Home sweet home

little river, ca

I am back in our home office as I write this wrap-up entry. We made it home yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, making good time from Paso Robles. We left Crescent City and drove to Eureka where we met up with our friend Jack who has had a temp job there for the past few months. We have done some work in Eureka, but this trip opened our eyes to how neat that whole area is – there are lots of charming, picturesque little towns all over the coast there: Patricks Point, Trinidad, Loleta were just a few. We stayed in Eureka, but in retrospect it would have been nice to stay in one of those smaller towns, a little less hectic (I know, Eureka is hectic?! But after a week on the Oregon coast it really DID seem hectic!).

drive-thru redwoodFrom Eureka we headed down the coast to Mendocino (neither of us had ever been) via Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Redwoods National Park.We drove the Avenue of the Giants, which is lost longer than the 15-mile route we expected (31 miles, actually) and took us a few hours to travel as we had to stop and take pics of the magnificent redwood trees and views along the way. And I now have a lot of respect for all of our running friends who have run the Avenue of the Giants Marathon. We didn’t find Bigfoot in the redwoods but we did find a drive-thru tree which was so commercialized that it was almost charming (and cost us $8).

The Mendocino coast is as breathtaking as we had heard, but Mendocino the town is an odd mix of rich people and beach bums/hippies from what we saw. We opted not to stay in Mendocino and headed just a bit further down the coast to Little River and the Cottages at Little River Cove. There are 11 cottages – they are (all, I think) one bedroom one bath, pet friendly cottages that can handle 2-4 guests. All of the cottages have spectacular views of the ocean and coast. Little River is small (like one gas station and a deli mart) and is not very walkable (unless you want to dodge traffic on Highway 1). We went back to Mendocino to se a bit more of the town and find a market and discovered that it’s not a very dog-friendly town. Lots of notices about not leaving your pet tied up outside businesses, very little patio  dining (that we saw anyway) – stuff like that. So we went back to Little River and grilled steaks and enjoyed the lovely view.

We continued down the coast in the morning and had breakfast in Elk, CA at Queenie’s Roadhouse Cafe. Elk was recommended to us as a place not to miss, and it really was neat – I thought it was actually homier and more small town than either Mendocino or Little River. We picked up Highway 128 and cut across to the 101 – a scenic wroad that took us by the Meyer Family Winery where we stopped and Maggie got to play off leash with a couple of dogs and we shared a wine tasting. We had thought about spending time in the Healdsburg area but we were also ready to get home so passed by Geyserville, Healdsburg, etc and spent the night in Petaluma before pushing on to Paso Robles. We visited a couple of wineries along Highway 46 (there are over 300 wineries in the Paso Robles area now!) and the next morning made our final push home.

We had a great time – not what we expected but I guess that’s what makes road trips so wonderful – things don’t always go as you planned and new opportunities sideline best laid plans. We loved Canada and if the weather had been better would have spent more time there, but if we had done that we would have missed the Oregon coast and the lighthouses – and they were a treat! We didn’t get to do any camping (between too much heat and too much wet, cold weather we never caught a break) which was too bad (we lugged all that gear over 4,000 miles, oh well!). But we stayed in some charming hotels (Whitefish, Banff, Raymond, Bandon) and met some great folks along the way. We also encountered some folks in Oregon who had a 19-foot long Hymer Aktiv van and had a long conversation about it. Synopsis: they love it and have driven across country with two dogs and had no issues. If we keep taking road trips, that seems like a really interesting option, versus traveling by car OR getting some behemoth travel trailer or RV. There are lots of RV parks where RVs can go and they seem to more often than not have space for spontaneous travelers but many don’t have space for tent camping. And then there’s the weather thing – we just aren’t foul weather tent campers. National park and state park campground space is next to impossible to snag unless you plan well ahead (that was certainly our experience this trip where we went through popular parks like Glacier and Redwoods). It gives you the flexibility to sleep/live in the van and it’s short enough that it can be parked in a driveway and can handle any/all roads and campgrounds.

maggie in oregonTraveling with Maggie was easier this year. She was one year older and it made a big difference. She’s a decent traveler – now she can make it through the night without having to go potty (most of the time) and can handle longer days in the car (though we still tried to stop every two hours to let everybody stretch their legs). We sampled the dog parks in every state and almost all were great – again, I am underwhelmed by our dog parks here in Long Beach. We were again struck by how few open spaces (national and state parks) allow dogs on the trails in the United States. I understand on one hand (safety, wild animals, badly behaved pets) their concern, but on the other it’s a real buzzkill. Canada doesn’t have those limitations (dogs are welcome on almost all trails and in all parks) and everybody seems to handle it okay, but them’s the rules. On the hotel front, La Quinta Inn & Suites is our current favorite dog friendly chain – reasonably priced, no pet fees, free breakfast, decent wifi. Our only gripe was that there weren’t more of them!

On reflection I think this will be our last long road trip with Maggie. Our old dog Mia was a true vagabond – she’d have driven around the world in the car without a problem. Maggie is more of a homebody who likes her place and her stuff. Constant change is more stressful for her. We thought being one year older would make her a bit more adventurous, but we’ve come to understand that she’s a shy dog who likes to be home around all the things she is comfortable with. That’s just who she is and we need to respect that.

And that, as they say, is that. Or maybe, and then they lived happily ever after. Or something along those lines. 🙂

Pics here.