Monday, December 3, 2007

Big Blue's Coastal Roadtrip

This past weekend, EP and I decided to put a few more miles on Big Blue to test him in terms of distance and comfort. It was the first time that both of us traveled in Big Blue for an extended period of time (on the Napa camping trip, EP drove the MINI up to meet me as she was in class) and I am happy to say that he passed with flying colors.

FRIDAY NIGHT
The first part of the trip was a short one, over the hill from us to Bolinas. We went later in the evening to avoid the traffic as we both feared the speed that Big Blue would climb the coastal hill on Highway 1. This is the curvy part of US 1 that you always see in the tour books (like Big Sur, only less killer drop-off).

Big Blue took the hill in second gear (max 20mph) with an occasional flat out run of 3rd gear (guess 35mph) but all in all, it wasn't bad. We had to move over about 4 times to let cars by but it was a lot less hassle than we feared.

Bolinas, a little surf town just to the north of Stinson Beach, a more popular destination, is well hidden from the tourists, and that's the way they like it. There are rumors of them spiking the road with nails to keep tourists out, and there is no sign for the turn-off to the town since the people kept tearing it down until CalTrans finally gave up (one sign hangs hidden in Coast Cafe). All this anti-tourism usually isn't thrown against us as we do a pretty good job of fitting in to places like this - and I thought Big Blue would help.

But our last few times at Bolinas have been weird experiences - the people seem to be a bit rougher and a bit more drug-induced. While the home owners are increasingly rich San Fran folks (One of the owners in the company I work for has a 2nd home there), the beach bums and bar flys seem to be more downtrodden. On this trip, we parked Big Blue away from the downtown and walked to Smiley's for a drink. The bar was rocking with a pretty good Irish/ska-type band, but the people outside the bar were very strange (not in a cool NorCal way, but a follow you into a dark alley and take your pants sort-of way). When we left, a stumbling woman followed us for a block before we sat down and waited for her to wander off. After that, we went back to Blue, locked him up and tried to get a decent night sleep.


SATURDAY
We awoke to a car pulling up behind us. Not sure of the legalities, we stayed quiet as more and more surfers pulled in around us and were waxing their boards. I pulled back the curtain a bit, wiped off the moisture (it had gotten quite cold that night) that had collected on the insides of Big Blue's windows and saw, parked directly behind me, the customized MINI that Mike Shine, the owner of the agency I work at, drives. Mike wasn't around when I got out, but I must think that I am possibly the only person in the world who has slept in a VW Bus and woken up to his boss's boss waxing a surfboard next to him...

Big Blue parked in front of Mike Shine's MINI.

Big Blue covered in frost Saturday morning.

We didn't waste much time getting on the road and heading north up US1. Taking us through towns like Point Reyes Station, where we had an excellent breakfast, Marshall, Inverness, Tomales, Valley Ford, Bodega Bay (where Hitchcock filmed The Birds), Jenner, Sea Ranch, Gualala (home of author Denis Johnson), and, finally, Point Arena (rumored to be the biggest pot producing area in America), where we would cut off. This ride takes you right along the lesser traveled coast where the views are beautiful and the highway has cattle guards.
Brett paying respects to Big Blue along Highway 1.

At Point Arena, we turned away from the Pacific and headed up over the mountain range to come down into Anderson Valley. On that climb we would go near Buck Peak and over Sugerloaf and Dry Bridge Mountain and Big Blue would spend most of the 30+ miles in 2nd and 3rd gear. Not something to overlook is that the ride down moves about as slow as the climb up.
Big Blue meets a tree bigger than him at Indian Creek Campground.

The floor of Anderson Valley is vineyards and orchards. Boonville, the unofficial "hub" is home to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company and every year they hold a big beer festival in the summer. As before, we found a spot at Indian Creek Campground ($10) and headed into Boonville, to the brewery, for some cold beer and, a first for us, disc golf. Now, I know what you are thinking, VW bus, microbrew and disc golf? What are we, deadheads in or senior year of college? Maybe, and it is a ton of fun.

Getting ready for some disc golf at Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

After wrecking my sweater trying to climb through an electric fence and then watching a pig get attacked by a pit bull (whole other stories for another time), we headed back to our site and found out that we had the entire park to ourselves. We were able to pull Big Blue right up to the campfire, which is dream-like camping for me.

Three great things: EP, campfire and Big Blue.

Big Blue at our campsite Sunday morning.

SUNDAY
Awake early. We never really know what time it is when we are camping and Big Blue has neither a clock nor a radio, so that is cut-off. If our phones are off, we are at the whims of ourselves and nature. We leave the site to go to the Philo Apple Farm. And the rain starts coming down.

The apple stand is cash only (note for future travels) but we load up on organic apples and fresh made cider - great stuff. And then off to Boonville again for some breakfast at the Boonville General Store (not a store at all, but great local foods and a great breakfast). Then, heading east out of Boonville we come to the Yorkville wineries - only 3 - so we try 2. The first is Maple Creek Winery. While a wonderful drive up the hill to the tasting room and the artwork on the label is great, the wine is not so good. The 2nd winery, Yorkville Cellars, proves a delight - with wonderful atmosphere, a great person pouring (Dave?) and great wines (we walk out with the Malbec and a sweet Malbec, a dessert wine).

We turn Big Blue south onto US 101 outside of Cloverdale - the rain is coming down pretty good now and Blue handles fine in the rain (seeing speeds of 60 mph!). We are headed home.

All in all, a great weekend filled with tons of good times. This is exactly why we wanted Big Blue, to take us out of our elements a little - to give us camping spots without reservations, and to bring new experiences along the way. Well done, Blue. Well done.

Our route.

1 comments:

The Frog

Looks like Big Blue was a champ on Hwy 1! I am still trying to talk Peter into getting a friend for Big Blue. Can you put a Ferrari engine in a VW bus?

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