We’re in California. Along the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. It’s summer holidays. Everybody at the sea, all crowded, full. Queuing-up wherever you can imagine. Definitely for overlanders not the time to visit. Nevertheless, traveling a long time also means to survive peak periods.
Fortuna, 1st August
We’re in Crescent City. Prado at the car doc’s hospital. Yesterday we’ve left it there. According to the doctor a new starter engine is needed. And it’s extremely difficult to find 1 in Uncle Don’s Own Country. Well, we don’t believe the doctor. As the starter turned from fully functional to completly silent after a short trip on a bumpy road we rather think there’s somewhere a loose wire. The only problem – how to find it. The doctor will not help as he has another diagnosis.
We opt for alternatives in Eureka, some 100km to the south. Thus, the next morning Prado gets a powerful push with the help of the car doc’s employees and it starts again. We’re on the way to Eureka. Just we shouldn’t stop the engine on the way.
Late morning we arrive. The next doctor. Seems to be quite professional. After 2 hours he decides to remove the starter. Eventually he has to open it. To check it piece by piece. Shortly later the problem is found. Just a wire fell off. And that’s all. Adding a general service for Prado and it’s fit again for the next adventure.
Lessons learned: never trust the 1st doctor – if it’s you, your dog, cat, hamster or your car. Thanx guys from Old Town Auto Service.
In the meantime the opportunity to visit historic Eureka. Quite some interesting old buildings.
Somewhere in Eureka on the road we meet again Evi’n’Martin. These guys we met initially at the Columbia Icefield in Canada some 2 months ago. Well, most travellers you meet once and they’re off: They drive to another lost end of the world, they rest because they’ve travelled too much or you simply don’t know where to they’ve disappeared. A few 1s you meet regularly, not in a planned way, but just by chance. Whatever, these guys cross our ways very regularly. So we decide to celebrate this intensively. In Fortuna, a few km south of Eureka. Because they have a decent brewery. And bottomless fish’n’chips. And some IPA. Great.
Mendocino, 3rd August
The next morning on to nearby Ferndale. A small Victorian town famous for their carefully restored houses and their incredible shops.
The creativity of the shops quickly gets its proof – at least for 1 of them.
Unfortunately we could not find out if they also offer prints in 3D. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to have some of these dummies on the shelf in the living room. Maybe with LED-illuminated eyes. Of course blinking. Pink.
Whatever. We head on. Now along the Lost Coast. Well, at least the road looks pretty lost. With some potential for greatification. But beautiful, moss-covered trees, beautiful coast.
Then we arrive at the Avenue of the Giants. The ultimate drive thru gigantic Redwood trees.
A night in Garberville. Great, but slightly strange, somehow a little bizarre. The town having been California’s stoner capital in the 70ties’n’80ties still retains a certain extravagance of alternative lifestyle. Maybe over the time a little degraded – but who cares. Martin immediately feels back in his time as a youth. Most of the guys hanging around are at least at Martin’s age. Whatever. Time has gone, Garberville has faded. As did the guys.
Next morning we need an alternative to the alternatives. Back to the giants.
Enough of trees. Anyway, it’s getting smoky’n’hazy again. Wildfires. So we head on to the coast. To Mendocino.
Pretty gorgeous coastline. But extremely crowded. Every campsite, RV park, motel – all full. As we learn, numerous people living further inland have fled the heat and especially the smoke of all these fires. It seems this has become a pretty normal situation in recent years. Difficult to blame anybody for this unfavourable situation as climate change does not exist in the US – at least according to the political leader the minority of American citizens has elected.
Then we’re in Mendocino. It hasn’t been easy to find something to sleep. Mendocino is the ultimate refugee camp for the well-heeled. Especially on a weekend when they all escape from wildfires, smoke and heat to the cool seashore. We’ve been pretty lucky. We found a room in a famous historic hotel straight at the seashore. Even Prado is proud to be parked in front of it.
It’s their last room – and of course also the 1 nobody else wanted. Even detention cells in Guantanamo are larger. We get a bed (for unmarried only) and 10cm on each side. At the door 2cm extra space to open it. Nice isn’t it?
Mendocino: not really for an extended summer holiday. But ok for a stroll in the afternoon and …
… some watering at Patterson’s, …
… by the way, they prepare excellent stuff to munch too. And you’re allowed not to use their ketch-up.
San Francisco, 7th August
The next morning we’re pretty busy: Initially we’ve planned to fly back to Swizzyland by the end of August. Currently we’re reconsidering this. Taking into account all these wildfires in or around California’s national parks (especially these fires due to the non-existent climate change) we decide to leave some 2 weeks earlier. Dear Californies, dear Mr. President, do you think odd overlanders like to sit the whole time in the smoke of your burning forests?
So we’re busy rebooking the flights, convincing Progressive to send us immediately the car insurance, organising a place for Prado to hibernate, etc.
Then we’re ready to move on. To Santa Rosa. We definitely do not drive to this place with its beautiful name because we absolutely want to. Because it’s so incredibly irresistible. No, definitely not. The only reason to go there is the simple fact that today is Saturday. Thus weekend. And nowhere at the seashore or nearby you could find any single vacancy. All filled with tourists and no-climat-change refugees. Remains Santa Rosa.
We drive further southwards, along a beautiful coast. Great vistas, trails terribly well marked and …
… in Bodega Bay we turn eastwards to reach Santa Rosa.
The next day on to San Francisco. Of course, thru the wineries. Thru Sonoma Valley. Simply because on a Sunday there’s less traffic of all these wine tasters than in the Napa Valley. Soon after Santa Rosa the 1st wineyards. On the left and the right of the highway. Between all these suburban settlements. Below the dry hills forming the valley. Well, maybe not the romance of France’s Alsace or South African’s Franshoek. But still a few grapes growing in California’s sunlight filtered by the smoke of the nearby wildfires.
In the background the wineries – a kind of imitations of French castles, monasteries or other impressive buildings seen in some European magazines.
Of course we have to visit 1 of these places: Château St. Jean. They produce white wines – not really our preference. But interesting to look at their marketing. Unfortunately, their plant where they convert fresh grapes into rotten ones and fill them in bottles is not accessible to odd visitors.
We drive on. To Sausalito. Pretty dense traffic.
A glimpse at Sausalito’s houseboats – turned from alternative lifestyle into a rather conventional 1.
Initially we also planed to have a look at their downtown. Arriving there it’s so crowded that we have to give up immediately. There’s simply no space. Not for Prado on a parking and neither for us on any sidewalks. Nevertheless, there’s no problem for Monika to take some awesome pictures of San Francisco on the other side of the bay. She simply walks around while Martin impatiently sits in the traffic jam.
Then we finally arrive at the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course some sights to explore. Up to the Marin Headlands State Park – again all full of cars, people, cycles – all Sanfrancicies seem to be here today. Of course nowhere parking – Prado finds its place the Italian way. Who cares.
What only matters: we can admire the bridge.
Then we cross it. We go to a sleepery at Lombard Street. Cheap by San Francisco level, extreme for what they offer.
And they have an unbelievable surprise: As the town is known as a car burglar’s paradise they simply ask all their distinguished guests to have the kindness to completely empty their cars. Hence not to give any chance to the bad boys. Their simple reason: they have not installed the simplest means to improve security on their parking. How customer oriented – we love you dear Francisco Bay Inn. Should you ever arrive there, just turn away. You’ll definitely find better places. For us no other option than emptying the car. It’s the 1st time since we’ve left Swizzyland 3 years ago that really everything gets out. And a huge chance to clean Prado’s interior. Great opportunity. Especially in San Francisco.
Of course, it’s nice to clean Prado. Nevertheless, there’s some more to do in San Francisco. E.g. driving the famous cable car as every odd tourist does. Costs a fortune for the short distance – even more than a beer.
A stroll thru Chinatown. Concentrate on the Chinese inhabitants – ignore the tourists. Enjoy the smell of sweet’n’sour-double-cooked-dog in ginger sauce. Admire insupportable kitsch. Be astonished on how much Chinese adapt to the American way of life. And finally understand a little more about biology.
Ignore the crowds. Experience the shopping opportunities for the high heeled – at least look at them. Marvel the American-Swiss spiritual brotherhood. A visit to the City Center and …
… the CBD. Take the very few opportunities to see something else than high rising buildings and salary slaves chipping coal from 1 pile to another. Wonder why there are so few newly constructed buildings. Admire the mix of old and less old buildings. Count the banks in this part of the city, imagine how much they pay for rent and who finally is paying for it.
Learn how incredibly efficient the working class in the CBD is in fulfillment of their salary slavery. Especially observe it during their lunch ritual. They even don’t need to eat in a restaurant to get the energy to continue slaving in the afternoon. Food cars find them just outside of their office. And they look terrific.
Of course not everybody has always been ready to slave 24/7/365. Some 50 years ago they developed some nice alternatives to salary slavery and decorated the whole thing with empowered flowers – if we remember well what has happened at that time. Most of these guys by now retired. But still some of these places can be visited. Here Haight Ashbury Street – definitely having experienced better times during full blossom of all these flowers.
In San Francisco there are places made for tourists only – and nobody else. Fisherman’s Warf is 1 of them. A tourist trap par excellence. Nothing really to see or to experience. Nevertheless, go for overpriced kitsch souvenirs made in China. Try their restaurants with food acceptable to every taste in the world – hence none left. Dance to the rhythm of a street musician. Visit an American submarine during 20’ for 28$. Or simply watch the sea lions just off the pier.
Other places are difficult to understand why they are so fascinating for tourists. E.g. Lombard Crooked Street. Every visitor wants to drive these hairpins. No idea why. Those at Stilfserjoch in Italy are more spectacular – as well as those winding up to 5487m in western Tibet.
Interestingly the guys taking pictures can clearly be distinguished: the Chinese predominantly at the lower end, the Hispanics at the upper 1. Only few guys climb the stairs on the side of the road.
Please, please don’t tell Prado about Crooked Street. It would be terrible for us to explain that we kept it a secret.
Well, there’s so much more to do, to experience and to avoid in San Francisco. The story could go on for a long time.
But, let’s stop here. We have to repack Prado. And then move on to California’s Disney Land coast.
Anyway that’s it for this post. Much more soon in the next 1.