Leaving Ukiah this morning, headed for Mendocino, I chose to take Mountain View Road – much to Vanessa the GPS gal’s dismay. She gave me two right turn choices that I refused, and soon we were on a narrow, twisting, steep uphill two-lane road into eucalytus, pine, and spruce forest.
After what seemed like four miles but was only 1-1/2, I started wondering if I should turn around and follow orders. But I felt committed to the route, which would take us over the Coastal Mountain Range to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1) to Point Arena and on to Mendocino.
Then, about four miles on I saw a warning sign: CAUTION NARROW ROAD NEXT SEVEN MILES. What the? It’s already narrow… uh, it just got really narrow…
We drove uphill on this incredibly narrow two-lane road. No shoulders to speak of – they were totally eroded on the cliff side, and the road was so close to the uphill slope that you could probably reach out and touch it from the passenger side.
For my friends who live on Cape Rosier, imagine your narrow road, but put it on the side of a mountain, with sheer dropoffs through the trees and NO GUUARDRAILS!
I never got higher than third gear, with a lot of second gear as well. Once in a while I would catch sight of the dropoff in my peripheral vision and cringe. Fortunately, we didn’t meet another car coming the other way. Of course, I also had the sinking thought that absolutely no one I know had any idea where I was. If we went over the side…
Okay, I know it wasn’t likely to happen. But it was like when you’re watching a horror film and someone is about to go into the basement and you’re shouting at the TV: Don’t go in the basement! I knew I wasn’t going over the edge. And another part of me was certain that I was going over the edge.
All in all, the drive was beautiful, but I didn’t really appreciate it until we were well on the other side of the range and almost down to PCH. And, of course, we left the sunny valley on the east side of the mountains for what looked like cloudy weather when we were about halfway through the mountains. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day on the coast, but I had that moment when I thought Damn! I should have stayed where I was!
The coast at Point Arena is stunning, with sheer cliffs, bold rocks, and high surf. There really wasn’t any good place to walk Max, so we made a brief stop there and headed north towards the town of Mendocino.
Along the way, we stopped at Navarro Beach and had some fun playing ball in the sand. I’m trying not to get over confident about Max’s willingness to stick around me when off-leash, because past experience has shown him to be unreliable in the sticking around department. However, today on the beach, he stuck!
Mendocino is the quintessential California tourist town. Sitting on a bluff, with gorgeous views south along the coast, it’s filled with art galleries, shops, restaurants, and charm. Not as dog friendly as I’d expected, we were turned away from one café but located Frankie’s – just off the main drag.
I ordered today’s special slice of thin crust pizza: homemade pesto, spinach, caramelized onions, red peppers, and mozzarella. To wash it down, an Old Rasputin stout from North Coast Brewing Company, a brewery in Fort Bragg – about 20 miles up the coast.
Max and I spent about a half hour on their deck while I ate and chatted on the phone, then we walked around town for a little while before heading off in search of tonight’s bed. I had a reservation at a Motel 6 in Arcata, but I was yearning for something more…
I stopped at Starbucks in Fort Bragg to get a decaf latté and use their WIFI to search for that something more here near Mendocino and I found Little River Inn – which I had seen on our way north this morning.
They are definitely pet friendly, and had an ocean view room available for us, so we turned south and got here about 3:30. Our room is fabulous, with a king bed, fireplace, lots of space, and our own private porch overlooking the Ocean and the beach at Little River.
There was a bag with a towel, sheets to cover the furniture if needed, mutt mitts (for poop cleanup), and a bowl in the bath with a small package of dog treats! This is the most dog-friendly place we’ve stayed yet in terms of providing amenities for the dog – but since it costs about three times what a La Quinta or Red Roof would be, maybe it should have doggie amenities!
After I had our things in our room, Max and I went over to the office where he was greeted with treats, love, and admiration. To top it all off, I was able to bring Max to dinner at a table in the parlor of the main lodge!
This morning, as we drove through the early light up the mountain road, I felt as if I had been blindsided by the beauty. Frost on the shady sides of the road, dewdrops glistening on the trees, and always, always, the soft rounded brown hills just beginning to blush green.
I wanted to write a haiku. I wanted to find the words to describe the beauty, my feelings of joy and gratitude for being alive and for being able to make this journey. I felt as if I had been out here forever. It was as if I had no home, just the road, the car, our belongings, and my companion.
I felt exhilarated by the gorgeous light, the incredible majesty of it all. I wanted the road to go on forever, and I wanted to reach its end. Here’s my attempt at haiku:
Twisting mountain road,
Dewdrops glistening on trees.
I weep at beauty.