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Chilling in California - News - bespk

Chilling in California

Posted on Monday, 15th October 2012 by Eunice

Once you cross the Californian border 101 rapidly turns into a dual carriageway and the speed of travel picks up.  We were therefore very grateful to discover that the old roads are often left running alongside the new and offering more peaceful travel.  From Brookings we continued down or alongside Highway 101 to Eureka.
We remembered California as the sunshine state so were surprised that we were back to wearing the same clothes as we had last worn in Alaska.  The coastline was beautiful but cold, with the same weather system as Oregon affecting the climate.  Fortunately, there is plenty of distraction with the Redwood forests that are slightly inland from the coast.  They are truly majestic and so awe inspiring, filling us with a sense of insignificance.    We stopped in the Redwood National Park and took a longer than anticipated walk on the wild side.  Guy was anxious to press on as we still had quite a way to go to complete the day’s journey.  On the way back to the 101 we came across some elk who had taken up residence in someone’s front yard.  Eureka is a busy fishing port and very active.  We had our most luxurious night’s stay in a very pleasant motel, (newly built) with a large Jacuzzi tub – most enjoyable after a day’s travelling in the Austin.  
From Eureka to Fort Bragg was a more pleasant and latterly more challenging drive.  The Giants Highway runs alongside 101 and takes you through a large redwood forest, with interesting, slightly alternative towns along the way.  Guy had said that he wanted to find a tree to drive the car through and round the next corner there was just such a tree.  The same happened with a post office and we knew we had found the right place for lunch when parked outside was an old Buick pickup.  After lunch we headed south and out towards the coast, taking Highway 1.  This is an exhilarating drive in any car, with hairpin bends, steep gradients and blind corners.  Going up was not so bad as we both have a lot of faith that the car is capable of it.  Downhill caused Guy to use the brakes several times, something he is not keen to do, but may have been encouraged by Eunice’s screams and grimaces.  Desperately needing a stop at the bottom (you know what they say about flight or fright), we met with a delightful father and son who had recognised the car and stopped to talk; a little embarrassing as Eunice was emerging from the bushes. The road hugs the coast and is quite demanding driving, especially at the end of a long day.  We were glad to arrive in Fort Bragg find our hotel and have a meal, before falling into bed.
We awoke to thick fog and rapidly changed our plans about continuing along the coast road as it was impossible to see anything.  Instead we turned east onto 128 heading towards Cloverdale.  When we were three miles inland we had to stop to remove all our outer clothes as the temperature had risen dramatically.  The road winds along a river valley, woodland giving way to rolling, golden hillsides.  The land then becomes more cultivated with the beginnings of the vast grape growing areas that give the Sonoma valley its reputation.   By the time we reached Cloverdale there was not another crop in sight.  We spent two nights there, enjoying a break for the car and doing some walking to try and stop our legs from seizing up; as well as the mundane tasks of travelling when you only have four sets of clothes! 
We continued on the 128 from Cloverdale to Napa, a delightfully scenic route, which is also enjoyed by coach tours and limousines all touring the wine lands.  The acreage of grapes goes on for miles and there are opportunities to taste around every corner.  Not surprisingly there are also many road signs asking you to report drunk drivers.  We stopped for lunch in St Helena, a very picturesque town which is obviously one of the places to be seen in if you are rich, famous or beautiful.  It seems the now must have accessory is a small dog, which you mostly carry around and for which you can buy designer clothes to match your own.  We didn’t really fit in but at least we had clean clothes. 
Napa is a much larger city, named for the river that runs through it.  It is internationally renowned for its wine tasting and restaurants, and has a beautiful river walk, away from the hustle and bustle of the roads, especially as it is harvest time and the vast lorries are transporting grapes to the presses.  We enjoyed several walks around the town but had a lot of organising to do to get the car fit for the journey through central and South America and needed to coordinate delivery of items to Tulare, where the kind Vic Groah had agreed to lend us his garage and expertise.  We also decided to manufacture a flag (out of a flexible pole and a cut down high viz vest) to go at the rear of the car, as the thought of driving through San Francisco was fairly daunting.
We received a very kind invitation from Nina Small, a friend of Michael Craft, to join her in Sonoma on the 3rd October for a wine tasting and lunch.  Nina and her fiancée Jo have their own small vineyard, growing Zinfandel grapes organically and making wine using the traditional methods.  Sonoma was the first area to grow grapes in the USA, established by the early Spanish missions, and is a more agricultural area than the Napa valley.  The mission in the centre of town, with its large plaza full of well-established trees is well worth visiting.  We spent the night in the town of Glen Ellen, famed as being the home of Jack London, author of The Call of the Wild (published in 1903) and many other tales of daring do.  Eunice enjoyed a dip in the pool as the temperature had risen to 102F and everyone was feeling the heat.  Guy was more reluctant to expose himself to the sun as his nose had got badly burnt the previous day.
The day arrives when we have to brave the journey to San Francisco.  We left Sonoma and headed back towards the coast – Point Reyes Station, (right on the San Andreas Fault).  The route was lovely, quiet roads and not too much traffic.  Being further south the coast was much clearer and we had some amazing views of long sandy beaches and thick forested areas.  It wasn’t long before we were aware of exclusive properties and before we knew it we were through San Rafael.  Then onto the freeway and climbing up a long steep hill, through a tunnel and there is the Golden Gate Bridge.  In a flash we are across it and heading south. We had both hoped that we might be able to stay in the city for a while as it is a favourite, but timing is everything and this weekend there is a free Bluegrass concert in Gorky Park, so no space in the Inn.



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