One of the things I love most about traveling is the opportunity to step into another way of life. When you explore a place you’ve never been, you can make your vacation whatever you imagine it to be. And when you visit loved ones, you have the chance to get out of your own little bubble and experience how they live, if only for a brief time.
It wasn’t our first time in West Marin to stay with our friends near Point Reyes Station- we’ve visited multiple times over the last few years. But each time we do, I become so enchanted with the area that I seriously daydream about moving there. I adore everything, from the local cuisine to the mild climate to the small town vibe and strong community- not to mention the time spent with friends. We experienced all of that on our Turkey Day trip to California! (People at the Salt Lake airport were really into the holiday…)
First up, though, was an evening in Oakland, rocking out at a Pearl Jam concert. Pearl Jam’s “Ten” hit my ears in high school and broadened my musical horizons past electronica and classic rock. A lifelong weakness for troublemakers with long hair was firmly secured. I had the album on cassette tape, which I WORE OUT on my Walkman, and wore one of my dad’s flannel shirts with everything- even over my cheerleading uniform. Twenty years later, I crashed the boy’s night so I could see Pearl Jam play live for the first time. An old friend, Michael, brought his son for his first concert (he fell asleep at 9:30). For the grown-ups, there would be no sleeping- even after a 37-song set list! Amazing!
On Thanksgiving eve, we made the lovely drive “over the hill” to Point Reyes Station. John and I made a trip to town for lunch and shopped for the ingredients for our Turkey Day recipes. Afterward, I took myself on a walk in the neighborhood while John took a work call. It’s amazing how lush the coast is, with plants and trees hiding homes and vines covering everything. I loved the perspective of being on foot.
Later, we joined our host, Whit, and his nugget of a son, Huck, for a beautiful hike near their home. Thinking of my frequent hikes at home, it was hard not to note the simultaneous familiarity of a quiet trail and the differences in these trees, the moss, the weather, the view. Beautiful.
Whit’s wife, Lazuli, and their awesome older boy, Ozzie, were waiting for us at the house. Over the years, Ozzie has become infatuated with John, glued to his side and working hard to imitate and impress him. The basketball hoop certainly wasn’t lonely this week. Another member of the household also gravitated toward John during our trip. I love how cats always choose the lap of the person who doesn’t like cats.
John, Whit, and Lazuli have been close friends for years; they went to college together. I’ve known them for a long time, too, but I don’t share the decades of history or know all of the old stories. For a while, I let myself feel like the newcomer, but I realized that we all now have shared experiences and memories, too. They’ve truly become like family, and I cherish the comfortable times we’ve spent with them in their home.
Thanksgiving was a happy day full of food prep, football, and friends. John and Whit continued a tradition of running to the summit of nearby Black Mountain. Lazuli and I filled the stove with simmering pots and pans, chatting the day away. She even made a pumpkin pie from a whole pumpkin! It was interesting to experience another family’s holiday traditions and recipes, so similar to ours but still new. John and I contributed the mandatory fresh green bean casserole, a bourbon oatmeal pecan pie, and a cucumber-dill dish my grandmother always made.
Getting the full meal to the table was a family affair, everyone jumping in to create a fabulous feast. Lazuli’s parents joined us, and the highlight of the evening came when each of us shared what we are thankful for. Unprompted, Huck said that he’s most thankful for his big brother when they play and when he helps him. The sweet and utterly genuine words of a four-year-old ended our holiday with warm hearts.
The big holiday felt like a finale to our trip, but we still had a full weekend to enjoy with our friends! Even after multiple visits to the area, the next three days were filled with all sorts of new places and experiences. Lazuil and I took the boys to the beach, tucking our feet into the sand. We hit the classic Nick’s Cove for an incredible meal (Dungeness crab mac n’ cheese, anyone?). Whit showed John some of his favorite running routes in the hills. We snuck out to see live music at the raucous Old Western saloon, dancing into the night. We hiked through the fog to McClure’s Beach and napped until the sun came out. What a treat to be barefoot on the beach in late November, feeling the sun kissing our cheeks!
My favorite part of the trip was our last evening in town. After our beach day, the adults enjoyed a delightful happy hour at Marshall Store, one of the oyster houses on the beach. We sat overlooking Tomales Bay as the sun set, sipping crisp white wine and devouring four dozen of the oysters this area is known for. Decadent and delicious!
As if we weren’t full enough, we were able to walk in and get a table at Sir and Star, an eclectic restaurant in the old Olema Inn. The menu read like poetry: “Marrow in the long bone with buns and a jam of the tale that wagged nearby.” Or, “Short rib of beef last seen grazing on the grasses of H Ranch, now amidst Warren’s roasted rutabaga.” Both couples shared the Bubble and Squeak salad and “crab plucked from surrounding seas, clawing at a dip of local Meyer lemons, both brought to you with broccoli at its best.” Our hosts know the owners/chefs, so we were treated to delectable extras throughout the meal, licking our fingers by candlelight.
Sunday morning was slightly tainted by the knowledge that we were leaving. We went to the beach in Bolinas, getting our last ocean fix before meeting more friends at the Coast Café for lunch. We made it home with just enough time for what Ozzie and Huck considered the MAIN EVENT: individual wrestling matches with Johnny (aka the Hairy Ninja). Johnny/Ozzie matches are a tradition every time we visit, but this year, Huck would have his own battle. Amazing moves!
And on that note, we switched mindsets from beachy frolicking to the approaching snowstorm awaiting us at home. I left feeling inspired by the easy lifestyle our friends enjoy, the simple beauty of their home, their intentional appreciation of the moments in a day. Despite what a dream our vacation had been, there really is no place like home- especially with a wagging, crooked-eared beast anxiously greeting us, squealing with joy upon our arrival.
I awoke to fresh snow today, temperatures for the next few days ranging from a high of 19 to lows near ZERO. That snuzzling beast and the memories of our trip will come in handy to keep my soul warm this week.
So much to be thankful for (today and every day).
**Got the travel bug? Check out this link for more of our adventures!
**One year ago: How John lost his wedding ring within 2 weeks of our wedding.