The Lisa & Clark Expedition: Old Places and Familiar Faces, a West Coast Road Trip.
In which intrepid road trippers Lisa & Clark go in pursuit of historic hotels, old friends, rusty auto parts (the more the better), wineries, and gardens. And maybe a dress or two for Lisa, because she just can’t help herself.
Looking for the beginning of the trip? Start here.
Monday, May 28
Requa to Garberville, CA; 166 miles
Another long day… although it started off looking short enough.
Breakfast at the Requa Inn was relaxed and easy, and they put out coffee — with half-and-half! shocking how few places give you half-and-half — starting at 6:30, for people to serve themselves. That was the thing about the inn: there may have been quirks like sound-transmitting sawdust walls, but there were also countless instances of thoughtfulness on display. Either they’re geniuses at anticipating needs, or they listen very well to guests. Either way, the result is a cozy, relaxed delight.
Can I say it again? If you’re going to the redwoods, stay at the Requa Inn. (Unless you’re looking for the anonymity of a chain hotel; I know there are times people want that.)
Taking the advice of our dining companions of the night before, after checking out we drove up the hill behind the inn to a vista point overlooking the mouth of the Klamath River as it pours into the ocean. The barking of sea lions echoed up the face of the headland, and in the ocean waters just beyond the river mouth were grey whales and their calves. We were told about the calves; we didn’t have binoculars, so all we could see with the naked eye were the dark heads of whales ‘spyglassing’ and the plume of mist when they breathed.
A ½ mile trail led down to a platform on a much lower headland, and in hopes of seeing the whales better we hiked it. The view was no better, but the hike was pretty, with all the wildflowers and blue sky, and the rumble of distant crashing waves.
On the way back up, nearly at the top, we passed a young couple tricked out in technical gear — khaki hiking pants, hiking boots — and Clark noticed that they balked at undertaking the hike down to the platform. As he commented later, “I was wondering what was wrong with them. I mean, they’re kitted out for serious hiking, and they’re intimidated by this short hike down the face of the bluff? But then I saw the license plate on their car: the midwest. Maybe they weren’t used to seeing this type of slope.” Well, I don’t know; maybe they had too much other hiking ahead of them and didn’t want to squander their energy.
I do think it’s hysterical how overdressed people get to walk on a trail, though. They’re covered in technical gear, looking prepared for a week in the woods blazing fresh trails over boulders and through thickets, when most of the time all they’re undertaking is a one hour stroll in the park.
A few miles farther down 101, we turned off on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which was part of the original Redwood Highway, before the modern version of 101 was built. It, like the Avenue of the Giants we drove later in the day, was a two lane road hemmed in on the sides by Very Big Trees. In fact, one of the trees is named Big Tree. We stopped there and walked a short trail, and like everyone else took photos of ourselves and the trees.
Since we were doing so well on time, we decided to try out our dinner companions’ suggestion to see Fern Canyon. To get there you drive down an eight-mile, mostly gravel road through the forest and then along the edge of the beach. At the start of the drive, a herd of Roosevelt elk had stopped happy tourists in their tracks. We joined the human herd and pulled over to take photos. I’d been saying ‘meh’ to elk before, but seeing a wild one mosey by just a few feet away changed my thinking. He was such a pretty fella, with the velvet on his antlers looking golden in the sunlight.
Fern Canyon was a bit of a bust, though. Parts of Jurassic Park were filmed there, and it is a cool place, but if you’ve grown up in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve seen similar combos of stream beds, canyons, and ferns. Maybe not exactly the same, but close enough to no longer thrill, especially not when the trail is surprisingly crowded.
Back on 101, headed for lunch in Ferndale, I thought about the tendency to try to maximize the experience of a place or trip. We want to get our money and time’s worth, and squeeze all the goodness possible from it… and we don’t realize that the real maximization comes with knowing when just a dollop will do ‘ya. Often, a taste of an experience is the ‘maximum’ you can take and still maintain a balance with all your other needs, like food and rest. So, proper maximizing means proper balancing.
A lesson we learned the hard way, later in the day.
It took longer to get to Ferndale, a historic Victorian-era village, than we’d expected. We were both starving for lunch, but as we got into town a digital road work sign warned us to expect delays, as there was a parade and kinetic race going until 4 pm.
We parked on a side street and walked into the town center, which had been blocked off from traffic. Vendors sold barbeque, pretzels, and ice cream along the sidewalks, while all down Main Street were human-powered vehicles of outrageous, humorous design; everything from a giant big foot (a big…. foot) to the Roadkill Cafe, that looked like something out of a horror film set in the days of Conan the Barbarian.
The restaurant I’d picked out ahead of time, Poppa Joe’s, was closed for the event. We had to go to our second choice, the Victorian Inn. Well, let’s just say that it’s not going to be a great experience, trying to get food on a crazy-busy day like that. Although the staff tried valiantly to patch the holes, it was clear that the ship was going down, with all hands. Our waitress disappeared because, as she explained later, she’d spilled chipotle sauce down her skirt and had gone to rinse it out. Meanwhile, management was trying to clear tables and reassure customers that really, waitresses were coming… But Clark was so hungry by the time we got food, he ate way too much.
On the way out of town we discussed taking an alternate secondary road route that looked like a short cut, vs. retracing our steps back to 101. As we were stopped at a crosswalk, we heard a teen boy say to his friend, ‘Jeez, no wonder Lewis & Clark got lost.” We took it as a bad omen for taking an unknown shortcut, and opted for retracing our steps.
I think the crowd in Ferndale and the costumed people, and the fantastical kinetic vehicles, subtly pushed me over the edge of how much I can experience in a day. Clark and I both thought we were fine, and assumed we’d regain our mental balance now that we’d eaten, but we didn’t. Back in the car, driving the twisty Avenue of the Giants, the big meal made Clark tired, which then set off his restless leg syndrome as he was driving. He got fidgety, I asked what was wrong and tried to find ways to help, he got snappish at being peppered with questions, I started crying.
Aie yai. (And yes, according to the calendar there just may have been some PMS involved in the weeping.)
We calmed ourselves and tried again to regain our balance as we arrived at the Benbow Inn. The woman behind the counter was not particularly friendly, which reminded us that this was no Requa Inn. We dragged our bags up ramps and down stairs to our room, and when we got to the room I thought, “Huh. Could have sworn I’d reserved a corner room in the historic part of the hotel, not a room in the terrace (newer) section.” Long story short, they did indeed change our room. Their reservation system sometimes double-books rooms by mistake, so they upgraded us to a ‘nicer’ room to compensate. Which I might be fine with… if they’d told me about the error when it happened, or when I checked in. The original room I’d booked, I’d chosen because it was in the historic part of the hotel. Y’know, to fit the theme of this entire road trip: Old Places and Familiar Faces.
Anyway. It left a bad taste. Such a minor, whiny complaint (oh boo hoo, we were upgraded), and yet…
We tried again to regain our humor while sitting out on our terrace, enjoying the view of greenery, the sun on our skin, and the sound of a cicada in a nearby sequoia… until someone just out of sight started using a leaf blower. (Where IS he? we asked each other. And what the hell needs tending at this hour?)
We tried again at dinner, where our waitress was named Bambi…
Ah, we both tried so hard, and both knew the other was trying. There was no more snappishness, and no more tears, but we’d both obviously run out of steam. And so, with reassuring squeezes of shoulder, of arm, of hand, and with wry smiles, we go to bed.
I hope tomorrow is better.
More of the Lisa & Clark Expedition:
Who are Lisa & Clark?
Lisa’s latest novel,
Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells, from Simon & Schuster