11 Aug 2012

San Franciso to Mendocino on Highway 1

If you think you are going to get a look at the Golden Gate Bridge on this post, think again! We trundled over there in deep fog, and unable (or unwanting) to make a stop to give you an idea of what one just cannot see in such circumstances. It was even totally impractical to get off just after the bridge and go and gaze on that amazing view, which I have seen once, back over the bay or out to the ocean. It all looked grey, and in all directions.

So on to Sausalito, known as cool and all that, and perhaps a tad snob, but we hit the place just the same and apparently so early that nobody seemed awake there, so laid-back that they were all still horizontal at 8 am on a weekday. Luckily with the exception of a good deli that served us some nice stuff for breakfast.

This vision of a kind of modern, rich hippy version of Venise in its well-preserved and ramshackle but fashionable clothing, also gave me proof that the ocean-bred fog that can rule so many parts of this north-western US coastline is as elusive as it can be tenacious. It gets blocked by ridges of hills, is dissolved by sun and heat, plays hide-and-seek with the trees and flows in and out of creeks. Here, a couple of miles north and inland from the bridge, everything was clear and bright.

From Sausalito, Highway 1, despite is prime number, can at times be hard to find and follow and I strayed occasionally from the twisted but narrow, discovering in the process some of the well-to-do northern reaches of those who probably work in and around San Francisco, as well as their capacity to give remarkably precise instructions to lost foreigners. Once found, this Highway 1 requires full attention so much does it rise and fall whilst twisting and turning for very long periods. It is a very beautiful road (one of the best I have ever driven), at least for those like myself not in any hurry in a car, or for those lucky ones on light motorcycles that hold the road (where the f**k is my Duke?).

The Dance Hall in Point Reyes

First stop at Point Reyes Station, a really nice small town that feels in some ways like it has stopped in time: that is apart from the price of its food and the (very good) expresso coffee that I bought from the organic shop for the sort of prices you pay for the stuff (less good, admittedly) on the Champs Elysées in Paris! 2,25 dollars an expresso? And this garage above, which has been operating since 1923, and boasts not only this collection of heads (presumably road kill?) hung on the office wall, but also a collection of Model A Fords outside in just impeccable condition. The bikes I saw coming through were mostly Harleys, plus an occasional BMW and a nice pair of KTM 990's.

The selection of wines in the Point Reyes supermarket (more organic food than otherwise, and prices to match!) would shame most so-called wine shops in France, and with wines, equally well-chosen, from all over the world.

So I picked, for the coming picnic, the (surprisingly) only bottle of red wine closed with a screwcap (you can't travel with corkscrews these days). Luckily it was the Big House Red from Randall Grahm. Very good stuff, practical to get into, and very reasonably priced at under 9 dollars a bottle. AND this place also sold tasting glasses in decent quality plastic, properly shaped and sized. What the hell are we thinking of in France?

On the banks of Bodega Bay, somewhere near where Hitchcock shot The Birds, we watched other less agressive birds hunting and playing on the mud flats while listening to the sea-lions barking in the distance and drinking half of this Big House Red together with olives, bread, salami and other good stuff. Thank you Mister Grahm. Further up the road north I needed some coffee to keep going so I pulled into a roadhouse (can't quite remember where exactly). Quite a few bikes there, all of them Harleys... 

And this sign on the way in...

There was another one saying "Hippies use the service door", and this one, on the wall beside me...

Nice view, atmosphere ans music, but not too sophisticated and, as you might guess, the coffee was just "regular" (no expresso), so I had some tea and we moved on.

Got into Mendocino late afternoon after about 9 hours on the road from San Francisco, including those stops. And more about Mendocino, this former log-shipping town turned quietly sophisticated lady, tomorrow....

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