It doesn't feel like I started driving down to Arizona just yesterday. I am on summer vacation, so I haven't felt a need to rush. Also, I have a slight obsession with airbnb as a safe, budget-friendly way to get to know places in a more relaxed way (and with super friendly hosts!). The big debate then became: which route to take? There were so many options. I leaned toward the desert, where I could see Moab and Antelope Canyon… but I am moving to a desert for the next two years! Then I thought I'd stop by Crater Lake in southern Oregon, pass through Reno, and head through Flagstaff… but I am planning a trip to Flagstaff with friends once I get to AZ. And when would I get the chance to see the Pacific Coast again? So I chose the route using the 101 & 1 highways.
Turns out that I am glad that I did. Not only have the views (and thus the pictures) been fantastic, but my car did in fact have trouble. Or should I say troubles? As in plural?
Before I left on Monday night, I noticed that a headlight was out. Then in Corvallis on Tuesday afternoon, I was rear ended at a stop light by a fluster-y older lady. No one was hurt and I think there is limited damage to my car, but we exchanged info just in case. After an hour talking to a super nice insurance guy over the phone (and getting a rather nasty sunburn on my freshly tattooed upper back), I took off again toward the coast. I was determined to see those waves crashing along a gorgeous shore… but alas, it was foggy and misted over completely. I took stretch break at Heceta Head and took the first picture below. As I reached Gold Beach as the sun was setting, it was finally clearing up. I discovered I could see the ocean and sky... and it was stunning! I took some time appreciating the striking colors and the sound of the waves rolling gently to the shore. Things were looking up.
Alas, my car would have none of such optimism. It started to make roaring noises that genuinely scared me as I drove through the winding roads in pitch black darkness. I began to think I was going to end up sleeping in my car on the side of the road (that was not meant to sound quite as ominous as it sounds upon re-reading it), but somehow the car made it to Crescent City. I arrived at my airbnb farmhouse, shaken but relieved. In the morning, my host convinced me that he was a good person by providing a delicious breakfast of homemade blueberry muffins and farm fresh eggs, as well as a tour of their mini-farm with bunnies and goats. I was thus persuaded to accept his reference for a local mechanic (name changed slightly to protect the unusual), Mondo Mike.
Mondo Mike should be a character in an Adam Sandler movie (one of the older, funny ones). His garage is once-vibrant-but-now-faded hot pink with a giant fish and "Jesus is Lord!" sign. Broken down trucks and car parts and scruffy dogs were randomly placed around the driveway. Country music blared from the "office," but Mondo Mike was nowhere to be found. I stood for a minute, absently petting one of the greasy mutts that had wandered up to nuzzle against my leg. Then I finally discerned that there were two people sitting in one of the trucks … and they were chatting. The driver was an older woman, while a thin gentleman sat in the passenger seat. He waved me over, but continued to talk without acknowledging me otherwise. He was bald on top with long, wavy hair that reached past his shoulders, and he wore jeans and a greasy t-shirt that advertised a local charity run. He had tattoos and he NEVER STOPPED TALKING. It was great! He continued to chat with the driver about how his wife was getting rid of knick knacks in their house, then they talked about whether fish or chicken was better for dinner, then they discussed her truck, and then they were back to the injustice of his wife giving away his mother's Precious Moments collection (or something). I could not tear myself away. Finally, he said his farewells and we walked to my car. He whispered to me, "I just met that lady one time and she offered to give me her farm when she passes. It's ten whole acres! Ask and ye shall receive, am I right? I really know how to charm. If you are kind to people they give back. You come back here next year and you watch: I'll have ten acres!" This instilled a great deal of confidence in me. Mondo Mike checked all of the fluid levels, after asking me where they were located (even more confidence built!), and then asked if we could go for a drive. He talked the entire time about his buddy with six kids who goes to Portland to try to snag himself a wife (and yes, he did ask me if I am single, and no I declined to meet this charmer). Afterward, he agreed that the sound was indeed terrible but he was in no way qualified to fix the car. He then advised me to get a quart of oil and a pint of steering fluid -with which a gas station attendant later helped me- and to go to a bigger city where mechanics knew what they were talking about (his actual words). We parted as he asked me if I wanted a hug. I did not.
So I got some coffee, turned up my stereo over the noise of my car, and drove two hours through some of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the United States. I was shaking and nervous the entire time. I prayed a lot, too. When I made it to Eureka, I almost cried with relief. I started at a Firestone, but the lady behind the counter stated that I needed more extensive diagnostic work. She recommended a man named Ford at Pacific Pro (names not changed because they are amazing). When I arrived, a dynamic, short man named Javi greeted me and immediately got to business. On this test drive, he did not talk but listened intently to any noises, instructing me to slow or speed up. He looked under the hood and inspected what seemed like every inch of the car. I felt reassured that someone was taking this seriously. Within a quarter of an hour, he had determined that it was not the engine but something to do with drag or a wheel. When he was able to get it up on a rack, he came back shaking his head and telling me it was a miracle that I had made it to Eureka. Turns out the front left tire was nearly off the bearing and grinding all over the place (insert inappropriate twerking joke here). He seemed genuinely amazed, and I felt gratitude rush through me. He called around, got parts, and had it started before I could even cancel my airbnb reservations for this evening.
While he was doing all of this, I was sitting in the waiting room as the owner Ford alternated between making calls and talking with me. Ford has three college aged kids, remembered every detail of every customer who walked in, and is just incredibly entertaining. He told tales of his daughter in the Marine Corps and why he decided to be a mechanic, but my favorite was Javi's back story. Javi worked for Ford for eight years and, as Ford intoned respectfully, he knew the business and the customers better than anyone else in the town. A few years ago, Javi left to take over his mother's family restaurant but, despite his hard work, the restaurant failed. Javi came back to work for Ford, and for all that they gave each other a hard time, Ford clearly valued Javi as an employee and a friend. They bantered with each other and with me, and I thought about how I would love to have that kind of relationship with my boss at work! They got fatherly and protective as they advised me in finding a hotel room, then offered a ride there. They were the definition of professional- but friendly, too (the sarcasm was an added bonus).
I don't know if you've ever been in Eureka, but Javi and Ford and I were all surprised to hear that most hotel rooms were booked (why would people be here?, they seemed to imply). So I ended up at the local "historic" inn, which is supposed to be nationally registered and recently renovated. The lobby is impressive. The rest is… in progress. The perpetually flustered front desk worker was put out that she has to check people in rather than take her smoke break already! I am not sure how they define "historic," but I am quite sure they meant terrifying, or at the very least creepy. Walking through the hallways covered in peeling wallpaper would remind you of Jack Nicholson whispering "red rum," too. I am also about 75% sure the place is haunted (if you believe in that sort of thing). I'll report back later... if I survive (Okay, this may be a tad overly dramatic). Here's a picture of the Stanley Hotel, I mean INN in which I am staying:
Assuming that I survive the Shining and my car cooperates, I will be continuing my trip tomorrow. I assume there will be more adventures along the way. Stay tuned.