A contrast to driving the frenetic pace of the Los Angeles freeways earlier this month, last week we went to the Mendocino coast and drove the slow and practically traffic-free byways to get there after leaving I-5 at Williams.
We took Hwy 20 passing the north side of clear Lake alongside hills verdant after recent rains, to Ukiah, to watch our grandson’s team play against Solano College on a sunny but windy afternoon. After the game and dinner with him, we stayed the night in a dinky motel without carpeting. The one where we had planned to stay was fully booked on a Thursday, “because there’s a lumberman’s convention in town,” the desk clerk said.
“Just our luck,” I groused to my husband, envisioning having to go out-of-t0wn to find a room, previous experiences having us do so owing to events we’d not known about: marathons, car races and bicycle races that attracted participants from afar.
But we lucked out; there were a lot of motels and we readily found a room; it wasn’t AAA rate d, but was clean enough, fit our budget and had a good continental breakfast.
Th next morning we took Hwy 253 toward Boonville, known for natives speaking “Boontling,” a local dialect said to baffle visitor. However, it was too early in the morning to stop to find out. Instead we enjoyed the scenic byway of multiple vineyards of the AndersonValley.We drove through Navarro, famous for its wines, though none of the tasting rooms were open.But down the road we saw the quaint Navarro Store , a general store that seemed to carry everything, including a one-pump gas station where a gallon of regular (and no other choice) was a dollar higher than in Ukiah. We didn’t need gas, but glad to stop for coffee. It was a wonderful surprise they had freshly baked rolls that included large muffins, bear claws and almond croissants we craved, and reasonably priced, too. WE ate our treats and drank the good coffee sitting at a picnic table under giant redwoods, admiring the chain saw art of a pioneer, a bear and a totem pole in the parking lot.
At Mendocino town we gawked admiring at its eclectic buildings reminiscent of New England towns, thus the setting for the TV series, “Murder She Wrote,” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.” WE went into an organic products store, formerly a steep-roofed church, and browsed among the goods. Noticing the prices,we remarked to each other,”You have to be well-off to go ‘organic’. and then mused whether it was the fate of old churches with declining memberships to turn into something other than a house of worship. Something to ponder about.
Arriving at the coast driving on grades as high as 9%, the Pacific Ocean was a magnificent sight on a clear, fairly warm day.The waves crashed agains the rocky coast and “haystacks” where you can visit the Cabrillo Lighthouse and museum.
We hope to see gray and humpback whales migrating north, but did not see any, but a welcoming sight was a long line of geese flying over the beach, possibly flying home to the Arctic region after wintering in California.
From Mendocino we drove to the outskirts of Ft.Bragg toward Willits. It had been a long while since we’d been there and forgotten the nearly forty miles of twisting road with several long grades of 6% or more through redwood forests. Not many vehicles followed us, but on-coming traffic on a Friday included RVs and loaded logging trucks.
Finally, we reached Willits, stopped at a McDonald’s for ice cream cones, and then wended our way past road construction to Hwy 20 again. We took a detour to Lakeport on the south side of Clear Lake, much heavier trafficked than the other side, and encountered several traffic lights and some delays in the late Friday afternoon traffic.
We breathed a sigh of relief when we got back toWilliams and onto I-5 toward home.
Driving the scenic byways is fun and delightful than driving the freeways, but is tiring just the same.