For the next two days, nothing I had planned would go according to plan. Not that I was on anyone else's time but I do like to have the plan at least look like I wanted it, instead of being a big old mess by the end of the day. The original plan was to take on California by heading down the coastline which would have been an 8 hour trip from start to finish with time allotted for pull-offs and stops for photos.
I packed up the car and began to head South, but first, I took a quick tour of Crescent City, as well as a few more photos and it wasn't long that I saw Crescent City in my rear-view mirror that the plan had begun to fall apart and continued to fall apart as the day continued. Part of Highway 101 had been closed, in fact, it was over 15 miles of closure, with no obvious, clear or easy detour signs posted. The closure was because of a landslide; California finally got some rain but it was more than it could handle and the roads have suffered.
I headed down South, the signs became more frequent of a closure ahead but nothing to show where the detour began. I continued through a small town that was surrounded by redwoods and had forgotten how big they were and felt like an ant in their shadows. I pulled over to gas up and took a few more shots before continuing. Cars are now scarce and I kept waiting for the detour sign that would never come. The road eventually came to a stop with a blockade preventing people from going further and I needed to turn around.
I pulled up to the top of the ramp, where the u-turn would be made, and a construction worker sat in his truck monitoring traffic. I came to a stop next to him and asked for directions on the best way to get to Bodega Bay. In a nutshell, I had to go back 60 miles to take a side road that would connect me back to the Interstate and take me South to Bodega Bay. However, the directions given to me were vague and the names of the roads were questionable. An hour later I was back in the city where this road was supposed to have been and was unable to find it. I pulled out my phone to use the GPS but it too was useless and wanted me to go back to Crescent City in order to hook up with the Highway. Looking back I wish I would have.
I decided to find my own way to Bodega Bay and pulled over and created a route, with the use of an old school atlas and a questionable GPS; my phone had a limited signal even near populated areas. As I headed back down the road towards the closed road section, I finally saw the detour sign for Highway 101, which was the same route I had planned on taking, but it was on an electric billboard sign and flashed up for only a second. With only one pair of eyes, it was easily missed and was the ONLY sign to say this was the detour. Once on it, there were no additional signs anywhere and after about 10 miles in, I had officially entered California's version of the Amalfi Drive. This, by far, was the worse detour I had ever been on and the scariest route I had taken since I started this road trip.
The route was on a rough and narrow road that was mainly used for logging companies. Speeds were slow due to the climbing road through the mountains and only a few spots offered a straightaway which allowed speeds to increase for a mile or so and then had to be dropped for another climb, twist and turn through the mountains. Eventually, the straightaways disappeared altogether and I was at a high altitude, no guard rails, long drops to the bottom and sharp turns.
I know my heart came to a complete stop several times and that was during the 90 degrees, blind turns that I had to take on a rough and very narrow road. The signs for "slide area" and "road not cleared during snow storm" had me wanting to pull over and not go any further. My hands were gripped to the steering wheel the whole time and I now know the term "white knuckles" very well. This didn't go on for 10, 20 or even 30 miles it went on for 85 miles and a solid 3 hours! That's right I kept track, 85 freaking miles, going no faster than 25-10 miles an hour because everyone had to take this dangerous, curvy, rough route, through the national forest. This also included the logging trucks and construction vehicles because even this route was under construction.
At one point I was at an elevation of 2000 and the drops just got longer and deeper the further I went. California wasn't without its crazy drivers in big pickups along this road which just added more tension and stress to the drive.
Finally, the road cleared, and I was able to pry my stuck and sweaty hands from the steering wheel. I also had to use the restroom which, surprise, surprise, there were no rest areas or service stations along this entire route. There was also no safe pull over anywhere and the fear of having an accident kept plaguing my head. Then we would hit a few more curves and hills and for the moment the restroom was forgotten but it would quickly return a short distance later.
Too many times along this route I wanted to pull over and cry and pay someone to take me out of this hell but I sucked it up and did some controlled breathing in hopes of finding either a pull off or rest area very soon. Thankfully, near the end of the route, there was a ranger station and YES!, it was open. I pulled up to the entrance, didn't even bother with a parking spot, grabbed the keys and ran in. I could have kissed the park ranger for letting me use their facilities but was in too much of a hurry to the restroom. Not only was the bladder relieved so was my entire body and as I walked out of the restroom all the anxiety began to surface which included wobbly legs, headache, sore muscles, shaking hands and a weakness so strong I had to lean against the wall to gain my composure.
Slowly, the stress and anxiety subsided and I was able to walk the rest of the way to the car without issue. The park ranger was now outside and I asked her if I could walk my dog Aria here and without hesitation, she said, "of course!" I re-parked the car, legally this time, and let Aria out who had also been holding it. She too barely made it to the grass before her bladder said: "I'm done holding it."
She had been extremely quiet the whole time that, at times, I had almost forgotten she was with me. A reach back, when possible, confirmed she was there and was still breathing. The tension from the drive was so strong that even Aria's legs were wobbly and for someone who normally barked and jumped she too took some time to regain her footing. An offer of water also helped revive her and a minute or two later she was back to her perky self.
Reluctantly we got back into the car and continued down the road for the next 20 miles. The rest of the way was a lot calmer. I finally reached I5 and headed South, by now most of the day was spent on the detour and the sun was beginning to set and the gas tank was running low. I pulled off at a truck stop, filled up and grabbed a snack since I was going on 12 hours since I last ate anything. I still had a few hours to go before I was at Bodega Bay; Aria and I shared the small snack.
The road then took us back to 101 and once again I was dealing with twists, turns and hills and ahead were the mountains. I was going to have to go back through them in order to get back to the coast where Bodega Bay was located. This route was better, considering it was a major highway, but it too was under construction and the large barrels, as well as driving into a setting sun brought the stress from earlier rushing back.
My phone GPS was working now and called out directions along the way until I realized we were now heading North. I was not great on directions but I do know Bodega Bay was still South of our current location. I did a pull off into a local town where I was able to take a good look at my phone's directions. For whatever reason, my GPS decided to take me on another route that took me 20 miles North and further away from my destination. “Are you kidding me?!?” I said out loud.
I canceled the route and re-programmed it only to realize, I still had another 100 miles to go which meant over an hour of driving, if there were no more issues along the way. The sun was setting and a glance at the clock told me it would be 9p when we would arrive. Tears started to fill my eyes, I was tired, hungry and desperate to end the day. But with a long, slow breathe I pulled myself together, got back out onto the Highway, and began heading South.
There was no sign for this town until I was five miles away. I was driving blind in the dark, not sure if I was even going the right way. I could only hope that the GPS wouldn't do anything crazy and I would be in Bodega Bay soon. The closer I got, the more the roads narrowed and once again I was dealing with sharp twists and turns, this time in complete darkness, which only added more stress to the drive. Finally, the sign for Bodega Bay was seen and a short distance later was the motel. I pulled in at 8:58p and as I parked the car and walked into the lobby I couldn't help but notice the sign that said, “hotel closes at 9p”.
This was not indicated when I made the hotel reservation online. In short, I would have been in a lot of trouble if I hadn't arrived when I did. My stomach was growling and the headache reminded me I hadn't eaten yet. Unfortunately, there were no fast food restaurants in Bodega Bay and all other restaurants closed at, you guessed it, 9p.
Well, the chips I had eaten two hours ago would have to do until morning. I got into the car and drove to our hotel room and upon arrival realized I had lost the key cards. Not even here 5 minutes and I had already lost the keys. I checked my pockets, my purse, the parking spot, the car and the keys had literally vanished. A frustrated sigh had me quickly returning to the lobby, thankfully, they were still open and I got another set of keys which, this time I put in my pocket.
Over 12 hours later, I had finally arrived. The room itself, had hardwood floors, a large king-size bed, and small patio. I quickly unpacked and fed Aria, at least one of us would get a meal this evening. I went out on the patio for some air and gave thanks for finally making it in one piece. I walked back into the room and was asleep a few minutes later.
Driving across country can bring about some interesting situations. Broken down on a day by day basis enjoy my adventures and set backs along the way to some beautiful destinations.