Day Trip

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I took yesterday off. So did Kate. We did a mini-road trip to Mendocino County with The Dog. Though it’s late May, and we like to think we ought to be well into the dry season, it rained on the way north and then sporadically all day. Beautiful, though. And we were home by dark.

Above: That’s looking “southbound” (actual direction may be east) on Highway 128, along what I think of as the “true summit” area just north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line. Heading north, you climb a grade of about two miles or so and are briefly rewarded with the impression that you’ve reached the top as you head down a little descent. Then the road pitches up sharply again before you cross a higher crest and start downhill toward Mountain House Road, which connects to Hopland. This Interesting aspect for me of driving roads in this area is that I’ve ridden them in all sorts of conditions, dry, wet, in the middle of the night. The constant: I’m usually pretty tired, because this stretch of Highway is located deep into some long brevet routes I’ve done–better than 100 miles into most, more than 200 miles into a couple of them.

Below: mini-slideshow of scenes from the highway.

Road Blog: Southering

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We’re back in Berkeley, Alameda County, middle third of the California coast. Spent a total of two nights near Mendocino, took a full-day’s field trip back down to the Anderson Valley, then spent a third night back north in Fort Bragg. Today, we headed south and spent two or three hours around Point Arena, in whose general vicinity there’s a beautiful old lighthouse, pupping seals, a KOA kampground with a sign admonishing kampers that “Life is not measure by the amount of breaths we take but by the people and places that take our breath away, a restored movie theater on the town’s main drag, and a tiny fishing harbor. On the road out to that last attraction, to which we were directed by a sign advertising a “chowder house and taproom,” we happened across the derelict above, perfectly gorgeous in its setting just beneath the dooryard of an equally robust-looking domicile. I call your attention to the cat, aft and portside. The paperwork on the outside of the wheelhouse suggests the boat might last have been in action, or at least permitted for fishing, in 1991.

From there we stayed south on Highway 1 through Gualala, past Sea Ranch (I honestly didn’t realize it goes on for eight or nine miles, but it does), made a detour to the greater Annapolis area to drop in on friends, then south again past Fort Ross, Jenner, Bodega Bay and Valley Ford before heading back to the metropolis along U.S. 101 in southern Sonoma County. Got back into town just in time to grab burritos to go, then home. South again.

Road Blog: The Great Whale

Well, I could recount a day spent mostly outside at some of the parks along the Mendocino Coast — Russian Gulch, Point Cabrillo, and Mackerricher. Or I could cut to the chase: the whale we saw just as we were getting to leave the last in the series of parks.

Mackerricher stretches for nearly 10 miles north of Fort Bragg. About three miles north of town there’s Laguna Point, with campgrounds, parking lots, and a long boardwalk out to an area where you can view seals during pupping season (that’s right now).

We got there late in the afternoon and walked out to the western end of the point, where we saw maybe eight seas–a half-dozen dozing on some rocks, a couple more that seemed to be playing. I had my audio recorder with me and and was getting some really vivid shore sounds from these thick-bodied dull-black birds that I’m only slightly embarrassed to say I can’t identify. Got a long piece from a little wren going nuts in some underbrush.

We were ready to find something to eat and were walking back to the car when we both saw a whale spout no more than a couple hundred yards off the north side of the point. We watched, and there were a couple more spouts, and the whale (a gray? a humpback?) seemed to arch its back and go under. We watched some more, and it came back up and repeated the performance, except for a finale it raised its tail — which I’d guess was at least six feet across — and go down again. It repeated the pattern about half a dozen times over half an hour or so.

At one point, we decided to go back out to the boardwalk to see if we could get a better look. On the way out, we passed a family coming in. You naturally assume that they’ve seen what you’ve seen, but I asked as we passed, “Did you see the whale goofing off out there?” No, they hadn’t; in fact, they’d never seen a whale, period. So the mom, dad, and two daughters followed us. It’s also natural to think that once you’ve alerted someone to some wonder of nature, it won’t recur. But within a couple minutes, the whale appeared again, did the tail trick, and dove. We saw it once or twice more before heading back to the car just as a squall blew in across the point.

Conclusion of whale reminiscence.

Road Blog: Little River

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Up on the Mendocino County coast: We drove up yesterday by way of U.S. 101 and Highway 128, through the Anderson Valley to the mouth of the Navarro River, then a few miles north to a place called the Andiron Inn, just south of Little River. Two nights at the Andiron are a gift from our son Thom, who has visited and likes the place. It’s a collection of cottages in a meadow that opens onto a view of the Pacific–hard to go wrong with that. In keeping with sometimes cloying bed-and-breakfast trends on the coast and elsewhere in the Western World, each cottage here has a theme. Ours is named “Read”–there’s one named “Write,” too–and has a sort of library and wordsmith theme. It’s warm and comfortable and well, nice, with some vintage furniture, some vintage and probably long-unread volumes on the shelves (for instance: “Farm,” by Louis Bromfield, and “Magnificent Destiny”–a hard-cover that explains itself as “a novel about the great secret adventure of Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston”), and some vintage games. There’s also a Viewmaster with a nice little library of slides (three-dimensional pictures in full-color Kodachrome. Now showing: “Natural Bridge of Virginia,” one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and “Homes of Hollywood,” including the manse occupied by the late Wallace Beery).

One of the games: Anagrams, copyright 1934, Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin. We opened that up, read through the rules, which were only slightly more complex than your average Supreme Court decision, and played. The object: drawing letter tiles at random (and one at a time), make as many words as possible and be the first to make ten. You can hijack your opponents’ words to make new ones based on the single letter you have in your hand or the discards in the middle of the table. The pool of letters seemed to be oversupplied with vowels; all the better to make words like “zouave.” Like Scrabble, which somehow caught on where Anagrams did not, you can challenge words and resort to a dictionary to resolve contested entries; foreign words and proper nouns aren’t allowed (one player suspected the other–names will not be named here–of making up “zouave.” Thank goodness for the Random House dictionary that awaited on a desk nearby).

OK–four stars for the Andiron and for “Read.” Time to go out and actually experience a little Mendocino now.

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Long-Distance Cycling: Behind-the-Windshield View

We drove up to Mendocino over the weekend using the easy route from the East Bay: U.S. 101 through Marin and Sonoma counties to Highway 128 in Cloverdale, out 128 to the coast and Highway 1, then up 1.

We weren’t in a big hurry, so we decided to stop in Cloverdale, the last town in Sonoma before you reach the Mendocino County line. The last several times I’ve been up there, I’ve either been on a bicycle or have been supporting someone else’s ride. In 2007, I remember going through Cloverdale twice: late at night near the northern end of a 400-kilometer brevet, shepherding a semi-lost and semi-lightless rider, then again passing through both ways on a rainy 600-kilometer brevet (I got doused on the way north; by the time I came back the next morning, the weather had turned and it was sunny and warm and a big tailwind was building–I smile just thinking of it).

All by way of saying that when we spotted several bikes at the gas station/convenience mart at the south end of town, it took me about five seconds to figure out I was looking at people on a brevet (the combination of the gear on the bikes and some of the jerseys–a California Triple Crown and a San Francisco Randonneurs–tipped me off). I asked and found that the riders were about nine hours out on a 400-kilometer brevet from the Golden Gate Bridge up to Hopland. From where I met them they had something like 30 kilometers to the turnaround point and several hours of beautiful March weather to enjoy before the night leg back to San Francisco. On the way out of town and all the way up the long climb on 128 to Mountain House Road–the beautiful (and roughly paved, last time I was there) back-country link to Hopland–we passed riders plugging away in ones and twos.

Did I wish I was out there myself? No–not in my current non-riding shape. But I did have an audio recorder with me and considered for a minute whether I might wait at the top of the grade to talk to the riders coming past. Didn’t do it, though. I did give a wide berth and a wave to all the riders we saw. Bonne route, boys!

***

Coming back from Mendocino, we made the counter-intuitive move of starting the southward trip by driving north along the coast out of Fort Bragg on Highway 1, then crossing the Coast Range to Leggett, where we could pick up 101 south.

I’ve never ridden this stretch of road, but have driven it three or four times. In my memory, the stretch from the coast had organized itself into a long, straightish section from Fort Bragg to point where you turn east, then a long climb up the mountains and equally long descent to Leggett, an old, broke-looking logging town that boasts a famous massive drive-through redwood tree. What I saw yesterday was a little different from what I remembered. The section north of Fort Bragg was neither as straight nor as level as I remembered. Heading up the highway, you turn inland quite abruptly; as you leave the coast, what look like trackless mountains stretch away to the north, falling straight into the sea. The climb and descent to Leggett turns out to be two ascents and two downhills with a bit of mostly level road between them. Driving it, I was reminded of friends who had done a 24-hour Easter weekend ride back in 2004, starting in Leggett and ending in San Francisco. What a way to start out.

We had no traffic behind us all the way across the climbs, so I didn’t have to push my speed or pull over. When we had descended nearly to Leggett and it had started to rain, we spotted a single cyclist starting up the grade. I slowed to encourage him, and he stopped to talk. I wished I’d gotten his name: He was loaded for a tour down to San Francisco and was figuring on doing 60 miles a day to get there. He looked like he was prepared for weather, and I think he’ll see some this week with a series of storms expected on the coast.

Did I wish I was out there? Kind of, though my last long ride in the rain isn’t filled with fond memories. Instead of pondering that, we drove home. Total mileage for the weekend, about 29 hours on the road, was 380 miles. I did reflect briefly that during that 600-kilometer ride in 2007, I rode 375 miles in about 36 hours — including six hours off the road to eat and sleep in Fort Bragg. I’ll probably remember that weekend, at least the road part, longer than I remember the driving I did this time around.

Coast Highway

highwayone032810.jpgQuick trip: Saturday afternoon from Berkeley up to Mendocino, by way of U.S. 101 and state Highways 128 and 1. We met East Coast friends up there, spent the night, hung out a little this morning in Fort Bragg, then drove home by continuing north, crossing the Coast Range to Leggett, then coming home on 101. There was some weather coming in when we reached this point, about 10 or 15 miles north of Fort Bragg. It rained as we crossed the range, but by the time we were back in the Bay Area, about an hour before sunset, it was mostly clear again. Too fast a trip, but then again I honestly can’t remember an occasion where we had much time just to sit and take in the coast. Sometime. Sometime soon.