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Tag: cliffs

I left my tooth in San Francisco

After communing with the trees in Redwood Country, Ace and I rushed through the rest of northern California — high-tailing it through Marijuana Country, barreling through Wine Country and feeling a bit like the Joads as, being occupants of what was clearly the dirtiest car on the highway, we rolled through Rich Folk Country.

Humboldt, Mendocino and Marin Counties were but a blur as we hurried south — trying to get to the Monterey area in time for an appointment. We stopped in the San Francisco area only long enough to eat lunch and try to get a photograph of Ace at the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was a chicken salad sandwich that did me in — more specifically, the bread on which it was piled. My troublesome dental cap came off again — as it has every week or so, after which I put in in my pocket and, later, glue it back on.

This time, unless it’s somewhere in my duffel bag, I seem to have lost it.

There is a direct correlation between how much of a hurry you are in and how many things go wrong. Everybody knows this. Few do anything about it. One in a hurry is more likely to leave something behind, make a mistake, forget an important chore, or behave in a reckless manner. Eighty-seven percent of bad things that happen are a result of people being in too much of a hurry.

Maybe it’s not exactly 87 percent, but it’s a lot.

This is the kind of elementary, any-doofus-knows logic that self-help authors write books about — often speedily, and with errors. It’s nose-on-your-face obvious. And yet we — often at the encouragement of our employers — don’t slow down. Not a whit.

And definitely not on Highway 101, where, since we were southbound, we couldn’t get to the official scenic vista point — unless we were willing to cross the Golden Gate, and pay its tolls, three times.

Instead, we took the last exit before the bridge and drove up a hill that’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, then walked up a trail that takes one to the edge of a cliff overlooking the bridge.

Low hanging clouds obscured the arches, and a wispy cold white haze climbed the mountainside and drifted right through us. A foghorn bellowed up from somewhere below every minute or so, making Ace stop in his tracks and look around. After about 10 blasts, he got used to it.

We spent 30 minutes among the clouds, then hiked back down to the car, whizzed across the bridge and through San Francisco,  seeing some familiar sights but only fleetingly and through dirty car windows. As we got back along the coast, on Highway 1, we were back in the clouds, winding along a cliffside highway past San Pedro Mountain. All the way to Half Moon Bay, almost into Santa Cruz, the fog clung to the coast like silver Spandex on a bicyclist’s behind.

I thought about all I was missing — partly because of the view-obscuring fog, partly because of my rush through San Francisco. I didn’t see a single seal. I didn’t get to mosey along Fisherman’s Wharf.

I realized if I hadn’t spent time there before, I wouldn’t be having the regrets. But I had, and they were good times, and now, just like my tongue kept reaching up to probe the gap in my grin, just as my hand kept searching my pocket for the missing cap, just as I rued that I no longer had the chops for sourdough rolls, I was focused on the void.

Voids aren’t a good thing to focus on.

So I turned on the radio, and “Uncle John’s Band” by the Grateful Dead was playing, and it was the long version, and when I got to Monterey, I cleaned my car windows, ate some Vietnamese food and snuggled with Ace on the Motel 6 bedspread.

I was still on the lookout for my fake tooth, but my outlook was improved.

Easing our way down the coast of Oregon

We are moving very slowly down Oregon’s Coast.

Majestic as it is, it’s the only way to do so.

With its sheer cliffs and magnificent rocks, crashing surf, and multitude of breathtaking vistas, one would be a fool to rush through, even in the rain and fog, and we had plenty of both. Even then, it was dazzling, the sort of place that, back in the days of film, you would quickly run out of it.

After a night at a Motel 6 in Portland, we had headed west on Highway 6 to Cannon Beach, where Ace got his first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, and his first walk on its beaches.

While fully recovered from the diarrhea that plagued him for a few days, he seemed a bit wary as we walked over the sand, dodging the occasional wave that would creep up higher than the others. Maybe the loudly crashing waves had him on edge, or there were just to many pieces of driftwood and washed up sea vegetation to sniff.

I, while awed at the beauty, wasn’t in the mood to frolic, either.

We got back on the highway, passing through several more quaint towns, and stopping at scenic overlook after scenic overlook. I don’t think we overlooked a single overlook. We weren’t covering much ground, but that which we did was stunning, right up there with Maine’s coast, which, scenic beauty-wise, has been my favorite part of the trip so far.

By early afternoon, I started looking for an inexpensive and dog-friendly motel, and pulled into what appeared to be one in Rockaway.

From the road, the Sea Haven Motel didn’t look like much — with its modest little sign, six rooms, and a hostel next door. 

I was given Room 6, paid about $50 — they dropped the $7 dog fee for me —  and rushed inside.

Why the rush? Because I had something similar to what Ace had, if you get my drift — and if you were in Room 5, you might have.

For two days, other than a trip to the store, I  stayed inside, eating only chicken noodle soup and toast, and becoming so familiar with the bathroom that I could describe it for you in great detail.

But I won’t, except to say the Sea Haven was probably the nicest, coziest, amenity-laden motel I’ve stayed at on this trip — and the perfect place to be sick.

Rockaway offered the perfect weather to be sick, too — for it was either raining or misting for two days straight.

The room had a full kitchen, fully equipped, including a little basket of treats — cookies, crackers, teas and coffees, popcorn and more, none of which I ate, but some of which I stole when I left.

I slept, sipped soup, watched the log trucks roll by, viewed some television and soaked for hours in — thanks to a bathroom well stocked with amenities, too — an ultra-moisturizing foaming milk bath.

Ultra-moisturized, I slept some more in the big fluffy, satin-sheeted bed.

The next morning I felt almost good to go — as long as I didn’t go to far. We drove a few more hours, about half of that spent stopped at pullovers gawking at the sea and the rocks and  the perpetually crashing clash between the two.

Highway 101 in Oregon more than rivals Highway 101 in northern California, offering that same feeling that you’re but a tiny, tilting, insignificant blip in the great scheme of things.

At times, the view disappeared, and road, cliff, sea and fog all became one big blur, leading me to squint my eyes and slap myself awake, and making my belly roil a little more.

We only got as far as Coos Bay, where the rhythm of the roils told me to stop. We Motel Sixed again.

We plan to continue down the coast tomorrow, probably another two hours worth of driving, which — given “rest” stops, as they say, and given all there is to overlook — will take four.

One of these days we’ll make it to California, but I’m in no hurry.

Overlooked: Scenic but deadly Glen Canyon

It took eight years to build the Glen Canyon Dam — far less to construct the scenic overlook that sits on the edge of the canyon, about a mile south.

Unlike the dam itself, a massive and complex project, building the overlook was a simple matter of putting in a road and parking, adding some steps to make the sandstone trail down to the overlook easier to negotiate, and putting up a stone wall at the base — to keep tourists from plunging from the top of the sheer canyon walls to the river 400 feet below.

The wall is short enough to look over, but its actual height varies, depending on where the wind blows the sand. Yesterday it was about four feet high in some spots, with one tiny section that, for reasons unknown, was built shorter than the rest — only about two feet high. Above the short wall, there’s a steel grate that rises vertically — bolted and cemented firmly into place.

And hidden on that grate — visible only if you look closely — are two names, scrawled with a soldering iron: Cisco and Sadie.

As you might guess, there’s a story behind that grate – previously untold, and very sad.

The ballad of Cisco and Sadie began in Idaho, which is where Dail Hoskins was living before he decided on a change of scenery and moved to Page, Arizona in 2000, bringing his two dogs with him.

Page, less than 50 years old, had emerged as a popular recreation spot by then, thanks to construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which allowed — or forced, depending on your point of view — the Colorado River to back up and form Lake Powell.

Construction on the dam began in 1956. It’s the reason the town of Page exists, and it provides water and electricity to much of the west. It was also very controversial, and still is. While completion of the dam in 1964 allowed water and electricity to be harnessed, it also represented a huge disturbance to the ecosystem and meant the loss of much of the beautiful scenery of Glen Canyon. The controversy surrounding the building of the dam is viewed by some as the beginning of the modern-day environmental movement, and it still sparks debates pitting nature against industrial progress.

Partly to showcase the government-built dam — one of the largest in the U.S. — the overlook was built later. It’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, falling under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

The trail down to the overlook is less than a mile. The view, minus the power lines, is magnificent. To Hoskins, who after arriving in Page had bought a little motel, the overlook seemed a good place to take his dogs, Cisco and Sadie, for a hike.

It was about ten years ago that he took the dogs there, and let them both off their leashes. They were generally good about sticking close by and not wandering off.

But, after a few minutes, when Hoskins looked around to find Cisco and Sadie, both had disappeared. He feared the worst, and what happened turned out to be just that. One of the dogs, not being able to see over the wall, had — maybe in pursuit of wildlife — leapt over that shorter section, plunging hundreds of feet to his death. The other immediately followed.

Hoskins blamed no one but himself, and watching his face as he retells the story, it’s clear he still lives with the guilt. In the days after losing his dogs, he hired a river outfitter to take him to retrieve their corpses, then gave them a proper burial.

Hoskins later learned that at least four other dogs had met the same fate, plunging over the same short section of wall. When he called government bureaucrats to tell them what happened to his dogs and see if that short section of wall could be built up, he was told that his dogs should have been on leashes.

He agrees that much is true, but the hazard remained. So he decided to handle things himself. He welded together slabs of steel, forming a large, barred grate, about five feet wide and five feet high. And without getting anybody’s approval, he snuck down to the site with a friend in the dark of night, carrying along the grate, cement, water and tools.

Amazingly, this being just after 9/11, and amid a period of heightened security at the dam, no one noticed he was there. He secured the grate deep in the ground using concrete, filling the gap that existed over the short section of wall. It took a few hours.

No one has ever traced the work to him, and apparently no one was angered by his addition. The park service has affixed a sign to the grate that reads: “Defacing natural features destroys our heritage. Graffiti is unsightly and illegal.” 

It appears Hoskins got away with his dark-of-night, do-it-yourself construction project.

“I did it so it wouldn’t happen to any more dogs … or kids,” he says, though one gets the impression the covert project also served as both an outlet for his grief and a tribute to his dogs.

On one rail of the grate, he inscribed with solder the names of Cisco and Sadie.

Ten years later, the blowing sandstone has yet to brush their names off, and the grate still stands firmly in place, solid as a rock.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)