Monday, August 30, 2010

Destination West: Napa Valley, (my adopted) home.

California is the state where mine and Forrest's story began almost four years ago. A lot has happened since that evening spent watching 'Eurotrip' (Oh God) at my sister's apartment, where Forrest spent the entire evening talking to his feet because he was too shy to look at me.

Now we are arriving in Sacramento- where a family birthday party is being held- and Forrest's parents are giving us bear hugs, referring to us both as their children and me feeling like I've come home. As far as the 'in laws' lottery goes- I hit the jackpot.

So after a night of sleeping like we meant it, we were up and at 'em and on our way to Napa Valley where Forrest grew up; my adopted home. Forrest was in constant motion, squirming and fidgeting as he declared more times than I could count about how he could not wait to be reunited with his motorbike. YES DEAR, I know. He'd been waxing lyrical about it for the past five days. By now I knew it better than my own name. The bike was waiting at his parents house and I thought he'd cry when he saw it.

I could stay in Napa forever, but if I'm only getting three days then I'd spend them doing exactly this:

*Meeting the baby goats- Nova and Austin- who have ears like Jar Jar Binks. Wonderful!

*Catching up with friends Nate and Tammy who treated us to the best meal I've eaten since forever, and who's gorgeous kids make me think: Definitely, someday.

*Becoming reacquainted with the motorcycle and submitting to a ridiculous T-shirt tan.

*Riding to the cheese factory in Petaluma. Buying cheese. Eating cheese. Eating more cheese. Cheese.

*Dropping in on Sonoma- my favourite town for coffee, fudge, beehive cakes towels, actually.

*Spending time with Forrest's parents. Plus Moni's legendary breakfasts. Yums.

Also: Salsalito, Lappert's ice cream, Route 1, California weather, Armstrong & Getty on the radio, Chip & Olly (our old turtles) and In 'n' Out Burger. YES Please.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Road to California!

Tonopah quickly became a fading memory as we lined California up in our sights. There was never a more impatient pair than we, as 'Lake Tahoe' showed up on the GPS, provoking a quick round of the happy dance and some California type sound track, probably the Chili Peppers. Phantom Planet. The Beach Boys.

The GPS looked confident, but we threw our eggs in a different basket with our choice of route towards the stateline. Sporting an attitude of nonchalance that usually spells disaster (but today with a stroke of luck)- we found ourselves approaching Tahoe along some gravelly mountain road that really wouldn't be advisable if you have ambitions for keeping a clean car. Since we'd already put dear Walt (yes, we named our truck) through the wringer twice and thrice, we figured a final coat of dust wouldn't be such an inconvenience.

We wound through the mountains with almost my entire torso balancing and swishing outside of the window. A sunny breeze is not something you will under rate if you've spent the past 3 months melting in a Southern Summer as we have. Lucky Boy Pass was like a discovered secret as we meandered through the mountains with the sun and shadows playing colorfully in the valleys. There were some questionable navigational decisions, mini river-crossings and cocking of eyebrows but California is like a magnet and eventually the Welcome sign appeared before us to rapturous applause from Forrest and myself. From there we could pretty much smell Lake Tahoe, with Forrest winding down all the windows shouting 'pine! pine! pine!' and me rubbing my hands together in anticipation of Papagayos, the most delicious little Mexican Grill in- quite probably- the whole world.

Of course we were flagged down at the visitors station to assure those serious looking fellows that no, we did not have a cargo of bananas or insects or tigers or foreign dirt ( though driving a truck that looks like it has been wrestling in a sand pit probably didn't help our case....). Eventually though, fueled up on burritos and tacos, we wasted no time in shooting through Tahoe and on to the Capital City. Our home from home, Sacra-tomato.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Quiet Miles (through Utah and Nevada)

There is something pleasantly calming about driving for hours and rarely passing another vehicle (I'm talking about you, Nevada). There is also something definitely disconcerting about the road sign which casually states 'no services for 100 miles'. Are you sure? Oh lord.

Utah seemed to boast a pleasing abundance of cars from an era when style prevailed over efficiency. I have love for the old look, but alas, no car smarts. So I blow it a kiss and we are on our way again, with me sighing 'one day....' and Forrest raising an eyebrow.

The last stretch of our journey westwards was a mess of mountains, desert and shrubbery. There were also salt flats and vacuum packed pasta and tiny kamikaze birds that kept zooming most terrifyingly towards our windscreen. There was not much else.

If like me you are a fan of the desert sunset, then you would enjoy this part of the trip. I mean really, I could almost have wept at the scenery (if I wasn't otherwise engaged with just trying to stay awake).

At about 8pm and ready for a year of sleep, we pulled into Tonopah, which really doesn't have much to recommend it, I'm afraid. Never matter, for our sights were set on California, just afew gravel tracks, pulsing highways, sleepy backroads and some number of miles away. First though, sleep. Secondly, waffles. Thirdly,looting some toiletries because hotel soap was never this good, and fourthly, finally, goodbye Nevada- California, here we come :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The First of the Big Rocks.

It turns out I married an encyclopedia; a human sponge. It's a weird thing, when you always secretly thought you were the clever one in a relationship, then suddenly you are being lectured about the history of your own country (by your 'foreign' husband) or how rock formations work, or what kind of lizard that is, not to mention the probable origin of the lunch you are eating, and the inner workings of the car you are driving. Well excuse me dear, while I look out the window at the pretty rocks...

Many indulgent hours were spent at Colorado National Monument as Forrest inhaled facts at all the information boards and I admired the views and snapped photos and just sort of stood around open-mouthed in absolute delight at our surroundings. At 'Cold Shivers Point' I was glad my Mum wasn't there to watch me hop across some stepping stone rocks and balance on a ledge suspended high above the canyon. We yodeled our way around various viewpoints (well, Forrest yodeled, I more accurately bleated), and felt very satisfied with our time in Colorado as we finally made our way out of the park and over to Utah.

With the promise of two days driving and a whole lot of desert between here and California we sped onwards feeling very Thelma and Louise-ish, fidgeting in anticipation since the best was yet to come. Still, let us not overlook the two states that we first had to journey across. Utah and Nevada, how sandy, how rocky, how surprisingly scenic you are.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rainbow after the storm in Grand Junction, CO.

The sun suddenly seemed a little low in the sky as Forrest and I dawdled in Ouray, trying to force upon each other the remains of the richest cafe mocha the world has ever produced. After heated debate, I ate the whipped cream, he drank the chocolatey soup. Testing out the new roles of marriage starts with sugary self-sacrifice. Hello, muffin top.

Eventually we consulted our watches. Then we shrieked.Then we set out at a considerable pace into a giant storm as we nervously contemplated a night of camping in Grand Junction, which we otherwise referred to as Junction City or Grand Thingy or The Campground at the Junction and every other combination and permutation imaginable; for I assure you- that name cannot be committed to memory.

We dodged cloudburst after cloudburst til we eventually got suckered into the torrent of rain that took us all the way to our KOA campground. Rather fortuitously, our campsite was located about 100 meters beyond the last raincloud of the day. We pulled into our spot which was framed neatly by a rainbow- and I challenge you to name a better welcome than that!

Doing as all weary campers must- we grudgingly erected our tent, explored the facilities,built a fire, got annoyed with each other by some trivial matter or other, then made up over a glass of wine and a cheese sandwich.

Soon it was bedtime, even sooner it was morning, then the requisite: 'Where's the bug repellent? Where are the clean t-shirts? Yes, you are having a shower, the coolbox needs ice, we're running out of milk, no I don't have the car keys, where did you put the camera? Our bleary-eyed confusion played out like a cartoon strip, until after quite a scramble we were on our way again. Westwards, via Colorado National Monument for our first (of many) big rock sightings. John Denver CD at the ready.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Million Dollar Highway, CO

Even the rain couldn't dampen a mood as delighted as mine when we set out along the Million Dollar Highway. Squeezing along the edge of a mountain road behind a delivery truck that is scraping (literally) along the mountain wall does make for a most entertaining passage of time. Curled into my seat next to my #1 crush and stocked up with snacks and a camera, I questioned what more I could possibly want from life. The answer was a stroll, so to the smell of burning brakes and with an appetite for icecream, we pulled into Silverton- a Victorian mining town located down in the belly of a mountain valley.

The first thing I saw was a most enchanting horse and carriage clopping down the road. The second thing I saw was my giant scoop of icecream rolling off it's cone and being caught by my other hand. sticky. Then I saw a train shop and purchased a souvenir for my patch collection. (When I look at that closely it occurs to me that I'm just a wide-eyed, clumsy, patch collecting tourist. aka. such a geek.)

At this point, the concept of time and distance gets lost in a haze of mountains and trees and photos and energy drinks, so I can simply state that 'somewhere up the road', our next stop was Ouray. If Silverton was pleasant (which it was), then Ouray I can only describe as being 'more pleasant'. Because it's kind of the same as Silverton, but...y'know, better. It looked somehow prouder of itself. And why not? It was lovely. The evening was drawing closer and with some hours of driving left before our intended camping location, we visited 'Mouses Chocolate shop' and proceeded to consume sugar and caffeine as if we were on holiday or something. Life is sweet (and caffeinated), and we were really running late, so onwards to Grand Junction, for, dare I say it? ....Camping! On our honeymoon. Yes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Durango, Colorado. And....relax.

Forrest and I are at opposing ends of the scale when it comes to our preferred waking hours. I am an early bird and tried to swing momentum in my favour accordingly. I mean there was breakfast to think of. Mountains to admire. Cool air to swoosh about in. It's fair to say that Forrest grew accustomed to being pulled out of bed by his feet, and surrendered (eventually) to having clean clothes thrust towards him as I propelled him each day into wakefulness. I mean, we were in Colorado; I could hardly be contained beyond sunrise. My poor husband. Oh well.

Durango is a gorgeous old Western town, best known perhaps for it's steam train, but best loved by me for it's being home to the original Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Yes, I'm that girl. All of those irritating sayings about women and chocolate? That's because of people like me. I confess it.

But still, I can appreciate a bit of engineering genius and the steam train museum was moderately entertaining even for me of fishlike attention span. The model train set was a highlight. I mean there were teeny American diners and little mountains with tinier tunnels and there were buttons to press. Buttons are the way to my heart.

As one would expect, we were spoiled by the scenery; the mountain roads, the lakes, the wildlife. I was in marmit heaven, and don't get me started on the chipmunks (I wuv 'em!). But all in good time, for we were about to set out along the historic (apparently) Million Dollar Highway, at my personal request. Tomorrow tomorrow, I love you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alabama to Colorado. 30 sleepless hours.

The first day of our trip was the longest. When you are driving for thirty hours without a break you will:

-Stop as you enter every state to take a photo with the sign, until after 3 States, you give up. You just do.

-Find that energy drinks are a concept you will entertain. often.

-Listen to all of your favourite songs until they are your least favourite ever.

-Sing Bohemian Rhapsody with your husband, and realise nothing has ever been funnier.

-Threaten ugly murder upon the GPS and flick it really hard. You learn a lesson about the toughness of the GPS and the weakness of your finger.

-Become enchanted by small-town America, though disappointed with it's bathrooms.

-Wonder if you can get sunburnt through a window (the answer to which you will discover some hours later is 'apparently so').

-After 20 hours, wonder why driving across the country seemed like a good idea, then you reach Colorado and smile and breathe; at which point your lungs ask you where the oxygen went.

-Finally drive with fast-dissolving sanity into Durango, CO. Without any later memory of it; you find your room, fall into bed and sleep like a log. The laziest, sleepiest log you ever knew.

Forrest and I woke up on Sunday morning at the beautiful Strater Hotel with a renewed zest for life. At breakfast we were educated about the local enthusiasm for 'posole', and I was reminded how good a cream cheese bagel is. With this, the journey had commenced!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Honeymoon starts here....

I have been a dreadful, terrible blogger of late. There are so many excuses, yet really none at all, because we do what we do what we do, and that's that. I should have been drawing more. It's my bread and butter, after all. My pen and paper.

So, now it is with zest and enthusiasm (and really, what more is there?) that I embark on the visual re-living of the past few weeks. America is a beautiful country. I know so more than ever. Here, over a number of blog posts, is why I love it.

It was with a lick of the finger to the wind and not a lot else in the way of planning that Forrest and I set out on our honeymoon three weeks ago. It was proposed that we would embark on a giant road trip from Alabama to California and back. Via Colorado, you say? Through Moab? Napa Valley? I have a weakness for adventure. I didn't need much convincing.

First off, we had to say goodbye to the little-ish boy. So with one last cuddle and a wave, he was off to Auntie Linda's for two weeks of luxury-living. Bye Rudy! (thank you Linda!).