Arcata, California – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 8 – The Best Festival Ever

After breakfast we hopped into the car for Arcata, California for the Kinetics Festival. The event coordinator gave us spectator pins and tips where to watch the parade of kinetic sculptures. The kinetic sculptures are human powered vehicles decorated to race on road, water and sand.

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The event starts with a parade around the town square then takes off to race down the street for the first leg of the race, continuing for miles until they reach the bay then paddle through water and then down a sandy dunes before ending in Eureka.

One primary requirement is that the vehicles must carry all needed items for the race with them. The sculptures were wildly decorated and some theme-related, designed from a bicycle and transformed into a giant, dragon, shark, bug, volcano, or anything imaginable. Men dressed as green mushrooms named their sculpture Funguys who had a great time as they paraded around the square.

The festival started 47 years ago in Arcata by a man who wanted to have good clean, silly fun and is the largest kinetics festival in the country. There are other small kinetic festivals but people travel from around the world to participate or see it in Arcata.

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The parade of the participants varied in costume. The sculpture of the Organ Trail had a heart on the front of a peddled covered wagon and its peddlers dressed as 19th century pioneers. Santa Grinch cycled around the square. We also saw an Adopt-a-Pet sculpture with dogs ready for adoption, trilobite, mailmen, CHIPS imitators and so many more.

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We stayed to view the sculptures until a whistle blew at noon and a 1950’s police car and old fire engine led the start of the race as the sculptures peddled quickly out of the square and down the hill onto the street course. Some sculptures began to fall apart but it was all for fun anyway.

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Roadside America offered our next stop so off to McKinleyville to grab lunch at McDonalds and see the world’s tallest totem pole. The world’s tallest totem pole is located behind the Safeway grocery store in McKinleyville. A sign posted the totem pole as 160 feet tall. Carved by Ernest Pierson and John Nelson from a single 500-year-old redwood tree in 1961, the totem pole weighs 57,000 pounds, and sits on a base that weighs over two tons. Even so, at least four other poles have laid claim to beating it but this totem pole claims it is the tallest since it is carved from only one tree. The totem pole carvings are painted brightly colors also. The town pulls down the totem pole every few years to repaint the carvings.

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A ninety mile trip took us two hours to reach Trinity Dam, an earth dam in Shasta Trinity Whisky Recreation Area. The government built the dam creating Trinity Lake. Trinity Dam is composed mainly of river gravel and local rock, rising 538 ft from its foundations. A hydro-electric plant is located at the base of the dam. The Trinity Dam provides flood control and water to the Central Valley essential for farming.

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Beneath the water of Trinity Lake, lies old Trinity Center – its homes and commercial buildings – now an underwater ghost town. In its day, Trinity Center was a major stop on the only road from San Francisco to Portland. But all that washed away when the government built Trinity Dam and flooded the valley and the towns of Trinity Center, Stringtown and Minersville.For decades, residents were so bitter about the dam that they tore down signs and misdirected tourists for what the government dubbed Clair Engle Lake, named after a U.S. senator. It wasn’t until later that the government changed the name to Trinity Lake.

Also nearby we stopped in the small, abandonded town of Shasta. Six miles west of Redding on Highway 299 a row of old, half-ruined, brick buildings of Shasta, once the center of the county before Redding passed it. Among the buildings are an old Shasta County Courthouse, now housing historical exhibits The town is unrestored with brick ruins of the building, along with a few standing buildings.

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On our way to Shasta Dam we saw two roadrunners cross the street. These birds are too quick for us to get a photo of them.

Shasta Dam is the eighth tallest dam in the United States. Parking the car, we bypassed the closed visitor center and walked out onto the dam.

From the midpoint of the dam we had a spectacular view across the reservoir with 14,000′ high Mount Shasta looming in the distance.

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Our hotel for the night was in Redding, California. The hotel had a house cat named Jack who welcomed people to the hotel. Jack was left by a family who could not take him to their new home so was adopted by the hotel. The cat lounges in the foyer and the front door of its new permanent home.

Going into town, we stopped at their famous Sundial Bridge is a well known spot in Redding.  It is a pedestrian bridge that resembles a sundial made of tall cables to hold it up with glass panels as its floor giving a clear view of the river below leading to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and the botanical gardens. The Sundial Bridge is the first of its kind and is the tallest working sundial in the world.

We crossed the bridge for a walk through the botanical gardens, however the gardens were disappointing because they was so unkempt. The lack of rain here does not provide the gardens with the lush green look of so many gardens we have seen in the east.

Afterwards we went into downtown Redding for dinner at Woody’s Brewery, an excellent choice with good atmosphere and food.

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Mendocino & Humboldt Counties, California – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 7 – Redwood Forests

After yet another Denny’s breakfast, we went down the block for a stop at Glass Beach, part of Noyo State Park.  The beach is covered in colorful smooth clear stones that looked like glass, with white, green, amber, red and clear glass scattered among stones and shell bits throughout the beach. The glass stones reflected the morning sun making is easy to see the glassy pebbles.

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After that great early start to the day our trip continued north to Leggitt, California, where we paid our $5.00 entrance fee to enter the park to see the famous Candelabra Tree that is hollowed out so that a vehicle can drive a path through its center.

With some guidance I drove our bulky Chrysler 300 rental through the tree’s passage with inches remained between the inside of the tree and the car. It was close enough I could sit normally in the driver seat, reach out and touch the walls of the tree. A T shirt from here rivals my Carhenge for the most kitschy shirt.

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As you proceed north on U.S. Highway 101 north of Garberville you come to the Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101, which parallels the 101 with its 51,222 acres of redwood groves.

This road list flanked on both sides by the most outstanding display of these giant trees in all of California, as it is in the middle of Humboldt Redwoods State Park which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world.

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Our lunch stop this day was for burgers and fries at the Chimney Tree Grill, named for the aptly named Chimney Tree. It is a massive tree that has a hollowed out area from a burn in 1914, as large as a twelve foot room. We entered the tree at its door entrance and stood inside a tree larger than the bedroom of my childhood home.

After lunch, our tour continued up the Avenue to a noteworthy forest of giant trees; standing inside the base of a fallen tree that was taller on it’s side than a massive motorhome parked at the end of it. These trees are the oldest living things on earth and they just amaze me to think that these trees standing today were here before the Vikings landed in North America.

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U.S. 101 has historically been a tourist route, and many smaller quirky tourist spots exists. One which had signs for about 100 miles before we arrived was Confusion Hill,  so we had to go see it to satisfy our curiosity. We new it would be a tourist trap but it only cost $5 per person to explore the laws of gravity.

From the lobby we entered the wooded area following a path leading to a makeshift wooden cabin hung onto a side of a hill. There were activities for us to try. A level platform mounted to the slanted structure made me look taller at one end; we also stood on short ledges mounted to the wall while leaning forward without falling. Another activity had a golf ball roll down a slanted plank and roll back up again on its own. The weirdness of this place and the strange, amusing things were worth the price of admission.

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Another stop was at a chainsaw art shop that was on the way. There were impressive wood sculptures of a native chief, Sasquatch, eagles and more. Finally before we left the Avenue we hiked through the Redwoods at Founders Grove where we saw the coast redwood tree, the tallest trees on earth. These trees average 350 feet tall and are one thousand years or older. I learned that these trees are so tall that the trees live within three different climates.

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By mid afternoon we found ourselves in Ferndale, California, in southern Humboldt County, where they have a small downtown with a variety of shops; an artistic blacksmith shop had interesting high quality stylish pieces; the Palace Saloon, westernmost bar in the continental United States, and many others.

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Finally we arrived in Eureka, California, our stop for the night at the Best Western Marina Inn. We explored the town checking out an art gallery, the murals throughout the town, and the Carson Mansion – also known as the pink lady so named for its paint color. Across the street was another mansion used as the model for the Disneyland train station.

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After dinner at the Lost Coast Brewery, we toured the town a bit more finding the Eureka Theater, which was showing the movie M.A.S.H complete with an army hospital ambulance was parked in front of the theater.

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As we walked through the town we came upon a ‘Glass Shop’, thinking art glass we went in; it was then we remembered we are in Humboldt County, California, home of the largest pot growing region in America!

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