Travel plans? Who needs them?
by Dale Burgos
I can’t believe the summer break is almost done! I’ve always wondered why it flies by so quickly and I think I’ve finally figured out why. We try and pack in as much as we can during July and August. Camping, road trips, flying around the globe – the options are limitless. This year, I was able to cross something else off my bucket list.
Along with trips to Tofino and Long Beach, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, I am finally able to say I’ve driven down the picturesque west coast of Washington, Oregon and California states.
If you asked me at the beginning of summer, I would have told you we had no plans. If you asked me a week before our trip, I would have told you the same thing. You see, my wife Elizabeth is very spontaneous, where as I am a planner. I need to visualize my vacation beforehand. I need to know which hotels to stay at and on what day.
You can imagine how frazzled my brain got when Elizabeth told me that I needed to pack up the truck, because we are embarking on a road trip the next day! But where? How long? We haven’t booked or researched anything! I was quietly crying inside. The silver lining – we’ve always had some of our best family moments when we hadn’t planned a single thing. Being a dutiful husband, I packed our camping gear, filled up the tank and tried to have a good night’s sleep.
The next day we hopped on the ferry to the mainland and drove south. Got to the border where the U.S. Customs officer asked where we were going. I told him for a drive down the coast. “To where,” he asked. I said I didn’t know. “Do you have any places booked,” was his next inquiry. To which I replied, “No, we will find campsites along the way.” He seemed to mull his decision to let us through as he looked at our passports. In the end, with a smile, he tells us to enjoy our vacation.
I looked over at my wife thinking that this is where planning and a schedule would have been helpful. Being a dutiful husband, I didn’t say a word.
We drove through Seattle, not much to see as we’ve already been there and found a quiet campground outside of Olympia, Washington. The next day we encountered the “World’s Largest Oyster Shell” and started our journey on the winding roads of the west coast. We didn’t have any problems finding campsites along the way – some had amazing views and others we were tucked among majestic trees.
I’ve been told that the Oregon Coast is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, but nothing could have prepared us for what was to come. Marvellous panoramic views of the coast from cliff side viewing points, blue water with waves that would be in any surfer’s dreams. If you ever have a chance to drive the coast, do it. Just be prepared for countless stops and whiplash from turning your head all the time.
With having no plans or access to Google and guided solely by a road atlas, we moved on and were pleasantly surprised. We found the Devil’s Punchbowl Park and a small town called Astoria in Oregon. It was here where they filmed The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop and Stand By Me. I took a snapshot of the school where Arnold Schwarzenegger played a teacher who denied he had a tumour and took a picture of the Goonies house from afar. We weren’t able to get close as the locals frown upon that. Along with picturesque coastal towns, we also took a tour through the Redwood Forest.
We rolled into San Francisco about a week into our trip when the fog cleared just in time for us to see the Golden Gate Bridge. The kids were excited as this represented the goal of our trip. We drove over the bridge and very quickly got lost in downtown San Fran. We eventually found Fisherman’s Wharf, the Painted Ladies houses, and drove down the Crooked Street. The city didn’t disappoint and we will definitely go back for a longer visit. It was then that we decided we went far enough and would save a trip to Los Angeles and San Diego for another year.
We took a detour inland to visit my cousin who lives outside of Sacramento. Those few days we spent with family were just what we needed. Can’t wait to visit them again! They suggested that we check out Lake Tahoe as it was only a couple hours away. So off we went and once again, someone’s suggestion did not disappoint. The water was clear and the beaches were packed with sun worshippers. The town itself was impressive with all the amenities you can imagine. Then we figured we needed a place to rest, so why not Reno, Nevada, which is only a couple hours from the lake.
As we aren’t gamblers, we stayed one night and decided it was time to go home. Back through Nevada, Northern Cali and back into Oregon. We missed out on visiting the Oregon Vortex by a mere 15 minutes, but plan to go back sometime in the future. Drove through Portland and pretty much got through Washington as quickly as possible, as Seattle and surrounding areas are notorious for traffic congestion.
Almost two weeks later, we arrived home safe and sound with a ton of new memories. Travel plans? Who needs them!
Dale is the director of communications for a school district in British Columbia and continues to write from afar.