Visiting the Northern Coast on our Summer Road Trip
I love a summer road trip that includes sweaters. When I was younger and tanner, my favorite outfit was short shorts and an oversized cable knit.
Living in California introduced me to cool night breezes along the coast, even after a scorcher of a day, and I loved it. It was the opposite of Georgia summers where sweltering heat can last all night.
Much of the year, that feeling can be had on a road trip along California’s northern coastline. This drive through the hills and curves of the northern stretch of Pacific Coast Highway may have been my favorite of the entire trip.
After diverting slightly inland from our PCH trip, southern edition, we continued our road trip by skirting San Pablo Bay and making two brief stops in Napa and Sonoma. Both areas were hard hit by fires in 2017, but the rolling vine-covered hills look normal again and there are a number of great restaurants serving excellent food.
In the early days of the COVID pandemic, Chef Thomas Keller of the famous French Laundry restaurant in nearby Yountville, began serving up delicious meals by way of Instagram. He partnered with Farmer Lee Jones and local purveyors to sell fresh-ingredient meal kits and conduct home cooking classes on IG Live. His primary goal was to support the small suppliers that he relied on for his gourmet creations. These days, his personal website leads with donation requests for his Feed it Forward project, which is designed to help restaurant staff in need.
Chef Keller’s dishes include artistic vegetable presentations with names like Oysters and Pearls and White Yam Hummus , as well as tasting menus for omnivores. Before the coronavius, the wait for a reservation could be months.
From Napa, we headed up the Sonoma Coast to Bodega Bay, a moody little inlet town that was the site of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1963 film, “The Birds.”
I can’t say for certain that “The Birds” was the inspiration for SmithHönig’s popular Ravenswood pattern. But aren’t those crows dramatic?
“The Birds” is a kitschy, dramatic and totally fun-filled horror extravaganza. I’ve dressed as the main character “Melanie” for Halloween, more than once. In the film she’s played by Tippi Hedren, mother of actress Melanie Griffith and grandmother to Dakota Johnson and Stella Banderas.
The trip from Bodega Bay to Stewarts Point is one of the most beautiful hour-long drives in the world. Stewarts Point General Store is a great place for breakfast, snacks or general provisioning – and it’s one of very few pit stops for miles.
Here, you can experience the continent’s edge, as you peer out over the Pacific, salt wind flipping through your hair. Inside the store is Two Fish Bakery, renowned for freshly baked bread, muffins, cookies and good espresso.
Our splurge stay for this part of the journey was Timber Cove Resort, a rustic-modern hotel on 23 acres of rugged California coastline. It’s a bit like being at summer camp, with no early revelies or lights-out rules. The scale of the place makes you feel small. The decor features huge, two-story timber beams and simple plaid blankets on the beds. It was designed in 1963 by owner/architect Richard Clements, and meant to be a place of meditation and tranquility. Years later, it still delivers.
Walking along the pristine coastline clears the spirit. The Bufano Peace Statue Monument, soaring 93 feet above the coastline, is an ode to peace and mental clarity. It was created by Clements’ friend, San Francisco artist Benjamin Bufano. Other artists, including Ansel Adams, have been drawn to this place, too.
The sunsets are breathtaking…each one unique.
Timber Cove Resort makes sure you have simple, late summer entertainment well into the night, with a huge fire pit…
…and fun s’mores kits that evoke memories of romantic bonfires on the beach.
The world slows down. The stars are at their brightest. Add in a couple of glasses of local Cabernet, and you’ve achieved summer evening perfection.
The amenities and laid-back vibes of Timber Cove make it hard to leave – and I’d head back in a heartbeat.
We packed up our bags and headed out toward Point Arena, for a view of the iconic lighthouse and another walk in the invigorating coastal air.
Mendocino is a quaint seaside village with a population of about 850 people, but its location and scenery have made it a popular tourist destination and artists’ colony.
It’s a site of historic ship wrecks, a burgeoning timber industry and a well-known music festival. The town was settled by New Englanders, Chinese immigrants and Portuguese fishermen in the 1850s. There’s even a historic Taoist temple.
One of the most intriguing sites is the statue at the top of the old Masonic Lodge. Carved entirely from a solid block of redwood, it features Father Time braiding a young woman’s hair.
Finally, we were back in the car and headed to our next destination, with a stay at the Benbow Historic Inn, at the edge of the giant redwood forests.
But more about that, when our 19,000 mile road trip across America continues…next Thursday.