In parts one and two of this series of California Road Trip posts, I thought to myself, This was totally my favorite leg of the trip! And here I am, looking through the photos of our last mini-chapter in the Golden State and I’m thinking it again.
I’m going to back up here and state something fundamental about myself. Pay attention, because it will give you insight into who I am. Some of you will get it- and some of you won’t. But here goes:
I’m a California Girl.
Growing up in Southern California meant a lot of things for me. It meant a lot of time outside, because the weather is mostly just awesome. It meant being ok with sand in my hair due to being on the beach relatively often. It created a love for dresses that has grown into a semi-alarming addiction, if you take a look into my closet. I love new freckles, the smell of the sea, and a flip flop tan. I didn’t grow up on the beach, but I spent a LOT of time trying to get there. (Amanda knows what I’m talking about.) I’ve spent time near the ocean in Oregon and Washington; it’s not the same. I have enjoyed beach days on the East Coast, too. It’s not the same. Please pardon the jargon here, but California has its own vibe.
The “Day After Neil” was rough. Apparently, I thought I was IN the band and behaved much like a true rockstar would, well into the wee hours of the morning. A late check-out was followed by a SFMOMA café brunch consisting of grown-up drinks and dessert. We needed fuel for a very important mission: big city shopping for John’s wedding day attire.
We went directly to the John Varvatos boutique, which is urban and cool and modern and masculine. Our sales associate started by offering us a beverage. Would we like a beer? Champagne? Scotch? (Forever 21 never offered me scotch.) I gladly accepted a glass of champagne and settled into a cozy leather couch with an oversized book of Jim Marshall’s rock and roll photographs, which also covered the exposed brick walls of the shop.
Curled up near the industrial fireplace, I was starting to feel like I should live there… and then I saw this classic shot of Neil Young, which confirmed it.
The shopping excursion was a success. John looks incredible in a well-made, classic suit. (And yes, I bought the Jim Marshall book.) We’d reached the end of our metropolitan rope, so we bid adieu to the City by the Bay and headed toward one of my very favorite places on earth: Point Reyes Station.
We’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years at the Point Reyes home of our dear friends, Whit and Lazuli. Their deck and terraced yard overlook Tomales Bay. The feeling of community there is what I dream of for my future family. Their farmers market has the most incredible grilled cheese sandwiches, and is my favorite place to feed one of my addictions- handmade soaps. Our friends truly love each other, and it’s obvious in the happy home and life they have created for their two awesome sons (both of whom adore John to no end). They make us feel like part of the family, and I could think of no better place to clear my fuzzy head and slow it down.
We rolled into town just in time for hugs and happy hour, the boys yelling, “Johnny!” That evening, we headed out to the new restaurant in town. There aren’t a lot of options in the area, but the few that we’ve been to are fabulous. Saltwater is definitely reservation-worthy! Despite the chill in the air, we sat outside and had an incredible meal that included many local oysters and great wine.
There was a fun band playing at a bar called The Western, and the plan was to take advantage of the babysitter and go out after our meal. Satiated with full bellies, we decided instead to build a fire back at the house and sip wine. It was a great call.
The next day, we visited the sleepy, hippie beach town of Bolinas for breakfast. From what I understand, the residents of the community are fiercely protective of their laid-back lifestyle, suspicious of big-city newcomers. The sign from the bigger road directing motorists to “turn here” to get to Bolinas keeps mysteriously disappearing. As we cruised down the teensy main drag, we saw a guy comfortably walking around town in bare feet and his wetsuit. A gathering of bearded, long-haired men sipped coffee in a park, one of them strumming a rickety guitar. There was a lot to take in- a sign that read “PEACE” made of shells, glorious flowers, a random and beautiful altar tucked in next to the market, multiple “Happy Birthday” notes to Woody Guthrie tacked to the community bulletin board. I fell in love with Bolinas immediately.
The Coast Café was our breakfast destination. The ceiling is lined with old surfboards, and a sign that reads “Bolinas: 2” decorates one wall. I wondered if once upon a time, true to legend, it was swiped from the main road to deter sight-seers.
Our meal was delish and the lingering fog looked like it was lifting, so we headed for the beach. Bolinas Beach is right across a small channel from popular Stinson Beach. We settled in by a weathered old log, enjoying the people-watching while the boys ran around in the sand. There were fishermen in their boats, hauling in huge salmon. There were wagging, happy dogs of all shapes and sizes, diving into the water after sticks and shaking the sea from their coats. There were families like us, setting up shop for the day, and groups of surfers in wetsuits assessing the breaking waves. We kicked it in the sand for a couple of hours, a whiffle ball and bat providing entertainment for little AND big boys.
Before we left Bolinas, we stopped in the market to pick up the freshest of fresh fish for dinner. On our walk back from the beach, we’d seen the fisherman rinsing off their catch- and sure enough, a woman was cleaning huge fish behind the counter. Salmon for dinner, freshly caught!
As we drove out of town, I found my dream ranch.
We stopped at a farm stand that Lazuli pointed out. It was one of the cooler things I’ve seen! The stand is open 24 hours, and is unattended, trusting the honor system for payment. It was lined with fresh produce of all kinds, as well as stunning bunches of flowers. I wished I could transport some home to use as my bridal bouquet.
As we tallied up our total and pushed a $10 bill into the “Pay Here” slot, we marveled at the whole experience. There aren’t many places in this country where this kind of thing works.
We made it back to the house and rested before dinner. Our final California meal was absolutely perfect– grilled salmon, potatoes, caprese salad, green salad- all as fresh and local as could be.
Lazuli treated us to peaches and blackberries with fresh whipped cream for dessert- she had picked the blackberries that morning. Did I really have to leave?
Despite the stellar view from our cozy breezeway bed, I woke up depressed. Our trip was coming to an end.
We had a lot of hours in the car ahead of us, driving further and further away from the hundreds of smiles of the past week. Before we left, John battled with tiny ninjas (he lost) and we stopped into a favorite coffee shop named Blackbird.
We were quiet during the drive, minds filled with memories of an incredible vacation. We stopped in Truckee for lunch, the sky threatening rain. Bill’s Rotisserie has some incredible tacos!
We stayed at a hotel in Elko, Nevada that night and laughed as we walked into a Wingers restaurant for dinner (the options were few). It was a stark contrast to the epic meal we’d enjoyed the night before. At least dessert was awesome.
You know that feeling when vacation is OVER, and all you want to be is HOME? That’s how we felt the next day- we couldn’t get home fast enough. We got up early and hit the road, flying through the flat desert and past the Salt Flats. At a rest stop just past the Utah border, we paused for a classic shot.
There was a collective sigh of relief in the car as we pulled into the driveway in Park City. Our house was a flurry of people and activity, the landscaping madness still in full swing. After many hours on the road, some peace would have been welcomed, but it didn’t really matter. Truly, the very best part of an incredible vacation is always returning HOME.
I will always be a California Girl, but right now, Park City is my home. It’s where my heart is.
Besides, I have a week’s worth of unforgettable memories to enjoy. (And about 500 photos.)
On to the next adventure… we’re Colorado-bound!