Pacific Coast Part 2

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Page Updated:  04/22/2016

Flower.com      Pittman & Davis

PACIFIC COAST ROAD TRIP-PART 2

CALIFORNIA

Northern California Map

OVERNIGHT STOPS
Crescent City, CA
Eureka, CA
Garberville, CA
Mendocino, CA
Sausalito, CA
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
Pismo Beach, CA
Oxnard, CA
 

HOTELS
Hampton Inn
Best Western Bayshore Inn
Best Western Humboldt House Inn
Blackberry Inn
The Gables Inn
Best Western Carmel's Town House Lodge
Sandcastle Inn
Hilton Garden Inn

Up Pacific Coast Part 1 Pacific Coast Part 2

 

Pacific Coast Road Trip - Part 2 Itinerary (Click date to jump to that day in the blog)


Sunday, May 1 - Crescent City, CA

Monday, May 2 - Eureka, CA

Tuesday, May 3 - Eureka, CA

Wednesday, May 4 - Garberville, CA

Thursday, May 5 - Mendocino, CA

Friday, May 6 - Mendocino, CA

Saturday, May 7 - Sausalito, CA

Sunday, May 8 - Sausalito, CA

Monday, May 9 - Sausalito, CA

Tuesday, May 10 - Sausalito, CA

Wednesday, May 11 - Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA

Thursday, May 12 - Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA

Friday, May 13 - Pismo Beach, CA

Saturday, May 14 - Pismo Beach, CA

Sunday, May 15 - Oxnard, CA

Monday, May 16 - Drive Home

Summary

 

Sunday, May 1 - Crescent City, CA - Hampton inn

In Crescent City, watch local fishing boats unload their catch, or try fishing in the Klamath and Smith Rivers. This is the northern gateway to the Redwood National Park. Offshore, see the oldest working lighthouse on the Pacific Coast, built in 1856.  Crescent City, where the redwoods meet the sea.

Crescent City is named for the unique, crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach up in the beautiful Northern California Redwoods. Near the Hampton Inn is the site of the headquarters of Redwood National Park, located just 20 miles south of the Oregon border. The outdoor recreational activities near our Crescent City hotel are second to none, thanks to the natural settings of the Pacific Ocean, the Smith River and Klamath River, Redwood National and State Parks, and the Smith River National Recreation Area.

Today's weather is even better than yesterday only because it is slighty warmer.  We have a very long drive today, over four hours if we don't stop at all.  Of course, we plan to stop at everything even slightly interesting, so that should add a couple more hours to our day.

We have no new issues to slow us down this morning.  Dave feels better and isn't quite as hindered by his wound now that we are getting the hang of how to handle it.  We left the hotel at 11:00 am.

We made no stops for the first hour or so because we covered that two days ago.  We are very glad we did that because it would have made our day even longer than it is already.

Honestly, nothing terribly interesting happened and the sights were ho-hum for the most part.  Of course, there are a few beautiful vistas from a variety of Scenic Viewpoints.  The first place that notes special mention is the Oregon Dunes Scenic Area.  There is a large campground with many different areas including small lakes, streams, forests and dunes.  We drove to the end and climbed to the top of the dune there for some beach and coastal pictures.  There is also a lake within the dunes that looks attractive.

The dunes area continues along the coast for several miles.  There are many small lakes, areas where the sand has spilled over into the forest, and many recreational opportunities.

We stopped at the Umpqua Lighthouse for a brief time.  It isn't one of the most beautiful of the coast's lighthouses, nor the tallest, but it is still in use.  Tours are available, but we didn't think it warranted the time.

Driving down the coast means crossing innumerable historic and modern bridges, each unique in its own way.  Some are concrete marvels, other are beautifully intricate steel structures, some are drawbridges, other have entire sections that rise like an elevator.  The oldest ones sport beautiful Art Deco designs in the towers and concrete work.  We were pleased to see restoration work on one of the elaborate structures where they were duplicating the old designs exactly.

About three hours down the coast, we reached our original stopping point for today, Bandon, OR.  This is the town where "The Birds" was filmed, but it isn't recognizable in that regard today.  Many, if not all, of the small towns we have driven through so far are very depressed.  Bandon looks as though they have a plan in place to make it attractive to tourists.  There is a huge archway over the street welcoming visitors to the historic old town. 

We drove down to the harbor area for a few photos, then walked up and back a few blocks.  We stepped into a cranberry candy store and found a few items to take home.  Bandon is also famous for its cranberry bogs.

We wandered into a snack shack at the marina and quickly turned around and left.  Yuck.  We'll snack on items we have in the car to get us to the next stop.  Thank goodness for Pop-Tarts!

Back on the road, we stop a few more times at marked viewpoints, a few of which are worthwhile and provide stunning views.  Others are a total waste of time if you have ever seen the ocean before.

The next stop is at the Primeval Forest roadside attraction.  This is just a walk-through forest filled with dinosaurs and other creatures.  We didn't go in, just stopped for some photos to add to the kitsch photos.  The huge Tyrannosaurus Rex in the parking lot is the main attraction unless one pays to go inside.

At this point it is about 4:30 pm and we are running out of steam.  We grudgingly decide to stop at the Arch Rock viewpoint and we are finally rewarded with several stunning views, including the one of Arch Rock itself.  There is another striking coastal view from here, as well.

In the same general area, we stop at Whalehead Rock, which does indeed look like a whale in the ocean.  The next viewpoint at House Rock isn't quite as convincing.

An hour so later, we arrive at the Oregon/California border and stop at the California Inspection Station to answer the usual questions about whether or not we are carrying any produce.  We live in the quarantine zone, so we are well aware of the reason for these rules.

Eventually, we arrive at the hotel in Crescent City, CA.  The recent tsunami devastated the small marina, already damaged in a prior event.  We can't see the marina from the hotel, but we will drive over and check it out on the way out tomorrow.  There is also a lighthouse just down the street.  Otherwise, the town consists of low-rent apartment blocks separated by swaths of empty land.  The entire town was destroyed years ago by yet another tsunami.  You'd think someone would get the hint and stop trying to rebuild at some point. 

The Hampton Inn is a converted "resort" hotel just feet from the water.  No other hotels are on the water in town, so this is probably the best location in town.  Or, it would be if the area around it wasn't so depressing.  The hotel's lobby and indoor pool were recently renovated, but there is a point when an old, run down hotel just looks pitiful and that is the case here.  Being waterfront certainly doesn't help maintain it in pristine condition either.

A strange young man at the counter greets Dave with, "Hey man, how can I help you?"  He never makes eye contact, but he does everything he is supposed to do.  This is a free stay with Hilton points, but for some reason this entitles us to an ocean front room with a balcony, something most rooms do not have.

We open the door to the assigned room and step right back out into the hall.  The carpet is filthy.  It looks like someone vomited in the corner by the door or a dog peed on it.  Needless to say the room smells like urine.

Back at the front desk, Dave hands over the keys and says, "Give it another shot.  This room smells like dog pee."  Not surprisingly, he doesn't act shocked and gives us a room two doors down.  We go up and inspect the new room thoroughly, including checking for bedbugs, and it seems OK.  It doesn't smell and is relatively clean.  It will do for one night.  We would never consider staying here for the regular price of $150 a night.  This place is worth $100 tops and if it weren't for the beautiful view it wouldn't be worth that.

We go right back out to find some dinner to be back in time to watch "The Amazing Race" at 8:00 pm.  There is a chain of casual restaurants up here called The Apple Peddler that are just decrepit enough to be good, so we go there.  Our meals are, for the most part, fantastic.  The Yankee Pot Roast is at least a pound of home-cooked goodness.  The Teriyaki Steak meal is equally good and the portion is enormous.  All of this, which included a salad, comes to just $33.00 before tip.  Of course, we would have preferred that the manager had stopped his personal conversation to seat us instead of making us wait, but this isn't a 5-star restaurant anyway.

Right next door to the restaurant is the Ocean World Aquarium & Gift Shop.  The giant seal statues out front are the best part.

Back at the hotel, we discover that Osama Bin Laden has impacted our lives yet again by being killed and preempting all regular programming.  Jerk.  Oh well, perhaps it is worth it.  We'll catch it online tomorrow night.

Other than listening to the slamming doors, screaming children and gushing plumbing in the walls that drowns out the TV, nothing interesting happened tonight.

Monday, May 2 - Eureka, CA - Best Western Plus Bayshore Inn

Visitors to the rugged, pristine paradise of Eureka will discover great places to stay, dine and have fun. The opportunities are virtually limitless. You can choose to explore our historic downtown and fine arts galleries, tour our Victorian heritage, enjoy an abundance of live music and theater, take a stroll along the Old Town Eureka Boardwalk, experience the grandeur of the redwood forests or explore uncrowded beaches.

Whether youíre coming to the North Coast for business or pleasure the Best Western Plus Bayshore Inn in Eureka will make your visit as comfortable as possible.   With many beautiful nearby vistas, parks, and an array of recreational activities, your Best Western accommodations give you a home base from which to explore this beautiful area. Northern California has many incredible Humboldt County parks as well as National parks, well known for its majestic redwoods. Take the kids to visit Eurekaís Sequoia Park Zoo or wander through the Discovery Museum in Old Town.  Come stay with us and enjoy our outstanding restaurant and bar on premises, Marie Calenders. Itís a local favorite.

We're sliding back to cooler weather today with overcast skies and temperatures in the low to mid 50's.  There was no rain all day though and we prefer cool temperatures for walking around.

We start the day with the free breakfast buffet off the lobby.  The hotel's lobby and other public areas just finished a complete makeover and they look very nice.  The food provided is similar to other Hampton's and is above average for free breakfast.  In addition to the usual pastries (a nice variety), waffles, etc., the hot items are a bit more imaginative than just scrambled eggs and bacon.  Today they offered a "Western Omelet", French Toast Sticks, and potatoes.  We are eating light this morning, so we didn't sample the hot items, but they did look nice.  We loaded up on yogurt, fruit and pastries.  The young woman attendant at breakfast was very cheerful, pleasant and helpful.

This Hampton Inn doesn't live up to the standards of the brand because it just isn't clean enough.  It looks like the maids do not use vacuum cleaners at all.  They have those manual push sweepers that simply rub the dirt into the carpet.  Gross!  No wonder the carpets in the entire hotel have crumbs all over them.  We would not stay here again and do not recommend this property.  Our total bill came to $0, so we probably shouldn't complain.

Within easy walking distance of the hotel (although we drove) is the Battery Point Lighthouse.  It sits on a picturesque little island that is only accessible at low tide.  From the looks of it at this hour (11:00 am) we could almost make it across, but we didn't bother.  A picture is enough.  We walked to the jetty where the signs warn of impending doom for anyone who should dare to cross Mother Nature by climbing over the gate.  No evidence of the recent tsunami damage is evident from the outer reaches of the breakwater.

We drove to the harbor area where the damage is quite evident.  There is a fishing boat still partially sunken in the corner of the small enclosed harbor.  Ninety percent of the floating docks are missing, as are the boats.  There are a few boats and docks remaining around the edges, but the center of the harbor is nothing but crooked pilings devoid of boats.  This town is depressed enough without having their fishing fleet destroyed.  It is very sad to see it in person.

Leaving depression behind, we start off today by entering the Redwood National and State Park just ten minutes south of town.  Our first planned stop is at what we expect is an extreme of roadside kitsch, Trees of Mystery.  Greeting motorists from the parking lot are gigantic statues of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox Babe.  People are stopping for photos in droves, of course.  We are glad to be here in the off season because there are parking spaces for tour busses.  Today, we are the only people walking through the entry gate and we run into less than twelve people during the entire time we are here.

One would think, based on the statues, that this place might be the height of tackiness, but it is quite the contrary.  The entry ticket booth is unmanned, but a sign says, "Be Prepared to Pay" in the gift shop at the end.  The admission price is $14.00 per person and includes the SkyTrail gondola ride.

All we can say about this place is "Wow".  They have done an excellent job of explaining various types of trees, growth patterns, etc., without being at all tacky.  In fact, the place is absolutely beautiful.  There is a Wildflower Garden that must be stunning when in bloom.  Strange trees such as the Elephant Tree are marked and explained.  There is a mossy waterwheel set among the forest ferns, the Cathedral Trees where wedding are performed, and a variety of other interesting redwood and cypress trees.  The "feature" trees are old-growth redwoods that were saved from logging in the 1950's.  The Trees of Mystery owners purchased the property in the 1960's to show how the forest grows back while highlighting the ones that remained.  You would never guess the area was logged because the new trees are now huge also.  Even without the explanations and signs, the trails are beautiful and easy to navigate for almost anyone.

At the mid-point of the trail visitors may board the included SkyTrail gondolas for a ride to the top of the ridge.  The ride takes seven minutes, mostly because it slows down for boarding every time a gondola reaches a station.  The views are beautiful and provide an interesting birds eye view of the forest.  At the top there is a viewing platform with signs explaining what you are looking at.  Free binoculars are also provided.  The attendants at the top and the bottom were friendly and chatty.  No one arrived at the top while we were there.

Back at the bottom station, the trail continues though the Trail of Tall Tails with wood carvings depicting scenes from Paul Bunyan stories, gigantic animals such as a dog with a log in his mouth, logging scenes, humorous characters, a giant tree squirrel, a huge bear and giant insects.  This could have been tacky in the extreme, but the carvings have a rustic charm that blends in with the mossy surroundings.  There are recorded narrations at some sculptures if one really cares about what they are looking at.  At the very end is a huge cross section of a redwood that is marked at various world events starting with the Crusades.  The tree was 1,500 years old when it fell.

The trail leads into an enormous gift shop where we paid our fees and were given a free sample of fudge they make here.  There were about eight flavors and the chocolate peanut butter was fantastic.  Even so, we are not fudge people, so we didn't buy any to take home.  We did find some nice souvenirs and we bought a live Sequoia and a Coast Redwood to try growing at home.  The woman at the cash register said the Coast Redwood probably won't grow in our area, but the company that packages them guarantees them to grow, so we can keep getting new ones forever if we so choose.  We don't expect miracles, but it is worth a shot for the novelty value.  She told us how to keep them alive on the way home, so we'll do the best we can.

Overall we spend almost two hours at this stop, all of which flew by.  We were shocked when we looked at the clock in the car.  We quickly arrived at the "Tour Thru Tree", a definite tourist trap, but charming in its simplicity.  Visitors pay $5.00 per car to drive up a hill to a redwood tree with a tunnel cut through it.  This was also a remaining tree from a logging enterprise.  It was hit by lightning and almost burned through, so the owners finished the job in the 1960's by enlarging the hole enough so cars can drive through.  And so we did.  Here's the proof.

Driving south on Hwy 101, we quickly arrive at the Klamath River where there is a bridge flanked by golden bear statues.  After the bridge we leave the main highway for another Scenic Redwood Byway named after someone we quickly forgot.  The drive is indeed scenic.  There are numerous trail heads along the way, plus the famous "Big Tree" where in the 1890's busses on tourists would drive right up to the base of it.  This tree is 304' tall and over 1,500 years old.  The trail we walk on today is part of that old road.  Even fallen trees along the trail are being re-used as bases for other forest trees.  It is evident that if nature were allowed to take its course, this roadway would vanish into the forest floor in just a few years.  It almost has already.  We are very small indeed in the grand scheme of things, especially in the shade of these mighty trees.  All along the trail everywhere you look are breathtaking vistas of ferny glens and artistically sculpted stumps carved by nature alone.

We were sort of looking for a Visitor Center that shows on the map, but never in person.  We came across one that is closed, but it isn't the one we are looking for.  No matter, just keep driving and turning off at every brown marker sign that sounds at all interesting.

Eventually we come across a turn off for the Lady Bird Johnson Memorial Grove, so we veer off on a roughly 2-mile detour up the hillside.  This grove, dedicated to Mrs. Johnson by Richard Nixon, is an ancient ridge top forest with some of the biggest trees you'll ever see.  There is an interpretive nature trail with a descriptive brochure.  To reach the grove, there is a beautiful wooden bridge that leads across the road and up into the trees.

There are many stunning examples of the forces of nature and the tenacity of the giant redwoods for survival.  One huge tree, still completely healthy and green at the top, is nothing more than a burned-out hollow from the ground up.  We can't figure out how it stays standing, but on the unburned side it still has new green leaves and looks completely normal.  Here is a picture of Dave standing in it for perspective and to prove that he really is still alive.

In the middle of the majestic trees, soaking up the silence of nature, the cell phone rings and scares the crap out of us.  It is the nurse from the clinic in Newport with the lab results.  The doctor wants to give Dave Penicillin now.  We think, "How very antique that sounds."  When in Rome, etc.  When asked, she isn't sure whether this in in addition to what he is taking now or instead of and there is some confusion about just what he is taking now.  So, she asks where we will be tonight and which pharmacy we prefer (we say CVS or Rite-Aid), and she'll fax a new prescription and call us with clarified instructions.  We say fine and all of us agree that we have amazing cell phone reception!

Even the stumps of dead trees are majestic works of art in this environment.  Dead trees sprout arrangements of ferns at the very top that appear to have been placed there by some gigantic wedding planner.  The original dedication plaque may be found roughly halfway along the 1-mile loop trail, subtly set off to the side at the base of one of the mighty redwoods.  We turned back at this point and returned to the parking lot, short on energy, but nonetheless inspired.

We pumped up on Pop-Tarts, cheese and cracker packets and juice boxes, then started south again, still in search of a Visitor Center with a map of the parks.  We're not quite sure now where we were at the time, but we found a major Visitor Center staffed by friendly rangers who gave us a map of what we just saw.  Apparently, finding the Lady Bird Grove is a big deal because he was shocked we found it without the map.  As it turns out, we covered the entire park today without missing anything we are interested in just by following signs.  Imagine that.  The ranger gave us a map of the Avenue of the Giants, which we will pass through after leaving Eureka in a couple of days.

Satisfied that we saw all that we can see today (it is around 4:30 pm now), we drive straight through to Eureka, stopping once at an ocean viewpoint.  Eureka is a relatively large city with some interesting old architecture we plan to investigate tomorrow.  Like any larger city (pop. 28,000+ here) it has its share of weird-o's, but they are probably harmless.  We hope.

We drove directly to our hotel on the south side of town, which appears to be a better area than directly downtown.  This Best Western Plus looks nicer than the one up the road, so we're hoping for the best after our last experience.

There are three people in line to check in and only one extraordinarily chipper and efficient clerk is checking people in very quickly.  She is not only efficient, but friendly to each one of us.  She does not neglect to tell us every detail about the free breakfast, where to park, where the room is located in the large complex, getting a discount at the restaurant out front, where the included breakfast is served, all while giving us a map of the city.  Wow!  We are paying a AAA rate of about $120 here.  We haven't stayed in a Best Western hotel before and we do know they can vary widely in quality in spite of the new "Plus" rating some of them have.

No worries, the room is very nice, on the top floor as requested (to avoid people stomping around over us), and even has a fireplace (that doesn't work as far as we can figure out).  Although there is an air conditioning unit, it gives up after a few minutes and only the fan continues to work.  That's fine since it is cold outside...we'll mention it to the front desk tomorrow.  Better yet is that the room smells vaguely of cinnamon instead of dog pee.  Woo hoo!  This is basically a very large 3-story motel, so the corridors are outside.  It is very windy, so if we open the sliding glass door and the front door at the same time, the cold wind blows through hard enough that the drapes almost hang straight out from the wall.  Voila!  Instant air conditioning.  We're just glad to have clean carpet that we can walk on without getting diphtheria.

We didn't arrive at the hotel until after 5:00 pm, so we go out to dinner at the adjacent Marie Callender's Restaurant about twenty feet away.  Hotel guests get a 10% discount there, also.  We're a bit reluctant, although we enjoyed this chain years ago, we're not so sure it has held up well.  This particular one doesn't seem as elaborate as the originals, but it is acceptable and appears clean.  God knows we've eaten in some filthy dumps this trip and are no worse for wear.

The service is friendly and prompt.  The food is OK, nothing special and certainly not as good as it used to be.  The pie is barely average.  What a shame.  These places used to be jam-packed when they first started.  Our total bill, including soup we added, two entrees, and two slices of pie comes to $44.00 before tip.  Not bad.  We might go back again, or we might not.  So, we are on the fence about Marie Callender's.

Dave walks into the lobby on the way back to the room to ask for a Do Not Disturb sign because ours is missing.  You would have thought the sky was falling with the rush to get a replacement for him.  The original clerk is still there, none the worse for wear handling the rush by herself (and apparently the entire motel from the looks of it.)  She has an equally perky co-worker here now who greets Dave so warmly he thought maybe he knew her.  Really, it was that nice.  They both apologize and wish us a pleasant night.

Get this, Hilton Hotels forced the DoubleTree in San Pedro to compensate us with 30,000 reward points (a refund of what we used to stay there) for our "discomfort".  Good for Hilton, that is the right thing to do considering the manager offered it to us.  Score one for Hilton.

Tuesday, May 3 - Eureka, CA - Best Western Plus Bayshore Inn

Comfortable beds and clean floors results in us missing the free breakfast.  Oh yeah, we were awake early enough and we could have rushed down to get it, but why bother?  We lounge in bed until 10:30 am or so.  We witness the hotel maids dusting the outdoor banisters and light fixtures.  That's definitely a good sign.

The weather today is sunny and cool, about 55, and continues to be extremely windy.  Maybe it is always windy here, who knows?

Our first order of business is to drive to the CVS across town to pick up the prescription the clinic faxed there yesterday.  It has been clarified that the penicillin is in lieu of what is being taken now.  The service from that walk-in clinic is more attentive than our regular doctor and we had no complaints about him.  Of course, there is a CVS across the street from the hotel, but this isn't a huge city, so it isn't a terrible chore to get to the other side of town.  Trish says it will take seven minutes, which it does.

This is an old city with cute little bungalows mixed in with derelict dumps.  We're driving residential streets to get to the drugstore and suddenly there is a zoo.  Literally, house, house, house, zoo, park, house, house.  Across the street a Coast Guard armory pops up complete with armored trucks stored right next to a high school. 

We find CVS and Dave goes in just as the manager of the store pushes a line of shopping carts in front of the only entrance.  He apologizes (but it shouldn't have happened to begin with) and no one is harmed.  At the pharmacy counter a woman is picking up at least twenty prescriptions.  No kidding.  Needless to say, they can't find one of them.  She waits, Dave waits behind her.  They bumble around, make excuses for why it isn't there (blame the doctor), etc.  Eventually a woman in a white coat calls Dave over to help him...after at least fifteen minutes of ignoring him.

He gives his name and she says the doctor just now sent the prescription and they will have it ready in fifteen minutes.  He says, "They sent it yesterday, not just now."  She sticks with her story, he shoots her a look that screams, "I'm not buying this."  He says he will come back later and leaves.  We have a theory that no pharmacy, or at least CVS, ever fills a prescription until you show up and ask for it.  The same thing happens at home and everything is done by computer there.  Dave sat in the doctor's office one time and they sent the prescription to CVS right then, in front of him.  Four hours later, he shows up and they claim they just received it.  OK, so maybe they didn't look at the computer until right now, but it WAS sent four hours earlier.  Grrrrrr.

By the way, the lovely experience at this strip mall is further enhanced by two homeless guys on the corner "singing", as loudly as they can, a song with lyrics so profane we can't include them here.  At least it is free entertainment.  Their dog is cute.

Off we go to fulfill our touring obligation for today, which is to walk the marked loop on the map of Old Town Eureka.  This is an area of Victorian-era mansions and storefronts, including the most famous of all, the Carson Mansion.  It is a private club today and has been maintained in pristine condition since 1950 when the club purchased it from the original family.  It is not open to the public.

Across the street is the "Pink Lady", another Victorian mansion, but on a smaller scale.  There is a craftsman bungalow on the corner, now a B&B (as are several old buildings in the area). Around the corner and down a block is a big yellow mansion that says out front that it is an "architectural recreation", so we assume that means it is a modern construction.  It looks good though and you'd never guess it is a replica.

Down the street on a corner is the 1940's era, Ritz Building.  It doesn't quite fit the Victorian style, but it is unique in its own way and was probably the talk of the town when it was built.

The historic district is about ten short blocks long and two blocks wide, so it certainly is a manageable walk.  Unfortunately, while the storefronts and department store buildings are interesting to look at, that's all there is to do here.  The businesses are mostly professional in nature, lawyers and architects, so there isn't much of interest to a tourist.  We expected there to be a lot of restaurants and boutiques.  There are maybe three of each, none interesting.  Well, OK, there is a store selling beautifully detailed stained glass panels and a restaurant that is still in business.  Roughly a third of the shops are empty.

We'd probably describe the area, and the city in general, as "Bohemian".  There is a large population of what most people would consider to be weird-o's out and about, lots of homeless people and what appear to either be extremely imaginative or highly drugged people.  This is not a place we'd push you out of the way to get back to.

The city has tried to make the historic district a tourist Mecca with a waterfront boardwalk and plaza, but unless they can bring in more shops, galleries and restaurants, this is a losing proposition.  We can say that most of the buildings have been restored to pristine condition.  However, some of them have small permanent signs on the doors stating that they are built of unreinforced masonry and may collapse in an earthquake.  Enter at your own risk.  One of these buildings seems to already be doing just that judging by the huge cracks held together with duct tape.

We sort of tried to get into a restaurant where every door says, "Use other door".  If you make it difficult for us, we're not going to fight to give you our business.  Besides, diners are eating with chopsticks and this isn't an Asian restaurant.  Sounds kind of gimmicky to us.  Never mind.

Back in the car, we stop by CVS again and this time they've heard of us and the prescription is ready.  It costs $11 with insurance (who doesn't cover any of the cost this time) which is surprising since Penicillin has been around almost since the Stone Age.  You'd think at this point it would be free.  It contains a warning that it can cause your tongue to become "black and hairy", but not to worry because this will go away eventually.  Oh goodie.

On the way back to the hotel, we stop for lunch at a was-a-chain-now-an-independent restaurant for lunch.  It looks like it was a Bob's Big Boy in the past, but it is Adel's now.  There are legions of old people coming out with Styrofoam containers and there are old locals galore at the counter inside.  It is quite busy on a weekday at 2:00 pm, but maybe this is dinnertime for these people.

The place is clean, a plus, so we're on the right track.  Bill orders a tuna sandwich, a chicken quesadilla (the waitress claims it is huge and is he sure he wants both...he does), while Dave orders a Pepper Jack Chicken Melt.  We both choose the fresh fruit as our side item (other choices are fries or coleslaw).  All three items arrive on full platters.  Half of the platter is taken up with the fresh fruit.  Oh no, not a tiny bowl or a piece of melon, not here.  Each of us gets half an apple cut in wedges, half an orange cut in half, and four thick wedges of watermelon.

To say the food is delicious is an insult.  This stuff is perfection on a plate.  There is absolutely no way to improve any of it.  The food is fresh, has amazing flavors, is beautiful to look at and could feed twenty people.  We eat all of it.  We do skip dessert, however.  The total bill is $33 before tip.  If we ever get hungry again maybe we'll come back for dinner.

Back at the hotel, we both promptly crash and nap for an hour or so.  Next thing you know it will be time to eat again.

Yes, eventually it is time to eat again, but alas we are too full to return to the restaurant for a sit-down meal.  We walked across the street to McDonald's just to get something to tide us over until morning.  Wow, this town sure is full of strange people.  Get us the heck outta here!  Maybe we should be careful what we wish for because it sure could be a lot worse.

Wednesday, May 4 - Garberville, CA - California Redwoods - Best Western Plus Humboldt House Inn

The Garberville area is the perfect base for your exploration of the enchanting Redwood Empire. You can find lodging, restaurants, colorful shops and a full entertainment calendar. A movie theater, concerts, summer festivals, and crafts fairs enrich the area.

Day trips can take you to the spectacular redwood groves on the Avenue of the Giants, the intriguing Lost Coast, the coastal community of Shelter Cove, and the secluded King Range National Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness. Uncrowded parklands, wildflowers and abundant wildlife set the stage for family outdoor recreational opportunities.

The BEST WESTERN PLUS Humboldt House Inn is conveniently located near Humboldt Redwoods State Park and hiking in the famous Avenue of the Giants and Rockefeller Forest. Hotel guests can also take side trips to the ocean.   Each spacious, well-appointed room features all the extras that make a difference while traveling. Guest accommodations are equipped with cable television, refrigerator, coffee/tea maker and 32 inch flat screen television Guests will enjoy starting the day with a complimentary full breakfast and newspaper served in the Garden Room with mountain views overlooking the hotel pool and spa. A complimentary wine and cheese reception is held each evening.  Whether sight-seeing through the magnificent redwoods or enjoying a game of golf, the friendly staff at this Garberville hotel is ready to ensure a comfortable stay.

It is very warm and sunny today, reaching the 80's later in the afternoon. 

We went to the free breakfast offered off the motel lobby this morning.  It was fine, nothing special, but above average for a motel.  Of course, this entire place is above average, so maybe it is to be expected.

Although check-out isn't until noon, we hit the road around 11:00 am, as usual.  The woman at the desk this morning is just as perky and friendly as the one when we arrived, so apparently the good service here is the norm.  If we ever have to stay in Eureka again (God forbid) we would definitely stay here again.  It is the best game in town, hands down.

If we didn't stop at all today, our next stop would only be about a forty-five minute drive south on Hwy 101.  However, we are taking the scenic route along the "World Famous" Avenue of the Giants.  This road meanders along the Eel River and is the original Redwood Highway.  There is a newer freeway that is now the main road through the area, so only tourists and a few locals ply the scenic road.

We stop at most places where there is a marker or sign pointing at something (or nothing as the case may be).  One of the stops is the location of a town that washed away leaving only a wide spot along the Eel River.  Others are serene trails into the redwoods.  The road itself is scenic even if you don't get out of the car, so anyone can do this route and get something out of it.  Of course, getting out and walking through the majestic redwoods is kind of the whole point.

The ranger yesterday told us to stop at the mid-way point at Founders Grove, so we do.  This is a half-mile loop trail with an interpretive brochure that points out various things in the old growth forest.  Only 2% of the ancient forests remain untouched.  The rest of it was logged or cleared way back when.  Wandering through this absolutely stunning forest, one has to wonder how anyone, even back "then", could walk in here and say, "Hey, free wood!  Let's start chopping!"  Heck, one log fallen over naturally is enough to make enough lumber to build a two-story house.

Besides enchanting fern-filled glens and babbling brooks, this pathway features the Founders Tree that is about 350' tall.  It just barely survived being hit by an equally large falling redwood that destroyed a boardwalk surrounding it.  A chunk was cut out of the fallen tree to allow the pathway to continue.

There are examples pointed out of how nature re-invents the forest when one of the huge trees falls.  The upper edges are so beautifully landscaped it looks as though someone came along and arranged the plants.  Tiny wildflowers hang from the sides while delicate ferns sprout from the top.  Bright green mosses cover every protected surface.  Each fallen tree is a microcosm of the entire forest.  Sometimes even redwood seedlings will sprout out of the dead wood.

The ranger told us to be sure to walk the length of the fallen tree that fell intact to get the scale of the trees.  Usually the trees fall with such force that they shatter, but here there are several enormous victims of the wind lying all over the place.  Their gigantic uprooted bases are works of art in themselves.  Each different and planted with flowers and ferns.

What is disgusting is that anyone would find it necessary to carve their initials into these marvels.  What the hell are people thinking?  Hopefully the moss and weather will erase their thoughtlessness eventually.  And, we're not talking one or two, we're talking hundreds.  We'd like to personally slap every single one of them.

But, there is plenty to see of pristine beauty here.  A gigantic hollow stump, burned up the center, still thrives at the top.  This is Bill standing in the hollow part to give you a scale of the size.  Looking straight up almost makes us fall over backwards the trees are so tall.  This is certainly nature's cathedral.

Even the dead snags are beautiful sculptures.  They change design depending on the viewing angle as though carved by an artist.

Back on the Avenue of the Giants road going south, we meander through more beautiful redwoods until we are stopped by a CHP officer.  There is one car ahead of us as he puts cones out to block the road.  He tells us that they are doing a photo shoot for Volkwagen up ahead, so the road will be closed for a few minutes.  Several cars back up behind us.  Everyone is sitting, engines off, enjoying the silence of nature.  Suddenly, the sound of the pan flute echoes through the forest.  We look around and find that an old hippie woman has emerged from her car and is now dancing around in the road as she plays the flute.  You can conjure up your own image of this and it probably won't be far off the mark.  We're glad she can actually play the flute, but we do wish she knew more than one song.  If Leprechauns had appeared among the ferns they would have fit right in.

We're not sure how long the blockade lasted, maybe 30 minutes or less, but we are eventually allowed to proceed.  The camera crew is around the bend and they yell out, "Sorry for the delay," as we drive by.  We give them the finger (not really, it just sounded funny to say we did.)  There is a tricked out car sitting in one of the lanes with a long steel beam sticking out of it with a camera on the end.  Look for a silver Volkswagen driving through the redwoods soon.

We pass a number of small towns, villages is probably a better term, until we reach the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree.  We can't pass up a roadside attraction, so we pay the $6.00 toll and drive in.  This tree is literally in someone's backyard, but it is bigger than the first one we drove through.  However, this one is hollow all the way up, like a chimney, and is leaning at a precarious angle.  We couldn't get a picture of the entire tree, but it looks like one of the evil trees from "The Wizard of Oz".  The sign next to it proclaims that the tree is 5,000 years old.  Funny, the bigger ones in the state forest are only 1,500 years old.  Amazing how this one is so old, isn't it?  Must be a fluke of nature.  Also on the premises are two whimsical tree houses carved out of redwood trunks that are very cute, and, of course, a gift shop.  We stay in the car and skip the shopping.

It is 3:00 pm when we reach the hotel for tonight in Garberville.  This town is just a four block strip on one side of the freeway.  It is lined with ramshackle shops and cafes, but most of them are closed today.  However, it does have an old movie theater, so this is or was a classy place.  The hotel is the first place we come to, but we continue driving the length of the town to scout out dinner possibilities.  We see only two decent places, one of which has terrible reviews on Tripadvisor.  We'll ask at the hotel for recommendations.

The front of the hotel is under construction, but otherwise it looks fine.  Our rate for this Best Western Plus is only $98 for a two queen bed room.  We take our chances and haul our luggage up to the second floor room without looking at it first because the lobby was nice, as was the desk clerk.  The room is fine, upscale in fact, with classy furniture and a nice bathroom.  The air conditioning works, which is a good thing because it is 87 degrees at this point.  We have a view of the pool, highway, and mountains beyond, which is about as good as one can get in this location.  We are very pleased to find the free internet service here is very fast, so we're good to go.

The highway noise is clearly audible, but we're generally not bothered by that kind of noise.  There is also some screaming coming from children at the pool, but it is only open until 10:00 pm, so this shouldn't be a problem either.  The room itself is large and very clean.  We were told at check-in to come back to the lobby at 5:30 pm for a wine and cheese social hour.  We're not very social, so we'll skip it.  The clerk gave us some restaurant recommendations, but upon further investigation online, the best choice isn't open today.  Oh well, if we end up at the Subway at the gas station, that's fine.

And, that is precisely where we did end up, at Subway.  It is across the street and down about a block in a gas station.  The service was, well, odd, but we got what we ordered and it was normal Subway.  Also bought some cookies that were very good. 

We won't complain about the weird people in Eureka anymore.  This town has far stranger characters hanging around.  At least the people in Eureka had most of their teeth.  There is no way we'd be out wandering the streets here after dark.  There are Sheriff patrol cars all over the place, including the motel parking lot, but maybe they keep an eye on the situation.  This is the first hotel we have stayed at so far that has metal screens over the vending machine's glass front, which says a lot.

Nothing else of note happened after dinner in the room.  The people next door are having a party on their balcony, but other than that no problems.  We're hoping it doesn't turn into a drunken brawl that goes on all night, but this doesn't seem like the type of place where they would tolerate too much partying.

Thursday, May 5 - Mendocino, CA - Blackberry Inn

Mendocino with its beautiful coastline and picturesque wine country, welcomes all adventurous romantics who travel the scenic path through life. Natural wonders abound, from the smallest to the tallest Redwoods in the world to glass bottom beaches and the only oceanfront botanical gardens in the USA.

Stroll through beautiful oceanfront Victorian Villages with romantic Mendocino B&Bs, unusual boutiques and galleries, lively entertainment, fun activities, events and festivals, award-winning Mendocino restaurants and world-famous Mendocino beers and local wine. The combination of cool coastal breezes, warm days and the fertile soils of the Mendocino Wine Country help produce world-renowned award winning Mendocino wines.

The Blackberry Inn, nestled a half mile above the historic town of Mendocino, offers guests the best of both worlds. Surrounded by sylvan trees, sunny meadows and breathtaking ocean views, the Inn is perfect for those looking for tranquility and luxury. Whether you enjoy strolling through town, hiking the many surrounding beaches, biking the idyllic Hwy. One, or relaxing on your redwood deck with a glass of wine, the Blackberry Inn offers serenity and proximity.

Today's weather is a continuation of yesterday with sunny skies and warm temperatures.  It was 74 degrees when we went outside to walk to the breakfast room in front of the motel.

The breakfast is nice for a motel like this.  It includes the usual waffles, a few choices of pastries, whole bananas, yogurt, cheese omelets, sausage patties, and biscuits and gravy.  There is also cold cereal and a few other things like that.  All in all, very nice for the price.  The room it is served in is pleasant and the staff members attending to it are friendly.

We packed up and left the hotel at around 10:45 am.  If we drive straight through to Mendocino it would take about 90 minutes, but, of course, we do stop at every roadside attraction we come across.  Today we are so lucky that there are four fabulous "World Famous" attractions along our route!  We're so excited, aren't you?

The first place we come across actually doesn't claim to be world famous, but it is just as good.  It is "The Big Foot Place" or something like that.  What it actually is is a shop selling woodcarvings of various characters, wind chimes, birdhouses and the like.  It is quite nice and well thought out if you are into this kind of thing.  We are not, so we stop, take a few photos and keep driving.  This place has the potential to back up traffic because there is only enough parking for perhaps six cars at once squeezed against the roadway.

We are looking for the "World Famous One-Log House", but we fail to find it and give up.  Oh, there is it, only four miles farther south than it should be.  Maybe they moved it here so it could be with other famous attractions like the "Eternal Tree".  We're amused because the signs pointing to this place are larger than the attraction itself.  We take a picture of the house and keep driving.  We do not get out of the car.

Now for the really big show for today, "World Famous Confusion Hill".  You can't miss this place because it has a garish sign every few feet and even an official highway sign pointing at it.  It is also bright yellow and red.  In the parking lot is a huge totem pole of, what else, bears dressed as clowns.  OK, we're confused, so maybe the name is accurate.  There is a wooden shoe for the kiddies to climb on that says not to climb on it.  The carpenter working on it smiles at us and looks pleasant.

The main entrance building/gift shop/snack bar/restrooms is a conglomeration of years of add-ons and attention getters.  We're still confused because we can't figure out where to pay, how much it costs, or what the heck we are supposed to do.  A few other people look bewildered also.

We wander into the gift shop/whatever, and the biker dude behind the counters greets us.  He seems nice (really).  The gift shop isn't bad and does have some nice things, surprisingly enough.  There is no indication of how this place operates even after the guy announces that the "Gravity House" is open today.  Everyone continues to be confused.  Dave asks him if we pay him for admission, he says yes and it is $5.00 per person.  We pay and he tells us to go out the door in the back, walk to the left and we'll figure it out.  Someone asks him what the Gravity House is and he says, "That's why we call it Confusion Hill.  Even we don't know what it is."  Nobody else pays the admission, so we are alone out back.

The Gravity House is pretty much a copy of the old Haunted Shack attraction at Knott's Berry Farm where water runs up hill and the tallest person appears to be shorter than the smaller person, etc.  Here you wander through the exhibits on your own, so it is plainly obvious how and why all of this happens.  There is no mystery about it at all.  It makes for interesting photos is about all.  In person it is a big yawn.  We do amuse ourselves making fun of it though, so it is probably worth the price of admission for the entertainment value we'll get out of it.  There are restrooms, too, so that's a plus.  As we come out, the biker dude says, "That was quick."  No kidding.

In the backyard, there is also a tribute to 9/11 in the Twin Towers Memorial Trees, two similar sized redwoods next to one another.  There is a train ride that isn't operating today, a kiddie play area, some cute waterworks, and a bunch of clutter and stuff tossed in every now and then for no particular reason except it exists.  We buy a few souvenirs from a friendly biker chick who informs us she moved here to get away from Bakersfield.  Who wouldn't?  Anything is an improvement.  We hit the road again.

Just a few miles farther is the "World Famous Tree House," which is out of business.  Apparently it isn't as famous as they had hoped.  We stop anyway and take a photo for posterity.  Not visible in the photo here is the doorway into the hollow trunk of the tree behind the carved bear.  It looks sort of like fairies should be dancing around, but maybe the KEEP OUT and NO TRESPASSING signs are keeping them away.

About fifteen miles more and off on a side road is the "World Famous Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree".  This one only costs $5.00 per car and isn't in someone's backyard.  We drive through as we have all of the others.  This tree is bigger and looks so healthy it could be fake (it isn't).  The chandelier part comes from all of the side branches coming out of the upper part.  On the other side of the tree is a gift shop, which we skip because the few cars here are stirring up too much dust and we just don't care that much.  How much crap can two people buy anyway?  We'll let you know after we count it out at the end of the trip.

Bill chooses to ignore Trish's command to turn left and goes right.  We end up on a ten mile loop to get us back to where we are supposed to have turned off on Hwy 1, which is right where we turned to go to the tree in the first place, about 1 mile away.

The next 22 miles are along a very winding road toward the coast.  Trish says it will take an hour to reach Mendocino, but later changes her mind and ratchets the time up by an hour.  This turns out to be a mistake because it only takes about an hour.  The winding road takes us up to the 2,000' level, then back down to the ocean on the other side of the mountain.  We stop at the turnout at the coast to look at the view, then keep going south along Hwy 1.

We stop at a few other viewpoints along the way, but frankly they all look pretty much the same after a while.  The road is very good, so the drive is easy.  We pass cattle grazing, hippies doing whatever hippies do, mansions and ramshackle homesteads.  Eventually, we arrive in the great metropolis of Fort Bragg, the first actual city we have seen in days. 

We're a bit surprised it is lined with so many motels because we can see absolutely no reason at all why anyone would come here on a vacation.  Most of the northern part of the city is industrial and not at all attractive.  Toward the southern end there is a semi-scenic harbor and Glass Beach, but that's pretty much it.  We decide we just don't get it and keep driving.

After just a few more miles of driving south, Trish advises us to turn left, so we do.  We arrive at our hotel for the next two nights, the Blackberry Inn.  We chose this place because it is not a Bed and Breakfast, plus it doesn't cost $450 a night like everything else in Mendocino.  It is located just south of the city on the inland side of the highway off by itself on a hill.

Basically, this place is an old motel that someone bought and added a western town theme to the outside.  It does look very cute and it only costs $180 per night, which would be ridiculous anywhere else, but for Mendocino it is a bargain and a half.  Dave wanders into the office where the check-in guy is sitting at a desk with two chairs in front of it.  One is occupied by a very cute cat that barely looks up when Dave sits down.

The guy acts like he doesn't know anyone is arriving today, but he finds the reservation and gives us the room we selected online, the Barber Shop.  There is also a bank, sweet shop, and a bunch of others.  It looks nice and is well kept, but old.  Dave asks for restaurant recommendations, but the guy isn't very helpful, so he gives up.  He does tell Dave that us staying in the Barber Shop reminds him that he needs a haircut (which he does).

In online reviews of this place, people carry on at length about the beautiful grounds.  Huh?  What grounds?  The landscaping in the planters in front of the rooms is pretty and there is one small outdoor sitting area between the buildings that is attractive, but that's it.  Maybe most people live in concrete jungles or something.  What is here is nice, but nothing that would merit mention from us in a review except maybe, "The grounds are well kept."  The grounds behind the rooms are just a big lawn backed by pine trees.

The room itself is cute in a country sort of way, but isn't themed to the Barber Shop thing at all.  It is sort of like staying at your grandmother's house.  There is a basket of snacks intended for our breakfast the next morning.  In it is a banana, orange, apple, two home baked cookies, a bunch of grapes, two pieces of apple bread, microwave popcorn, and two hot chocolate packets.  The room has a coffee maker, microwave oven and refrigerator.   There is a tube TV in a cabinet, a desk with drawers, a sitting area with two rocking chairs, and a huge wooden wardrobe.  Like we said, cute.  The drapes are four inches too short for the windows and do not have any blackout lining at all, so sleeping in probably won't happen.  We do have an ocean view out across the lawn in back.

There is a vague smell of sewage or something like it.  We decide it is probably coming from the old gas wall heater, so we'll leave the windows open so we don't cause an explosion, just in case.  The entire front wall of the room is water damaged which is too bad because it looks like the room was recently redone with new fabrics and wallpaper.  In any case, we're fine here unless it gets hot because there is no air conditioning.  There is, however, fast wireless internet for free.

We snack on some of our store-bought emergency rations and will venture out in search of a real meal later tonight.  In contrast to the warm temperature when we left Garberville, it is only 62 degrees when we arrive here at 3:00 pm.

Around 7:00 pm we drove into Mendocino to look for a restaurant.  We found nothing open, two closed permanently and two closed tonight.  The only place with any activity at all is the Mendocino Hotel.  We drove along all of the streets in town to no avail.  Sure, the town is charming with its old homes and such, but does it have to be so difficult to find things?  Ugh.  We'll be singing this tune next week in Carmel, so get used to it.  We'll give it another chance to impress us tomorrow afternoon...maybe.

We drove back to Fort Bragg, about 8 miles north, in search of a restaurant.  We landed at Cliff House on the south side of the bridge over the harbor.  Click to link to their Menu.  By the look of this place, early 1980's dusty rose and teal, it isn't very promising and the prices are at the fine dining level ($29.99 for entrees).  Oh well, we're here, let's make the best of it.

The building hangs over the cliff with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean and, unfortunately, the bridge where the traffic is just above eye level.  The service is prompt and friendly, no complaints at all.  The carpets are even clean.  When our food arrives we are shocked by how large the portions are and, even better, how delicious the food is.  We eat every bit of our dinner and order one dessert.  The dessert isn't quite what we have in mind, but it is OK and we eat it anyway.  We're definitely happy with our dinners and return to the motel fully stuffed.

Friday, May 6 - Mendocino, CA - Blackberry Inn

It's another beautiful day in our neighborhood with sunny skies and brisk temperatures.  It is still windy, too, and we're assuming in this locale it usually is.

We polish off most of the breakfast/snack basket and get started toward our first destination at around 10:45 am.  Strangely, maid service here ends at noon, so if you don't get out early enough you're screwed.  There are only a few guests staying at the moment, but that schedule doesn't seem feasible if the inn is full.  Maybe it never is, who knows?

In just a few minutes we arrive at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.  We'll say right off the bat before we even begin to describe this place that it is a MUST SEE.  Do not skip this place under any circumstances or you'll be sorry.  (Link to their website)  Even the parking lot is beautifully landscaped with a large lily pond in the center.  We have totally lucked out and arrive on "Free Admission Day".  We didn't plan this, but it is National Garden Day (or something like that).  This saves us $28.00!

The volunteers manning the admission counter are very friendly and amused by our animated reaction to something being free of charge in Mendocino.  The guy says, "Well, technically we are in Fort Bragg, so don't give Mendocino too much credit for this."  He gives us a map, circles the highlights and sends us on our way.  Another friendly volunteer manning a membership table outside the door greets us and tells us to be sure and stop someone working there if we have any questions.

The first thing visitors come to is a large Perennial Garden that is planted in mounds with grass walkways.  This gives Dave an idea for eliminating some of our large water-guzzling lawn area.  The way they did it is also easier than what he had in mind before seeing this, so he is happy.  There are sculptures and a small water feature in this area, among many other interesting features.

Rhododendrons are in bloom this time of year and the garden is full of them.  There are two main pathways heading toward the ocean, plus many side trails to various features.  One of these is an extensive Succulent Garden where many of the cactus and other plants are just starting to bloom.

Across the pathway is a Meadow Lawn surrounded by more blooming rhododendrons adjacent to a small pond.  Pathways lead through tunnels of more blooms and beautiful vistas followed by more enchanting nooks

Veering off to the left through a beautiful deer gate made of branches, we come upon a large Vegetable Garden being tended by volunteers.  There was a homestead here back in the day and the family's gravesite has been restored to its original condition.  Their farmhouse lies beyond the garden and is now a private residence.  Many whimsical touches adorn the vegetable garden.  There is a scarecrow dressed as an old lady, a charming shed, and many other decorative elements.

Back on the main path, we head towards the ocean through a forested area.  All along this semi-natural part of the garden are beautiful trees and foliage.  Out on the coastal bluff there are colorful flowers clutching the hillside, below which the waves crash onto jagged rocks.

To reach the westernmost point overlooking the ocean, we wander through a long tunnel of cypress branches.  There are beautiful coastal views from this point and the garden has provided a sheltered building with floor to ceiling windows for picnicking out of the wind.  It is also a nice spot to just sit and contemplate the amazing view.

Walking back toward the gardens, there is an expansive coastal meadow of grasses and wild irises.  Then we return to the main part of the garden, passing even more amazing blooming plants before returning to the entrance area.  They have a very nice retail nursery here and we spend some time checking out what they have to offer.  Unfortunately, we don't think the plants would survive a week in the car, but we get a lot of new ideas from our browsing.  The volunteer on hand answers our question about a plant we have seen all over the place growing wild.  He assures us it is very invasive (although beautiful) and don't even think about planting it.  We already came to that conclusion since it is even growing wild in the garden here.

We pass the same table of volunteers on the way out.  The woman greeting people asks us how we liked our visit.  When we tell her this is the most beautiful garden of its kind we have ever seen, she literally beams with pride.

After checking out the gift shop, we moved on to our next destination, the Point Cabrillo Light Station just down the coast.  On the way we spot some wild turkeys in the front yard of a house.  We arrive with no problem at the Visitor Center for the lighthouse and find it closed.  It appears to have been closed for quite some time judging by the height of the weeds in the yard.  However, there is a sign saying the lighthouse and gift shop are open, but no vehicles allowed beyond this point.

We figure, how hard can it be to walk a half mile?  Not bad getting there because it is all downhill.  But, you know what that means?  We have to walk all the back uphill.  Oh well, what else do we have to do.  We start strolling.  The much younger people who arrive after us do not join us.

The walk is along a paved road through lovely countryside.  There are deer grazing off to the side near a picnic area.  There are also ridiculously stupid signs along the route aimed at children.  They have something to do with whales, but they are so stupid we stop reading them after the second one.  The wildflowers are cute, so we are entertained enough to keep walking.

At the end of the road is a small complex of light keeper's houses framed by windblown trees that look like they were sculpted by an artist.  Please don't tell us "God did it" or we'll be forced to slap you.  Reaching the complex we can look back at the route we have to take to get back to the car at some point.  Yikes.

There are three mostly identical small houses that were originally for the lighthouse keeper and his assistants.  The first one is restored as a museum and is open for viewing.  It looks rather comfortable except for the wood chopping and doing the laundry by hand every day.  The second house is a vacation rental and the third is awaiting funds for restoration.  It might be fun to spend a few days out here in the rental house all by yourself.

The road we walked to get here ends at a small parking lot, so we have no idea why they don't let visitors drive all the way down.  It sure would help with business if people could drive.  The walk takes about fifteen minutes, so that's a half hour walking to and from just to get to it.  Most travelers don't have a whole lot of time for each stop.

Beyond the housing, the path continues out to the wind blown point where the lighthouse itself is located.  The building is fairly small and contains a pleasant gift shop and displays about the history of the area.  The volunteer is friendly and helpful.  

The views of the rugged coast all around the point are amazing.  There is a small opening to the sea that leads from a protected cove where a family a sea lions is frolicking along with a visiting seal.  This little cove must be perfect for them.  Not only is it secluded, but there is a small beach so they can sun themselves and it is protected from humans by the sheer rock walls.  We watch them play for a while before beginning the trek back up to the parking lot.

After recovering in the car for a few minutes, we decide to give Mendocino another chance to charm us.  The drive is just a few minutes south from the lighthouse, so we arrive in just a few minutes, find a place to park by a large white church, and start wandering.

The town is indeed more charming on foot.  The streets are lined by old storefronts, mansions converted to bed and breakfasts, and numerous picturesque water towers.  There are some beautiful and funky private gardens tucked in among the old buildings.  After wandering up and down the waterfront, we go into a couple of shops and galleries.  One of the shopkeepers laments the demise of the shop next door due to the poor economy, but she says things are picking up.  In our opinion, the prices in some of the shops are outrageous, so unless shopkeepers comes to their senses don't expect a rush to start buying.  We saw some lovely glass items, but we didn't like them enough to buy anything.

We stop at an upscale take-out place and buy sandwiches for lunch (it is 3:00 pm now) and something to reheat for dinner.  We're running on low at the moment, so we take our food back to the motel.  We don't want to get dressed again and go out for dinner.  The bill for our take-out meals comes to $42.00.  Talk about outrageous.

Back at the motel, we are the only guests in residence until a family moves in, next door of course.  They proceed to slam their front door ten times in a row as they move their things in, then they start running around on the lawn out back with their large dog.  All that is fine, but does no one ever consider that perhaps they aren't the only guests at a hotel?  The hotel information also requests that guests do not wander around the lawn area because it bothers other guests.  Yes, it does.  We close the windows and the drapes and pretend we can't hear them.

Bill drags out the card table from the closet to enhance our dining pleasure.  It is one of those Green Stamps tables we all had as a child.  We still have and use two of them ourselves.  Those things last forever, don't they?  We'll bet a cheap card table bought today won't be handed down to anyone!  Our sandwiches are fine, nothing spectacular, but filling.  We also bought potato salad there and it is totally boring.  All we can say for it is that it is edible.  We napped and did nothing for the rest of the afternoon.

Dinner is the food we bought earlier at the take-out "cuisine" place.  Again, it is edible, but nothing special.  We wouldn't recommend it and would not go back.  It just isn't worth the money.  But, we're satisfied and we don't have to put ourselves together to go out again, so it will do.

Overall our stay here was OK, nothing noteworthy except the lovely garden today.  We plan to alter our route for tomorrow and drive through wine country instead of staying along the coast highway.  The original route adds over an hour to the drive, so the inland drive should be better for us.  We're also kind of tired of the coastal thing.  Vineyards and farms might prove to be a little more exciting at this point.  Plus, we still have some coast south of San Francisco later in the week.  If we see anything interesting or "historic" we'll stop and take a look.

Saturday, May 7 - Sausalito, CA - The Gables Inn

Sausalito offers dozens of interesting and unique tours and nautical excursions and is home to two world renowned attractions - the Bay Model and the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Whether wandering the hidden stairways or touring the houseboats and marinas, renting a kayak or boat and cruising the waterways, hiking or biking...there is plenty to do. With easy access to San Francisco and the scenic north coast with its beaches and redwoods, as well as the wine country, Sausalito truly is the gateway to some of the most beautiful and sought after destinations in the world.

New in 2008, The historic Gables Inn is completely updated. A new addition to the hotel offers beautiful rooms with stunning views of San Francisco, fine furnishings and wonderful new touches throughout. All of our rooms have been redesigned with new decor and fine furnishings. Sausalito's finest historic inn now boasts fifteen distinctively elegant rooms, many with king beds, fireplaces, spa tubs, and bay views!  The inn is nestled in a quiet setting amongst tall Buckeye trees and is located steps to downtown Sausalito and near the waterfront in the heart of the town.  Ideally located for both pleasure and business, The Gables Inn Sausalito is within strolling distance of over 200 quaint shops, art galleries, and world-class dining.

The weather continues to cooperate with sunny skies and moderate temperatures.  It was in the low 60's most of the day, climbing to the 70's inland and back to the 60's when we reached the bay area.

In case anyone is wondering about Dave's health, he is fine now.  He's not completely healed, but it isn't causing him any discomfort or hampering our travel in any way.  It is a slight hassle to deal with, but not too bad.

We finished our breakfast basket from the motel, then packed up and started driving south on Hwy 1.  Today is mostly all driving with only one scheduled stop at the Pygmy Forest just ten minutes south of Mendocino.  Trish got us most of the way there, but we didn't see anything.  Eventually there is a tiny sign pointing to the parking area.

What this "attraction" consists of is a boardwalk through swampy scrub forests draped with moss.  By the looks of it, this is probably mosquito central in the summer, so we're glad to be here in the cooler weather.  Basically, what happened here is that as the sea level fell the hillside was terraced and certain areas are devoid of nutrients.  So, the trees that grow on specific terraces are natural bonsai.  It is difficult to see in a photo, but the scrub that looks like brush is actually tiny pine trees that are up to 80 years old.  Yeah, big whoop, huh?  It looks better in person, but not by much.  However, any port in a storm for entertainment when you are on a road trip!

As we mentioned yesterday, we did choose a shorter inland route because the coastal drive is just too winding.  Farther south there are bridges across the canyons, but up here you have to wind in and out of each of them.  So, we took SR-128 that leads diagonally east and south.  It is 56 miles from the coast until this road meets with Hwy 101 north of San Francisco.

At first, the road winds through redwood forests similar to what we have seen already, except these are newer growth.  You'd never guess by looking because they are still at least 24" in diameter, but there are enormous stumps among them indicating this was once full of the giants.

After climbing into the hills, through pastures and farms, we reach the famous Mendocino wine growing region.  The road is lined with vineyards.  There must be an elaborate tasting room every mile or so in the thick of it.  We're not all that into wine and we have enough at home to supply us for the rest of our lives, so we don't stop at any of them.

The road continues to climb into the hills, becoming very winding and slow going.  There are several very depressed looking small towns along the way where the only remaining business is a small grocery store and a gas station, if that.  Where do all the people in the vineyard mansions go to buy supplies?  The drive down to the nearest "town" is at least ninety minutes along a winding narrow road.  No thanks.  Picturesque though it may be, we're not that desperate for isolation.

The last town before the 101 Freeway is Cloverdale.  The downtown area of this city is completely new and looks like an upscale shopping mall.  However, all of the chain restaurants and shops are out of business.  The only remaining business is a hair salon, a 7-11, and a gas station.  There might still be a Subway, but we're not sure about that.  They sure did make an effort, that's for sure.  It looks very nice.  Unfortunately, it will be a long time before any of these storefronts are bustling again.

Here we join the 101 Freeway for another 90 minutes toward San Francisco.  There isn't much to report except we are driving with no stops.  Occasionally the freeway turns into a two-lane road, then back to freeway, but other than that we have nothing to report about it.

Right on schedule, we arrive at the off-ramp into Sausalito.  This dumps us onto the main street of town which is perhaps a couple miles long.  This town actually looks interesting.  There are people walking along the sidewalks, shops are open, and there are numerous restaurants and cafes to choose from.

Our hotel is just a block off the main drag on Princess Street (make up your own joke here).  The Gables Inn used to be a bed and breakfast, but since adding on some rooms in front they are now calling themselves a boutique hotel.  We are booked into the new addition.  Parking is in a tiny lot behind the building.  The hotel buildings meander up and down the hill from the lobby, but we can't tell exactly what is hotel and what is private residence.

We squeeze the car into a space and wander a few feet into the lobby.  The staff there is casual, but friendly, and we are shown to our room.  They have to show you to your room because you would never find it on your own.  We go down a flight of stairs in the lobby, go outside and cross a courtyard, then back inside and down a long hallway, back outside on a little porch that fronts the main drag, U-turn into another door, up a long flight of stairs, and there is our room.  Whew.  Now the trick is to find our way back to the lobby eventually.  A nice thing is that the little porch leads directly onto the main street, which is very convenient for strolling or finding restaurants.

There are only four rooms in the new wing, which doesn't look all that new to us.  While the furnishings and finishes are new, there is so much water damage to the corner windows in the bedroom that the windows no longer fit the opening.  All three of them are warped beyond repair and there are gaps at the top and bottom.  At first we thought maybe they built this on the cheap, but upon further investigation it is apparent that they bought an existing old house and gutted the interior to add some suites.  A private residence is literally two feet from our window.

The room itself is the size of a small apartment.  A short hallway from the door leads past a marble floored bathroom straight out of a Restoration Hardware catalog.  In fact, the entire room appears to have been furnished from that catalog.  The bathroom looks nice, but there is nowhere to put our stuff except the back of the toilet.  The small shelf unit in the room is full of amenities.  They have neglected to supply us with washcloths today.  The motion sensing light switch is completely broken and turns off the lights even though someone is standing directly in front of it.  We use the bypass and leave it on to teach them a lesson.

Another short hallway forms a T intersection with a snack bar and closet to the right and the living room to the left.  At first glance everything looks nice with beige (dirty) carpeting and cream colored drapes and Roman shades.  There is an enormous LCD TV on a stand, a glass coffee table, an 8' sofa, and one tiny lamp.  That's it in this huge room.  The sheers are missing from the window, so we are on display to the lobby directly across from us unless the drapes are drawn.  There are recessed lights in the ceiling with a dimmer, but a couple more lamps would be nice and maybe a big upholstered chair.

The bedroom is separated from the living room by double pocket doors.  There is a slope in the floor at this point that we trip over every time we walk out of the room.  The windows, as already mentioned, are completely ruined with extensive water damage.  There is a peek-a-boo view of a perfectly framed Alcatraz Island and the Bay Bridge we didn't expect.  It is so perfect it looks fake.  This is the least expensive suite in the hotel because it doesn't have a view ($225).  The bed looks comfortable, but one of the lamps doesn't have a switch and has to be unplugged to turn it off.  There is a smaller LCD TV in the bedroom mounted to the wall and two dining chairs against the wall.

There is no air conditioning here, which we knew about and is typical for the area.  However, if guests have to leave the windows open for ventilation it would be nice if they had insect screens.  None of the windows have them.

Our bedroom windows look out onto Princess St. and the entrance to a shop below.  Nothing like being on display 24/7.  Since there are no sheers, the only way to get any privacy at all is to close the Roman shades, thus blocking not only the view, but all of the natural light.  Oh well, live and learn.  It is a great location, noisy, but convenient.  We drag out the floor fan from the closet and set it up to provide some white noise and air circulation.  Hopefully the weather will stay cool until we're out of here.

Both of us promptly crash and nap until around 5:00 pm.  We dawdled around and finally wandered out to look for a restaurant around 6:00 pm.  Being a Saturday night we wanted to eat early enough to avoid the rush.  We passed through the lobby to get our jackets out of the car.  The wine and cheese reception is going on with a bunch of uncomfortable guests standing around.  The desk clerk is pouring wine and trying to be friendly, but everyone looks very ill at ease.  We keep walking.  The desk clerk says hello to us, glances at the room full of people, looks at us, rolls her eyes, and wishes us a pleasant evening.

Just around the corner we found Angelico Italian Restaurant.  There is no wait for a table even though it is fairly busy, so we're happy.  This place is so noisy we can barely hear ourselves think.  The servers are clanging dishes, people are yelling, the bar is jumping.  Oh, and the chairs are about as comfortable as sitting on concrete.  The service is slow, but obliging, with an authentic Italian flair.

Our meals are delicious from salad to dessert.  It is also very expensive, $93.00 before tip with no drinks.  However, the food is great, so no complaints there.  We would not go back to this place though.  It is too noisy, too slow, uncomfortable and too hot.  It just isn't a pleasant place to dine.

We easily walk back to the hotel in just a few minutes.  Very convenient.  There are a number of restaurants in the immediate vicinity, so we won't have to drive anywhere to find food here.

Breakfast is served in the lobby until 10:30 am, but it seems from some reports that there is a $7.95 per person charge for it.  We don't care, but there was no mention of this at check-in.  She did tell us that parking is $15.00 per day because of a city ordinance and we did know about that ahead of time.  If the hotel breakfast doesn't work for us, we passed two diner-type places on the way to dinner we can try.

Sunday, May 8 - Sausalito, CA - The Gables Inn

The weather is the same as yesterday, beautiful.  No complaints at all in that regard.

We made it to the hotel's breakfast which is the skimpiest yet.  This is a true Continental breakfast with just a variety of cut up fruit, orange juice, yogurt, a few pastries, coffee, tea and bagels/bread for toast.  There is no mention of a charge for this (and there shouldn't be), but the website says it is $7.95 per person.  That would be a rip-off for the minimal offering.  It is enough to get us out the door, so from that standpoint it is better than nothing.

Being Mother's Day, we aren't quite sure what we can get away with seeing today.  Maybe the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park isn't a mother's kind of place?  We'll drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and check it out.  The drive from Sausalito isn't very long, but on the San Francisco side there is a lot of construction that backs up traffic.  The toll into the city is $6.00.  Crossing the bridge out of the city is free.

In order to get to the bridge, we have to pry the car out of the hotel's parking lot, then try to avoid all of the cyclists who ride in the middle of the road.  A sign says, "Walk bikes on sidewalk."  Everyone ignores this and it is very dangerous and annoying at the same time.  Oh, and we have found all of the thin people in the world.  They are in and around San Francisco.  Wow, people are like twigs, really. 

We eventually make it to the underground parking for the Academy.  All of the street parking is full already (it is 11:00 am).  The first level of the parking structure is full also, so we descend to the lower level, which is also full.  On through a tunnel to another garage on the opposite side of the plaza from our destination.  At this point, we decide that if the parking is already this full the museum will be ridiculous.  We drive out the exit and tell the toll booth guy we didn't stop.  He doesn't charge us and we drive off into the city.

As you already know, we are not big city fans, particularly San Francisco.  Yes, there are some beautiful row houses to look at, grand public buildings, and the bay view is nice.  We're seen all of this before many times, so all we are interested in is getting the heck out of the snarl of traffic and back across the bridge.  This takes over an hour.

The drive across the bridge is pretty.  The bridge itself it beautiful to look at both from afar and while driving it.  One side of the roadway is full of bicycles and the other side is jammed with pedestrians.  It is a nice day for walking the bridge, but it is two miles one way if you ever consider doing it.

Back in Sausalito, we stop by the hotel to recharge and then head out to look for the Laundromat the desk clerk gave us a map for yesterday.  It is only two minutes away from the hotel, but we find it is closed today.  Back to the hotel we go, grab our stuff and start walking along the busy sidewalks in town.

There are some very interesting shops and galleries here, but the prices are astronomical.  We look, but we do not buy anything other than a souvenir item.  At the north end of town, we stopped to look in a shop for dogs, but it isn't anything special.  On the water side of the street, we wander through the marina with its houses on piers, a funny boat topped by a giant baby, and a few houseboats near the shore. 

It is 2:00 pm now, so we decide to stop in a nearby restaurant overlooking the marina.  It is an Italian place, but what isn't here.  We're not sure there is any other kind of food.  We know there must be, but every restaurant we pass is either a pizza place or a full blown Italian restaurant.  Oh yeah, there is a fast-food Thai joint in the shopping center.  No matter, we'll fill up on pasta and get on with our day. 

The service is just as disjointed and incomprehensible as it was last night.  A good thing is that it isn't noisy and there is a view.  The food is adequate, nothing more, and the bill comes to $23.00, not too bad.  As with last night's place, we can't get out of there fast enough.  We've crossed another one off the list.

In the center of town is a small park flanked by elephant lights from the exhibition way back when.  There is a large tiered fountain here also.  The park is very small, just a sliver actually, but it is full of people out enjoying the nice weather.  There are three hotels in this area, Casa Mardrona that appears to have its historic section under renovation, Hotel Sausalito, and Inn Above Tide.  We were originally booked at the latter, but the price for a regular room there is over $450.00 and we just don't care that much.  We prefer to have the extra space over a view.  Even with the shortfalls of the place where we are staying, it looks like it might be the best choice for us.

We stopped in a gallery where they are selling sculptures by an artist we have a small collection of.  We can never figure out how to properly clean the bronze finish, so we ask a the friendly clerks if they know.  One of them gives us a print-out from the artist about how to properly clean them.  They tell us to "set them free" if we have any still packed up (we do).  We assure them we will and wander back out onto the street.  The gallery had some very cute Dr. Seuss sculptures, but there is no way we're paying over $5,000 for something made of cast resin.

Down the street is a great view toward San Francisco.  This is the same view we have from our window without the trees and buildings in the way.  People are jammed up along the waterfront taking it all in.

We sort of wanted some ice cream, so we went into a shop that smelled really good from the outside (like fresh waffle cones baking).  It was too crowded and nothing special, so we gave up and went back to the hotel.  On the way in we reported all of the maintenance issues we are having.  The desk clerk asked if it is OK to fix it tomorrow because the owner will be here then.  We said that's fine, we're coping and just thought they would want to know.  Why housekeeping doesn't report this stuff, we'll never understand.  It is hard to miss the entire front of a wall switch missing or the fact that the light by the bed can't be turned off.

Nothing happened for the rest of the afternoon.  Around 6:30 pm we ventured out to find something for dinner.  Our first choice is to bring a pizza back and watch the finale of The Amazing Race.  Lucky us, the place we saw yesterday is open.  It is a tiny hole in the wall kind of place, Giovanni's, run by two Hispanic women who could not possibly be any more accommodating.  We ordered a pizza, which they made by hand right then.  She said it would take ten minutes, but there was a rush right after we ordered.  Bill went down the block to buy something for dessert while Dave waited for the pizza.  Bill came back with brownies, the last thing the bakery had to sell.  We were waiting at a table outside the door when the woman who took our order brought everything out to us.

The hotel is less than a block away and the door to our part of the building is directly on the street.  It could not be more convenient.  Back at the room we made ourselves comfortable and settled in for the night.  The pizza was very good.  This is the first place in Sausalito we would gladly go to again.  Our total bill there was $23.00 for a large sausage pizza and four cans of soft drinks.  Yes, we ate the whole thing.  The brownies were tasty also, so we're done for tonight.

Monday, May 9 - Sausalito, CA - The Gables Inn

Today's weather is an improved version of yesterday, with slightly warmer temperatures (low 60's) without the strong winds.

We took advantage of the free breakfast at the hotel, which is the skimpiest so far.  We're also not sure it is free either, although no one asks for room numbers or anything.  We'll find out when the bill comes.  Their website is confusing on the matter.

Our plan for today is to visit the Disney Family Museum in the Presidio.  If we're up for it afterwards, we'll fit in some other stops, as well. 

The Disney Museum is in one of the restored brick barracks buildings.  Getting there isn't any fun because the roads are being re-worked, so there is a long detour around the area.  We just keep turning in the direction we think we need to go and do eventually arrive at the parking lot ($6.00 for the entire day).  The old Parade Ground in front of the buildings (there are several identical brick barracks in a row) is torn up, but we don't know what is going into this area. 

The museum is only allowed one tiny sign, so they have put up large banners to draw attention.  Up until recently it was necessary to buy tickets in fifteen minute intervals, but the crowds never came and this system has been dropped.  We walked in and bought tickets with no problem.  The regular price is $20.00 per person, but we show our AAA card and save $5.00 each off of that.

The interior is beautifully designed.  The pre-entry area has large displays of Disney's awards, some of which are very elaborate.  There are interactive touch-screens that show items not on display.  The museum is as silent as a cathedral.  The employees are dressed in all black and everyone speaks in a whisper.  They also don't look too thrilled to be there, although they are pleasant if you approach them.

The girl scanning tickets stamps our hands, and says we won't have to show our ticket if we leave and come back in.  We have no idea why anyone would do that, but whatever.  The first gallery explains Walt's childhood, etc.  Guests take a talking elevator to the upper level where the main galleries begin.  Essentially, the galleries document Walt's life and accomplishments in chronological order from birth to death.

As you know, we are not museum people and we generally breeze through them in less than an hour.  This museum is so beautifully presented that it takes us THREE HOURS to get through the entire thing.  Yes, three hours!  One could easily spend twice that long if you used all of the myriad interactive touch screens, read all of the details and looked at every single item on display.  We're not all that interested in the early years of Walt's career, but the information is presented in such a compelling way that we are drawn into it.  It is easy to forget how many innovations came out of this man and his associates.  Things we take for granted now were often done first by Disney.

The museum is in such pristine condition that it looks as though it opened yesterday.  There is not a worn edge or a single fingerprint on anything.  The floors are immaculate and every single one of the thousands (no exaggeration) of video screens and interactive kiosks is in working order.  There are some of the most beautiful terrazzo floors here we have ever seen.  The one in the Disneyland section is dark blue with sparkles in it that gives off a magical sheen.  There is one under the stairway to the lower level restrooms that is sort of 1950's retro with space age designs.  Someone sure spent some big bucks on this place and it shows.

Even if you aren't all that interested in Disney, this museum is an absolute must see for the way the information is presented, if nothing else.  This is hands down the most sophisticated and compelling presentation of material we have ever seen.  If you are in the vicinity, do not pass this up.  It should be noted that this is a museum for adults.  There were no children present when we were there and if there had been they would be bored silly.  There is nothing of interest to children here, so don't even consider bringing them. 

We arrived at the museum at noon and didn't finish the last gallery until after 3:00 pm.  We bought ham and cheese sandwiches and drinks from the cafe and revived at bit, bought some souvenirs in the shop, and drove off in search of Crystal Symphony at the port.

Driving straight away from the Presidio along Lombard Street, we eventually reached the Embarcadero and there is Crystal Symphony towering over the cruise terminal building.  If we could have found a place to park nearby, we would have taken more pictures, but we're already worn out, so we keep driving past Fisherman's Wharf and along Marina Avenue. 

Our original point of this route is to stop at the Palace of Fine Arts, but the streets are blocked off because of a detour to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.  At one intersection we are face to face with one of the famed cable cars waiting at the light.  We did stop along the marina in a parking lot fronting the ocean for a few photos before heading onto the bridge back to Sausalito.

We have seen the Golden Gate many times, but we're here anyway, so we stop at the Viewpoint along with two billion other tourists.  It seems that most of them are from Asia somewhere, but there are a few Europeans and a handful of Americans.  The view from here is, of course, an iconic one.

On the Sausalito side of the bridge there is a similar viewpoint, but there is no charge to park at this one.  So, we decide to stay and watch Crystal Symphony sail under the bridge.  We arrived here at 4:30 pm and the sailing is at 4:45 pm, so we don't have long to wait.  Eventually the beautiful ship sails past the backdrop of San Francisco, blows her horn and slips under the bridge and off to Alaska.  Standing on the windswept point, we are very glad it isn't as cold or windy as it has been the past two days.

We are quickly back in Sausalito, but at this point it is nearly 5:30 pm.  We have laundry to do, so we stop into the Waterworks Laundromat on the main street into town.  The attendant there says she will be glad to put our clothes in the dryer so we don't have to sit and wait for it.  Just come back before 7:00 pm when she closes.

So, back to the hotel we go to rest up for an hour or so.  Around 6:30 pm, we drove the short distance (literally 2 minutes) back to the laundry, but we have to wait fifteen minutes for it to be finished.  Eventually it is, so we pick it up and take it back to the hotel.

Next stop, finding a place for dinner.  There is a place on a pier by itself less than a block away, so we go there.  We're seated immediately and we are actually served with a smile by the friendliest waitress so far.  The restaurant is Scoma's and the selection is mostly seafood, seafood pasta, and steak with seafood.  Click to view the Menu.  Dave chooses a popcorn shrimp starter that is outstanding.  There is one piece of calamari in the mix, which is also outstanding.  The waitress returns and asks sarcastically how the calamari was.  We like her.

For main courses, we order a steak/prawn combo and a filet mignon.  The meat is at the very top of the list for the best we have ever eaten.  Honestly, it was fantastic even without the sauce it came with.  The shrimp with the steak are also outstanding, but the beef is the standout here.  The bread that comes with the meal is wonderful, too.  Throwing caution to the wind, Dave orders an apple-blueberry crisp for dessert and it is also beyond wonderful.  The bill for all of this is a whopping $123.00 before tip, but since every morsel is to die for, we'll say it is worth it for sure.  We're happy to find a place in this city that has good service, also.

It takes just a couple of minutes to walk back to the hotel where we sort out our clean laundry and crash for the night.  By the way, none of the maintenance issues we reported yesterday are fixed today, so we're knocking this place down a few notches for that.  Too bad because the location is ideal, but they need to improve a few things before we could recommend them.

Tuesday, May 10 - Sausalito, CA - The Gables Inn

It seems slightly cooler today, but that could be because it is windy again.  It is still sunny, so no worries about the weather.

We got started at our usual time, 11:00 am, after the hotel breakfast.  First stop, a supermarket up the street to re-fill a couple of things we're getting low on.  The Bay Model is located just up the street from the market, so we go there next.

We are aware that the model is dry due to work on the building, but since it is free there isn't anything to complain about.  This is the Army Corps. of Engineers scale model of the bay where they would test various tidal plans and alterations before implementing them.  It has since been replaced with computer modeling, but it is kept open as a tourist attraction and education center.

The building it is in is the size of a football field.  This area was originally a shipyard and this building was part of that and later converted for its current use.  The visitor center part of it looks like it is from the 1980's from the style, but it serves its purpose and it is free to the public to view it.  We're given a nice map and sent inside.  There is a video presentation explaining the model, but we skip it to avoid a bunch of school children on a field trip.  Why do children find it necessary to scream everything?  Just asking.

Although the model is dry, it is still impressive.  The sheer scale of it is amazing.  It is an exact replica of the bay, so it is interesting to see the deep channels that have been dredged through shallow bays to enable shipping and other activities.  The deepest part is at the Golden Gate and beyond.  The bay itself is shallow in comparison.

There is a separate enormous section detailing the Sacramento River Delta and its tributaries.  The bay model waterways are carved into the concrete slabs, while the newer delta sections are built up on top of the slab.  This was done to reduce weight and to make it easier to make changes as necessary.  When permanent changes are made to the bay they are added to the bay model.  Or they were, we're not sure they still do that.

From the Bay Model, we drove back into San Francisco where Trish lost her mind and took us to the old location of the Academy of Sciences.  Once we realized she was off track, we started over with the correct route and she took us there in ten minutes.  Last time we tried to visit this museum, the underground parking garage was full, but today it looks normal and there are plenty of places to park right by the stairs up to the academy entrance.  There are no signs saying what the cost is to park, so it is anyone's guess at this point.

The entrance to the academy is just steps from the parking garage stairs.  Admission is $29.95 per person and includes the Planetarium show and everything inside.  Our photo was taken outside the front door in front of a green screen.  We can claim our photo later today.

This building sports a "Living Roof" and incorporates a Planetarium, Natural History Museum, Aquarium and a huge Rain Forest.  In the center atrium there is an exhibition space and various programs are given during the day.  We did wander through during one of these lectures, but no one was paying attention to the speaker and neither did we.

To the right of the entrance is the three story Rainforest enclosure.  Visitors enter through an airlock and climb a spiraling ramp from the forest floor, passing freely flying birds, butterflies, and colorful frogs, before reaching the canopy.  At various levels there are small terrarium-type displays of rainforest creatures such as lizards, geckos, huge spiders, etc.  All of them are well presented.  It is very hot and humid in this human-sized terrarium, but it isn't unbearable.  Well, the screaming children are fairly unbearable, but such is life.

Once at the very top, visitors are put in an elevator downward and plunged to the "Flooded Forest" and continue their tour through the Aquarium.  This part of the complex is like any other major aquarium and features what you would expect to find in one.  The exhibits and huge viewing windows are well done.  There is a short walk-through tube under part of it.  The exhibits are maintained well and they are easy to view when the kids aren't pushing in front of you.  We wouldn't want to be here on a day busier than today, that's for sure.

There is a section of the aquarium showing a swamp with alligators and such, then you are back out on the main floor.  There are occasional docents sitting around with live snakes one may touch if so inclined.  We are not, but the little kids form a huge line for their chance to touch a snake.

The Planetarium show is included in the admission, but we have to pick up a pass for a specific time.  It is 2:00 pm now and the next show is 2:30 pm, so we get a pass for that and wander around some nearby exhibits.  At this point, the only things we haven't seen are the African Hall and the Living Roof.

We get in line for the Planetarium and proceed immediately into a pre-show area where some women are befuddled by the concept of waiting to enter the actual theater.  This wait lasts until almost the 2:30 pm show time, then we are lead into the Planetarium and told to move to the center of the rows.  The show is less than half full, so there is no problem getting a prime seat in the center.

The show is about the origin of life on Earth, or something like that.  Yeah, we know, God did it, but humor us.  It is way too long and people are snoring loudly about halfway through.  It goes on for about 35 minutes.  It isn't bad, but it is very laid back.  We're not talking one or two people snoring, but several all over the room.  We stay awake, but barely.  Overall the show isn't as bad as the one we saw in Portland and has better production values, but they need to pep it up a bit to keep people awake.  The theater is very nice, we'll give them that much.  No children screamed, which is a plus, but this is probably because they say the show is not appropriate for children under six.  Maybe this is because they still believe the God stuff, but we're just guessing.  (Yes, that was sarcasm...geez.)

The show completely sucked the life out of us, so we go to the Cafe to revive.  This is the best museum cafe we have ever seen.  There are so many different choices it is hard to decide what to order.  Visitors go directly to different stations featuring a variety of cuisines.  There are steamed buns, slow cooker, BBQ, Mexican food, Asian food, salads, sandwiches, sushi, pasta, you name it.  We get some macaroni and cheese, steamed pork buns, a chicken quesadilla, chocolate chip cookies and a brownie, plus fresh orange juice and a couple of other drinks.  The bill is $42.00, but all of the food is cooked here, it isn't prefabricated and reheated.  Everything, believe it or not, is delicious.  If this place was closer to our hotel we'd come back for dinner.  Honestly, it is that good.

Re-energized, we wander back to the African Hall which is like most natural history museums with walls lined with dioramas of stuffed African animals.  There are some live animals interspersed with the stuffed ones.  At the end of the room in a panoramic enclosure are live African penguins.  Boy, do they stink!  Yikes.  And they are behind glass.  We'd hate to be the keeper who has to go in there with them.  Gag!

Next stop, the Living Roof.  Something like 20 billion gallons (or something like that) of water are captured by this roof.  It also does something with saving electricity and air conditioning.  Whatever, it looks interesting and the view is nice.

Finished with all of the exhibits, we checked out the museum store and found nothing worth buying, not even a souvenir.  We stop at the photo desk to look at the photo taken when we arrived.  It is actually very good and resembles a cruise boarding photo with an aquarium background.  We buy a package that includes a frame and some other stuff for $29.99.  Apparently we can also post the photo on Facebook when we get home if we don't lose the card they gave us.

We're shocked to realize it is 4:30 pm when we walk out the front door.  So, another museum that sucked us in.  This time, the extraordinary cafe has revived us so we aren't about to pass out like we were yesterday.  We wandered out to the Music Concourse in front of the museum.  There is another museum across the way that looks like it is covered in scaffolding, but we determine it is supposed to look like that.  OK, whatever, to each his own.

The concourse is attractive with gnarled old trees and several large fountains.  There are statues around the perimeter and a band shell at the far end.  Everything is in good repair and there is no graffiti and no homeless people in sight.

We easily found our car even though we went back to the garage a different way.  Parking was $10.50 for today.  High, but not ridiculous.

Trish got us back across the bridge to the hotel with no problem at all, but that's when the trouble began.  We walked into the lobby and the same young woman who has been there every night rushed over to apologize to us.  For what?  Apparently, there was a "water explosion" in the courtyard between the original building and the one where our suite is located.  Cut to the chase, there is no hot water in that building except on the ground floor.  We kind of wish we had been here to see this go down because the way she describes it we'd have some juicy pictures for you.  Unfortunately, everything is cleaned up and looks perfectly normal now.

We're given the option of staying in our suite and using one of the downstairs rooms to shower or we can have our pick of a room in the original building above the lobby.  She also says that the owner will be in tomorrow and "he will probably compensate you for your inconvenience."   We'll believe that when we see it, but it is nice of her to say it and she probably believes it.  She gives us a passkey and tells Dave to go look at all of the rooms upstairs and pick whichever one he likes.  She says the Magnolia room is her favorite and that is the one he ultimately chooses.

She offers to help us move our luggage, but we decline.  We don't like the hassle, but it isn't the end of the world.  However, there are now four flights of stairs to carry our bags up, down, up, down and up.  There is even a small flight inside the door to our room.  We manage, but we don't like it.  She offers us a bottle of wine for our trouble, but we decline, nicely.  She thanks us for being so understanding and continues to apologize.  There really isn't much else she can do and she does appear to be sincere.

Our new room isn't a suite, but it has a better view and a gas fireplace.  The room is large with basically the same furniture as we had in the suite except there are two upholstered chairs instead of a sofa.  They are strangely shoved against the walls along with the ottoman that belongs between them, so we rearrange them in front of the TV and crash.  All in all, this room is fine, but we did like having the separate bedroom in the other one.  We'll see what we are offered as compensation tomorrow.  We should get a free night, but we won't hold our breath.

On the way out to find something for dinner, we see a sign tacked to the front door saying that all cars have to be removed from the parking lot by 8:00 am tomorrow morning.  Oh great, now we have to move our car to the separate garage parking down the block on top of everything else.  Then we'll get to carry our luggage down there when we check out.  Are we having fun yet?

We drive back toward the supermarket we went to this afternoon in search of non-touristy restaurants.  We end up at The Seahorse, which is most definitely a locals kind of place.  The only parking is in a marked 20-minute zone, but everyone else is parking there, so we do, too.  To say this place is a dive is a bit of an understatement, but it does look clean.  There is a giant lighted seahorse on the roof that flashes every color of the rainbow.

Inside, we are greeted very warmly and told we can sit anywhere we want to.  A live jazz band is playing, loudly, on a stage at one end of the room.  We hate jazz.  Really, can't stand it.  Is this really music?  We're pretty sure it is just a bunch of guys making noise, but we're not connoisseurs by any means.  We decide we can stand it long enough to eat.  Get this, they serve Italian food.  What a surprise...not.  What is up with that? 

We place an order, the food is fine and reasonably priced.  This is a good thing because they don't take credit cards.  Did we travel back in time, or what?  Who doesn't take credit cards these days?  We have enough cash, but still.  Just as dessert is about to roll out, an old woman gets up and starts to sing.  We cringe, but she's not bad and definitely better than the noise music earlier.  The guy at the table in front of us whips out a piccolo or something similar and gets up on stage with the band.  Apparently this is a normal thing to do because no one acts surprised. 

Our meals were fine, not gourmet, but good enough.  Each item is priced at around $9.00 including the lasagna entree, so overall it is fine.  An experience, yes, and we got a decent meal out of it.  Besides, the employees/owners are extremely friendly and offer a warm welcome.

Back at the hotel, we find the additional parking garages for the hotel.  We're talking actual household garages they have rented from the houses above them.  We have no idea how the other car in the garage with us will get out, but that's not our problem.  They told us to park here, so we park here.  The map indicates a walkway to the front of the hotel, but it is pitch black and there's no way we're walking up a strange alley in the dark.

We found our way to the entrance we used for our original room and entered the hotel through that door, which is unlocked after 9:00 pm.  In the lobby, the same young woman who is here every night apologizes again because we had to move our car.  Then we start talking about working in hotels, etc., and she entertains us until 10:00 pm when it is time for her to go home.  When she leaves, there is no one working here, we're completely on our own.  So, as far as we can tell, it is just us and two old ladies on the first floor.  Let's hope there isn't another explosion before someone arrives in the morning.

When we told her where we went for dinner she exclaims, "Oh my God, you went to the Seahorse?"  We informed her it isn't that bad and the people are nice, but she says she still won't go there because it is so weird.  Yes, it is, we can vouch for that, but it wasn't bad, just odd.

We were asked for our honest opinion of our stay here.  She told us they just had consultants come in to prepare a report on what should be done to improve this place.  Heck, we would have told them for free.  Fix things that are broken, clean the carpets, and put sheers on the windows so we're not on display 24/7.  How hard can it be?  Of course, we have stayed in so many hotels that we are pretty much experts in what should be provided.  Why do people open hotels when they haven't stayed in them?  Seems fairly elementary to us.

Finally back in the room for our final night, we just sit around and hope that the parking lot resurfacing doesn't start at 5:00 am.

We are very glad we stayed in Sausalito instead of San Francisco.  This town has convenient restaurants and everyone we met was extremely friendly and helpful.  We would stay here again sometime and we might even consider staying at this hotel again...maybe.

Wednesday, May 11 - Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA - Best Western Carmel's Town House Lodge

Once you've experienced the serenity and quiet beauty of this seaside town, you may never leave. A tourist draw for over 100 years, the spectacular coastline, striking white sand beaches, bohemian charm, trendy shops and fine restaurants keep people coming back. No streetlights or house numbers were the early ground rules in what originated as an artists' colony, and that hasn't changed. Within the town's original one square mile, houses are identified by the nearest crosswalks or even the closest tree. Grab a picnic lunch and stroll along the beach, where you can gaze out at some of the world's most stunning coastline views. Then, meander through town to explore the chic boutiques and art galleries. A trip to the beautiful Carmel Mission reinforces the tranquil aura; time seems to have stood still since the mission's establishment in 1771. Outdoor types should head to Point Lobos State Reserve, with its hiking trails, scuba diving and a chance to watch even the sea lions savor the easy life.

The courteous staff at the BEST WESTERN Carmel's Town House Lodge is waiting to ensure an enjoyable and relaxing stay in Carmel. Hotel guest will find this coastal California inn is just minutes from the beautiful white sands of Carmel Beach and the shopping and art galleries of Carmel Village.  Each well-appointed guest room features a refrigerator, cable satellite television and high-speed Internet access. The hotel also offers 2-room suites and family rooms for guests who prefer more spacious accommodations. Hotel amenities include a complimentary continental breakfast, an outdoor heated pool and free parking.

It is overcast and cool today, but we expect that to improve later in the day as we move south to Carmel.  It is in the mid 60's.

The parking lot resurfacing didn't begin as early as expected, so there was no disturbance to us this morning.  We went downstairs to breakfast at 9:30 am.  The hotel manager came up to us and told us the light inside our car is on.  Bill checked on it and it is, but didn't drain the battery, so no harm done.  Breakfast is always the same, cut up fruit, God-awful organic yogurts, a plate of pastries, orange juice, milk, and a few kinds of bread for toast.  We don't know what the milk is for because there is no cereal.  There are sometimes hardboiled eggs, as well.  Very skimpy in our opinion.  However, after reviewing our bill at check-out, breakfast is free of charge (as it should be).

We pulled ourselves together and checked out at 11:00 am.  The manager insisted on carrying our luggage to the car when Bill went down earlier to put the large bag in the car.  Later, he carried Dave's bag down also.  We were given a discount of $75.00 for our room switch issue.  He didn't ask about how our stay was at the hotel.  Instead he asked, "Did you enjoy Sausalito?"  Maybe he knows to avoid asking direct questions about the hotel itself.

Overall, we did enjoy our stay here.  However, there are so many little frustrating problems with this place that we would probably try someplace else next time.  We're not sure anything in the area is any better and certainly not for the price, but it might be better to pay more to avoid the maintenance issues here.

After filling up the tank with gas (this is only the fourth time we have done so), we headed south on Hwy 101 through San Francisco and down the coast.  We're headed toward Carmel today with no stops scheduled.

About 90 minutes into the drive, we spotted a sign pointing to Mission San Juan Batista, so we took a slight detour to visit it.  As you may know, all California school children spend a lot of time learning about the California Missions, so we figure it is our duty to visit them if we're passing by.

The little town of San Juan Batista is very cute.  Its few blocks are lined with historic old store fronts and old adobes.  We parked in front of the mission and walked down the street to the old plaza.  The mission itself faces the plaza that is also fronted by Plaza Hall, Plaza Stable, Castro-Breen Adobe, and the Plaza Hotel.  The square is teeming with school children today who are, needless to say, screaming.

There is also a state park here, but we didn't go inside the building except to pick up a brochure on the area (which costs 50-cents, our tax dollars NOT at work here.)  At the end of the plaza and the mission is a charming little rose garden with a fountain in the center.  The mission bell tower is here and behind the chapel an old graveyard where a sign informs us that over 4,500 native Americans are buried in unmarked graves.  The view over expansive farmlands is beautiful.  There is a pathway marked as an example of earthquake activity, but we didn't walk down because it was packed with the aforementioned screaming children.

This mission was founded in 1797 and was never abandoned.  It is still in use today, so it is not supported by the State of California.  There is a $4.00 admission charge per person.  We didn't go inside, just walked around the plaza area.  After visiting the plaza we wandered "downtown", walked a few blocks and made our way back to the car to continue our journey southward.  We are very glad we are here in the spring and not the heat of summer.

The rest of the drive is only about an hour and we arrive at the Ocean Avenue turnoff at 2:00 pm.  There are no addresses in Carmel (don't you hate that kind of cutesy-pie crap?), so we have to drive around the block a few times to locate the motel.  Everything is identified in directions by intersections or major landmarks.  We're sure this was charming at some point, but now it is just annoying.

We do, of course, find the motel and it has its own parking lot in front, which in Carmel is a definite plus.  An old lady in line at the front desk in the tiny lobby is bumbling through God-knows-what while the clerk patiently tries to move her along.  She eventually finishes explaining everything she knows about Carmel (most of which is wrong) and it is Dave's turn to check in.  This is handled with no problem at all.  The clerk explains that since we booked a suite (at $129 a night), we can't have a high floor as our Best Western profile requests.  We know this and don't mind.  The two suites in the motel overlook the small pool on the lower level of the motel.

This place is a classic 1950's motor lodge that has recently been completely renovated.  It looks pretty much the same on the outside except the paint is fresh.  Inside, our suite is nicely done with brown walls and luxurious looking carpet.  There is a living room as you enter and a bedroom through some French doors.  The only things giving away the motel's age are the mismatched door knobs and some of the trim.  Otherwise, everything is brand new.  They are still waiting for the LCD TV's but the furniture for them is already in place.  The room, being on the lowest level in the back, is dark, but cozy. 

We are amused by the little "planter" outside our room that we are both certain at one time held sparkly white rocks and plastic philodendron plants.  When we arrived there was a dead potted plant in it, but when we stepped out to get some ice it was gone.

The guy at check-in gave us a map of the town and marked some recommended restaurants that are not Italian.  We might go for some Mexican food tonight.  We can walk to everything in town from this location, so it is convenient for what we plan to do here. 

We went to Club JalapeŮo a block away for Oaxacan style Mexican food.  The guy at the hotel check-in recommended it.  To say it is a hole in the wall would be an exaggeration.  This place is tiny, at the most 20x20', plus a bar and kitchen.  We counted the seats and there are only 26.  The food here is, by far, the very best Mexican food we have ever had.  No question about it.  Every single bite was delicious.  We almost licked the plates.  Really, it is that good.  If you are here and can find it (good luck with that) be sure to give it a try.  Our total bill was $47.00, before tip, and worth every penny.

A bunch of noisy Asian tourists moved into the suite across from us, so we are not alone by the pool anymore.  Boy, are they loud!  They had to bounce all of their luggage down the stairs, then yell back and forth about what to bring down.  The women were doing all the work while two able bodied men stood there and watched.  If they had been smoking it would have completed the perfect stereotypical picture, but alas they were not.  We keep forgetting we are in tourist country although we do realize we are tourists, too.  We are, however, quiet and respectful of other guests.

We have nothing more to report for tonight.  We'll see if we can get into any trouble tomorrow, but don't count on it.

Thursday, May 12 - Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA - Best Western Carmel's Town House Lodge

The weather is nearly perfect today, clear, slightly breezy and in the high 60's.

We could have made it to the hotel's free breakfast, but we knew from the size of the lobby that it wasn't going to be anything exciting.  It is nice that it lasts until 11:00 am.  We wandered out of the room around 10:30 am and decided with all of the restaurants around us that we would prefer a real breakfast.  Dave went in and looked at the free offering and it is very minimal, but would be OK in a pinch.

We head south down the street to a place we saw on the map, but we don't have to go that far.  Friar Tuck's Restaurant is less than a block away, so we go in there.  Like most places in Carmel, it has only about ten tables and there is only one occupied when we arrive.  The owner/chef is very friendly and we are told to sit anywhere we want to.

We order the French toast combo and an omelet, both of which are served on platters that are completely filled with food.  We especially like the note at the bottom of the menu that says, "We will not tolerate wild children.  $50 charge."  The food was great and expensive for breakfast ($37.00), but we know other places in Carmel where you can't get out the door at breakfast without paying over $50.00.  So, we consider this a bargain under the circumstances.

Our only plan for today is to wander the streets of Carmel and look in the multitude of shops.  We make it to Ocean Avenue (only a short block) before Dave realizes he forgot to put the memory card back in the camera.  We ask in a shop where we can buy one, but that place is across the street from our motel, so what's the point?  We go back to the room and get it.

There are only two specific shops we want to visit, Ansal's Garden and Diggity Dog.  It really doesn't matter where you walk in Carmel because there are shops everywhere.  Gallery, gallery, jewelry, gallery, jewelry, real estate, real estate, law office, jewelry, gallery...you get the idea.  Oh, and don't forget the boutiques with one purse and two beaded sweaters on display.  Now and then on the main drag there is a T-shirt shop, but there must be hundreds of art galleries and jewelry stores here.  Who buys all this stuff?  It is nice, but really, is there that much demand for paintings and diamonds?  Apparently so, because there are fewer empty shops here than we have seen elsewhere. 

There are also innumerable restaurants and cafes serving every cuisine one can imagine.  This is very nice because no matter where you are staying in the city, there are many places to eat just steps away from your hotel.

We're not sure where we went or what we actually saw at this point, but we managed to buy our required Christmas ornament from Carmel in an actual Christmas store.  Then we wandered to the garden shop we like and found it still closed at noon.  There was another couple waiting for it to open and they are also repeat visitors.  We all decide to wander around and come back later.  The woman is waiting for her husband to get the car, so she wanders with us down the street and we have a nice conversation with a complete stranger.  Yes, we had a conversation with a stranger.  Do you need smelling salts or anything?

Anyway, she says they are staying at the hotel across the street owned by Doris Day, the Cypress Inn.  It looks old, but well kept.  She tells us to come back in the evening when everyone brings their dogs to the lounge for cocktails.  Apparently they take it all so seriously.  This town is beyond dog friendly, which is refreshing.  You have to search to find places that don't allow pets.  Dogs are welcome to dine in restaurants on the patio almost everywhere.

After the woman's husband picks her up, we wander back to the shop and find the gates open, although the sign still says "Closed".  There are other people already shopping.  We have purchased things here in the past when there was an old guy welding copper sculptures on the premises, but those days appear to be over.  There are still pretty things to look at, but they aren't unique and the ones we recognize from catalogs are outrageously overpriced.  So, we look, but we do not buy.

After wandering around the streets a bit more, we end up at the dog boutique across town.  By across town we mean two blocks away, the blocks are very short here.  However, we do detour through some of the lovely courtyards the town is famous for on the way.  For a hoity-toity town like this, the shopkeepers are extraordinarily friendly.  They don't have the desperate, "Oh my God, PLEASE buy something," air that the shopkeepers had in Mendocino.

The dog place is too funny.  They have a lot of unique items and the discussions people have with the sales people are way too serious.  We find some toys appropriate for our two dogs, plus a puzzle they have to solve to get treats out of it.  If they don't share, this will work out well, but if they swap these will probably last about twenty seconds.  We figure the younger one will just chew the corner off of the puzzle thing before the older one can figure it out (although he would eventually).  They are both golden retrievers, but they could not be more different personality wise.

Once we are walking around with the bag from the pet store, everyone wants to talk about dogs, assuming they aren't already.  We go into a gourmet food shop and can barely get away from the clerk who wants to hear and tell stories about dogs all day.  She was already talking to someone on the subject when we arrived and switched over to us when she saw the bag.  We buy some weird tea bags that are intended to be infused into alcohol to freak out guests at our next party.

We have no idea how we ended up at EcoCarmel, a shop selling, you guessed it, eco-friendly everything, including paint.  The proprietress tells Dave that the glass candleholders he is looking at are made from recycled glass.  He says, "I should hope so or you are trying to trick us with this eco-friendly stuff."  Luckily she is amused and laughs.  A tiny votive holder made of colorful recycled glass is $22.00.  We pass.  We're not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but get real.

An interesting shop that we decide is full of salvage items is so expensive that there are no prices on anything.  It is also about as far from our style as it is possible to get, but it is fun to look at.  Again, who buys this stuff?  Maybe it is so expensive that if they sell anything at all it sustains them for the rest of the year?  That's probably the theory behind the jewelry stores.  You only have to sell one item for $25,000 and you can stay home for a couple of months.  Most of these shops are tiny, so maybe you can own one and call it a hobby.  We think we should rent a space for a few months, drive up with a van-load of crap and unload some of our stuff and jacked up prices.  That seems to be what everyone else around here is doing.  We even promise to be chatty and friendly doing it.  We'll put our dogs in the window like we saw at a sweater shop, too.

It is about 2:30 pm when we decide we have seen everything we are interested in, so we wander back toward the hotel.  We passed a bronze of an old couple on a park bench that pretty much sums up the population here.  It is in a tiny park next to a library and some fancy public restrooms.  There is a hobo-type man setting up a display of seashells to sell to passersby, assuming there are any in this corner of town.  With all the rules around here he'll probably be arrested and thrown in prison if anyone catches him.

There is a "Sun Deck" at the hotel we go up to check out.  There is a fireplace up there and a small ocean view.  It looks like someplace you'd find Dean Martin lounging in the 50's, but it is well preserved like the rest of the motel.  We get some ice and retire to the room to await dinner time.  Napping ensues.

We ventured up the street a couple of blocks to Forge in the Forest Restaurant at 7:00 pm for dinner.  It is an interesting place, but probably not so much for the food as for the bizarre service.  We were seated on an outside (heated) patio that is very attractive.  Sitting on a hard wood-topped brick wall is not so attractive, but we survive.

Service?  What service?  The people across from us, who were already seated when we arrived, get up and leave.  The other two couples have drinks and menus.  Eventually, someone comes to serve us and he is so ridiculously enthusiastic it is like a bad joke.  He asks so many questions that we're not even sure he works here.  He has never heard of one of the items we order and has to look at the menu to figure it out.  After a few minutes, he comes back to ask which choice of noodles we want because the chef says the option is hoisin, not sesame (the menu says sesame).  We say, bring the Asian one.  This is the Sliced Top Sirloin on the menu.  The other selection is the stir-fry.  He asks how we want the meat cooked.  In a stir-fry?  Since when is there an option?  We say "medium".  Dave also orders the onion soup.

All of the food is very good, but is in no way worth the prices charged here.  By the way, both orders of beef are cooked well done, so why he asked we have no idea.  Dessert, white chocolate bread pudding, is $8.95, but very good.  The waiter again has to come back and clarify that it is white chocolate because he told us just "chocolate" when asked what today's flavor is.

During all of this, there is much whooping and hollering coming from inside the restaurant.  Not from the customers, but from the staff.  We are told later that they are watching American Idol.  Um, aren't they supposed to be working?  Yeah, maybe, but watching TV is apparently fine with the management, assuming there is any in this place.  Anyway, it is amusing to watch and if the prices weren't so outrageous it would almost be worth it to come back to see how it plays out another time.  As it is, no way would be come back here.  It is too bad because the garden patio and the building itself are charming.

OK, so that's about wraps up our stay in Carmel.  This is a cute little town and worth visiting for a few days every now and then.  If you are into shopping, there is sure plenty of that here.  We're glad we stayed in Carmel rather than in Monterey as we did last time.  There are still a lot of restaurants here we would like to try, so a return visit in the future isn't out of the question.  We can't say that about most of the cities we have visited during this road trip.

Friday, may 13 - Pismo Beach, CA - Sandcastle Inn

The City of Pismo Beach was founded in 1891 and incorporated in 1946. It is located mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco with a population of 8600. Pismo Beach is a recreation and tourism-oriented town with over 65 restaurants and more than 30 hotels, motels, inns and RV parks.

Visitors enjoy a myriad of activities including golfing, bicycling, walking through the Monarch Butterfly Grove, tennis, horseback riding, scuba diving, bowling, hiking, miles of beautiful and clean beaches, exploring tide pools, coves, and caves. Enjoy the 1200-foot Pismo Pier for sightseeing, walking, fishing and seeing the great sunset.

Just about anywhere you look from the Sandcastle Inn of Pismo Beach, you'll observe a relaxed atmosphere. Watch the locals angling for the day's catch, the colorful aerobatics of kite surfers cutting through the water or families meandering along the beach in search of shells. The nearby landscape is dotted with wineries and the Sandcastle Inn is near San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.

Our luck with the beautiful weather continues today.  It is warmer, high 60's-70's, and clear.

We went back to Friar Tuck's Restaurant for breakfast.  The owner/cook saw us and exclaimed, "You guys came back!?  I'm lucky if someone comes in once.  I never expect to see them a second time!"  He's joking, this place is really good and a bargain for Carmel.  Dave had the breakfast special that is $7.95 for two plate-sized banana (or blueberry) pancakes, two eggs and two pieces of bacon (or sausage).  Bill had the same enormous omelet he had yesterday.  Total bill today is about $32.00 before tip.

After breakfast, we packed up and hit the road south again around 11:00 am.  Today's drive time is estimated at two and a half hours with no planned stops.  Our original route was to continue along the coast on Hwy 1, but the road is out below Big Sur, so we have to take the inland route along Hwy 101.  We have done the coastal route before more than once and it is beautiful, but also a slow, winding drive.

The inland route is faster except we have to go north a bit from Carmel to get to the highway.  Route 101 follows the historic El Camino Real which is the route following the string of California missions.  This road travels through the Salinas Valley where a good percentage of our produce is grown.  The flats are covered with farms in full production and the hills are typically picturesque California scenes dotted with oak trees.

We pass by Chiquita Brands offices and Fresh Express (owned by Chiquita) before getting on the freeway.  Freeway is a relative term out in the sticks like this.  The freeway ends and restarts every time there is a farm or roadside stall that can't be access any other way than a turnoff.  There is no traffic to speak of and the drive is easy, but long.  Obviously we have come quite a ways since the days of the missions.  They were built roughly a day's horseback ride apart.  We pass four of them in two hours.

We stopped at a Rest Area along the freeway that is the nicest we have ever seen.  It is quite new and done in a mission style.  There are large restrooms (that could use a good cleaning) and a selection of vending machines we haven't seen before.  One of the has a robot arm that opens a chest freezer and picks up ice cream bars for delivery to the customer. 

Rather than be total bores today, we stopped at the mission in San Luis Obispo, oddly enough called Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.  It isn't one of the most beautiful missions and it is smack in the middle of downtown, but it is a good chance to get out of the car.  We parked on the street behind the mission because the tiny lot was full, but that only adds a few extra feet to our walk. 

There is a side entrance to the church, which makes it easy.  Walking toward the front door and outside we end up at the mission's shop and museum.  The shop has nothing much to offer and the museum is a dimly lit hodgepodge of artifacts, if you can call them that.  If you haven't ever visited a mission, then have at it, but we are not impressed.  This mission was established in 1772 and is still operating as the parish church.

This place must be important because there is a public restroom in the park out front.  It is gross and creepy, so we're glad we are men and don't have to touch anything.  San Luis Obispo is a nice little town with an interesting downtown area.  It is worth a short stop if you haven't been here before.  We have and keep on driving.

It is only another fifteen minutes or so to Pismo Beach.  Our hotel is on the south end of town right on the sand.  There is a boardwalk out front that leads to the pier and the old part of town.  We arrive at 2:20 pm and our room isn't ready.  No big surprise there.  The clerk says she will call our cell phone when it is ready, "In just a few minutes."  Again, no big surprise, that never happens. And, it is two hours before the room is actually ready.  Check-in time is 4:00 pm, so we can't really complain, but why lie about it?  We're told it takes longer to clean the bigger suites (which are not much bigger than a regular room, just configured differently) and that they are installing new TVs and that is slowing housekeeping down.  Yeah, right, just say the room will be ready in two hours and don't make stuff up.

We're hungry anyway, so we wander down the boardwalk and go into the first restaurant we see, Pierside Restaurant.  We have the option of sitting outside in the direct sun or upstairs inside.  We choose inside.  OK, this place is a firetrap, but we're hoping for the best.

Our friendly, but inept, waitress shows up and asks if we are ready to order.  We are and order two sandwiches, a smoothie and a soda, plus water for both of us.  She disappears for way too long and eventually returns with the soda and smoothie.  She notices we have no napkins (or anything else) and says, "I'll be right back with some napkins."  Dave asks, "Can we have some water, too?"  She acts like she has never heard the same request from five minutes ago, but she does bring some.

It takes way too long to get our food which gives us time to look at this place in detail.  If we were the management, we would try to distract guests as much as possible because the place is filthy.  The carpet is black in the traffic pattern.  We're glad we don't have to eat off the floor.

The sandwiches are OK, huge portions, but not much flavor.  Still they are as described and are edible.  The fries, however, are not.  We don't know how it is possible to ruin fries, but they somehow found a way.  No matter, the rest of the food is OK, the smoothies are good enough that Bill orders one also.  The waitress keeps trying to re-fill the soda glass and at the end offers to make one to go for us.  This meal took over an hour and cost almost $40.00, including tip.  Later we read the online reviews of this place and we decide we are lucky to be alive.

We wandered up the three blocks of the old part of town, then back to the hotel.  Back at the hotel at 3:45 pm, we try again for the room.  This time the clerk promises it will be ready by 4:00 pm for sure and we can fill out the paperwork and give her a credit card now.  We go sit in the car and wait for the call that never comes.  The room is ready when we check back after 4:00 pm.

Our room is on the top floor (3rd) and has a fantastic view of the beach, pier and the city from a huge deck.  There is a gas fireplace and a living room area with a sofa, chair/ottoman and a dining table.  A wet bar, refrigerator and microwave complete the sitting area.  A king size bed is in the bedroom part of the room.  The bathroom is standard issue 1980's, but is very clean as is the rest of the room.  The decor is every pattern in blue and white one can imagine.  Dave is wearing jeans and a blue T-shirt today, so if he lays really still maybe Bill won't be able to find him on the sofa.

Napping fills a few hours until we start thinking maybe we should eat again.  We both decide we aren't all that hungry and can't be bothered to go out.  We settle on microwave popcorn and the freshly baked cookies from the front desk.

Bongo music and people singing "Kumbaya" on the beach wafts in through the open door.  Did we fall into a time warp on the way here?  We saw some of the most hideous do-it-yourself tattoos while walking around today.  What are people thinking?  OK, a regular tattoo isn't a thrill for us either, but a mess of tasteless drawings applied by your two-year-old just doesn't cut it.  There is a tattoo parlor on every corner in town, so maybe some of these people will stagger into one of them and have theirs fixed.  We won't hold our breath.

Saturday, May 14 - Pismo Beach, CA - Sandcastle Inn

It is very chilly outside today, but still bright and sunny.

We start off the day with the free hotel breakfast.  It is just OK and is all sweet stuff like waffles, pastries, sweetened cereal and bread/bagels for toasting.  There are some whole fruits (apples, oranges and bananas), and yogurt.  Oh yeah, and a bowl of hard boiled eggs.  It is OK for us, but it seems heavy on sugar for most people.  No wonder the kids staying in the hotel are so hyper.

There really isn't anything on the agenda for today or, for that matter, the remaining few days of this road trip.  To get out of the room for a while so housekeeping can come in, we drove the length of the coast highway in the area.

Just north of Pismo Beach proper is a nice park above the Dinosaur Caves.  At first we couldn't figure out why there are giant dinosaur eggs among the whales and dolphins in the play area, but eventually it all made sense.  The bluffs are marked by short concrete pillars and chains, plus danger signs.  That proved all to true at some point because part of the barrier has fallen into the sea.  There is a nice view back toward the Pismo pier from here.

Shell Beach begins here, but is now incorporated into the city of Pismo Beach.  There are small older beach homes remaining, but most have been replaced by upscale two-story houses that are very nice.  This looks like a pleasant little beach town to visit or to live in.  There is enough shopping nearby that you don't have to drive for hours just to stock up on food.  There are many restaurants to choose from also.  There is an outlet mall somewhere in town, but we haven't seen it yet.  It is probably at the far south end of town near the highway.

Continuing north the road ends at Avila Beach, a very upscale little beach town.  Everything in this area looks brand new (and expensive), so we're not sure what happened to the original structures, assuming there were any.  There are two piers here, one similar to the wooden one in Pismo Beach and the other a modern concrete and steel type that is marked a research project of Cal Poly.  It is not open to the public.  At the very end of the road is a marina with a restaurant and other facilities.  There are some nice hotels and a few shops and restaurants along the water, but it is mostly residential here.

After filling up on gasoline again, we drove the short distance back to the hotel where we stayed for the rest of the day just enjoying the view from the window.  The beach parking area we can see is very busy today in spite of the cold weather.  People are out and about on the beach and wandering the streets.  It is a bit too chilly to wander around outside without a jacket, but it is still very pleasant.  We only saw the cops come once during the afternoon.

There is a loud family next door to us who seems to find it appropriate to allow their kids to run between their room and the patio on the other side of us.  It is like kids in stereophonic sound.  If we open the door the ocean sounds drown them out, but it gets too chilly eventually.  We're glad we aren't trying to nap or it would be very annoying.

We decided to wander to the main street a block away to look for a dinner spot.  No luck, everything that is decent has a line out the door.  So, we drove around to see if any of the restaurants we saw earlier today weren't ridiculously crowded.  Nope, no luck with them either, parking lots are full and people waiting outside.  We'd hate to be here in the summer when it is crowded! 

We ended up at Marie Callender's.  Not bad, not great, but filling.  That's all we can say for it.  Oh, and no wait.  It looks like at one time this place was popular because it has an enormous (empty) waiting area.  The hostess podium is so far into the restaurant we almost couldn't see her.  The service was friendly and we really had no complaints other than it is boring.

The hotel and the surrounding area quiets down after dark.  Considering how many people were running around in and out of the hotel, we have no idea where they all went.  There was more activity on the beach last night.  There is nothing happening tonight.

There looks to be a storm brewing and the clouds are rolling in.  This should have no impact on our travels tomorrow unless there is a downpour.

Sunday, May 15 - Oxnard, CA  - Hilton Garden Inn

In the 19th century, California saw an influx of settlers, and Ventura County became an agricultural capital, a title it holds yet today. In fact, the town of Oxnard derived its name from brothers who built a factory there to process sugar beets, a profitable early crop. Thanks to fertile lands and abundant rainfall, the area now serves as a top producer of strawberries, lima beans, lemons, and celery. The oil industry and the military also rank as major employers, along with electronics and tourism. Throughout its periods of growth, Ventura County has had the foresight to maintain its communities' small-town charm, as well as their history. Naturally, the coast is a perpetual draw, and area beaches are frequented by residents and visitors alike. Off the coast, the Channel Islands are a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts as well. While you're around, you'll definitely want to visit San Buenaventura Mission, Ventura Harbor, and Ventura's City Hall, not to mention Carnegie Art Museum and Heritage Square in Oxnard. They're just brief indication of the all-American appeal that brings folks to the county for business, for pleasure, and for fun.

Come experience deluxe accommodations, a relaxed atmosphere and friendly service at the new Hilton Garden Inn Camarillo/Oxnard hotel. Our hotel in Oxnard, CA is conveniently located between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California, close enough to attractions such as Universal Studios, The Getty Center and Hollywood, yet far enough away to still enjoy the ocean breeze, strawberry fields, small town charm and warm hospitality the Oxnard/Camarillo area has to offer.

There was some rain overnight, but it is clear this morning.  It is cooler than yesterday, but still pleasant.

We went downstairs for the hotel breakfast and found the room overrun with wild children, so we picked up our food and took it back to the room.  With all the sugary items this hotel provides it is no wonder the kids are climbing the walls.

Our drive today is shorter than usual, but we do have a couple of stops in Santa Barbara to delay our arrival at the next hotel until afternoon.  We left the hotel at 11:00 am, as usual.  The drive will only take 90 minutes if there aren't any stops, but Trish decides we should take a scenic route inland passing Lake Cachuma.  She is set to take us the "Fastest" route, so maybe she knows something we don't.  We did attempt to at least turn off at a view point for the lake, but found the gate locked.

There was some rain during this detour, but it didn't affect us at all and ended by the time we re-joined Hwy 101 in Santa Barbara.  We still can't figure out how the GPS thought the route through the mountains is faster than the freeway, but it didn't seem to add any extra time either.

We arrive at our only scheduled stop for today, Mission Santa Barbara, around 12:30 pm.  This mission is known as "The Queen of the Missions".  It is one of the most famous and there are a lot of tourists here today.  There is plenty of parking and we couldn't call the amount of visitors a crowd by any means.

The first thing we see out in front of the mission is the Laundry where Indians washed clothes by rubbing them on the sloped sides.  The trough in the center was filled with fresh water flowing from a bear-shaped fountain.  This mission is one of the larger and better preserved of the lot.  There is a serene, moss-covered old stone fountain at the entrance.

We go inside to pay the admission fee of $10.00 per person as the cashier runs after an old man who is insisting he should be admitted for free.  The clerk tells him, nicely, that there is nothing he can do about it and if he wants to complain the office is down the hall.  What are people thinking?  Obviously they are charging admission to help support the mission, not as a profit center.

Inside the first courtyard are beautiful roses and a fountain.  There are the typical long loggias lining three sides.  The fourth side is the stone wall of the church.  The self-guided tour continues winding through the complex and into a lovely cemetery shaded by an enormous tree in the center.  There are old crypts lining the walls, a beautiful old gate in the wall, and surprisingly, some recent burials, the most recent is dated 2000.

After touring through the church, which is beautiful, we stroll through the museum and end up in a gift shop.  The view from the front steps of the mission is stunning today and must have been something back in the days before all of the development in the city.

We decide to drive up the canyon behind the mission to the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden.  It started to pour rain the moment we parked the car, so we waited in the car until it stopped in just a few minutes.

There is an admission fee to pay, but the woman at the booth out front tells us to go inside and pay in the gift shop.  We're not sure what the regular fee is, but with a AAA discount it is $7.00 per person.  We are advised to go up the path to the right and then follow it down into the canyon.

The pathway leads to a meadow of California native plants (which is the whole point of the garden, in general).  There is a shade garden containing native orchids we have never seen before.  The pathway rises and falls providing many beautiful views of the surrounding hills and the ocean way in the distance below.

Descending into the canyon, the path meanders under towering redwoods and along a natural creek.  This creek was the source of water for the mission.  The padres engineered a complex system of waterworks including a dam and aqueducts to carry the water to the mission.  It was filtered and stored in a small reservoir below.

The path winds through the bottom on the canyon and there are some side pathways along the old aqueduct.  A large tree is holding a huge boulder in its roots.  The rock isn't attached to the bluff behind it, the tree is totally supporting it.  Eventually, we have to cross the creek to make our way back up to the gift shop and entrance area.

There is a nursery outside the gift shop that didn't have much of interest.  We're looking anyway and notice that all of the plants have the plastic markers from Annie's Annuals.  There is a large sign proclaiming that these plants are grown here, but that is obviously not the case.  We can buy plants directly from Annie's, so no need to buy them here.

Back on the road south, we only have 25 miles to reach the hotel in Oxnard.  As we approach the area we spot a huge black plume of smoke rising from the general vicinity of our destination.  We figure that with our luck it is probably our hotel because the off-ramp is closed for that street.  Luckily, we are able to get off at the marked detour and make it to the hotel with no problems.  The fire is clearly visible across an agricultural area adjacent to the office park where the hotel is located. 

The hotel desk clerk has no clue what is burning, but we find out later on TV that it is a fire in an agricultural yard and they are letting it burn because of possibly toxic chemicals.  The wind isn't blowing towards us, so we don't care.  The fire is still burning hours after we check in.  Since the fire is surrounded by open fields they aren't doing much except waiting for it to burn out.  We're glad we arrived before the freeway had a chance to back up.

This is another free stay with rewards points, so we're doing OK with that.  We usually like Hilton Garden Inns and they are an amazing value for what you get.  This one is typical of the brand.  It is very quiet when we arrive, but since it is in a business park with nothing around it other than offices, it probably picks up on weekdays.  Our room is a double queen and looks nice, as expected.  We're given vouchers for the breakfast tomorrow morning (because we are Gold members we get free breakfast), but our other amenities (free bottled water) are forgotten.

We rested in the room, snacking on the food we have been hauling along for that purpose.  We'll walk up the street to Outback Steakhouse for dinner, or, if we are really lazy we'll eat in the hotel's restaurant.

Outback won the dinner visit, but we drove over there not knowing it was only about fifty feet up the street.  Although it was packed, we were seated with no wait at all.  We thought maybe we entered Bizarro Restaurant because the service was so strange, but the food was OK and we got everything we ordered.  We were back at the hotel within an hour.

The fire nearby is still going, but it isn't noticeable unless we're specifically looking in that direction.  It is very windy and the breeze is blowing the smoke inland and away from where we are.  Good for us, too bad for Camarillo.

Monday, May 16 - Drive Home

Today's weather is again clear and sunny, but cool.  The fire is out at the agricultural yards north of us.

Breakfast at Hilton Garden Inns can't be beat and this one is no exception.  Get what you want from the buffet (fruit, juice, toast, yogurt, etc.) and order whatever you want cooked to order.  As Gold HHonors members, this is free, but it is still a good deal at $11.95. 

We left the hotel around 11:30 am after reporting the numerous maintenance issues we found in our room (A/C didn't work, TV remote only changed channels and did nothing else, hair dryer only worked on low, and the bathtub filled with water during a shower.)  The desk clerk wrote it all down, but all she said was, "Sorry about that."  Honestly, it didn't affect our stay since we only stayed one night.

Our estimated drive time today is 2-1/2 hours and that proved accurate.  We were home without incident by 2:00 pm.  Our dogs remember us, so all is good.

SUMMARY

We've had a few days to reflect on this trip and yes, we would do it again.  Would we return to all of the cities we stopped in, no.  Some of them were no more interesting than a place to sleep.  Let's review...

Our jumping off point in Bellingham, WA, was a nice small town.  The people were friendly and we enjoyed our day trip to the snowy Mt. Baker.  Would we go back here?  Sure, it was pleasant enough and there are a few things we didn't see because they weren't open on the days we visited.

Tacoma, WA, was nice also.  We enjoyed the places we went, the hotel was very nice, and we had some great meals there.  We're pretty sure we saw everything we are interested in, so a return visit probably isn't in the cards.  But, if we had to go there again, we would be willing.

The Mt. St. Helens stop wasn't as interesting as we had hoped.  We're glad we did it, but we wouldn't do it again.

Under different circumstances we probably would have enjoyed Portland more than we did during this trip.  It didn't fit with our small town itinerary.  We're on the fence about the city...we loved some of the places we visited and hated others as a total waste of time.  We'd be willing to give it another shot if we're passing through.

We were stuck in Newport, OR, twice as long as we expected to due to Dave's unexpected medical problem.  If we had to be stuck someplace, this was as good as any.  The medical care was good and we enjoyed the hotel.  Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a place to spend nearly a week of a vacation, but we are happy with it and would go back if we're going that way again.

We'll lump Crescent City and Eureka into the "we'll never do that again" category.  The former is worse, but neither are worth even a first visit, let alone a return.  Sorry, but you can't win 'em all!

The drive through the redwoods is something everyone should experience.  It is easy to do and if you are the nature-loving type, there are many opportunities for hikes in the woods.  We even liked our overnight hotel in the God-awful town of Garberville.

Mendocino was a disappointment.  What happened to this cute little town?  It used to be full of charming shops and restaurants, but no more.  Maybe it works better as a vacation spot for locals than tourists.  Our stay was OK, but nothing more.  The botanical garden though is a must see, so that redeems the stopover as "worth it".

Sausalito was better than expected and our days were full of worthwhile activities.  We would go back there for sure.  It is a much nicer place to stay than in San Francisco and yet it is just fifteen minutes away.  Well worth the days we spent there.

Carmel was very nice.  We would stay there again just to sample more restaurants.  There are hundreds of little shops to explore and the locals were extremely pleasant and helpful.  It isn't a budget destination, but we felt we got our money's worth.  It is definitely better to stay in Carmel than in touristy Monterey nearby.

Pismo Beach for us was just a place to unwind and get off the road.  It is OK as a beach destination, which is what it is, of course.  We would probably skip it and try a different stopover next time, but it was fine.  We felt the hotel was overpriced, but it was fine otherwise with a great location and view.

Oxnard isn't anything other than a place to rest for a night.

Overall, this road trip wasn't full of exciting destinations like our Yellowstone adventure, but we're glad we did it.  Our general plan worked and helped to confirm our limit for how long we are willing to drive in a day.  That number is three hours with no stops except bathroom breaks.  If we are stopping at sights along the way, we can keep going a couple of hours more before we decide nothing is worth that much effort. 

We are also convinced that almost any city is worth a two night stay unless it is truly a roadside motel.  We have plenty of time, so staying over an extra night makes everything we go out to see easy and stress free.  Plus, having extra days that aren't filled with planned activities allows for unforeseen adjustments.  In this case, we lucked out by not having a reservation for two of the days we had to stay over in Newport.  All we had to do to catch up was cancel one night of a two-night reservation and drive though one of our stops.  This is a lot easier to do when the stopover cities are just a two hour non-stop drive apart.

Our total mileage for this trip was 2,350.  As best we can estimate, the cost of this 29-day trip including hotels, rental car and all meals was around $9,000.  That sounds like a lot, but when you consider we would have been on 30 days worth of cruises if we didn't do this, it is quite a bargain.  We could easily have cut the costs by choosing less expensive hotels in Pismo Beach and Sausalito, but we all need a bit of luxury now and then, don't we?  This long of a Crystal Cruise would have cost four times that amount, if not more.  Our 7-day cruise to get to our staring point from Los Angeles cost over $6,000. You do the math.

We feel like we have almost perfected a road trip experience that suits us, so expect more of these in the future.  Renting an SUV takes all of the worry about breakdowns out of the equation, so we will definitely continue to do that.  We didn't get tired of travelling and we like to experience different hotels and restaurants along the way.  Next time we'll try to work in an exciting destination or two, but even if we can't do that the different small towns and roadside attractions make it worthwhile.

Back Home Up

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