Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Coasting California

Thinking Tall

I measure in at 1.6m. Just barely. If I stretch my neck a little longer, the top of my head may just scrape the 1.6m mark. More often than not, my official height rings in at 1.59m. And on some worrying occasions, 1.58m (but only on the lousy inaccurate height charts.... *ahem*)

Even with the assistance of two nice gentlemen called Charles and Keith, I can barely be seen peeping out from behind a podium. Which is why when making presentations for work, I remind myself to think tall... and to wear my highest heels.

Having returned from a visit to the California redwood forests, I now have a new imagery to help me think tall - I can pretend to tower over my audience like a redwood tree looming over a field of say... shrubs. Haha. Redwoods grow to nearly 112m in height! That's roughly as tall as a 45-storey block of flats at home. It would require 70 girls of my height standing on each others' heads to measure up to this tree.

And if all 70 girls were my age (a nicely rounded 3-o makes for easy calculation), our combined ages would just about match that of the tree. Yeah, a redwood can live to be 2,000 years old.

Cruising through the Avenue of the Giants

The Californian redwood is the tallest tree in the world. But when it comes to girth, it's cousin, the Giant Sequoia, also found in California, wins branches down. The bark of the giant sequoia alone is 80cm thick! The base - 12m in diameter. Age? An astounding 3,200 years at its oldest.

I'm already amazed that giant tortoises can live to be almost 200 years old. Wandering around in the presence of 2,000-year-old beings at the Redwood National Park was rather daunting. In the midst of these ancient giants, I felt seriously small and silly for feeling old at 30.

Both these giants sprout from seeds the size of an oat flake.

Trying to measure up to a redwood. Just slightly wider than Dan's height, this one is already considered skinny, given that redwoods can grow up to 7m in diameter.

Lunch = some kind of sandwich + a Star Wars novel

Reaching across the base of a toppled-over tree


The drive along the Northern Californian coast from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon took a few days. Along the way, we stopped at a small picturesque historical town called Eureka. The name reminded me of my teacher in Secondary 1 - an excitable but klutzy and plump, bespectacled spotty-skinned lady - who loved repeating the story of how Archimedes yelled "Eureka!" in the bath upon formulating his displacement theory. She was particularly enthusiastic about telling us how he ran naked through the streets of Greece. She repeated that part quite a few times. Thus, I now equate "Eureka" with a naked Greek man, and not some scientific discovery. It's not my fault.

As we were strolling along the quiet waterfront, a little old lady approached us. She seemed friendly enough, giving us tips on which beaches and restaurants to visit, but it soon came to light that her main purpose was to evangelize. She handed us pamphlets bearing the testimony of a former-Buddhist-now-Christian. Hmmm, okaaay, but just cos I'm Asian doesn't mean I'm a Buddhist. Sigh, stereotyping at work again. It didn't help that when we said that we were from Singapore, she brightly piped up (after a long can-hear-crickets-chirping pause), "I've been to Shanghai!" Ordinarily, I would have patiently explained that Singapore is not in China. But after ten months of saying the same old thing, I just couldn't find the enthusiasm to correct her. At least I politely answered the all-time-favourite question, "How come you speak such good English?"

Eureka waterfront

Eye-catching mural

We were particularly excited by the presence of a couple of two used-books stores in Eureka as we were hoping to sell or trade in our stash of read novels. Unfortunately, we only managed to sell one book at the first store and the staff at the second store took one look at what we had to offer - and rejected us, claiming that they wouldn't be able to sell our books. Heyyy, it's not like we read trash, you know. After all, Lovely Bones had been just made into a movie recently and Star War enjoys never-dying popularity through the ages right? Gee, picky picky, some people.


... but not too dejected to enjoy a yummy sandwich and good coffee in a cosy corner

I Felt The Earth Move Under My Feet

After leaving Eureka, we drove to Trinidad beach, just 10 minutes away.

The path down to the beach

Along the way, we passed a number of signs carrying tsunami warnings. Although earthquakes in California can be expected, given that the Pacific Ring of Fire hugs the entire Californian coastline, it was hard to believe that this peaceful beach could be a tsunami hazard area.

Mystical Magical

Far away from glamourous Hollywood, vibrant San Francisco and San Diego Seaworld, this is California's quieter, mysterious side.

A sheet of water covers the beach

A cold but beautiful day for the beach

California as you've never seen it

No bikini hotbods here, but beautiful nonetheless

We busied ourselves with photographing a persistent seagull tugging at the tough rubbery remains of an octopus that had washed up on shore. It honestly didn't look terribly appetising, not quite the likes of Ken Ken Cuttlefish. But it was fun to watch (when you're traveling on a tight budget for months at a stretch, your idea of fun changes alot...)

I think octopi taste better as tako pachi...

All of the sudden, the octopus carcass started swaying violently. And so did the bird. And so did the entire beach! I felt my wide-eyed gaze sweep across the sands to meet that of a local walking along the beach. He nodded gravely and mouthed the word I was dreading - earthquake. Another word flashed across my mind - tsunami....

We should have retreated to higher ground immediately. We should have run for our lives. Instead, we continued to quickly snap a few more shots of the dead octopus... WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!?!?! Yeah, I kept a keen eye out for 30m-high walls of water speeding towards us at 80km/h.... but WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!?!

Common sense (and paranoia) finally prevailed and we hurried (practically ran) up the bank, slammed the car doors after us and sped to safety along higher ground. Thankfully, we didn't see any images of giant waves bearing down on us in our rear-view mirror. We only learned later that the town of Eureka was badly hit by the 6.5-strong earthquake. No one was hurt but traffic lights collapsed, power was cut and items displayed for sale in stores were broken to bits. And to think that we had just left Eureka before the quake hit the town...

Stopping to stretch our legs and catch sunset after speeding away from the quake

Hanging out with the tallest trees in the world and wetting our feet on the eerily beautiful beaches made Northern California quite an unforgettable destination. I'm glad we made the trip up north. It was, literally, a moving experience.

Hmmm, that could be a signboard warning about tsunamis... time to get back into the car and move off!


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