Sunday, September 30, 2012

DAY 39-Sonoma, Napa, to Sacramento…

I took another final drive through Sonoma and continued on Hwy 12 over towards Napa.  Just FYI if you are on your way to Napa and as you go along out of Sonoma a few miles I would not recommend taking the Napa Road at the light.  It will take you right back to Sonoma.  Ooopps!  I didn’t make the mistake twice. 

Its wonderful scenery on the way over to Napa but the traffic is another story all together.  It’s mostly stop and go, or at least it was on this Friday morning.  Come to find out that Sonoma County was having a HUGE Fall wine festival and that’s why I couldn’t get a room for one more night in Sonoma.  That might explained the traffic but I couldn’t really stop to get any beautiful scenery pictures along the stretch because of the traffic and there were no turn outs.  Though, I would not blame them for having no turn outs or parking along the road.  It would’ve been packed with picture takers.

I decided to take the turn to go north for a quick refuel and to check out the actual city of Napa.  The downtown area of Napa was very busy and very cosmopolitan.  Some parts almost felt like a Rio Dio Drive.  Parking was definitely an issue and I had hoped to be over to Sacramento by late afternoon.  So I didn’t stop and visit Napa city, but it was a nice little place to drive through.
Photo- My first experience of  heavy traffic just a mear 40mi outside Sacramento.

I worked my way over on the interstate towards Sacramento.  It was about 40 miles out that the traffic in all four lanes came to a complete stop.  Then, it would start for a bit and then stop.  It was interesting because drivers would put on their blinkers to get over and other drivers would let them right on over.  THAT would never happen in Utah.  In Utah you would have to head over towards the other lane, put on your blinker.  Then, you usually get honked at and yelled at too.  A great deal of the time there; if you are not in the right lane then you are just screwed.  Here in California, so far, the mentally is like… Sure, come on over, we’re all in the same boat now.  Or at least that's what it seems like so far.

When I got to Sacramento, I took a quick drive by the house where I would stay for the night.  It was a place that I had found on site.  It was still earlier than what I had told the host and so I decided to explore a bit.  I found the local mall and checked it out.  I was hoping to find something food wise that would appeal for a late lunch.  It was some interesting people watching but didn’t find any food places that appealed.

Next, I drove on a levee road that ran along the river.  At first, there were marinas, restaurants, and bars.  As I went further along, on one side there were nice homes with really nice landscaping.  On the other side, there were farms and later on a larger area that had construction crews grading a high raise area.  It looks like they were planning some kind of development.
Photo- People relaxing and sunning on the sandy beach of Sand Cove Park.

I swung by a park along the levee road called Sand Cove Park.  There were people swimming and sunbathing along a sandy section of beach.  You could see a marina down the river and the other way the river turned a corner.  It was a nice little area to relax.

Later in the early evening after a quick change of clothes and asking directions from my host and his girlfriend, I went down to Old Town Sac.  It was a Friday night and of course, Old Town was packed.  I drove around looking for an off street parking for a bit, but no luck.  I ended up parking in a pre-paid parking lot but had to go out on to the road and do a U turn at the light.  Check this out they had a U Turn Only Lane with a sign.  I was thinking that we could use more of these in the world.
Photo- Old Town Sac in the evening.

Old Town Sac is about a 4 to 5 block area in downtown Sacramento that has an old western town feeling.  The sidewalks are boardwalks and the buildings look like older brick or painted wood from a bygone era.  It’s a very touristy place to visit but it was rather fun people watching and there are quite a few restaurants, pubs, and eateries in the area.  I checked out the menus to several as I walked around.

I ended up eating at the Bar in Fat City Pub and Restaurant.  It had a wonderful interior of a highly polished old wooden bar with mirrors, tin stamped ceiling with a stained glass area, and light wooden floors.  There were several other details that just made it a fun place to sit and look around.  The food was pretty good too.  I had a Cajun pasta dish that was nice and spicy flavorful combination.  I also enjoyed a couple of mixed specialty drinks from their drink menu.

I ended up talking to a married couple, Lisa and Ray, who were up for a romantic weekend from a township that was about 45 min drive away.  Lisa was teasing Ray that it was to distract her from some painting that need to be done in their house.  Awe! I said is it working?  She laughed and said no but it was nice of him to try anyway.  It was fun talking with them.  I finished my lemon drop martini and told them to have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, September 28, 2012

DAY 38- Sonoma Wine Country…

After my bit of meltdown overload the night before, I decided to take things a bit slower.  After all, isn’t that what you are supposed to do when you’re on vacation, and I’m supposed to be on vacation here.  So I set alarm for later and was still up well before it went off at 8AM.  I took a long hot shower and just hung out at my room at Sonoma Creek Inn.  The Inn looked about like its pictures but not quite that good.  Why is it that sometimes things look just a bit more perfect in photos and just seem a little less in real life; that was the case here.  Also, the Inn is just off of Boyes road which is very convenient but the outside patio area that looks SO relaxing is actually rather noisy because of traffic from the road.

I headed back towards downtown Sonoma and swung by a Wine Country Bike store that I had seen the night before.  I asked them about biking routes in the area and also about laws regarding bicycles in the area.  One of the guys gave me a map that had what he described as a scenic loop that took you through slower sections of Sonoma with a loop that was out by some vineyards with low traffic.  I thanked them and proceeded to purchase a couple of supplies that I needed.
Photo- Park like setting of Sonoma's City Plaza area.
Photo- Looking through the park like setting towards
histoirc buildings that line the Sonoma Plaza area.

Next, I parked in the free all day lot just off of the Sonoma Plaza area.  I walked over to the Sonoma Visitor’s Center which is located just on the side of the main plaza center which is a city park with a an older City Hall building in the center of it.  It was funny because I walked into the visitor’s center and this middle aged woman just seemed to jump out of the woodwork.  I teased her about it and then proceeded to ask her all kinds of questions.  I think I may have overwhelmed her.  Boy, did I know THAT feeling.  She started to get me all kinds of brochures, pamphlets, and maps.
Photo- With a line like this I had to go into this store that's on the Sonoma Plaza area.

One of the first places I wanted to check out was the Sonoma Art Museum.  I walked over there and ended up talking with a guy that was locking it as he was coming out.  The Art Museum was closed for the next 2 weeks while preparing for a new exhibit.  Just my luck with art museums of late; they all seem to be closed when I’m in town.  They must have got that memo about me. J   The gentleman did recommend visiting several of the art galleries that are around the plaza area.
Photo- A great deal of variety of shops on the Sonoma Plaza.
Photo- A lot of little acloves and
private hidden patios along the Sonoma Plaza. 

So I started to do that only to discover that it wasn’t quite 11AM.  I’ll warn you that mostly everything in Sonoma Plaza area doesn’t open until about 11AM.  I guess they like to sleep in here.  So I just walked around for about 15 min around the square taking pictures; being the ultimate tourist. 
Photo- Barren areas along Sonoma's 1.5 mile paved bike route.

I then decided to walk along the 1.5 mile bike path that they have just off of downtown area. I was a bit disappointed.  It wasn’t very scenic at all in fact in some stretches it out right barren land that it went through.  It was only as it got within a couple of blocks of the downtown area that it became somewhat nice.
Photo- The lovely Swiss Hotel's back patio a very nice place to enjoy lunch.

I did managed to check out a few galleries and my stomach was starting to growl for some lunch.  I had overheard a gal in one of the galleries ask about somewhere to eat.  I listened and overheard the possibilities and the one that sounded nice to me was the Swiss Hotel.  Which is an actual hotel on the plaza but has a bar and restaurant area.  I went in and asked to sit on the back patio area where it was a bit quieter than the front street area.  The nice back patio area was situated under an older timber trellis with live well trimmed vines that ran through it.  The tables had red and white checkered tablecloths and there were green umbrellas for those that wanted a bit more shade.  Soft music was piped and it was just a wonderful relaxing area to have lunch.  I ordered the butternut squash ravioli and a small glass of pinot noir.   Bread was brought out with a small bowl of olive oil, vinegar, and red peppers. It was a wonderful meal. I even figured I could splurge because my 1.5 mile walk.  I ordered the chocolate cake for dessert; which had a fabulous presentation.
Photo- The warm and inviting outdoor patio area
of the Roche Winery just off of Sonoma Plaza.

I decided to use one of my coupons for wine tasting now that I had some food on my stomach.  I went to the Roche Winery shop jut off of the Plaza.  The gal at the outside wine tasting bar recognized me from when she was on her bike earlier coming into work.  I ended up talking with her about biking in the area and it was slow enough that she started to bring out these maps and brochures showing me where she likes to go biking.  Meanwhile, she’s pouring me my free tasting.

After looking at the maps and seeing that a lot of the areas that she liked to go were just off of the Sonoma Plaza area, I went back to my car.  I grabbed a change of my cycling clothes and went to the public restroom where I changed.  Off I was after a short bit for a ride. 
Photos- Some of the sights that I saw along the Lovall Loop bike ride.

I went out over to the cycling path and over to where it ends and got onto the road of Lovall Valley Rd.  If you are ever in this area, I highly recommend this Lovall Valley Loop.  It’s a bit of a climb but it takes you by nice houses on the way to vineyards and it’s a nice low traffic scenic route.  It’s only about a 9 mile ride from the Plaza but there are also other roads to wineries that are just off it that you can go down and turn around.  You can check out all three of these vineyards stopping for wine tastings if you want; there’s Buena Vista (the oldest vineyard in the area), Bartholomew Park, and Ravenswood. 

I did see a couple of different groups of bicycling wine tours given by local bicycle touring shops; which is another option if you are in the area.  However, they do not give you a price break for bringing your own bike and they also will expect you to be able to repair your own bike if it does break down on the tour.  It just made more sense to me to find out where to go and do it by myself. 

I explored a bit more around the neighborhoods around the Sonoma Plaza area.  I was amazed at the different styles of homes; some Spanish styled stuccos, Victorians, ranch styles, and gingerbread styles.  It was just fascinating going around and seeing what was around the next corner as I biked along.  I logged a nice 25 miles on my bicycle and was getting thirsty for something cold.  It was time to get back to the car.  I showered and changed.  Then, BOOM! I felt like I was totally wiped out from the walking and cycling.  So, I decided to do a bit of drive through and stay in for the night.  I’m sorry to admit that I vegged out in front of the tube and watched a marathon of the show called The Mentalist.

DAY 37- Fort Bragg to Sonoma

In Fort Bragg, I woke up in the creamy Bed and Breakfast room well rested.  I could have sworn I had heard the ocean the night before and only being a few blocks from the ocean that could have been possible but by morning the traffic in the area picked up and the light hum of vehicles was the sound wafting its way up to the second floor window.
Photo- The covered patio area at the Atrium Garden Inn.

I went down to breakfast through a wonderful covered patio area.  If it had been warmer out, I would’ve loved to have breakfast and spend time out here.  Instead, there was an adorable dining room set up with several smaller tables and a side board area in another room with breakfast being served.  It was a help yourself to fresh fruits, yogurt, breads, English muffins, sausages, and an egg frittata with cheese, hash brown potatoes, and a bit of spinach.  All of the décor felt like the pages of Country Living magazine right down to a baker’s rack decorated with fall leaves and glass pumpkins.  It was just adorable but yet very homey feel to it.  Ginger, some poodle breed of a dog wandered around happily saying hi to all of the guests in a very well behaved way.  There were two other couples both of them from the San Francisco Area.  They were giving me all kinds of suggestions for exploration in San Francisco when I eventually got there on my travels.
Photo- The well-behaved welcoming Gracie at the Atrium Garden Inn in Fort Bragg.

After thanking my host Gail at the bed and breakfast, I did a couple blocks backtracking to go to Glass Beach.  It’s called Glass Beach because there used to be a bunch of colored glass on the beach; but there isn’t much anymore because everyone has picked it up.  Back in the late 50’s early 60’s this stretch of beach had been a garbage dump and there was one large bowl area where the glass was left.  The combination of salt water and waves had formed interesting shaped formations/rock of the colored glass.  Now all you can see is smaller rocks of glass and interesting rock formations off of the beach.  There are several areas where they are rust rocks that used to be appliances and time/ erosion have changed it.
Photo- Glass Beach on a foggy morning.
Photo- Smaller colored glass rocks among regular rocks.

I walked around the beach and did pick up a few smaller glass rocks but overall I ended up watching the birds.  There was a gull walking among a group of other smaller birds.  The gull strutting and the other birds running down as a wave would recede and then running back up the beach as a wave rolled in.  Meanwhile, the gull kept the same slow strut at the same line across the beach.  It almost reminded me of a drill sargent walking in front of a line of new recruits that you see in movies.  I was chuckling because if the gull would have hands they would’ve been intertwined and relaxed at his back as he strutted along the beach.
Photo- Sargent Gull and the recruits.

Next, I drove down to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens which my host Gail had suggested I visit.  It’s advertised as 47 acres to the sea.  It was wonderful walking through the gardens.  The attendants at the entry recommended visiting the Display house because the begonias were in full bloom there and also said that the Dahlia Garden was a must see too.  It’s a ½ mile walk from the front entry to the back cliff area where there’s an ocean overlook.  There were art and sculptures all throughout the garden some were for sale and some were not.
Photo- Just inside the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
Photo- A humming bird taking a rest at the Botanical Gardens.

I meandered through and found the Display House with begonias galore in bloom along with several fuchsias.  I even found one called a “Pee Wee Rose”.  Hey that’s as close as to Pee Wee that I’ve come on my BIG Adventure!
Photo- Here's Pee Wee-- the only one I've found on this adventure so far!
Photo- Color galore in the Display House.

Photo- The Dahlia Garden in full bloom, and yes, you can bring your dog on a leash too.

The Dahlia Garden was wonderful and I overheard a man tell another couple there that there were over 130 different varieties of Dahlias in the garden and about 300 plants.  The colors were very vivid and the shapes and sizes made me pause while I walked along through the garden.  In general, as I left the front entry area and worked my way back towards the ocean overlook the plant moved more into larger varieties and eventually trees as I got further back.  Then you got closer to the ocean and the landscape just opened up.  Unfortunately, it was very foggy this morning or the view would have been amazing.
Photo- The foggy cliff area overlook at the back edge of the Botanical Gardens.

I drove further south to the town center of Mendocino.  It was pretty foggy as I drove along and when I got to the town it was still pretty foggy but I could imagine the picturesque town would have been adorable.  In fact, if you have seen the TV show- “Murder She Wrote” you would recognize quite a few of the buildings; that was where the outside scenes were filmed.  I would have stopped but the town was packed and parking was near to impossible, but it was about noon-ish so I imagine everyone was having lunch.  I slower drove around for a look and then got back one to Hwy 1 heading south.
Photo- A foggy drive along Hwy 1.

As I headed further south the road got windy and turned a lot.  On top of that there was a great deal of fog.  I pulled over a few times into turn out areas to let the locals zoom right by me.  I went over a couple of bridge areas where I couldn’t see the other half of the bridge which I found a bit unnerving.  But I pressed and it started to clear a bit as I got onto Hwy 128.  Shortly, after that I found myself driving on the second curviest road I have ever been on.  The first being that 28 mile section just north of Fort Bragg.  I will say that this one didn’t have the climbing but it had some good sized redwoods that you were driving through.  One false move and I could see myself SPLAT right on to a Redwood tree; just like the cartoons.

Eventually, I got to Hwy 101 which was in one of its interstate sections.  I relaxed a bit but I really just needed to calm my nerves after the fog and then the curvy roads.  I took an exit in Cloverdale and stopped at a Starbucks for coffee and a very berry coffee cake. Yum!  Then, I drove down the street to a gas station. 
I couldn’t remember if California was a self-serve or if they had to pump your gas like in Oregon.  So when the older gentleman attendant asked if I needed help when I pulled up, I said Sure.  He got the pump going and then started cleaning my windows but then got interrupted by some fella in a truck nearby.  He asked a younger guy to finish helping me out.  The young man finished cleaning my windshield and then walked around the car.  He asked if I needed anything else.  I said no and got in my car and proceeded to drive off.  Then I hear this thunk.  He pump was still in my car but was done filling.  I stopped and another guy from a pump over put things right and said that it looked as if everything was okay.  I screwed on the gas cap and closed the door.  All of the attendants looked busy and I just decided to drive off.  But that was a bit embarrassing.  Guess I need to make sure before I pull out of a gas station the next time.
Photo- My late lunch stop.

Next, I pulled off in the town of Healdsburg.  I went down to the town center and parked.  It was a cute area where there were shops off a main town park square.  I ended up having a late lunch at a place called the Bear Republic Brewing Company.  I had some pork nachos and a beer. 
Photo- The cute downtown area of Healdburg.

When the nachos arrived they had so many jalapenos that a man down the bar made the comment that was a heartburn waiting to happen.  I just chuckled and said yeah it might be.  He was an older man with a white handlebar mustache.  He was in heavy conversation with a younger guy about a fishing trip he was planning on his motorcycle to a local spot.  He was talking about how to load a small trailer on the back of his bike.  It was rather amusing to listen to because he was talking about loading a small boat and gear onto this trailer.  Meanwhile, I had a picture of a Beverly Hillbilly’s version of him on a motorbike going down the road.

It was about 5pm that I got to the Sonoma Creek Inn where I would be spending my next two nights.  I got checked in and then proceeded to have a bit of a meltdown overload.  I was looking at all of the brochures that I had been given upon check in and also checking stuff online and OMG!  There’s a lot of stuff that you can do in the Sonoma Wine Country area.  I got overwhelmed with trying to figure out all of what I wanted to do.  I also got a couple of coupons from the Inn for free wine tastings too.

I changed and got myself calmed down.  Then, I drove over to the Sonoma City Plaza area, which is its downtown.  I found a parking spot and proceeded to walk around and look.  Most of the places were closed because it was almost 7pm.  About the only places that were open were the restaurants.  I decided to focus on getting something to eat and proceeded to look at menus outside the restaurants to see if anything appealed.  Some of them were pretty fancy and sounded good but after my little meltdown I really felt like something mainstream.  I ended up at Mary’s Pizza Shack which is a local Italian chain restaurant that started here in Sonoma.  I sat at a table just off of the bar area and ordered a chicken lemon pasta dish and a diet soda.  This was enough excitement for me for the day.  I went back to the Inn and crashed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

DAY 36- Ave of Giants to Fort Bragg...

I started off the day exploring the Old Town Historic section of Eureka.  They had a Farmer’s Market going on.  It happens every Tuesday from 10AM to 1PM from June to October. I walked around and admired some of the buildings.  There seemed to be a fair amount of repairs being done on them.  I asked a man along the street if they were preparing for a special event or something.  He said no but that they have been doing a great deal of updating on quite a few of the buildings to make them more earthquake proof.  But that there were some that they were unable to repair and that those buildings displayed disclaimer tags in the window.  So if you were in one of them and an earthquake occurred you might be in trouble because the building could collapse.  Well, that’s good to know! 
Photo- Eureka's Tuesday Farmer's Market in Old Historic Town.
Photo- Some wonderful buildings in Old Historic Town in Eureka. 
Photo- Repairs and paint being carefully applied by local tradesman in Eureka.

I also walked down by the dock area just off of the Old Town Historic section.  There was a great deal of activity going on with the birds.  There was a huge group of ducks, gulls, and pelicans diving into the water.  It was like a feeding frenzy.  It was kind of strange.  There was no one around to ask but I did also see some people kayaking around the marina area.
Photo- The Aves of the Giants.
Photo- Inside the Eternal Treehouse.

Next on the list for the day was the Avenue of the Giants.  It’s an older section of Hwy 101 that runs through more of the Redwood forests.  It’s a very scenic section of road.  I stopped and took a couple of short hikes just off the side of the road.  It was very beautiful.  Then, I stopped at the Eternal Treehouse.  It’s a tree house that’s in the bottom area of large Redwood tree.  Then, I drove by a BIG Foot one stop shop that had all kinds of things on sale… too many to list here.  And later, I got to drive through a tree with my car.  Now, how cool is that!?!
Photo- Waiting my turn to drive through the tree.

It was as I was leaving, Chandler’s Drive Through Tree that I asked the gal how much further it was to Fort Bragg.  She said that it was about an hour and a half.  That should have been my first clue.  She didn’t give me the mileage but the time it took.  I got about 2 miles up the road and discovered why the 38 miles to Fort Bragg took you about an hour and a half. There was a sign that said no services for the next 28 miles.  That should have been my second clue!  You could me call me—TOT-AL-LY Clueless!  Let me sum it up this way…. It was an obstacle course in curves. 

The curves went anywhere from 15mph with an arrow on up to 30mph with a curved arrow.  The road climbed and climbed and climbed.  Then, it went down for a while.  But then, it climbed up.  Through the trees I could see mountains of forest land and there were areas where there were huge drops off to the side but I could never get a clear look because the forest was thick.  Then, the road curved more and more while going down.  I saw one cyclist that was pulled off in this section and I imagine that he was resting his hands from riding the breaks.  And I will say too that the road really had no shoulder.  All of it reminded me a bit of the Alpine Loop near Sundance in Utah; only there were no quaking Aspens and you were not going above a tree line.

Finally, I got to Fort Bragg and checked in at a cute bed and breakfast called Atrium Garden Inn.  I was showed my adorable room called the Buttercup which was a lovely mix of creamy yellows and prints.  It had a cute little private bath off to the side of it.  I changed really quickly and I was off to find someplace for dinner.
Photo- The adorable Bed and Breakfast I stayed at.

I found a local pizza place called Piaci’s where the locals go.  It was about a 5 block walk from the bed and breakfast.  I will warn you that it’s standing room only some nights.  I got there on a slower Tuesday night and there were 5 stools that are open.  I took one at a four top table where a couple was already seating.  This is not a place to wait for a hostess to sit you.  I watched one older non-local couple who stood by the door while locals went around them and just sat at available stools.  I ordered an 8” pizza called Nonni’s (wonderful pizza!) and a Heffie. 

As I was eating the couple that was sitting at my table left and three others with a little 2 yr. old girl sat at the table with me.  I met Louise a retired English teacher who had a younger married couple from Dublin, Ireland visiting with her.  It was really nice talking with her and getting to know about the local area and where to go.  She directed me to a local coffee place called Headings that had live Jazz music for the night that was about 2 blocks walking distance. 
Photo- This is a common thing to see in Fort Bragg. 
Their most common closed days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

Headings was another locals place and I was surprised for a coffee like shop, they also served local beers in bottles.  You could ask for a glass for your beer if you wanted.  The Jazz music for the night consisted of a trio with a sax player, a drummer, and a cellist.  Later on in the evening they had another local that played piano that joined it.  It was a lovely way to finish the evening.  I walked back to my bed and breakfast.     

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

DAY 35- Dune Buggies to Eureka!

I woke up to what I thought was an amazing sight.  The sun is rising but it looks like a huge orange globe rising out of foggy clouds.  I threw on a jacket and ran out with my camera and got a picture.  I was the only one that seemed rather excited at the sight.  Is this a common thing to happen here and I just don’t know it?  They just watched me as I excitedly took pictures in my p.j.’s.  (Of course, I’m not sticking out like a sore thumb here. J)
Photo- I was the only one impressed with this scene
but I thought it was wonderful.

I drove north to the Spinreel rental place which was about 14 mile drive.  About ½ mile before the turn off for Spinreel, the traffic came to a complete stop and I waited about 15 min. because of construction.  Thank goodness I had left about 25 min early but I was still getting nervous that I would miss my dune buggy ride.  But there was a whole lot of nervous finger tapping going on in my car.
Photo- Of dunes, where trees get buried in sand and eventually die.
It's a constant battle between the pine trees and dunes.

I made it with a few minutes to spare, whew!  Right at 10AM on the dot the wonderful people at Spinreel opened their doors; just after bringing out all of the various vehicles that they rent out.  I tell you there’s a lot to choose from! I filled out a waiver form, paid, and introduced myself to my fellow riders; an older couple from Canada, Sharon and Rafael (Raf, for short).  I was rather glad to have an older couple figuring the dune buggy wouldn’t be such a roller coaster ride because I’m not so good on those.
Photo- In the Dune Buggy, myself, Raf, and Sharon.

We got introduced to George who would be our driver for the ½ hour tour that I signed up for.  A great deal for only $25!  He took us out to the dune buggy and we got in.  I sat up front because Sharon and Raf wanted to sit together.  Yep, I was driving shotgun in the mini-roller coaster ride.  I was a bit nervous but then as we started to drive over and George explained about the environment surrounding the dunes and he seemed so experienced that I became more at ease.
Photo- Of the dunes- just amazing!

The dunes are amazing!  Even with some of the pine trees, which were planted back in the 1930’s because of some movie star that tought trying to claim and stablize the sandy area was good. It’s hard to describe but it was a very different landscape than what I expected.  I guess it’s even more amazing as you get to closer to the beach area; which I will warn you that if you want to go to the beach you’ll need to rent for at least 2 hours.  The dunes area is that wide and they go along the Oregon coastline from Florence to just north of Coos Bay.  In fact, you will see a great deal of trailers with ATV’s on them in the area.  What was even more amazing was that there was a river running along it and the Hwy 101 is on the other side of the river.  It was all kind of surreal and amazing landscape.  I know you are tired of me using the word amazing but I just can’t think of another word to use.
Photo- George with no hands on the wheel!

George started off slow and then started to increase the speed and go into more hilly sections of the dunes.  He kind of freaked me out when he started down a steep incline, probably a 14% incline and just stopped.  He put his hands up and took his feet off of the gas pedal.  We just sat there still. WOW!  He said you would be amazed with how much control you really do have out here in the sand dunes on these vehicles.  You need something to get you going to move in this sand.  We stopped a couple of times and I had to laugh because we were basically out in the middle of nowhere and there was this Century 21 realtor sign.  I guess it was for land just on the edge of the dunes.  George got near the edge and you could look over to see an area that looked like the only access would be the dunes because the other side was marshland.
Photo- Raf and Sharon, who made me look whimpy.

It turned out I was the whimpy one in the group; Sharon had been on a Disneyland roller coaster this last summer and Raf didn’t seem fazed.  Up and down and a bit crazier it went.  Probably not nearly as crazy as George could have been but it was for me.  I was holding on the the OMDG handle which was a “T” bar in the place of like a steering wheel.  George had told me at the beginning to hold on to that if I needed to and he called it –“Oh My Dear God” handle.  I told him I was used to the “Oh Shit” handles and he teased me that this was a step up from that.  George later told me that I wasn’t as bad as some that he has had women burying finger nails into his arm, but I think he was just being nice.  I was rather sad to have it end so soon, but I tell you what I would do it again with the Spinreel rentals.  They were just wonderful!
Photo- One of several wonderful ocean views from near the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

Next, I headed back through Coos Bay and headed south on Hwy 101.  I swung by the light house at Bandon which I saw 8 years ago while I was on the coast.  I took some pictures of the ocean and a few quick ones of the light houses.  Next, I took a bit of a break at the Cape Blanco State Park where there was another lighthouse. (Kory- it was closed again! Just like the last time we visited.)  This lighthouse has some strange hours for its grounds but I walked around a plateau nearby where I saw some wonderful ocean views and even saw some people riding horses on the beach.

There were sections of construction along the Hwy 101 and there were a couple of times where the wait was about 15 min, but I did mind because you could watch the ocean.  I would roll down the windows and just listen to the ocean and enjoy it.  I looked at the construction employees and wondered how they managed to get anything done with those kinds of views but I would guess you’d get used to it.
Photo- A circle of Redwood Trees.

Next thing I knew I was in California.  The roads got curve and steeper.  The speed limits changed from 65 to 40 in a blink of an eye and sports cars were zooming around me like I was standing still.  Ye Gads!  Then I was at Crescent City.  I stopped at the Redwood Parks information booth.  I decided I would continue south towards Eureka, CA.  There was a section of “old growth” that the parks employee had told me had a paved road that went through.  It was the Pioneer Redwood area and was just south of Klamath, CA and there was an exit it ran parallel to Hwy101 and then joined back up with it.
Photo- Me- doing that I caught a fish this Big in front of the BIG Redwood Tree.

Wow!  Yes, another wow coming from me.  The Redwood forest is really something to see.  I stopped and took a hike into to see the Big Redwood.  I asked a German couple to take my picture.  It was funny because I ran into this German couple later on another hike and then later on in the evening at a brew pub in Eureka; small world!

On my way to Eureka there were a whole lot of cars stopping on the side of the road.  Well, it was a herd of elk that was just off of the Hwy on either side.  I stopped and took a couple of pictures but it was getting to be about 5pm and I still needed to find a hotel for the night.  I drove on and when I got to Eureka, I stopped at one of the first hotels I could find; a Clarion that looked nice.

And as I said earlier, I ran into that German couple at a brew pub.  The brew pub was the Lost Cove Brewing Company in Old Historic Section of Eureka and their wheat beer was wonderful.  I also enjoyed a brown derby sandwich; a pile high roast beef sandwich with melted cheddar on a toasted hard sourdough roll. Yum!

Monday, September 24, 2012

DAY 34- Covered Bridges & Live Musical FUN

I stayed last night in a Quality Inn and I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and well-maintained it was. I also loved that they had a refrigerator in the room with a microwave. I booked the room on website and got a pretty good deal but I always try to read the reviews of the hotel before I book. I don't want to end up with another Econolodge type of incident. So as I was reading some of these reviews I was questioning what I had actually reserved for the night. It all really seems to be a crap shoot; roll the dice and see what you get or at least it seems with hotels.  I’m thinking I may have to check out more of the Bed & Breakfasts; those seem to be better and more consistent.
Photo- The wonderful scenery on way to the first covered bridge.
Well, I enjoyed a waffle for breakfast and I was off.  I wanted to get a couple more covered bridges and possibly a couple of wineries before I started driving to the coastline.  I started out driving east out of Roseburg to hit my first covered bridge.  I followed the directions in a brochure that I got at the visitor’s center.  I drove a wonderful scenic 16 miles and then took a right turn and drove along a Little River (it’s actual name and it fit) for another seven miles.  There was the covered bridge.  I drove slowly across it and then flipped a Utah “U”turn.  I took a few pictures and while standing there a dog from a nearby house was barking at me.  I didn’t stay long because I didn’t want to wake up the whole neighborhood.  But I did read in the brochure that they made this bridge a little taller and designed the peaked opening to accommodate logging trucks in the area.
Photo- The first covered bridge- Cravitt Creek.

The next covered bridge was further north and near a couple of wineries that I wanted to visit.  So I jumped on Interstate 5 and got off after a couple of exits.  I was in the small town of Sutherlin.  I headed east about 1.5 miles and took a right.  Here was the second covered bridge.  I stopped quickly and took a picture but there weren’t any historical markers on this one like there was the last one.  I, instead, referred to the brochure.  This bridge featured a Howe truss span.  Okay, I’m unsure what that means and may have to Google it someday.  But it was a nice well maintained white covered bridge with side windows with curved tops.
Photo- The second covered bridge.

Next, I did a bit of back tracking and headed towards the wineries.  I was a bit disappointed the one that I really wanted to see was closed on Sundays.  It was the Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyard and I guess that there was a marvelous wine cave area.  But I guess with a name like that I should’ve figured that it would be closed on Sundays.

Photos- Live music and FUN at the Henry Estates Winery.

But I pushed on to another winery that the lady at the visitor’s center had recommended; the Henry Estates Winery.  I drove past the signs for two other wineries figure if I had time I would swing back.  I drove out to the Henry Estates and there was a live Bluegrass Country group playing music.  I did a bit of wine tasting and decided to buy a glass of wine.  I went out to the shady area where there were picnic tables and enjoyed the music.  It was a beautiful day; why not I figured.  There were also a couple of tents and boxes of fresh vegetables you could help yourself to.  I guess it was supposed to be a loose version of a Farmer’s Market.

Photo- Booths out at the Henry Estates Winery.
 It wasn’t long before most of the tables were filling up and someone part of group introduced themselves and asked if they could sit with me.  Sure, I said. I got to talking with a retired woman that lived just east in a small town nearby.  They were out for a weekly thing and then she asked me where I was from.  I had to laugh because the first thing she said to me when I told where I’m from was—Well; you sure are off the beaten track.  I thought to myself, lady you hit the nail on the head on that one.  She said that it was mainly locals that knew about this event.  I said that was wonderful because then I could get a feel for what the locals were like.  They were a fun bunch and I very slowly drank my glass of wine and enjoyed.

Needless to say, I didn’t get to try any other wineries but that was okay.  Next, I decided since I was already kind of north I would just catch a highway nearby Hwy 138 and head towards the coast.  I back tracked again and went to a gas station just off of the Interstate 5.  Then, off to the west I went.  The road curved around and I was kind of heading in a northwestern direction.  It ended up going along Umpqua River which the further west I went the larger the river got.  There were more and more creeks and waterways pouring into it.  It was just beautiful.

Photo- The scenic Umpqua River that Hwy 138 runs along. 

Then, I got to Reedsport and turned south on Hwy 101 and got my first glimpse on the ocean at an overlook.  I went by a lighthouse that I had visited years ago on a vacation but it was getting to be late afternoon and I had hoped to set up a dune buggy ride in the sand dunes just north of Coos Bay.  So I pressed on.  I saw the sign about 15 miles before Coos Bay for the Sand Dune Rental Company and turned off to set it up for tomorrow.

Then off to the Red Lion hotel where I would spend to the night.  After checking in, I went to dinner at a local Italian restaurant that my cousin Kimmie had suggested.  It was a wonderful fun meal.  In all the time I’ve been in the restaurant business, I’ve never seen a service team work so well together.  They were all communicating and working together; from the hostess to the waitress to the busboy.  They all worked as a team and not one of them was below performing anything that the customer needed and it was all done with a smile; plus a wonderful attitude too.  I would highly recommend Benintos!