Day 16, October 26, 1997: Eureka to Fort Bragg, CA

If I were to become really pretentious and start adding subtitles to these messages, today would have to be "The road less traveled". Gawd, what a tiring messy day! I started out fine leaving Eureka early because of the time change, headed south, found my first turnoff and then things quickly got stressful.

My route called for me to go through Ferndale, a nice little Victorian (yes that word again) town which has a real sense of its own history. Nothing pushy about them, it is just there for you to look at as you wish. Leaving Ferndale, I was supposed to go to a town called Petrolia. If you look for it on a map and are lucky enough to find it, you'll notice that it is really near nothing else and that is not stretching the point. The road between the two towns is about the twistiest turningest pieces of work I've ever seen; about enough to induce motion sickness in a mummy. I'd estimate that the longest straight stretch for 30 miles was about 30 yards. The road follows ridges through rolling terrain and rises and falls several thousand feet to boot; my ears were popping through the entire thing. There were some truly stunning views as reward along the way including a stretch of road that traverses the loneliest stretch of Pacific beach I've ever seen; it was just me and a few score cattle for miles. Petrolia has a fantastic remote beach that would be heavenly for those wanting to camp in seclusion although getting there is a bit of a pain.

I got to a point where the route the computer was calling for was impossible due to road washouts. The previous road had a few places where one lane of the road had disappeared down a gully but the next stretch was completely gone in places. For that reason, I had to ad lib a bit (and yes I did get a bit lost in backtracking through these unmarked roads even with a GPS) and that took me in a round-about way to my destination on the coast: Shelter Cove. Well, it turns out that this town is a real treasure but so far away from anything that it is amazing it is able to exist. It appears to be very prosperous community with beautiful homes and all that but since it is 20 miles of frightful road from the nearest highway the fact that it exists seems a miracle. (as an example, the only place in town to buy gasoline sells it for almost $2.00 a gallon) Shelter Cove has its own secluded beaches like Petrolia as well as major coastal hiking trails and the biggest bunch of pelicans I've ever seen.

Things quieted down a bit after I left Shelter Cove and, for virtually the first time today, knew precisely where I had to go: back to 101 and look for the turnoff for route 1 on the coast. The road down to the coast was another sick-maker like the one to Petrolia but in better condition (not even once did it slide down the cliff ). Getting to the coast was a great relief in any case and the drive down to Fort Bragg was trivial. I remember this town as the place I wound up on Thanksgiving Day of 197? after my first cross-country drive. It has grown quite a bit since then and I wouldn't have recognized it from my old memories. In any case it has motels, restaurants, supermarkets, and a car wash so my needs were met.

Picture of the day is along the previously mentioned stretch of solitary beach between Ferndale and Petrolia. The whole section of the coast north of the Mendocino is called the "Lost Coast" and the reason is clear to me now. There is almost no way to get to the coast by highway and when you manage to make it you are likely to find yourself alone.

Tomorrow, I will probably wind up on the El Camino Real in the Silicon Valley near where I used to live. I really love to go techno-shopping and you would be hard pressed to find a better place to do it. Besides there is this really fantastic Afghani restaurant I know of...

Thus goes our 12,000-mile tour of the edge of the USA.


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