Biking Northern California -- Wine Country and Coast

Day 6 -- Guerneville to Bodega Bay, Part 2

It was only about 4 or 5 miles from our lunch spot in Duncan Mills to the coast. I'm sure it was my imagination, but I felt like I could sense the presence of the coast. The river itself had widened out and seemed anxious to to join the ocean.

The road approaches the coast

Finally there was a sign for the junction with Route 1, the famous PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) that runs the length of the state. The guidebook had us going north on the coast highway for one mile up to Jenner, where there was a good place for lunch and possibly a view, before returning to the south. Since we had already had lunch, I didn't feel like the extra two miles. Len, on the other hand, believed that the place where the river met the ocean was famous for its birds. He decided to bike north briefly to see if there were many birds. Meanwhile, I turned towards the south where I could see there was a very long hill to climb. I still couldn't see the ocean.

This was a 2-stop hill for me, catching my breath at two observation points and once again pondering the gearing on my bike. But the reward at the top was how the world opened up to the vastness of the ocean.

We reach the California coast

From here as we biked south the scenery was always spectacular. The coast road, as promised, was composed of rolling hills. At least the good news was that I was able to get a running start on the climbs following the downhills. We stopped frequently to appreciate the scenery, the waves crashing across huge rocks, and the deserted sandy beaches. Len had brought binoculars, and we were able to view sea lions basking on some of the flat rocks.

The guidebook had warned that there wasn't always a shoulder on the coast highway and that there could be significant traffic. However, we experienced almost no traffic and there did appear to be plenty of room for bikes on the side of the road. In fact, I should say that during this entire trip I never felt squeezed or endangered by cars. I'm sure it was partly because of the season, but this area is rather sparsely populated in any event. Most of the time on this part of the coast highway, the world felt virtually deserted.

The empty coast road stretches to infinity

Len uses his binoculars

Giant rocks dot the sea

Sea lions on the flat rock in the middle of the picture

Civilization appears with a scattering of houses

Along about here we stopped at an overlook where the foundation of some building that didn't exist jutted out over the cliff. We wondered whether there had been a house and it fell down or whether it never got built. While we were pondering a young woman pulled up on a bike. She was from Vancouver and was biking south. She had camping gear in panniers on the back of her bike. I asked where she was heading, and she said she didn't know. She was just going to bike until she ran out of money, and then she would get a job. Maybe she would get to San Diego. She didn't seem the least bit anxious about anything. She said her budget was about $5 a day. Len said something about a cell phone, and she asked if he was kidding. "That costs money," she said.

I couldn't imagine being in her place. Apparently she had no home and very little money. Everything she owned was on the back of her bike. An odd touch was that tied on the top of her panniers was a fly swatter. Have fly swatter, will travel. Yet she was cheerful and optimistic. Now she said that she had met up on the road with two men, who were somewhere behind her at the moment. As she was telling us this, one and then the other of the young men came into view and joined us at the overview.

The young cyclist from Vancouver and one of her friends

Both of the young men had heavy French accents. The one shown in the picture above didn't have any panniers or bags on his bike, so everything was carried on his back. He looked like a hunchback and seemed barely stable. I'm not sure if he even had a sleeping bag. On the other hand, the man not shown here was a forester from France who had taken a year off to bike around the world. He had already biked 7,000 miles across Europe, eastern Europe and China. He had a little trailer on the back of his bike (the small wheel barely seen in the picture) that was fully loaded with camping gear.

I was shaking my head as we left the overview. I still couldn't imagine living that way. At the same time, maybe I was a little jealous of their comparative freedom. Life for me was so much more complicated.

The hills continued relentlessly, as did the beautiful scenery, as we approached our day's destination at Bodega Bay. Finally there was one last long hill and we pulled into the Bodega Bay Spa and Resort where we had reservations. Even at their entrance road I faced yet another hill, but eventually we were there, and I was given by far the best room of the trip. This was a first class place.

Our rooms were at the far end of the hotel, and it seemed as if the nearer rooms were all unoccupied. The few people staying at this off-season time had been placed in the one unit where we were. At the desk we had been told that there was to be a wine tasting for guests between 5:00pm and 6:00pm. Len said that he'd like to take a dip in the pool, and would meet me a little later at the wine tasting.

I hesitated at the door to the room where the wine tasting was. There were six people in the small room, and they had the appearance of a private party. "Come on in," shouted one of the women seated on a sofa. The bartender gave me a small glass of wine and I seated myself facing the four women across the room. An older couple was to my left. The women introduced themselves as high school buddies, graduated from a Chicago high school about 30 years ago. One of them now lived in Arizona, another in Virginia, another in Illinois, and the last in California. They were having a reunion, without husbands, and they were in great spirits. Maybe their wine tasting had been going on for some time. Or maybe they were just having a lot of fun.

Len showed up a little later and we had a spirited discussion with the women. One of them said that she was in the volleyball hall of fame, and that she had won some kind of national championship at her college. Then someone asked what Len and I did. I hesitated, because sometimes I don't like to admit that I'm an engineer. (I know; I hate being a traitor to my profession.)

Instead of answering the question directly, Len asked what they had in their house that they used every day. I'm pretty sure he wanted them to say the Internet, since he's one of four people given credit for its invention, but they kept guessing other things. Len gave up, and just said we were engineers. One of them made a face and said that engineers liked charts and spreadsheets and things like that. We had come down a lot of notches in their estimation.

The conversation turned to the setting at Bodega Bay. I couldn't guess why the had come to such a deserted place for their reunion. But the fame of this location was based on its being the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds." Hitchcock wanted a deserted place, misty and populated mostly by birds. This was it. I asked the women if they remembered the movie, and they replied in a chorus that they had watched it the night before. Immediately they all raised their arms and started flicking their hands against their hair, as the women in the movie did to try to push away the attacking birds.

Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedron in "The Birds" with Bodega Bay in the background

One of the women left and returned shortly with a scary stuffed black crow, like the one in the movie. They had rescued it from a wastecan at the resort. They waved the crow around. Everyone was having a great time. After all, this was Halloween night!

Women act out the movie with their stuffed bird

The only choice for dinner was at the hotel, since we were considerably outside the small town. The restaurant was said to be famous for its duck, which we enjoyed. Seated near us were King Arthur and a Japanese princess. That had to be it for our Halloween.

Proceed to Day 7 of the California Trip

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