Friday, March 23, 2012

Driving down the California coast

My time in Santa Rosa with Meagan was restorative, productive, and a lot of fun. Tuesday was some much needed downtime, including one of the best massages I've ever had. On Wednesday I visited my first WWOOF location, a small dairy farm in Petaluma. I learned more about cows in three hours than the previous 30 years combined, and the family was very welcoming. Here is their three-year-old, who oscillated between telling me I could "never ever leave" and I could "never ever come back," all while holding my hand.

They also very kindly sent me home with a half gallon of uber fresh raw milk from their most prized cow. Meagan and I both swooned - it was the sweetest milk we'd ever tasted.

Wednesday evening Meagan's brother Geoff came over and we went to Healdsburg, a nearby town deep in wine country. We sat at the general store which is across the street from fields of bare vines, had a picnic, and played Scrabble. Here I am being a tourist:

As the sun set we drove into the town itself to eat local ice cream before heading back to Santa Rosa for a few more episodes of 30 Rock.

Thursday morning I got on the road to visit my next two "farms," one in Big Sur and one in Cambria. (Quotes explained in a moment.) It blew my mind when I realized I'd have to drive through San Francisco to get to the coast - every time I've been to San Francisco it was a specific destination, not a drive through. I asked if there was an alternate route, but Geoff explained that would be like driving from Portland to Vancouver without going through Seattle. Luckily there was zero traffic, and I did get a tourist's kick out of driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. I love this picture and have no idea how the sky turned out that way considering it was filled with pure white clouds:

I decided to stop in Monterey since it's famous for being beautiful. I drove to Fisherman's Wharf and watched some people surfing weak waves.

Unfortunately it was cloudy and cold so I got back in my car, only to get lost trying to find my way back to the freeway. I was frustrated several times to find a northbound but no southbound entrance, but I did eventually figure it out after some cursing and backtracking.

The entire drive was lovely, rolling green hills with intermittent clouds and sun. Getting next to the Pacific on highway 1/101 was exhilirating, especially considering a lot of the drive is on steep cliffs that wind around mountains. I felt compelled to get to my first destination after wasting half an hour in Monterey so I didn't stop at any of the scenic lookouts, but I did try to soak up as much of the scenery as I could without careening into the ocean. There was a particular corner I rounded where the deep blue ocean mingled with vibrant turquoise water close to the shore which was so stunning I yelled "oh wow!" Here's the one stop I did make:

My first destination was at Treebones Resort in Big Sur. I don't plan on sharing the names of most WWOOF locations I visit but Treebones is a fairly large commercial operation so I don't feel like they need any privacy. It turns out that to be a member of WWOOF, properties don't really need to be farms. Treebones is a yurt resort with a restaurant and a small garden. It seemed like a cool place, but looking for farms online is a little like online dating - you can only get so much of a sense for them via computer, and you really need to meet in person to see if there's a connection. I knew within 3 minutes of arriving that this was not a place for me. It felt like an overpriced camp ($200 a night to sleep in a yurt!) for aging tourists run by clueless college kids. When I tried to make an appointment to visit they told me to just show up whenever, but neither of the kids working knew anything about the WWOOF program and the one in charge wasn't particularly interested in showing me around. He took me on a whirlwind golf cart tour, going so fast up steep and curvy hills I nearly fell out, and then dropped me by the front door and walked in, calling over his shoulder, "have a good day." I was there for less than 15 minutes and, suffice to say, I won't be returning. But hey, I never would have known if I didn't visit!

Back on the road, the highway had flattened and the sky was blue. I drove past Hearst Castle and decided to check it out. All the tours were sold out but I did get a look at it via telescope. Can you find it in this picture?

Then I walked out on the pier across the street, but unfortunately didn't see any sea otters, dolphins, or whales.

From there Cambria was just 6 miles away and I was driving through this quaint tourist town in no time. I stopped for a cup of locally roasted coffee (delicious) and meandered down the road, observing the many antique shops and art galleries, almost all of which were closed at 5 pm. I guess March isn't high season here. I arrived at my next destination, a small B&B with private gardens. They also have these inventive toilet sinks which spouts the water used to fill the tank after each flush:

WWOOF volunteers are the primary employees here, with stays of 1-2 months. After shooting the shit with the manager and WWOOFers I headed into town for an overpriced but enjoyable dinner at Indigo Moon. I was in bed by 9:30.

I woke up at 7:00 to 39 degree weather (wtf California?), bundled up, and drove to the nearby cemetery which I had heard was charming. It was. This was the road leading to it:

There were so many animal statues than when I saw a deer standing perfectly still I assumed it was another statue, until it flicked its tail and walked slowly in front of me. I appreciated the individuality of each grave - you could tell that each was designed specifically for its inhabitant. It's hard to read but one of those low headstones reads "future home of (so and so)."

Then I went to
Nit Wit Ridge to see a house built by an artist and garbage collector made out of found objects. It's now a historic landmark.

This is the view of Cambria from Nit Wit. Just beyond those trees is the ocean:

Next was Moonstone beach, a hop skip and jump from Cambria. I love having the beach to myself in the morning:

Now it's 10:00 and I need to get on the road to Los Angeles before Friday traffic gets unbearable. I plan to stop at the Santa Barbara Vedanta Gardens, which also accepts WWOOFers but under pretty strict conditions.

I'll spend the weekend with Annie and her dear mother Kathleen before several days with Gramma. Los Angeles, get ready - I'm coming for you.

1 comment:

AmberAnda said...

Yeah for roadtrips! Love seeing all the sunny pics. Sounds like a mixed bag of WWOOF farms, but like you said, at least you know now exactly what they are like. Safe drive!