Waking up in Reno, Nevada, wasn’t so bad. It’s nestled in the Sierra Nevadas, but still has that Vegas feel to it. We were actually more excited for the drive through northern California and to possibly hit Oregon.
We started out with the usual hotel continental breakfast. I have to give props to Holiday Inn Express, because our stays were truly comfortable and their generous free breakfasts kept us on a budget. Usually we would have our cup of Joe, eat our choice of the morning fare. Then we’d take a couple of bananas, some muffins, and fill our coffee cups to go so we had lunch, too. Being on the road for so long, the food was starting to sound unappetizing. Other than the Mexican fare in New Mexico and the heavenly experience with Gordon Ramsay in Vegas, the food was getting pretty lackluster.
It soon became obvious that the drive was going to be a long one. Not just distance-wise, because we had to go all the way across California, but we didn’t realize the drive was going to be a beautiful, meandering drive through the winding roads in the mountains and national forests. That was a surprise that we both appreciated. Dani was the driver for the day, and she white-knuckled it a few times on the roller-coaster roads. I just looked around in wonder. In one view was a mountainous road that had higher, more elevated mountains in the background that were snow-capped against blue skies. Rivers snaked back and forth on either side of the highway as we crossed bridges. Other than stopping for gas when necessary or taking a bathroom break, we pretty much kept to the road. What surprised me most was the view. I’ve been to Los Angeles while visiting my Aunt Janie quite a few years ago, and was wide-eyed at the big city, the people, and the fast traffic. With all the Beverly Hills hullabaloo with snotty people and their pretentious lifestyles–I was convinced California wasn’t a place for me. The opportunity to see this beautiful portion of the state was amazing. It was peaceful and almost relaxing.
We had spurts of conversation and more goofy singing, but we spent some of the time in companionable silence. I’m sure Dani was thinking about her adventure to come. I was wondering what was happening back home and feeling homesick for Mike. It would have been great to share the entire trip with him, but I think it happened the way it did for a reason. Spending the time with Dani was just something I needed to do.
When it comes right down to it, Dani is probably the one person on earth who knows me, how I think, and what I’m feeling, just by a look. We’ve always been close, even through those trying teenage years. When she went to college, the distance dimmed our daily interactions, but I could still tell by her mannerisms, the way she reacted to a question, or when her irritation was a cover for something else going on. She does the same for me. It’s uncanny sometimes, but I can react a certain way to something and she immediately gets why I did it and understands the reason behind it. I don’t have to explain or elaborate on anything. It’s probably because it was just the two of us for so long—even when it wasn’t just us two. I know every mother has that with their children, I just had the opportunity to have a concentrated dose of it on this trip. That doesn’t mean I can presume to say how my daughter feels or what she is thinking or what choices she is going to make, but the closeness did get us through this trip.
This trip taught me that I still have a lot of life to live and adventures to experience. Like her, I’m willing to try new things, go new places, and do things I’ve never done before. Now I’m doing it as a new form of ME, not as mom. It was rewarding to be in sync for the duration of our travels. It was a perfect time. It was a time in our lives that I will never forget. Hopefully, when I’m long gone, she will look back at this time and think, “I’m so glad I did that with my mom. Some really good memories happened there.” Actually, I hope she always thinks that about me.
The gray-ribbon road finally led us to the Pacific Coast. We had to traverse a flooded salt marsh before getting to the flat stretch of beach. Dani had her shoes off and was splashing through the marsh, while I took my time and stepped gingerly, hoping there were no critters in the freezing water. Once we rounded an area of sea grass and the grayish expanse of beach was before us. The sun was starting to set against the cloudy sky, and it was beautiful. The difference between our flat Atlantic Ocean beaches and the Pacific were the big, jutting rocks. The most fun part for me was taking pictures of Dani against the setting sun. She was jumping and flying through the air, totally happy and free. It made my heart sing.
Our highway exit did not have hotels or restaurants, so we drove up the Pacific Highway to the next exit, into a little town called Trinidad, California. There we looked down into a tiny harbor filled with sailboats, big jutting rocks, a sweet little lighthouse, and a steep stairway carved in the cliff leading to the beach. It was breathtaking and we started down the stairway without a thought—until we got closer to the bottom. Then my knees were throbbing. I turned around and saw the stairway and almost cried. While Dani continued down to the beach, I climbed a few stairs, turned around to snap pictures, and then ascended a few more stairs. By the time I was at the top, I was huffing and puffing, legs burning, and promising myself I would be back in the gym every single day when I got home. I haven’t kept that promise to myself, yet, but I’m going to.
When the sun set completely, we reluctantly left the beach and found our hotel, ordered a pizza, and went to sleep. Oregon was in our sites for the morning, but first we would go through the Redwood Forest.