Confession: I forgot it was Labor Day.
When I was a busy girl in an executive job, I remember planning ahead for weeks to take full advantage of three-day weekends like this one. I loved those Sundays where I’d momentarily have that pang of, “Sigh. Work tomorrow…” followed by that feeling of joy when I remembered I had the day off! Yippee! No alarm clock!
At this time in our lives, weekdays and weekends blur. Bank holidays are sometimes only noticed when we try to go to the bank. There are no alarms set to wake us up, except one with crooked ears. I haven’t worn high heels more than 5 times since last May. We’ve been able to take trips, explore our new town, start a blog. It’s awesome. And temporary. Which makes looking back on our wonderful year-and-a-half of adventure even more fun.
This time last year, John and I were waist-deep in our 5-week road trip throughout the West, our second adventure in Betty the Trailer. Our journey had already taken us north from Utah into Idaho, through West Yellowstone, into Bozeman, Montana and up into Glacier National Park. There, we headed west into the Northern Cascades and all the way to Seattle, Washington. Then we headed south into the Olympic Peninsula, and our goal was to stay near the ocean. We had fabulous luck finding spectacular campsites the whole way. We tucked inland to spend some time in Portland, Oregon before resuming our trek down the coastline. And that’s right about where we were this week last year.
I adore Portland. I’ve not experienced the constantly gray, wet weather that it’s mostly known for. It’s been gloriously sunny, the neighborhoods brightened with incredible gardens full of color. Portland has great people-watching and delish food (lots of Bettys converted into cool food trucks).
From Portland, we headed toward Beckham Estates, a vineyard in the Chahalem region of the Willamette wine country, owned by a college friend of John’s. We tucked Betty in among the vines and enjoyed one of my all-time favorite lunches with our hosts. We got a tour of the property, too. Their dog, Ruby, was absolutely HUGE- and the sweetest thing in the world. She fell in love with me- and it was mutual.
Our hosts directed us toward their favorite wineries in the region, and we spent a heavenly day sippin’ grape juice. Our favorite was Longplay. When we walked into the tasting room in Newberg, Oregon, we saw a stack of vinyl and a turntable. The descriptions on each bottle were cleverly music-related. And the wine was good. Dinner at Recipe was delectable, too!
We left wine country (sniff) and parked Betty near the sleepy seaside town of Newport, Oregon. The beach was calm and flat with a distant break and an incredible sunset.
When you camp in a seaport town, you eat fresh fish. Gino’s proved to be a great lunch spot that also sells fish, caught right there off the dock. Some of our best camp meals were here!
We veered away from the coast again, toward the Rogue River Valley. My father’s family has roots there, and I wanted to see it. I had a plan to find our family’s plot in the old cemetery. As with all of our trips, we had no reservations or even a definite destination. We headed deep into the Oregon wilderness, toward the lone little tent insignia on the map (which seemed to be the only campground around). When we got there, we were greeted by a “closed” sign and the old campground was overgrown with dry weeds. (Maybe we need an updated map.) As we pulled away from the locked entrance, we debated our options (few) and spotted a semi-hidden sign for another campsite. And it was awesome. It was right on a creek, and was walking distance from the Rogue River. We took a hike along the river, got wet, and picked wild blackberries on the walk back to camp. That was Labor Day, exactly one year ago today.
The next day, we made a brave decision: we would go over the pass to get to the old cemeteries. It was a shorter drive, but the road was marked by a sign that said, “No trailers.” We figured Betty was small enough not to count. When we made it to the other side, we didn’t find my family’s cemetery plot (turns out we were in the wrong town- OOPS!), but we did see some cool gravestones. Just looking at them makes my imagination go into overdrive, wondering what life was like for these men. (Grizzly bear?!)
Our journey continued. We made it into California, into the majestic redwoods. It’s no secret that I love trees. The big daddies fill me with awe. We found a spot at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park for a couple of nights. It’s hard to describe how it feels to be surrounded by live things that have been around for hundreds of years. It’s a humbling reminder that we share this planet.
My inner tree-hugger satiated, we continued south, briefly stopping so I could make friends with horses and John could take a dip in a DEEP creek before heading into wine country again.
We had reached the end of this epic adventure that had taken us through seven states, many campgrounds, and countless adventures. We thought a night in a fancy hotel would be a fun and much-deserved treat, so we booked a room at the eco-chic H2Hotel in Healdsburg, California, north of Sonoma and Napa. The hotel is awesome, LEED-certified and hip. And Healdsburg rocks. We made our way through a few tasting rooms, including the one that produces my favorite Pinot Noir (La Crema). We lived it up at the restaurant for dinner, babied our tender wine-heads the next morning, and toted a lot of wine back across the desert toward home.
Every time we open one of the bottles of wine from that trip, a conversation happens that usually starts something like this: “Remember that sunset in Oregon…?” I can’t believe it’s been a year. So much has happened since then.
Next year, when I look back, I hope I’m smiling at the memory of today…the way I am right now.