January 5-8, 2015
With the kids off to work, I took the Toyota to a nearby dealer for service, finished up and then Joanna and I departed for Mary and Norm’s house in Lower Lake, Ca. We’ve visited this beautiful location a number of times and always look forward to a few peaceful days on the lake. Our first night included a welcoming home cooked meal and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity that curiously, we’d played the night before with Jessica and Kris.
As it was a Christmas gift from Norm’s son Jeff and his wife Trisha, this was the first time either Mary or Norm had seen or heard of it. A simple game to learn, it didn’t take Norm long to figure out the basics and subsequently beat the rest of us upon completion. Known for its politically incorrect content and a website that describes it as a pastime for horrible people, I’ll leave it to my readers to determine if it is the horrible, or the politically incorrect, part of the game that Norm mastered.
The next day we made a run into Sacramento to have lunch with Trisha and Jeff at their usual meeting place, the Hoppy Brewing Company. At a little over 100 miles each way, it was nice to be a passenger for a change, watching the country side flow by through the side window, getting some reading done, engaging in the conversation that takes place amongst four friends in an automobile.
We’d not seen Jeff since 2007 and had missed his wedding a couple of years ago, so it was nice to meet Trisha and spend some time together with them. We’ve reached that age where our kids are starting their lives as adults, stepping out of the roles as kids (well, most of the time) and heading off in directions we can only guess at. These types of reunions are the best, a touchstone with past associations and the memories that accompany them.
After a stop for some coffee and more conversation, we returned to Lower Lake, dropping Mary off for a work appointment and drove around the west side of the lake to the town of Lakeport for dinner at O’Meara Brothers Brewing. Newly opened by a couple of former home brewers Norm is familiar with, sporting a simple menu containing a highly recommended burger (per Norm “The burger is the best I have had in 10 years”), we’d eaten lightly at lunch in anticipation of this meal.
As I’d been drinking quite a bit of Norm’s own home brewed IPA, I opted for the Bottlerock Blonde Ale and the house burger, while Joanna went for a Idle Irishman Stout and the Baked MaryMac, macaroni and cheese topped with parmesan and bread crumb. The food was as good as anticipated, the sandwich nicely constructed, maintaining its form throughout the meal, unlike some that fall apart halfway through with a great burger patty, truly one of the better burgers I’ve had in some time.
We finished up our meal with a second round of beers, then headed back to the house for a quiet wind down and an early bedtime, as we prepared to head up the road to Fort Bragg. We’d planned this stop earlier in the trip to give us a break from our routine of staying with folks; with nearly a month of being someone’s guests we were ready to have a little time and space to ourselves.
We chose this location given prior trips to the area; both as a boy and as an adult I’d camped at Russian Gulch State Park and had many fond memories of staying there. One family vacation took Jessica, Joanna, and I there in 2001 to camp and we hoped to duplicate two of the activities we’d engaged in at that time; Joanna took Jessica just north of Fort Bragg to the Ricochet Ridge Ranch to ride a horse (including some time on the beach) while I took off from the campground, rode down the short distance to Mendocino, then inland a bit on smaller country roads and up the coast the nine miles or so it took to get to Fort Bragg.
We’d agreed to meet at North Coast Brewing’s pub, across the street from their production facility. I’d not been at the pub long before they arrived and we finished up this memorable day that I’ve long carried with me.
Thus our outing to Fort Bragg this time around, deciding to stay at the Emerald Dolphin Inn as it was reasonably priced and had a dog friendly policy. We arrived just a bit after noon, checked into our nicely appointed room (hardwood floors instead of carpets, a welcome sight when traveling with an older Jack Russell that sometimes forgets its housebroken), and made our preparations for the afternoon.
Joanna took off in the car for her appointment at Ricochet Ridge and I went south on the bike along the coast highway, Mendocino my destination, a little over eight miles away. It was a gorgeous day; indeed we’d been lucky with the weather throughout the trip, blue skies, and mild temperatures. Riding in just a short sleeve jersey and my shorts, I thoroughly enjoying being out on the bike with beautiful and breathtaking scenery on both sides of the highway.
I stopped for a quick ride through at Russian Gulch, closed for camping for the season, took a picture of the bridge at it’s small bay and then climbed up to the highway and rode the final couple of miles into Mendocino. This bit of Cape Cod on the west coast sits on a piece of land jutting out into the Pacific, the Mendocino Headlands, offers striking views both north and south along the coast.
Climbing back on the bike I rode the eight miles back to town, past the Emerald Dolphin and up to the northern edge to stop in at North Coast Brewing. It was a little early for a beer so I bought a 22oz bottle of PranQster, one of our favorites, to carry back to the room. Joanna joined me not long after and we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying our bit of quiet time together.
For dinner we decided to take in a highly recommended Mexican restaurant and drove up the highway trying to locate it. For some reason, call it a whim of fate, we could not find the place and opted instead to try another recommendation, Taka’s Grill. Although our service there was a bit slow and disjointed (our orders came separately) my Teriyaki Chicken and Joanna’s Sushi were a nice change from our diet of the prior few days.
Up the next morning without the need to rush to get on the road, we walked the quarter mile or so out to the cliffs behind the Emerald Dolphin and soaked up the spectacular views from our vantage point. Few other places in the world can match this one for sheer physical beauty. We returned to the room, checked out of the inn and began our journey up the highway to the Carlisle’s and our week or so in Oregon. Our decision to spend a night on the road had been a good one, allowing us to decompress a bit after so many consecutive days of being someone’s guests. It didn’t hurt that we’d opted to stay in a place with so many fond memories, a place that creates new ones with each visit. We’ll be back some day for a few more.
Lower Lake: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_Lake,_California
Cards Against Humanity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cards_Against_Humanity
Hoppy Brewing Company: http://www.hoppy.com/
O’Meara Brothers Brewing: http://www.omearabros.com/
Fort Bragg: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Bragg,_California
Russian Gulch State Park: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=432
Ricochet Ridge Ranch: http://www.horse-vacation.com/
North Coast Brewing: http://www.northcoastbrewing.com/beer-Puck.htm
Emerald Dolphin Inn: http://www.emeralddolphin.com/
Taka’s Grill: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g32400-d639490-Reviews-Taka_s_Grill-Fort_Bragg_Mendocino_County_California.html