Summer Road Trip from Bay Area, CA to Seatle, WA

Kuroun Seung
16 min readAug 5, 2023

Duration: ~ one week (don’t try it. Too short!)

Places stayed and visited:

  • Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark, CA
  • Klamath Fall, OR
  • Crater Lake, OR
  • Coos Bay, OR
  • North Bend, OR
  • Portland, OR
  • Multnomah Falls
  • Sequim, WA
  • Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Nation Park, WA
  • Seattle, WA

TL; DL, I will provide you with a comprehensive account of the activities we engaged in at each location we visited, along with my thoughts on them. This narrative will also encompass a mix of dramatic and unrelated stories. Feel free to skip over those sections, although I’m uncertain about the exact method you might use to do so :P

I traveled with my wife, her friend, and her husband. The couple journeyed from LA and spent a night at our house before we embarked on July 4th from Bay Area — Union City, a city in the East Bay. It wasn’t an exceptionally early morning; we departed around 7:30 am. We were in search of breakfast, and that’s when we stumbled upon a new grab-and-go spot to give a shot — Jollibee. You might chuckle and say, “I know Jollibee,” while some could wonder about having crispy chicken for breakfast. But the reason was simple: one of our friends had the craving, and it was a first-time experience for us. So, why not?

Initially, my impression was lukewarm; crispy chicken didn’t strike me as a common breakfast option. However, as I stood in line to order, I had an “aha” moment. People do enjoy crispy chicken for breakfast, contrary to my usual morning routine of having cereal with avocado and nuts — which is almost a daily ritual for me. Alright, let’s talk about the chicken itself. It was delightful, incredibly crispy. In fact, I dare say it outdid KFC in that aspect. Our friend from LA informed us that Jollibee was a renowned Philippine food chain, and that clicked with me. We reside in a city where we’re aware that the majority of the population is Filipino (though this might not hold true anymore). On an unrelated note, I adore living here in a city of compassion!

The amusing part is that we’ve lived in the area for over a year, yet we hadn’t given Jollibee a shot until now. You can probably guess why — the PainDamnMix (brought on by COVID-19). Our dining-out experiences were few and far between. Later, we made a stop at a nearby Starbucks, a fact you should be aware of. What you might not know is that my wife and I aren’t regular coffee consumers. We can easily go without it, but there’s always that quest for a cup during road trips. I’m addicted to that particular moment :). With our caffeine needs satisfied, we were ready for the journey ahead!

My wife and I were seated at the back. Well, to be precise, my wife was sleeping at the back in an upright position. No kidding, during every road trip, my wife tends to doze off quite a bit when she’s in the back seat. I suspect it’s because she gets tired from reading heavy hard-copy books. However, she usually makes for a good co-driver when I’m behind the wheel. She ensures my well-being by offering snacks and engaging in conversation every hour to ensure her safety while I’m driving :D.

As for me, I typically prefer to sit in the middle seat at the back. I enjoy having a view of the front. I’m not particularly adept at sleeping during travels. I would often check in with Jay to see if he wanted to switch driving duties with me.

…1 hour…2 hours…3 hours

Some stops for pee breaks…

Some may have more than pee breaks…

My first time being around Redding, CA, especially during the summer! Some Californians will know exactly what I’m going to discuss. It was a full-blown heatwave. The temperature soared to a staggering 115°F. As I stepped out of the car, it felt akin to removing my broiled chicken from the oven, but this time, I was engulfed in the heat from head to toe. Our destination was Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark, CA. I had intended to arrange a tour to explore the caverns, which promised to be quite an experience. The tour was supposed to span about 2 hours and included a bus and ferry ride before venturing into the cave itself. Regrettably, we had to abandon that plan. Our “early” departure that morning, coupled with a few necessary bathroom breaks, had caused us to run behind schedule. To add to it, the weather wasn’t particularly inviting either. However, I’m determined to return another time for that experience.

We spent some time driving around the vicinity, searching for a suitable park where we could enjoy our lunch. It wasn’t an elaborate lunch; we simply ate the food we had brought along. I was especially eager to dig into some watermelon before the actual meal.

Let’s delve into what we brought along for the trip. My wife has an immense passion for food. She thoroughly enjoys both cooking and savoring a wide range of cuisines. Her culinary skills extend to trying out various types of dishes from different cultures. When it comes to preparing food and snacks for road trips, she truly excels. On occasion, I’ve even thought that she might have transported the entire kitchen, complete with utensils, and emptied the pantry. Food undeniably plays a significant role in our journeys!

Continuing with this trip, our cargo was quite abundant. Certain food items even had their designated seat right next to me. If Jay happened to make a sharp drift, I half-jokingly thought they might topple over and engulf me.

Certainly, for our provisions, we packed bread accompanied by some dry shredded pork, leftover crispy chicken, and a jar of almond butter. Of course, our refreshing assortment of watermelon, honeydew, coconut water, and chilled water felt like an absolute delight! Following our meal, we returned to the highway and pressed on toward our next destination. We initially contemplated a hike down to the lake, but the notion quickly lost favor among the group due to the scorching heat. On the way, I couldn’t help but notice some people who were camping in the area despite the weather. It made me wonder how anyone could find joy in camping when temperatures were soaring above 100°F.

Recalling our first camping experience at Lake Sonoma a few years back on July 4th, we were relatively ill-equipped. The daytime heat made it nearly impossible to remain at the campsite. The temperature was just too intense. The only rationale I can fathom is that the allure lies in the proximity to the water. Perhaps campers spend most of their time by the lake, where the conditions are more bearable.

As we merged onto I-5, I noticed several fires scattered along the route. The heavy smoke was unmistakable both in scent and sight, creating an unsettling atmosphere. Helicopters were bravely navigating the thick smoke to combat the fires. The enormity of the task seemed daunting, yet I couldn’t help but admire their efforts and the inherent danger they faced. Having lived in the state for six years, with the last two being in California, I found myself pondering, “Is climate change undeniably at play here?”

Despite the less-than-ideal air quality, we made a stop at a waterfall named Hedge Creek Falls. We were still very much in California, with quite a distance to cover. While the waterfall’s flow was subdued this season, the water itself remained refreshingly cool. It proved to be perfect for splashing one’s face and rejuvenating the spirits. I learned that the area boasts multiple hiking trails leading to other waterfalls, but we opted to continue our journey.

With a few more hours of driving ahead, we aimed to reach our hotel in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Eventually, we crossed the state border and entered Oregon. By evening, we had reached the motel. Despite the continuing sunlight, we settled into the Maverick Motel, a booking I’d arranged through hotels.com. The platform presents a range of available accommodations, allowing you to filter by variables such as price, distance, and rating, among others. It also rewards you with a free night after ten bookings. The motel’s price was reasonable, and although we secured a king-size bed, the room felt somewhat cramped. The space was laden with furniture, yet it served its purpose for the night. After a swift and refreshing shower, the water proving especially revitalizing after the extended trip in the scorching weather, we were eagerly primed for dinner.

We were eager to explore a nearby brewery close to the motel. Regrettably, it turned out to be closed for the day. So, we decided to take a leisurely stroll around the area, which I suspect was downtown Klamath Falls. It became apparent that the downtown area was remarkably serene. This, of course, made sense considering that most people were likely spending the day with their loved ones, celebrating the July 4th holiday. I had anticipated a vibrant fireworks display later that evening. As a keepsake, we snapped a few photographs of the town.

While we were also on the hunt for a dinner spot, our options were rather limited. Eventually, we settled on trying out a pizza restaurant just across the street from the motel — Rodeos Pizza and Saladeria. The place was bustling, with a sizable line forming. Interestingly, I got the impression that many of the people weren’t locals. Similar to us, they seemed to be tourists in search of a meal during the July 4th holiday. We also contemplated something to drink, but we found that the prices for beer and wine were rather steep. You might wonder, “Why not give the local beer a shot?” Well, we figured we could always find those options at a store or Walmart and enjoy them back at the motel. Admittedly, I’m no expert on alcohol. My role was mainly to accompany our friends in their culinary explorations. @_@

As we waited for the pizza, which took approximately 45 minutes, Jay and I decided to make a quick run to the nearby Walmart to pick up some beer and wine. En route, I couldn’t help but notice that there were still individuals driving around the city displaying political banners and flags. They all seemed to be fervent Trump supporters. This made me ponder, “Why are there still political rallies happening during this time? Or is the fascination with Trump still enduring?”

Upon arriving at the Walmart entrance, something caught my attention — individuals openly carrying firearms. While it might be legal in that area, I couldn’t help feeling a touch cynical about the situation. As we exited the store, a female store worker was checking our receipt. In a respectful and friendly manner, I offered her a “Happy 4th.” I anticipated a smile in response, yet she regarded me with skepticism and remained silent. This prompted me to contemplate, “How might these individuals perceive us as Asians?” Intrigued, I sought out factual information to shed light on my curiosity.

In Klamath County, Oregon, during the last presidential election in 2020, 28.3% of the population voted for the Democratic Party, 68.9% cast their votes for the Republican Party, and the remaining 2.8% voted independently.

I couldn’t contain my thoughts and decided to share these reflections with Jay. Please understand that I’m not seeking judgment but rather an outlet to express my sentiments. I consciously steered clear of delving into politics, as I believed it wouldn’t lead to productive discussions. My intention is to honor people’s diverse viewpoints. After residing in the US for more than half a decade, what I hold in the highest regard about Americans is their incredible racial diversity and how they coexist harmoniously. People from all corners of the globe come together and collaborate to construct what is arguably the world’s greatest nation. I recognize that there are still ongoing societal challenges, as perfection is unattainable. As an immigrant hailing from a small developing country, I find the issue of racial equality here immensely intriguing. Unlike my home country, where we don’t experience the same scale of racial diversity as the US, I view racial equality as a complex and fascinating problem. While there is undoubtedly much work left to be done, I wholeheartedly commend how far the nation has progressed in this endeavor.

Alright, returning to our journey, the ladies were waiting for us, though they technically had a head start — LOL. Our hunger was quite intense by that point! As soon as we joined them, we indulged in our meal and shared cheers all around. On a side note, I must mention that the pizza turned out to be exceptional. I wholeheartedly recommend it. And with that, our first day of the trip came to a satisfying end. Anticipation for the upcoming day was already building within me — I couldn’t wait!

On the morning of July 5th, we checked out of the motel and made our way to Crater Lake, which was a 45-minute drive from the motel. It was my inaugural visit to this destination, and I was genuinely thrilled to explore the deepest lake in the US and the 7th deepest globally, with its deepest point reaching 1,943 feet. Being a national park, we needed to pay an entrance fee for access. The lake left a profound impression on me. Its striking blue hue and serene demeanor were truly captivating.

We initiated our exploration from the Rim Village Visitor Center and embarked on a hike toward Garfield Peak. The hike was demanding, spanning around 2 to 3 hours for a round trip of approximately 1.5 miles. However, the vistas we encountered along the way made every effort worthwhile. On one side, we beheld various angles of the entire lake, while the other side offered views of the encompassing forest. Despite the season, the weather wasn’t excessively hot, and the gentle wind bestowed a refreshing breath of air. As we ascended toward the peak, the elevation gain allowed us to view the lake from an even greater distance, culminating in a panoramic vista of the entire expanse. I found myself entranced by the lake’s serene blue beauty and felt an immense sense of tranquility. Only one question lingered — “Is swimming permitted in the lake?” I pondered this because I hadn’t spotted anyone swimming during our visit.

Indeed, there’s only a solitary spot designated for legal and safe swimming at Crater Lake. This area is situated along the Cleetwood Cove trail, which typically opens for public access from the middle to late part of June.

We devoted a substantial amount of time atop the peak. I sat beside my wife, savoring the awe-inspiring view of the lake. We indulged in some snacks, including an apple (my favored hiking treat), and took sips of water to rehydrate before commencing our descent. As we made our way down, we reached the visitor center around noon — perfect timing for lunch! Interestingly, we chose an alternative route, driving along the west rim toward our next destination. This wasn’t initially part of my plan. Regrettably, we weren’t able to dedicate more time to fully explore the area, which includes driving around the lake via the east rim and possibly hiking down to the water’s edge.

In any case, I wholeheartedly endorse visiting Crater Lake. Despite not being able to fully explore everything, the experience was remarkable. I genuinely hope to return for more thorough exploration in the future, as I feel there’s so much more to discover around this captivating lake.

Following lunch, we resumed our journey towards Coos Bay, Oregon, where we intended to spend the night before embarking on an ATV adventure at the renowned sand dunes of Oregon. This time, I assumed the role of the driver! Our route took us along HW138 and HW48 before we merged onto HW101. As we advanced, the weather gradually transitioned, mirroring our approach to the bay.

What struck me profoundly was the captivating beauty of the forest that enveloped us throughout the drive. The lush greenery was truly a sight to behold, making for an incredibly picturesque route. In the evening, we reached our lodging destination — the Red Lion Hotel in Coos Bay, Oregon. After checking in, we set out in search of dinner. The hotel’s receptionist provided us with some recommendations to guide our culinary quest.

I had this mindset of, “Ah, we’re getting recommendations straight from the locals,” and my expectations were set rather high. Eventually, we settled on trying a well-known seafood restaurant, enticed by the idea of savoring local seafood in a bay-side city. However, reality didn’t quite meet the hype. The experience turned out to be rather lackluster. We decided to share a portion of their fish and chips, but the wait time was simply unbelievable — nearly two hours for just that single dish. Needless to say, we were a mixture of hungry and angry — “hangry,” if you will.

The staff’s professionalism left much to be desired. The waitress offered a multitude of excuses for the delay. Initially, she blamed the misplaced order slip, and then she repeatedly approached us, asking for more patience while asserting that the food was being prepared. After nearly two hours of waiting, I decided to visit the restroom, contemplating whether to suggest to our group that we leave. I speculated that perhaps many staff members had called in sick after the July 4th holiday. While this would have been understandable, the waitress should have informed us about the situation.

Upon returning to the table, the food had miraculously arrived. However, our discontent with the service remained. The fish and chips, to be honest, didn’t merit the lengthy wait. I found them to be overpriced. Overall, this dining experience was easily the least pleasant aspect of our road trip. Since our appetites weren’t fully satiated, we swung by a local Safeway to purchase some snacks. Our friends grabbed drinks, my wife opted for frozen food, and we each retreated to our respective rooms, calling it a day.

Nonetheless, my excitement for the following day’s ATV adventure on the sand dunes was palpable.

Taking a deep breath… counting to four… I’m keeping my emotions in check. This experience was a learning moment for me — a lesson that will remain etched in my memory. I’ve decided to bid farewell to fish and chips; it’s no longer on my culinary radar. There’s truly nothing that stands out positively about it apart from being an indulgence in unhealthy fried fare. (Though, as a side note, I have since reconciled with fish and chips. My frustration was predominantly directed towards the service we encountered that day.)

Good morning! Now comes the exciting part — our very first ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) ride. When I was organizing the trip, I was on the lookout for enjoyable activities to undertake in Coos Bay, Oregon. It came to my attention that the cities and towns in that vicinity are renowned for their sand dunes. People don’t just visit these places for beach and ocean activities; they come to experience the thrill of the sand dunes. These destinations offer the option to rent ATVs or participate in guided group tours. So, I thought, why not give it a shot?

Our friends weren’t particularly interested, so I went ahead and booked a two-hour tour for my wife and me with Spinreel Dune Buggy and ATV Rentals and Dune Tours located in North Bend, Oregon. The facility was only a 20-minute drive from our lodging. Before we hopped onto the vehicles, the staff ensured we received thorough safety instructions. I hadn’t realized just how many expansive dunes adorned the area. One of the dunes we toured stretched an astonishing 28 miles — a truly remarkable sight.

Our experience was remarkably fun and definitely worth the price. We journeyed along the coastline and traversed numerous small forests. Sand dunes were in abundance, and we tackled both uphill and downhill stretches. Some inclines were quite steep, with heights of around 150 feet, offering an exhilarating experience akin to a roller coaster ride. In fact, I dare say it was even more enjoyable than snowmobiling. Nevertheless, I believe snowmobiling offers better scenery (I once tried it near Lake Tahoe).

My wife and I alternated driving duties during the tour. While she might appear petite, the tour guide hesitated to let her operate the vehicle. However, I had confidence in her abilities. At one point, he asked her to drive at the back of the group for safety reasons, as the upcoming route featured a winding, narrow road that required quick reactions at high speeds. He wanted to ensure everyone’s safety in case something went wrong. Riding as a passenger, I could tangibly sense the challenging nature of the winding path. Despite this, she excelled. Her cautious and meticulous nature shone through in her driving skills. The tour guide was genuinely impressed, and he showered her with compliments at the tour’s conclusion. This always fills me with immense pride.

All in all, the entire experience was fantastic, and we were grateful for the guidance of the tour guide, who skillfully led the way for first-time drivers like us. I strongly recommend this activity to others seeking an exhilarating adventure.

Right at noon, the couple arrived to collect us, and we were all set for lunchtime. As we journeyed toward Portland, Oregon, we kept an eye out for dining options along the route. In jest, I playfully suggested revisiting fish and chips again — though everyone promptly shut down that idea with a resounding “nope.” Clearly, we had sworn off that particular dish after the previous day’s misadventure.

Nevertheless, our lunch quest was slightly challenging. Our options were limited, with some establishments closed or operating with reduced staff due to the holiday. This time, we opted for a local restaurant. For my part, I selected clam chowder and a taco dish. The experience was a marked improvement from the fish and chips fiasco. The service was notably better, and the food met our expectations.

As we approached downtown Portland, the rush hour was in full swing, around 5 pm. I had heard rumors that some Oregonians were not particularly welcoming to Californians. During this time, as a car passed us, the driver directed a rather unfriendly middle finger gesture our way. Naturally, they could have noticed our California license plate, and this could have been the reason behind the gesture. While I can’t definitively say for certain, I don’t believe I had done anything wrong to provoke such a reaction. Regardless, in my mind, I chalked it up to an oddly unconventional form of “welcome.” :D

After navigating through nearly an hour of downtown traffic, we finally reached our hotel. We had secured a stay at the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Portland Airport, which is conveniently located in close proximity to the airport itself.

I appreciate your attentive reading up to this point. Regrettably, I must interrupt this writing venture. Almost two years have passed since I started this draft, and it seems unlikely that I’ll ever complete it. I’m shifting my focus to other matters. Nevertheless, I’ve left behind some interesting snippets. I hope you’ve found enjoyment in reading them. Have a great day!

Crater Lake

https://www.instagram.com/p/CvjZDjuOm8W/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

Sprinreel Dunes

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CvjZXnGJGvn/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

A waterfall in Oregon

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CvjYdwJNVb6/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

Seattle Downtown

https://www.instagram.com/p/CvjVNdPOj-v/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

Hurricane Ridge — Olympia National Park

https://www.instagram.com/p/CvjXyHxuaY5/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

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