Friday, June 18, 2021

California's Northern Coast: Big Elk and Mysterious Trees

After a sketchy overnight in Eureka, it was a relief to just drive away and head north. Giving up on the Clarion Hotel, my searching found just two accessible rooms in the area with roll-in showers that would accommodate the three of us available for the Days Inn in neighboring Arcata and at an Indian casino a few miles up into the hills. Both had two queen beds but, after our night on the coast, I thought the casino would be a better choice.

Watch the Video!

I booked the reservation and then we continued on with our plans with just a change in destination for the night.

The farther north we go on highway 101, the more remote everything becomes. Trees, many of them giant coastal redwoods, crowd in making this major highway into a two lane mountain road.

Near the small town of Orick, my wife looks out the side on a curve, "Hey, look at all of those goats."

I glance over, "those aren't goats, they're elk."

I pull over and we take some time to enjoy the view of these magnificent animals. Roosevelt Elk are very common in this area and it's not too hard to find a herd.

It's back on the road to our ultimate destination. Just past the town of Klamath, we pull into a large parking lot guarded by giant fiberglass effigies of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe.

You'll be happy to know that Babe is anatomically correct.

We've arrived at the Trees of Mystery, a classic, kitschy roadside attraction designed to pull tourists off the highway and dollars out of their wallets. You know...the kind of place I just can't resist.

The attraction consists of a half-mile trail through the redwoods and some creative signs saying why the trees are weirder than normal (they're not but it's a way to learn about how these giants grow).

At the end of the trail, a gondola will take you to the top of the mountain, where you can access an observation deck and restrooms. The gondola, deck, and restrooms are all fully accessible for standard wheelchairs. Large, bariatric wheelchairs and most scooters will not fit in the gondolas.

At the end of it all, of course, is a giant sized souvenir shop to satisfy all your tochke needs.

The trail is not officially wheelchair accessible. It is flat, with no steps, but a bit steep at times. An accessible shuttle will take you upon request from the parking lot to the bottom of the gondola.

You can go on the trail with a wheelchair...we did with Tim's power chair with no problem...but you will be required to sign a waiver first (a very possible ADA violation but...).

It's a gorgeous walk up the mountain, full of shady trees and fern covered grottoes.

Trees that grow sideways, trees that kids can crawl under...

...and cathedrals of redwoods.

At the end of the trail, we get on the gondola.

The operator folds up a bench for Tim and he rolls right in.

It takes seven minutes to reach the top.

We go up and spend some time on the observation deck, taking pictures and enjoying the view.

Behind the restrooms, a more serious (and non-accessible trail) winds down the mountain. You are asked to inform the lift operator before you attempt this trail. Free walking sticks are provided, and you are warned about the areas more exotic inhabitants with big feet.

Taking the staff's advice, we ride the shuttle back down to the parking lot.

A few minutes in the gift shop and then we're heading back down the coast.  Let's see how our new room time.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Some photos courtesy of Letty Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 14, 2021

Up on the Cannabis Coast: Eureka, California

We're trying to get our travel groove back here at The World on Wheels. After our move, it's been a bit difficult to do. I think part of it is when you move to your favorite vacation spot, everything else pales in comparison.

Now that we're 350 miles farther north than we used to be, Northern California destinations are a lot closer than they used to be. Instead of a 12 hour drive, the Eureka coast area is only 6 hours. Seems like a good time to give it a try.

Along the coast in this part of California, prices can be prohibitive. In San Francisco, it is very easy to spend over $500 per night and just a basic room with a private bath will be around $200 per night but the farther away from the city you get, the cheaper the rooms get.

The Clarion Hotel in Eureka seems to have the right price and amenities to serve as a base of operations for a four-day trip to the northern coast. It's 270 miles north of San Francisco via highway 101.

After leaving Interstate 5 in Williams,  we skirt along the edge of Clear Lake. The lake is the largest natural lake in California (Lake Tahoe is bigger but a third of that lake sits in Nevada). It's also considered to be the oldest lake in North America.

There are a few little resort towns along the shore that cater to boaters and fishermen. Some have definitely seen better days.  About 20 years ago, we took Tim for a day at a waterpark on the south shore that has faded away in the intervening years.

The winding shoreline keeps our speed down, explaining the main reason this 330 mile drive is taking over six hours.

On the other side of the lake, we end up in Ukiah, where we meet up with the 101, which is a freeway at this point. At some points, where the redwoods crowd in, the freeway will narrow down to a slow, two lane road. Eventually, we come out on the coast and get to the city of Eureka, which is the county seat of Humboldt County.

If you're not aware, Humboldt has long been the capital of California cannabis culture with a laid-back lifestyle that's been attracting stoners since before I was in high school. Now that it's legal, it's in the open and very prevalent.

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop with pot here...there are addicts of every stripe on the streets of this town. We see people doing drugs, changing clothes in the street, relieving themselves, and more. It's not a pretty sight but we hope things will be OK as our hotel is at the edge of town and it appears to be pretty nice.

We go down to the waterfront to have dinner at Cafe Waterfront. Eureka has a few dozen gorgeous Victorian buildings, this is one of them. A former brothel, the Cafe now specializes in fresh seafood from Humboldt Bay.

My wife takes advantage of this to have a delicious scallop scampi.

I'm not such a seafood lover so I have the day's special meatloaf while Tim goes with his go-to seafood dish of fish 'n chips.

After dinner, we take a walk along the boardwalk among the cars parked with occupants getting high. A few of them greet us, none really bother us.

Back at the hotel, we observe a person living in their car, changing in the street as we go in our room. We find out the temperature is very warm and the air conditioner is not working. Of course, this is the only room with a roll-in shower available.

Our only option is to leave the window open to let in the cool sea air. Not something I really want to do in this sketchy neighborhood. I rig up some wooden hangars from the closet to keep the window from opening too far.

It's a restless night and I complain to the front desk when we eat breakfast. The maintenance guy looks at the air conditioner and says it can't be fixed today. Fine, we'll check out and leave this disappointing town anyway.

We pack up. I have our van backed up to our room door. I load our suitcase, I turn around to grab another bag, I turn back to put it in. There's a guy reeking of pot with a bottle of booze in the hood of his sweater going through the open door of our van.

I confront him and yell at him. He's says he's 'hotel security' but know I don't buy it and he jumps on a bike and starts to ride away.

I yell at him "give me back what you stole," and chase him. He stops and I check our things. Once I'm satisfied that we've got everything valuable, I let him go.

Hotel management apologizes and gives me $40 off our room rate.

We get in the car and get the hell out of Eureka.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Cocktail Hour - A Trio of Tripels

It's another stop on the wide world of beer as Tim and I put three tripels to the test. A tripel (or triple, or trippel...depeding on how the brewery wants to spell it) is simply defined as a Belgian strong ale.

Why tripel? It's hard to pin down. My research points up to two reasonable explanations...

Watch the Video!

1. It's got more alcohol than a dubbel, which has more than a regular ale. Legend has it that this is where the "X" in describing alcohol. A keg of Belgian ale would have an "X" for a regular ale, "XX" on the keg for the next level of strength, and "XXX" for the strongest.

2. It uses triple the amount of malt in the fermentation...this is the description New Belgium Brewery uses on their  entry, so I'd give that some credence too.

Today, we've got a true Belgian Abbey Tripel in the Petrus Gouden Tripel and two American contenders.  New might be familiar with their Fat Tire brand...from Colorado with their trippel, which they also add a little coriander to, and Andersen Valley Ale from Boonville in Northern California, near Ukiah and Mendocino.

All were very good but one really stood above the others for superior taste and drinkability...and it's probably not the one you guessed.

See the video above for the whole tasting and see who came in head and shoulders above the others in this strong ale taste off.



Friday, June 11, 2021

Coming Home with a Detour in San Francisco

Some of the biggest waves in the world call the north end of this bay home. When the winter weather is pulsing, it's not uncommon to see 60 foot waves. The largest wave every surfed here was a 68 foot monster by Carlos Burle in 2016.

Courtesy of Shalom Jacovitz via Wikimedia

Mavericks is a legendary beach with a great break but it's not pumping so hard today. Still, I just want to drive over there to show Tim where it is.

It's a windy bit of driving through small streets in the industrial section of Half Moon Bay. We find the parking lot where it's another quarter mile or so of walking to the beach. We'll leave it there for another day. 

It's time for one more meal before we head home so we head to Sam's Chowder House, a very popular seafood spot halfway between Mavericks and downtown Half Moon Bay.

The restaurant opens at 11:30. It's 11:15 and there's already a lineup at the door to get in. We are lucky to get the last handicapped parking spot in the lot.

Once opening time passes, it's a quick process to get our table and order. Tim and Letty share a large bowl of chowder and a plate of calamari. Me...the landlubber...gets a cheeseburger and fries.

It's good but maybe not so good as to warrant such a big crowd that always shows up. Service was excellent, however.

It's time to drive home and Letty has had one request for the next time we're in the Bay Area. 

She is a devoted baker of sourdough bread, always looking for ways to refine and improve her loaves. I think they're perfect just the way they are but she's not so sure.

Tartine, a chain of bakeries based out of San Francisco, is generally acknowledged to make the best sourdough of all. Letty wants to stop by and pick one of their loaves up to compare to hers.

From Half Moon Bay, it's about half an hour's driving to get to San Francisco. The evolution from rural coast side to crowded, urban city takes place at an accelerated rate as we drive up highway 1, through the tunnels, into Pacifica, Daly City, and the crowded hills of the city.

We find the bakery on the corner of 18th and Guerrero. I drop Letty off and plan on circling the block until she's done because parking in this none-too-car-friendly city is very difficult to find.

One lap of the busy block and, low and behold, someone pulls out so I squeeze our big van into a tiny little spot a couple of doors down from Tartine.

Soon, Letty is back with her bread and a few desserts she grabbed and it's back on the road, crossing the five mile expanse of the Oakland Bay Bridge to the freeways of the east bay. Heading through Berkely, Pittsburg, and Antioch, it's not too much longer until we've finally left the hectic traffic of the Bay Area behind and are on the familiar, easy driving country roads of the Central Valley heading home.

When we get back, we pull out the bread and taste. The verdict? The crust tastes a little burnt and the airy bread between is really no match for my wife's tasty sourdough.

The desserts were very good, though.

Darryl Musick

Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 7, 2021

Beating the Heat in Half Moon Bay, California

Memorial Day has just passed, the tourists are gone, our town has gone back to it's normal mode except that it's bloody hot. 105 degrees is the predicted high for a couple of days and I just don't want to deal with the heat right now.

Since the holiday weekend, and its high hotel rates have passed, I’m wondering if we can take a quick getaway to the 70 degree confines of the Northern California coast. A quick search finds a $144 room at the Half Moon Bay Lodge, a relatively short 2 hour drive from home.

I make the reservation and off we go.

While it was a scary place half a century ago when the Rolling Stones played an ill-fated free concert there, today the Altamont Pass concerns me more with the traffic and unecessarily brave drivers on the freeway that crosses it.

I see the old speedway that hosted the concert to the left while before me the 580 merges into Interstate 235, which I'm driving on. This is the only crossing to the Bay Area for many miles and it makes for a harrowing bottleneck with tens of thousands of commuters doing their best to hurry to their jobs on the other side.

It's stressful driving anytime and worse when the traffic is heavy. Once past the interchange, it lightens up a bit with some occasional slowdowns until we get to highway 92 in Hayward, where we turn west to cross the San Mateo Bridge. At seven miles, it's the longest bridge in California.

Staying in highway 92, it's only another 20 minutes over the hills to the rural beachfront community of Half Moon Bay. 20 minutes but a million metaphoric miles from the urban sprawl that we just left.

It's just before noon when we arrive. My plan is to park at the hotel...the Half Moon Bay Lodge...have lunch at the restaurant next door, then check in. I go to the lobby to let them know I have a reservation and to get their OK to leave my car there while we eat. They say the room is ready, so it I want I could just check in now.

Works for me. We get our keycards and head over to Joe's, an Italian restaurant, where we eat a late breakfast of omelets, pancakes, bacon, and eggs.

The room at the hotel is a standard double-queen room but with wider doors that work for the wheelchair. The inn does have a double-queen room with a roll-in shower but it was unavailable. I gave Tim a shower before we left and that should hold us over until we get back home tomorrow.

The room faces a golf course and a patio with nice views awaits us for later.

After dropping off our bags in the room, we head north a couple of miles to Poplar Beach. Parking at the small lot here is $10, or free if you have a handcapped plate or placard. We're here to hike the Coastal Trail, an accessible path that winds for miles along the cliffs and beaches of this bay, from the golf course on the south end to Maverick's beach on the north.

Our new thing to do on trips is to take a long walk or hike to explore our destination. Today, we'll start at Poplar Beach...actually, bluff, as we're on top of the cliffs...hike south to the Wavecrest nature preserve, then double back and go north to Francis Beach.

While, back in Amador County, the temperature is supposed to hit triple digits, today the predicted high here is 57 degrees. It's pants and sweater weather for us as we start our walk.

The path is smooth, paved, and set back from the top of the cliff by several feet so it's safe.

A lot of wildflowers are in bloom today, with a nice colorful contrast to the brown dirt and the crashing waves beyond.

A fenced-off field of goats are to our left, keeping the grass mowed.

Signs tell us not to touch the electrified fence.

Soon, we approach a gulch where we have to detour a couple of hundred yards inland to cross a bridge. Remains of an older bridge closer to the ocean tells us that this is a relatively new route.

We've crossed into the Wavecrest preserve and a sign tells us that the next third of a mile is a birdwatcher's paradise. We don't see too many birds, however, but the winding path across this meadow is very pretty.

At the other side, we turn around and head back. At the parking lot, we're getting a bit warm so we ditch the sweaters in our car before we continue.

The next section is full of wildflowers along the fairly featureless bluff top.

We make it to Francis Beach where we rest on a picnic table watching a gull trying to fend off ravens and other gulls to keep possession of a broken open watermelon he found. He won and was able to gorge on the melon all by himself.

Four and a half miles later, we're back at the car and head to nearby downtown to check out the shops and do a little more strolling.

Tim and I don't find too much to our fancy but Letty spends some time in a yarn shop and a kitchen shop we found.

At the end of downtown is a century-plus old bridge that crosses a very lush creek. We cross over then, again, to the other side of the street to walk back. We'll call it a day, still full from our brunch, where we'll get some wine and snacks to tide us over in our hotel room until tomorrow.

Darryl Musick

Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Cocktail Hour: Belgians on Ice, Part Deux or Part Twee

Felt like something different for this week's Cocktail Hour so I decided to expand upon our original Belgians on Ice post.

Today, I needed to go to the store for some groceries and remembered that the Stater Brothers in Glendora is right next door to Lone Hill Liquor, home to a vast array of beers.

Letty likes the sours, so I'm looking for something she'll enjoy without breaking the bank like the sour rye I see from the Bruery that goes for around $24 for a 750 ml. bottle.  There is a great selections here and I end up settling for the Rodenbach Grand Cru at about half the price of the Bruery's version.

For me, it's been a long time since I've enjoyed a St. Bernardus brew, so I go with the hyper-strong ABT 12, which clocks in at 10% alcohol.

First the sour...Rodenbach is a classic Flemish Red Ale made in Roeselare, Belgium. It's sour, real sour my wife hint of sweetness at all. That's fine with her as she likes her sour ales as sour as possible.  It's aged over two years in oak barrels and has added bacteria to impart that tartness.

When it hits the tongue, the first thought is vinegar, like the malt vinegar you put on fish and chips, but let it linger a little bit and you'll find a rich savoriness in the background that's quite interesting.

I admit, I'm still developing my taste for the sour ales but each time I try, I like it a little more.

The St. Bernardus is an abbey ale, a quadruppel, which goes down very smooth like a good Belgian dubbel like Petrus or Kwak. It explodes with a rich, deep, almost sweet taste that goes down like velvet.

At 10% alcohol, this one will kick your ass if you're not careful...I think I'll need a nap after this bottle.  Only drink it if you're somewhere you won't have to drive from any time soon.

It's a delicious beer with a well-hidden kick.

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