ASHLAND TO THE GOLDEN GATE
I had plans to break up my drive from Crater Lake to San Francisco by detouring towards Avenue of The Giants in Humboldt Redwood State Forest. The only problem with this plan was that it would add several hours to the drive, cutting my already short time in San Francisco even shorter.
When I began planning this trip, I wanted to keep in mind the obvious possibility things might not go according to plan. I told myself that no matter what extenuating circumstance I arrived at, I would handle with grace and not anxiety.
I was so happy and excited to be where I was, that when I did find myself altering plans last minute, I just went with the flow and kept on moving. After Crater Lake, I decided to forgo Avenue of the Giants and simply continue straight down to San Francisco. I lost service somewhere in the woods and had to rely on actual road signs. I was nervous about finding a gas station, since I couldn’t check maps to see if there were any nearby, but kept driving with the hopes I’d stumble upon one. I lucked out and found one, just in time I might add, considering I’d dipped below a 1/4 tank and was about to meet the empty light. I don’t even remember the name of the town I stopped, but I filled up, grabbed a snack and continued South.
At this point I regained service enough to map out the most efficient route down to SF. I stopped in Ashland, OR for a hearty lunch. I picked a restaurant at random, Morning Glory, and was pleasantly surprised at the comfort food that greeted me. I ordered biscuits and gravy and a side of pancakes. As I chowed down on rich and velvety gravy atop the most buttery biscuits, refreshing lemon butter melted into the pancakes. A side of fresh blackberry compote complimented the citrus wonderfully and I sat there, in heaven.
But it wasn’t all magic. There was a moment sitting at the counter, alone, that I realized just how alone I was. A rush of anxiety and sadness came over me and I found it hard to hold back the tears welling up in my eyes. For the past few days, I’d been alone, eating alone, doing everything with just myself, but I was so busy going from place to place, that it didn’t necessarily hit me until now.
The entire trip, leading up to this point was a mix of emotions. Mainly happy, exciting and uplifting emotions, but there were several moments where I was just sad. Sad that I wasn’t experiencing this with another person, namely the person I’d love to adventure with for the past 6 years. I thought of him often, but ultimately pushed him out of mind, because this was a trip for me, not a trip to dwell on what I’d just lost. But it wasn’t as easy as flipping a light switch on and off. These grief attacks came on quick and strong, and this particular one nearly knocked me off my seat at the counter. So I asked for the bill and made my way back to my Jeep to continue driving.
For the next half hour or so, I cried. I let myself feel everything I was trying to push away, and just cried. And before I knew it, a song, a viewpoint, something, distracted me enough that the tears stopped and I found myself singing along to the song on the radio. Within an hour or so, I was crying again, but for a different reason. I had made it to California. I was so elated, the tears came involuntarily. I was shouting and yelling and crying tears of joy.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to California. I swear I lived there in a previous life, because from the second I stepped foot in the state, I felt this familiarity, sort of like I’d been there before and I was coming home. I was so distracted by the enormous landscapes and gigantic snow capped mountains in the distance, I definitely shifted lanes a few times (sorry, mom). Mount Shasta guided me South for a while and the further I went, the larger she became. I was in disbelief that the earth could look like this, that America looked like this. It was the most beautiful drive and I was thrilled to be in the driver seat, soaking it all in.
By the time I got down to San Francisco, it was dark out. I will never forget the Golden Gate, light up at night, welcoming me to the Bay Area. I was shouting and yelling at this point as well. I had made it to SF.
I headed straight for the The Gove Inn, located near Alamo Square in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. I was a bit apprehensive about parking because I was in a city and know that if it’s anything like New York, it’d be a major hurdle finding a place to leave my car. But when I arrived, there was a vacant spot right outside the front door, like it was waiting for me. I parallel parked, perfectly if I do say so myself, and lugged my bags inside.
This Inn was adorable in every sense of the word. My room was quaint and cozy and exactly what I needed for my brief stop in the city. I was tired, but needed to eat and wanted to see more of the city so I freshened up and headed out for dinner. I walked to Hayes St. and was immediately greeted by a young, lively after work crowd. I had dinner at Absinthe, a chic brasserie and bar on the corner of Hayes and Gough. I devoured their famous garlic and herb pretzel bites doused in Vermont cheddar sauce and a bowl of cauliflower soup. After dinner I hit up Salt and Straw at their brand new location on Hayes Street. I took my two scoops and went for a walk on a balmy, December night. I couldn’t believe I’d made it all the way to San Francisco. I knew I had an early day ahead of me, so I strolled back to the Inn and hit the hay.
I woke up before the sun Thursday morning and headed out for a run. I watched the sunrise over the city at the top of Alamo Square in disbelief of my life. Just a month prior, I thought my life was over, I stopped feeling like a person. I stood there, partially out of breath because of those famous San Francisco hills, but also overwhelmed with how far I’d come. If someone told me a month before that moment, that I’d be standing there witnessing life on the other side of the country, I would have told them they were crazy. But there I was, taking in all the sunlight that could possibly fill me, stronger than ever.
After my run, I enjoyed a homemade breakfast in the foyer of the inn. I only had a few hours to spend in the city before I was back on the road. So I showered, re-packed my luggage and the car and was off again. I drove to Mr. Holmes Bakehouse to grab a pastry to nosh on while I visited the Golden Gate. I went with their cruffin flavor of the day which was Thai Iced Tea. I detoured through Lombard street, just to see it and all it’s infamous curves and eventually parked at Crissy Field to make my way to the bridge. San Francisco is one of the coolest cities I’ve visited and I barely saw a fraction of it. I stood staring at the bridge, Alcatraz in the distance, the edges of the city sparkling under the sunlight and the prettiest blue-green water bouncing happily at the edges of the park pathway. I lost count of the moments that actually left me speechless. My time in California, so far, made me forget every bad, hurtful feeling I’d been experiencing. For the first time in a while, I was happy.
San Francisco, I’ll be seeing you.