"It quickly turned into the best scenic drive we experienced on the trip, as we headed south along the awe-inspiring coastline littered with jagged rock formations reaching out from the shallows."
After a grueling 4 month long music video project, I found myself reflecting with a cocktail on a cabin balcony in Tahoe. Usually after undertakings of this magnitude, I take a little R&R to clear my mind and re-focus. This time however, I felt like I needed a bit more than just a week of relaxation on my favorite Lake. Although I'll be honest, when my mom asked me if I wanted to go on a road trip with her to Portland, I was hesitant at first. Immediately I thought about the tortuous road trips of my youth, Madonna or Janet blasting through the speakers as my mom sang along off tune, in between stopping at every scenic overlook. I thought about it for a few days, then agreed to accompany her for the trip, with the condition I could bring my camera gear and shoot some time-lapse. A few days before departure, I was informed my little sister Megan would be joining us. I was excited and afraid at the same time, once again thinking back to days of old, when Megan and I would engage in Mortal Combat in the back seat on trips of this nature. Seeing how we are both adults and good friends now, I quickly decided that being excited was the more appropriate feeling and began to pack for our Pacific Northwest road adventure.
My mom and sister picked me up at my apartment in Santa Rosa around 8 am, we enjoyed a great local breakfast at Hillside Inn and then hit the road. We decided to cut through wine country along highway 12 and take the I-5 North to catch some views of Mt. Shasta. We all agreed that is was our mission to keep no plans. As we passed through Shasta, my mom said "How about some Madonna?" As if we were identical twins, my sister and I both proclaimed "No!" in unison. We all laughed and came to a musical comprise over an old Grammy winners cd. That afternoon we arrived in Ashland, a quaint little college town cradled in a small green mountain range. We met up with an old friend who was renting a cottage and he took us to a beautiful spot named Lithia Park. This lush sanctuary was designed by John McLaren, the same landscape architect who created Golden Gate Park. A creek with a natural high amount of Lithium runs though the middle of the park and into the downtown area. We snapped some photos and walked down to a great pub on the river called Louie's Bar & Grill. We gorged ourselves with small bites, had a few drinks before we were on our way. Earlier that day, we decided to stay in Klamath Falls after seeing a few appealing photos of a huge lake online. Once we got there, we all looked at each other and wondered if it was the right town. We stayed in a run down motel called Cinnaron nestled in the lovely industrial side of town next door to a local gambling hall. The girls immediately went to bed, but I was determined to get some time-lapse of the stars over the lake. Around 11:00 pm I drove out of town, along the lake for about 30 minutes looking for a spot to set up my time-lapse dolly. I found a little park where there was a limited amount of light pollution, as soon as I got out of the car I was swarmed by a flurry of biting insects. I jumped back in the car annoyed and drove back through town and continued South, determined to find a spot to shoot. With limited reception and a dying battery, I found myself completely lost up in the foothills of farm country. After hours of searching and less than 10% battery, I finally found service and was navigated back to the room unsatisfied.
The next morning, eager to put Klamath Falls in our rearview, we hit the road and pushed north towards Crater Lake. We traveled through bright green valleys before traversing up a mountain side and stopping to peer into a seemingly bottomless ravine. About an hour later, we veered around a steep mountain side to witness the bluest lake I've ever set eyes on. We spent an hour turning out and taking photos before heading down the mountain along the Umpqua River. We were all hungry for a late lunch, so we pulled off at Steamboat Inn Cafe for a quick bite to eat. As soon as we sat down and looked out into a garden and heard the rushing river, we immediately decided to stay for the night. For just over $200 we rented a cozy two story cottage with 3 beds next to the river. The inn also offers a superb local organic four course meal for $50 a person, including bottomless local wine. I spent hours down at the tranquil river time-lapsing Steamboat Falls before the beautiful display of colors at sunset. Then the next morning we headed for Winston, home of the Wildlife Safari with a world-renowned Cheetah breeding program. After spending about an hour driving through the park, we headed for Portland up the I-5. We booked a reasonably priced room at the Red Lion Hotel on Hayden Island, directly on the Willamette River bordering Washington. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of fresh local steelhead at the Jantzen Beach hotel restaurant. The next morning we ordered breakfast in bed and then hit the road heading south. We wanted to take the Oregon Coast Highway 101 all the way back down into California. We cut over from I-5 and hit dead stopped traffic before figuring out there was a terrible accident up ahead that could delay traffic for hours. We decided to backtrack and take a beautiful winding mountain road though the giant Redwoods until we hit the coast. It quickly turned into the best scenic drive we experienced on the trip, as we headed south along the awe-inspiring coastline littered with jagged rock formations reaching out from the shallows. As the sun set, we pulled into Bandon Beach, a old fashioned coastal town with a multitude of beach houses lining the cliffs. We ended up booking a seaside cottage at the Sunset Motel for only $180 and watched the fading purple colors dance though the fog over the rolling waves. I spent nearly the entire night time-lapsing on the beach and walking around the fog covered neighborhood, along the cliffs searching for the Lighthouse. The next morning we grabbed a tasty breakfast, the girls did some shopping and then we hit the road. Having stayed up all night shooting photos, I curled up in the backseat and drifted asleep watching the coastal redwoods fly by. After hours of winding road and a few more stops to admire the coastal coves, we were back in California heading south towards Santa Rosa. Turns out this road trip was exactly what we all needed, a chance to leave behind the structure of everyday life and bond as a family through unforgettable experiences on the open road.