Summer is the time of road trips and family get-togethers. So, as one is won’t to do during the season, I went on a road trip, seeing the seas with family.
It was my sister’s idea. Sarah wanted to do something cool for the summer and also let her daughter, Ayla, gain hours for her upcoming driver’s license test. We decided on a one-night camping trip to the ocean with several stops around the west and north side of the Olympic Peninsula to boot.
We met in Everett, at the McDonalds off 44th, and I took on my passenger for most of the trip. Jayvyn, my nephew, has been in drop-tops only one other time – when I took him for a quick joy ride in a 2016 Mini Cooper S Convertible – and he loved it. This time, he’d get a 2-day experience instead of a quick trip between Snohomish and Granite Falls.
I pulled up in style: the 1996 Mazda Miata MX-5 “Mazdarati” was freshly washed and newly waxed, gleaming in the sun like a Starlight Mica Blue like a sapphire. The tan leather tonneau was down, bringing the tan leather interior into the sun (heated seats the old school way).
The trip down was hot and full of traffic, so I laid out the ground rules early:
- No feet on my dashboard
- No “Are we there yet” or “How much longer” comments
- No complaints (this worked about as well as an umbrella salesman in Arizona)
We skipped I-5 through Seattle and took the Viaduct. Sadly, going south along there isn’t as cool as going north. We shall miss the Viaduct, but that’s a story for another day. It was gloriously clear and the scent of freshly fried fish wafted up from Ivar’s on the waterfront. We both commiserated about our lack of fishy fried foods and kept heading south.
Through Tacoma, I distracted him from the desire to eat by pointing out landmarks such as the LeMay museum and the Tacoma Dome – a tactic I used later on for other things. We stopped at ate at a different McDonalds just outside JBLM for lunch. He enjoyed the onramp not only for the Zoom-Zoom fun, but also for the military munitions he saw out his window.
Around Olympia, we fell into a rhythm of superhero talk. Now, if you ever want to become knowledgeable in the realm of superheroes, talk to Jayvyn. He quickly proved that my superhero know-how was lacking greatly. While we also talked about cars, as he has a growing collection of magazines and toys courtesy of his auto-loving aunt and fellow family members, his favorite chat was about superheroes.
By the time we hit Aberdeen, we were well into the 100th “If you could be any superhero mix you wanted, what would it be”. I still had another hour of driving until we reached the campground.
Pacific Beach is a great little campground, just a razor grass-covered sand-dune away from the waves. We arrived in a mist of fog, Jayvyn and I well ahead of the speed limit-following, niece-driven Saturn. Our zoom-zoom fun gave Jayvyn a good half-hour to play in the sand near our site (which was right on that grass-covered sand dune). The sounds of crashing waves lulling my no-cell-reception fears that the Saturn occupants got lost.
While waiting, I gained many odd-ball looks from pickup truck and trailer-towing drivers as they passed my teeny Miata parked in a rather large camping spot, but when Ayla pulled the Saturn up, they realized why. We pitched camp first, pulling out her ginormous 10-billion-person tent and unpacking the cars. The kids would get the ground while we took an air mattress; the comforts of being the adult in our pseudo-glamping trip.
After camp was made, we went for a walk on the beach. The kids running ahead while Sarah and I followed at an ‘adult’ pace. Ayla took Mitzi, Sarah’s old-looking puppy, and ran ahead – expending the teenage energies pent up during the drive – and Javyvn went to town on some sand with his bucket and shovel and hands, making single mound towers in several places along the beach.
The crazy fool even sat in the extremely cold waters of the Northern Pacific Ocean. Water that was maybe, maybe 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But the cold-butted babe enjoyed every second of his rear-chilling dips… yes, multiple.
When not stomach-deep in salt water, Jayvyn loved digging in the sand. During all our time camping at the beach as kids, our parents always told Sarah and I that if we kept digging we could catch razor clams with our bare hands. We never did. Jayvyn, without prodding or mentions, did, and the exuberance showed on his face. The razor clam was returned, safely, to the wild.
After our walk, dinner and card games ensued with a brief stop to enjoy the spectacular sunset on the ocean. The sunset was spectacular.
(More below photo.)
We fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves and woke to the sun peeking through tent windows. Camp broke quickly and everything was packed up in short order, our brief stay at the ocean enjoyed thoroughly.
Camp broke early as there was plenty of driving to do that day. Jayvyn and I took point in our drive up the coast, quickly leaving Ayla behind (sorry kiddo!). For the second day, the top went down as soon as it was dry from the morning’s dew drops and the tonneau went on. I slathered Jayvyn with sunblock again before we headed out onto the open roads, leaving Ayla and Sarah well behind in the Saturn.
Jayvyn and I quickly settled into the 400th round of “if you could mix any superheroes, what would it be”, but this time he upped the ante and started mixing five to six at a time. Whoa Nelly, did it strain the limit of my superhero knowledge. He came out of left field with some superhero tidbits from comic books and cartoons, and I knew I was well out of my league.
Cruising up Highway 101, we regaled each other with tales of how my combination or team of superheroes was best suited to take on his team of villains. Daredevil, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were some solid choices shared by both of us, pitted against the likes of Doc Oc, Croc, Lex Luthor, Dr. Doom and more.
We took a quick zooming side trip around a portion of Lake Quinault, the Mazdarati coming alive on the quick corners of South Shore Road. At the Lake Quinault lodge, we pulled over to put on the Yi action camera (Chinese knockoff gopro) and went back down the curvy roads again. Apparently, Ayla and Sarah took the same turn, but we were so far ahead that we never even saw them on the road.
Finally back on Highway 101 and heading west again toward the ocean,
Somewhere around Kalaloch and the 10,000th superhero mash-up, I was spent. Superhero’d out. I had no more knowledge left in me. The request for something different brought a dejected look to Jayvyn’s face, as he stared out the passenger side, that made my heart break. However, we quickly got onto to other stuff to talk about. School, cars, history, food… and, yes, more superheroes. At least I got a bit of a break, and it’s better than a kid that asks “Are we there yet” every ten minutes.
At Kalaloch Lodge we got into some apples I’d brought for snacks and enjoyed watching the waves crash into the beach below. We rounded up with Ayla and Sarah, learned some stuff about whales and also that we’d been saying Kalaloch incorrectly (it’s pronounced (Clay-Loch, not kah-lah-loch…), and headed back onto the ocean-front roads.
Ayla, since it was her first road trip as a driver, picked a cave tree (tree cave?) as a destination of choice for the trip. The Kalaloch Tree Cave is on Ruby Beach, down a short flight of stairs and across some loose sands. We stopped for lunch, a restroom break, obligatory cave photos, and witnessed whales breaching just off shore. Dozens of skyward spouts of air and water dotted the ocean tops to the wonder of nearby beachgoers, us included.
Onward again, we stopped again at another beach parking lot, but didn’t stay. We had places to go and seas to see. Ayla hopped in the car for a bit and I enjoyed non-superhero talk for a bit. Her smiles grew around the curvy bits because everyone knows: No One Drives like Aunty Dee.
I lived up to my reputation for safe, zoom-zoming fun. Near forks, Ayla hopped back into the Saturn for more driving hours and Jayvyn returned to the Superhero Seat.
At Sappho, we turned north onto Highway 113 (aka Burnt Mountain Road), planning a side trip to Pillar Point. While heading further along 113 would lead to Cape Flattery via some of the best curvy roads I’ve driven since Japan, we headed east on Highway 112.
And immediately hit fresh tar. It was so fresh, in fact, that we had an escort through the work zone. (Dang it! I just washed all the Seattle tar off and waxed it!!) After the construction site, we zoomed around a Ford Fiesta work car and tore down some curves. I put Jayvyn on Deer Watch, his first experience with Deer Watch in his life.
He did well. On the end side of one glorious curve, he pointed out a 4-hooved friend just scared off the road by my high-rpm corner exit. I took it down by several mph, while keeping rpms high (to ward off deers) and smiles permanently affixed.
At Pillar Point, I took a quick photo session with the Mazdarati while Ayla gathered us daisies. A few years back we spread my grandma’s ashes off of Pillar Point, joining grandpa who passed many years before. That day, we stood on the boat launch with waves licking our toes and communing with Grandma and Grandpa Dunscomb. Sarah asked for words and I spoke without hesitation: “Grandma, you were a salty old lady and we miss you.” Simple and honest. It works. We tossed in our daisies, and Ayla joined me in the car for the second time.
Ayla took a little more Miata-seat time and we discussed her plans for the future. My niece is an achiever. While she laments the pressure this brings, she wants to achieve. She wants to follow in my footsteps and attend the University of Washington, though not for Journalism (probably a good choice). It’s enough to make any Auntie proud and humbled. She has big plans, this one, and she’s turning into just the kind of woman to get it done.
We cruised down the Strait of Juan De Fuca Highway, second- and third-gear most of the way. The sun was shining, the tires were rolling, and (even though the fresh pavement was marring my newly waxed sapphire) spirits were high.
Our last co-driving stop was at Salt Creek. One of the places I took Ayla and her great-grandmother when Ayla was very young. So young she only remembers sleeping in the same bed as Auntie Dee; probably a boon since she was the “Are we there yet” child in her youth who seriously hated the 3-hour ferry wait to get to “Big Grandmas”.
At Salt Creek, Ayla and Javyvn had a water fight in the creek, Mitzi ran from the water when put into it, and Sarah and I enjoyed our view from dry land. Salt and leather don’t mix. It was here we split paths, though I did see them momentarily on the road into Port Angeles after I stopped to check fill up a tire that was 4 psi low.
I drove around 550 miles – top down the whole way – from home door and returning to it, much of the time with Superhero Extraordinaire Javyvn smiling at my side. I don’t get a lot of time to just chill with my nephew, and I enjoyed each and every superhero-chatting mile that I got to spend with him.
This is what road trips were for: family, fun, and cool places.
If you’d like to enjoy the same trip as taken in our Seeing the Sea with Family road trip, you can find it here: https://goo.gl/maps/ZPUx317w9jD2.