Mendocino – wow. Where do I start?
With the absurdly charming little town that appears, literally out of nowhere, as you crest the hill on Lansing Street, the town a New England charmer with its own Cali twist?
With the bluffs at the Headlands State Park, grassy fields rioting with wildflowers (Mendocino Paintbrush, Larkspur, Mission Bells, Hound’s Tongue, Lupine, Sun Cups, California Poppies, Indian Warrior, Yarrow, Rhododendron) that end abruptly in sharp drops to the sea, the blue Pacific crashing against the slick bold rocks down below? I know these aren’t the moors, but I keep expecting to turn around and see Heathcliff running after Cathy, windswept with passion.
Would it be the man romping with his mastiff, down below on the narrow beach? (And those narrow hacked-out-of-stone stairs down, are you even kidding me?!)
Maybe it’s the organic health food co-op that is housed in an old church, the floors pleasantly creaking in friendly welcome.
Or the friendly shopkeepers. Or the glassy-eyed white-haired hippies (there are more than a few). Or the passel of young surfers living out of their van at the end of the main street.
Or the snapper tacos with garlic aioli drizzled over the salsa fresca I snagged at a small outdoor café. (Necesario: una cerveza Pacifico)
Or the magical feeling that seems to permeate this entire coast, echoing with barking harbor seals and calling water birds and always the beautiful undulating Pacific.
I stayed up the road several miles at an RV campground. The beach there was fabulous, littered with beautiful frosted sea-glass. (Up the road in Fort Bragg is Glass Beach, which I decided to skip, but plenty of the debris washes up elsewhere, like at Cabrillo, where I was.) The beach was great, yes.
The campground, not so much. I had my first negative camping experience (which is really saying something, since I’ve been on the road since January). When I asked to be moved, the staff was at first apologetic and sympathetic. Then, I don’t know, I think I became a “problem.” I won’t elaborate, but initially I was asked, “Why didn’t you say something earlier?” and what followed illustrated why people don’t say anything at all.
Anyway, I did get moved, to a sucky spot with leaking water next to the electrical outlet and no fire ring – but in drought-ridden California, previous tenants had a fire anyway, right there on the ground.
Here is the thing – 3 other people left when I did, offering the same feedback. I expect we all became “the problem” so nobody had to deal with an entirely unpleasant and sorta threatening clan who spent most of the time belching, farting, and hornking up their lungs because cigarettes, and fighting with each other, hurling the F-Word at about Decibel 50. My comment to the staff: “This is escalating, and I have no way of knowing who has a gun.” I said this because of working at a domestic violence agency where we got to know way too much about the dynamics of family violence.
I think at that point they filed me in “crazy old lady” category. Sure, fine. Trust me. I don’t want to be right about it.
Anyway, putting jackasses on the page is the revenge I’m after. I shook the dust and headed away from there, spending the afternoon wandering the bluffs and then went to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and got another stamp for my Lighthouse Passport. I didn’t climb this one, though. You aren’t allowed to. Also, it’s like two-and-a-half stories high. Cutest little thing. Still lighting the way. (Guess what I recognized right away! The Fresnel lens!)
From Mendocino I headed toward Santa Cruz and landed in a KOA in the Alexander Valley, just to have a place for the night. I’ve decided KOA’s are the McDonald’s of the camping world. They’re a little canned, but you always know what you are getting. And the “little canned” part, well, at first I was all judgey about it, but now I’m starting to admire the ethos – basically kids playing outside all the time. Lots of riding toys provided, playgrounds, swimming pools, bouncy houses, bike paths. I’m going to repeat that. Kids! Playing outside. All the time! So, go, KOA! (Also, most of the time the bathrooms are spotless. So there is that.)
Next up – report on my trip to San Francisco, and what it was like to go to Salinas to the John Steinbeck National Center and stand next to Rocinante! (Hint: I might have cried a little.)
Happy weekend, all. (And I’ll add more Mendocino photos when I can get wi-fi that isn’t slow as an expiring snail.)