"The ocean is about 10 minutes from here," Tati informed me that one late morning on the 5th of July as we chilled at her mom's place by the Russian River on a mini-vacation. I think she might have kept talking after sharing that bit of important information with me, but I didn't hear anything she said after the word, "ocean".
"Which ocean?" I asked excitedly. I was already recalculating my plans for the day as the still heat of the Villa Grande air was started to get to me. I was wilting. And you know what they say, if you can't take the heat....get out...
"Um, the Pacific Ocean," she responded quizzically.
I laughed at my error. "I mean, which BEACH?"
And that was that. It hadn't even occurred to me to visit the coast initially during my stay at her mom's place during our Fourth of July holiday. But all of a sudden I had a new plan to hit up all the beaches South of the town of Jenner off Highway 1 in that very moment.
"You might want to come back this way on your way home. If you drive down the coast, it will take you much longer" she warned me.
Yes, I thought dreamily, it will take me much longer... .. all the better to see the beaches with my dear...
Shortly after, I said my goodbyes to her family and I hightailed it out to my first destination. About 15 minutes later I had arrived.
Goat Rock Beach
As I stepped out of my car I felt the cool breeze usher me in. I inhaled in the crisp air and let it fill up my lungs- but it wasn't long before I started to notice that the air was a little too cold, a little too windy, and my black hoodie sweatshirt didn't seem to insulate me enough from the big gusts that whipped my hair all around. This beach doesn't have a cliff to shield the visitors from the wind, so it just lets it rip. After walking the shore for about seven minutes, just when I started to feel this beach visit was a total bust, I saw an older couple carrying sticks and looking for something amongst the pebbles in the sand. They were up to something.
"Whacha looking for?" I probed.
The man looked at me and held a small piece of light green rock in his palm. "See this?" He said. "It's sea glass. Pretty rare to find, but sometimes it just jumps out at you."
Sea glass, hmmmm....you don't say. Now, up to this point I had only be known for my obsession with looking for the perfect seashell, which is almost impossible to find out here on the West Coast, but sea glass? Now, that could be a new obsession. Especially since it's rare. It's like looking for buried treasure and I just love me a good buried treasure! So I joined them. About 15 minutes later, when I couldn't take the cold anymore (Goldilocks anyone? Theresa is too hot, Theresa is too cold), I had managed to pocket a few small pebbles of sea glass myself.
Needle in a Haystack
Feeling accomplished I walked back to my car, emptied out the sand in my shoes and waved goodbye to Goat Rock Beach. For this was only the beginning.
I made a right turn and headed South on Hwy 1. I wasn't getting wifi out in these parts so I decided to let the road signs direct me. It wouldn't take long before I would arrive at my next destination.
Now as pretty as this place is, don't let the name fool you. There were no shells to be found. Merely tide pools that didn't offer a lot of scenery in the way of wildlife but instead just contained small children who were splashing themselves around in them. However, the main reason why I picked this beach as my next stop was not only because of its deceptive name, but also because its trail was clearly the shortest distance from my car.
Um, the Middle One Please...
I took one more snapshot after walking the 1000 meters up the hill and back to my car. It's much prettier from the parking lot.
1.5 Miles to the next beach walking? No thanks, I will drive there.
That will be seven dollars.
That's right, you read me. Seven dollars to visit this beach because it was a campground. I slowly backed out of the parking lot, shook the dust off my sandals, wished them well, and sped off. See ya.
The next stop was literally only a parking lot and not a public beach at all. I did a drive by.
And then eventually ended up here. I dug the vibe.
I parked myself here for awhile and just chillaxed. After 30 minutes or so I got restless and was anxious to see what other beaches were around and the next one in this leg of my trip turned out to be my favorite one.
Now, this was a popular one and I could see why. Out of all the beaches I had visited on this section of the coast it reminded me most of the kind of beaches my family would go to when we were little kids.
Rule #1- Make it accessible for those of us who don't like to walk far or steep distances.
Rule #2 - Have a shallow part of the water where kids can play.
Rule #3 - Have really cool sand
This was where I stayed the longest, but after maybe 45 minutes in, I was hungry. My breakfast of two Atkins bars and a bowl of cereal just wasn't sustaining me and my stomach would have to lead me to my next stop.
I waved goodbye to North Salmon Creek Beach in search of food. I was confident that I was now very close to the town of Bodega Bay and surely there would be something cute and quaint there.
I should have known by the word "bay" that my beautiful run with the ocean scenery along the highway would now be ending as I headed more inland towards the bay towns and not the ocean towns- but I didn't realize until it was too late. I finally entered Bodega Bay grumpy. My ocean views were gone... hidden.. buried. You mean now if I had to stop and eat, I can't look over at the ocean waves, but the bay instead? I live in the bay area, I see bays all the time. I even live by a lake--but I don't care. Give me the ocean or give me nothing. I blasted through Bodega Bay disappointed and unwilling to stop until I found a vibe that suited me. A few long winding miles later and now in the middle of nothing but old fields of dead grass, I started to second guess my routing choices. Uh oh, what have I done? Am I ever going to see another ocean again? Should I turn back or press on? Can my blood sugar level take this heat? It was heating up again as I drove further and further away from the coast. But just when I thought I would never make it back to civilization I came upon the little town of Tomales and I knew I had been given one more chance.
I pulled up across the street from a Restaurant/Saloon called "William Tell House". It wasn't as small town podunk as I wanted it to be, but it would have to do. It was now 5pm and I was the first one to arrive for their dinner hour and I had the place all to myself.
"Sit anywhere you want," the waitress informed me.
Well I live for moments like these, where I can pick a seat with a view, or in a corner, or most importantly...by an outlet.
As Carl recharged, (that's right, that's the name of my smart phone-it's a boy) - I opted for the Chicken Marsala and it did not disappoint.
I inhaled my dinner and inquired the staff about the location of the nearest and final beach of my mini road trip - Dillon Beach. I had visited here a few years ago, but the weather was gloomy and overcast and I did not have a very good time. Now here I was, it was the end of the afternoon and the beginning of the evening and I was hoping for one last ocean stop and a chance to redeem my last memories there.
I paid my check, walked through the bar and went to the bathroom. I was starting to feel fatigued. A part of me wanted to see if I could make it to Pt. Reyes Station after visiting Dillon Beach or should I just head East on Tomales/Bodega Road and head back to the freeway? I fully knew where I was now being only a quarter mile away from the location of a movie that I worked on for an entire month of night shoots back in 1996. Maybe I would try and squeeze in a visit to the house where they shot the original Scream movie on my way back? Maybe?
I washed my hands and brushed my hair. In the bar I heard Supertramp's "Take The Long Way Home" come through the speakers. It spoke to me.
I got back on the road and about 15 minutes later I arrived at Dillon Beach. Now, I had been warned, via Yelp, that I would have to pay for parking and this time I decided it would be worth it, but when I pulled up in the parking lot, the girl in the booth informed me that they were no longer charging, but just make sure "your car is out of the lot by 8pm."
Now it was becoming sunset and I would be here just in time to snap a few final shots before heading back. I snapped away.
After getting a bunch of post card shots, as I walked back to my car I looked down in the sand and I couldn't believe it. I never see these anymore. A sand dollar. Granted, it was broken, but still...pretty cool.
I pocketed the sand dollar and headed for the Dillon Beach Café to load up on coffee for my ride home. In the bathroom were inspirational quotes by Thoreau.
Launch yourself on every wave. Pretty cool.
I made it home by 9pm. It was just now getting dark. I collapsed into bed. It wasn't a day I had planned at all, but I lived in the moment and took the long way home.