2023, Personal, Travel

Riley Drives from Portland to San Francisco Day 5 Wednesday May 17, 2023

We had a very meagre continental breakfast and proceeded to get lost in Bandon, Oregon (population 3,300) trying to find Face Rock. (Yes, another rock. There are so many rocks along the Oregon coast. How do you determine which are worth looking at? Guidebooks, I guess. And arbitrary decisions.) Turns out there are a not a lot of through streets in Bandon. And the road out of town was washed out. Anyway, we found the rock and found our way out of town.

I had begun to realize that I had found way too many sites for us to see. And we knew we had a long way to go to try to drive Howland Hill Road and visit the Trees of Magic so we decided to skip Cape Blanco, Port Orford, and Humbug Mountain. (Though we drove by all three and we stopped in Port Orford for a coffee.) A friend of Jenn’s asked her what we could possibly find to do spending so much time driving down the coast and I think the lesson of our trip is, we easily could have taken two or three more days, or even more, and we still might not have hit everything I had on my list of sites to see.

Brookings, Oregon

So we spent the early part of the day driving and finally pulled in to Harris Beach State Park at the north end of Brookings. The animals we were promised at Harris Beach weren’t out but it was still a pretty beach, with rocks! One of the numerous stunning beaches along the coast.


I planned to take a picture at the sign announcing our entry into California, but the sign was just a normal “Welcome to…” sign and the backdrop was trees and fields. It wasn’t on the coast and it wasn’t dramatic. So I passed. We learned that California has “casino gambling” too and we learned that alcohol prices are likely lower in California than Oregon, even though Oregon doesn’t have sales tax, because there were so many signs advertising nearby liquor stores.

Crescent City, California

We eventually made it to Crescent City. It was somehow already lunchtime so we headed to Chart House and had a nice seafood lunch on the pier. There’s something about eating seafood on a pier in the ocean. But there’s something extra special about it when you look out your window and there are a whole bunch of sealions just lounging on the docks.

After lunch, we made the decision not to drive Howland Hill Road, a scenic drive through Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, a drive recommended to us by the rental car guy. If we had more time, we would have done it, as it was supposed to be extremely scenic. But, instead, we headed down the road a little bit, to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and the Trees of Mystery.

Trees of Mystery

Trees of Mystery was a goofy Paul Bunyan-themed, um, “theme park” in the redwoods. However, more recently they seem to have realized they needed to spice things up a bit. So they added some additional, non-Paul Bunyan attractions that are all about the trees. This has greatly improved what was a silly roadside attraction and turned it into a must see.

Me standing on a bridge between two redwoods, many feet off the ground

The first of those attractions is a series of bridges between trees. It’s nowhere near as high as the ones I was on in Australia 20 years ago, but it was still pretty impressive. The second attraction was a very short gondola up through the redwoods to a prominent point on the property where you could see the ocean and you could see the mountains, depending upon which way you looked. We had an opportunity to walk down, but we didn’t quite understand that, so instead we took it back down too. Throughout the entire park are some of the largest trees I’ve ever seen. It’s tough to put it into words. These are trees you have to see to believe.

Redwood National and State Parks

This section of California has endless parks based around trees. You sort of lose track of which one you’re in. Within Redwood itself is the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, a slightly slower and far narrower road from the main highway, that runs through some more of the largest trees I’ve ever seen in my life, some ow which are virtually in the road. Though the Avenue of the Giants (see Day 6) is far more famous, I think this one struck us more, simply because we did it first. (And, well, there might be a few more massive trees in sight of the road.) We stopped at an area called “Big Tree” and, sure, enough, there was an incredibly massive tree, as well as many more massive trees on a short loop from the parking lot.

I had planned for us to visit Humboldt Lagoons State Park right after this but, by the time we got there, it was getting pretty late and our destination was still a 40 minute drive after this park so we moved on.

Eureka, California

Eureka, California, home of Mr. Bungle, is very much not a destination. (The guys from Mr. Bungle have told me as much over the years, but I was always a little suspicious given its location.) It is, however, the largest coastal city and urban area between Portland and San Francisco and an obvious place to stay. (There is another city on the other side of the bay that basically runs into it, so there is more urban sprawl here than we’d seen since leaving Portland.)

We checked into our hotel, a Best Western, and learned that, as part of our somewhat exorbitant rate, we could get a free limo to and from wherever we wanted in downtown Eureka. There is a reason for that. However, we are walkers and so we decided to walk to Lost Coast.

Lost Coast has a great brewpub, and a popular one. (This included a local high school baseball team. Why would you bring a group of teenage boys to a bar?) I had an excellent dinner and Jenn had a mostly excellent dinner. We did two flights which allowed us to try 10 of their beers. One of their (west coast) IPAs was excellent and, surprisingly, a few of their malt-forward beers were very good too.

When the basketball game ended, it was still light out, so we decided to skip on the limo and we walked back past our hotel to the Dairy Queen a block away. Afterwards we walked back to the hotel. You constantly here about “public safety” in the US lately, especially in cities like Portland and San Francisco, which the TV media (and some internet media) has decided are extremely dangerous. This is mostly due to the ever-increasing numbers of indigent people. Well, as a percentage of the pedestrians, anyway, Eureka has more than either city. While walking to and from Lost Coast, we saw more indigent people than non-indigent people. Hence the limo. But we had no issues. And we had no issues in Portland or San Francisco either.

I don’t know how to solve homelessness, but I don’t think associated homelessness (and whatever petty crime is related to it) with “crime” and “safety” is a solution. I also am pretty sure that the “welfare state” has failed in its overall mission to end poverty, even in countries where it isn’t as weak as it is in the US. Welfare states have existed for approximately 150 years, as a potential solution to the socioeconomic problems of industrialization. If it hasn’t worked yet, it probably won’t ever work. The main thing walking around a city with a lot of homeless makes me think isn’t “I’m unsafe!” it’s “why won’t we just try UBI already?” We have other options than welfare, we should try some of them.


Back at the hotel, we took advantage of their amenities. This particular Best Western has an inexplicably resort-esque pool area. There’s a very large hot tub with water features and fake rocks, a large pool, and some fires to dry off around. This is located in downtown Eureka, one of the least attractive towns we passed through on our entire trip. It was a wonderful change from our trip, to soak and bask in what felt like a resort. But it was surreal to do it in downtown Eureka. A great hotel, if you are ever in the area.

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