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Occidentally

March 11th, 2009

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Just got home from a week of Hawaiian Punch, but had a couple lovely weekenders before we left, one involving the dreaded Valentine’s Day. Wish it weren’t so, but every year there’s an internal struggle between not wanting to make a fuss over the Hallmark holiday and feeling slightly saddened when no fuss is made. This year I was hell-bent on getting a big bag of oysters to bbq and going camping, just sitting by a fire with a bottle of wine and Mr. Franklin and not being anywhere near the neurosis of people trying to make other people’s dreams come true. Naturally, I was thwarted by a steady gray downpour and two not-so-little voices telling me it was a good idea to stay up til 6 a.m. the night before. I tell you, its always something.

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Packed up the car regardless and, after a stop by Steep Ravine to determine that there truly weren’t any cabins left, headed up to Tomales Bay for a taste of those oysters I was longing for. Stopped at The Marshall Store and  started off what was to become a really lovely extended holiday.

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I have to say those were the best barbequed oysters I’ve ever eaten, hands down, no contest. Polished off a whole dozen of them, plus a half dozen raw and a bowl of clam chowder and felt absolutely amazing.

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Continued our drive up the 1 past Bodega Bay and Sonoma Coast State Beach, watching the waves crash and the rain come down. Figured we should probably get serious about lodgings for the evening and realized pretty quickly that this is why people plan this sort of thing weeks in advance. Somehow it just hadn’t occurred to me that every couple in every town would be staying in a hotel.

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Turned landwards at Jenner, thinking we might have better luck inland and if nothing came up we could always just loop back home. So glad we did as the drive was ridiculously pretty along the Russian River with bright green hills and flowers blooming everywhere. Plus, the sudden influx of telephone reception allowed me to secure the last possible vacancy in a 20 mile radius (naturally at just the sort of quaint and expensive bed and breakfast I’d meant to avoid) which brought peace of mind and the ability admire the cows without rushing.

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Spent the night at the Inn at Occidental, causing Franks and I to decide that putting the words “Inn at” in front of a name generally adds an extra hundred dollars to the rate. Still, woodsing it is fun but there’s definitely something to be said for lying around on the carpet in front of a nice warm fire playing Trivial Pursuit and drinking champagne and letting the rain fall on someone else’s head.

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Awoke warm and groggy and feasted on the Inn’s delicious sauteed-mushroom-eggs-benedict-on-a-brioche concoction before setting out towards Hendy Woods. Made a stop in Boonville for some much needed Bloody Maria’s (its official, I’m siding with tequila over vodka) and a chance to overhear some Boontling, a local dialect that may or may not have been created by a man named Squirrel some time around 1890.

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Thumbs up for the Boonville Lodge; great drinks, tasty food and a really nice bartendress who kept putting Fleetwood Mac on the jukebox.

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Followed one of those “firewood for sale” signs you always think about following but never do and found ourselves down a dirt lane chatting with the owner of an inumerable antler collection and an awesome chicken-stealing dog. Bought a nice big box of wood for ten bucks and saw this sweet Model A in the process.

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After all the crazy non-vacancy of the night before I was a little worried about our getting a cabin, there being only four of them and Monday being a holiday. Of course I worry and there’s not another soul around.

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Dropped our money in the honor box and grabbed a lovely jug of cider at The Philo Apple Farm down the road. Poured in a little corn whiskey and warmed our cups on the woodstove.

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Oh, the simple joys. Warm fire, good company, maybe a tasty meal and a little libation, always makes for happy times.

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Occidental Tourist? Every once in a while having no set plan works out just fine. In this case we managed to roll at least four separate trips into one lovely drive-by, setting the gears in motion for many an upcoming adventure. I really liked the small-town-in-the-trees feel of Occidental and I’m glad it was foggy for our foray down the mysterious (at least to me) Bohemian Highway. Negri’s looked awesome and the mental wheels are already turning for a Port Costa-style takeover of the Occidental Hotel. We now know the location of the fabled Rocker Oysterfellers  and the hollowed-log houses of the Hendy Hermit and drove along some of the prettiest damn roads you ever did see, so without a doubt I give the candied holiday a thumbs up this year. One of these days we’ll get it together and book a cabin at Steep Ravine, with all the crazy minus tides of late the hot springs should be accessible and I couldn’t fathom missing out on some warm water. Found out also that Dorothea Lange spent a great deal of time there later in her life and just came upon some neat photos she took before she passed away in 1965. I sure do love Northern California.

Entry Filed under: Day trips,Travel logs


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