In the Palm of our Hands

Derek stands beside an entrance sign for Highway 101 south

You know the kind of person who can tell you the street names and highlights of towns and cities they’ve visited only once? Well, I’m not one of those people. I have just dug through a mountain of receipts to remember where we have been! Lucky for us, we mainly drove on one road: highway 101 along the Pacific coast, from Washington to California. 

It was such a great adventure in Erin Davis and hubby Rob’s Mini Cooper, stopping where and when we wanted on our way to meet them in Palm Springs. And to cuddle with the four-legged member of their family, Molly. I have photos like this from virtually every year of her fourteen years of life; Molly curled in a ball, sleeping against my leg.

Molly, a little buff and white dog, curled up against my leg

Before leaving BC, we needed to accomplish three things. The first was to visit a small park in Sidney, where Rob and Erin have dedicated a bench to daughter Lauren’s memory. It’s perfect, serene yet alive with nature, while children play in the playground behind you. There’s something magical about the view.

the view of a pond teeming with ducks, and in the background, a willow tree and other lush greenery

We stayed a night with an old friend of Derek’s in Courtenay, BC. Then it was a short ferry ride to Gabriola Island, the home of Derek’s brother Dave. It’s gorgeous and much less developed than the mainland. Sea Lions barked in conversation offshore as we took this picture.

Me, Derek and brother Dave in a selfie on the shore of the island

Once we crossed into the US, we stayed in condos and time-shares that overlooked the surf. (Three cheers for winter rates!) From the Black Ball Ferry trip from Victoria to Port Angeles, WA, to the wait staff in every diner and stop we chose along the way, all were friendly. And the views. We may have broken a record for the number of times a couple has said “Holy shit!” while traveling.

White water approaching a rocky outcropping with crystal blue ocean in the background

That’s just one of many gorgeous scenes we encountered. Oregon is much prettier than I ever knew. What you can’t see below, is how cold Derek’s feet are. But we had to touch the ocean. I took this photo at Rockaway Beach, early one morning.

Derek standing at the water's edge on a beautiful, sandy beach. He's wearing shorts and a long-sleeved shirt and the sun is rising behind him

At Bandon, OR we followed the signs to a Best Western, only to notice a beautiful inn across from it, right on the shore. Sorry BW, but thanks for showing us how to get to the Windermere! There was a fair bit of meandering and stopping to look at vistas before we got to California. The deadly wildfires were never far from our thoughts. We traveled through smoky haze from about San Francisco until Bakersfield, about two-thirds of the way down the state. Scratchy throats and papery skin were nothing compared to the horrors of losing one’s home or loved ones.

California’s redwood forests are even more impressive than I imagined. Some of these trees are up to 1500 years old.

derek looks teeny tiny beside a massive redwood tree

We turned inland south of Fort Bragg and made it to Palm Springs on Sunday afternoon. The final leg of the drive was so foggy that we couldn’t see very far ahead on bridges we crossed. It was like driving into a cloud.

Erin and I arm in arm in front of a yellow wall with metal lettering spelling Palm Springs

Palm Springs became popular as a playground for Hollywood stars who wanted to escape Los Angeles but still be close by for work. As a result, many homes have their own swimming pools and some pretty funky features. It’s simply gorgeous. We toured Joshua Tree National Park, home to unusual flora, fauna and rock formations.

weird pile of rocks looks like it was placed there by man, not nature

We visited the Rodeo-Drive-like shopping district of Palm Desert, took in Bohemian Rhapsody, swam, ate, laughed and ate some more. The days warmed up to mid-20s but it cooled down quickly at night. It’s perfect weather if you don’t like winter but also prefer not to fry in the blazing sunshine. We are so grateful to have gotten to enjoy it with our warm and wonderful friends.

Tomorrow, a tip from a former colleague of Derek’s led us to a four-acre piece of Palm Springs we likely wouldn’t have found on our own. And my brain is still trying to process what I saw and heard!


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