Archive for September, 2004
Leaving the coast meant the end of the journey to me somehow; the end of the journey west and the beginning of the new journey south to my new life in San Francisco.
As we made our way inland, I was eager to get to Calistoga,
to experience the nationally renown mudbaths.
We stopped in Guerneville, a small quaint town on the way where they had an interesting outdoor market full of crystals and minerals…..I bought several connected to “vitalizing energy in a new home” and “clarity of thinking.” Expected from me, I was shocked when left brain KPMGer David bought a couple as well.
A bit of history on Calistoga and “the mud.”
It was the novelty of sitting in hot mud that first put Calistoga on the map. Although Native Americans and early Spanish settlers used the area’s natural hot springs, entrepreneur Sam Brannan turned geyser water into gold. After making a fortune selling shovels to prospectors during the Gold Rush, Brannan snapped up the steaming geysers and hot marshlands at the northern end of the Napa Valley with the idea of creating a resort modeled on upstate New York’s famous Saratoga Hot Springs.
Chrichton nails it. I have often referred to this quote over the years when I’ve “lived on the road” for months at a time or during a transition like this one. May the current direct experience last for months and months. I had forgotten just how drab the “comfort zone” really is.
“Often I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am. There is no mystery about why this should be so. Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of your food, your closet full of your clothes- with all this taken away you are forced into the direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That is not always comfortable but it is always invigorating.” Michael Crichton – Travels
Mendocino was this charming coastal town with East Coast flavor. People are smitten by the town’s Cape Cod-like architecture. The seaside saltbox look of the 19th-century wood-frame homes are here, explained by the fact the the original settlers were predominantly lumbermen from Maine.
It’s also an artist town, both in terms of the architecture, attitudes and people who live there. And aside from its artistic draw, it’s another beautiful hotspot, sitting at the mouth of the Big River — and at the edge of the one of the most sublime coastlines in California.
Smaller than Florence at less than 1,000 people, the numbers go up significantly in the summer as do the hotel prices.
Apparently the artist appeal started in the 1950s. Painters like Dorr Bothwell, Emmy Lou Packard and Bill Zacha were among the first to settle here. East of Eden was shot here and writers like Alice Walker have also worked in the area.
I love this description of Mendocino in the winter: “In winter, you can meet the community – the fishermen, fourth-generation loggers, first-generation marijuana farmers, apple and sheep ranchers, artists and craftspeople, and innkeepers and shop owners come out of hiding.”
In the morning, we…
We flew through Westport so we could reach Fort Bragg in time for dinner. This coastal town offered many outdoor choices and although it was chilly, we had drinks outside facing a fish tank and a heat lamp.
It’s a historical town with a few museums and artifacts. Fort Bragg is also the western terminus of the California and Western Railroad’s Skunk Train, a sightseeing railroad that winds inland along the redwood-thick and rugged Noyo River gulch and over the mountains to Willits, roughly 40 miles away. Christopher Myles in Australia – you’d love this. Thought of you, so once you get your body over here, we’ll drive north.
We ended up at The Wharf for dinner where we splurged on oysters (had to have em), a bottle of chardonnay (or was it two), and sole. I couldn’t help but notice four older men all wearing the same shirt…..a golf competition was my first thought. When the wine came, they stood up and started making their rounds – table to table – to sing acapella. When they arrived at our table, I told them of my journey west.
The result: they didn’t leave us. Song after song, we had our…
I must admit…..northern California was what I imagined. While the Redwood Forest was beyond writing home about, the rest of the towns that trickled along the coast were similar….motels were fairly bland even the higher end ones, and restaurant and cafe options were limited.
The views of the coast were spectacular however and this is clearly the draw….not as breathtaking as the Monterey to Big Sur coast, but worth a frequent stop to meander.
From Crescent City close to the border all the way south along the coast, we stopped in most of the interesting towns worth exploring, including Patrick’s Point, Trinidad, Arcata and Eureka. The latter is the largest town among them, so my hopes were up that we might find a juice bar.
No such luck although many we asked claimed Eureka had a few organic supermarkets bound to cater to our needs. “Can’t miss it – you’ll see the LARGE cow facing the parking lot.” Large cow? What planet are these people from? By whose standards? David and I were both bemused by every set of directions we received and after several passes up and down the main drag, we were ready to give up and then…
The Redwoods by foot and by car was magnificent, so much so that words can’t describe their grandeur and translucent beauty. They commanded respect and “quiet attention” the moment you entered into their path. Photographs better describe the feeling of being among them.
Winding down. Burritos and salsa are available in every town and we haven’t even hit San Francisco yet.
It was one of the last few days of the trip and I’ll never forget the sun beating on my face, playing backgammon with David on one of El Burrito’s outdoor picnic tables.
The cooks were great – beaming with happiness, they treated us like family. If only life could always be just this simple!!!
Driving through northern California’s Redwoods can make anyone fall in love with trees and become a naturalist. It’s the sort of place you imagine a lovely but eerie American Indian flute playing in the distance, soft enough to still hear an occasional bird….yet its so quiet that you actually don’t hear a sound. It’s the sort of place you want to spend time alone in, wandering, sitting, thinking, not thinking, just being.
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