After we finally pulled away from Portland, short just one skylight, we started our way down one of the most scenic drives in the country.
But, as Murphy would have it, as soon as we lost our skylight, we experienced the first rain of our trip. In Portland, most rain is a light drizzle. In this instance we were lucky enough to experience nothing short of a heavy downpour. Fortunately we were able to pull off almost immediately, into the plushest gated RV community I’ve every seen. We told the guard we simply needed to turn around, so he kindly obliged and let us through the gate. There, lining neatly manicured lawns with pink flamingos were rows upon rows of quarter-million dollar motorhomes. Needless to say, our humble gray bus was hopelessly out of place.
As if the situation weren’t already intimidating enough, we had to use this opportunity to rush up on the roof and cover the open hatch as quickly as possible, with whatever materials we had on hand. So there we stood on top of the bus, still in my pajamas, repairing our decrepit bus with duct tape and a black garbage bag. As we desperately tried to dry the roof enough to allow our duct tape to stick, the guard rolled up in his covered golf cart, and asked us with an understandable amount of suspicion, the largely rhetorical question: “Can I help you with something?”. Slightly embarrassed, I informed him, “we’re just covering up our missing hatch to keep out the rain.” To our relief, he cheerfully replied “okay!” and rolled off to leave us to our business. Almost an entire roll of duct tape later, we were ready to hit the road.
The shadow cast by our now-blackened skylight left the fore of the bus in a gloomy darkness. Combined with the overcast skies, the darkness set a tone for our drive. The air was cool, but heavy. The towering trees gliding past were a deep forest green, drained of color. The cold gray ocean snaked in and out of view, with rocky cliffs appearing and disappearing through dense fog.
After more than a week on the bus, some tensions were beginning to build, and having celebrated for the last six nights in succession was causing patience to wear thin. Justin was beginning to develop cabin fever, often laughing with an emotion that was indistinguishable as joy or madness. Hints of brotherly aggression had built up between Vince and I, and while working together to fix the skylight helped mend that relationship as well as the skylight, the scene was largely somber. That day down the coast, we sat largely in silence. The quiet was welcome, and offered a chance for reflection.
Justin hand-picked our destination for the evening, a simple pull-off that was supposed to have a decent view of the ocean. As we made slow bus-time down the coast, day drifted into night, and my body collapsed from exhaustion, laptop still open, unable to stay awake to our final destination. As Vince drove on, Justin tucked me in, and kissed my forehead goodnight.
I groggily awoke the next morning as Justin returned to the bus. As I was clearly a bit disoriented and confused, Justin simply told me, “look outside”. Lazily lowering one of the privacy panels next to my bed, I glimpsed out the window. In the gray early morning light I saw the ocean waves gently washing ashore on a pale, empty beach. A gathering of giant rocks were scattered across the bay, their ominous silhouettes silently standing guard.
Justin had left the bus before sunrise to take advantage of the solitude and serenity the beach offered. He captured some fantastic pre-dawn images, and was able to practice a bit of yoga in this surreal setting before returning to the bus.
We were shortly on our way, hoping to see Redwood National Forest just a few miles down the road still in that early morning light. The sheer scale of the redwoods was difficult to process. Walking up to a giant tree I wrapped my arms around it in an embrace and started doing the math in my head: Okay, that tree is about 8′ in diameter… πr^2… that’s about a 50sqft section… times, say 150 feet tall… so about 7500 cubic feet… or 90,000 board feet. Goodness I could make a lot of tables with that…
Justin was more interested in the the soft light that was filtering down through the trees. He equated the glow on the forest floor to a Hollywood set, but he probably could have used some more photogenic talent to work with.
Only a few hundred yards onto a trail that was less than half a mile long, Justin and I turned around to find Vince had disappeared. I can only assume that he took after a bird or some other critter and wandered off path. We called out as loud as we could, and heard no response. Not knowing what else to do, we returned to the bus, hoping to see him along the way. Not to be found, we simply shrugged and started frying up bacon on our new cooktop and iron skillet. It’s tough to be mad when you’re eating bacon.
After grub, Vince returned and we continued south. We were feeling much better than the day before, having taken our first night off from the pubs in a week. The sun wasn’t yet shining, but our bodies were recovering and the mood was picking up. We stopped at a few more vistas, just to soak in a bit of the beauty on the coast. One particularly stunning lookout came with it’s own nostalgic 90′s-pop-punk soundtrack, courtesy of the car parked in front of us. Driving the car was a man in his late 40′s with rockin’ sunglasses, dressed far too hip for his age, along with two teenage boys who were likely too young to be choosing this music themselves.
For the final stretch down to San Francisco, we opted to continue down the 101 inland, rather than hop over to the 1 to stay on the coast, saving us at least two and a half hours driving time. The scenery along the coast was beautiful, and the break from the stress of city streets was welcome, but we were eager to see our friends.
En route to Berkeley we took a slight detour through the heart of San Francisco to see the stunning Golden-Gate bridge shrouded in fog. Justin and Vince were able to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience from our customary stations through the skylight hatches, and I only held up traffic on the bridge for a few minutes as I backed up to make my way over to the RV tolls a half-dozen or so lanes over.
Finally, arriving on the narrow streets of Berkeley, we were greeted with cheering from none other than our very own Ethan. He heralded us into the parking spots he had managed to clear in front of his home, and climbed triumphantly to the top of the bus. We had arrived. It was time to celebrate.