Week 1

And so, we have a few months of travel in front of us.

It’s our first time going on such a big trip, so we’re not sure what exactly we will need, and what will only be getting in the way. So, like in anything of this sort, it’s good to give yourself at least a week or two to figure things out, look around, get familiar with the routines, and gain some ‘traveling’ smarts. But at the moment, one thing is for sure: everything needs to be at a minimum, because our car is just not very big.

1. First stop is at a Russian store in Lynnwood.

2. Like in any large city, the Russian community finds these Russian stores to be a good rendezvous spot.

3. It’s fascinating that these stores smell exactly the same as their soviet equivalents. I’m assuming that this is due to the smoked fish.

4. The beverage shelves are a nightmare. There are some decent liqueurs that you might be able to spot, and the “Baltika” beer is suitable when there is no other beer in the near vicinity. But everything else, starting with the Crimean “Muscat” and Georgian “Kindzmarauli”, all the way to the Soviet “champagne” and “Zhigulevskoye” beer – all an inheritance left for people who, when it comes to any alcoholic beverage, only look for the word ‘alcohol’. Or who, if they do drink for pleasure and not to get drunk, never got interested in developing their palette, and so drank whatever was on the table. Terrifying.

5. Shopping is done. The fridge is full. What next? We do have to sleep here too, you know.

6. Seattle. I sincerely enjoy this city.

7. It’s a nice place to be.

8. I lived here for a little while – only two years. But looking at this sign makes me feel like I just came home.

9. The ricksha has a sound system under the front seat – one strong enough to have the whole block grooving.

10. And here is my home. What a delightful experience this was – you wake up in the morning, open the window, and the exciting, living, manmade ‘big city noise’ bursts into the room: voices, footsteps, car honks, megaphone announcements on the tourist buses, bells on the front doors of little shops, the clatter of the plates coming from cafes. But also, the city has a scent which cannot be described.

11. Same old here – the street percussionist entertains the pedestrians with his bucket drums.

11a. Entering Oregon.

12. Downtown Portland is a bit more modest. It’s also pleasant and interesting, but this time we’re driving past it.

13. Today we drove through the whole state of Oregon and spent the night in Grant Pass. Trying to figure out while having breakfast: what is the best way to organize all our belongings in the car? Boxes are eliminated whenever possible, and everything that can’t be squished is consolidated into bags. Already better, but still not quite there yet, so the homemaking continues.

14. For breakfast we have some Russian kefir, sweet Russian crumpets with raisins, and american raspberries. Everything is delicious.

15. After turning onto road 199 towards the ocean we discovered a magical spot. On a huge territory under some giant trees are log cabins, and on the trees themselves – childhood dreams come true – little treehouses with cute ladders.

16. Every spot is accessible and open for exploring. Inside every structure are thousands of wooden creations, small and large.

17. A small Indian hut. How could someone not want to live here?

18. This is a “dream catcher”. According to the Indians, these things, hanging all around as well as inside the house, trap bad dreams.

19. Each creation here is made with love, even the fence. It’s obvious that the owner does nothing other than his hobby, as all of this must take an immense amount of time.

20. A two-story dog kennel.

21. This is Daniel. He is an artist from Arizona, who, after traveling around America, settled here to continue building this fairy-tale land.

22. This is where, day after day, with the noise of the equipment in his ears, the coziness of the workshop and the smell of wood all around, the master creates his works of art.

23. A wanderer and her companion.

24. The perfect time for a snack. Dark rye bread with a Russian kind of Bologna sausage – smoked, as I would like to note.

25. Entering California.

26. By evening we arrive at Redwood National Forest, a park with the tallest and widest sequoias in the world. After the cheery Hawaiian jungles and murky tropical rivers, the calmness and serenity of northern nature is breathtaking.

27. But even here everything is not so simple. The harmless looking growth is, in fact, poisonous upon contact.

28. Gathering firewood is useless – it’s the middle of spring in the forest, so everything is damp. This bundle cost us $8 and will serve us well as we prepare for dinner and warmth.

29. I can’t stop myself – as soon as I see a view like this I think of Kamchatka. Especially when I see rivermen (that’s them by the orange boats).

30. On a walk in a real, huge, ancient forest. It is exactly as I imagined it when I would read books about the woods in my childhood. It is quiet, gloomy, chilly, and it smells like resin.

31. Growths on the bark help to develop the imagination.

32. Is this not a perfect column from some ancient temple?

33. One of the things I love about America is the many physically active elderly people. It’s one thing that a retiree has lots of spare time. But where do they get the physical strength? Walking through the hilly forest trails requires no small amount of effort when you are 70. Props to you, seniors. I plan to be among you when the time comes.

34. Near a gigantic tree named “Boy Scout Tree” we chatted with some visitors from Germany. This is another bonus of the states: when it comes to interesting places, you will always bump into people from every corner of the planet. Especially if the places require a walk to get to them.

35. As always, the pictures don’t do the trees justice. Here, for example, are two trunks. How thick are they? Well, let me tell you. The one in the left corner is a large, thick sequoia, a pretty normal thing to see in any forest. On the very right – a tree the size of which most people have not seen in their lifetime. It’s a tree-giant, and if it was in the middle of a city it would constantly be surrounded by tourists and their cameras. But the trunk in the middle… In the middle is ‘something’, the size of which is too massive to be successfully grasped by the typical human brain.

36. Or here’s another one. This is Alla in front of a very thick tree, the likes of which were used to make the mast of ships. You need two Allas to grab it all the way around. When a tree like this is sawed down, the ground quakes.

37. And here Alla is next to they Boy Scout Tree. There are steps made by the base of it so that it’s easier to sit on it and have your picture taken. This giant is more than a thousand years old, and how much longer it will stand nobody knows. But there is no doubt that it will continue to awe its viewers until the day it falls.

38. The National Park is split into two parts. As we exit the first we see our good old friend the Pacific ocean, except from the other side. Here it’s cold and unfriendly.

While searching for another famous big tree, we got a little lost, and as it got darker saw a light coming from the open door of some random bar. We decided to go in and ask for directions. The barman said that this is, actually, our final destination, and that we’re not going anywhere else. We promptly agreed and got some beers.

39. The layout is purely classic: small town, everybody knows everybody, and we are looked at as unexpected entertainment, though everyone tries to be pretty stealthy about it. The barman, as a small-town barman should, hints at ‘one more drink’ at every chance he gets, and every now and then some loud music starts playing.

40. The source was this device, the grandson of those legendary jukeboxes, where for some change customers can select a song from the available vinyls.

41. Except here it’s DVD’s and electronics. But the idea is the same: you pay for a song and everybody will listen to it, whether they like it or not.

42. While meeting the locals, we find out that everybody (except Bert, the barman) is a native american. Speaking of which, they don’t like to be called “Indians”, although it’s a term often used to officially refer to them. Next, we find out that we are on the territory of an Indian Reservation of the tribe of Yurok. I did wonder earlier: why are they smoking indoors? Well, it’s because many laws of the state don’t apply to the reservations.

43. One of the richest and highest-ranking of the local indians is Pete, the guy in the middle. His financial success is partially attributed to the fact that he has special permission for fishing in the ocean and rivers. There are only three other people in the tribe apart from him who are in the same position, which allows them to catch almost unlimited amounts of fish using nets.

44. The salmon is smoked on a fire and cured in it’s own juice. And it is scrumptious.

45. Late in the evening, I, exploring the rooms of the once pleasant bar, found an old piano, which served to advance our little party to the next, higher quality level. We sang with the indians, everybody was engaged and entertained, and Bert, just like in the movies, went around the room screwing in dusty lightbulbs, happy about the unexpected party on a Monday night in the off season.

46. Here he is, sitting and rocking his leg with delight. The lady in the red shirt sang very well in contralto. But all together they spent some time thanking us for the mini celebration, surprised that unlike other Russians, not only do we not partake in gulping down large amounts of vodka, but also don’t pick bar fights.

47. We stayed the night here as well, near the doors of this fine establishment.

48. In the morning I was able to survey what remained of the bar’s former glory. Looks like at one point in time, they even served dinners.

49. A village is a village no matter where you go. We were awakened by the yells of an elderly woman cussing out a younger girl, who was cussing right back. As it happens, the girl’s father didn’t drive her to school and now she and a friend had to hitchhike into town, which the old woman didn’t approve of. So, they decided to have it out right there, at 8 in the morning. Also, someone was driving around in a car with a shot muffler. Then a dog came by, tried to get into our car, and left. Once again there was silence, clouds, mountains.

50. What will become of the children who grow up here? Will they become like their parents – alcoholics and druggies? What do they have here, apart from this old damn bar?

51. Our journey continues. The tree that we were looking for yesterday turned out to be even smaller than the Boy Scout Tree. But, you can drive straight through this one.

52. The second part of the park, the Avenue of Giants. May is the month of bicyclists in the USA, and we see them constantly.

53. When the road was being made, someone decided not to saw off the tree, and instead gave it a little trim.

54. We exit the mountain forest through a winding, nauseating road.

55. To the ocean.

56. People are relaxing however they know. Meaning, they got a bunch of stuff, threw it all around the car, sat down in the middle of the chaos and began to chill. At least they’re now surrounded by flowers and fresh air.

57. The shore of northern California looks more like Oregon. Grey sand, a grey ocean, rivers and bays, evergreen forests right behind. But still beautiful.

58. The winding road takes up a large amount of time, and we want to continue driving without any breaks. But, forcing ourselves to take at least short little pit-stops, we soak in the surroundings, admire the nature, and record all the memories and feelings.

59. Apparently, these tunnels are man-made. Another sign of a civilized country. Here you have some random road out on the edge of the world, no big cities around, no hot tourist destinations, no sights. Somebody planted some trees, and now they’re creating a safety hazard on the road. What’s the simplest solution? Cut them all down! But no. Here they strain, work, but make that tunnel. Because it’s delightful. This is the only reason why somebody put in so much time into this wild garden – for a beautiful 10 yard stretch on a bleak road.

60. It’s tempting to launch our Phantom-quadcopter, which we call Phantomasik. Except that there’s only a few satellites here, and a lot of wind, which is fraught with the loss of our equipment. But we like to live dangerously.

61. Here’s an old-fashioned wooden bridge. Made from one of those red sequoias, I assume. The famous 1st road is especially beautiful in spots like these – where the rivers enter into the ocean.

62. On the other side is a park for mobile-homes and a pier.

63. When there are no rivers and bridges, then the road looks something like this. It’s pretty windy here, which causes the shore to constantly be in a haze of salty fog that’s brought on from the ocean.

64. Close to the evening we drive through the town of Sebastopol. And why shouldn’t a city like this exist in a southern American state? To those who might not know, Sebastopol is a large city located in the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine.

65. Like so, the first week of our trip is finished. Our memories will forever hold a magical little cabin, enormous trees, the indians of the Yurok tribe, and the beautiful coast of northern California.

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