Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Redwoods, Monastery and San Francisco/Bay Area, according to Amber

Hello again!

It feels like weeks since we've seen the internet! Every day has been filled with so many moments, so much growth and so much emotion. This journey has been getting more incredible with every point on the map. My life feels like it's on fire.

So we have entered California. California drivers are like Honey Badgers-They don't give a crap, the do what they want! I wonder what percentage of CA drivers are aware of blinkers? But then you use a blinker and 4 people behind you speed up to make sure you don't merge in front of them, and so you, too, become a crazy turn-the-turn-signal-on-as-you-turn drivers. Anyways, first up was the Redwoods, as John has told you below. My first hike into the Redwoods was a 12 mile round trip hike in the coastal Redwoods near Crescent City. The awe that Redwood trees inspire in every cell in your body is something that must be experienced. We could tell you all about them, post every picture and video we took, and you still have no idea. I thought I had an idea before, but holy moly I sure didn't. I was meandering down the path, marvelling at the smaller Redwood trees, thinking how even the smaller ones must be hundreds of years old, when BAM! Suddenly I'm standing underneath a tree so huge I can't see the top of it. The hike near Crescent Beach was one of the most magical experiences of my life. And it wasn't nearly as magical as the one I would take a few days later. (Which I also thought I had an idea about, but holy moly was I wrong again!)
(A sillier version of a face the trees inspire)

After the grueling 12 mile hike I returned home (aka the van :) ) and John made us dinner. As we were sitting down in the front seats getting ready to eat, a car pulled up in front of us. I felt immediately that the two girls were about to do something shady, despite the boy in the back seat (maybe 6 or 7 years old.) A few moments later another car pulls up next to us with 2 more girls. A girl gets out from each car and approached each other. The driver from car 1 pulls out a camcorder and the girls just start tearing into each other! Total cat fight, scratches and hair pulling, etc. With the 3 giant boulders surrounding them, and the seclusion of this parking spot, I thought things could get ugly fast. Plus there was a child watching, so I didn't hesitate to jump out and approach them. "Excuse me! Ladies! Is this appropriate with a child present?" --OMG I giggle a little to myself whenever I remember the words I chose. When did I become such an adult? They stopped fighting and retreated to their cars. Camcorder girl was eyeballing me, I think debating whether or not to give me the evil eye. I just hiked 12 miles so I felt badass. Honestly I don't care if trashy girls beat each other up, but when your kid or nephew is watching, I'm gonna get a no bullshit stance. So they left and we went back to eating. And I felt like a badass adult.

The next 3 days for me were days of rest. I ran up and down the beach with Seymour, we ran into the ocean and felt the waves on our bodies. I grew up near the ocean, and so I felt like a kid again, being purely sensory and enjoying the feel, smell and sights of the sand, ocean, sun and sky. It was almost as incredible as the Redwoods to feel that joy again.
(Take 40-50 or so small steps in a circle and you'll get an idea of the size of the base of these trees)

I went on the Trillium Falls hike the day after John did. He came back with magic in his eyes. "You know how majestic and incredible the coastal trail was the other day? Multiply that by 2. At least." No exageration, no joke. This trail was amazing, every moment of it. Again, the trees are indescribable. If you ever have the opportunity to go, please go. They look pretty in pictures, but...my... Plus if you think about how trees give us the oxygen that we breath, which our bodies then put into our cells, I am currently made up with some of the Redwoods-literally and figuratively. The Redwoods have stolen my heart. During this hike I took my time, meandering along with my jaw dropped, neck bent back as far as possible. I sat at one of the benches and started journaling. I found myself open, vulnerable and raw. I ended up crying and laying down some emotional baggage I didn't even realize I had at their roots. I'm kind of a crier, so don't feel uncomfortable or sad for me, it was beautiful. I was proud to be exposing myself to the trees in that way, and I somehow felt safe and vulnerable at the same time. I came back to the car lighter, freer, happier and more alive. The Redwoods will affect you in whatever way they will affect you. I can't tell you what you will feel, think or experience. You must go and see for yourself.

Ah! So after the experience of the great trees, we went to John's mother's monastery. I unfortunately never had the chance to meet Laura. It felt good to be surrounded by the imagery and words and most importantly, the people that meant so much to her. John showed me the icons that she wrote/painted and introduced me to the first monks I've ever met. As a non-religious person who has very little experience with churches, it was a very new experience for me. Their service is about 2.5 hours and standing. Dave and Dorris and all the monks treated us very well, and while we had had the intention to stay one night and one morning, we ended up staying from Friday evening until after the Sunday lunch. It is a beautiful place, and it should not be rushed. I felt very silent and peaceful.

(Our pretty good sleep spot for San Fran)

After all this peaceful silence of trees and temples, we head out to the chaos of San Francisco, which I had been very excited to see. My only experience had been short chunks of time before and after taking a Green Tortoise tour in 2007, and I had loved the little bit I had seen. However, San Francisco failed us on all fronts. We spent the first evening searching for a rest area that apparently only existed on the map. We ended up parking on a street near the Golden Gate Bridge that had a pretty decent view of the city and the bridge. That's where the decency ended. The next morning we head to downtown and end up wandering a business area looking for a coffee shop. The first maybe 6 we pass don't have power outlets. We finally find one and tie Seymour up outside. Some rich bitch (excuse my language, there is no other way to describe her) comes into Starbucks with a bleeding heart to the manager of how this poor dog is tied up outside. After getting so many dirty looks as we walked down the street (do we really look that much like bums already?!) I was sick of the higher than thou attitudes we were receiving and told her to back off, stop judging, the damn dog is fine. Soon after we wrapped up the computer and headed back to the car. We drove around trying to find a park to hang out at and gave up after all the deceptive streets and false maps. We spent about 4 crappy hours in San Francisco before heading on.

As John mentioned, we drove down HWY 130 for about 2 hours last night before we realized we were only a 5th of the way down. It was dark, the road was windy without ceasing, and we were running low on gas. "Highway to Hell" comes on the radio and we decide to cut our losses and turn around. We find an oasis by the name of In and Out and find our way to a rest area, about 3 hours after our normal bedtime.

(It was about 2-3 hours of driving, with a sheer drop on the side and this view of San Jose and a clear night sky.)

Today we prepare the car and our cooler for 6 days in Yosemite. So far so good on this trip. There have been days and moments of stress and terror like yesterday, but for the most part everything has been beautiful. I feel alive, and I'm purging myself of bad mental, emotional and health habits. John and I have always been cheesey in love, but if you saw us now you may vomit in your mouth a little. Our love is good, and it's such a blessing to be able to fall more in love with all these majestic backdrops.

I also want to take a moment to thank all of you for still paying attention to us! We miss everyone a lot, and I wish we had more times with internet connection and cell phone ranges to talk to everyone. I can't wait for face-to-face and heart-to-heart connections with everyone. Don't forget us! We sure aren't forgetting you guys. We often fantasize about seeing people again, like we used to fantasize about the trip.

Love love love to everyone!


  1. awesome! you are amazing, and leave me in awe! I did ok!!! with the little bit of you that is due to me :o) I, from hidden memories, only saw the big redwoods when i was likely 3...but they are in my being somewhere! And if you had more internet connection you would NOT be doing what you are doing, feeling and learning what you are! :o) envious and in awe, and proud for you :o)

  2. What your Mom said :)

  3. dammit the heart shape didn't work.....
    anyhow...keep having FUN, and enjoy the adventure!

  4. Your Redwoods story made me want to see it for myself badly. There were many times we saw very beautiful things on our trip, but usually we only got to experience them superficially .. Getting out of the car on a highway, with other cars around, and take it in, and then get back into the car.

    Also, I'm so sorry to hear SF was such a bad experience! You should've gone to the East Bay. It's better there. :D

  5. Love reading these updates! I'm praying for you three - for safety, health, fun, and avoiding mental break downs (I certainly do not care for Rich Bitch).

  6. I just re-read the whole blog and actually got a little teary- eyed. This is a beautiful country and you are among the few who have seen it up close. I like that you get awed and then get cranky, sleep under wet blankets and then feel totally alive. That's the best ever, and you're sharing it all with someone you love! You guys are definitely my heros!