Day 15 – Roadtrip

Today I went North. I used Yelp to find a coffee place up the coast. I needed a destination more than I needed coffee. I couldn’t just drive for the joy of it.

I stopped along the way. He’eia state park, where the views of sand bar, Kaneohe bay and the Ko’olau mountains were spectacular. 

Next stop was Kualoa regional park and beach to check out Mokoli’i aka Chinaman’s Hat. I made a note to come back with my snorkel gear. 

I stopped for lunch at the first shrimp truck I saw. The shrimp shack is across the highway from Punalu’u beach park and next door to an old Hawaii grocery store. I ordered the coconut shrimp with guava dipping sauce and went to the grocery store for a Gauva drink (cheaper that way). It was fun but the shrimp shack was a tourist trap – @ $11.25 – it was a bit steep.

The drive – @ a max speed of 35 mph – was mellow and beautiful. Until all traffic stopped. I was too far away from the popular North Shore area for it to be traffic due to cars waiting for parking by the beaches. 

Accident! Three cars somehow managed to crash into each other even though the max speed was so slow. Once past that it was smoothe sailing.

I found the coffe place Yelp suggested but they weren’t open. So I continued to the north shore town of Haleiwa. A place I knew had a coffee shop. I stayed there and did homework (reread book and made annotations to help with my essay writing tomorrow).

On my way back south I had to stop and get wet! The north shore beaches looked amazing because the wind was coming from the southeast (the tubular waves this area is known for don’t happen until winter). I didn’t stop because they were too crowded. Instead I found this little beach and hung out there before making my way back to Kailua..


Road Trip with Dad and Blue Bullet

Dad and I packing my possessions into blue bullet.
Dad and I packing my possessions into blue bullet.

Blue Bullet chugged as she ascended the last few hundred feet to the summit of the Colorado Rockies. The 1985 Toyota passenger van was weighed down with my post-college graduation possessions, like books, a futon and my hot pink Vespa scooter. My dad and I were moving me from my childhood home of Chicago to my new home, 2,000 miles away in San Francisco. Blue bullet was our trusted family car for the last seven years, and dad drove her with confidence and determination, towards the summit. He knew his little engine could make it up that mountain and onwards towards San Francisco.

This side trip to the Rockies was dad’s idea. I’m pretty sure Blue Bullet didn’t want to climb these steep mountain sides with all of this extra weight, and a battery that wasn’t working quite right (more on that later). And I knew I wasn’t completely gung-ho about the extra time the side trip would add. I wanted to get to San Francisco quickly and I was afraid of unplanned adventures.

Dad and I weren’t close.

My dad, master violin maker!
My dad, master violin maker!

I know it sounds cliché to say my dad wasn’t around much when I was a kid, but it is true. He emigrated from Germany when he was 26 years old and brought with him an old world craft and old world work ethic. His six-day a week, twelve plus hours a day work schedule as a master craftsman making violins, violas or cellos left little time for the family.

On Sunday’s, his only day off, he would split his day between two families. In the morning he would go to his church, Kingdom Hall, to be with his Jehovah’s Witness brothers and sisters, a religion neither my mother, brother or I subscribed to. In the afternoon he would gather his biological family, us, to go on an outing. A typical outing, I would later label Germantime, consisted of traveling to a museum or zoo in dad’s car while listening to the oompah of German polka music, visit said zoo or museum for an hour or two, and end with a visit to his favorite German café for coffee and pastries. Germantime was the only time I felt we were a happy, loving family.

Through my adolescence the Jehovah’s Witness family got more and more of dad’s free time. I was left feeling he wanted to be with them more than with us. When dad was home it wasn’t pleasant. My mom would vent her frustrations with having to work, take care of the kids and do all the chores, while he was with his JW family, always leading to arguments. If that wasn’t bad enough, dad would nag me – telling me to wear more dresses like a “good German girl,” and to stop wearing those “awful American blue jeans” or to remove purple nail polish from my freshly polished, sophomore in high school, nails. I didn’t think an absent father had the authority to tell his child what to do.

My heart grew hard towards him. The sadness of a little girl wanting to be hugged and kissed by her dad, evolved into resentment and anger of a teenager not wanting him around. Now as a college graduate, I still had my issues with dad, but I couldn’t be too disagreeable since he offered to help me move away from home and towards a new life. Renting a moving van was economically out of the question and I had too much stuff to neatly put in a box and send by mail. I just hoped we could get to California peacefully.

Dad unplugging blue bullet, he was charging her batteries...
Dad unplugging blue bullet, he was charging her batteries…

My other biggest fear was blue bullet would break down, stranding us in the middle of the desert. On the day we were set to leave, my fears were validated when I saw dad’s latest experiment in the back of the car.

“Dad, Why are there two batteries behind the drivers seat with wires leading under the seat?”

“Just as a precaution.” He assured me, his balding head dripping with perspiration from packing the car while wearing thick corduroy pants and a wool sweater on a late summer day. His old world aesthetic discouraging him from ever wearing shorts and a t-shirt. “The car battery sometimes doesn’t recharge and I want to make sure we don’t get stuck.”

“Is the alternator going out?” I asked, just having learned what an alternator does from a friend whose car battery wouldn’t keep a charge.

“I don’t think so.” He said with a tone of certainty, accentuated by his deep German accent. “I brought the car to the mechanic and they said the alternator was fine.”

Blue Bullet and a road trip with dad was my only option. I had to trust that together we would get to California, safely, without too many unplanned adventures and without arguing.

Off we go!
Wish us luck!

Note: This is an excerpt of a personal essay I have been working off and on since 2012- to hopefully be submitted to an online publication. I told dad about the story before he passed away in 2013, he mentioned how much he loved that trip and the time we had together. I hope to share the whole story of this trip one day! Happy Father’s Day! 🙂

Just trippin’

Descending into Yakima Valley, Mt. Adam to the left and Mt. Rainier to the right.
Descending into Yakima Valley, Mt. Adam to the left and Mt. Rainier to the right.

When you live in Seattle WA, you have to be creative. A week ago my partner and I did just that when figuring out how to find summer. While the rest of you were sweltering in 100+ degree weather, the Pacific NW was cool and rainy. Sure that sounds good if you are sweating buckets and going for that 10th glass of lemonade, but when you live in it, it can get old.  Thanks to the Cascade range of mountains, the coolness from the Pacific, that carries the water rich air tends to stay on the West side giving Seattle its year round temperate climate. Ok, you get the picture…  Early Saturday morning we packed the car, destination Yakima WA. A quick 2.5 hour drive and we were in summer. Road Trip!

I wanted to call this blog post “Yakitty Yak” as in that old song where it then says “don’t come back.” For some people that is how they view Yakima, but not me. I say go back as often as possible and I’ll share with you why. For one, they really get a summer out there, their geology and climate is “one eighty” that of Seattle. The high desert with sage brush hills formed when a large ice age lake’s ice dam broke and sent billions of gallons of water to scour the lava rock, to create rolling hills and amazing gorges cut into the earth. Without the Ocean tempering the weather, they get harsh winters and hot summers, so any creative Seattlite will head to the “east side of the mountains” to find weather opposite of Seattle.

Rainier cherries
Rainier cherries

My first trip to Yakima was about 15 years ago, when I first moved to WA state. I heard that it was the “wine country” of WA, I was thrilled since one of my favorite places in the world is Napa valley in CA. But that first trip found amazing wines, but no lush bed and breakfasts, yummy cafes or gourmet markets to buy things for a picnic. Nope this was ag land – a place where it was all work and not so much play. On this trip, our first stop was to pick cherries. The Yakima valley is one of the most fertile valleys in the U.S., as is most of Eastern WA. It is the top producer of cherries, apples and hops in the U.S. So if you are eating cherry pie or drinking a beer, you are probably consuming a bit of Yakima.

Did I mention wine? During that first visit to Yakima, I wasn’t impressed by the scenery, but I was impressed by the wines. Back then there were a fraction of the number of wineries there are today, some were bad but some were really  good. I remembered a winery where I fell in love with their Merlot, and that was before I knew that same Merlot was being served as the house wine at the restaurant Merlot in NYC. I had thought this winery was gone because it wasn’t on any of the wine country maps I had picked up in the past, but this year, we stumbled across it, thanks to those road signs that tell you when a winery is coming up.

Yakima River Winery
Yakima River Winery in Prosser, WA.

Since I last tasted their wines, Yakima River Winery, with their award winning wines went through some tough times. Their east coast distributor died during the 9/11/01 attacks, then the movie Sideways came out with it’s anti-Merlot message (it is still a good movie) and then July of 2012 WA liquor was privatized. From this, they don’t sell their wines on the East coast anymore, the demand for Merlot dropped and now you can’t find their wines in Western WA Safeway, QFC or Fred Meyer stores because those stores dumped a lot of their wine selection to make room for cheap booze. Yikes! What stories we heard as we tasted their out of this world wines. I walked out of their with 2 cases of wine, a $100 case of their 2008 Merlot (thanks to the overstock) and several bottles of their Malbec (watch out Argentina, Yakima valley Malbec is out of this world!) and a couple of bottles of their Cab Sauv. I love this place, it is not pretentious, there is no view, the tasting room looks more like a nice garage, and there is a moose head trophy on the wall, plus a few other taxidermied animals. This is a place that is focused on making great complex wines, not kowtow to the simple palates of the common winery tourist.

Mount Rainier at Chinook Pass
Mt. Rainier at Chinook Pass – July 7, 2012.

Alas, we had to do more than drink wine. We went to the Sunday Farmer’s market, to oogle and purchase produce at prices much lower than the farmer’s markets in Seattle. We had the best tacos adobados I have ever eaten, for breakfast, washed down with a glass of strawberry horchata (rice milk). We had found heaven in Yakima!

It was time to head West and we decided to go through Mt. Rainier National Park. This state is full of wonder and it is so excruciatingly beautiful when the sun shines! It was a quick road trip but it was a great escape from the daily grind in Seattle. Did I mention that there is finally good coffee in Yakima? Go to Northtown Coffeehouse, they brew stumptown coffee and it is good!

I’ll leave you with a few images from our drive through Mt. Rainier. It was a lovely day and the beauty breathtaking!

Narada Falls
Lots of ice cold water falling at Narada Falls.
Author in front of a 1000 year old cedar.
Author in front of a 1000 year old cedar.
Knotty, knarly wood
Knotty, knarly wood.