Thursday, September 11, 2008

Crescent City - Fort Bragg

When I left Sequoia de O on Tuesday morning, the sun had already burned off the marine layer of white clouds, and I bade farewell to Scott and Lisé under a warm sunny sky. As he predicted, only a few miles south Crescent City was still covered by a low white cloud layer, and the temperature was a few degrees colder. It remained this way all down the California coast, lifting only when US-101 occasionally veered inland and there was some blue sky above the redwoods.

During one of these drives through the woods, I took an exit off US-101 at Klamath, CA to get gas about 30 miles south of Crescent City, and wound up on a little winding road. Taking a 20 mph right turn at around 35, the car swerved momentarily into the wrong lane, and wouldn't you know it, a car came around the next turn right at me. And wouldn't you know it, it turned out to be a cop car! Sure enough, he turned around and caught up with me, and pulled me over. A cheerful dude less than half my age, he said "you almost hit me", and I explained that I was low on fuel, and the turn took me by surprise as I was checking my gas gauge. Then he asked "why aren't you wearing your seat belt?", and I explained how on this old car, the belt retracts a little every time I go over a bump, eventually getting so tight it hurts. No excuse, he wrote me a ticket. I guess it was lucky I forgot to fasten the belt when I got pulled over, as it gave him something to write up besides the wrong-lane thing, which would have been a moving violation. I promised to wear the belt from now on, and tried it for about a half hour, but it did get tighter and tighter, and I went back to beltless as I've been throughout the trip.

At Legget CA, US-101 continues down to San Francisco inland from the coast, so I turned off onto CA-1 to follow the coast more closely. I continued the drive down the coast with the sky shrouded by the low cloud cover and a chilly wind, having set my sights on Mendocino, which was supposed to be a nice seaside town. The coast and beaches are beautiful, the highway excursions inland among the mountains and redwoods are beautiful, but I miss the heat of the desert. Arriving at Mendocino just after dark, I drove around the little streets checking out the hotels I found on the iPhone, and they were all pretty upscale resort-type places, prices reflected in the ornate woodwork etc. I didn't feel the need to sleep surrounded by the affectations of luxury, so I turned around and headed back up the road a few miles to Fort Bragg, which seemed to be a much "plainer" town, stretched along CA-1, and checked into the reasonably-priced Surf Motel at the southern end of town. Fort Bragg seemed to be a long thin town straddling the highway, and I had dinner at a Denny's I found at the northern end.

I decided to stay another day to try to get some website work done at the motel. No fun driving on down the coast with the marine layer covering everything, and I had no schedule pulling me onward. Checking out the town next day by getting off the highway and into the streets, I found shop-lined streets and a little coffee shop where I'd eat for the rest of the time I was there. It was pretty busy with mid-California-type people, with their laptops and kids (and Obama T-shirts). It turns out that Fort Bragg is the largest city on the coast between San Francisco and Eureka, and is something of a tourist haven (not while I was there, though). An old railroad line winds its way through mountainous terrain from what used to be the main line 40 miles inland at Willets, which has been maintained as a tourist attraction, running a "Skunk Train" with restored antique cars. I didn't ride it, nor did I visit the town museum or botanical gardens, but I got a better idea of this place that at first appeared to be nothing more than a strip of businesses along the highway.

I wound up staying 3 nights at the Surf Motel, and actually did get some work done. But I realized I was waiting for the sun, waiting for the sun, waiting... for... the sun. And it might not come. So I decided to get outta town Friday and make it down to San Francisco. For the first time, I called ahead for reservations at the Seal Rock Inn at the end of Geary Blvd, where I used to stay in the 80s. But it was booked solid, so I called some other motels in town - and they were all booked up too. So I made a reservation at a Day's Inn down the coast at Half Moon Bay, just to avoid driving around looking for a vacancy.

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