My brother has taken the day off so we can spend the afternoon driving up the California coast on scenic Highway One. We definitely aren't used to traveling at more than a snail's pace yet— Tyler and I are both reeling, feeling heavy, head-achy and queasy (thanks to all the tight hairpin turns and steep hills). Neither of us were prone to motion sickness before our trip!
As we cruise by a forest just off the coast, I shield my eyes from the view, blocking the disorienting strobe-light effect of harsh light and shadows flickering against the pavement as we drive through the trees.
Somewhere along the way, we stop for a quick break and breath of fresh air, looking to sample some local produce at a roadside stand. While we investigate what they have on offer, a burly man with a Russian accent gruffly exits a nearby truck to attend to us. We sample some nuts, purchase a pint of strawberries, and skip back to the car with our goodies.
Heading out once more, we're feeling a bit better—the twists and turns of the road have unraveled a bit, relaxing into gentler sweeping swaths of pavement. Thus, we head to our first destination of the day: Muir Woods National Park.
It would be nice to spend ages among the trees, hiking, camping, escaping the crowds of tourists, and slowly capturing it all, but today is just a quick visit, a teaser of things to come, should we someday choose to return. The ancient, majestic trees are certainly worthy of more time than we have!
Back in the car we go, past scenery that reminds us of Greece and the south of France. My mind is thrown back to the day we climbed from Marseilles to Cassis, listening to the cicadas, feeling the sun hot against our backs, inhaling whiffs of pine and catching glimpses of crystal blue sea. For a moment, I am lost in the memory, but my mind quickly returns to the here and now, and I realize that I'm in a place every bit as engaging as my daydream.
I feel so lucky to come home to this, America, a land in which I really haven't traveled all that much. An enormous country of possibilities and stunning landscapes lies before us, ready to be explored. And the best part about it is, it's mine, located conveniently right out my back door, with no visa worries to think about. This is the beginning of that exploration, I think. This is what it looks like to travel in America.
And so I stand, creating new memories with my brother and my partner, squinting into the sun, watching a raptor swoop in circles, envious at the sight of it gliding effortlessly, high above the Pacific.
Sleepy little beach towns dot the craggy coastline—when we all get hungry for dinner, we pull into the Sand Dollar, a nice cafe in the quaint village of Stinson Beach. Fish tacos, grilled salmon sandwiches, and English style fish and chips all look good so we order them up, with local beer to wash them down. When we're through, a glimpse at the bill makes us balk for a moment, but I close my eyes, cringe, and sign my name below the total. This part of the world is expensive!
After eating, we're almost ready to head back towards the Bay, but a final stop leads us off the road to some sort of old fort. We clamber out of the car once more and walk down a pier, looking out at the vast blue water and blinding sun sinking fast towards it. Wind whips at my hair, and Lian captures a rare photo of Tyler and I, looking out at the vaguely Amalfi-like coastline.
With just a bit of time before the sun sets, we hurry back to San Francisco, in hopes of catching the Golden Gate bridge before sunset. Lian takes us to the best viewpoint, a short climb up a hill right next to the iconic structure. At the top, the bay is spread out before us, spanned by the behemoth, fiery-orange structure. At first, it doesn't look that big, but then we see how small the cars are, zipping across like tiny insects.
We take the requisite "standing in front of something famous shots"…
…and then Tyler goes photo-crazy with our wide-angle lens, inches away from Lian and my noses.
A brief, chilly visit to the other side of the bridge concludes our day of adventuring, as the sun sinks low and the skies begin to darken. As city lights flick on, shining bright against the now grey-blue waters, I am thankful for today's sight-seeing, just the first of many explorations in this country we call home.
Thanks for being our tour guide, Lian!