Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Reflections on the West Coast from the Midwest

Wow.  Ten days of driving, exploring the west coast, taking endless photos, chatting about life, going to wine tastings.....and I only blogged once?!  What was I thinking?!

I wasn't!  I was living in the moment!  Correction, I AM living in the moment.

In this blog entry from The Kid in the Front Row, http://www.kidinthefrontrow.com/2013/03/blogging-much-less.html?spref=bl The Kid talks about how he lost the joy he once experienced whilst watching films because he was constantly trying to produce a unique commentary on the film or the industry; his critical/creative mind was running non-stop, I imagine, and it distracted him from purely enjoying the present moment, the simple action of watching a film.  And I was doing the same thing.  I too had started to find myself constantly writing a blog in my head as I walked from place to place, sat in the car, as I started to fall asleep, in the middle of a conversation, and while reading a book or watching a film.  One minute to myself and my mind would start racing, but these creative thoughts weren't free flowing as they once had been.  I was trying to make something of each moment; the thoughts were forced.  And thus, somewhat lazily, I rarely reached for my computer or notebook, and I started to berate myself for not pinning my ideas down, for not utilising my time away from the UK to write, as I'd planned.

And then I told my self-critiquing mind to 'Shut the hell up!!!'

Because instead of burying my head in my laptop, I spent the last week and a half experiencing each moment and soaking in all the beautiful sights and sounds of the long and winding roads from LA to Seattle.  My laptop will always be here, my thoughts may be fleeting but I trust if it's a truly great idea, it will return.  This journey must be lived, for I can feel myself healing, day by day, and that is worth more than a blog entry will ever be able to convey.  So now, with ample time in a quiet cafe, I will try to reflect on what has happened, from then to now.

I had no idea what to expect of Northern California.  For me, north of San Francisco and Napa Valley was a non-entity.  My only 'prior knowledge' of the region was so cleverly derived from the Visit California Ad:

And Napa Valley itself was previously just a dream destination.  The reality could not possibly live up to the elaborate images I had created in my mind over the years.  But even though the olive branches were bare, the beauty of the region shown through, and I could see how incredible the place must look at it's peak.  Having arrived at 3, we only had a few short hours to get in a wine tasting, and we chose Beringer (for the fact that I always enjoyed their wines, and....we had a two for one voucher). No one ever tells you how expensive wine tasting can get!  What an incredible experience.  The woman doing our wine tasting poured us generous samples of 6 wines, and talked with us at length about wine, her life, the region, the life of a server....she became a friend very quickly, and made the experience memorable.  Then we ventured down a quaint street in the town of St Helena, and bought the gourmet ingredients for our fashionable hotel room picnic.  There is nothing I love more than wandering around a gourmet supermarket, trying all sorts of fancy goats cheeses and talking about the various flavours with the cheese guy, debating about wine choice with a friend, and discovering unique gluten free products like locally produced chocolate chip cookies that did NOT taste gluten free!!  Our night was set to be a success.  Until D spilled red wine on the white bed spread and had to run out to get stain remover, while I started having a mini meltdown because I'd failed to keep track of my finances and P is not around to clean up my mess or fix my problems!  I felt horrible snapping at D, and giving him the silent treatment for the remainder of the night.  I was never an easy woman to be around.  My mood swings are erratic like most women, but now.... they shock even me.  I'm not always able to control the angsty teenager that lives within, who's filled with bitterness and rage at what has become of my 28 year old life.

But the next day was a new day, and with the sun shining, we started the day by watching a geyser erupt, and giggling over fainting baby goats.  And then we were back on the road and headed for the Redwoods.  We drove through the Avenue of Giants, and pulled over to do a bit of hiking.  Whilst the hiking paths were generally very easy, and thus not as fulfilling as we'd hoped, the views were spectacular.  The size of the Redwoods is impossible to describe.  There is something magical about those forests.  The light patterns cast upon the soft, cushiony floor of pine needles is life affirming, alluding to a world beyond, making me aware of my small presence in this vast world.
Until we reached Fortuna, a small town just outside Eureka.  There is nothing in Fortuna of note, but the hotel room was huge and luxurious, the hot tub was an added treat after hours in a car with the worst designed seats ever, and the local brew pub across the street was a wonderful surprise.  It was 'peanuts on the floor' night at the pub and the place was packed with locals and hotel guests alike.  D was highly impressed by the quality of the beer and I couldn't get over my bowl sized glass of red wine that tasted like heaven.
The next day was our last day in the Redwoods but it involved the most exciting part of the drive since Highway 1.  We drove through a national park to reach Fern Canyon and I truly felt like I was in a jeep in Jurassic Park, taking a tour of the dinosaur park, certain that a brontosaur would come trudging through the dense trees at any moment.  The dirt roads were rough, steep, narrow, and flooded from time to time.  But then!  Oh how we were rewarded!!  Fern Canyon was another site used in the filming of Jurassic Park and it was spectacular.  A rather deep stream ran through it but D and I were determined to hike through it, so over and across logs we carefully made our way, me more hesitantly than him.  But still, I was reminded of how I used to whine and carry on with P, how I had little faith in my abilities previously.  Whilst my confidence has not grown tremendously in adventures such as these,  I am happy to push my comfort boundaries these days.  After all, I've been through much worse than falling into a stream!  Great experiences and unforgettable moments are forged through facing your fears and there is nothing more rewarding than doing something that scares you, even if it's just a little bit.

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