West Coast Shuffle

Ah, the flu. Between a sore throat, a distinct loss of body heat regulation and a general feeling of weakness and the accompanying torpor, I find myself none too much the worse for wear. The 20 degree cold snap ensures that any thought of catching a breath of fresh air is summarily dashed to pieces by my better judgment. What better time, then, for reminiscing about, well, better times?

Last April, Jeanna and I took a three month excursion south to warmer climes. Our goal was mainly climbing-related, but rather than simply dash from one place to the next intent only on destination, we tried to make sure that the 'getting there' was substantive in some way. Some of the most enjoyable time I've spent in a car was on the 101 and the 1 on our way down to California. We hit the coast just west of Portland. Destination: Joshua Tree. Not the fastest way there, by any means, but probably the most scenic this side of the 395.

Somewhere Along the Oregon Coast

Of course, being somewhat unaware of what constitutes adequate documentation of a trip, I took precious few photos. Luckily, Jeanna was a little better. Next time, I'll remember that it's nice to have at least a couple of visual references from each place.

Redwoods in Big Sur
Big Sur
If you've been good, you'll come back as one of these cows in the next life
Northern California
It may not be everyone's favorite, but it sure is pretty

The Pacific coast really is amazing. It's also far from monolithic: from the rocky coasts of central Oregon to the towering redwoods and amazing vistas of northern California, from the wild precipices and idyllic coastal meadows near Big Sur and San Francisco to the flat sands and condominiums of Malibu and Santa Monica; the coast certainly offers an incredible variety of scenery and wildly differing levels of human development.

Rugged, beautiful coast by Big Sur
Enchanted? Yes...
Looking down at the coastline at Big Sur

Driving along the 1 in California probably takes 15 hours longer the the neighboring 101. Its 15-20 mph curves and numerous intersections with small coastal towns ensures a slower but far more palatable alternative to the grit and grind of the latter option. Also, many breweries dot the coast surrounding areas of California. These certainly provide worthy places to enjoy refreshment; just mind the fact that the California Highway Patrol don't take no shit!

It's a shame the camera wasn't in service more often than it was. Even the glam of the greater Los Angeles area has a certain appeal, as long as you're just passing through. We did, in fact, stop in Malibu overnight, which was actually rather shocking even after a day spent milling about and drinking in San Francisco. Incidentally, anyone passing through the old Golden Gate city shouldn't miss the Toronado, at least if you enjoy good beer.

Spending five days hiking and driving rather slowly south was a breath of fresh air after all the cruel 22 hour drives down I-5 I've done in the past. We actually got to Joshua Tree feeling energized and almost free of the languor of city life already.

The best part, of course, was hanging out with a really cool lady.

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