Notes from a Drive North

Mom and Dad prepared a good spread for us at 6am the day we left Phoenix. Waffles with strawberries, maple syrup, fried eggs and sausage patties, strong coffee. The first leg of our trip was going to be the longest so we bulked up. The next meal wouldn’t be until outside of Pasadena. In N’ Out burger, of course. I like to eat there at least once a year.arizona sky

We camped for a couple nights in Big Sur and hiked around. It was beautiful and quiet and dry, some of its life sucked out by thousands of visitors from the summer season. Scrambled eggs in an iron skillet for breakfast, a big hunk of green chili, yogurt, French press coffee. Dinner was mac and cheese with a can of salmon tossed with more green chili, a bottle of wine. I brought all the leftover roasted peppers from Flagstaff with me in the cooler. Four frozen zip lock bags full, probably six to eight pounds. I was determined to eat at least one bag on my own during the drive.

We stayed a night up in Marin County along sand dunes, swept over by sea spray, serenaded by a big chomping cow in the middle of the night. A stray cat rubbed on my leg and tried to crawl into the tent. It was cold, but I couldn’t let her in. She was pretty ragged. I told her to sleep under the car engine, still warm from the long drive. Instead she laid down beside the picnic table, tucked her paws under her chest like a loaf of bread, stared expectantly. Down the road from where we slept was a trailer park and I dreamed the full moon kept the rednecks from waking us at knifepoint in the middle of the night. I kept my knife close to my head, visualized how quick I could open up the pointy end. Eventually we fell asleep. In the morning M said, I thought the sun would never come up. We laughed, made coffee, oatmeal, then got the fuck out.

We had to sleep on a bed that night and I found us a new tent the next day. We stayed at an inn, a big creepy old house, probably haunted. We were the only guests. The innkeeper was nice in a creepy way, made us a good breakfast of fruit and yogurt, a potato and egg frittata type thing. The inn turned out to be a decent place, but then again we spent a few hours at the North Coast brewery. By the time we made it back to our room we were warm, our sixth senses numbed enough not to notice any ghosts. Dinner was filling but nothing exciting. Oysters Rockefeller, caesar salad, fish and chips. The weather had changed and I craved warmth from the cold, and there’s something about fried cod doused in malt vinegar washed down with a strong beer that does it. In the morning I left a bag of green chilies for the innkeeper in the upstairs freezer.

We camped beneath humungous redwoods north of Eugene the next day. We could hear nothing but rain drip off heavy branches, a brooding bull elk calling in the distance. The trees were quiet. Ancient. There are stories behind that bark, deep inside the heartwood, stories about rape and the slaughter of their species when the white people gave up looking for gold. The fog that rolled in that night was sad and mysterious, but it’s warming, cleansing, invites you into a ten million year old history.

As much as I wanted to stay in the forest we needed to get to Portland. In Crescent City we found a Mexican place that had amazing chicken molé and menudo (spicy tripe stew with hominy, miscellaneous hunks of pork, served with a side plate of lime and cilantro and onion and jalapeño). I gave the little old lady who cooked for us a bag of roasted peppers too. They’re from New Mexico, I said, They need to be eaten. By this time the peppers were fully thawed, though I replaced the ice every other day. I didn’t want them to go bad, and I thought she could use them. Thank you, she said. She opened the bag and stuck her nose in it. Smells really nice, she said. menudo

We continued on and crossed the mountains and the Siskiyou forest, gunned it passed Grants Pass, chugged a Red Bull around Eugene, and made it to our friends’ house in time for beer with the kids just returning from a wedding. And that was the end of the beginning of the trip.

Then, in the morning, I made brunch for all the hungover bodies in the house: hash, scrambled green chili eggs with cheese, hot corn tortillas, mimosas, and gallons of coffee.

**Author’s Note: This story is a little delayed, but I wanted to add a postscript: I have  been eating a lot of salads and mixed vegetables since landing in Portland. I don’t typically eat a lot of breakfast foods, but upon rereading this post I realize I must sound like a fatty egg-lover. Which I guess I kind of am now. Whatever. Buen provecho!


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