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Our 2020, Annus Horribilis*, Northern California Coast Road Trip

Our 2020, Annus Horribilis*, Northern California Coast Road Trip

Old Nov 12th, 2020, 12:18 PM
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Our 2020, Annus Horribilis*, Northern California Coast Road Trip

In October, we hit the road for the first time in what Tracy calls (quoting Queen Elizabeth) "Annus Horribilis." We learned firsthand that traveling in the time of Covid forces you to make difficult decisions, but heck that little dilemma didn’t rear its ugly head until Day Three. With friends Kim and Mary, Tracy and I traveled up the Northern California Coast from Bodega Bay to our first night’s lodging in Mendocino. Along the way, we’d witness beautiful scenery, visit a funky church, take a walk out to to try and locate some “Bowling Balls,” visit a famed lighthouse and enjoy a winery with perhaps the most perfect location I’ve ever visited. Come join us on Day One of our abbreviated trip to Northern California. Story with lots of photos in link below ... story with no photos below 2 photos.

In the year Tracy, borrowing a phrase from Queen Elizabeth, calls “annus horribilis,” we made the decision to join our friends and longtime traveling partners Kim and Mary for a four-day vacation from Covid and visit the North Coast of California, including enjoying some relaxing time in the Redwoods and Eureka. Of course, in the era of Covid, there come unusual circumstances, and although we enjoyed our time together (not as much time as we expected), our story includes a cautionary tale of traveling in these most unpredictable times. On the plus side, we also visited perhaps the most beautiful location for a winery … ever!

Day 1 - Bodega Is For The Birds, We Finally Make It To Portugal (Kinda), The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming, Warm Smell of Colitas Rising Up Through The Air, Non Conventional Church, Let’s Go Bowling, Is This The Trail?, Arena Rocks, Seeing The Light (House), Looking For Hula Dancers, Putting Kim Out To Pasture, A Star Of A Winery, Mom’s Wedding Church, A Gem Of A Hotel, Father Time (With A Scythe) and It’s A Ghost Town

We met Kim and Mary at their home in Bodega Bay to start our journey. We have stayed here many times, and have often traveled the short distance to the nearby town of Bodega. (This report will mention a few things we’ve done previously on the Sonoma Coast to give you some ideas of even more places to stop along our route.)

When someone mentions that the town of Bodega is “For the Birds,” they’re not kidding. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film, The Birds, was shot in the town of Bodega (and Bodega Bay), and the 1873 Potter School where panicked and screaming kids were fleeing from still stands. As does the nearby church.

Saint Teresa of Avila Church in Bodega was constructed by shipbuilders in 1860. Little did they know that 103 years later it would be seen by millions of terrified people hoping a bunch of youngsters weren’t going to be pecked to death.

Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: St. Teresa’s is also famous for being photographed by Ansel Adams.

The only place to stop for a beer in Bodega is the Casino Bar & Grill. The last time we stopped here they were serving some of the old favorites.

As we headed north on the coast this trip we passed by a spot where I almost got stuck when I visited shortly before my knee replacement in late 2019.

We did some hiking on trails in Bodega Bay. On the trail below, I started walking down giant steps toward the beach. I then had the terrifying thought, “What goes down must come up.” My knees were toast at this point, so thanks to some assistance “Frankenstein” made it back up.

This is a wonderful spot to get some beautiful views This level trail worked much better on that trip.

Back to our drive up the coast, we witnessed a few brave souls testing the waters at Salmon Creek Beach. I thought about belting out a few bars of Salmon Chanted Evening, but we had only been on the road for a few minutes, so I deferred.

Shortly afterward, I shouted, “Kim! Stop!” We were all supposed to be enjoying three weeks in Portugal about this time. With that trip canceled, I was glad to see the signpost up ahead (No Rod Serling, however). We were at Portuguese Beach in Sonoma State Park. I only wish we had brought a bottle of Port.

The scenery never stops being picturesque on this drive.

Soon we were in the tiny town of Jenner. This is where the water’s rock formations start to become prominent.

Jenner also offers travelers a great restaurant with a beautiful view. As you can see from the photo from their website, the view ain’t too bad either.

In a little less than half an hour, you’ll see a sign for Fort Ross. In 1809 the Russian-American Company’s manager, Ivan Kuskov, sailed to Bodega Bay. It was the most southerly outpost of the old Russian Empire in (what is now) the United States.

For six months, he and 40 Russians, plus 150 Alaskans trapped more than 2,000 sea otters before returning with their pelts to Alaska. In 1812 he returned to the area and started the settlement known as Fort Ross. There is no documentation that the Russians meddled in the 1812 James Madison - DeWitt Clinton presidential race, but I believe I read somewhere that Rudy Giuliani was Clinton’s campaign advisor.

We also passed by the Kruse Rhododendron State Natural reserve where we had previously hiked. However, nary a blooming rhododendron could be found on that visit.

In another 20 minutes, off to our right, stood a church we had been looking for on this drive (yes, even on these trips we manage a church or three). As we exited the car the smell of colitas rose through the air, but there was no hotel around.

Some kids were playing guitar and smoking something in the parking lot. By the time we reached the church, I was already hungry for a Jack-In-The Box taco.

The Sea Ranch Chapel is not reminiscent of any church you’ve seen. We all walked slowly, but perhaps that’s because the roof form “was inspired by the shell of a sea snail.” It’s probably why I felt sluggish (I know, I promised never to use that line again).

The non-denominational church was constructed in 1985 by a team of local artisans and contractors using local copper and redwood.

The artist and architect, James Hubbell designed the interior of the church to “reflect the natural world as it integrates art, craft and architecture.” The stained glass windows feature a dazzling array of colors. It’s open from sunrise to sunset and is a tranquil stop.

Now, it was time to go bowling. In actuality, we were attempting to find Bowling Ball Beach, a spot we surmised would be right down our alley. However, finding it proved to be as hard as converting a 7 - 10 split.

Finally we spied a sign for Schooner Gulch State Beach, however there was little information about Bowling Ball Beach. In any event, we made the ten-minute trek down to the beach, but there were no bowling balls. It was high tide and these bad boys are best seen during low tide (see photo below from my pal the internet).

According to Atlas Obscura, “The so-called bowling balls are actually “a geological phenomenon known as ‘concretion,’ sedimentary rock formed by a natural process wherein mineral cements bind grains of sand or stone into larger formations. These boulders are the result of millions of years of concretion and erosion, exposing the hard spheres as the mudstone of the cliffs receded around them.”

We took the obligatory “waves crashing behind us” photo on the Point Arena rocks, and we decided to split from Bowling Ball beach, if that was even Bowling ball Beach. At least I didn’t have to pay to rent shoes. My new knee was working well, so maybe I’ll get the other one done. Always nice to have a spare.

In another 15 minutes we veered off Highway 1 (safely, of course) and traversed the short distance to the 115-foot tall Point Arena Lighthouse, which celebrated its 150th year of operation in 2020. Surrounded on three sides by the mighty Pacific, it is the tallest lighthouse on the west coast, but sadly, thanks to Covid, you can’t climb the tower.

You can (and we did) visit the Point arena Lighthouse Museum. We were greeted by a replica of the Fresnel Lens, sometimes called, ‘the invention that saved a million ships.” Ships (and its crews) can thank French physicist and engineer Augustin-Jean Fresnel, who is credited with its development. His wikipedia page is longer than any book I read in college, and he only lived to be 39-years-old. An extraordinary man.

The Fresnel Lens was a much better option than in the old days, as shown by Gary Larson in The Far Side.

We stopped by the Foghorn to check out stories of ships that were saved by these lighthouses and Fresnel’s invention. I could not find Leghorn. That’s a joke, son!

Had we been able to go to the top, I might have gotten the chance to see a luau. According to its website, Point Arena Lighthouse is the closest piece of land in the 48 contiguous states to the Hawaiian Islands. I probably would have needed binoculars.

Nature called for one of our traveling companions, and in the age of Covid, finding a restroom can, on occasion, be a challenge.

However, we were in luck. Outside the entrance to the parking lot there was a porta potty located in a cow pasture. For some odd reason Kim climbed over the gate to get in, while everyone else used the conventional latch.

Onward north we traveled. We passed by our accommodations a little south of Mendocino, because we were on our way to a winery a few miles north of Fort Bragg. Our friend, Tim, had recently been to this area, and he suggested we make a stop at the Pacific Star Winery. He said the location reminded him of visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia (one of our favorite spots in the world). We had visited in 2008 (photo below)

I scoffed, but after spending an hour at Pacific Star, it sort of felt like a combination of Plitvice and the Buza Bar in Dubrovnik. Wow, what a spot!

Walking from the parking lot we passed under the star topped arch and were transported to another place. An open green space with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs complete with a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean, its waves crashing against the sea caves below.

There is a redwood and stone barn, with a wine cellar containing French, Hungarian and American wines. We could have participated in a wine tasting, but our friend had recommended we buy a bottle, plop down at a picnic table and luxuriate in nature in all its glory, all the while sipping a nice Grenache.

In between sips, we walked around the spacious grounds shooting photos and remarking what a captivating spot this winery stands upon.

We spent the better part of an hour here, chatting with a few of the guests, and for a moment the “annus horribilis” was far from our minds.

We returned to the Sea Foam Lodge in Little River, our lodging for the evening, but took a slight detour into the town of Mendocino on the way. Tracy wanted to check out the Mendocino Presbyterian Church, where her mom and step-father, Mr. C, were married in 1984. (Check out some of Mr. C’s recipes in Mai Tai Tracy’s Kitchen.)

The church, constructed of coast redwood in the late 1860s, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Parts of the 1947 movie Jonny Belinda starring Jane Wyman and Lew Ayres were filmed at the church. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open to check out the interior, but we do have this slightly grainy wedding photo from 1984 to give you some idea.

Entering the winding road up to the Sea Foam Lodge, we looked at the sprawling, 21-room hotel that has been recently renovated. Looking back the other way, there are also great views of the ocean.

The large remodeled rooms were terrific, and we had a Five-Star view at very reasonable prices. Most importantly, the beds were super comfy, the rooms quiet and clean and the showers hot and steamy. I would definitely stay here again. (If you travel with your four-legged friends, it is also pet friendly.)

We relaxed on the patio for our second happy hour (our driver Kim was abstaining), and enjoyed some wine and cheese (the four of us always come prepared) while enjoying the fresh ocean breezes, far away from the fires that had scorched not only the earth, but our lungs the past few months.

Below, it looks like I’m waiting for Churchill and Stalin in Yalta.

A little after 6 p.m., Kim drove us the short distance to Mendocino. We wanted to explore the town before our 7 p.m. dinner reservations. Tracy and Mary checked out our restaurant patio and confirmed our reservation.

Sadly, as we walked through it, Mendocino almost felt like a ghost town. It may have been because it was a Sunday night, but there were virtually no people wandering around and it looked like everything was either closed or out of business. The effects of the virus were evident.

We strolled through town and passed by a museum (Kelly House) I had wanted to visit, but, of course, it had been temporarily closed.

There was also a B&B with an outdoor restaurant where we finally saw some people.

We came upon a bank building with an interesting sculpture on top of it. It seems the Savings Bank of Mendocino used to be the local Masonic Lodge, and the statue above it is the Time and the Maiden Statue. According to RoadsideAmerica, “Yes, it's Father Time, that old dude who shows up every year in late December, with an hourglass and a mean-looking scythe over his shoulder.” The masons still have a room upstairs where they meet.

It goes on to say, “According to a flyer provided by the Savings Bank, the figures and the items are Father Time, the Hourglass of Transience, the Weeping Maiden, the Anointment of her Hair, the Acacia Branch and the Sacred Urn, the Sundered Column, and the Book of Light.” What does it mean. Only a Mason can tell you (no, not Perry).

The sun was setting, and it was nearing 7 p.m., so we scampered back to Luna Trattoria.

Our dinner was so good, it will be a separate post in Tom’s Dining Out.

Tomorrow, we would head north to Eureka. We’d stop at a beach full of glass, nearly get killed by a wayward deer, drive through a tree, take a hike in the Avenue of the Giants, finally get to the home of several Victorian Mansions, stay in a historic hotel and once again dine at a great restaurant. It wouldn’t be too long after that the vacation plans would suddenly be altered.

* Queen Elizabeth II once referred to 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” a Latin phrase meaning “horrible year.” “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure,” she said during a speech marking the 40th anniversary of her succession. It was a year that three royal marriages collapsed, a fire destroyed more than a hundred rooms in Windsor Castle and a toe-sucking scandal involving Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, rocked Britain and the monarchy.

maitaitom is offline  
Old Nov 12th, 2020, 02:43 PM
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🙈 Enjoying your report. We need to do this!
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Old Nov 12th, 2020, 03:37 PM
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I so love reading your trip reports! Thank you !
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Old Nov 12th, 2020, 07:21 PM
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Isn't Pacific Star drop dead gorgeous?? !! (I did post about it once and one of Fodor's resident Debbie Downers pooh poohed me saying I obviously have low standards)

I usually stay at Little River Inn -- may I ask what the room rates were at Sea Foam Lodge?

You do need to hit Bowling Ball Beach another time -- it is worth the effort. Especially just before sunset but about any time if the tide is out.

Looking forward to the rest - sounds like more than one cliff hanger . . .
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Old Nov 12th, 2020, 08:35 PM
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Annus Horribilis sounds pretty badass.
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Old Nov 13th, 2020, 08:27 AM
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JanisJ - Haha, Debbie Downer. Not me! I like wine anywhere anytime.
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Old Nov 13th, 2020, 09:36 AM
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"I usually stay at Little River Inn -- may I ask what the room rates were at Sea Foam Lodge?"

Janis - We have stayed at Little River Inn before, and it has always been a favorite of Kim and Mary, We all liked it, but Kim and Mary (who visited last year) said it has become a little worn over the years. We did check, however, and the rate at LRI was more than $300 a night with a two-night minimum (restaurant is not currently open). Sea Foam Lodge was $209 per night (that includes tax) and it was ok just to stay one night. As I said in the report, rooms were large, beds were comfy and the shower is terrific. That and quiet, to me, make a perfect night's lodging.

"Annus Horribilis sounds pretty badass."

Dave, I had forgotten that expression that we heard about first when we toured Windsor Castle a few yers ago. When Tracy mentioned the phrase should be part of the trip report, the first thing I thought about was Preparation H. I might need professional help.

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Old Nov 13th, 2020, 11:15 AM
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Yo MT,
Glad to read that the 4 of you had a great time! That is one beautiful stretch, in an already beautiful state. Love love love that shot of Frankie---he looks very content.
Best wishes for a similarly wonderful trip to Portugal further down the road.
I am done. The end.
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Old Nov 13th, 2020, 03:00 PM
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""LRI was more than $300 a night with a two-night minimum (restaurant is not currently open)""

We stayed there for 1 night on Sept 30, and had a very nice dinner at their outside covered patio. Their web site states that their patio is currently open for dinner.

Did you visit Ferndale on your trip??

Stu Dudley
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Old Nov 13th, 2020, 03:05 PM
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I can't wait to read more.
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Old Nov 14th, 2020, 09:15 AM
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"Did you visit Ferndale on your trip??"

Yes, we did. Stay tuned.
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Old Nov 21st, 2020, 06:32 PM
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Hmmm, how long will I have to stay tuned? (Fingers tapping on the computer edge).
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Old Nov 22nd, 2020, 08:33 AM
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Hmmm, how long will I have to stay tuned?"

It should be ready in a couple of days. Going through all the photos.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2020, 09:25 AM
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Thank you! I don't mean to be a pain. You are my favorite report writer and you always have an unexpected adventure (or several) so I really look forward to your reports. Love the recipe posts too.
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Old Nov 30th, 2020, 10:00 AM
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On Day Two of our abbreviated Northern California October Vacation we stopped at a "beach of glass" with marvelous views, were almost killed by a stray animal in the Redwoods, drove through a tree, found a confusing hill, had a close encounter with a potential “serial killer,” hiked among the Redwoods and finally ended up in Eureka, home of some beautiful mansions. It was all going so well … then Day Three was upon us, and the trip began unraveling. Check it out in the link below.sions. It was all going so well … then Day Three was upon us, and the trip began unraveling. Check out the details (and photos) in the link below. Story with no photos below photos.


Day Two: Don’t Step On The Glass, Motorcycle Down, Oh … DEER!, Watch Out For That Tree, Confusion Reigns, What Info?, Land Of The Giants, Picnicking With A Mass Murderer?, Another Aztec Defeat, Signs Signs Everywhere Are Not Signs, Happy Rockefeller Hike, Eureka We Found It, Historical Carter House, Stormy Stormy Night and Car Surfing Ends Badly

Tracy awoke earlier than me, proving that everything is out of whack in 2020. While I crawled in the shower tracy took some photos of our view from the Sea Foam Lodge.

Soon we were back on the road, and it was quite a coincidence when Blondie’s Heart Of Glass came on the radio. That’s because our first stop on our drive toward Eureka was Glass Beach. I asked the group if they thought the beach would be half empty or half full. Within in a minute they were 100 yards ahead of me.

Glass Beach is located on the southern side of MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg. We first headed out on some bluffs to take photos.

It seems no matter where you are on the northern coast, the views are stupendous …

… from so many vantage points.

Glass Beach was actually once a trash dump where local residents would dump their garbage cans (recycling was not yet in vogue). That trash included lots and lots of bottles. The area has now been transformed into “little treasures to be found.” Although it is illegal to to remove glass from Glass Beach, it seems some do take some of the remnants away.

Mary, showing off her yoga skills, picked up some of the fragments to look at.

I will have to say the “Glass” part of Glass Beach was kind of a let down. “It must have the same press agent as the Mona Lisa,” Tracy quipped.

On the plus side, however, the ocean vista views with waves crashing on the rocks made it a worthwhile stop.

Tracy did make the morning exciting when she got way too close to the edge of the cliffs as she took some last photos. She survived, and we started heading north.

It was a short drive to our next stop. Kim, Mary and Tracy took a short hike to check out the lay of the land, which I think was part of the MacKerricher Ten Mile Estuary.

I stayed behind to make sure the car wasn’t stolen. Either that, or I was lazy.

We kept hugging the coast for about 45 minutes, but just north of Rockport, Highway 1 puts you into the Redwoods for about half an hour until you reach Leggett. It was an eventful half hour.

The road is very twisty, and Mary, sitting in the back seat, was feeling uncomfortable from all the twisting and turning (potential foreshadowing). I asked if she wanted to sit up front, but she declined.

All of a sudden we found ourselves behind some slow moving cars. Up ahead, at a bend in the road, a motorcyclist had taken a tumble. Forgetting her dizziness woes, Mary, our own Florence Nightingale, reached into her purse, which carries more medical materials than many hospitals, and asked Kim to stop to provide aid. When we reached the scene of the accident, the rider was sitting up being attended to many passing motorists, so we traveled on.

Not too long afterward, there was shouting from the backseat. “Deer!!!” Oh deer, indeed. On my side of the car a deer leapt out of the forest. It looked like the deer, with antlers the size of Texas, was coming directly at my front window. At this point, I did not want to go out stag.

Kim slammed on the brakes, and the deer made a move that Barry Sanders would have been proud of. As our car came to an abrupt halt, the deer hastily reversed course narrowly averting tragedy. (below is an artist rendering of the near tragedy … no deers were injured or killed in this trip report)

Tracy, always the one to compliment my driving skills, said that it was lucky Kim had been driving, because had it been me behind the wheel, I would have either crashed into oncoming traffic or hit the deer, ultimately impaling one of our passengers. Well, I thought, she’s never been one to fawn over me.

Shortly we were in Leggett, and I began singing the theme some to George of the Jungle, because we (well, Kim) were going to drive through a tree. “Watch out for that tree!”

In Underwood Park stands the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree that I really wanted to visit (yes, I am a child). As the story goes, a married couple who were dairy farmers bought a tract of old growth redwood forest back in 1921. Sixteen years later they hired foresters to carve a 6-foot wide and 6.75-foot tall tunnel through, which was big enough for cars to drive through the trunk. Supposedly, the tree is named “Chandelier” because it “resembles an ornate chandelier with enormous branches balanced on each side of the trunk.”

After paying the $10 per car fee, Mary and Tracy quickly exited the automobile before entering the tree just in case we got stuck. The website states “most vehicles will be able to drive through the Tree.” Kim was hoping so, too, as he does not have a surplus of cars.

As Tracy took the photos, Kim started inching his way through the tight space. At one juncture I asked Kim if it would be considered ironic if his trunk was damaged by a trunk. Judging by Kim’s quick glance, that might not have been the best question.

In any case, we came out the other side unscathed. I was going to send out an Instagram post as we were driving through, however, in another piece of irony, I couldn’t log in.

My poor traveling companions were forced to indulge me one last time about ten minutes north of the Chandelier Tree. I had Kim pull into a parking lot for a place called Confusion Hill, which is a perfect name, since Kim was perplexed that I had us stop here.

Why “Confusion Hill?” For the past 71 years, Confusion Hill has been described as “a place of “mystery, fun and family entertainment.” I had wanted to visit the Gravity House, where it seems up is down and down is up. Alas, it and the rest of Confusion Hill was closed during Covid.

Although closed, we were able to view a 40-foot tall standing redwood tree carved by chainsaw into a totem pole. It is the “tallest free-standing redwood chainsaw carving,’ and was featured in Ripley’s Believe or Not.

Also closed was the “historic Mountain Train Ride,’ which takes visitors through “redwoods, tan oaks, fir and madrone trees” on a 1 1/4 mile ride on 20 gauge track.

At least I did get to see the Redwood Shoe House, where Tracy took my photo. I guess we really are sole mates.

It was back on Highway 101 on our way to the Avenue of the Giants. We passed by the Benbow Historic Inn where we planned o stay on our last night (more sad foreshadowing).

Since we had missed breakfast, we pulled into Garberville to find a place to eat. Ten minutes later we left Garberville with nary a restaurant open for dining.

As we headed toward the Avenue of the Giants, with no Willie Mays or Willie McCovey in sight, we witnessed three signs alerting us that information and brochures of the area could be found just ahead. Where that info and brochure really is located was as confusing as Confusion Hill. As it turned out, we could have printed one online before we left. Live and learn!

The Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile stretch of old Highway 101 that contains more than 51,000 acres of redwood groves. To see it best, you exit 101 and take the backroads that parallel the main highway. Even without a brochure, it’s quite a sight to see these massive redwoods in all their splendor.

Mary had packed some picnic supplies, so instead of a restaurant, we decided to pull into a secluded spot in the heart of the Avenue of the Giants. It was a gorgeous spot, but it did not remain secluded for long.

After driving by our parking/picnic spot a few times, a white car pulled up right next to ours with license plates from Maine. The guy seemed a bit off as he started hunting for something on the ground while putting on his hiking boots (what could he have lost since he just got there?). Obviously Tracy has watched too many crime shows, because she was definitely on “red alert.”

Then the guy then started rummaging under the front side of the passenger’s seat. This alarmed Tracy, who thought he might be looking for a gun to either carjack or kill us all, so she picked up a stick to defend us. Meanwhile the rest of us obliviously munched on our delightful picnic meal consisting of crackers, cheese and salami.

Finally, the “killer” locked his vehicle and walked by us, while Tracy wielded her stick like a sword. He then wandered into the wilderness, not utilizing a nearby trail. We all mocked Tracy, but we did get the heck out of the area fast just in case her instincts were correct.

We drove by the little town of Meyers Flats where Kim floored-it past another Drive-Thru Tree before I could speak. We stopped at the Visitor Center, which was closed, but did have open bathrooms and that elusive brochure.

Near the Visitor Center is a cut of a tree that fell in 2006. The beginning ring at the center of that cut shows the tree dates from 912 A.D.

Those dates and facts were very interesting, although when I read that in 1521 “Cortez conquers Aztecs,” I became less impressed. “Big deal,” I said, “in 2008 the Aztecs were defeated by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.” It can be tough being a San Diego State football fan.

Using our new trusty map we decided to visit Rockefeller Forest. It was easier said than done as signage in this part of the Avenue of the Giants could have been a little better. The signs are brown with yellow lettering and only about a foot off the ground, so they’re a little difficult to see, even for our “Sign Queen” Tracy.

After passing the entrance to the Rockefeller Forest … twice, we found it, and Tracy wrote “we drove off a cliff to get to the parking area” (well, it looked like we were going of a cliff from Tracy’s vantage point in the back seat, but it was just a steep driveway).

We decided on taking the Rockefeller Loop through some of the largest remaining contiguous old-growth coastal redwood forest in the world.

We read that John D. Rockefeller Jr. had visited this beautiful expanse of giant trees with members of the Save-The-Redwoods League Company. “The Save-the-Redwoods League purchased the land with a pair of million-dollar donations from Rockefeller and matching funds from the state.”

The nearly 1.5 mile loop took us past gorgeous giants that looked like they were touching the sky as we peered upward.

Tracy and Kim looked skyward often attempting to photograph these mammoth trees, craning their necks for every shot (another possible foreshadowing event).

The fallen trees were sometimes as, or more, interesting than the ones towering up to the sky.

As for some of the trunks, you could let your imagination run free attempting to describe what you thought they looked like.

We contemplated taking another hike, but decided we could do that in a couple of days when we stayed at Benbow Historic Lodge, but you all know better than that.

We hopped back on the 101 and in about 40 minutes we were in Eureka, where we would (ostensibly) stay for two nights at the Carter House Inn, a historic hotel situated among some beautiful Victorian homes in Eureka’s Old Town.

We had a gracious and masked greeting in the lobby, and wandered past a cool-looking bar, where I would have a fantastic Manhattan later in the evening.

Sadly, due to the pandemic, the hotels renowned Restaurant 301 was closed, so we made reservations at the nearby Humboldt Bay Bistro, which will be reviewed in a separate post.

As we walked back to the Carter House Inn from our fantastic dinner, a car sped through a nearby intersection with a teenager clinging to the sun roof like Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible movie. Unfortunately for him, it did not have a Tom Cruise ending as he fell off the top of the car onto the pavement. We watched as he picked himself off of the street, battered but not dead.

Back at the hotel Tracy and I enjoyed a nightcap (a wonderful Manhattan for me and a TomTini for Tracy. We bade farewell to Kim and Mary and said we’d meet the next morning for coffee to discuss our day’s plans. Those plans never came to fruition.

A Trip Interrupted

Days Three & Four: As The World Turns, Traveling With Jimmy Stewart, The Most Expensive Rental Car Ever, Beautiful Mansions, Ghost Town … Part Two, Watch Out For That Tree - Part Two, October’s The Time, Not That Rental Office, Too Old for A Nine-Hour Drive, Kim Conks Out & I Hate Interstate 5!

For the first few minutes of our third day on the road, it seemed normalcy had returned. I was up early, and Tracy was getting some extra beauty rest. Normalcy did not last long.

As I exited the shower, I could hear Tracy say “Oh, no!” I was hoping it was just a bad weather report, but I had just looked at the weather on my phone and it called for another beautiful day.

“What’s up?” I asked. The reply was not good. Mary had texted Tracy that Kim had been up for hours with a case of vertigo. Since Tracy has had this before, I declined to ask if Kim Novak had anything to do with this. I started this report with Hitchcock in Bodega Bay, and now we were in another of his movies.

A quick search of my buddy Google stated that although vertigo is an unlikely symptom of Covid, dizziness could possibly be one. Had this been prior years, I assume Kim would have taken the day off while we saw some sights, but in a pandemic all bets are off. Mary said she would be driving Kim home immediately.

To err on the side of caution, although we had been in the car with them for two days, we decided to rent a car, take it to Santa Rosa to pick up our car and then we’d head back to our home in Southern California.

As Mary and Kim were driving south, I went to pick up a rental car. The cheapest car for a one-day rental from Eureka to Santa Rosa was an astounding $230. I’ve rented cars in Europe for two weeks at a lower price. Luckily, Tracy had bought trip insurance before hand, because she realizes I could keel over at anytime during a trip. Well, that’s what she gets for marrying an older guy.

Before leaving Eureka, we walked around the area surrounding the Carter House Inn. Nearby was the famed Victorian house, the Carson Mansion.

The Carson Mansion was constructed in 1884 by lumber magnate William Carson in order to “keep 100 of his workers employed during a slump in the timber industry.” The mansion has been called “the most photographed Victorian home in the United States.”

The structure is made “primarily of redwood and 97,000 feet of white mahogany from Central America, and onyx from East India, Mexico and the Philippines.”

It was sold to the Ingomar Club in 1950. Sadly, the private club does not allow tours, but here are some interior photos from its website.

Across the street from the Carson House stands a mansion known as the Pink Lady. This house was built in 1889 by Carson as a wedding gift for his son. The house is constructed entirely from redwood. It has been used over the years as a restaurant and various other uses.

The Carter House Inn also owns the Bell Cottage and an annex kitty-corner to the hotel.

Now it was farewell to Eureka and in about half an hour we were in the historic Victorian village of Ferndale. We drove down its main drag that was virtually devoid of people.

It is small town Americana, however, and each year Ferndale lights the largest living Christmas tree in America (virtually, of course, in 2020)

The downtown area is cute, to be sure.

Colorful shops dot the area.

Wow, a Rexall drug store.

Tracy got out and walked through town taking photos, while I drove slowly behind her like a cop on a stakeout.

A block or two off the main street we found the Gingerbread Mansion B&B. This is a 19th-century Queen Anne Carpenter Victorian. A 50-foot addition was built on the back of the family home and served as Ferndale’s first public hospital (the owner was a doctor).

It has also been utilized as an American Legion Post veteran’s building and a rest home. The Gingerbread Mansion is referred to as one of the most often photographed bed-and-breakfasts in the United States. Again, we did our photographic duty.

We also stopped to take a photo of Ferndale’s Church of the Assumption. It has a beautiful interior, but once again Covid regulations had the church locked up (photo on right from website).

Leaving Ferndale, soon we were back among the redwoods at the Avenue of the Giants. Getting off the 101, we passed our picnic spot from the prior day, and noticed a lot of emergency vehicles parked alongside the road. Remembering the strange guy from the day before, Tracy said, “You don’t think …” her voice trailing off.

Had it not been for a medical dilemma, we were going to explore this area more, along with Richardson Grove south of here, but circumstances meant we could only make a quick stop.

We found ourselves back in Myers Flat. Remember that Drive-Thru tree Kim blew off? Not me, I never met a tree I didn’t drive through (if I could).

A 3,000-year-old chimney tree (175 feet tall) whose trunk was perhaps hollowed by a fire (well, it is a chimney tree), was spared by loggers since it had very little merchantable timber.

I carefully (we had not purchased extra insurance for the car) navigated its 7-foot wide by 7-foot tall tunnel.

We passed on driving over the fallen redwood log and the children’s walk-through stump …

… but I did pose for a photo with my friend Bigfoot (or is it Darryl?).

It was another drop dead gorgeous day. Every time we visit Northern California in early October the weather has been spectacular.

We had thought about driving to Santa Rosa, dropping the car, retrieving our car in Bodega Bay and heading home. By now we realized we’re too old for that.

Mary met us at the Santa Rosa airport, and I went inside to give the keys to the rental car agent. The problem was it looked as if the rental car company was closed. As it turns out, they don’t operate at the airport any longer (a little detail I was not given at the agency in Eureka). Instead we had to drop it in downtown Santa Rosa, clean the inside with Clorox wipes, and finally headed to Kim and Mary’s.

Kim was sound asleep in one end of the house, so we decided to stay in the west wing after a delicious Mary-cooked pork chop dinner. We did not see Kim for the remainder of our trip.

The next morning came another of the “worst drives in the world.” There is no stretch of highway I despise more than the two lanes in each direction on Highway 5. The scenery is virtually non-existent, but never boring due to some of the worst drivers in the world. You have to compete with slow drivers in the fast lane, fast drivers in the slow lane, never knowing when a two-ton truck will swerve in your path.

In our last four drives (two north, two south) we have encountered two apparently drunk drivers swerving across lanes, the remnants of a fatal accident and, on our journey south this day, traffic came to an abrupt halt for nearly an hour.

People exited their vehicles to see what was going on. Finally a helicopter arrived not too far in front of us (that’s never a good thing).

When we finally got moving, we saw the remains of the crash, which might also have resulted in a fatality.

A few hours later our “vacation” was over. The corgis greeted us, and we told them it will probably be quite some time until our next trip. The next day Mary called to tell us Kim’s doctor had ruled out Covid.

Travel in the time of Covid is complicated, but we were grateful we got in at least a couple of days to explore the wonders of the Northern California Coast and the Redwoods. It’s an area people should make a point to visit while in California. And, it also reinforced my old adage …

Enjoy The Journey! Attitude Is Everything!
maitaitom is offline  
Old Nov 30th, 2020, 11:49 AM
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It had been placed in Moderator Limbo, but it is now miraculously above this post now. Very frustrating.

Last edited by maitaitom; Nov 30th, 2020 at 11:55 AM.
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Old Nov 30th, 2020, 12:30 PM
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""The Gingerbread Mansion is referred to as one of the most often photographed bed-and-breakfasts in the United States. ""

Today I receive a 2 nights for the price of 1 offer from the Gingerbread Mansion. Good from Dec 10 to April 31. Call 707 786-4000 or use their web site with the promo code BON20. https://gingerbread-mansion.com/ .
We stayed there for 2 nights about 3 years ago.

Stu Dudley
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Old Nov 30th, 2020, 05:52 PM
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Thank you for this trip report. About three years ago, my husband and I made a similar drive through this area of northern California, but we started in the north and drove south. We have been to California many times but had not been in this area for years. We remarked several times, "Oh, this is why people like to live in California!" We had forgotten how beautiful it is. After reading your report, I want to go again. We missed so much!

I look forward to your trip reports. They are always informative and very entertaining.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2020, 08:56 AM
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Thanks for finishing the report. We have not visited that area yet,but would really like to.
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