Finally, our family duties discharged, we headed north on the Ventura Freeway, winding up through the coastal mountains and farmland, electing to spend the night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a port of call on free weekends when I was stationed at Fort Ord in 1966. Rain followed us intermittently. We stayed at a lovely cottage resort, braving the rain to go out to dinner at Yafa, a middle-eastern establishment not far from our cottage. Excellent food, friendly staff.
The next morning, since we didn’t have far to go to our next destination, we toured the city. A short walk on one of the beaches, a drive-by for a re-take of a 1966 photo of the city beach, a stop at a mid-town coffee shop, in the courtyard of a block of shops. We also stopped at the local yarn shop, located behind the Yafa restaurant, and toured the restored 244-year-old Carmel Mission (officially, Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo), still an active parish and school.
Back on the 101 through the Salinas Valley, our GPS detoured us at San Jose eastward through Oakland and across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. A stop in San Rafael at the Whole Foods to pick up lunch, and we were soon at our turn-off at Hopland toward Lakeport and Clear Lake, over a steep, winding mountain road rimmed at the top with snow from the storm the day before. We arrived at our resort promptly at the 4:00pm check-in time and settled in for a few days of bike riding and site-seeing along the lake.
The first day dawned very cold. We ventured out on the bike, but only as far as the supermarket at the north end of town, for a short 8Km loop along the shore. We did walk about a bit and enjoyed the flocks of ducks and coots that alternated between the resort grounds and the shore, though we had to step lightly and carefully everywhere: the sidewalks and grounds were well-fertilized by the waterfowl. We took a car trip south to the town of Clear Lake “for coffee,” winding back along the hilly shoreline to Clear Lake Oaks, then retracing the shore highway back to Nice.
The second day was not much warmer, but we put on heavy gloves and layers and rode to LakePort for lunch, round trip 34Km, along the lakeshore. We didn’t explore the town much, as the temperature peaked at 8 Celcius and started dropping as rain clouds moved in from the west, bringing a damp chill to the air. The much-needed rain came shortly after we were off the road, and stayed with us for the rest of the trip.
Our riding ended by the cold rain, the next day we ventured out by car to check out the parts of Lakeport we missed (not much, actually) and the village of Upper Lake, where we lunched at the Blue Wing Saloon, part of the restored Tallman hotel complex. Our impression of the lake communities was that the recession had hit here, too, with many storefronts vacant. A cyclist we met in Lakeport, the former city planner, said that the water quality in the lake was a big factor, too, with early summer algae blooms sending vacationers elsewhere for water sports. We also read that mercury contamination from an old mine also had diminished the joy of fishing if you intended to eat the catch.
On our way again, we headed north on CA 20 to US 101, backtracking to Ukiah to visit the campus of the City of 10,000 Buddhas, a Chan Buddhist community, school, and monastery occupying a former California State Hospital complex. It was pouring rain and a school holiday, so there was not much activity, though a number of monks and nuns gathered for noon meditation in the great hall. We were going to lunch at the restaurant on campus, but it was cash-only and we don’t usually carry enough to be worth mugging us for, so it was back to town and deli fare in the Safeway parking lot, in the rain.
The rain stayed with us through the Redwoods: we toured the Avenue of the Giants, but it was raining too hard to explore under the trees, so we pressed on to Fortuna for the night, dining at the brew pub next door to our motel. The one good thing about traveling along the coast is that most restaurants now have a reasonable variety of vegetarian fare, so I’m not restricted to fettucine alfredo or bean burritos (though the brew pub’s burrito was tasty), or the usual meat country fare of bread and garnishes (i.e., regular sandwich sans meat) or skimpy salad greens with no protein whatsoever that is what they think vegetarians subsist on.
In the morning, with the rain lighter, we ventured off-road to the Ladybird Johnson Grove, which turned out to be not just 5km off the highway, but nearly 300 meters above, on a very steep, narrow road with switchbacks. After Crescent City, we were in “new” (to us) territory, not having traveled the coast between Crescent City and Coos Bay. Our destination for the night was Florence, but we were blocked 20km south by a large fir tree fallen across both lanes of the coast highway, minutes before we arrived on the windy ridge. We turned back to Reedsport to get groceries for dinner, by which time the blockage had been cleared and we proceeded on. Wind and rain continued to batter the area through the night.
Sunday morning, our 22nd day on the road, dawned clear, but cold. We got a few “scenery shots” along the way, but when northbound, most of the scenic turnouts are on the left, of course, and usually on a curve with no visibiity. On we went, encountering snow at the 45th parallel near Lincoln City, where we stopped at an ATM to get cash for anticipated stops later. We followed an 18-wheeler travelling at blizzard speed (very slowly) for many miles, finally passing at the intersection with OR 26, and made our way to the Tillamook Air Museum, a collection of mostly World War II military aircraft, housed in the remaining blimp hanger from the war. The structure itself is worth the stop: it is constructed of wood, over 300 meters long and almost 65 meters high, the largest open-span wooden building in the world. Most of the building is rented storage: the museum takes up less than half the length, but includes a heated display room, theater that shows a history of the facility, and a gift shop.
The Latimer Textile Museum isn’t open on Sundays, so we continued on, deciding to make it home by dark, since it was too cold and snowy to explore much, and the entire I-5 corridor through Oregon was essentially shut down due to the storm. We snacked in the car and stopped for coffee at Seaside, then crossed the Columbia at Astoria, back into Washington, took WA 104 to WA 4 rather than the 101 through Ilwaco, rejoining US 101 north of Naselle, then leaving 101 on WA 107 to US12, via WA 108 to Kamilche, then back on US101 4 miles to Shelton, where we found an inch or so of snow on the ground.
In retrospect, it was good that we got home three days early (we intended to explore the northern California and Oregon coast a bit more, if not for the weather), as we had plenty of emergent work with our consulting projects and weaving guild programs, and the cat was happy to be home, too.