North Coast Tour

Thursday was our day to tour to the North Coast. The ubiquitous fog obscured many views of the ocean, but just often enough the wind blew away the heavy clouds, and we were able to see waves crashing against the cliffs and the rocks, and charging up on the sand. I’ve forgotten whose bright idea it was to name that mass of roiling water “Pacific.”

We escaped from the major traffic just before 3 p.m. in the company of a great deal of auto congestion. Route 1 took us past Muir Woods. Ash and Kathryn decided it was too cold and damp to walk around, but it smelled fabulous. I remember a couple of years ago buying a candle called redwood and before I gave it away I let it perfume my office. May have to revisit that scent again. North of the driveout, Route 1 seemed to be one continuous switchback as it climbed and dove in and out of views of the ocean.

Soon the road flattened and we passed through a few clusters of houses by calm little inlets. The sun dove in and out as we curved toward and away from the water. Ash pulled off the main road. and we meandered past fields of Brussels sprouts and cabbages – also fields of wild flowers right at the end of a stretch of open water that seemed more lake than ocean.

Copy of catWe were in the town of Bolinas, though there were no signs. Ash said the residents, mostly aging hippies, had removed the welcome mat years ago. He had learned about the place when he went there to cover the response to an oil spill. Now the residents run a sustainable town, with solar panels everywhere. The skies had cleared enough at that point to take a few photos including this one of a Bolinas billboard.

Of course the Universe sent another mention of the place. The article about Jim Carroll appeared the day after I returned to Connecticut. I’d never heard of the man, but the name Bolinas leapt off the page. I’m not sure I would pick it as a place to recover from drug addiction even though it seems fairly wholesome now.

We took what should have been a shortcut to avoid the road construction – even eco-friendly Bolinas has to repave the streets occasionally – and wound up driving past pens filled with sheep, some with cows, and a whole open area of deer that were cavorting back and forth across the road. We finally came to the end of the path, which was a parking lot in the Point Reyes wildlife sanctuary. We doubled back and headed north again, through the town of Marshall, population 50, with a surf shop, a bait shop, and a few houses that all looked closed up. on into Bodega Bay. By that time the fog had changed from little cat feet to panther claws. In fact it was drizzling when we stopped for an early supper, which consisted of large portions of good calamari and fish ‘n’ chips – and barbecued oysters. Oh my, were they excellent!

The chef places the still closed oysters on a charcoal grill and leaves them there just long enough to open and then drizzles them with barbecue sauce. They arrived at the table so hot that I burnt my fingers picking up the shells. And they were huge. Connecticut brags that our blue points are among the largest – 3 1/ 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Their Pacific side brethren were easily twice that size. I can eat a half-dozen blue points (though I seldom do because I want to save room for other food), but one of the barbecued version was sufficient.

The place itself, whose name I forgot to note, could be a seaside clam bar anywhere – oyster shells bleached by the sun surrounded the building and the walls inside were covered with a taxidermists magical art of the prize fish. There were photos of people with their catch: sharks, tuna, etc., etc. And one amazing shot of a little girl, probably age seven or so, holding a squid that was bigger than she was.

Our return trip took us inland to Petaluma where the dairy cow reigns, even though the city touts its proximity to wine country.


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