Pacific Northwest Road Trip!
Last summer, my husband and I went on a 6-week road trip starting in San Francisco, passing through British Colombia, and exploring many of Western America's best national parks, as well as hidden gems. Since returning, I've been daydreaming about spending more time on the road. So when Christina, my friend from college, said it was her dream to drive along the west coast and explore the Pacific Northwest, I was totally in.
Simultaneously, I had heard about Horizon, a new “couch-surfing style” start-up aiming to help the homeless problem in Seattle. With the “stay a night, give a night” program, I would stay with one of their approved hosts, while they allocate tourism dollars otherwise spent on expensive hotels or vacation rentals to help homeless people. It seemed like a win-win. I would get to stay with a fun host and learn more about Seattle, while helping to provide a child with “one night of food, shelter, and stability” all for $24 ($14 goes to the shelter, and $10 for the service fee), but of course, you can donate more, and you can stay more nights. (Check it out: http://www.horizonapp.co/stay-night-give-night/).
Horizon’s mission statement spoke to me, “Our mission is to increase access to travel opportunities by enabling shared hospitality among trusted contacts and communities; providing free or cheap accommodation and cultural experiences not otherwise available. Enabling more people to venture outside the friendly confines of their own country and experience an array of foreign cultures, will grow the community of those who realize we live privileged lives the majority of the world can only dream of. Those who experience the world are exponentially more likely to work on projects that improve society and raise the standard of living for those in poverty, rather than simply maximizing income. In short, we’re the travel community cares about making the world a better place — and means it.” After filling out a brief questionnaire about who I am, what I was coming to Seattle for, and what my passions are, I was determined and excited to get to Seattle!
First thing Sunday morning, Christina (who flew in from NYC for this trip!) and I hit the road in our rental car. (Pro tip: You can often find hella cheap rental cars a few days before the trip, even the day of, as they are just trying to get their cars off the lot!). Our first stop was Santa Rosa for some beers and lunch. We then cut over to the coast to soak up the stunning views of Bodega Bay and Jenner. (Side note: At Jenner, you can jump in a kayak and paddle alongside adorable seals, any time of the year!)
Next stop was Sea Ranch, for a self-guided tour of the interesting homes, and last stop of the day was Mendocino. We enjoyed the sunset at the headlands, feasted on homemade bites at Noyo Harbor, and stayed in a cute B&B. The next morning we strolled Mendocino a little more, and set out for Eureka. We had lunch at Cafe Nooner, which was featured on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" (the TV show). We enjoyed Eureka's quirkiness, and then set out to find some redwood trees.
After spending quality time amongst the giants, we headed to our Airbnb for the night, a cute secluded cottage not too far from the Oregon state line.
The next day, after more coastal driving, and more oohs and aahs, we headed inland to Ashland. We really enjoyed exploring Ashland. We strolled its adorable streets, hung out in Lithia Park, ate lots of good food, and went chocolate tasting. That night we stayed at the Winchester Inn, a cute and comfortable hotel with an outrageously good breakfast. (Pro tip: As we wanted to keep our trip open and unplanned, we opted not to book lodging in advance. Using the app HotelTonight saved us lots of $ on amazing places at the last minute.)
After Ashland, we ventured back to the coast and drove up the length of it, stopping along the way for fish & chips, clam chowder, drinks, selfies, sight-seeing, and reflecting on life. We decided to stay in the town of Newport that night at Nye beach. Our place had a fire pit and a heated pool that jutted out above the beach below. We were staying in a Tsunami Hazard zone, but then again, most of the Oregon coast is a Tsunami Hazard Zone.
In the morning, we strolled around the quaint town of Newport, then continued our drove along the Oregon coast. It rained all day, but it didn't bother us, as it seemed fitting. We checked out some of the famous sights from The Goonies, saw about 500 Tsunami warning signs, strolled on the beach, explored the smallest harbor in the world, ate awesome fish tacos, encountered some wildlife, and passed by the 45th parallel halfway between the equator and the North Pole. It was a busy and exciting day, but my favorite part was stopping at the Tillamook Factory for cheese tasting and ice cream! We made it to Astoria that night.
After a rainy night, we set out for Portland. Since it was my 4th time in Portland, my goal was really just to show Christina my favorite spots. We went to the Japanese Garden, bought books at Powell books, drove through Northwest (personally, I find the Eastside of Portland much cooler and more exciting than the Westside), went to antique shops and second hand stores in Southeast, had coffee and treats on a cute red bus (Tov in SE), ate some praline bacon at Screen Door, relished the unique and delicious ice cream at Salt & Straw on Alberta St, had an awesome meal at Bombay Theater also on Alberta St., and enjoyed the outrageous experience that is the Kennedy School, and stayed the night in a boho-chic basement airbnb in NE. (Pro Tip: If you’re in Portland, checking out the Kennedy School is a must. The McMenamin brothers restored this former school into a hotel, complete with an outdoor soaking pool, movie theater, restaurant/bar, game room, cigar bar, you name it, this place has got it all, even a scavenger hunt you can participate in!)
And now, finally, we were headed to Seattle! How exciting! My hosts were waiting with the warmest welcome. I have stayed in Airbnb all over the world, but have never had a welcome like this! What made it different was that they knew a lot about me, they knew what my passions were, and we were united in a mission to help Seattle’s homeless population. We talked for a long time, as if we were old friends, and they gave me so many amazing Seattle tips. They were diehard fans of Seattle, and I found it infectious! I took all of their suggestions and was ready to experience their version of Seattle (having been a few times before I felt I had seen most of the cool spots, but I was mistaken! Side note: I loved visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit on my first trip to Seattle, it’s a must-see if you haven’t been!). From Queen Anne, I started walking, and stopped at Kerry Park (many a Seattle postcard came from the views at this park), continued onward along the water, but was first stopped in my tracks by the most beautiful street covered in cherry blossoms! Everything was covered, the houses, the cars, the sidewalk, it looked like crushed pink snow.
I continued along the waterfront admiring sculptures, joggers, and the views (In the meantime, Christina had opted to explore downtown).
I came across the Amazon Go store (the first ever “just walk out” shopping experience), enjoyed seeing the Seattle Spheres (also called the Amazon greenhouse. Heads up though, you can’t get inside unless you work for Amazon or come with someone who does! It’s still cool to see from the outside). I continued on to the Public Market, where I met Christina, and had clam chowder, and the “greatest salmon sandwich in the world” at the Market Grill, which real talk, was pretty damn good.
We even made some new friends while sitting at the counter style seats. Christina and I explored the many many levels of the market and then headed to the street for some hot apple cider (it was a windy and chilly day), and some dessert at Piroshky Piroshky. We strolled the winding streets behind the market, saw the gum wall (ew), and I headed for a walk to Capitol Hill. After exploring the quirkiness of Capitol Hill, I continued on to Volunteer Park, where I enjoyed great views, the conservatory, and even accidentally got to see Bruce Lee’s grave. My last stop was to explore the adorable neighborhood of Fremont. I had coffee, saw the troll under the bridge, the Lenin statue, and enjoyed exploring the many interesting shops of the area.
Finally, it was time to say goodbye to my amazing Seattle hosts (I would have definitely stayed longer if I could have!). We chatted a bit more, facebook friended each other, and discussed meeting up when I’m in Seattle again, or if they come to San Francisco! Christina and I flew our separate ways, and I arrived home with enough memories…to write a blog about it! I recalled how, strolling around Seattle, I happened upon Mary’s Place.
Mary’s Place is a very special place in Seattle known for "empowering homeless women, children, and families to reclaim their lives." Through the window, I saw children playing. Mary’s Place is where the money from your stay in Seattle would go, if you do it through Horizon, like I did. I think it’s no secret that I love travel and everything about it. I have always believed that traveling makes us better versions of ourselves. How could it not? When you travel, you’re learning and growing, and your mind is expanding, and when you’re open to all of that, you won’t return home the same person. You will be full of stories and real life experiences, you will have a better understanding of people and places that are different from what you know to be true. Travel for travel’s sake, but also travel with a purpose. If you find yourself traveling to Seattle, WHY NOT have an adventure, but also give back at the same time? And hopefully, Horizon’s program will grow to many other places around the world!