We wake at our friends’ house in Eugene, the wet chill of the Pacific Northwest envelopes us. Our friend Shana has traded her normal workday of harvesting filberts to show us Eugene.
We met Simone and Shana at the Lexington Avenue Brewery where we all worked together in Asheville. A few months before Beth and I hit the road as nomads, they moved across the Lower 48 in search of a new life and we had made promises to visit the ladies on our travels. Simone has always been the “witch doctor” to me – an herbalist whom I trust to give sage advice, whether what concoctions or potions I should consume for an ailment, to relationship and life advice. She and Shana surprise us with a gift basket of homemade goodies: healing oil, lip balm, chutney, and some snacks for the road. I feel at home, but uneasy. Everything is surreal.
I shovel fresh scrambled eggs down my throat, thanks to their ducks I faintly hear quacking out back. The breakfast is delicious but worry clouds my mind and turns my stomach inside out.
What’s wrong with you now, Darlene? My mind can’t focus.
Beth and the ladies chat and make plans for the day. I half-heartedly listen, my mind lost in technical diagrams, fluids, sensors and solenoids.
Can we stop by an automotive store?
Beth looks at me, she doesn’t have to speak, I know what she’s thinking. Can’t we just be here? Can’t this wait?
I direct Shana to the closest NAPA and Autozone. I leave the stores hopeful that the $200 in parts I now have in my bag will be the last. Confident that I can at least repair something, my mind eases and I can focus on the day.
While we were working as Camp Hosts in Northern Arizona, I met Jim, an amazing guy who calls himself a “modified fly fisher.” Covered in tattoos and piercings he immediately caught my eye in our campground, but it was his smile and genuinely kind mannerism that lured me in. Or the fly rod I spied on the picnic table. Either way we spent an evening around the campfire discussing life and fly fishing, and he asked us to let him know if we ever wound up in Eugene or Oregon – either to go fishing or be pierced by him, as he’s a professional.
Unfortunately I don’t have time to fish, but I will take his offer of a free piercing of his choice, because hey, you only live once!
Well, what do you want pierced?
Uh…I’ve had my nipples done before and while they were fun they never healed right, so not them. And I don’t want anything that’s going to be a pain to take care of on the road. I don’t know, you choose. Oh – and I want to be able to put a motorcycle helmet on without any issues.
Instead he pierces the innermost fold of cartilage in my ear, a piercing known as a “daith” (pronounced doth, like moth). Quick, painless, easy, and out of the way! We hang around his shop for a bit, are gifted new earrings and a nose ring, meet a couple of his buddies and continue on. I promise Jim I’ll be back, next time to fish.
Eugene is gorgeous. What else is there to say? Beauty is so subjective yet Beth and I both agree that we want to come back here, maybe try our own hand at a new life on the West Coast, who knows. Shana shows us the downtown area and we munch lunch at the restaurant where Simone works. Walking down the sidewalk we are reminded of Asheville, but without the touristy vibe. Vagrants congregate around corners, some panhandling but most keep to themselves. Eugene has an air of calm collectedness that I’ve not felt in any other city, maybe it’s the entire state. After all, marijuana is legal here!
We stop by a marijuana dispensary because, well, we can! In November of 2014, two years after Colorado and Washington made the move, Oregon became the third state to legalize marijuana. Instead of turning into a lazy clouded state with no motivation, Oregon has continued on, pulling in more money through taxes on this highly lucrative business. Standing in the dispensary I couldn’t help but feel like something was wrong, that I was about to be arrested and this was all just a set up, some cruel joke. We tour the store like wide-eyed terrified kids, tiptoeing around the fact that we’re standing in front of pounds of pot. I chat with a worker and ask permission to photograph, which he allows as long as the business and workers remain anonymous.
I’ve got to take photos I think to myself otherwise I might not believe it – I’ll need proof to show my grandkids one day who never knew marijuana as illegal. Or so I hope.
Back at Simone and Shana’s Beth and the ladies crack open a few beers and enjoy the evening with music and cooking, I lay on my back under Darlene, sweet talking her underside.
What’s wrong with ya, ol’ gal?
I notice we’re still leaking a bit from the steering gear, and a touch more oil has collected on our steering damper than usual. I check fluid levels and everything seems nominal.
Oh hell, I’ll just quit worrying about the fluids under our truck and only focus on what’s still inside her.
The repairs I intended to start tonight can not be completed – before tearing into the transmission to replace a few electronics I luckily realize I’m missing a few specialty tools. Defeated, my repair work is over before it begins. I sneak a kiss to the transmission and ask her to not give us any issues. Despondent, I trudge back inside, the last warm rays of the sun gone, cold nipping at my heels. The ladies are inside celebrating life and I crack open a beer, excited for dinner but with worries still on my mind.
Give me some time Darlene, I’ll have this sorted out.
In the morning we head South towards California, our final destination for the time being. Redwoods and the craggy coasts of Big Sur have been calling to us like Sirens for nearly a year, their proximity is too much to bear. We must heed their call.
Winding through Northern California, we keep our eyes peeled for redwoods.
Oh, I think those are redwoods!
Beth squeals with joy. I try to keep one eye on the road while craning my neck in an attempt to glimpse giants above us.
They’re skinnier than I thought they’d be.
The road’s curves never end. Left. Right. Left. Right. On and on we weave and flow through the forested slalom course. Beth’s face is pressed to her window looking up, fog forming around her mouth. I glance down at the GPS and see that we are about to enter some kind of national forest, designated by a green shadowed area. Glancing back up it hits us simultaneously.
Holy shit I mutter, turning to look at Beth.
The trees surrounding us are those we had imagined and dreamed of. These are the redwoods we had longed to see, trees whose width puts the size of our rig to shame, whose tops could not be glimpsed from within the truck, no matter how hard we tried. Whatever we saw earlier, while still impressive, must not have been old groves trees – nearly 1,000 years old and 400 feet tall! Meandering through these giants we are brutally reminded of how insignificant and small we are, how incredibly amazing this world and this universe can be.
Reluctantly we follow the road South and leave the giants behind us, only the costal fog dares to shroud them. Our elevation continues to drop and with one sweeping curve out of the redwood forest we are greeted by a sight equally deserving of awe – the Pacific Ocean!
Finally! After having set foot in the Atlantic nearly 8 months ago we’ve done it, we’re here! The shimmering Pacific blinds us with afternoon sun, the horizon is nonexistent. The happiness inside me is uncontainable, salty tears of joy well in my eyes as though called forth by Poseidon to join the sea. Beth and Alfredo tear off in the sand, zig-zagging beached kelp and debris like running backs dodging tackles. I chase after them, pausing to soak this moment in and breathe deep that salty air.
Beth grins from ear to ear.
Let’s stay here for a while.