Our Annus Horibilis Mini-Vacation (Part Two)
Mendocino To Eureka: Beaches, Redwoods & Mansions
Day Two: Don’t Step On The Glass, Motorcycle Down, Oh … DEER!, Watch Out For That Tree, Confusion Reigns, What Info?, Land Of The Giants, Picnicking With A Mass Murderer?, Another Aztec Defeat, Signs Signs Everywhere Are Not Signs, Happy Rockefeller Hike, Eureka We Found It, Historic Carter House, Stormy Stormy Night and Car Surfing Ends Badly
Tracy awoke earlier than me, proving that everything is out of whack in 2020. While I crawled in the shower Tracy took some photos of our view from the Sea Foam Lodge.
Soon we exited our lodging …
… and were back on the road. It was quite a coincidence when Blondie’s Heart Of Glass came on the radio. That’s because our first stop on our drive toward Eureka was Glass Beach. I asked the group if they thought the beach would be half empty or half full. Within a minute they scampered out of the car and about 100 yards ahead of me.
Glass Beach is located on the southern side of MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg. We first headed out on some bluffs to take photos.
It seems no matter where you are on the northern coast, the views are stupendous …
… from so many vantage points.
Glass Beach was actually once a trash dump where local residents would dump their garbage cans (recycling was not yet in vogue). That trash included lots and lots of bottles. The area has now been transformed into “little treasures to be found.” Although it is illegal to to remove glass from Glass Beach, it seems some do take some of the remnants away.
Mary, showing off her yoga skills, picked up some of the fragments to look at.
I don’t know what this little guy was looking for.
I will have to say the “Glass” part of Glass Beach was kind of a let down. “It must have the same press agent as the Mona Lisa,” Tracy quipped. On the plus side, however, the ocean vista views with waves crashing on the rocks made it a worthwhile stop. Tracy did make the morning exciting when she got way too close to the edge of the cliffs as she took some last photos. She survived, and we started heading north.
We rocked on.
It was a short drive to our next stop. Kim, Mary and Tracy took a short hike to check out the lay of the land, which I think was part of the MacKerricher Ten Mile Estuary.
I stayed behind to make sure the car wasn’t stolen. Either that, or I was lazy.
We kept hugging the coast for about 45 minutes …
… but just north of Rockport, Highway 1 puts you into the Redwoods for about half an hour until you reach Leggett. It was an eventful half hour.
The road is very twisty, and Mary, sitting in the back seat, was feeling uncomfortable from all the twisting and turning (potential foreshadowing). I asked if she wanted to sit up front, but she declined. Soon, we found ourselves behind some slow moving cars. Up ahead, at a bend in the road, a motorcyclist had taken a tumble. Forgetting her dizziness woes, Mary, our own Florence Nightingale, reached into her purse, which carries more medical materials than many hospitals, and asked Kim to stop to provide aid. When we reached the scene of the accident, the rider was sitting up being attended to many passing motorists, so we traveled on.
Not too long afterward, there was shouting from the backseat. “Deer!!!” Oh deer, indeed. On my side of the car, a deer leapt out of the forest. It seemed as if the deer, with antlers the size of Texas, was coming directly at my front window. At this point, I did not want to go out stag. Kim slammed on the brakes, and the deer made a move that Barry Sanders would have been proud of. As our car came to an abrupt halt, the deer hastily reversed course narrowly averting tragedy. (below is an artist rendering of the near tragedy … no deers were injured or killed in this trip report)
Tracy, always the one to compliment my driving skills, said that it was lucky Kim had been driving, because had it been me behind the wheel, I would have either crashed into oncoming traffic or hit the deer, ultimately impaling one of our passengers. Well, I thought, “She’s never been one to fawn over me.”
Shortly we were in Leggett, and I began singing the theme some to George of the Jungle, because we (well, Kim) were going to drive through a tree. “Watch out for that tree!” In Underwood Park stands the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree that I really wanted to visit (yes, I am a child). As the story goes, a married couple who were dairy farmers bought a tract of old growth redwood forest back in 1921. Sixteen years later they hired foresters to carve a 6-foot wide and 6.75-foot tall tunnel through, which was big enough for cars to drive through the trunk. Supposedly, the tree is named “Chandelier” because it “resembles an ornate chandelier with enormous branches balanced on each side of the trunk.”
After paying the $10 per car fee, Mary and Tracy quickly exited the automobile before entering the tree just in case we got stuck. The website states “most vehicles will be able to drive through the Tree.” Kim was hoping so, too, as he does not have a surplus of cars. As Tracy took the photos, Kim started inching his way through the tight space. At one juncture I asked Kim if it would be considered ironic if his trunk was damaged by a trunk. Judging by Kim’s quick glance, that might not have been the best question.
In any case, we came out the other side unscathed. I was going to send out an Instagram post as we were driving through, however, in a piece of pure irony, I was unable to log in.
My poor traveling companions were forced to indulge me one last time about ten minutes north of the Chandelier Tree. I had Kim pull into a parking lot for a place called Confusion Hill, which is a perfect name, since Kim was perplexed that I had us stop here.
Why “Confusion Hill?” For the past 71 years, Confusion Hill has been described as “a place of “mystery, fun and family entertainment.” I had wanted to visit the Gravity House, where it seems up is down and down is up. Alas, it and the rest of Confusion Hill was closed during Covid. Although closed, we were able to view a 40-foot tall standing redwood tree carved by chainsaw into a totem pole. It is the “tallest free-standing redwood chainsaw carving,” and was featured in Ripley’s Believe or Not.
Also closed was the “historic Mountain Train Ride,” which takes visitors through “redwoods, tan oaks, fir and madrone trees” on a 1 1/4 mile ride on 20 gauge track.
At least I did get to see the Redwood Shoe House, where Tracy took my photo. I guess we really are sole mates.
It was back on Highway 101 on our way to the Avenue of the Giants. We passed by the Benbow Historic Inn where we planned o stay on our last night (more sad foreshadowing). Photo is from their website.
Since we had missed breakfast, we pulled into Garberville to find a place to eat. Ten minutes later we left Garberville with nary a restaurant open for dining.
As we headed toward the Avenue of the Giants, with no Willie Mays or Willie McCovey in sight, we witnessed three signs alerting us that information and brochures of the area could be found just ahead. Where that info and brochure really is located was as confusing as Confusion Hill. As it turned out, we could have printed one online before we left. Live and learn! The Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile stretch of old Highway 101 that contains more than 51,000 acres of redwood groves. To see it best, you exit 101 and take the backroads that parallel the main highway. Even without a brochure, it’s quite a sight to see these massive redwoods in all their splendor.
Mary had packed some picnic supplies, so instead of a restaurant, we decided to pull into a secluded spot in the heart of the Avenue of the Giants.
It was a gorgeous spot, but it did not remain secluded for long.
After driving by our parking/picnic spot a few times, a white car pulled up right next to ours with license plates from Maine. The guy seemed a bit off as he started hunting for something on the ground while putting on his hiking boots (what could he have lost since he just got there?). Obviously Tracy has watched too many crime shows, because she was definitely on “red alert.” Then the guy then started rummaging under the front side of the passenger’s seat. This alarmed Tracy, who thought he might be looking for a gun to either carjack or kill us all, so she picked up a stick to defend us. Meanwhile the rest of us obliviously munched on our delightful picnic meal consisting of crackers, cheese and salami.
Finally, the “killer” locked his vehicle and walked by us, while Tracy wielded her stick like a sword. He then wandered into the wilderness, not utilizing a nearby trail. We all mocked Tracy, but we did get the heck out of the area fast just in case her instincts were correct.
We drove by the little town of Meyers Flats where Kim floored-it past another Drive-Thru Tree before I could speak.
We stopped at the Visitor Center, which was closed, but did have open bathrooms and that elusive brochure. Near the Visitor Center is a cut of a tree that fell in 2006. The beginning ring at the center of that cut shows the tree dates from 912 A.D. The dates and facts were very interesting, although when I read that in 1521 “Cortez conquers Aztecs,” I became less impressed. “Big deal,” I said, “in 2008 the Aztecs were defeated by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.” It can be tough being a San Diego State football fan.
Using our new trusty map we decided to visit Rockefeller Forest. It was easier said than done as signage in this part of the Avenue of the Giants could have been a little better. The signs are brown with yellow lettering and only about a foot off the ground, so they’re a little difficult to see, even for our “Sign Queen” Tracy.
After passing the entrance to the Rockefeller Forest … twice, we found it, and Tracy wrote “we drove off a cliff to get to the parking area” (well, it looked like we were going of a cliff from Tracy’s vantage point in the back seat, but it was just a steep driveway).
We decided on taking the Rockefeller Loop through some of the largest remaining contiguous old-growth coastal redwood forest in the world. I read that John D. Rockefeller Jr. had visited this beautiful expanse of giant trees with members of the Save-The-Redwoods League Company. “The Save-the-Redwoods League purchased the land with a pair of million-dollar donations from Rockefeller and matching funds from the state.”
The loop took us past gorgeous giants that looked like they were touching the sky as we peered upward. It was tough to get good photos with the diverse light.
Tracy and Kim looked skyward often attempting to photograph these mammoth trees, craning their necks for every shot (another possible foreshadowing event).
The fallen trees were sometimes as, or more, interesting than the ones towering up to the sky.
As for some of the trunks, you could let your imagination run free attempting to describe what you thought they looked like.
We contemplated taking another hike, but decided we could do that in a couple of days when we stayed at Benbow Historic Lodge, but you all know better than that.
We hopped back on the 101 and in about 40 minutes we were in Eureka, where we would (ostensibly) stay for two nights at the Carter House Inn, a historic hotel situated among some beautiful Victorian homes in Eureka’s Old Town.
We had a gracious and masked greeting in the lobby, and wandered past a cool-looking bar, where I would have a fantastic Manhattan later in the evening.
Sadly, due to the pandemic, the hotels renowned Restaurant 301 was closed, so we made reservations at the nearby Humboldt Bay Bistro, which will be reviewed in a separate post.
As we walked back to the Carter House Inn from our fantastic dinner, a car sped through a nearby intersection with a teenager clinging to the sun roof like Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible movie. Unfortunately for him, it did not have a Tom Cruise ending as he fell off the top of the car onto the pavement. We watched as he picked himself off of the street, battered but not dead. Back at the hotel Tracy and I enjoyed a nightcap (a wonderful Manhattan for me and a TomTini for Tracy.
We bade farewell to Kim and Mary and said we’d meet the next morning for coffee to discuss our day’s plans. Those plans never came to fruition.
A Trip Interrupted
Days Three & Four: As The World Turns, Traveling With Jimmy Stewart, The Most Expensive Rental Car Ever, Beautiful Mansions, Ghost Town … Part Two, Watch Out For That Tree – Part Two, October’s The Time, Not That Rental Office, Too Old for A Nine-Hour Drive, Kim Conks Out & I Hate Interstate 5!
For the first few minutes of our third day on the road, it seemed normalcy had returned. I was up early, and Tracy was getting some extra beauty rest. Normalcy did not last long. As I exited the shower, I could hear Tracy say “Oh, no!” I was hoping it was just a bad weather report, but I had just looked at the weather on my phone and it called for another beautiful day.
“What’s up?” I asked. The reply was not good. Mary had texted Tracy that Kim had been up for hours with a case of vertigo. Since Tracy has had this before, I declined to ask if Kim Novak had anything to do with this. I started this report with Hitchcock in Bodega Bay, and now we were in another of his movies. It was enough to make your head spin.
A quick search of my buddy Google stated that although vertigo is an unlikely symptom of Covid, dizziness could possibly be one. Had this been prior years, I assume Kim would have taken the day off while we saw some sights, but in a pandemic all bets are off. Mary said she would be driving Kim home immediately. To err on the side of caution, although we had been in the car with them for two days, we decided to rent a car, take it to Santa Rosa to pick up our car and then we’d head back to our home in Southern California.
As Mary and Kim were driving south, I went to pick up a rental car. The cheapest car for a one-day rental from Eureka to Santa Rosa was an astounding $230. I’ve rented cars in Europe for two weeks at a lower price. Luckily, Tracy had bought trip insurance before hand, because she realizes I could keel over at anytime during a trip. Well, that’s what she gets for marrying an older guy.
Before leaving Eureka, we walked around the area surrounding the Carter House Inn. Nearby was the famed Victorian house, the Carson Mansion.
The Carson Mansion was constructed in 1884 by lumber magnate William Carson in order to “keep 100 of his workers employed during a slump in the timber industry.” The mansion has been called “the most photographed Victorian home in the United States.” The structure is made “primarily of redwood and 97,000 feet of white mahogany from Central America, and onyx from East India, Mexico and the Philippines.”
It was sold to the Ingomar Club in 1950. Sadly, the private club does not allow tours, but here are some interior photos from its website.
Complete with stained glass windows.
Across the street from the Carson House stands a mansion known as the Pink Lady. This house was built in 1889 by Carson as a wedding gift for his son. The house is constructed entirely from redwood. It has been used over the years as a restaurant and various other uses.
It was for sale earlier this year, so these interior photos were available to check out.
The Carter House Inn also owns the Bell Cottage and an annex kitty-corner to the hotel.
Now it was farewell to Eureka and in about half an hour we were in the historic Victorian village of Ferndale. We drove down its main drag that was virtually devoid of people.
It is small town Americana, however, and each year Ferndale lights the largest living Christmas tree in America (virtually, of course, in 2020) The downtown area is cute, to be sure.
Colorful shops, inns and restaurants dot the area.
Tracy got out and walked through town taking photos, while I drove slowly behind her like a cop on a stakeout.
A block or two off the main street we found the Gingerbread Mansion B&B. This is a 19th-century Queen Anne Carpenter Victorian. A 50-foot addition was built on the back of the family home and served as Ferndale’s first public hospital (the owner was a doctor).
It has also been utilized as an American Legion Post veteran’s building and a rest home. The Gingerbread Mansion is referred to as one of the most often photographed bed-and-breakfasts in the United States. Again, we did our photographic duty.
We also stopped to take a photo of Ferndale’s Church of the Assumption. It has a beautiful interior, but once again Covid regulations had the church locked up (photo on right from website).
Leaving Ferndale, soon we were back among the redwoods at the Avenue of the Giants. Getting off the 101, we passed our picnic spot from the prior day, and noticed a lot of emergency vehicles parked alongside the road. Remembering the strange guy from the day before, Tracy said, “You don’t think …” her voice trailing off.
Had it not been for Kim’s medical dilemma, we were going to explore this area more, along with Richardson Grove south of here, but circumstances meant we could only make a quick stop.
We found ourselves back in Myers Flat. Remember that Drive-Thru tree Kim blew off? I did. I never met a tree I didn’t drive through (if I could).
A 3,000-year-old chimney tree (175 feet tall) whose trunk was perhaps hollowed by a fire (well, it is a chimney tree), was spared by loggers since it had very little merchantable timber.
I carefully (we had not purchased extra insurance for the car) navigated its 7-foot wide by 7-foot tall tunnel.
I made it!!
We passed on driving over the fallen redwood log, visiting the children’s walk-through stump and stepping inside the Fairy Tale House …
… but I did pose for a photo with my friend Bigfoot (or is it Darryl?).
It was another drop dead gorgeous day as we drove toward Santa Rosa. Every time we visit Northern California in early October the weather has been spectacular.
We had thought about driving to Santa Rosa, dropping the car, retrieving our car in Bodega Bay and heading home. By now we realized we’re too old for that. Mary met us at the Santa Rosa airport, and I went inside to give the keys to the rental car agent. The problem was it looked as if the rental car company was closed. As it turns out, they don’t operate at the airport any longer (a little detail I was not given at the agency in Eureka). Instead we had to drop it in downtown Santa Rosa, clean the inside with Clorox wipes, and finally headed to Kim and Mary’s.
Kim was sound asleep in one end of the house, so we decided to stay in the west wing after a delicious Mary-cooked pork chop dinner. We did not see Kim for the remainder of our trip.
The next morning came another of the “worst drives in the world.” There is no stretch of highway I despise more than the two lanes in each direction on Highway 5. The scenery is virtually non-existent, but never boring due to some of the most terrible drivers in the world. You have to compete with slow drivers in the fast lane (Gary Larson explains their fate in Far Side below), fast drivers in the slow lane, never knowing when a two-ton truck will swerve in your path and crush you like a sardine.
In our last four drives (two north, two south) we have encountered two apparently drunk drivers swerving across lanes, the remnants of a fatal accident and, on our journey south this day, traffic once again came to an abrupt halt for nearly an hour.
People exited their vehicles to see what was going on. Finally a helicopter arrived not too far in front of us (that’s never a good thing).
When we finally got moving, we saw the remains of the crash, which might also have resulted in a fatality. This was one of several vehicles including an overturned big rig. I never want to drive this highway again.
A few hours later our “vacation” was over. Autumn was in the air as the corgis greeted us, and we told them it will probably be quite some time until our next trip.
The next day Mary called to tell us Kim’s doctor had ruled out Covid, and he was feeling much better. Travel in the time of Covid is complicated, and just like that hill we visited … confusing.
We were grateful we got in at least a couple of days to explore the wonders of the Northern California Coast and the Redwoods. It’s an area people should make a point to visit while in California.
And, it also reinforced my old adage that I will drink to …
Enjoy The Journey!
Attitude Is Everything!