Avenue of the Giants

I know it sounds like a cheesy 1980s action cartoon, but that’s the actual name of this road. It’s the old alignment of US 101 before they built a freeway and moved it over there. Now it’s state highway 254, but nobody calls it that. “Avenue of the Giants” is a much cooler name.

After a quiet night in the casino parking lot, I got a bit of work done, then hit US 101 north again. The drive was pretty, scenic, and uneventful. After a while I reached the Avenue of the Giants. I’ve been saying I’ve missed trees. Well, I got trees, in a literally big way.

When I saw the sign for the Drive-Thru Tree Park, I had to stop. I knew the van wouldn’t fit, but I would. Barely! The Chandelier Tree is 312 feet tall, 21 feet in diameter, and 2,400 years old. No, I didn’t stick an extra zero on that last number. It’s probably the most American thing ever to take such a stunning piece of nature and carve a tunnel through the trunk so we can drive cars through it. I was still awestruck by the size of the thing, and especially its age. This tree was alive during most of the Roman Empire. It blows my mind.

Lister got to do some exploring as well through a “small” portion of a tree. Even on its side, this chunk is still taller than me.

Since this was a park, I’d paid to get in, and it was lunchtime, I made myself lunch in the parking lot while Lister roamed and got himself tangled. As usual, he was a hit with passers by, and got quite a bit of attention, which is his favorite thing in the world.

From the moment I decided to head to the Pacific Northwest, one of my goals was to hug a redwood. Cross one more item off my bucket list. Achievement unlocked. Lister did his share of exploring, too.

The drive itself was intense. It wasn’t particularly difficult or technical, but there was no room for error — literally, as some of these redwoods much wider than my van were right at the edge of the road. It was a bright sunny day, yet I had to take my sunglasses off because the shadows under these enormous trees were so dark. I’m glad I got my dash cam hooked up again, but I haven’t gotten the footage off it yet. That should make for a great video. Especially when I speed it up several times and make it look like the speeder bike chase from Return of the Jedi.

My general goal for the day was to reach the Eureka area, where the various apps said there were some places I could park for the night. But I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to spend the night in the redwood forest? I was even willing to spend some money to do it. I found Hidden Springs Campground which looked promising, but it was closed. Just down the road I saw a sign for Giant Redwoods RV and Cabin Destination. On a whim, I took the turn toward it. They had plenty of room for me. I’ve spent less on a cheap motel room for a night, but few motel rooms have you surrounded by redwoods, with a river running past, too. I splurged and settled in.

That evening, I thoroughly enjoyed company and conversation with Donna, the camp host. She and I were the only van dwellers there, with everyone else in big fancy RVs. She also has a cat, and also spent last winter in Quartzsite. Her story isn’t mine to tell, but we found a great deal to talk about until after the sun went down and it started getting chilly. Then we retreated to our vans for the night.

I woke up way too early in the morning. There was no reason for it — no wind, no rain, even Lister didn’t wake me up. But awake I was, so I decided to take a long hot shower, since I wouldn’t be in anybody’s way at that hour. I took advantage of the fast WiFi to work until the 11:00 am checkout time. I also refilled my water jugs, plugged the van into the electrical hookup, and got my money’s worth out of all the services I could. The only thing I didn’t do was laundry, since I did it on my way out of Pahrump and didn’t have a full load yet. I said goodbye to Donna on my way out, and invited her to look me up in Quartzsite next winter.

The rest of the Avenue of the Giants was very much like the first part. That’s not to say it wasn’t impressive. There just isn’t much more to say about it. Eventually it dumped me back onto US 101, and I pressed onward.

After winding through the woods a bit more, the 101 took me back to the coast. Now I had the ocean on my left, and redwoods on my right. It was rather windy, and the ocean was rough. I didn’t feel much like getting out and walking around, but I enjoyed the view as I drove along, and stopped from time to time to take it all in.

My overnight stop was yet another casino, the Redwoods Hotel and Casino. I promise I haven’t developed a gambling problem. It’s just that casinos often offer travelers like me a place to stay for a night, and with so much Native land in the area they’re a fairly frequent occurrence along my route. I also suspect that, being sovereign territory, they’re exempt from local and county laws prohibiting overnight parking or sleeping in vehicles, because California hates van lifers. At this particular casino I had to check in with security and give them my name and vehicle information in exchange for the night’s stay. They were extremely pleasant to deal with. Even better, their free WiFi was excellent, letting me catch up on videos and other entertainment that I’d missed while traveling, as well as chatting with Donna the previous night.

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