Tag Archives: United States

Stalking the Wild Americana

Before there was the interstate highway system and a steady stream of 18-wheelers, there was a road called the Old Spanish Trail that went from St Augustine, Florida to San Diego, California. One of the benefits of our Jack Kerourac-style traveling, is following an old road that preserves the culture and sights of a past era.

We left the interstate highway to travel a chunk of the Old Spanish Trail west of San Antonio, Texas. The road went right through Main Street in Bandera, Texas. Naturally, there was still a general store on Main Street, and the very charming OST Diner  – “OST”  being the acronym for Old Spanish Trail. This diner was a stopping point for the Chevys, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles of the 1940s and 50s.

We went in for a late breakfast (served all day, of course!). The decor is kitschy Western, with a large section of one wall dedicated to John Wayne. For you cowboys missing the range, the bar stools are saddles. Their specialty, and traditional breakfast, is chicken fried steak, eggs, biscuits and gravy, and perfectly cooked hash browns. All of it was delicious and perfect, served with fantastic coffee (and I’m a mean critic of coffee, so you know it was good!).

The idea for a southern-most transcontinental road was conceived in 1915, and took nearly 15 years to finish. The Old Spanish Trail strung together four different US freeways. By the early 60s, Interstate Highways I-10 and I-8 killed the Old Spanish Trail and many of the businesses on it. One of the truly great losses of America is its heterogeneity – the lack of unique Mom & Pop businesses that still mark so many other places in the world. That is the reason Deena and I travel.

Cape Perpetua

Of all the beautiful places in the world, the Oregon coast is still one of my favorites. It has a palpable raw energy in its forests and in the ocean crashing against the rocks. The area has an ancient soul, a place where one can feel the tree spirits, the animal spirits and the rock spirits.

Treacherous cliffs dive into the Pacific Ocean, sending foamy waves to meet the oncoming surf from across the world.

Trails meander from sand beaches and rocky plateaus into old growth forests where the Ents of Fangorn from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings have come to life. They guard the undergrowth with craggy branches and shadowy, hobbit-sized holes in their living trunks. One is almost fearful to walk too loud, lest they awake and snatch you from the path.

The dampness of the rain forest is a constant companion. In the evening, a cloud blanket rolls in from the distant horizon, like a fog in a B sci-fi movie. It comes closer and larger until it covers the beach, the rocks, and the forest. Under this shroud of cloud, our campfire is uncomfortable, perhaps too well aware of it’s old enemy:  water.

On the rocky crags, the Pacific churns into the crevices with deadly force. Or it blows through holes creating a geyser of salty spray. In some places, the ocean decorates the sand beaches with a driftwood forest.

We camped at Cape Perpetua, originally named in 1778 by Capt James Cook while looking for the western entrance to the mythical Northwest Passage.  In those same ancient bays, whales still cruise for dinner, oblivious of us onlookers.

In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps which President FDR formed to put people to work during the Great Depression, built a stone shelter on the highest point of the coast. At 800 feet above sea level, one can see 37 miles out from the shore. The shelter was used as a lookout during World War II. Maybe we should stay up here and watch for North Korean missiles.