Monday, August 01, 2011

The Girl Who Went Back To The Ocean

"Who the heck is this Sir Francis Drake guy anyway?" I asked myself as I twisted and turned in my little Nissan Sentra through the windy roads of Marin County last Sunday afternoon.

Determined to head back to the coast and find the beach I originally set out to find a few weeks ago (see my previous blog: The Girl Who Couldn't Find The Ocean), I drove in a mad frenzy for over an hour and a half on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in search of my final destination: Drake's Beach.

Okay, so this guy gets his own boulevard, his own hotel, his own cafe, his own bay and his own beach named after him.  Pardon my ignorance, but I didn't pay attention in history class back in the 80's and I have a lot of catching up to do.  All I knew at this point was that Sir Francis' one and only boulevard was taking forever to drive through.

Learning from all the mistakes I made on my last beach trip,  this time I confidently passed through small towns such as Fairfax, Olema and Inverness on my way to the ocean.  But after I passed Inverness and what seemed to be the last signs of civilization, I started to get nervous.

"Just stay on this man's road," I told myself as I continued driving for what felt like miles on end with no ocean in sight.  I could see why I had turned around and headed back to Olema last time.  The road at times, felt like I was not going anywhere with its open fields and cattle crossing signs.  Each time I would turn a corner, feeling optimistic that my destination was just a little further up, I would be greeted with a sign that looked like this:

(I can just hear my mother now- all worried that I drove by myself on this curvy road.  Don't worry mom, there were plenty of people on it and I was not alone.)

After about an hour and 15 minutes, I saw a sign that said "Drakes Beach" going in one direction and "The Lighthouse" going in another.  I made a left towards Drake's Beach, but I filed "The Lighthouse" away in my mind for future reference.

The day started late as I didn't leave Oakland until 1:30pm, (but I figured that was better than 2:45pm, which is how late I left a few weeks ago.) Arrival time (including one potty break in an outhouse behind a restaurant in the sleepy little town of Inverness): 3:15pm.

This was a personal best for me.  I triumphantly parked, gathered my things and got out of my car.  I did it!  I was finally here!  I was at the beach that had alluded me.

Hello! So nice to finally meet you!

But first things first!

Right outside the restrooms, mounted on the walls, was the education I was looking for:

Here's his mug:

Here's another mug:

That's right, Mr. Drake had his own gift shop.  Apparently he was a ship captain back in the 1500's and rumor has it that he landed on our West Coast shores.  But if you Wikepedia him, you will see that he was also slave trader. Hmmm.  Moving on....

Other gift shop findings

Alrighty then...

As I perused the gift shop while getting ready for my beach adventure, (and by adventure, I mean my search for more sea shells), I was given this heads up:

You can't see it, but the last paragraph reads:

"Please leave natural and historic objects on the beach for the next explorer, and help keep the beach clean by removing trash."

So let me get this straight:

By "natural and historic objects", do you mean these things that I collected that day and are sitting in my bathroom now?

Natural and historic objects


After ignoring the beachcombing sign, I grabbed a bite to eat at Drake's Beach Cafe, which, ironically, only serves drip coffee.  You see, they're old school, but they did make a mean clam chowder and it makes my mouth water every time I look at this picture:

Drake's Beach: Come for the ocean, stay for the chowder.

As I ate my soup, I started observing the local cafe staff.  I asked them how far their commute was, just to come to work everyday in this little town that had no wi-fi reception.   One young female employee told me that she lived in Novato and it took her about an hour to get to work.  It seemed like such a long drive for a job that probably didn't pay very well, but I suppose she was in it for the perks:

After my meal, I was ready to comb, walk the beach in search of buried treasure, cool sea junk, that I could maybe take home with me.  I stumbled upon the following "natural objects":

And the not so natural.....

 Go Giants

I decided to leave most of these objects behind for "the next explorer", and besides, all that jellyfish and seaweed wouldn't have fit inside my bathroom anyway.

I had worked up quite a sweat while walking and rummaging through the sand and decided to sit and take a break and stare at the waves while admiring other beach artists' work:

Scenes from a sand gallery:

 Does that come in a small?

Next thing I knew it was past 6:00pm and I really wanted to get on the road before it got dark.  Thinking I was being responsible, I patted myself on the back as I drove away from Drake's Beach at a reasonable hour, but then I hit a fork in the road:

I decided to make a left and head towards "The Lighthouse", whatever that was.  I mean, had I driven this far already, just to turn around and head back to Oakland?  It was still light out!

Thinking that The Lighthouse was just a few miles up ahead, I dared to dream once again that my destination would just be around the corner, but in a drive that felt like the movie Groundhog Day, I yet again was greeted with this:

Groundhog Day

I almost turned around  to head back to what was familiar, but my stubborness kept me going and in another 15 or so minutes I was rewarded for my patience.

I parked my car around 6:20pm in a small parking lot overlooking the ocean.  It might have seemed late for sight seeing, but other visitors were just pulling up in their cars as well.

Parking was down the hill from the actual lighthouse, so we had to walk up a small private road on the way to the top.  I followed a group of people speaking in a foreign language and stopped to take more pictures.

I can see for miles and miles...

I'm sure the residents don't get cell phone reception up here, but the view is breathtaking

And if you need to make a call....

The Lighthouse also had a gift shop, but it closed at 4:30.  So did the actual Lighhouse itself, and I was banned from walking down the steep set of stairs that led to my second final destination:

Stairway to Heaven

So I had to make do with views from the visitor deck

Aware that I was going to lose light soon as it was getting close to 7pm, I snapped a few more shots and walked back down the road to my car.  As I was leaving, tourists were still walking up the hill.  Don't you just love summer?

In front of the parking lot was one more trail, and had it been earlier in the day, I would have went for it, but now I knew I really really needed to get on the road.  But not before I veered onto one more small dirt path and saw a mama deer and her two babies.  Too bad I didn't take a picture. I must have been in a hurry.

I shook the sand out of my shoes one last time and got into my car.  This time, I was definitely heading home to Oakland and now that I knew the road better, I knew I would be back soon, and hopefully not alone.  And who knows,  perhaps the next time I seek out another obscure beach, I might learn to become and write about: "The Girl Who Found The Ocean with No Problem."

Until then.....