Having Fun Cruising Highway 1

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

As we left San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge in our rearview mirror, we looked forward to driving up the coast on California Highway-1 to Crescent City, where Redwood National Park waited.

I remembered planning the trip with my wife and her, saying we didn’t have to go that far to see giant redwoods. But she soon understood that I HAD to see THE National Redwood Forest. And for reasons I’ll explain, it was well worth the drive!

The whole day was reserved to meander up the coast, stopping wherever we wanted. We were hardly out of the Bay Area when we made our first spontaneous stop – “Let’s go swimming!”

Muir Beach was empty except for one other couple and their toddler. They were struggling to light a fire in the wind. As we walked like penguins in the deep, soft sand past them, we were friendly, but they seemed not to care to talk, so we trudged on to where rocks, large, small, and humongous, littered the beach and shallow water. We delighted in dipping our bare feet into the Pacific Ocean for the first time and instantly realized that you do not go swimming at Northern California beaches—Brrrr!

So the kids ran around as free spirits as we relaxed, took scenic pictures, and breathed the brisk ocean breeze in deep.

“Check it out!” the kids called. “Looks like a Jellyfish.”

I grabbed the video camera and focused just when a wave hurled it at my legs. The kids squealed in delight, knowing my squeal was caught on audio.

As we drove, we took in the incredible coastal views from the twisting hillsides of mountains plunging into the ocean. I had to be careful of bicyclists as we wrapped around blind curves. Pelicans flew by, distracting me.

“Bicyclist!”

The drive didn’t grow old, but my arms grew tense from the constant twisting and turning of the steering wheel as we passed cliffs, beaches, marshland, and dunes. I was amazed at the untouched natural landscape up the coast on both sides of Highway 1.

“Bicyclist!”

Another thing that weaved in and out, rather up and down, was the temperature. As the road curved inland for a bit, the digital car barometer read 83 degrees. Swing closer to the water again, and it plunged to 55 degrees.

“Glass Beach!”

This was a planned stop.

Glass Beach used to be a city dump near Fort Bragg, California. When they cleaned it up, they left only the glass trash behind. The rocks broke it, the water smoothed it, and now, people collected it. All the big pieces were picked long ago, but a seemingly endless supply of little rounded glass stones remained.

Decision-time.

The drive took longer than we thought, but not too far off the course was a drive-thru tree! A TREE YOU CAN DRIVE, THOUGH! C’mon, there’s no decision there.

Before we knew it, we were in Leggett, California, staring at the Chandelier Tree, standing 300 feet tall. It had tourist trap written all over it, but I just couldn’t resist. Besides, we had a rental car. It turned out to be the largest and oldest Redwood we’d see. When we pulled up for our turn to drive through, I realized we might not make it without scraping the sides of this new sporty SUV. I had upgraded the rental when the guy at the counter made it sound like it would only be X more dollars. What he didn’t say was it would be X more dollars per day! One thing I knew I didn’t buy—the extra insurance. My wife got out to meet us on the other side to take pictures and guide me as I inched inward.

The kids loved it. So did I, even though I voiced many “nervous” sounds as I eyed up how close the tree closed in around the vehicle.

“Check this out. We’re like an inch from wood,” came a kid’s voice filled with exuberance.

SCRE-E-E-EACH!

I instantly stopped and was about to drop a “bomb” when the kids laughed and said, “Just kidding, that was us.”

Not funny!

After a pizza and ice cream stop, we drove into the dark. Big sis used little bro’s head as a pillow smothered under her pillow.

Nearing our destination, my wife and I marveled at the bizarre nightscape we were driving through. Our ribbon of road had no streetlights. It was as black as night could be except for a headlight or taillight here and there. Then it was just us. The kids were sound asleep. The sensory feeling was unmatched and one I’ll never forget. It felt like we were transported into the most amazing animation. Looking high above in every direction were ominous tree trunks that stretched into the starry heavens. It was equally majestic and haunting. Our little ribbon road swirled around the wooden giants. We felt like ants. It was surreal. Man humbled by the power of nature. As it should be.

Serenity was on the mind that night.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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