Good Morning. It is Tuesday, Dec. 20 and I am sitting at our Langley table watching the snow hypnotically add inches of white fluff to the deck. Our Saratoga Passage is made invisible by low and pregnant clouds. Bill is keeping the suet and seed feeders filled for the winged nation members outside who puff up their down feathers on this 27° dark day.
We returned home last Friday after nine weeks on the road with Marion and Beatrix. One of the hardest things getting used to is all the space and too much stuff. It took 48 hours to decompress after our arrival back to1,600 square feet on Morning Glory Lane. We were in the habit of living with Marion’s less than 90 square feet of cozy bed and kitchen space. And that felt like plenty.
Meanwhile, we are grateful to the couple who stayed here caring for Ollie, our fish, and our home, even in the face of a five-day power outage. Today we are grateful for heat and light, indoor toilets and showers, and the return to our amazing people on Whidbey. Visiting with friends Rob and Leslie last night, brought home our appreciation of island life. Our Ollie cat is helping me edit this story at the moment, ensuring I don’t get too distracted.
We left our New Brighton State Beach campsite in Santa Cruz Dec. 7, following a last visit to the beach with its views of Monterey Bay, the pelican squadrons, the yellow and black Townsend warblers, and the barking sea lions. Love the vibe and ocean energy here.
We drove up along the wild coast along Hwy. 1 and eventually crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, always a thrill—both for its craftsmanship, and its portal to another of California’s gems—Mill Valley.
I feel completely in tune here. As if my creativity can skyrocket and anything can happen. We parked Beatrix and Marion near downtown. Walking, we bought lunch and that night’s dinner from the deli at the Mill Valley Market. It’s a friendly and local place with good simple food. Then we strolled to Equator Coffees for espresso and people watching. Bought Christmas gifts at Depot Cafe and Bookstore, whose patio looks out on the town square. A couple we know and love had their first date there. I tell you, juju flows strong through me in Mill Valley.
Before leaving, we popped into Waldscraft Bakery, a little heavenly closet of a place, and I said, “Hallelujah.” For there was a loaf of bread made with seeds and nuts and it was GF. As you know from reading our travel blogs, it is Bill’s mission to visit the best bread places and I vicariously write about his devotion. This time, I enjoyed slices of bread for the following week. A rare experience.
It was raining when we pulled into the parking lot of the Jack London Lodge, located in Glen Ellen, a small Sonoma County town. We had cancelled a camping reservation at nearby Sugarloaf State Park due to the predicted rainstorm. The campground is located up a remote canyon with no hookups, wifi or cell service. We didn’t want to chance being caught there should a landslide happen in the canyon.
Our room was clean and looked out into the forest along Sonoma Creek. Good to have indoor plumbing and reliable wifi, where I wrote Chapter 8. We brought in Marion’s rugs to give the place a homey feel. We visited Marion, where Bill reheated dinner bought in Mill Valley. Our room recliners allowed us to kick back and watch streamed movies from our iPad. We were impressed with Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline’s acting in the film, The Good House, about a small town realtor descended from Salem witches. She worked in a new found high end housing market and couldn’t say no to alcohol.
When the rain let up, we sat in the lodge’s hot tub. Its waters were warm and made our skin feel silky.
Ever since 1990, we tried to move to Sonoma County, where we were wooed from the start by its rural, creative landscape and excellent food. In 1998 Bill was offered a job with a geotech company, but we couldn’t find any available rentals. Then our friends, the Schaals, moved to Whidbey, where we visited them in 1999, and later moved to Langley in 2000. Sonoma County continued her connection with us. We returned once a year to camp there.
Our daughter Gillian attended the Whidbey Island Waldorf School our first September, where we met Christl Shreier and her daughter Francisca. They have lived in Sonoma County off and on since moving from Whidbey and we’ve remained friends the past 22+ years. Francisca has a pair of wonderful young children now. Finding housing unaffordable, they left California Dec. 15 to start a new life in Arkansas. We wish them all the best and will miss our annual CA visits and plan a road trip in the future to see them. Before they left, we met at the East West Cafe in Santa Rosa, where Christl treated us for lunch, followed by a visit to the nearby park where the kids played.
Years ago, Christl introduced us to a woman, Angela Morgan, she knew from the Summerfield Waldorf School. We stayed at Angela’s Glen Ellen home and met her neighbors Margie and Ritch Foster. We then stayed at the Fosters, caring for their Golden Retrievers and chickens when they were away traveling. We saw them last in 2012. The Fosters and the Morgans were lucky their homes were untouched in the fire that devastated Glen Ellen and Santa Rosa in October 2017.
Last October I sent a postcard to Margie and Ritch, letting them know we would be in their area in early December. Margie reached out through theThis is Whidbey site and said they’d love to see us. We caught up on the past ten years of our lives Saturday Dec. 10. Margie and Ritch took us for lunch at the Nepalese restaurant Yeti, whose food is inspired by love and its interior with Tibetan Buddhist art. Later we sat in their living room catching up. The couple is extraordinarily gracious and kind and we were glad to rekindle our friendship.
We learned that following the 2017 fire, Margie and Ritch bought three travel trailers, installed portable wastewater containers, hooked up plumbing and electric to provide three local families housing for the following two years. The families have since returned to their rebuilt properties.
While visiting Glen Ellen, we drove to Santa Rosa and the Russian River Brewing Company to buy a couple of bottles of Pliney the Elder beer. Our friend and former neighbor Bert Guenther loves this beer. We would deliver it personally to him when we stayed at the home he shares with his wife Beth along the Oregon Coast.
Since we’ve been visiting the past three decades, downtown Santa Rosa has become a magnet for the extremely down and out folks who line the streets asking for hand outs. With housing so expensive, some folks have become homeless and depressed. We gave some bills to a blind man playing his keyboard and singing outside a Starbucks.
We cancelled camping in the redwoods for Sunday night Dec. 11. The state park warned us of possible flooding. New friends Ruth and Jack Dunlap invited us to stay with them at their Sebastopol home. They had just returned from a trip to Spain and Portugal days before. They are a connection through our friend Christl Shreier, and the Waldorf School community. We house sat for them last December at the end of that year’s road trip.
Before visiting Ruth and Jack, we stopped at Wildflour Bread in rural Freestone. It is one of Bill’s top sacred bread temples. We bought a loaf for Ruth as well and drove to Bodega Head on the coast. The wind whipped waves into tall spray. We love the wild feeling of the sea, and plan to camp here in the future.
The weather cleared for a little bit at 3 PM. where we parked at Bodega Head. I stood out at the head and looked out at the pounding charcoal gray surf. Bull kelp floated in the troughs of the crashing waves. A tall bearded man with a silver earring and a yellow cap and blue shoes and camo fleece pants smoked a joint next to me while his friend took a photo of him framed by the crashing surf. Wish you were there to share this sight with me.
Next a smokey-voiced woman walked up. We watched as a fishing boat rode the peaks and valleys of the waves, occasionally becoming engulfed as she hopefully navigated to the safety of the nearby marina. The woman shouted over the wind she couldn’t bear to watch the boat any longer, and walked away. The sun came out for just a little moment and lit the ice plant on the hills beautiful shades of orange and purple.
That night we ate yummy grilled maple pork sausage we bought from Panizzera Meat Co. in Occidental. Ruth fixed a great salad of local greens. We sat around telling stories around their cozy table.
The following morning it was 36° at 8 AM when we left Ruth and Jack’s comfortable home. As we pulled away, we said how easy it is to be with them. Ruth said they’d like to travel with us in the future.
Stopping for lunch at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, it was cold and misty. We hugged a redwood tree and drove on to the Ramblin’ Redwoods RV Park north of Crescent City.
Ramblin’ and rough is what I call it here. It took us several tries to get the trailer parked so that she was decently level. When it came to plugging in the stove and heater, the fuse blew, either in the trailer or at the plug in site. We switched to gas for the stove and furnace. It was nearly 7:30 PM, cold and damp, and the hangries had come roaring in a while before.
Still, we were grateful for a heater in the women’s bathroom—it was broken in the men’s and the camp manager told us “corporate didn’t want to pay for fixing it during the slow business days of winter.” She also mentioned not worrying when the siren sounded. “It’s not a tsunami or a prison break,” she told us, “Just a call to our ER volunteers.” Pelican Bay State Prison is nearby.
While I was in one of the bathroom stalls, a woman came in and sat down in another stall and lit up a cigarette. Soon the air smelled like an old bar. Back in Marion we admitted this was a challenging night and were grateful for all the days of warmth and color we had just experienced. The redwood trees here are impressive and acted as a buffer to the rough accommodations.
We left the following morning in 37° temperatures and a cloudless sky. Stopped for late breakfast at The Spoon 2.0, a cozy trailer-turned breakfast and lunch diner along the Oregon Coast in the tiny town of Langlois. The food was delicious.The diner’s new owner is Ciaran Fraser.
“I spent 16 years in the restaurant business,” she told us. “I wrote a business plan when this place, the Greasy Spoon, was for sale. The story wrote itself. We opened last June.”
While at The Spoon 2.0, we talked with Dennis Bowman, who bought the Langlois Cheese Factory and turned it into a community arts venue. He said he grew up here and likes the close-knit community.
Early that evening we pulled in to the Benton Oaks RV Campground in Corvallis. Run by the county fairgrounds, we’ve been camping there since 2013 when we first bought Marion. We enjoyed dinner with our daughter Gillian that night. So good to see her.
The following morning, it was 30° outside and our car was iced over. Walking to the clean and heated bathroom, I admired the song of the Acorn Woodpeckers in the nearby oaks. We ate lunch with Gilli at Eats & Treats Cafe, a dedicated GF eatery. We had discovered it the past October when we started our road trip. The food is delicious. What a treat to eat a pulled pork sandwich.
Later we visited Beggs Tires & Wheel, where Gilli works. The owner Luke Beggs brings a lot of character to the place. His hunting dogs Griffin, Oliver, Mesa and Poppy greeted us from his office. I don’t think Oliver is a hunter, though he is full of personality. Meanwhile, Luke has sold his business to Les Schwab Tires, which takes over in January. Gilli told us the crew that is there now will remain. She loves the community and camaraderie at Beggs. When we were out in town, she recognized cars and trucks whose tires she’s changed. She has gotten to know quite a few folks through her trade. Later we walked with her dog Cocoa, who joyously chased sticks at an open space park in Corvallis.
We left Corvallis Thursday Dec. 15 and drove up the coast. Stopping in Pacific City at Grateful Bread Bakery, Bill ordered delicious breakfast and I ordered freshly caught fish tacos. It was a clear and beautiful morning.
We made another stop at Canon Beach, where we stretched our legs walking along the beach and waved to Santa Claus sitting above us on a bluff. We arrived at Bert and Beth’s late that afternoon. A herd of elk grazed nearby. Bert reports the elk graze on everything, including their garden plants.
Bert and Beth welcomed us with good cheer and a delicious dinner of pumpkin soup. We watched the first episodes of Amazon’s Three Pines in the comfort of their living room. The first two episodes were spell-binding.
Waking up before 6 AM, we decided to leave before our friends woke up, and get a good start to avoid the Tacoma and Seattle traffic. We texted Bert and Beth, thanking them for their hospitality, just as the sun was rising in Astoria.
Saturday morning we woke up to very dark skies and even our cat Ollie sat in front of our Happy Light. We bought a Christmas tree from the Rotary at Bayview. It was freshly cut and scents our home. It is decorated with ornaments I inherited from my parents, along with ornaments made when our kids were little.
Now the snow has stopped falling. The sun is out and Camano Island has re-appeared from the clouds. We will go for a walk and crunch around in the newly fallen snow,
We wish you peaceful days and enjoyment of the simple things. —Bajada Bill and Cactus Kate
Welcome back Kate and Bill. Love your adventures.
They help us realize what a wonderful world we have.