Thursday, November 8, 2012

Back in the Saddle*: More glory on the Pacific Coast Highway (Mendocino and McKerricher State Park)

“Sort-of-Sabbatical” Day Thirteen, Friday June 15

Funny, I think of San Francisco as northern California, but if you look at the map, it isn’t at all.  It’s hardly past the half way point up the coast, really, so – what luck! - there’s plenty more of the state left to see.

After a two day sabbatical from my sort-of-sabbatical, it feels good to be riding again.  Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, I don’t have the glorious open roads I had earlier, when I retrace my path north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  But as I continue away from the city, the traffic eventually thins out, while the pavement remains smooth and ever-twisty.   Even so, I find myself thinking something I’ve never thought before or since:  I almost don’t mind being stuck behind this RV, it’s that beautiful (the view, not the RV).   And then I have another thought, a terrible and terrifying thought:  The rest of my trip - no way, no how can it possibly measure up.    With more than a little sadness,  I brace myself for disappointment, and make a special point to savor what remains of the painfully beautiful California coast I've come to adore.

Are you tired of the Pacific Coast Highway yet?  Clearly, I am not.  As I wind my way ever northward, the ocean view slowly shifts into something more cozy, rustic, and rugged with a misty feeling even though the sky is clear, recalling a Folger’s coffee advertisement backdrop, perhaps, with less of the sparkly almost gaudy Hollywood blingy-blue green of my more southerly exploration.  But it’s getting cold, too, and, in a bizarre break with my character, I’ve yet to reach for my electric vest.   I quickly realize that by the time I reach Mendocino, there’s a very good chance I will simply fall over when I try to put my feet down as I come to a stop.  I am that unsure I’ll be able to move at all.  When I do arrive, I don’t fall over, but I can barely make the left hand turn into town towards the gas station, because I can’t move my arms.  A BMW rider passes me impatiently as I try to do so, and I wonder what he must think I’m doing.  A moment later we find ourselves at the same pump, paying  nearly $6/gallon for gas.  He makes a funny comment,  but I don’t even care about the price.  I’m freezing, and hungry and need to stop.  Besides, Mendocino is beautiful and I have a special point of interest here to visit.

Here’s the Kelley House Museum.  Remember my host in San Francisco?  Her name is Kelley.  No, not Kelly, but Kelley.  It’s also her mom’s maiden name.  And no, it’s not a coincidence.  The museum is closed by the time I arrive, but I have fun peering in the windows.

Mendocino Kelley House Museum

After a bowl of blessedly warm and caloric but not particularly delicious angel hair with tomato basil cream sauce at “A Cultured Affair,” I head to the water.  It makes for a nice backdrop for the flowers everywhere and I lazily dabble around a bit, enjoying the peaceful landscape while waiting for the pasta to raise my core body temp and blood glucose levels before continuing on my way.

Mendocino Coastliine (1)

Mendocino Coastliine

Even though the population density is thinning out, campgrounds are still full and I had only one option when I made a reservation a few days ago.  But the West Pine Campground at MacKerricher State Park is everything the Lake Casitas Campground was not.  Such a diversity of beauty!  Tall pines create a feeling of quiet and privacy at each site, but a few steps away lie rolling dunes covered in interesting plant life. Beyond, the frothy sea.
 MacKerricher State Park Beach

I continue down the beach, looking here and there, and I nearly trip over a sea lion.  Pardon me!
 MacKerricher State Park Beach Sea Lions

There’s tidal lagoon Cleone Lake to explore, and the trail and boardwalk around it takes me deep into those trees you see at the far side.  It’s a Central American jungle back there, dense with enormous and unrecognizable brilliantly green plants having leaves so preposterously big they might double as a kayak and float me across the lake, up to the distant floating mats of pink flowers that are too far away to photograph.  Such a bizarre contrast to the simple blustery coastline only a few steps away!

MacKerricher State Park Cleone Lake

The surf is up at Laguna Point, and I’m captivated by the crashing waves, but I have no real luck in preserving the excitement on camera.  Too late, I notice my SD card is full, and the other is by now a mile or two behind me, in the Ducati top box.    I’m mesmerized by the surf, and it’s not hard to believe the signs describing the potential for dangerous rogue waves. “Never turn your back on the ocean!”  “Stay back and stay alive!”

MacKerricher State Park Laguna Point

MacKerricher State Park Laguna Point (1)

Back in my tent, consciousness ebbs into slumber as I listen to the roiling sea.

* I started this post months ago.  Funny that my “Back in the Saddle” post should appear after my unexpected blog hiatus.


Miguelitoh2o said...

Nicely written! I rode through the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevadas to the coast at Eureka, and then south to L.A. before returning to Mexico last summer, and the cold of those high mountain ranges was nuthin' compared to the chill of riding that coastline even in the summer.

Eating On Two Wheels said...

Mexico, eh? Sounds like I need to pick your brain. Been itching to ride south, perhaps this holiday season..

PhilB said...

That's some of the prettiest scenery anywhere. My wife and I spent part of our honeymoon in Mendocino; drove there up the PCH in an Alfa Romeo.


Eating On Two Wheels said...

Your comment reminds me that I had a dream last night about riding in a nice Italian convertible. I remember thinking that if you must be on four wheels, it was the way to go. Can't quite remember where I was, but wherever it was, it was lovely, and I was in good company.