Getting There

Back when I lived in San Francisco, I wrote a post about my walk home from work. It was a beautiful walk through a beautiful city. Sometimes I still miss living there, but it’s more like I can’t believe I ever lived there than wanting to live there now. Even if I did, I’m priced out of the market: the average one bedroom apartment rents for $3,500 a month. And you can pay up to $50,000. A month.

I thought it might be fun for you to come along with me on my long drive to the Big Town. So settle back into Wednesday’s lovely leather seats, pray that no lights appear on the dashboard, get ready for some tunes, and let’s go!

Yes, the dirt/gravel driveway is in horrible shape, and you can feel the wheels cringe as you bounce and jolt your way down it. On the bright side, there is currently a tree covered with a cloud of white flowers arching over it in a splendidly bowery manner.

The Ridge is slightly better, especially once you pass the firehouse and get to the part that was paved in honor of Jim and Joel’s wedding last summer. Coming around a curve, the trees part, and you have a panoramic view of the Pacific. I never get tired of this reveal, and it’s where I try to gauge the weather for the day: white caps heralding storms, how far out to sea the fog is, etc. Sometimes you’ll see a migrating whale or a fishing boat. In any season and in all weathers, it’s always beautiful and always changing:

On your left is a field with happy cows and horses grazing peacefully among the elegant barn buildings. Yes, a barn can be elegant! At sunset, the field is suffused with pink. Across the street is beautiful downtown Hooterville, home of the post office, hardware store, and the Gro, its beating heart.

When you reach Highway 1, you turn left to go to the city and right to go to the Big Town. You cross the iconic Hooterville bridge:

the first of many – and pass a field of llamas across from a fancy inn, over a hill and you’re at Dark Gulch, where the trees provide eternal shade. You follow the curves past a resort and reach one of my favorite parts of the drive: a steep curve bordered by tall eucalyptus trees, which create a magical golden light when it’s sunny. There’s a peek of ocean beyond.

More curves and you pass the lovely cemetery with its walk to the ocean – not a bad place to spend eternity. Then the little town with the deli and inn (celebrating 75 years this year) with the bar which Megan and I enjoy so much. Around another curve is a beach beloved by kayakers and divers. Coming home, the descent to that beach is my absolutely favorite view, and on the way to work, I keep peeking at the view in the rearview mirror.

The highway more or less straightens out after that. You pass a beautiful Victorian house, now draped with wisteria, across from another field bordering the ocean, and soon you’ll get your first sight of the Village, perched dramatically on a long rocky finger jutting into the ocean. It looks like a postcard:

You arrive at the first traffic light of the drive, the last one before you arrive in the Big Town, home of the jobette, the Safeway, DMV, and other necessary but non-scenic places. I often think of it as the Ellsworth to the Village’s Bar Harbor.

On the way home, I often pass the Cal Trans prisoner work crews heading back to prison. I always wave at them, even though it’s not very likely they can see me behind the barred windows. But I’m thankful for their work clearing brush and other wildfire dangers from the sides of the highway, and I think it’s a great idea to give the prisoners a meaningful job to do as well as getting them outside for a few hours. Win-win as far as I’m concerned.

And there you have it! Maybe it’s a little long, but it’s a lot better than gridlocked traffic on a freeway. As a visiting writer for the Village Voice put it, “If I had guts, I would move to Mendocino County, California…During the summer, tourists flock to the wineries and the town serves as a popular seaside retreat. When winter arrives, it feels as empty as an abandoned fishing village off the coast of Newfoundland. It takes guts to survive, but the lifestyle payoff is enormous.”

I couldn’t agree more.