Originally published 29 December, 2014
A brilliant blue Pacific Ocean
We awoke this morning in our palatial motel room at the Travelodge in Fort Bragg, CA. We didn't get robbed, shot, bedbugs, etc. Just joking...it wasn't bad at all. Simple and clean...and cheap. Ocean view doesn't count when you get there after dark....so we weren't worried about the view. After our morning routine, we loaded up and headed to our first stop.
They have something here in Fort Bragg called "The Glass Beach", where tons of sea glass wash up. It was about a city block from our hotel. We arrived to find the entire beach and all it's entrances blocked off with construction fence. Apparently, the entry path is under construction so they shut the entire beach down. On to stop number two. Breakfast!
I had read about a place for breakfast called "Eggheads", right on main street in Fort Bragg. It was very good and we had a really great breakfast. We headed to Mendocino, and parked downtown. We grabbed a coffee and set off to walk around a bit.
Church, Mendicino, CA
Mendocino is a very wealthy "artists" community. Lots of little shops, fancy food stores, and galleries. The town has a New England look and feel to it. The houses are similar and have wood siding and shake roofs. It looks like everything in town has a fresh coat of paint on it. We enjoy our short walk around town and get moving south.
Alpacas, ocean front farm, California coast
We start to notice a major difference. The ocean had turned from a greenish/flat color to a brilliant blue. It's that kind of blue that sticks out....a sharp color. It LOOKS really different, and shows up in our photos. It's started to get warmer as well. A cold front is supposed to move through, but it's warmer today than we've seen so far. Things are changing.
Landslide repair, Pacific Coast Highway, Northern California
We go a bit further south, stopping for photos along the way. The road itself is like driving along a scratch in a wall. It's straight down to the ocean, and at times, it's a LONG way down. A narrow two lane road cut into the side of a mountain. I'm an engineer, and every now and then I see a structure and a wall where you can tell that the hillside fell away at some point.....taking the road with it. It was rebuilt using newer technology, but slides happen all the time here. Gravity is difficult to overcome, and coupled with a bit of rain water to lubricate things, down the hill it goes.
The coast highway, snaking along the ocean
We notice a lighthouse in the distance, probably 6 or 7 miles away. We want to visit but we're patient. We know the road will take us right by it. We also see a "cable station". It's in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles from a major city. It has a 12 foot fence with razor wire at the top, and there are surveillance cameras everywhere. I tell Laurie that this place is unusual and there's something different about it, but I don't know what. Research later in the evening tells me that it is the landfall for a telecommunications cable that runs all the way from the United States to JAPAN! Okay....I'm impressed.
Point Arena Lighthouse, California
From there, it's only a few miles to the lighthouse. We stop for photos and to take in the beautiful view. I point out a pod of dolphin playing offshore to a family looking for whales. I tell that that they're in the same family as whales, so a dolphin sighting counts! They seem pleased with this compromise. After our walkabout and photos, it's south again.
Laurie making me nervous, way too close to the cliff
We stop in a community called "Gualala" at a small supermarket for deli sandwiches. We observe another change here, and this time it's the people. This is an escape for the well heeled from San Francisco. The parking lot at the market is filled with Bentleys and Porsches, their drivers shopping inside. For the first time on our trip, the people are not friendly. None smile or make eye contact. They walk right in front of you and don't bother to say excuse me. I had one woman make eye contact with me. I nodded hello and she smiled. They were in front of us at the register....turns out they were from France. We joke that Gualala is Spanish for grouchy.
They seem to be unhappy. At the same time, perhaps this unhappiness with things is what propelled them to the level of success they have had. They're obviously well off and in a beautiful place but it doesn't seem that they realize how well off they are. Then again, this refusal to be happy with their present situation may have propelled them to make a better computer, a vaccine, an invention that changed the world, or some cure for something. I guess it takes all kinds to get us all to where we're at. It is what it is.
We eat our sandwiches while traveling on down the road, watching the incredible coastline before us. Perhaps meeting the people in the market serves to make us appreciative of what we have, of what we are able to experience, the travel we are able to do. We feel lucky and humble to be able to travel and see places I only dreamed of as a child.
We arrive in San Rafael and get a room at one of the extended stay hotels. Our incredibly friendly and helpful desk clerk, Luis, asked us in a very spanish accent: "What brings you to beautiful San Rafael?" I tell him we chose this place mainly due to it having a laundry in the hotel and we needed that. He replied "Hey.....we take 'em how we get 'em." They are a friendly bunch at the hotel.
We meet Laurie's cousin David and his wife Sheree who we traveled to Europe with last year. They drove from Sacramento and treated us to a wonderful dinner. Mike Chapman, an old family friend from Wilmington is presently living in Berkley and he came for drinks. It was a grand end to a very good day.
Tomorrow, we head through the bay area to points south. More fun to come!
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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