Monday, May 18, 2009

North from San Francisco on the California coastline

Cross continental travel is so commonplace that we should, theoretically, just take it matter-of-factly. Hop in a plane one morning in North Carolina, sit down for a while in a few planes, and arrive in San Francisco at the end of the day. Of course it's commonplace, but I'm still reeling in the wonder of it all. We had some unexpected good fortune when we went to pick up our rental car. Our long-reserved car wasn't ready, so we were offered an upgrade to a Toyota Solara convertible with a GPS at no additional charge. We quickly agreed and took off, car top down and grinning.

Looking south to SF from Muir Beach

So here we are, 48 hours after landing in northern California, and we've traveled from San Francisco up to Eureka. Our first night was spent at Half Moon Bay, a tourist town on the coast south of San Francisco that was made famous, at least to me, by the fact that a Bill Evans album was recorded there in 1973 (sponsored by the curiously named Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, which still hosts live jazz on Sundays) . Being mostly exhausted after sitting down all day, yet miraculously traveling 2500 miles, we opted for a quick beer and a meal at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, a great seaside bar with a live blues band, some very fine salads and microbrews, and decor that included fire pits on the patio, a stained-glass Steal Your Face Dead sign hanging over the mantle, and surfboards on the wall. Our hotel was beside a run-down little house with wetsuits hanging outside and surfboards in the yard.

Looking north on Hwy 1
The next day we drove up Hwy 1 through Pacifica, into San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and then into Sausalito. Needing some provisions, we were seeking a Target, and decided to try out our GPS system. Being total novices to these gizmos (but outfitted some a handful of amusing anecdotes about their idiosyncratic natures from some GPS equipped friends), we asked for directions to the nearest Target. We were sent 16 miles to a Target that was long abandoned. We regrouped, asked again, cross-referenced against one of those antiquated print items called a "map," and were successfully sent to a Target that was actually open for business.

Provisions in hand, we decided to head over to Hwy 1 to Stinson Beach and catch lunch at the Parkside Cafe, which was highly lauded in the California Lonely Planet guidebook. It was such a great idea that it seems like a hefty hunk of San Fanciscans had also thought of it, and we found ourselves in a mile-long traffic jam on Hwy 1, with everybody slowly heading to Stinson Beach to discover that there wasn't any parking in the entire town. So we turned around and heading to the Green Gulch Farm, where we had a room for the night. We stopped a few times on the way to take a few photos and enjoy the view.

Traffic jam on Hwy 1 heading to Stinson Beach on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Actually, as traffic jams go, this one wasn't too shabby thanks to this view.

Green Gulch Farm
is a working organic farm and Buddhist retreat center run by the San Francisco Zen Center, and provided a beautiful, restful respite after our day of driving around the Bay area. We had a room in their guest house, a Japanese-influenced building, and our stay included an amazing vegetarian dinner with the students and residents at the Zen center. (The Zen Center publishes the Tassajara cookbooks and runs the famous Greens restaurant in SF, so they know a bit about veggie cooking. After dinner we walked down Green Gulch through ornamental gardens and acres of organic lettuce and other vegetables down to Muir Beach, encountering quail, a snake, deer, many other birds, and a fox along the way. Somehow, it didn't seem quite right to take photos during our stay, so you'll have to follow the links above to see this wonderful place.

We headed north the next morning, finally making it to Parkside Cafe for breakfast, then heading north on Hwy 1 through misty fog. We stopped at the Point Reyes National Seashore visitor center to stretch our legs, which happens to be on the San Andreas fault line. We took a stroll on the Earthquake Trail, which straddle the fault. The picture below shows a fence that was split during the 1906 earthquake - moving about 20 feet or so. The blue pole behind Barrie is on the fault line itself.

Barrie standing on the Pacific plate. These fences were joined prior to the 1906 quake.

We encountered this shy prairie dog on the Earthquake Trail, who kept poking his head out to see what we were doing near his lair.
We continued north on Hwy 1 to Bodega and Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock shot a few scenes from The Birds. Here's a few photos from our Hwy 1 expedition:

View of Tomales Bay. Note the lack of an automobile roof!

Pastoral setting near Bodega.

The church in Bodega where a scene from The Birds was shot. We encountered other Hitchcock fans here and talked about scenes from the film.
After visiting Bodega we left the coastal highway and went inland to Hwy 101, the Redwood Highway, then drove another 200 miles north through miles of vineyards, beautiful hills, and redwood trees. We reached Eureka in the early evening, very happy and ready to relax for the evening. A foggy day is predicted for tomorrow. Fun will ensue. Stay posted.


FairiesNest said...

"Sigh..." she said longingly.

we_be_toys said...

What a grand trip! The pictures are amazing, and it sounds like you guys found some really cool places to stay. I prefer off the beaten path for vacations, so thumbs up!