The Great American West Coast Road Trip
Wandering West Coast backroads, campsites, rivers, and lakes
With the 4th of July on the horizon Chris and I set off from LA, spirits running high. Gridlocked on the 405 tried its best to dampen the mood, but gamely blasted tunes kept stoke levels high for what promised to be an all-time road trip, culminating in Independence Day celebrations in Bend, OR. Breaking free of the snarl and cruising up the 5, we were overjoyed to see signs of civilization pop up around us as we headed into Berkeley to pick up my good friend Ajay.
After exchanging hugs and introductions, we headed north into the darkness with no set plan. Roaming backroads for stealthy spots has never led me astray before, and didn’t fail us this time either—we drifted off on the banks of the Eel River, enjoying a free show put on by the Milky Way above. A morning dip in the crystal clear river shook the cobwebs loose, and soon after we headed further up the coast.
Knifing through pockets of thick morning fog and glorious sunshine en route to Oregon, towering natural bridges, ominous caves, and giant sea stacks greeted us stoically. The Goodyear blimp coasted above—a sure sign of a quality day to come. A quick drive up the coast to another beach and Chris was in the water, hungry for waves. The wind was howling, the surf was pounding; he caught a few waves and quickly made his way back to land with teeth chattering, and we continued onward.
Heading northeast, we zoomed inland, over Portland, across the Columbia, and into Washington, where we arrived at my parent’s house to hugs and freshly grilled burgers. The next day was spent roaming Portland, and before we knew it; the 4th was upon us! Saying our goodbyes, we hit the road and were soon greeted in Central Oregon’s most populous city by our pal Presley, a Bend native. 4th of July spirits were running high and flowing fast; the youth were out in full force. The day was young and everyone was already getting loose, all riding around on various wheeled contraptions. A kid ate shit on a skateboard nearby, hopped up yelling that he hated skating, jumped on a bike, and disappeared into the madness. The rest of the day was spent navigating parks awash in revelers and their bikes, impromptu cartwheel contests, and drew to an end at Presley’s house for a front row seat to the fireworks.
The following day, Chris tried his luck on the standing wave in the river downtown, but the conditions were off and he received little but a bloody nose for his efforts. We opted for afternoon hangs at another river instead.
On the road again—this time heading south towards Crater Lake—our attention turned to the gas light, the lack of gas available, and the grade of the road ahead. In Oregon, it’s illegal to pump your own gas, complicating late-night fill-ups, so we decided to camp on the lake shore and fuel up in the morning. We found a killer spot to camp and enjoyed a grand fireworks show as the Milky Way wheeled its way across the night sky. In the morning we’d be off to to Mt. Tamalpais just north of SF.
Scoring yet another campsite off the beaten path, we woke cloaked in fog and drove up to the undulating fields above the clouds, hiked through at least 10 different microclimates, and drove back to Berkeley. Berkeley and Oakland dished out some great times, seeing old friends and meeting new ones alike, and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to Ajay and whipping back towards Los Angeles into the setting sun with plans for future trips dancing in our heads.