Monday, March 17, 2014
SAVORING A CALIFORNIA COASTAL TIDBIT
(Tidbit Number 1)
The niece of my long-time riding buddy is a restaurant critic in the Bay Area. Dining with her is a delight not only because she is knowledgeable about food and wine pairings, but because instead of chowing down on one wonderful entree with associated sides, we generally taste a smidgeon of this and a dab of that until we’ve enjoyed the best of the entire menu. Along the way we are charmed by her culinary impressions and delighted by an unexpected flavor. We’ve learned to savor these adventures.
California’s State Route 1 from Marin County, along the Pacific shore to its junction with US 101 near Leggett is a 213 mile feast of tide pools, ocean bluffs, quaint villages, lumber towns, fishing harbors and history. Luscious curves and pretty good pavement make it easy to bat right through it. I know, because I’ve done so.
Having a new home base closer to the shore, I took a tidbit the other day, instead of the full meal.
The springtime called me to head west on Westside Road out of Healdsburg. The valley floor is scribed with vineyards and dotted with tasting rooms. Up the hillsides, verdant coastal forests over a sublime counterpoint as they loom over the farmlands.
At CA 116, we follow the route of the Russian River through redwoods and quaint enclaves. Liking, as I do, to celebrate a good ride with a good cigar, I stopped in at a “Smoke Shop” in Guerneville, but was informed that if I wanted to get a cigar, I should check the filling station’s convenience store right next door. Welcome to the Emerald Triangle.
116 heads west to the coast through the charmingly tattered Monte Rio then along a broadening Russian River to its mouth. About a mile inland, it joins CA 1. South would be Tomales, Point Reyes and Marin; north (today’s route) would be Jenner, Fort Ross and Stewart’s Point: a mere 26 miles. Just a tidbit.
I paused in Jenner to find that cigar – again, no luck – then continued north on CA 1. Three or four miles up the road, the pavement begins to wind and switchback up the hill.
The endless view beneath an azure canopy prompts a stop for a portrait of the Breva.
I have pictures of two formers (read: "bikes") at this very point.
Back when our west was young and we were break-necking our way to the Pacific Coast, folks in Central Asia were doing the same thing. Only they were heading east. Encountering the ocean, they arced north finding their way to Alaska and its abundant population of otters for pelts. They moved down the coast, but not so much for a bridgehead for further expansion. Their intent was to farm the coastal bluffs in order to provide groceries for their far northern colony of trappers.
A bunkhouse, a cookhouse and an orthodox church were built. Trade was established with the locals (and with John Sutter)...
...but a Putin-esque raft of firearms was kept oiled and ready should relations falter. A colonnade was built to encircle the Russian encampment we now know as Fort Ross.
I remember when CA 1 actually traversed through the parade ground – drove through in my VW – but in the 70s, the highway was rerouted in order to preserve this unique piece of California’s heritage. An interpretive center has been erected and the .3 mile walk to the original site is paved and more than worth the effort. Pack your camera and your imagination.
State Route 1 continues to spindle north, in and out of rivers’ mouths and up and around bluffs and hills. The ocean is never far away. Its mist often drifts across the highway. The luckiest cattle and sheep on earth graze here – if beef or lamb on the hoof might be considered lucky.
At Stewart’s Point a general store sells gas and freshly prepared baked goods. On a foggy morn a cup of their coffee goes down particularly well. On this afternoon, a Stewart’s Classic Root Beer slaked nicely.
My coast tidbit ended here as I coursed east along the famed Stewart’s Point / Skaggs Springs Road. It tunnels through redwood groves then rises to grassy ridge tops as heads past Lake Sonoma and back to US 101 at Healdsburg.
If you find yourself in San Francisco needing a dash of hipness with your dining, and you really want to impress those who are with you with your where-we-gonna-eat prowess, hook into the Tablehopper for good reviews on Bay Area places you might otherwise never know of. Bookmark this one: http://www.tablehopper.com/
Info on Fort Ross: http://www.fortross.org/
From US 101 at Healdsburg, CA: west on Westside Road to CA 116. West on 116 to CA 1. North on CA 1 to Stewart’s Point. East on Stewart’s Point Skaggs Springs to the Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg and US 101.
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