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I didn’t know that places like this still existed in California.

Maybe in the Appalachian Mountains or somewhere else in the huge spaces of this country, but… California? I thought I had covered pretty much every part of my native state, and I have never seen anything like this.

But then again, I’ve never been to the Lost Coast.

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The Lost Coast is well named. It’s this sliver of coastal land that seems to have been transported straight out of a time machine, from 200 years ago or earlier. It’s raw land, primal. The trees here are ancient and drip with moss that was old before my grandmother was in her mother’s womb.

a little moxie on the lost coast

The space where the land meets the ocean is as savage as they talk about Amazon warrior princess being. It’s awe-inspiring. It’s fearless. It’s undiluted beauty. And it will rip you to shreds and have you for breakfast if you don’t treat it with respect.

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The valleys dip long and deep, rippling with green – green is everywhere, everywhere!, who knew green came in a kaleidoscope of shades?

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**

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The morning that we were to leave for the Lost Coast came, wet and cold. I wasn’t particularly happy. The idea of moving into an empty farmstead in that weather (with the kids in tow) held absolutely no romantic appeal for me. I dreaded packing, loading, unloading and was not looking forward to the 2-hour drive to get there either.

I dragged my heels.

My brother Dana was chomping the bit to leave, herding us all like a Border Collie, “hey! Come on! Let’s go! Let’s go!

– yeah, yeah, okay…okay…we’re coming….

I was missing Mexico. We all were. As happy as we had been coming up, we just weren’t feeling it with the pouring rain and bone-rattling cold.

But we finally got on the road, drove down to Ferndale, this bastion of Victorian-ness – the whole entire town is made of Victorian houses!, turned down a tiny side street in a back lane in a corner of town which surprisingly led us directly away from Ferndale and up a mountain that I seemed to not even have seen before we started climbing it.

It was really weird. Very cool in an “Indiana Jones” kind of way.

Like the small street unlocked some mountain and we were going on a quest.

I sat up straighter in my seat and all of the sudden, my heart felt light and happy – while it was still raining and cold, the day was unfolding into a pretty solid exciting adventure which just kept getting better.

It’s an incredible drive from Ferndale to the Lost Coast. It’s absolutely jaw-dropping. The unguarded cliffs! The dirt roads, switchbacks, more cliffs!

a little moxie on the lost coast-34Nature is at her fiercest and tenderest. A coin with one side being the lush meadows and cows and the other being the stark cliff drops, the hungry ocean below.

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I doubt we would have found it on our own

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This is one of the last gems in California. It’s hard to find and hard to reach, and it is call is the “Lost Coast” for a reason; it’s as if it was tucked away in the fold of the map of California, lost and forgotten except by the lucky few who remember… or the luckier still, us, who come upon it by chance and sway, smitten, in a dance for a season.

***

[the slideshow is from the actual day we arrived… iphone pics and all…]

We crossed the border twice again… I know, I know… no, I don’t know. What the hell is it about us and crossing borders twice in a day? It’s like this insatiable thirst for torturing ourselves.

ut whatever, we crossed it twice again, got the dang Banjiercito paperwork done, crossed again and Mikey just about fainted from the sheer joy and ease of driving on a Californian Highway.

california highway: route 395

“The shoulders!” he’d exclaim, practically drooling, “the flatness – IT”S COMPLETELY FLAT!” He was all but bouncing in his seat like a kid with a bucket of Halloween candy.

Since he was higher n’ kite with the flatness of the road, the thrill of the big, fat road shoulders carrying him far, since we didn’t have to watch out for cows crossing the road like we did in Baja, and since the kids were in a good mood, we drove a long way that day. We drove and drove and drove, Myrtle hungrily chomping down the miles like they cookie crumbs and she was the Cookie Monster.

We stopped in the middle of nowhere for a night and then got up for an encore mile-munching session. Gulp. Chomp. Fuel up. Repeat. And repeat.

the spring source of shepherd's pool
the spring source of shepherd’s pool

We burned our way through a few tanks of gas to get to Shepherd’s Pool and have a dip.

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Then dip again.

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And walk, run, camp

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Dip again.

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Then we left, because it was just too cold.

DSC_1089We were prepared the last time we camped up this way, we had a stock of wool long underwear, heavy socks that fit snugly in furry boots, down jackets and more.

This time, we were coming from Baja and baby, the beach in Baja isn’t good prepping for the frost of the North.

Uh-uh.

We continued to drive and when we started hitting the snow of Susanville, the huge drifts and piles of what felt like a blizzard, I started getting scared. Like, just big ole’ piles of ‘yuck’ in me, ‘what were we thinking?! How can we handle this? This is nuts, man….[facepalm]’

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Mikey drove on.

And we arrived in Blue Lake, just as the sun emerged directly overhead, like a beacon from heaven. Tired, cold, but happy to be there and in one piece, we were good. Safe. Sound. Ready for the next part of what is unfolding into a fantastic adventure.

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****

We had to leave our campsite to go to town for supplies.

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It’s never a fun thing to do this – it involves a super bitchy Mikey rolling up everything, cranky waiting kids and an irate me. We’re all rubbed wrong in our supply-fetching ventures, but whatever, it’s a small price to pay for a free beach camping, right? So we we get over the annoyance pretty fast.

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Yesterday stretched on for some time though – I think it was because we left later than we usually do, and because we had more to do – we had to stop pretty much everywhere – propane, water, food, dry supplies – the whole works. We were exhausted by the time we were done at Soriana, the big-box Mexican store. We all piled in Myrtle, ready to head back.

It was around 5. We know very well that we shouldn’t be driving at night here – besides the fact that it’s in all the books, we know it from the experience of having had the crap scared out of us when we drove once at night, in the last time we were here. It’s not banditos or cartels or whatever everyone seems scared of – it’s simply COWS.

You see, the cows here range free and at night they meander onto the road. The roads are narrow, simply two slivers of lanes, often with potholes or sloping sides, which means that if you are going at any speed at all, those cows can cause some big hits.

But last night it wasn’t cows. We were nervous about driving at night, on the lookout for our bovine friends. We were driving very slowly and ended up behind a truck that was (unbelievably) going even slower than we were. The truck was spouting some nastiness from their exhaust, so Mikey was trying to pass it – and when he reached a passing zone with no cars coming, he did.

And then.

Just as he had slipped back into our lane, the truck safely behind us, a car came FLYING out of seeming nowhere from the opposite direction. We were really startled then seconds later, there was a shower of electric sparks. The car had crossed lanes, flown off the road, crashed into an electric pole and rolled. We were stunned.

We stopped. Then we turned around and drove back to see if we could help.

There were children inside, crying for their papa, who was silent. The woman (grandmother?) was drenched in blood, cut, moaning. The lights from the ambulances and police that came flashed silently and in that space I was 4 years old again, having gone through the windshield and sitting there, my own blood blinding me and my life changed forevermore.

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Those people had their life changed last night.

We don’t know if the father made it, or what has happened to the family. But our prayers are with them.

And next time we go to town for supplies and it gets dark on us, we are staying at a hotel.

Taking a slow chance on cows seems like it’s worth it sometimes when we are all cranky and tired but it’s the chances on other cars and other people that are perhaps the most dangerous.

And it’s not worth it.

 

 

This is a replay of our month-long trip to Mexico earlier this year (which was the inspiration for our current  plans to leave for the Pan American Highway as soon as we can).

This expanded entry was originally posted in a simpler form on 1-3-12 on my now-retired travel blog. I left you here, in which we had pulled over to respond to calls from nature… and had a blast frolicking around in the cacti. Amazing prickly things, those.

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We drove forever down parched roads, lonely looking areas. We pulled into the Catalina area as the sun was reaching a spot in the sky that whispered rather loudly, “if you want to camp, you’d better set up now.”

 

My One True Darling pulled in the local shop, went inside to buy a coke and ask where such a spot might be. A ragged, sun-weathered man, “The Grizzle”, wandered after him and I had visions of a scene from Mad Max. Or something. They wandered out together, my Love passed The Grizzle a cigarette then came back into the truck. Said The Grizzle was from Northern California, had been wandering around Baja for over 20 years now. Ah. So that’s what happens…

We followed the directions the shop had given us for a place we could camp, wandered into a space with ground packed hard, dense. Most likely a lovely space to camp, if you had stakes made of some unbendable, unbreakable substance that could slide through granite.

We, unfortunately, didn’t have that. With dusk approaching, we made the swift decision to just rent a room instead.

See those baskets hanging? Want a closer look?

Tires! How ingenious!

This was an odd little place. Mom and Pop, Mexican, smothered in ‘quirk”. Overpriced for Mexico, but really, they could charge whatever they wanted as their only competition was a fancy hotel across the way that charged Overpriced for America.

Small uber-pink room of questionable cleanliness and maybe even integrity. Single fluorescent light. A black hole of darkness at night, as we were to find.

Bright sunshine outside, lilting warm breeze and a delightful dog. Our kids were happy playing. We were happy watching.

The “quirk” that the place was smothered in? Part of it was plain country-Mexican, part of it was plain Mexican, part of it was sheer interesting artistry. Maybe all of those things are one, in the end? I don’t know. I’m new at this, travel in the Baja.

This, I especially loved. Reminded me of the handwashing I did in my own childhood in Fiji.

Tortilla holder made in the USA. We thought eating dinner there would be a smart call because of the Mom and Pop Mexican factor. Mom was cooking. I guess we just assumed that Mom would be a good cook. She wasn’t.

We walked around after we ate. The desolate quality to the place was both appealing and slightly disconcerting. Especially when Mom and Pop took off in their ancient Suburu. We wondered if they were going to a better place to eat, flush with the cash we’d bathed them in.

Yep, that was their taillights, twinkling in the darkened night air.

They had left us all alone in their Mad Max Land.

We went inside, studied the map of Baja.

Micah and I worked on our own map we were creating of our trip.

Moxie read some more.

************

None of us slept well.

We were all happy to wake up, after a fitful night, tossing, turning and imagining things that go BUMP in the dark.

Made our coffee. Mom and Pop were back, we could boil water. THANK GOD.

Let the kids run around a little while we packed up

And Moxie had to say good bye to her new friend.

We were all happy to get into the Beast and leave.

Hit the road that was calling us.

Little Man wants a skateboard now.

 

 

 

 

This is a replay of our month-long trip to Mexico earlier this year (which was the inspiration for our current  plans to leave for the Pan American Highway as soon as we can).

This entry was originally posted on 1-1-12 on my now-retired travel blog. I left you here, in which we had sought shelter from the intense fog in some hotel in some place (God knows where!) for New Years Eve. 

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I didn’t know where we were when we landed from the fog. I was just grateful for the shelter. I found out that we were in Punta Colonet, by way of the hotel signage.

And this is the thing that made me laugh: that hotel was only half-finished! The upstairs was a mess of raw concrete and wires; unfinished stairs and things that screamed, “if you were in America, you’d be sued!”

I did not, however, enjoy the morning coffee. My One True Darling thought the water must be brackish – or something – to have such an effect on the instant creamer. It was horrible and we couldn’t drink it and us without coffee is just, well, about the simplest way to bring out the worst in us.

We were in the middle of nowhere. Unbelievable how that fog rolled in.

No coffee anywhere. We thought we’d just suck it up till we could have a coke; that does the trick what with the winning combination of sugar and caffeine.

Baby thought she’d explore while we packed and she did.

Having kids along changes everything.

In search of some coca cola and by that time, breakfast too, we left. Just by San Quintin (our original destination) was where we stopped for breakfast and that headache saving coke at a wayside little place that boldly touted its fine ‘Mariscos!“.

I liked that the cook guy was facing a field while he cooked his fishly products.

Which turned out to be those cheesy clams. Wow. That is some deliciousness, packed tight! Clams, vegetables, cheese, roasted over the fire. With 6 fish tacos, tostadas and blessed coca-cola, I think it was about $20, total.

We are over budget, by the way. We did not plan to spend as much as we are on eating food out – but it’s also okay because we’re headed for the beach to camp. We won’t be having baked giant clams there unless we do it ourselves!

But we will have coffee.

 

 

This is a replay of our month-long trip to Mexico earlier this year (which was the inspiration for our current  plans to leave for the Pan American Highway as soon as we can).

This was the second post, originally posted around 12-31-11 on my now-retired travel blog. We had left the Bay Area and were headed from San Diego to the Border Crossing. We had, as I left you saying, intended to leave for the Border at the crack of dawn.

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 We did wake up, as intended, at the crack of dawn. But, unintended, so did our kids. That kind of slowed things down, so dawn was well over by the time we had packed our Beast and taken leave of our Gracious Hosts.

 We were nervous. Crossing on the very last day of 2011, we had a potentially long wait at the border. We had absolutely no idea of how much traffic there would be. No idea of what throngs there might be, just itching to get into Tijuana. What we did know was that we had our passports, had our cash for our tourist cards,

Had a baby that was zonked out from her 4am rising. Ha, ha.

 

 

As we drove down the exceedingly broad i-5 (which we had grown to rather loathe), we grew perky. For one, we were actually about to cross the border. For two, the road looked awfully bare which boded well for slim lines. For three, we were really well rested and that always makes for a better mood, doesn’t it?

My One True Darling and I were happy dancing at this point: THERE! THERE! THAT’S MEXICO OVER THERE! And there! Lovely emptiness in place of what could be a line from HELL is actually a vision of HEAVENLY grace.

Be still, oh my border-crossing heart.

Yes! Only one car ahead of us! It was pretty smooth. Thank God we left the drugs at home –

JUST JOKING.

 

We were in and out of it all in under 5 minutes. Drove through, and then My One True Darling and I were like, ‘HUH? What about our tourist cards and passports and all that?

And so. We had to drive back, park, get out and ask the rather stern-faced personnel. They pointed us out to a little office, Mikey stepped out and ran on over. We waited. The baby was still sleeping. Little Man had woken from his own catnap.

And waited.

 

It took quite a while – an endless hour, it seemed to my full bladder. FINALLY he came back and said that he needed me to go there because he was using my debit card and they needed my signature. I was delighted to comply – the bathroom was right next to that little office. We took Moxie (now awake) and went on over. Signed, sealed, ready.

Border: Crossed!

Part Two of the Day Plan: drive through to San Quintin, perhaps with a stop in Porto Nuevo, famed for its lobster. Oh, why not? Why-ever would anyone not stop in a Mexican town famous for lobster?

PS.

The lines going the other way, into San Diego:

 

 

 

 This is a replay of our month-long trip to Mexico earlier this year (which was the inspiration for our current  plans to leave for the Pan American Highway as soon as we can).

This was the second post, originally posted 12-31-11 on my now-retired travel blog. We had left the Bay Area and were headed to San Diego, to spend the night with Toni’s (my sister-in-law) parents before heading to the border crossing the following day.

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There has to be some sort of nickname for the awfulness that the space between San Francisco and San Diego is, on the i-5.

Crushingly boring. Numbingly breaking.

the i-5

If I were still a smoker, I’d have gone through a pack of cigarettes that night. As it was, when it was my turn to drive, I chewed my way through one entire Orbit Wild Berry while head-bopping to a whole lot of Lady Gaga and Rihanna – with a bit of Elton John thrown in to be wild.

But my turn only lasted a short span. My One True Darling kept his seat and drove on. And on. And on. Except for the few breaks we took for the bathroom/sugar load at McD’s, he just went on.

Until he had to pull over because I was snoring with actual weights over my eyes – literal weights! I couldn’t open them a peep! and so was incapable of any more driving.

It took us something like 14 hours. And please. Don’t go and tell me you did it in 5; I”m sure you did, but you weren’t limited by your One True Darling who would somehow snarl at you in his sleep if you went one smidgen over 45 miles on account of the gas mileage. If you were, well then, I’m going to send you your gold medal, pronto. But I still bet you weren’t.

Anyway.

When we finally reached San Diego at around 9 the next morning, our hostess -Toni’s mother –  was beyond gracious and let us sleep while she watched our raring-to-go-WHOO-HOO!- kidlets. Both of ’em. She’s a gem. Plus, she made us comfie beds and warmed us up with her big heart love.

We even walked to the playground later in the afternoon and had fun.

And slept a whole lot more, knowing that we’d need it the next day, the Big Day, the day of our border crossing into Mexico.

The Plan:

Get started at the crack of dawn, allowing for lots of time for potential huge lines at the Border. Drive straight through the northern part which seems to be rather sketchy. Stop for the night in San Quintin.

 

 

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