18 Nights + 19 Days of Fun and Fiasco in Oregon & California

Last year around this time, I realized that two conferences I was planning on attending were separated by two weeks. Strictly speaking, that’s not ideal. Even one conference means juggling class activities, writing, and other work responsibilities. I shortly realized that both of these conferences were on the west coast, adding extra travel time and cost. I had a crazy idea of trying to connect the two conferences—to just fly out once and then stay out west, returning after the second conference. It was too crazy of an idea to consider much further. Then some friends and colleagues got me talking about it and encouraged me to reconsider. Late in the summer, I approached my department chair about the prospect and got permission for a plan to cover being gone for an extended period of time.

So here, we are, on the flip side of the fiasco. We spent 18 nights in Oregon + California. I spent five full days conferencing + one day visiting a peer institution to deliver a talk and meet with faculty/students. Six of the days were weekend days. We saw Yosemite in the snow, California Condors in Pinnacles National Park, and much of the Pacific Coast highway. In the first leg of our trip, some criminals smashed out the back of our rental car and took most of our everyday belongings (toiletries, clothing, electronic chargers + connectors). So, the trip was amazing and terrible. We’re still dealing with the insurance claims for our belongings, and there are things that are irreplaceable. Nearly 80% of Kelly’s wardrobe was stolen. And my favorite running pants for winter. The list is long.

I had two papers accepted while we were traveling and got good news about the score on a grant submission from fall. I worked with a colleague to get a new paper submitted and managed countless teaching and research projects during the few hours after the sun set every day. Between working ahead the whole semester and this work, I was almost able to stay caught up.

Here’s the itinerary:

Days 1-3: Portland, Oregon. Kelly & I visited and hiked up Multnomah Falls, an iconic waterfall outside of the city as well as to a few other waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. Otherwise, these were full days of working for me. I attended talks, met with current and former students and collaborators, and soaked up time with my inner circle of social psychologists. Kelly spent a few days adventuring on his own after purchasing snow tires (just in case) for our rental. He drove around Mount Hood one day and went up to Mount Rainier another.

Days 4-5: Oregon Coast. We spent two nights in Yachats, Oregon, a coastal town we fell in love with a few summers back. Our lodging was the simple but perfect Fireside Motel. We had a coastal view, which came in handy for the few hours of work we spent sitting and working during some afternoon rain. We visited the Tillamook cheese factory for amazing macaroni & cheese, Yaquina Head Lighthouse for some hiking and views, and we hiked to and from Hobbt Beach from Heceta Head Lighthouse. Of course, we also spent a lot of time photographing and watching the waves crash at Thor’s Well on Cape Perpetua.

Day 6: We drove down the coast, stopping at Natural Bridges, and then making our way to Crescent City. Kelly had fish & chips on his mind from a few summers back and we found the same restaurant, which was as delicious as we remembered. A lot of the park was closed due to recent snow/rainfall but we still enjoyed wandering through Redwoods forests for a few hours before spending a truly lovely night at the Holiday Inn Express/Casino in the middle of the park (we had expected this stay to be really miserable and super sketchy, but it was genuinely nice for a road trip).

Day 7: After a morning hike through the Rewoods and a coastal hike in Patricks Point State Park (lovely place, but we don’t recommend), all hell broke loose when our belongings were stolen. We spent the next 24 hours on the phone, exchanging rental cars, inventorying belongings, and replacing necessities.

Days 8-10: After resupplying, we made it to Yosemite, which was in between snowstorms. We just barely made it into the park because the CA transportation system was shutting down the main road due to anticipated rock slides. Once in the park, we enjoyed foggy views and quiet trails (largely due to rainy conditions). Both our snow tires and our ice spikes got plenty of use, as did the surprisingly good internet connection in our hotel room. After sunset, we’d pull up chairs to the table and catch up on work. I made great progress on student projects and revisions. Our last morning in Yosemite, five inches of snow fell in five hours. It was absolute magic. We had hoped to get stuck but no dice. We lingered as long as we could justify.

Days 11-13: We spent a few days at an AirBnB in Monterey. After securing all of our belonging at our rental, we tried to brave ourself for leaving our car in public after the break-in. It was tough; trust in people is hard to regain. Even with the empty car, we felt antsy at best. Nonetheless, we managed to find some state parks with well-regulated parking areas and other hiking options. We drove all the way down to San Simeon and found a camera shop where Kelly could get a few necessary gear replacements (chargers, card readers, etc).

Days 14-15: We explored Pinnacles National Park near Hollister, CA. We did two hikes here, with some overlapping trails. On our second hike, we made it up to High Peaks and saw 10 California Condors flying at one time. They were breathtaking. One landed near Kelly (~8 feet) and he soaked up the chance to photograph it. The birds are kind of hideous but also amazing.

Day 16: Full day at UC Merced for me; return to Yosemite for Kelly. I spent the day meeting with faculty at UC Merced and giving a talk. It was really fun; they have a fabulous Health area and we had a great discussion after my talk about social support, self-regulation, and health. We had the absolute best hosts for this leg of the trip, my colleague Jenny and her fiancée Janet. They share our love for National Parks, have an adorable dog Cohen (yes, named after a statistician), love hosting, and taught us how to drink hot chocolate through girl scout cookies (yes, it’s a thing, try it).

Days 17-19: San Francisco for conferencing and city exploring. We also spent one day out hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore. It was our longest hike of the trip (at only 10 miles) but with sweeping ocean views the whole time. We also managed to catch the Lunar New Year Parade in San Francisco’s Chinatown. We hadn’t expected this at all but it was only blocks from our hotel and truly amazing.

So that was it, our fabulous fiasco. It was right on the border of adventure and fiasco until Day 21, when Kelly came down with the flu. We assume he got it during our last travel day. I’ve never been so happy to have gotten a shot in my life. I didn’t feel my best when he was ill, but it was a far cry from the death march that took him over, and after having to cancel so any activities to prevent from possibly spreading the virus, I managed to get ‘caught up’ at work. I mean, no academic is actually ever caught up. But I’m reasonably close.

I posted ‘stories’ through Instagram that track our trip. Some of these shots Kelly collected while I was in conference rooms. For others, we were together. It may have been a fiasco, but it really was grand.