The Road Trip Begins

Greetings from sunny Fort Bragg, California, at the end of a very pleasant day on the road. I’ve not been here very long, just enough time to find a room, check-in and – of course – find a Starbucks. Lots of photos taken along the way, the best of which I will share with you – some here, and some on Flickr in due course. If you’ve looked at the second Wednesday page since this morning you’ll have seen that I’ve added a link to some photos from the day:


Golden Gate from the Marin Headlands

Let me tell you about Thursday, so far….

Another early start thanks to a body-clock still more-or-less running on UK time. Again I was up, showered, and out, quite a bit before 07:00. I turned left out to the hotel this morning and set up in the “4th & Market” Starbucks. There I munched on coffee cake by way of breakfast (a bit of a contrast from yesterday’s blow-out breakfast, but I was confident I wouldn’t starve) while tinkering with photos from yesterday. After an hour or so doing that,  I walked round the block, mainly to walk the stiffness out of my legs after the work-out they got yesterday.

I was in no hurry as I wanted to let the morning rush subside before heading to the airport to collect the car. Even so, it was still only 08:30 when I was on the platform of Powell Street BART station after checking out with no nasty surprises. While waiting for the next SFO train I had a think about what I’ll write in respect of The Mosser on Tripadvisor etc. Relatively speaking it is certainly cheap – I’m paying about the same tonight for a small town Travelodge motel room. It is extremely well located. The room, though tiny, was spotlessly clean and provided me with what I needed without any frills. There is no way around the fact that its location means city noise – all night long. Everything from sirens to a dumpster truck in the alleyway outside my window which seemed to return on an hourly basis through the night.  None of that should come as a surprise, especially not to anyone who has cast an eye through the online reviews.The small room and the noise are all part of the trade off in order to get a room in that location at that rate.

The journey back to SFO took 40 minutes and the Airtrain to the car rental lot a further ten. The sizeable queue at the Alamo desk was processed quickly and efficiently and I was soon sorted. The obligatory “up sell” attempt was perfunctory at best and, I think a first for me, the additional fees & charges over the amount I’d pre-paid was “nil”. (So far, anyway!). I made my way to the garage and was invited to help myself to any vehicle from the ‘compact’ row. Probably through force-of-habit, I was instinctively drawn to a Kia Rio – stick with what you know!? It is silver, on CA plates 7HBD780, with a start odometer of 13,075 miles.

The formalities taken care of, I departed the airport with a route in mind of I380 to I280 north, onto CA Rt 1 north to the Golden Gate. I had declined the offer of renting a SatNav, electing to rely on Siri when necessary, but at this stage I was going by road signs. All went well until I saw the Rt 1 signs in the Daly City area and exited the freeway. As it happened, this was Rt1 south. No problem, I quickly turned off into a residential area and consulted the map for options. It turned out I was pointed toward the Pacific, so rather than turn around I continued vaguely westward through the suburbs (with more Stop signs than I’ve ever seen!) and, eventually made it over to the Great Highway on the coast. I followed that northwards, eventually pitching up at Baker Beach. I parked up and walked out on to the beach in order to take some photos from one of many iconic viewpoints for the Golden Gate – and take in some Pacific air.

Golden Gate from Baker Beach

Back to the car and I let Siri guide me through the Presidio and onto Rt 101 to cross the bridge. I can now bore everyone by announcing with pride “I’ve driven over that” each time the Golden Gate bridge appears on television or a film! You’ve been warned. I joined the throng of tour buses and fellow tourists at the view point in the north side for the obligatory shots of the bridge, the city and, of course, Alcatraz.

GOlden Gate Bridge from the north side


San Francisco skyline

Returning to the car I took a fairly convoluted route via Fort Baker to the viewpoint on the west side in the Marin Headlands. The odd route was partly brought about by just missing the green signal at a tunnel under the approach road which was accompanied by a sign announcing it was a “five minute red”. As no-one else was about I turned round and went the slightly longer way (making very sure I didn’t accidentally return south over the bridge as that direction is a cashless toll). The viewpoints on this side are not nearly as busy as the main sites, but the parking is very limited. I managed to find a space at the third site, furthest from the bridge – the view at the top of this page. It was still worth the detour to get up there.

That was that San Francisco until next week. It was around 11:30 when I returned to the 101 and headed north for a short distance, exiting onto Rt 1  just past Sausalito, remaining on Rt 1 for the rest of the day. This is the coast road and it is a truly world class scenic route. With due respect to the Aussies, it gives the Great Ocean Road a real run for its money. It’s a cliche, but it is a real “driver’s road”, rarely straight, rarely out of sight of the Pacific, rarely busy or built-up. What traffic there is in front will inevitably pull-off into one of the many scenic opportunities and if there’s a car behind which wants to make more progress than you, well you’ll be turning off for a closer look at the views pretty soon anyway. The terrain is constantly changing. Sometimes the road is hugging the cliff face (and it is evidently a constant battle against nature to keep it clinging!), other times it meanders through forests with huge trees lining the road. There are areas of pastureland, moor land, wine country, small fishing towns, one-horse towns, tourist towns…. It has it all.

The first place of any note on the route is Stinson Beach. There I saw the first sign for Fort Bragg, a mere 155 miles away. Slowly but surely, leaving each settlement the number against Fort Bragg got smaller. Around 14:30 I stopped at Jenner (pop. 107) and bought lunch from a small gas station called the Jenner C Store. The choice was limited but I went for a chicken calzone – which was effectively a pasty with a three inch thick crust! What I had of it was ok, but it had evidently been frozen as the inner was still quite solid, so a fair bit of it went in the bin.

Jenner Store

I munched my picnic in a small parking lot over the road where a slipway was provided for recreational boaters to access a small estuary as part of the Sonoma Coast State Park. A bird was cautiously watching me as I ate, hoping for crumbs.

Jenner bird

I pressed on northwards, stopping fairly frequently as yet another stunning view of the Pacific presented itself. Generally it was sunny, but as I got closer to my destination the sea mist rolled in and it got very grey. At one point there were a few specks of rain – which given that California is currently enduring a long-standing drought, was provoking comment on one of the radio stations I hit upon as they faded in and out.

A little earlier than I had at one point anticipated, I rolled into Fort Bragg and drove the length of the main street to scope-out possible accommodation. I’d spotted Starbucks in a small retail plaza on the outskirts and, right in the middle, noted the main reason for me being here; the North Coast Brewing Company and its Brewery Tap. The Travellodge is located a few hundred yards past the brewery and seemed a likely candidate. I called in at the office and the friendly clerk was delighted to sort me out with a king sized room, even giving my AAA discount into the bargain!

Having dropped bags I set off back out to write this and see a bit more of the area around Fort Bragg, before investigating North Coast later.

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