Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A California Road Trip

This weekend, loathe to spend too much time sitting on the floor in our furniture-free apartment and determined to see more of California, Andrew and I decided to take a road trip; so Saturday morning, we set out for the coast. We were quickly out of the suburbs and into farm country—and then into territory far wilder. When we hit Route 1, it was really just us and the road. Route 1 meanders along the coast, with not much around except state parks. My idea of the California coastline was of sunny, sandy beaches and lots of sunbathing blond people—an idea that was proven absolutely and wholly incorrect. In reality, the northern coast is cold and foggy, rocky and wild, with more sea grasses and brush than beach towels. Sometimes the fog hovered just over the water, so that driving along the roads above it was like being above the clouds—more like flying than driving.

We stopped for lunch in Bodega Bay, at a little seafood shack called The Boat House. The sign outside advertised BBQ oysters as their specialty, and we were intrigued. We sat inside instead of on the little deck—it was truly chilly outside—and ordered fish n’ chips and the oysters. What came to the table was a plate of oysters on the half shell, sizzling from being on the grill, smothered in BBQ sauce. The oysters were gigantic—I was glad they were cooked; they would have been hard to stomach otherwise—and overall they were an interesting seafood experience.

We headed north from there, leaving civilization farther and farther behind. We saw isolated houses here and there, and a few other cars, but mostly we saw other people only when we pulled off the road and descended the bluffs down to the ocean. It was far too cold to swim, but we put our feet in; and at one beach we spread out a sheet and read for a while.

Eventually, we reached Point Arena, where we had a reservation at The Seashell Inn. We’d driven through some beautiful areas, with lovely-looking B&B’s; Point Arena was like their wayward, hippie sister. The houses were painted bright, odd colors; one had large, brightly-painted wooden cutouts of angels affixed to the rooftop and the tree in front. There was an organic burrito shop, a restaurant called the Phoenix, and a yoga/spirituality studio with large stone elephants flanking the entrance. We had dinner at the Phoenix—more fish n’ chips, gumbo, and locally brewed beer—then retreated to the Seashell, in all its fifties splendor, to read.

Sunday, we had breakfast at a local diner, then headed north once more to Manchester beach. It was beautiful, as well as strange; the sand was strewn with driftwood and thick, solid, alien-looking seaweed that looked like it might slither away at any moment. A few people had built lean-to’s out of driftwood (the whole coast is a camping-fan’s heaven).

We decided to head home by an inland route, and the drive took us through thick pine forests and incredibly curvy roads. We stopped in Boonville, home to the Andersen Brewery, for a tasting of some of their beers; and we stopped along the road a few times to collect pinecones. We found bagsful of medium-sized pinecones, as well as some monstrously large ones that Andrew foraged for on a steep wooded hill. Just a few weeks ago, Andrew was studying for his MBA at the number-one business school in Europe; and now we were collecting pinecones in the middle of nowhere, California. Very strange to have traveled to this particular point from that one.

The final leg of our journey took us through Napa, and we would through vineyard after vineyard—a wine-tasting tour will be a perfect next road trip. It was a lovely weekend excursion, nice to know that good seafood and lovely daytrips aren’t that far from us even here in suburbia. And when we came home, we took a dip in our pool and hot tub—definitely nothing to complain about. If we indeed stay here for a little while, I think we’ll be able to fashion quite a nice little life for ourselves. We shall see what this week brings.

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