John Steinbeck’s typewriter has left a well-known mark all over this pocket of California, where agriculture meets clear beaches and layered mountains, not to mention one of the world’s great coastal drives. What’s less known is that Steinbeck isn’t the only writer to capture it. For the last leg of this year’s Digital Nomad road…

California’s Treasure Island

“It looks like a zombie apocalypse out here.” More than one local says this of San Francisco’s Treasure Island, an often ignored artificial isle built on dredged sand. And at first sight of the mysterious island, reached halfway across the Bay Bridge, I have to agree. Around me, on wide empty streets, I see paint…

It’s got the wine, the hills, the history—and the world’s biggest laser, too. It even has an element named for it (livermorium). What Livermore, California, doesn’t have going for it, perhaps, is its name. Just the mere mention of other wine stars of the Golden State—Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles—linger on your tongue like a chocolaty,…

A Case for Corvallis, Oregon

“Make yourself at home,” says Carson, a 20-something wearing a purple bandana as a scarf at Troubadour, a music shop in downtown Corvallis. “There’s a bathroom by the banjos.” I’m at an ag school (Oregon State University) a dozen miles off the interstate. There are no museums or monuments of note to see and no…

Cows don’t have hangovers, but some have rough mornings. Riding a horse across a valley dotted with junipers doused in a morning drizzle, I see one poking along with two dozen porcupine quills sticking out of its face—leftovers from an overnight tangle with a wrong local. “That’s going to be a chore, getting all those…

Biking Portland’s Icons

“The coffee isn’t delicious because of anything I do.” Liam Kenna runs a small tasting station that freckles a stark warehouse space with glazed concrete floors, an artful exhibit of historic coffeemaking tools, and a table of beakers to measure coffee pours with lablike precision. “My job as a barista is just not to mess…

Going West

“People came west to get away from the government. Now they have no place else to go, so they think of new ways of doing things.” That’s Bud Clark, the colorful ex-mayor of Portland, Oregon, talking to me recently over a Reuben sandwich at his tavern, the Goose Hollow Inn. When you go west, in…

“I’ll be up there as quick as I can get my pants on.” The morning rain has stopped and I’m standing outside a cute century-old red-plank train depot by a grain elevator in Midland, South Dakota. I’ve called one of the three seven- digit numbers listed on the depot’s handmade sign, and in five minutes…

Finding Space in the Black Hills

I’m in a wide-open field of grass. Hundreds of bugs the size of a pencil lead mark scramble across my shirt and arms. Pretty much what I asked for. “This is what the prairie used to be,” a silver-haired ranger had promised, pointing to the northeast corner of South Dakota’s Wind Cave National Park—away from…

Meet Wyoming’s Bighorn

“Everything’s better in the mountains. Chicken soup, coffee with the grounds in it. It’s just better up here.” Scott Schroder has spots of gray in his big red beard, and wet pants. That’s only because he decided against waders and is walking in jeans through the knee-deep South Fork of the Tongue River. He’s leading…