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A traveler gets into the pioneer spirit, exploring the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver corridor in a 2014 Chevrolet Sonic hatchback

By Katy Henriksen


The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic hatchback, with its 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for safety from the NHTSA, and available turbocharged engine with a 40 mpg highway rating, provides the perfect way to take a solo trip along Highway 1, to see the gems of the Pacific Northwest. The pioneer spirit reigns supreme in the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver corridor connected by I-5, which turns to Hwy 99 as you hit the Canadian border. When you hit the two-lane highways in a Sonic, you’re the true pioneer, heading out into the expanses of the farthest corners of the Northwest, the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix, grunge, American coffee culture and the microbrew.

Cruise right along the edges of the Pacific on Coastal Highway 101, spending an afternoon with Haystack Rock, made famous by The Goonies, on Cannon Beach. Stop to take a day hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, featured in Cheryl Strayed’s remarkable memoir Wild, describing her solo trek through the vast trail that stretches from California up through Washington. It’s a great vantage point for getting to the glacier shrouded Mount Hood, the largest and most active volcano in Oregon. Or catch a trek along the Bridge of the Gods, with epic views into Washington and expanses of the Columbia River.

Here, urban and exotically rural locales are snuggled close—with Portland offering literary lovers a paradise in legendary Powell’s Books, and coffee connoisseurs a bevy of local coffee roasters, including Stumptown Coffee, begun by Duane Sorenson on Southeast Division Street in 1999 and now boasting locations all over Portland, Seattle and, more recently, New York and L.A. Whether it’s French press, moka pot or the espresso route, Stumptown has a coffee brewed exactly the way you like and even sells a kit called “The Voyager” that’s perfect for your solo adventure. It has all the supplies you need to brew the perfect cup sans electricity.

Now, you can’t take a solo journey through the Pacific Northwest without some indie sounds. Though not a standard feature, Sonic’s optional audio package will have the tunes sounding brilliant. An available upgrade from the accessories catalog for an Audio System by Kicker includes subwoofers that bring up the deep bass paired with high-efficiency, low power-draw amplifiers and a unique sound signature from multi-channel amps with DSP.

Soak up the latest in indie by tuning in to Seattle’s KEXP to catch the best in what’s next, and discover the new Sleater Kinneys and Death Cabs for Cutie before they’ve been co-opted by Converse and MasterCard. Hear the blazing cool sounds of the all-girl surf noir band La Luz, on Sub Pop sister label Hardly Art. Get super lo-fi with fuzzy and scratchy sounds from Olympia, Washington’s K Records.

Whether you’re letting the experts at KEXP curate the tunes or have your iPod plugged in, these tunes provide the perfect soundtrack to discover yourself. And perhaps you’ll fall so in love with a particular tune, you’ll want to own it on vinyl, which is seeing quite the resurgence in the era of digital. There are many old-school shops to find the wax, including the oldest record store in the Pacific Northwest, Portland’s Music Millennium, or the newest, Sub Pop’s shop at the Sea-Tac airport.

So what are you waiting for? Hop in your Sonic for a solo adventure of a lifetime—in less than two hours of road time, you’ll span the jagged lushness of the Pacific and feel like you’re on the set of Singles sipping on a perfectly brewed espresso in Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The road is open and waiting for your latest adventure in self-discovery.

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

This is the third in a three-part series of Sonic Solo adventures.
Check out Exploring New England and The True South.

Katy Henriksen is the music editor for and a classical music and arts producer for KUAF 91.3 FM (NPR) in Fayetteville, AR, where she hosts the daily classical music show "Of Note with Katy Henriksen" and the weekly "KUAF Sunday Symphony." Her tumblr is and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @helloloretta.

  • 1 1 Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) New Car Assessment Program (
  • 2 2 Based on EPA estimated for LT/LTZ with available 1.4L turbocharged engine and 6-speed manual transmission.

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