Friday, July 18, 2008

the great west county brunch drive

because sarah is from oklahoma like my mom and because sarah provides me with free therapy every month at her cringe series and because sarah so adorably referred to her upcoming vacation destination as 'guerney-ville', but mostly because i just can't bear not to be the personal tour guide of all my friends visiting sonoma county, and because i have so much free time on my hands, oh! and also because strangers from all over the world actually hit on these maps and i love the thought of some random person deriving happiness from an awesome tour they found on somebody's blog.....i give you THE GREAT WEST COUNTY BRUNCH DRIVE. this drive includes many of my favorite places on earth. i don't visit home without going here. enjoy.

do look at the lovely pictures google provides along the way. and do expand the directions by hitting the + sign to get from point to point.

View Larger Map
and of course i can't just let google leave it at that. i have to put my two cents in.

so, point A. starting in guerneville. don't know where you're staying, sarah, but i've started the tour in downtown guerneville. easy enough. as i mentioned to you at freddy's, the night you put your fist in my cocktail, guerneville is a beautiful place that is a bit economically depressed due to the major flooding of the russian river that happens here every few years. i'm pretty certain that if you poke around in the back of any of these stores, you'll find a built in stock of sand bags and plywood boards. people take the risk living here that they will lose their possessions to the flood waters. so they pay less, and every few years, they hold their breath and pray. coming from new york you won't be fazed by the strong gay community here. guerneville has always been a beautiful getaway for the gay scene in san francisco. we love guerneville. you may, however, be taken aback by the slow paced, seriously crunchy granola vibe. enjoy it. hopefully there is still no starbucks here, and certainly nothing you'd find in any mall across the country.

the map drives you north out of town to the even smaller town on monte rio. on the left side you'll find the amazing and odd looking rio theater made out of a little airplane hanger (?). they show one movie at a time. see what's playing and make a mental note. return. i saw sleepy hollow here in the winter of 1999. they gave me a blanket for my chilly fold up chair and a MUG of hot apple cider. beautiful. it was a creepy, foggy ride home at midnight in my convertible. but johnny depp was there to protect me.

the movie theater is your landmark to TURN LEFT on bohemian highway. about 5 miles down the road, you pass through camp meeker, where i shared a 4 bedroom house overlooking the creek for $650 a month with three friends. and then i moved to new york. and my wallet said ouch. camp meeker is another of those faded glory kind of places, a popular resort town at the turn of the 20th century abandoned after a huge fire, its un-weatherized vacation homes reclaimed by a poor community lucky to live in a beautiful place. if you're taking your time, pull over in 'downtown' camp meeker. you'll find the volunteer fire station and a post office in a trailer. and that's it. if you look across the creek from downtown (in the summer they dam this creek to make a swimming hole for the kids). my house was directly across--and oh, i still hear that volunteer fire siren ringing in my ears. the dark brown shingles with the two white balconies. i miss it tremendously. if you're in the mood for aimless wandering, these streets are great to drive around. but slowly. they are one lane (or half a lane in many cases) and sometimes the turns are so sharp and steep they require putting the car in reverse 4 times to get around a corner.

continuing on bohemian highway you're just a mile outside of your brunch destination, the enchanted town on occidental. turn onto main street and park anywhere. the town is only two blocks. and yes, main street is a parking lot. you're eating at howard's cafe, which i have a mental block about and always call 'howard station'. it used to be a train station for (you guessed it) howard. order the primo potatoes. everything else will be fantastic too. but really, order the primo potatoes. go up to the counter and check out the vegan baked goods. they are seriously tasty (despite the unpopular adjective that accompanies them). don't be surprised if you run into tom waits. this is his territory.

after brunch, stretch your legs and digest a bit by peeking around the cute little shops. 'hand goods' is a great place for gifts and locally made stuff.

in the very center of town starts coleman valley road. depending on which way you come out of main street it's a left or right. but you can't go wrong because it's start point is in occidental. so if you're on it, you're good. this is a beautiful drive. it deserves paragraphs of praise but it would still be inadequate. even more gorgeous in the winter when the hills are emerald green.

you will notice that california looks very brown and dry in the summer, espcially compared to the lush summer east coast. it's because our dry season is summer. it doesn't rain here at all in the summer. but it doesn't snow in the winter. rains a lot. so winter is green, summer is "golden". it took me forever to get used to this switch. also, i used to hate the "brown" hills in summer. now that i come back from living in the city i have a different appreciation for them and call them "golden" like everyone else.

at some point you have to make a right turn to stay on, so pay attention when you cross other roads (which isn't very often) or you'll end up on joy road (which wouldn't be such a bad thing either). eventually you will reach a high point and should be able to see the pacific sparkling in the distance.
at the top you will see a lot of big rocks and cows. my dad used to tell me when we drove on this road that we were driving to the moon. and i believed him.

coleman valley road will take you all the way down to the ocean, which is hugged by highway 1.
turn right on highway 1. you are half way through your loop. stop at any beach you like, but definitely don't miss goat rock state beach
. the ocean here is cold and very dangerous!! we don't swim, and we don't turn our backs on the waves. but there are beautiful rocky coves to explore and tide pools teeming with sea life, and sea lions etc. continue north until you hit goat rock state park. you can't miss it. turn left and drive down to the rock. legend says that the land separated from this rock so quickly that there were still goats grazing the top of it. this is where i spent my late nights in high school. walk on the beach and check out the beautiful arches. WARNING: sometimes even if it's 90 degrees inland, the coast will be 20 or 30 degrees cooler. and nights ALWAYS cool down. bring sweaters and light jackets. the weather is so different than new york!

from goat rock, back on highway 1, continue north till you cross the bridge over the russian river. turn right on the road that points toward guerneville. the little village of duncan mills is a nice place to stop for great coffee at gold coast coffee. the population here is less than 100 and those one hundred people like to invite everyone over once a year to dress up in costumes and re-enact historic battles. clearly, this is not the california from baywatch.

stay tuned for more tedious tours!


kim said...

Oh, I loved reading this! It really made me miss up north. I need to do that drive some time soon(and eat at Howard's Cafe!). But, if you make it to Occidental for lunch or dinner, the Union Hotel is the place to be--yummy italian food, local charm, where I had my wedding reception...

Anonymous said...

good descriptions of the places kitty--and yeah it's always howard's station in my mind too

Anonymous said...

good descriptions of the places kitty--and yeah it's always howard's station in my mind too

Amy said...

Awesome tour you put together, every single stop is amazing! At Union Hotel, I really like the Mexican Pizza!!!