a RWD sedan) without knowing if there's a locked gate waiting for us at the bottom. We finally made it and headed towards the Redwoods. After looking at the impressive trees and driving thru one of them we turned back to the coast. After countless miles of endless corners we were greeted by spectacular coastal scenery. We pushed on to Fort Bragg, where we found a really cool motel by the beach. Too bad the sun had set an hour earlier, so we had to drink our beers in our room.
Today we set off south from Fort Bragg. First we checked out a small lighthouse, checked out the town of Mendocino, ate some excellent Texan BBQ, stopped at a really windy beach, tasted some wines in Sonoma and checked into El Pueblo Inn. Not a whole lot to say of today yet, it's all still sinking in as I'm typing this and having a beer.
A few observations along the way:
- Portland is indeed weird, but we like it. Feels a bit European in some sense. It's also really tidy, no trash lying around, unlike in most large European cities. (We Americans think Portland is weird too, but it's awesome.)
- Where is everyone? A lot of cars around but the streets are relatively empty of people. Everything is built around cars. (Portland is actually a very bicycle-friendly city. So in other cities, there are even less people outside. In Houston, people with long driveways drive their cars to their mailboxes on hot summer days.)
- A lot of homeless people. (Yes. But wait until you get to San Francisco!)
- People are really friendly and polite. I'm having difficulties with similar small talk.
- It's almost as cold as back in Finland. We hadn't expected weather this cold.
- Cell phone coverage is amazingly poor in Oregon and NorCal (AT&T prepaid). (The coverage in rural areas is spotty at best. It's even worse in San Francisco if you have AT&T.)
- The nature and the diversity of it is absolutely amazing. Can't stress this enough. I totally understand why some people don't take global warming seriously with nature this lush. We've also seen a whole lot of wild animals we never expected to see.
- The Crown Vic is really comfortable and feels huge to drive, but is actually pretty small inside. The trunk is positively huge, but fitting four persons plus light luggage in the cabin isn't that easy. It handles like a yacht on tight roads. (As much as we glamorize the Panther, it's positively prehistoric and has had absolutely no updates during its lifetime. In fact, the last update on the Crown Vic was when FoMoCo added FM to the radio.)
- How can so many American cars be so bad at cornering with some of the roads you have (in California and Oregon)? This rivals the Alps in the amount of corners. Also, everyone is faster than us on these roads, we have to use the turnouts all the time. (My guess is that the cars are designed in and built for the Midwest. Flat and straight. That's why in the mountains and along the West Coast, people buy more Japanese and European cars.)
- I never thought I'd say so, but I miss salad. The food is very heavy. I can easily see myself putting on quite a few pounds. (You don't win friends with salad.)
We love it and we wouldn't mind moving here, at least for a little while.