Eureka, CA to San Francisco, CA October 6 - 14, 2012


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October 14th 2012
Published: October 15th 2012
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THE BASICS

We explored Eureka a bit, appreciating Victorian architecture, and then drove via the Avenue of the Giants (huge redwoods) to Willitts. The next day was devoted to the dramatic California coast, Route 1, from Fort Bragg to Mendocino to Point Arena.

Next we headed inland to enjoy wine country. A night in Calistoga, at the "top" of the Napa Valley, then down through the valley to Napa for a two-night stay. It was foggy those two days, which was very unusual for us on this trip. Finally, we arrived to spend three or four nights a few miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Today we drove all over San Francisco.

We have our homeward plans set. We will camp, then store the RV, at a fairgrounds in Pleasanton, east of San Francisco. We are scheduled to fly from Oakland on October 24.

THE FLUFF

As we left Crescent City, John mentioned that he had learned online that they have the most-maximum security prison in CA there. It wasn't advertised at the Tourist Info Center... Also, it is ironic that we arrived in California exactly when gas prices here skyrocketed, even becoming the lead story on national newscasts. Great.

On our first night in Eureka, we fulfilled our tourist obligation of eating at the Samoa Cookhouse. It is an old lumber camp, and the meals are still served on a red and white checked tablecloth, at a picnic table, family style, all you can eat. The dinner is a set price, and you get what they are serving that night, in this case turkey and ham. We deemed it a good place to visit once. They do have an interesting museum with tons of photos of the early logging days.

After dinner, we drove back into downtown Eureka where, because it was the first Saturday, the downtown shops and restaurants were open and many served munchies, there was music, and the streets were filled with folks from 6:00 to 9:00.

On Sunday morning, we drove into town for a coffee at a charming shop, walked around the town admiring the architecture - many huge Victorian homes built with logging money. There also was a 20-year old bookstore which gave 20% off any purchases... Later, we watched a Patriots game.

Next day, we headed inland to enjoy more immense redwoods. We traveled down the Avenue of the Giants, and it was quite dark for much of the way because of the dense canopy overhead. These redwoods are sequoia sempervirens, which grow very tall near the coast, as differentiated from the sequoias in the Mariposa Grove near Yosemite, which are sequoiadondren giganteum. We drove as far as Willitts and settled at a campground on Route 20, a main route to the Coast.

I drove the entire next day, and my shifting muscles got a real workout. The roads were up and down, and very curvy, both to and from the coast and along the coast itself. Inland we went through forests of more huge redwoods, and along the coast were cliffs and sea stacks and wide fields and dramatic scenery. It takes nearly two hours to get from the coast to an inland city; it's pretty wild out there. But gorgeous.

We walked around Mendocino for an hour or so, trying to envision it as a Maine seacoast town (Murder She Wrote is filmed there, and Mendocino is Cabot Cove.) We stopped at a very sophisticated coffee shop where they did something I hadn't encountered before - they filled our mugs with hot water to heat them, then dumped out the water and poured our coffee. We chatted for awhile with a couple of guys who were diving for abalone (you can take three a day, 24 per year) They aren't very beautiful creatures, but apparently taste great.

We drove on down to Point Arena where one of my students/a good friend of Deborah's works in a shop. Unfortunately she was not there that day. Oh, well, it was neat to see the town. Point Arena surely is different from Durham/Lee, New Hampshire! We drove out to the harbor and had a midafternoon snack, John clam chowder and me little Dungeness crab cakes. Then I got to drive another hour plus of roller coaster; when we reached a regular highway, it was almost boring. Almost.

Redwood forests - check. Dramatic seacoast - check. Next on our checklist comes wine country.

It was a sunny, lovely day, and I was "psyched" for riding through wide valleys. Whoops. To get to Napa Valley from 101, you go down through two other valleys and over a couple of low mountain ranges. In these valleys, though, the roads are not designed for heavy tourism, as Napa Valley is. There are about three inches between the white line and a steep decline on one side of the road. We had to unhook, doggone it. But the vineyards and wineries themselves were almost magical, stretching on both sides of the road, perfectly symmetrical and aligned, like Italy maybe? We parked at a fairgrounds in Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley. Nice place, though we noticed in a local paper that they had had an (intentional) explosion the day before to get rid of dozens of canisters of ether which they had just discovered in a storage area. Too bad we missed that drama?

We enjoyed strolling on the main street of Calistoga, past wine tasting shops and restaurants - really a lot of both, and little else. We met a charming trio of young English tourists who asked us to explain the etiquette of the lines on the street at corners (i.e., crosswalks).

The next day's weather was a surprise, and disappointment, because it was overcast all day. We were so spoiled by all the beautiful days of sunshine. (We found a chart that says October is the sunniest month in that area, with an average of 25 days of sunshine) So our trip down through the Napa Valley was imperfect, both because of the gloom and because of the heavy traffic (although the roads had wide shoulders). Many of you will think us daft because we did not even partake of wine tastings, but we did appreciate that there were endless opportunities.

In Napa, we settled into a county park and then decided to spend a few hours of the gray day in a laundromat. At least that was taken care of. The next day was also overcast, so we headed into the city for coffee and a long walk around the downtown area. I was astonished by the number and variety of restaurants there.
John had made many phone calls and finally had our last week of this road trip set. We look forward to exploring Pleasanton, which is reputed to be the richest midsize town in the country. Hmm. Unfortunately, we have to ask Mike to pick us up in Manchester at midnight on October 24, if there are no delays, but he is a good sport.

We had a lot of "neighbors" in the Napa park on Friday night. It is now the season where groups of a couple of dozen RV's go somewhere and camp together and enjoy a potluck and whatever else. John made a half-hearted attempt to wangle an invitation, but did not succeed.

Finally, on Saturday, we headed toward San Francisco. We are in Greenbrae, a few miles north in Marin County, near Corte Madera. And San Quentin prison, by the way... We are close to a ferry to SF, from Larkspur, and look forward to taking that. But meanwhile, today, we drove into the city. The Golden Gate Bridge was absolutely no problem for me because it was completely swathed in fog.

We had decided to try to follow the 49-mile drive in and around the city. We didn't start on the coast because it was foggy, but it stayed foggy there all day, while the rest of the city got warm and sunny. It really was quite a dramatic difference; you could walk from bright sunshine to cool fogginess in about three minutes. The 49-mile route has signs. Some. And often only at corners where you needed to be in the necessary lane. So I tried to direct us as best I could.

We stopped, as usual, for coffee. We happened to be in the area near the GLBT Museum. We used a restroom in a beautiful laundromat; I hadn't previously seen machines with the dryer on top, the washer on the bottom, and each machine with a cute name. It was neat!

The route within the city takes you up and down and up and down some very steep hills. John had even more of a workout with his shifting muscles than I did driving to the coast. We kept getting stopped at lights just at the top of a hill, necessitating the temporary use of the emergency brake. People park on those steep hills; all the front wheels on the downhill side are turned toward the curb, and on the uphill side they are turned toward the street. I would never have a manual shift car if I had to live in that city! We look forward to getting back into the city on foot! Also, we had hoped to find less traffic because it was Sunday - no luck. And much of the Golden Gate Park was blocked off for various reasons, e.g. Sunday walkers and bicyclers; marathon; etc. We definitely saw a lot of the city though we fell far short of the 49 miles.

Now we are back in the RV, with a San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals baseball game on the TV. John still says "Go, Sox!" whenever we see someone with a B or NY hat, and so far his eyes are not black.

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20th October 2012

Ah, San Fran.....
Hi Linda and John, Great to hear from you and that you are in SF. Heidi and Jan lived in San Rafael and also in Fairfax. If you have not seen Fairfax, it is worth the drive. Go up 101 to San Rafael, then head west a few miles to Fairfax. Great little ice cream shop there, home made ice cream. It is right down town near the lights. Also great natural foods store across the street if you are into that at all. Funky little hippy town that time forgot. I am going to down in your neck of the woods on the 25th thru the weekend, as I am getting a knee replacement at Wentworth-Douglass. Same doc, different body part. It will be good to have you two back this way, and maybe we can get together for a burger at the Rusty whatever it is called sometime this fall. Safe travels home. Jane and Rick

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