Not North Carolina. No jumping out of planes and other training to get you ready for combat. Beautiful California coast where wildflowers are in full bloom and the surf pounds the rugged, rocky coast, relentlessly.
The drive over from Willits on route 20 sucked. If a drive could suck chrome off a trailer hitch (credit Ted with that line), this one did, in a bad way. If you need to get from Bodega Bay to Fort Bragg in any size motorhome (up to 42′, bigger than that and you’re on your own), take route 1. Route 20 is awful for 20 miles, worse than 1, which is wild for about 10 miles, but way prettier. 20 is just one giant forest, continually twisting – more 20mph turns than any I’ve encountered for 20 miles, also leading to a sentence where I was able use the number 20, grammar be damned (you do know that numbers should be written by the alphabetic presentation, no?), more different ways than I ever have in my life. Horrible road. Avoid it. Bite the bullet and take rt 1. If you’re afraid of what all the other timid RVers write about the hairpin turns on 1, get some balls and just do it (but don’t sue me if you kill some asshole in a Ferrari cutting corners on some of those turns where you look out to the ocean and turn hard to the right while avoiding the cliff and no shoulder). I’m pissed that I didn’t. The route is way shorter – 26 miles translates to about $20 worth of diesel fuel for our 42 footer, in California.
Speaking of fuel, when we got to Willits I became a bit concerned about our remaining fuel and possible refueling locations, knowing we were soon headed to the boonies, if, indeed, we were not in them already. Regular gas stations that offer diesel quite often do not have enough space for us to maneuver Odyssey and our towed jeep. When you approach one of those you do a wide scan, and ask, can I get out? Which pump let’s me maneuver in and out most easily, if any? Will I block anyone? You have to do all that before you commit to entering the station at all.
You’re also going to be there a long time. Diesel pumps at gas stations are usually not the high speed ones at truck stops. And, they usually only let you pump $125 at a time by credit card, some $75. We pulled into the Safeway on the corner of 101 and 20. The furthest pump on the right allowed an easy exit from the whole shopping center. If you’re using shopping credits – we had accumulated eighty cents off at Safeway – you can only get twenty-five gallons. So, we got twenty-five gallons at $2.94 and $125 worth at $3.64, still not a bad price for diesel in CA. Truck stops rip you off but they are the safest option for getting in and out. Just don’t let the truckers intimidate you. We’ve noticed a lot of them are arrogant assholes when they get behind the wheel. Of course, you may have noticed that just about every driver on the road, at some point, if not arrogant, is an asshole – except you. Then again, the human race supports quite a cross-section of such jerks in all walks of life. I have issues with assholes. After 42 therapists, I finally found a professional who tells me that I’m not one.
But, I digress. If you want proof of how bad Rt 20 is to drive, open Google maps in satellite mode and search for Safeway Willits, CA, click directions and fill in Ft Bragg CA as the “from” location. Now, zoom in all the way to the destination, the Safeway – holy shit, I just did and in the far right pump is a giant motorhome towing a car. That sucker looks like two railroad cars, it’s so big! Guess I wasn’t the only person thinking that way. Anyway, zoom out a bit and follow rt 20. Pretty benign at first and then at the deep green of the forest you can see all the squiggles. Zoom down so far into one of them until you see vehicles on the road. See how many turns there are? Believe me, there are as many blind turns on that as on 1, probably many more and you know that the 20mph signs are for you in your big rig. Yes, there are many pullouts – required to be used for slow traffic, You! – but still, it sucks the big one. Just don’t do it! Take Rt 1. It will be a bit exciting for 10 miles, but in spurts. Just blow that big air horn when approaching blind turns and hope the other guy is not as big as you. On Rt 20 it is awful for 20 miles non-stop, and local truckers who know the road fly in both directions. Same risks there on those blind turns. You just won’t fall off a cliff when you die.
Of course, we may have to drive it again leaving here, but if you only have to do it once, your heart will only age an extra 30 days, not 60. Now, the good news, this place is gorgeous. Remember, we were going to Ft Bragg? We are in Harbor RV Park, a small, locally owned, homey place, with only Pomo Bluffs Park, a small city park, between us and the ocean, over the cliffs.
Looking back at Odyssey (just to the right of center, looking black)
Let’s go up in the air. We were sure this was a California Condor until I looked closely at the photo. Pretty sure it’s a common Turkey Vulture. Condors don’t come this far north anyway, so we’re told.
Our first day of exploring sent us to one of our bucket list items(I think this is number 438, one of those numbers I just pull out of my ass), one of the three Glass Beaches of Ft Bragg.
So the deal is, the town was already here, with native Americans doing quite well, when some whitey explorers decided that lumbering would make a lot of sense in a land covered with giant trees. The gold rush had just begun and those miners would need homes. Those homes would need villages for commerce. The logging industry took over the town and built similar towns up the coast. Later, the Koch brothers took over the mill and much of the town.
At some point in the mid twentieth century, the city had accumulated more garbage than it could handle and cheaped out on a solution. They designated three cliffs as city-approved garbage dumps. Anything goes – old cars, trucks, furniture….the kitchen sink, you name it, and bottles. There were no plastic soft drink and water containers then. Bottles of all colors were tossed over the edge.
After a few years, they decided that maybe it was a bad idea and initiated cleanup. They got rid of all the big and toxic stuff and what remained was chewed up and spit out by the sea – a billion small pieces of glass so smoothed over by years of pounding by waves into the sand that many looked like marbles and small gemstones.
Today, those beaches have been combed over by a million tourists and unless some new pieces wash ashore, only the tiniest chunks with any color remain. Still, we spent four hours on about a hundred foot semicircle of beach with a few other collectors. Andrea’s magnetic bracelet was covered with sand-sized pieces of iron, perhaps the remains of an Edsel. Getting down to the beach is another thing but trails, of a sort, descend to the beach. Looking down a sort-of trail:
And looking up at the trail. Yeah, what trail?
While searching for the holy grail, a rounded and polished, red piece of sea glass, or just something bigger than a clipped piece of your smallest toenail,
the sun settled further out over the ocean.
It was very peaceful in that little cove.
And safe. A big teddy bear watched over us the entire time:
We ended up with a little bag of really small pieces and a few shells. The brighter colors are mostly gone. Amber and green are still common. We could do that every day. The kind of thing that keeps money from flowing out of our pockets while touristing.
On the walk back over a few more cliffs, I needed to stop and sit on a bench. We looked down on another beach and another load of huge rocks out in the water. I noticed a movement on one of the rocks and then saw the shapes of seals. It looked like an adult and playful younger seal on the right.
In that same cove, Andrea pointed out a shape, to the left, of what could be a turtle, or armadillo, or, if size matters, a creeping dinosaur.
It was one of our best days of the year.
If you look really closely, you can see the seals, though if you haven’t found Jesus in the International Banana Museum by now, you might not find Sealy in this one.
The next day, we went to the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. Andrea has the good flower photos (for you Facebook friends). I got a few.
As I said, she has lots of flower photos:
And one more in the gardens:
Ok, my garden photos suck. Then we walked out onto their ocean cliff. I like these flowers. They got balls growing off a cliff:
I like this one, above, the stick with the starburst ends. What is that, anyway?
So, we’re on another cliff and I’m drawn to waves crashing on rocks.
We wandered further south to the kitschy (WTF is kitschy?), tourist trap of Mendecino. Yes, it’s a cute little town with every type of coastal tourist shop you could imagine, very artsy too, or maybe just full of themselves. Now, not to discourage you, Freddies Pizza was the perfect little place to have a slice and a beer. Go to Freddies on Ukiah St. We parked across the street, right in front of a place that had only one little sign in the window that said, “$4.20 A Dab”. Next to that, I was going to say storefront, but it really looked like a private home, was another place that looked pretty similar, but had a small sign that read, “Adult Sales”. In California, that does not mean movies by the president’s girlfriend. We went in.
In such a business, you only need a glass counter for floor space. Your product is priced like jewelry. Your customers are usually knowledgeable about your product. There was a lovely person behind the counter explaining each product. It is a brave new world, which we, as Coloradans at the time it was legalized, became familiar with, but still makes me shake my head – all the people behind bars for decades, for what? Reagan’s idiot wife is to blame, for starters. Uh-oh, I pissed somebody off. Now for the rest of you, Clinton bears a lot of blame for the mandatory jail sentences while he’s acting like a trailer hitch. Well, for all the people who were jailed for anything to do with marijuana, and in some way were imprisoned because of the influence of the “Just Say No” campaign, I join you in wishing Nancy Reagan an eternity of burning alive in hell. Yes, for fucking-ever! And take old Ronnie boy with you for listening to your astrological bullshit. And Bill? His hell? Different spelling – Hill. Anyone left to piss off? Yeah. I got some anger issues about that shit. Do we have any wave pictures?
Glad you asked, asshole. You ever talk to yourself like that? Calm down, watch the waves:
Talked myself down. At the adult sales store, I bought some CBD salve. I had previously tried an oil and patches, like a nicotine patch, not that I would know – tried smoking in seventh grade, hated it and could only afford one habit then, baseball cards. I believe, which isn’t exactly the same as stating a fact, CBD’s help as a topical treatment for pain. If the morons-in-charge would finally get with the flow and remove marijuana and THC/CBD derivitaves from the list of substances in the FDA’s Schedule 1, which also includes heroin and LSD, serious research (read, big pharma investment, and, I don’t deny that some anecdotal research has been done already, including by me) can be focused on CBD’s medicinal benefits. Living on Social Security, a long term regimen of CBD treatment is not in the cards for most of us. Federal reclassification will begin the process to include a defined, CBD based pain treatment in Medicare. Or we’ll find it’s bullshit, but we need to find out for sure. We need change at the federal level. I’m probably going to be dead by the time we, uh, you, see a Medicare-covered CBD treatment for pain, epilepsy, and, what was that other one? Oh, yeah, Alzheimer’s. Really.
Damn, where were we? Leaving the pot store in Mendocino.
Ok, we zoomed back up to Ft Bragg and stopped in some old guy’s “museum” of physical science, another free curiosity. Larry Spring was an inventor of sorts and a collector of amazing rocks. He had an old, gas power saw to down smaller redwoods:
And some cool rocks that nature painted:
I really liked those rocks. I had found a couple on the beach with intricate striations, but what I found most interesting on the beach were small pieces of abalone shells. Larry had some whoppers:
Remember how I hated Rt 20, the main east-west route to Ft Bragg from the big highway, “the” 101? Yeah, I know, Californians always prefix their numbered highways with “the”. When in Rome,… Anyway, I really didn’t want to drive back to the 101 on 20 to get to our next destination, Myers Flat (oh, just look it up), when Rt 1 angled right into it further north. So, scientific method was in order. We drove up the 1 to find out for ourselves why nobody online – except one, very experienced RV driver – advised driving a big rig north of Ft Bragg. Let me present you with some evidence of our research:
OK, some road/erosion issues.
At one point, you came to a stop sign approaching a cliff. Rockslides had reduced the road to one lane – yes, just one lane for both directions. Another sign at that point read, “Stop for oncoming traffic”. You wait for the guy who gets there first.
Another area of slides had a slim road with those concrete dividers keeping you on the straight and narrow. Nerve wracking to some. Luckily, that doctor who stuck me with pins and wires concluded that I had severe idiopathic neuropathy, meaning my nerves don’t work like they used to. One less thing (to worry about, and the line always reminds me of Forest Gump’s response to understanding that Lieutenant Dan’s investment in some fruit company, Apple, made worrying about money, “One less thing!”).
But road conditions be damned, it was pretty.
and another, this one showing one of many California state beaches where you can park your RV on a cliff (extreme lower left):
We stopped at a beach:
I have a series of these, watching waves roll in and explode on those rocks.
It’s like your trains crashing on the figure eight track when you were seven, but you don’t have to tell dad how the crash broke the coupler on the front of the engine. Maybe not, but the waves keep coming, and they are free!
So, after 35 miles of Highway 1, well beyond where it turns inland through the mountains and some serious squiggles in Google maps, we decided Odyssey, and Andrea, could handle the thrill. Me? As was stated by my superiors in a 1970 meeting to decide who would be promoted among my Jones Beach Parking Lot Attendant peers, the conversation being relayed to me by Tom Sieminski, a good friend and a manager at the time, “Carlin? He’s just out for a good time.” As a 19 year old crawling out of a shy shell, I felt success at achieving such status, not giving a shit about the promotion. I was proud of that tag, “out for a good time”, and have tried to keep life that way. But, I digress. Driving Highway 1 is a good time, big rig or small car.
We got back to the RV, packed up, noted the odd paint job on this van parked next to us,
and bid Ft Bragg a good night.
Wait – turkey vulture? Any birders among you?
Next stop, Myers Flat, in the middle of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Wow. You read the whole thing. Or did you?