Wyrd is a concept in Anglo-Saxon culture roughly corresponding to fate or personal destiny. The word is ancestral to the Modern English ‘weird’, whose meaning has drifted towards an adjectival use with a more general sense of ‘supernatural’, ‘uncanny’, or the simply ‘unexpected’.
The Saxons and Vikings were two different tribes of people who are believed to have been dominant in what was later to become the United Kingdom, making the Norse Atlantic Airways and its Viking-inspired livery an appropriate primary host for this modern-day, Wyrd West Coast road-trip.
More than 1,000 years ago, Norse explorers set out from Scandinavia across the North Atlantic, arriving in Iceland, Greenland and eventually North America. Earlier this year, Norse Atlantic Airways resurrected the spirit of the Oseberg, in hommage to these innovative longships. One of the finest Viking Age artefacts ever discovered, the Oseberg ship is known for its elaborate decor and distinctive curved wood carving at the bow – the direct inspiration for the logo used on the tail-fin of todays Norse aircraft.
California (State Motto: Eureka)
The Golden City: 7 Deadly Secrets In San Francisco
(Oro En Paz, Fierro En Guerra)
Open the Chamber Of Secrets and meet Marvolo Riddle through an 8 foot door created by sculptor Steve Penetti. Entrance to a private residence that’s clearly sought to put its place on the map, the door features 7 silver serpents complete with detailed welded scales and red jeweled eyes, on a metallic golden backdrop.
Pinetti designed this sculptural masterpiece in just a week and a half, using a large piece of sheet metal as the base and pipes for the serpents’ bodies. As every Parselmouth will recognise, the door holds true to the original 7 sinning serpents, representing the 7 horcruxes in the Harry Potter series.
Should you survive the petrification of the Gorgon Basilisk, you’ll also be able to appreciate the enormous golden dragon at the side door, and the muggle gorilla waving its flag from the roof.
Inquisitors of secret doors and societies alike will also appreciate San Francisco’s tribute to The Bohemian Club – the longtime HQ of a controversial boy’s club for the world’s richest and most powerful.
It was originally founded as a regular meeting spot for journalists, artists, and musicians in 1872. The building’s exterior is adorned with plaques bearing owls and the Club’s motto: ‘weaving spiders come not here’, just as it did when early members Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, and Jack London roamed its halls. That soon changed, however, when local businessmen and politicians were granted admission.
Today it has become one of the most secretive clubs in the United States, with honorary membership only offered to some United States presidents, usually bestowed prior to their inauguration, and a select coterie of international business leaders and policymakers.
A statement of the times in a world where fact is stranger than fiction, the Bohemian Club hosts their notorious annual gathering at the Bohemian Grove, for a two-week long ‘bonding session’ of banal bacchanalia, and debauchery – such as reportedly relieving themselves on the surrounding redwood trees in a “display of man’s power over nature.”
Unsurprisingly, the group has recently attracted public ire for logging Bohemian Grove’s virginal redwoods, after attaining a non-industrial timber management plan, which allows for the production of timber without the usual government oversight…
Pennyroyal Farms: Boonville
Discover true gold in California and spend a penny at this scenic creamery and vineyard, ‘where every goat, sheep and cheese has a name’. Boasting a different kind of exclusivity, Farmstead cheese is even more select than artisan cheese, ensuring ethical produce that delivers high quality results and tastes as good on the tongue, as on the soul.
Each of Pennyroyal Farm’s cheeses is named from Boontling, a unique language that originated in Boonville and the surrounding hills at the end of the 19th century, and they produce several varieties of cheese that highlight the daily and seasonal variation in their milks.
The family-owned 100-acre parcel in Boonville is also home to their regenerative farmstead and vineyards, where ‘every vine is capable of being weeded and suckered by Babydoll sheep’… with 23 acres of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, this satyr’s delight is fertile land fit for tripping with Triptolemus himself.
City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas: Ukiah
(Oṃ Maṇi Padme Hūṃ)
One of the largest Buddhist communities in the Western Hemisphere resides in an international residency and monastery founded by Hsuan Hua, an important figure in Western Buddhism. Located on Bodhi Way, the City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas is an experience like no other, and is noted for its close adherence to the vinaya, the austere, traditional Buddhist monastic code.
The site was originally home to the Mendocino State Asylum for the Insane (later renamed the Mendocino State Hospital). In the days when diagnosis was not a prison sentence, there were over seventy large buildings, two thousand rooms of various sizes, three gymnasiums, a fire station, a swimming pool, and various other facilities. A paved road wound its way through the complex, lined with tall street lamps and trees planted during the asylum’s initial construction.
Considering the natural surroundings to be ideal for cultivation, Hsuan Hua visited the valley and negotiated with the seller many times. He wanted to establish a centre for propagating the Buddhadharma and for introducing the Buddhist teachings to the West. Hsuan Hua planned to create a major centre for world Buddhism, and an international orthodox monastery.
The most interesting attraction is easily The Jewelled Hall of 10,000 Buddhas, finished in 1982. The centre piece is a 6m statue of a thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara (a bodhisattva popularly known as Guanyin in Chinese and Chenrezik in Tibetan), and laid before her feet are rows of yellow bowing cushions alongside a red carpet, with an impressive 10,000 gold buddhas adorning the walls!
Freemasonry At Glass Beach: Fort Bragg
(Ordo Ab Chao)
An attraction for its Pacific Ocean views, Fort Bragg embodies the notion that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Glass Beach owes its name to a time when it was abundant with sea glass created from years of dumping garbage into an area of coastline near the northern part of town – and it is now illegal to collect glass at this state park.
It is also home to the Skunk Train (California Western Railroad), running steam and diesel-powered trains and rail motor cars through Redwood forests along Pudding Creek and the Noyo River. A California Historical Landmark, Fort Bragg was founded in 1857 as a military garrison prior to the American Civil War, and was named after army officer Braxton Bragg.
Long regarded as the Beast to the neighbouring village of Mendocino’s Belle, it has slowly been shedding its inhospitable, blue-collar reputation and begun to warm to the new reality of a tourism-based economy with art galleries, microbreweries and oddities of its own.
Littered with Masonic Lodges that promise ‘simple answers to leading questions’, Fort Bragg is the largest town on The Lost Coast, a place forgotten throughout the Gold Rush, the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of Silicon Valley, but still wild and ready to bewitch all who brave the journey there.
Big Foot On Confusion Hill: Piercy
(Is Seeing Believing?)
What can only be described as a pretty random roadside attraction, Confusion Hill is a family-run enterprise amidst the beautiful California Redwoods. An array of hand-built structures including a ‘gravity house’ aim to provoke shifts in perspective through optical illusion. Far more strange than any of this, is the ever-present family logo of a one-eyed pyramid with a top hat.
Whether it’s something in the air or in the water, the roads are also lined with plenty of commercial tributes to Big Foot (Sasquatch), the hairy humanoid or hoax that’s said to inhabit the forest, and who has become an icon within the fringe subculture of cryptozoology.
Gingerbread Mansions: Ferndale
The Gingerbread Mansion is a restored Victorian-era B&B located in California’s Victorian Village. While the town itself is a living museum of treasures that beg to be touched, explored, and experienced, the staff will not hesitate to recommend the neighbouring cemetery as one of the top local attractions. This gives some insight into the character of this unique yet cosy space – epitomised by their unusual breakfast plates of cake, butter-bread pudding and fruit with a side of sausage and egg.
It’s also worth popping into the Mind’s Eye Manufactory And Coffee Lounge, a ‘workshop and third-wave coffee shop, providing a comfortable nexus for Ferndale’s creative community’. An imaginative space where craft meets coffee in a fire-lit lounge of curiosities and trinkets.
Oregon (Alis Volat Propriis)
Sunrises And Sunsets: Portland And The Beaver State
(The City That Works)
A place for parking up and dabbing by the sea, Oregon is famous for its natural wonders including Crater Lake and Cannon Beach. Spend the night exploring the Milky Way from SeaSpray Lodge and wake up surrounded by gulls, eagles, osprey and pelicans.
Lovers of Wicca will enjoy the energy of the Compass Rose Café with its trivia tables, in-house busker, and munchie-solving bakes. And some of the best seafood is available at the Local Ocean dockside grill, with inventive twists such as Horchata Cod.
In Tillamook, the 2nd Street Coffee House is a ‘coffee shop’ that doesn’t really seem to care about coffee. More of a time capsule (junk shop) with wall to ceiling bric-a-brac, it serves up stimulation in its own eclectic, musky style.
Next, repeal the 18th Amendment at a prohibition-style speakeasy: The Bible Club PDX, and take a walk through the Mystic District to stock up on divination decks, before heading over to the Portland Japanese Garden – a private non-profit organisation cultivating Koi, Moon Bridges and Heavenly Falls.
A living classroom, these gardens are a natural vehicle through which to explore immersive Japanese art and design. The Jun Kaneko exhibition in The Garden Of Resonance showcases ceramic and print works resembling prehistoric monoliths onto which he paints elaborate, colourful, and abstract designs.
With a life as layered as his work, he invites you to consider the Japanese concept of ma ( 間 ), an awareness of space. Ma communicates a sense of place in respect to one’s relationship with the whole; making the space around and between things, the silent pauses in speech, or the negative space in a composition, both impactful and meaningful.
Lines are ever-present in Kaneko’s work. Individually, each tile is an abstract work of art, but in combination they take on the role of an almost site-specific installation that transcends its parts.
Victoria, British Columbia (Semper Liber)
The Lost Gardens Of Heligan
Just a short ferry-ride and a slightly aggressive customs control stands between you and the craggy southern end of Vancouver Island, with its Victorian architecture and British colonial past. Expect plenty of whale sightings on-board, but don’t take any videos unless you don’t mind overlays of screaming Americans, and want to be endlessly pestered for an Air Drop.
Avoid the queues by opting for character over conceit and start the weekend with brunch at Friends of Dorothy, where it’s culturally acceptable to order 9am cocktails and shots. Toto in tow, head over to the Moss Lady and admire this serene sculpture inspired by the famous Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Wrapped in a snug green cloak, the Canadian version of the Mud Maid in Cornwall was directly inspired by this English art work. Artist Dale Doebert began crafting the colossal creation in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park, after seeing photographs of her famed English counterpart. The peaceful expression on her face perfectly reflects the surroundings, as a small stream gurgles nearby, like a liquid lullaby.
Wake and bake with the Original Farm Cannabis dispensary and their cinematic experience of goods. Digital menus and invested staff allow you to pick from a range of edibles, oils, rosins and wraps, with one of the largest offerings in town. Peruse an array of Bitcoin stores selling seemingly illicit goods, and shun high tea to soak up the atmosphere in Vicious Poodle, before investigating the eccentricities of the local markets. You can also stumble upon the opportunity to learn about the Chinese Freemasons, and visit the Priestess of the famous Fan Tan Alley – the oldest China Town in Canada.
Make moves towards the modern with Milano Coffee and appreciate the flavours of their artisan craft. And if you can snag a table, then round-off the weekend with dinner at Il Covo Trattoria, a rustic Italian serving family recipes and blended botanicals. Its historic heritage-designated building was built by architect JCM Keith, whose design credits include Christ Cathedral and the Legislature Library.
Named the Connaught Seamen’s Institute, its previous life was as a safe haven for young merchant sailors providing them a bunk, food and guidance while waiting for their next vessel. Outside you will find a plaque that reads: ‘Seamans Institute. Come unto me all Ye that are weary and I will give you rest.’
Thanksgiving: Port Townsend
(We’re All Here Because We’re Not All There)
A small town with a big personality, Port Townsend is the perfect pit-stop for giving thanks (at least until Black Friday). Replete with seasonal candied yams, corn bread, and its signature Dungeness Crab, it was previously known as the ‘City of Dreams’, because of the early speculation that it would become the largest harbour on the west coast. Guarding the gate of Puget Sound, it’s now known as The Key City.
With a community slogan fit for the Cheshire cat, the sign entering town calls Port Townsend a ‘Victorian Seaport and Arts Community’. This wonderland is a perfect combination of Victorian-era cottages, sprawling gardens, and a bustling downtown, where you will find dozens of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants just a stone’s throw from the waterfront.
The Emerald City: Seattle
(The City Of Goodwill)
The jade jewel in the crown, Seattle is an appropriate ending to an inappropriate trip. A nod to its ever-greenery, autumn in The Emerald Empire is full of festivity and flavour. Slip away from locals demanding that you forgo the smoke and mirrors for ‘beers and a shot’, and sail into the Pink Door Bar for sour piscos and sweet pumpkin pie.
Be suckered into Artly’s AI mania, and wait twice as long at twice the price to have your coffee crafted by a robot, before getting in line for the unassuming Piroshky Piroshky and its traditional Russian bakes. Founded in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market, this hole in the wall has received international acclaim over the years for its original handmade recipes.
A 100 year old purveyor of curios, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop is a dime of a museum with its murdered mummies and shruken heads. This hoarders haven was brought to life when a boy named Joseph Standley won a school award for having the neatest desk. Receiving the prize Wonders of Nature in third grade, Joseph attained a lifelong passion for oddities and opened Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in 1899 – housing the many unusual artefacts that he had collected throughout his life.
Though it’s changed locations a few times, the century-old shop and much of the original collection still remains today, passed down through four generations. Among its many wonders, the collection includes a narwhal tusk, a freak pig, old cadaver heads and Fiji mermaids.
The two most famous items in the collection are Sylvester and Sylvia, the resident mummies with a mysterious past. Between 2001 and 2005 Sylvester was subjected to modern forensics in an attempt to figure out just who he was, but this resulted in more questions than answers. The most intriguing thing may be the shotgun pellets embedded in his head, which you can see if you look closely. Apparently, they were not what killed him as they had time to heal over, leaving his actual cause of death as much of a mystery as his identity.
An attraction without any identity issues is the iconic Bezos Balls – three Amazon spheres comprising part of Jeff’s HQ in Seattle. A mini rainforest biosphere, these house an office park of over 40,000 plants alongside meeting space and retail stores for desk-ridden employees, plus limited public access.
If you can get across to the Olympic National Park, then much more rewarding is the Hoh Rain Forest, or Hall of Mosses. Along the main trail, there is an otherworldly 200 foot side-path that leads to an enchanting grove of giant maple trees cloaked in hanging moss, like green-robed figures of eld.
Mention Seattle and you will most likely conjure up images of its signature Space Needle, a 605 foot UFO of an observation deck promising cosmic crafts. However, it’s also worth swapping this for its sister Sky View Observatory – where the sky is still the limit, albeit from a much more peaceful vantage point.