Wednesday, August 12, 2009
tape from california 10: talk to me of mendocino
My last day in California proved to be the only one during the trip where I made a major miscalculation in terms of distance. The goal was to drive from Ukiah to Coos Bay, Oregon, where I prebooked a room at a casino (it seemed the best option when scouting hotels online). All I had to do was drive back to the coast and be on my merry way northward.
Miscalculation #1: the amount of time required to drive to the coast. The highways between Ukiah and Mendocino are scenic (see above for a shot from California 128), but their winding nature took longer than anticipated—just over an hour to the ocean.
Once I arrived, I wandered into Mendocino, which was in the midst of Heritage Days. Despite hordes of people, I couldn’t resist the lure of the landscape, even as I couldn’t shake Talk to Me of Mendocino out of my head.
It's always important to know where you won't find yogurt in an unfamiliar town. Mendocino was a magnet for unusual vehicles adornments that day...
...attracting pessimists and Ayn Randians. The town felt quirky, with its cottage-like homes, collection of wooden towers and other slightly-out-of-present-time vibes.
Below the town, the beach hosted several fine examples of driftwood architecture. The cliff in the background was made of rock that easily flaked off, which I imagined would be ideal for kids playing on the beach who needed building tools or decorative elements for their sand castles.
Had a canoe or kayak been strapped to the Grand Marquis, I would have attempted to drift through this tunnel in a heartbeat.
Miscalculation #2: the last portion of Highway 1 proved the most irritating. Despite the natural beauty of the tall redwood forest, it grew monotonous. The last 10-15 miles took a hour to drive, with the steady parade of tight turns and lack of railing doing a number on my nerves. Given the sharp drop onto the forest floor, I’d have to be paid enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life in order to drive this stretch at night. And yet other drivers continued to pass me...
Relief came at the end of the highway, when I arrived at the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett. After I handed over five dollars, the park attendant warned me to turn in the rearview mirrors, which I had no clue how to do. Fears of future arguments with Budget officials crept into my head.
Approaching the tree...
...success! Time to watch others pass through! For a perspective on how large this tree is, check this picture.
Concerns about time prevented me from doing little more than snapping quick photos of the tacky tourist traps north of Leggett along US 101. Sorry to disappoint those of you who hoping for shots of chipalopes—will non-touristy grazing elk suffice? I felt like I was back on childhood drives on US 12 through the Irish Hills west of Ann Arbor.
I stopped to say hi to Paul and Babe in Klamath. I asked for advice on where to eat, but they admitted they couldn't pass on any information after closing time at the Trees of Mystery.
I ate dinner at the Beachcomber in Crescent City. The house specialty was Parmesan Halibut, whose fine crumb coating was tasty but should have been served on a smaller plate to make the skimping of sides less obvious. At least it came with a creamy bowl of dill-topped clam chowder and a small square of bread pudding.
Miscalculation #3: But night was now approaching and I soon realized the trip to Coos Bay was going to take a few more hours. I kept my fingers crossed that dinner would keep me alert enough to finish the day's driving.
Before the sun made its final exit, it was time to say goodbye to the Golden State and hello to Oregon.
US 101 stayed close to the ocean, which made for a beautiful sunset. I pulled off the road, set my mini-tripod on the roof and clicked away.
I reached the hotel around 11, just in time for a brief dip in the pool before passing out in my rustic-themed room. Glad to be settled, but I knew if I ever did this trip again, Arcata or Eureka might have been better spots to spend the night to allow more time to explore one log cabins and other kitschy mysteries.
Full set of pictures. All photos taken May 24, 2009 - JB