Day 6- Dinosaurs, Crabs, and Another Lighthouse

Gold Beach to Bandon-by-the-Sea, Oregon,  55 miles

Another beautiful day on Highway 101…

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, ObsessiveHobbyist.com


PREHISTORIC GARDENS
http://www.prehistoricgardens.com/
This one was a surprise. I automatically stop at all roadside attractions — just can’t resist the kitsch. But I didn’t expect an education. The gardens here are so well-maintained, and the information about the gardens and the dinosaurs is presented on friendly, easy-to-digest signs along the way. The most fun thing was to see the real size of dinosaurs in person (yep, they were huge).

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Day 2- Point Arena, California to Eureka, California

180 miles
Gas $2.86/gallon in Fort Bragg, California
Red Lion Inn, Eureka
$71/night + $15 pet fee
Nice big room with a view of Humboldt Bay. Very nice staff. Location not great (can’t walk to anything), but there’s a restaurant on-site.

Beautiful weather today — unusually warm for October, 82 degrees. Just 40 miles north of Point Arena —

MENDOCINO
Mendo has long been one of my favorite destinations on the Northern coast. A former logging town, it’s obvious the lumberjacks tried hard to out-do each other here — the houses are Victorian masterpieces, worthy of the San Francisco gentry who originally occupied them. The town is very walkable, no matter where you stay. Now a haven for the artistic, and the artfully unemployed (the locals call them “trustafarians”), Mendocino is mostly cute stores, art galleries, restaurants, B&Bs, and gorgeous beaches and ocean vistas. I always like to stay at the MacCallum House, a gorgeous boutique hotel and originally home to one of Mendo’s founding families.  I loved staying in the converted (but still working) water tower suite. The on-site restaurant is one of the best in town, and their breakfasts are amazing.

GLASS BEACH IN FORT BRAGG
This magical sea glass destination started out as a dump. Years ago, the good citizens of Fort Bragg dumped their trash into the ocean, as so many coastal towns did for years. Now the ocean has returned the favor by recycling the trash into tiny treasures and depositing them on beaches. The former trash is now protected and you are not allowed to remove any sea glass from the beach, but it makes great photos. A cool place to stay while you’re trolling the beach is Shoreline Cottages, a cool retro-style cottage haven recently updated by new owner Paul, who is a wonderful host. Very pet-friendly!

REDWOOD FOREST
I hated this drive the first time I did it a couple of years ago. The forest plunged me into darkness in the middle of the day, and the curves blew out my tire sensors (all 4!). But I drive slower now. I’m not in a hurry to get anyplace. And there’s something really sexy about taking curves slowly and enjoying the view (take note, future boyfriends!). And it was a sunny day, so some light did leak through. And the redwoods are amazing. PLUS…it’s home to some of the most-fun roadside attractions, where all the redwoods seem to end up carved into cute bears…

Confusion Hill and The Grandfather Tree
World’s Tallest Free-standing Redwood Chainsaw Carving (according to Ripley’s Believe It or Not), stands at Confusion Hill. At 44 feet tall, this totem was carved in place from a dead tree, with scaffolding erected around it. The train and the snack bar are not open after Labor Day, so the only thing to do is wander around looking at the exhibits, and enter the Gravity House for $5.
And just down the road, the Grandfather Tree seems to be a really old redwood. Hmmm.


EUREKA
This is an adorable historic town that’s in serious trouble. Beautifully-restored historic downtown with original Victorian architecture, a gorgeous boardwalk on the bay, funky stores and restaurants, amazing murals…and you can’t walk around without being harassed by the numerous vagrants and homeless people. None of them were aggressive — in fact, the men went out of their way to be polite and ask about my dog  and comment on the beautiful sunset. But even the local news referenced the “problem” several times, and there are crime issues, including theft. While I felt safe, I was never sure if my car was safe. I do feel safe traveling with a dog — Panda is small, but mighty. He’s a ferocious protecter.

But it’s sad. It’s hard to enjoy your vacation when you see so much suffering around you. Why do we have homeless people in America? In the richest country on the planet???

So, in spite of a great hotel with a view of Humboldt Bay, I decided to move on, deeper into the Redwood Forest…

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, ObsessiveHobbyist.com

MY PHOTO GALLERIES

Day 1- Carmel, California to Point Arena, California

260 miles
Gas $2.69/gallon (awesome!)

Wharf Master’s Inn, http://wharfmasters.com
$139 + $15 dog fee
http://pointarena.net

There’s only one way you should travel from Carmel…via Highway 1. South is Big Sur, but I’m headed North this time. There are so many adorable little coastal towns and stopovers…Moss Landing, Santa Cruz, Swanton Berry Farm, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco. My destination today was Point Arena, a quaint little town I’d passed through several times on my way to Mendocino. I always wanted to stop, but when you only have 2-day weekends you have to make tough choices. This trip is about making those other choices…stopping everywhere I want to, taking an exit that entices, following signs to antique stores, Mystery Holes, and ghost towns.

The first stop is Moss Landing, 22 miles north of Carmel and home to some of the best whale-watching cruises on the coast. I’ve always done the Blue Ocean trips — it’s a nice 60-foot boat with a top deck the other boats don’t have, and the onboard naturalist, Kate, is friendly, informative, and genuinely enthusiastic. These photos are from trips this past year…

Santa Cruz is a cool, funky,  counter-culture center filled with old hippies, young hippies, surfers, and homeless people. The Boardwalk is an old-fashioned Coney Island-style carnival, right on the beach. I recently spent a dreamy night at Dream Inn, on the beach just north of the Boardwalk and the wharf — it’s a great location, but is unfortunately not dog-friendly. 😦

The beach area gets lots of attention, but downtown Santa Cruz is funky fun, with cool vintage shops, sidewalk cafes, bookstores (with actual books), and antiques.

Swanton Berry Farm is my secret stopover. You might pass right by the cool vintage pick-up truck with the giant strawberry in the back and never know what you’re missing. This charming u-pick farm is a great stop on your way to San Francisco. The friendly farm store has an “honor till” — you throw your money in the drawer and make your own change, for delicious fresh strawberries, jam, scones, fair trade coffee. If you have time, sit a spell and play dominoes. This place reminds me of a great fruit stand on the old highway between Charleston and Beaufort, South Carolina. It’s got a very laidback, southern vibe.

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, http://ObsessiveHobbyist.com

Half Moon Bay is a sweet coastal town. The main street is not on the beach, but a few blocks inland. A great dog-friendly hotel is the Half Moon Bay Inn, right in the middle of Main Street. Another 28 miles up Highway 1 and you’re in San Francisco. Highway 1 actually becomes 19th Avenue through San Fran, sending you right through the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. I took Highway 101 up to Petaluma, then cut over to Bodega Bay to re-join Highway 1 (you can cut over earlier, but I like stopping over in pretty Petaluma). This San Francisco suburb has it all. A funky history, funky stores, and a funky future. And you know that “funky” is one of my favorite adjectives, awarded only to the most-interesting places I run across.

From Petaluma it’s an easy hop over to Bodega Bay on the coast, most famous as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.” Then straight up Highway 1 to Point Arena, population 473. I rolled in about 6:00, just in time for a pretty Pacific sunset. Stayed at the Wharf Master’s Inn, home to the home of the Wharf Master, originally. It’s now an inn, built around the original 1865 home, which you can also stay in. It’s on the hill above Point Arena Cove and the pier, and provides a spectacular view. But don’t think about staying here if you can’t do stairs — they’re everywhere! And funky wooden sculptures. The cove and wharf are small, with a very East Coast feel. The beaches are rocky, so not much fun for dog-walking or sunning, but I did see surfers and kayakers.

The town of Point Arena is just about 3 blocks long, with some cute stores.

But the undeniable star of Point Arena is the Point Arena Lighthouse.

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, ObsessiveHobbyist.com

The 115-foot lighthouse is the tallest on the West Coast. Originally built in 1869, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 seriously damaged the lighthouse. If not for the staircase, it would have fallen. But it proved easier to rebuild it than repair it, so the current lighthouse dates from 1908. It costs $7.50 to enter, and they give tours of the museum and the lighthouse every day of the year expect Thanksgiving and Christmas, 10:00-3:30. It was SO WINDY when I was there that I could barely stand up (I later found sand in my ears!), so it’s easy to see why there were so many shipwrecks (plus, those big rocks didn’t help much).

WHICH WAY NEXT???
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MY PHOTO GALLERIES

The Long Road Home… or…Mid-Life Evolution, part 2

Why???

That seems to be the universal question when I tell people I’m leaving California’s central coast to move to Missouri. But they all understand the answer: for family. What they don’t know is that Missouri is a beautiful state, the people are nice…I mean really nice. My parents are getting older and I want to spend time with them while I can — I left Missouri for California 34 years ago, so…it’s time.  The worst thing about Missouri is the winters. When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1981 I thought…what took me so long? And…if everyone has a choice, then why doesn’t everyone live in California? And it was a blast…33 years in Los Angeles, and the last year-and-a-half in Pebble Beach. Pretty good. (Someday I’ll insert a link here with more details).

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Glass Beach … It’s Real!

I finally made it to Glass Beach, after years of hearing about this magical sea glass destination. And one of the first pieces I found is this nearly-perfect sea glass heart. I’m not even kidding.

Magical.

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The beach was smaller than I expected, and quite unspectacular from the bluff above, but it did not disappoint. It was covered in sea glass, although apparently over the years the quantity and variety has diminished. At least now it’s protected from beachcombers – by law, and by a closed staircase. So you have to do a little rock-scrambling to get there, but it’s worth it.

And it’s all because a bunch of idiots dumped trash in the ocean years ago. That’s what nature does with our trash – reclaims it, and recycles it into little treasures.

BUT WHEN YOU GET DOWN TO THE BEACH…

All that history…just laying there…

and yes, I left my heart on glass beach…

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Just north of Mendocino in Fort Bragg, California, on Highway 1
http://www.fortbragg.com/explore/glass-beach/

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My Day Off…Big Sur

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, http://ObsessiveHobbyist.com

When I lived in Los Angeles, a day off in August was spent in the air-conditioning, avoiding triple digits. Now, Big Sur is my back yard, and Highway 1 is my lifeline. The road from Carmel to Cambria is one of the most beautiful road trips in the world, topping travel lists globally. It attracts motorcycles, Mustang convertibles, and suicidal cyclists with its spectacular ocean views, sexy curves, and the I-dare-you-to-go-55 mph speed limit. But…SLOW DOWN. Take your time. And stop at every pull-out and vista point so you don’t miss a thing…

 

 

 

McWAY FALLS at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park…(yes, the water really is this color)…

 

KEEP OUT Cove (OK, I made that name up)…

 

 

The smartest people I saw all day…

Photo by Stephanie Roberts, http://ObsessiveHobbyist.com

 

 

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