Monday, September 21, 2009

MINI Goes West: The New Oregon Trail

3006 miles across the country, a relocation from Dallas, TX to Eugene, OR. Some other stats: 7 states. 5 days. 2 friends. 1 Mini Cooper.

Day 1: I pick up my friend Kevin with the Mini packed to the brim- barely enough room for his pack. We set the trip odometer to 0 and snapped a quick photo of the odometer at 11,139 to commemorate the start of a cross-country road trip. After many errands around Dallas, we finally head out of town.

Blazing our trail all the way across the Texas border, we powered through West Texas and barely crossed the border to stop in Las, Cruces for the night. We waved hello to Cathedral Mountain Vineyard as we blew by the turn off.

Day 2 was just as grueling, checking New Mexico and Arizona off our list. We stopped for a few hours in Phoenix to say hello to Kevin's Phoenix office and see a project he worked on last year. Pretty cool to see the sports complex he designed, better yet, it was for the White Sox! Back on the road we made it just north of LA, me pointing out the famous attractions from the highway.

Day 3: Feeling refreshed and finally a much less ambitious agenda, we wind our way up the coast to Santa Barbara. There is something so relaxing about spending time oceanside. A very chill afternoon spent in town was topped with camping on the beach at El Capitan. We loaded up with campfire supplies and had a delicious dinner made by grillmaster Kevin. You know you're living the good life when you get to sit on the rocks, drink a beer, and watch the sunset.

The next morning it was hard to leave our sweet spot, but we had big plans for day 4. Stopping by the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, just north of Santa Barbara, absolutely made my day. I was like a kid in a candy store with the litany of wineries to choose from. Koehler was our first stop and a home run. Had some fabulous wines at Fess Parker, and bought Kevin their signature coon hat wine bottle cozy. They look like a rat on your wine, but I thought was too funny and a good thank you gift for sharing in the driving. The last winery we grabbed meats and cheeses for lunch, drove out to a pier and had lunch on the beach. Continuing up the coast, we would have been remiss to not take Hwy 1, despite the extra time it takes to navigate the windy road. Kevin had a blast driving my standard through the crazy switchbacks and stunning scenery. Mini was in her element. In fact, we all were. That part of the country boasts some of the best that nature has to offer. We also briefly stopped in Big Sur for me to pay homage to Kerouac. Thanks to our diversion, we didn't roll into San Francisco until 9pm. We meet Kevin's friend Jason at a pub and I ordered a Widmer, then Anchor Steam, although the Anchor Steam was originally planned to be the first pint. Think local. Drink local.

Day 5 was spent being tourists around San Francisco. We hit the major highlights, but by late afternoon we were sunburnt and tired. Kevin's friends Jason and Katie were participating in Park(ing) Day, so we gave up on sightseeing to go hang out in their parking spot park. I could not think of a better way to experience San Francisco! The evening was spent in The Mission, exploring the edgy part of town's nightlife. I totally dig SF; it is now officially on my list of places to live.

The morning of day 6 we planned for another long day of driving. Mapped out was a haul up the coast for nine hours to Eugene. Along the way, we wanted to see more of the coastline and drive through the Avenue of the Giants. After breakfast and goodbyes, we parted with friends and San Francisco, heading out of town on the Golden Gate Bridge- so surreal! Of course, we could not bypass Sonoma, so another round of wine tastings were in order. We stopped by a few, including Fianza and Cline. Stopping only briefly for In n' Out, then to check out the sea lions, we surged onward into wooded Northern California. It was now getting dark, and we wanted to take the time to appreciate the Redwoods. A joint consensus was arrived to stop for the night and camp in the forest. Lo and behold, we pick a private campsite that is hosting a family reunion with a live band! It was too perfect, we had camping with live entertainment. A great last evening in California.

Day 7 we said adios to California and crossed into Oregon. We took the 30 mile detour through the Avenue of the Giants. A great decision on our part to see them in daylight. We stopped to take photos and hug a few trees. Amazing that some are over 2000 years old! We also took the time to drive through a carved out tree- I folded my mirrors in just in case. Even though the environment is very different from the ocean, there is a tremendous beauty in the forests of the Northwest. Most of the drive was spent with our jaws agape. With hills that appeared to be a sea of trees and sweeping turns, Mini enjoyed the drive as well. We finally reached our final destination in the early evening. Kevin had a midnight flight out of Portland back home, so I drove him to the train station, where we would part ways. Turns out the trains stop running
out of Eugene very early on Sundays, so we got back in the car and sped up Hwy 5 to Portland
International Airport. A quick photo op and a hug, we ended our travels together. I raced home to my new apartment in Eugene and crashed for the night. The next morning started a new chapter for me. I was beginning my winemaking internship at Benton-Lane.

My odometer read 14145 miles, marking the end of the best road trip ever.

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