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Saturday
Oct132012

Lead-footed Giants: Revving through the Redwoods

  The weekend warrior traffic north of the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge was testing our patience. My three younger brothers and I were eager to see what the luxury sports sedan we borrowed, a 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD, could do on open road. The drive through northern California' coastal redwoods to Crescent City would be the first-ever road trip with all four brothers present and, just as important, no parental supervision.

Growing up outside Boston, we each learned to drive with a 1991 Acura Integra RS, beating it up and handing it down like a pair of long johns with a progressively larger crotch hole. The 'cura (as we've called her since the 'A' rusted off) has racked up 221,000 miles, and starting the engine after a rainstorm results in a bucket's worth of water dumping onto an unsuspecting passenger's feet. We all moved away after college, and our parents regularly inform us of all the mechanical work she undergoes, as though we need to be kept abreast of her declining condition. She is the resilient and stubborn family dog, and she's on her last legs. 

It seemed only natural that we source her beefed-up reincarnation for our road trip up the country's opposite coast. With 305hp, the TL SH-AWD has more than triple the power of our dented, derelict Integra, and we put that force to use after hitting Route 128 in Mendocino county en route to the coast. One brother proved that spending his adolescence playing Gran Turismo had not been in vain as he barreled through a corkscrew turn. We followed the road inland back to U.S. Route 101, a.k.a. the Redwood Highway.  

W

I'd imagined the Redwood Highway running beneath towering obelisks, but with open blue sky above it looked not unlike highways I'd driven before. We soon realized that the highway's appeal lies in its diversions. The first scenic byway was the Avenue of the Giants, a 31.5-mile stretch of S-turns through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

  We pulled over to hike through a grove of redwoods whose thick trunks eclipsed the hot sunlight. It was impossible to help feeling small in the redwoods' shade, especially with their grandeur exaggerated by the scant underbrush and an immense silence. On our way back to the 101, we slammed the brakes at an organic produce stand to buy popsicles made from fresh blackberries. Despite a poor childhood track record, not one of us stained his shirt.

Our next turn-off was for the Lady Bird Johnson grove, a one-mile loop through redwoods mostly between 600-800 years old. Later, a detour along the Kalamath River to see where it meets the ocean didn't stop us from speeding up to Crescent City in time to watch the sun drop behind Pebble Beach's rock-strewn shallows.

That was our intended end point. After camping in Jedidiah Smith Redwoods state park that night, though, we couldn't resist racing our chariot up to Oregon's famed coast. A spot above Cape Ferrelo provided a commanding view of waves breaking against sea stacks in the morning light, and a local tipped us off to a beach with a 12-foot waterfall pouring onto the sand. A couple U-turns on the highway revealed the trailhead where a kiosk's hand-drawn map labelled the spot "Secret Beach". A seal that bobbed in the water was the only other beachgoer.

Trees grew from sea stacks at wild angles, and a cliff running down to the water's edge split the shore in half. We needed to explore what lay on the other side. We waited for our moment then sprinted through the gauntlet. Water collected around our feet and surged up our calves and thighs. Having safely crossed we found that it was just us four brothers there, plus the lingering swell of adrenaline. Less than 20 miles south of our hometown's latitude on America's opposite coast, we'd reencountered simple, boyish exhilaration.

On the drive back to San Francisco, we again strayed from the highway to lose ourselves on a winding mountain pass. Somewhere between the 1 and 101, far above Sonoma County's vineyards, we whipped around the curves until we passed a flipped pick-up. "Why don't you turn it down to a seven?" one brother asked the one driving. "Let's just make sure we get down to the bottom of the hill."



We descended back to civilization and threw on wrinkled pants and button-down shirts in a vineyard's parking lot. Inside, donning our disguises of adulthood, we toasted our trip with glasses of celebratory wine.

 

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