DM and MM's USA and Canada 2004 Trip Diary

Day 8 - Gualala to Garberville

Saturday, 3 April, 2004

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We rose at 8am, showered, and partook of the continental breakfast at the Gualala Country Inn. I had a blueberry bagel with lashings of cream cheese and a bit of croissant. Michelle had half a croissant, half a bagel, and half a muffin made of two quarters of different cinnamon and apple ones. We also grabbed an apple and banana for later in the day.

We took a quick walk down the highway to see the historic hotel in Gualala, then checked out and grabbed two of the complimentary bottles of water for the trip.

Out of Gualala and for a few towns north we listened on the car radio to a station being broadcast from Gualala, with a really laid back DJ who sounded a bit like he was half drunk, slurring "Gualala" amusingly and making constant remarks like he didn't know what he was supposed to be saying. We were cracking up in the car as we listened while driving along. It was disappointing when he stopped talking and played some music!

Point Arena Lighthouse
Point Arena Lighthouse

We drove north on Highway 1 to Point Arena, where we stopped to tour the old lighthouse, paying $5 each for the privilege. There was a small museum there with old lighthouse artefacts as well as a whale watching room overlooking the sea, with a grey whale jawbone in the room. After a few minutes studying these, we were called for our tour of the lighthouse. We walked up the spiral metal staircase inside the tower - equivalent to a 6-storey building. At the top, we were met by a tour guide who gave us a 5-minute talk about the history of the lighthouse and then allowed us to climb up to the old lamp room. It was cramped and crowded with about 10 people doing the tour, but we got to see the large glass fresnel lens used to focus the lamp into a strong beam. The lens was protected from sunlight by a thick curtain, that we had to walk behind to see out the windows, showing a good view of the land and coast, but also showing that fog was rolling in off the sea.

Fresnel Lens
Fresnel lens, Point Arena Lighthouse

Done with the tour, we went down again and wandered around the point a bit before heading back to the car. We saw a small rodent of some sort poking its head out of a hole in the dirt, right near the lighthouse. I asked a man who was looking at it if it was a groundhog and he said no, they are bigger, and suggested maybe it was some sort of mole.

Point Arena Fog
View from top of Point Arena Lighthouse

We continued our drive and stopped at the small town of Elk, where we had lunch. I got a turkey sandwich from a small deli/market there and Michelle got two slices of Swiss cheese to eat with the crispbread she'd bought yesterday at Mill Valley. Before getting the food we'd stopped in the local museum and tourist information centre to ask if there was a gas station in town, to be told that the nearest was about 10 miles north, but if we could hold out to Fort Bragg it would be a lot cheaper. I looked at some of the museum displays and leaned Elk used to be a timber town called Greenwood, but the name had been changed to Elk around 1900 because there was another town called Greenwood in California. Many of the buildings in town still had "Greenwood" written on them though. While in the town we also saw a wedding and reception being held in the garden of an inn, overlooking the sea. Unfortunately for the couple and their guests the weather had closed in and it was overcast, rather windy, and very chilly.

From Elk we drove north again, taking a side road inland to see the Pygmy Forest in Van Damme State Park. This is an area on a large geological rock terrace uplifted from the sea, on which only very shallow and infertile soil has developed over the millennia since - so it supports only stunted tree growth, with some trees that normally grow to 100 feet tall reduced to specimens only waist high, despite being 100 years or so old. It was quite impressive.

Then we drove on to Mendocino, and decided not to wait to Fort Bragg for fuel because the gauge was reading dangerously low. We filled up at a full service station and then parked further along in town so we could look around at the touristy antique shops, art galleries, souvenir places, and crafts stores. There were some cool old wooden water towers in town. We went into an old style hotel/bar that was richly appointed for a toilet stop. Michelle got a mocha coffee at a small cafe and was impressed by the tiny small-bore plastic straws to be used for drinking it on the go.

We continued on to make sure we got to Garberville before sunset, and made it with some time to spare. We checked in to the Lone Pine Motel, for almost a third of the price of last night's accommodation.

We walked along the main street of the town and found an Italian-looking place that also offered a Mexican menu and tried it. The interior was decorated with a staggering collection of old number plates, sports photos, sports memorabilia, toy cars, old advertising signs, bottles, and stuff. A lot of the sports material was boxing stuff, and we speculated that someone in the owner's family must have been a boxer. Michelle had a veggie burger and I tried a deluxe combo burrito, with beef, chicken, and chili verde inside. It was good, but enormous! I also had some jalapeƱo poppers, fried with cheddar cheese stuffed inside.

Small Town Atmosphere
Dinner restaurant in Garberville

We walked back to the motel, getting some milk for brekky along the way. We also asked at the supermarket if there was a laundromat in town and got directions to one at the other end of town. We collected our dirty clothes and walked down, and found it open, but we had no change and the change machine wasn't working. We walked back a block to the Best Western inn and asked for change there, and got a handful of quarters from a cheerful lady at reception there. We went back to the laundry and put on a load. I walked back to the motel to get this book to write today's diary while we waited and drove back again. When the laundry was done we drove back to the motel and relaxed for the night.

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