Monday, July 04, 2005

Backblogs From The Road 

California Road Trip with Dad: Days 6 and 7

No net access for the past few days, but I blogged on the laptop and have pasted in below. New content about today/tomorrow sometime in the next few hours once we've settled in our SanFran digs. Wish you were here...

Saturday, 7/2: Inverness

Morning in Inverness: fresh self-ground coffee on the hunting lodge deck as the fog burns off towards the coast. The blackberries off the railing are ripe and just out of reach; blue-crested birds call shimmery through the trees. The cove shines bright with sun between the branches.

Yesterday was a whirlwind of wildlife and coastal vistas. We saw seals basking on surf rocks in Monterrey, passed within a foot or two of a single unhorned deer just inside Point Reyes National Seashore. The otters at the aquarium in the morning rolled and splashed with blue bathtoys set in ice; jellyfish spun cilliated in their tanks like tiny seafaring robotics.

Sure, we stopped for gas a couple of times, drove through San Francisco access roads to see the line of carefully escorted cars lined up to head down precarious Lombard on this busy Fourth of July weekend Saturday, fought mist and traffic over the Golden Gate. A few precarious miles past the bridge we hit Stinson Beach, a long once-deserted stretch of sand Dad used to wander solo on his business trips to San Francisco, to find it teeming with determined picnic families and surfers packing up after a day of waves despite the heavy fog-chilled air.

But these were the passthroughs. Just one day past the midpoint of our roadtrip, and we seem to have achieved a harmony with the world we travel. In return, the world rewards us with wonder.

Last night we drove the windy, steep single lanes of Inverness North to sit three hours plus in the main dining room of the Minka, infamous for its prix fixe menu; ate local leek and sorrel soup, deer chop, rabbit sausage in a carrot reduction, crab legs, lemon sorbet, fresh figs and cheeses all made, picked, or caught within fifteen miles of here. Even the dessert chocolates and mint ice cream were homemade.

Though there is no network access here in the wooded hills above Inverness, I am reminded that my first big blog entry covered a similarly local-made meal, palate sorbet and all. Before the fall, the second child, the trip to the other side of the country like the other side of the world. Back then, the charm was in the details: waitresses, menu, tablemates, experience. Now, a hundred hundred miles away, a thousand thousand years from that self, I find that some suppers defy description, some moments defy analysis.

Now a hummingbird sips from some California tree nectar nearby in the otherwise unpopulated air. From our perch called The Perch we can see no houses, no people, no roads. We’ll pack, hit the winding coast for Mendocino by nightfall, with three nights in San Francisco to follow: move on, not now, but soon enough. But if I have learned anything here, been reminded or grown into myself in three years and thirty, it is this:

Wander in style, and the universe takes care of you. As it should, if you let it.

Sunday, 7/3: Mendocino

Another evening, another stunning vista. Tonight we’re in Mendocino, watching the sun set over a beautiful inlet from faded wooden chairs on our respective ranch-fenced porches. Raggedwing hawks fly by at eye level; tall waves crash endlessly into and around rocky crags that rise from the surf like icebergs. Far below, the day’s last denizens squint into the sun’s last rays on sparsely populated beaches, pack up their day’s encampments.

No one lives on these rocky coasts and steep cliffsides, really. We’ve passed more cows than people over our four hundred mile jaunt up the switchbacks. In New England these coasts would be dense with tiny houses jostling for the smallest view. Here, though, the hills grow green and brown and sparse like the potato farms of Ireland.

Some of this is state park land, to be sure. But the caustic backbend roads belie another truth: the coastline between LA and San Francisco must be seen as inaccessible, somehow. Even the visitors don’t bother to sit on the rocks – most take photos from the road, where a hundred miles of dirt pullovers beckon amateur photographers. Fourth of July weekend, and though the parking lots are full, they only hold a couple dozen vacationers at most.

Which only proves to me, again, the validity of my own sense of where home is. I’m a smalltown guy, now, thanks to years of travel and adaptation with a smalltown Vermont girl. The joys of tinylife appeal to me – small stores, friendly people, slowpaced life.

So I revel in lastgasp hippie jewelry and hempstuff as we drive through Point Reyes Station. I celebrate coming out of the redwood forests and streamside meanders to the half-deserted town of Boonville to find the perfect espresso milkshake in what must surely be the world’s only dobro-and-banjo-themed ice cream shop. I look for the work of local artists, close the small boutiques of seaside Mendocino. And standing, alone and in the fog, on the beach in the morning, watching the waves tower over me and crash at my feet, I smile, and thank the God I believe in on those better days for those better days, and for these better places.

But moments aren’t home: the seaside world here is too expensive, too remote, too sporadic to feel like more than a place to visit. Thanks – a thousand thanks – to Dad for planning out a California road trip that skips most of the dense suburban spaces inland, and appeals to my better half; thanks a thousand times more, Dad, for the ongoing company, the deep conversation, the time for growing together. Thanks to Darcie, though, for giving me a sense of place far away from here, on the other side of the country.

Dear Darcie, there’s cows here; the hawks circle overhead; grass turns brown in the hot sun. The world is real here in ways we never expected; there is authenticity where I wander. But it’s not the same. No matter where I am, I’ll always love the tinytowns of New England most of all. I miss you, honey. Can’t wait to be home.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:48 PM |

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