Saturday, 21 September 2013

The American West coast: 1250 miles. 7 cities. 19 days.

It took 19 days, but it rather felt like 3 months - in the best way possible. Is it completely irrational to believe that the more people you meet in a day, the more places you discover, and the more foods you taste, the more hours your day will stretch into?
Call me crazy, but I think I found a way to control time.

Part of me wishes I had spent more than 3-4 days in each city. I would have better been able to distinguish one city from the other. All I have for you is a few pointers.  
On the other hand, 3-4 days was enough to establish a most trusting and durable friendship with the Americans I stayed with along the way.  It was enough for me to send postcards to my Canadian compatriots on which I can assert that when I think of the kindest, most generous people I have met in my lifetime,  many of them are situated on the American West coast.
But friendships I cannot translate on paper. So allow me to present a brief synopsis of cities instead.

  • George, Washington

My experience in George, save for a dip in a lake (on the left), was strictly a musical one.
I ended up there after seeing an ad on craigslist: Leaving Vancouver on Saturday, driving to DMB, coming back on Monday. Two days later, I was crossing the border with two strangers, or rather soon-to-be friends.

Every year, the Dave Matthews Band occupies the center stage for three consecutive days at the Gorge Amphitheatre, said to be the most impressive natural amphitheater in North America
 (where Sasquatch takes place).
I had the most amazing weekend there with Andrew
 from Vancouver, Adam from Australia, Shellane from Bellingham, and Andrea from Alaska.

  • Seattle, Washington

Alright, I have to agree with the common saying that Seattle resembles Vancouver.  The ocean, the mountains, the liberal spirit, the rain.  But every city has its unique hang-out places, such as Pine Box, a very spacious, two-story restaurant in Capitol Hill.  Try their oven-baked pizzas, and one of the 50 different choices of beers on tap.

However, what was most memorable during my time in Seattle was the green space it is situated in. My friend Annie and I took a hike to the foothills of Cascade Mountains, where we reached the Goldmyer hot springs.  In the middle of the forest and adjacent to a creek, four basins with waters ranging from icy-cold to hot tub-like temperatures can hold a maximum of seven people.  Clothing optional.

  • Portland, Oregon

 Apparently, Portland is America's bicycle capital. The bicycle theme was definitely prevalent in the arts and crafts sold at the weekly Saturday market, along the waterfront. Bicycle necklaces, bicycle T-shirts, bicycle paintings, you name it.
One can easily spend two hours there, trying samples of all kinds: home-made jam, meat sauces, flower-scented soaps, Californian wine...

Portland is known for its numerous microbreweries.  I strongly recommend you try a Black Butte, a delicious stout made in Oregon.
Live music is also prevalent in this charming little city.  I saw some great bands there.
I discovered most of these places thanks to my very kind couch surfing host, Bill.

  • Medford, Oregon
My wonderful craigslist driver (Erik) and I stopped there just for one night on our way to San Francisco.
In Medford, I had a delightful tray of 11 beer samples.

  • San Francisco, California
Ah, the much awaited for city!  The sun, the surf, the surrounding wineries!  This is what I had in mind upon my arrival in SF.  Not San Fran - I was told only tourists say that.
This pre-conceived image was clearly lacking foundation.  It was very cold when I arrived in SF, around 17 degrees Celsius, and overcast. Forget about the surfing.  And the closest winery was an hour away by car, which I did not have.
But everything turned out for the best, thanks to Kevin, Alex and Chris - three locals I met on my first night in a bar, who later showed me the best of the city. 
They lent me a bike, and we rode across the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped in Sausalito for the most exquisite fish tacos.

I was told that SF is known for its coffee culture ("C'mon, a surf culture? Only tourists say that."). Indeed, I do believe I tasted the best coffee I've ever had in a gigantic coffee shop with multiple coffee bars. The barista told me that training for his position lasted three months.  After your coffee, head over to the 21st Amendment, a beautiful microbrewery, for San Franciscan lagers!    

  •  Los Angeles, California
Several people had advised me to skip LA.  I almost took their advise,  having no particular interest in seeing Hollywood. But I reasoned myself into going anyway, not seeing a reason not to go, especially that it was on my way. Considering it was a fall back plan, my two-day stay there turned out to be an amazing time  - but only so thanks to my wonderful hosts Tim and Rene.  
We saw a great comedy show, which is supposedly a very popular form of entertainment in LA;  we visited the Getty at nighttime (free admission to one of the most renowned museums in the US, with breath-taking views of LA).  During the day, we hiked up to the Hollywood sign, and biked over to Santa Monica for some wave-jumping!
  • San Diego, California
Will it sound familiar if I say that San Diego was only a memorable city because my hosts made it to be so?  I wish I could give you a little more variety.
For me, San Diego was palm trees; Mexicans starting a conversation with me in Spanish on the bus, assuming I understood them; the beach in Coronado island, peaceful except for the 15 planes that flew above us from the military aviation base; deliciously greasy Cali-Mexican food (see to the right); and bars with disturbingly well-centered animal trophies hung on the wall (see below).
And let's not forget the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, where the staff suspiciously repeated at every stop in the guided tour how this zoo is not just a zoo, it is a conservation center, a research facility, a protection haven for endangered species... look, even our benches are made of recycled plastic water bottles!  So please, do buy our backstage pass to see our animals from very very close! (See below)
You'll understand, now, how 19 days felt like a lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. Wooooow!!! Sounds so amazing, keeeep enjoying yourself :D