In Which We Drive From Southern California to Eastern Washington

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August 30, 2011 by Leah

After four days and approximately 1340 miles, Duke and I arrived in Walla Walla last night. We even found Aaron and our temporary house-on-wheels.

The trip up was long, but fun. My mother-in-law, Marla, valiantly volunteered to accompany me and Cranky Dog (so dubbed for his bizarre attitude towards Marla; one minute he’s sprawled next to her getting belly rubs, the next minute he’s showing her his teeth when she tries to put her suitcase in the car) on our odyssey.

We left Long Beach on Friday morning, leaving Aaron to supervise the movers and clean up the house. Every single other time I’ve left L.A. there has been some kind of debacle. Fire, rain, snow, traffic, accidents, you name it. This time, I barely realized we had merged from the 405 to the 5 because there was no bottleneck. Amazing. It was like L.A. was really excited to see the back of me or something.

We drove through the Central Valley because we wanted to make San Francisco the first night. The Central Valley is kind of depressing. There are farms, there’s some big controversy because the government isn’t piping enough water into these farms (really, you decide to farm monocrops in a desert and think government-provided irrigation is your God-given right?), it’s really hot and dry and the towns provide a sharp contrast to the wealth that abounds in California’s big cities.

After several hours of 95+ degree temperatures, crossing the Bay Bridge into San Francisco’s cool miasma was a welcome change. We checked into our hotel and then met up with friends of Marla’s to check out the Picasso exhibit at the de Young museum and a fantastic Thai restaurant. (Duke stayed in the car for these adventures.) I had a lot of fun people-watching at the museum – the crowds were dressed and acting very differently than crowds you might see at LACMA or other museums in L.A. Oh, and the Picasso exhibit was good, too.

Golden Gate Bridge. Fog.

The next morning, we had breakfast with a couple of my friends (who live in England and whom I just saw last month in France, go figure) and departed on what we were sure was going to be our best day: a trip up the coast between San Francisco and Eureka. Long story short, it was not our best day. It was so foggy the road was hard to see at points, the road was rarely in sight of the ocean, and the road was extremely winding and downright treacherous at points. At least one of us got vaguely car sick and the journey took like 10 hours. The high point of the day was stopping at a cheese factory (I think it was actually called something more romantic than “factory”) and then eating said cheese for lunch while on a promontory overlooking the Pacific. Love that ocean.

Sunday was another long day; we went from Eureka to Portland. We stopped to admire redwoods while we were still in California, but when we finally hit the freeway after a few more hours on winding mountain highways, we were delighted. We were less delighted to hit a traffic jam south of Portland, but we persevered all the way to New Seasons, where we picked up some dinner and beer.

We stayed at Marla’s house Sunday night, which was fantastic.  The humans felt quite recharged after being in a well-loved, familiar place, and Duke had a great time playing with the two dogs who live there (Gypsy and Ursa, his “aunts”) and the one who was visiting (Stella, his second cousin). I couldn’t stop smiling as I watched him bound and race around the garden, ears flying.

Yesterday, we got up and into the car yet again (after Marla took me on a shopping trip through the aforementioned garden, hooray!) and drove up the Columbia River gorge. It was beautiful, albeit windy. There were a couple of fires (one active, one seemingly done) on the way, but they didn’t cause any delays (thank goodness). After a stop to buy peaches and a stop to transfer the peaches to Marla’s parents (who drove to meet us near Hermiston), Marla and I parted ways in Pendelton (at the woolen mills, of course). It was very weird driving the last 50 minutes or so by myself. I found a country station on the radio as I crossed the state line into Washington; it seemed appropriate, as I passed a store advertising Western wear, a feed store, and similar evidence that I now live in agricultural country on that last leg of the journey.

I’m still pretty exhausted, but I’ve got to apply for three jobs today and call a realtor (or two? I don’t really want to interview unless I find the first person we meet objectionable for some reason). Aaron is at his second day of work. Everyone I’ve talked to (the people at the local bar we went to for dinner, the people at the Starbucks I stopped at this morning, the lady who runs the RV park) has been really nice and helpful and normal-seeming. It’s great. I enjoyed our sojourn in the Southland from a sociological perspective, but at this point I’m pretty excited to be back in Middle America.

Home Sweet Home.

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