Pacific Coast Road Trip - Part 2 Itinerary
(Click date to jump to that day in the blog)
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
coastal pictures. There is also a
lake within the dunes that looks attractive.
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
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
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
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
Other than listening to the slamming doors, screaming children
and gushing plumbing in the walls that drowns out the TV, nothing interesting
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
Whether youíre coming to the North Coast for business or pleasure the
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
Within easy walking distance of the hotel (although we drove) is
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
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
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
At the mid-point of the trail visitors may board the included
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.
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
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
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
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
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!
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
It is very warm and sunny today, reaching the 80's later in the
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
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
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
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
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
wildflowers hang from the sides while delicate ferns sprout from the top.
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.
Bill standing in the hollow part to give you a scale of the size.
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
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
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.
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."
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.
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
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
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
Back on the main path, we head towards the ocean through a
forested area. All along this semi-natural part of the garden are
trees and foliage. Out on the coastal bluff there are colorful
flowers clutching the hillside, below which the waves crash onto jagged
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
The walk is along a paved road through lovely countryside.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
hallway forms a T intersection with a snack bar and closet to the right and
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Tuesday, May 10 - Sausalito,
- 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
gate in the wall, and surprisingly, some recent burials, the most recent is
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
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 -
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.
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
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
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.