Northern California – Spring 2016 Road Trip – Day 6 – From Wineries to the Mendocino Coast

After leaving Chico, California, we continued west to the I-5, continued south California Highway 20, ironically the same highway we had taken coming out of the Sierra Nevada’s, only we caught it on the west side of the Central Valley. After a short distance we stared up into the Mayacamas Mountains, part of the Coastal Range.

After passing Clear Lake, the largest natual lake in California, we reached the small town of Geyersville, home of the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. We have been fortunate enough to eat in many scenic places, but our lunch on the edge of the patio in the shade in perfect 70 degree weather, with a view of the vineyard, was as good as it gets. Excellent, friendly service provided us with a couple of pasta dishes for lunch (rigatoni and sausage and penne with olives and capers in tomato sauce), with olives as an appetizer and a lovely wine called Sophia Riesling. If you could only bottle the day and atmosphere it would be one you would want to relive often.

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After lunch we toured the building to see Mr. Coppola’s movie memorabilia. Items from Apocalypse Now, a miniature ship from Marie Antoinette, posters, props, scripts and other items from films that he directed were displayed.

The most impressive items were those from the movie The Godfather. Although it was prohibited to touch any item, but someone didn’t pay attention to the sign and laid a hand on the Godfather’s desk before seeing the sign not to do so. Outside the building was a patio and pool for receptions and acres of vineyards.

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After leaving the winery we headed back up into the hills for a curvy 40 mile drive to the coast, stopping at Lake Sonoma, where I had the opportunity to GO HOLLYWOOD.

A videographer shooting a commercial for the Sonoma County, California tourism department asked us to act in his video. I was the only one who would do it, so I walked up and down a path along a cliff to photograph the landscape of Lake Sonoma. It only took about two minutes to shoot, afterward I took my photos and we were off.

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We reached California Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, the PCH, and started north along the coast stopping at times to see the scenery or a quirky roadside attraction. A stop at a grass-top cliff provided a magnificent view of the rocky islands and the pounding surf. We tiptoed around cow pies making our way down a trail for new angles for photos. It seems that the cows of northern California have first class views; no wonder the state advertised that they have happy cows.

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Bowling Ball Beach was to be our next stop but we were unable to find the road that led there. We did find the Pygmy Forest which is a rare ecosystem featuring miniature trees, inhabited by small species of rodents and lizards. These dwarf forests are usually located at high elevations, under conditions of sufficient air humidity but poor soil. It is a unique forest of pine, rhododendron and other species that grow much shorter than their species along the coast. The poor soil is caused from the flat land unable to drain properly creating an acidic soil base. The area known as the Van Damme State Park is near Mendocino. The isolated area of stunted trees, less than ten feet tall are surrounded by a forest of tall trees.

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Our hotel, Surf and Sand, in Fort Bragg, California served as our stop for the night. It was a nice room with a deck of a view of the beach and a walking trail. We settled in to watch the Penguins play against Tampa Bay in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. Delivered pizza to our hotel room was dinner. The game was intense but the Penguins won the game 2-1, and it is on to the Stanley Cup Finals. Yeah Pens!

One of the great things about being in California is all the east coast sports that end late there, are at a reasonable time on the West Coast, allowing us to still take a romantic walk on the oceanfront trail behind our hotel that led to a pedestrian trestle bridge crossing a stream flowing into the ocean.

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On our return we caught a beautiful sunset with palms blowing in the wind. The setting sun cast a bright pink sky at the horizon. The evening cooled to about 50 degrees with a brisk wind when we decided to go in for the night.

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