We decided early on that we wanted to allot a few days to spend driving the notoriously narrow and winding roads of Highway One between Fort Bragg and San Francisco. I'm so glad we did because this ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. Part of what makes this section of coastline so magical is that it isn't easy to get to. The road is almost comically curvy and narrow at times and the only way to get there is to hope you don't get carsick and take it slow. Because of this there is hardly anyone there. I, being a small town girl, loved this!
We drove through many tiny, slightly run down towns that looked like they hadn't changed much in the last fifty years. Crumbling old buildings weathered by salt air and time. Rolling green hills, eucalyptus, climbing nasturtiums, falling-down split cedar fences, wildflowers and cliffs.
One of my favorite things about this section of the trip was the local architecture. I wanted to buy, or just knock on the door and ask to move into, almost every other house we passed. I have been building a "dream house" in my mind for a few years now and it was like the people of Northern California had somehow seen my blueprint and then improved upon it. There were so many dreamy houses built of weathered split cedar shakes with whimsical details, domes, spires, stained glass and curved roofs. And to top it all off many of them had big vegetable gardens, old barns, acres of land and separate little outbuildings (one of my all time favorite things!).
We spent the better part of a morning exploring a really lovely secret beach that I had been to years before. You have to know that it's there to find it, leave the road at an old Inn, hike through a meadow of wildflowers and climb down a cliff. Many years ago a building (the story I heard was some kind of factory) crumbled into the sea, and as a result the beach is full of many colored chunks of sea glass, shards of pottery, and rusted, twisted pieces of metal that have fused into the rocks. The tide pools, aquamarine water and wildflowers weren't too bad as well.
The town of Mendocino was one of my other favorite stops. We spent a morning writing in a sweet coffee shop and an afternoon riding our bikes around the neighborhoods in a heavy mist ogling dreamy houses and gardens. We had drinks at the divey local bar where the regulars dogs sprawled on the beer-stained floor and begged for a head scratch from the patrons, then devoured delicious seafood for dinner. The next day was bluebird sunny and we parted ways for a few hours and wandered around, cameras in hand, each in a bit of a sun-struck happy daze. Bright colors, ocean, sunshine, camera in hand-what more do you need?! I was in heaven.
Next up, big city adventures in San Francisco.