2014 Roadtrip: Santa Rosa, CA to Mendocino, CA

It was sunny and much cooler  (64°at noon on Tuesday than it had been over the weekend. We took Hwy 101 north from Santa Rosa and there were rolling green hills, not brown and not yet golden. North of Cloverdale it was 81° at 12:30 p.m. We stayed on Hwy 101 and it was called the Redwood Hwy. We turned on SR 20 to go west to the ocean and Ft. Bragg where Dimitri wanted to find Earl Thompson, an old boss of his from Xerox. It became very woodsy and green. We climbed to cross the Coastal Range and reached 1500’ in elevation and we were north of the 39° parallel—just the same as in Vail!

After lunch and Dimitri’s pleasant rendez vous with Earl at his apartment above (what used to be) Racine’s on Hamilton Street in Ft. Bragg (now a toy store) we went to Mendocino to the Raku House Inn (44800 Main St., Mendocino, CA 95460, tel. 707-937-1734,   http://www.rakuhouse.com) where we had booked (and paid for a room for 2 nights).

We don’t want to be too negative about Raku House Inn because, essentially, choosing a bed and breakfast was our mistake—we typically don’t like them. We booked our two nights at Raku House in advance, something we typically do not do because we want to see what we're getting before we pay for it. We chose the West Room based on price—again our mistake. It was quaint and had a certain cuteness but it was not functional. There was no chest of drawers in which to put things away. In the minuscule room we had to leave our 2 suitcases open (one on the luggage rack or) on the limited floor space. There was a space for hanging, with a curtain closing it off. In that tiny hanging space was a full-sized ironing board. Why did it need to be so big and to take up so much space?

There were two wicker chairs, a bed, 2 bedside tables and a table with 1 chair (where the continental breakfast the next morning, brought on a tray, would be eaten). We asked for a second chair so that both of us could sit at the table (smashed against the wall in a corner) to eat breakfast and to sit at our laptops and use the wi-fi. (If we went across the street to the breakfast room at Alegria instead, it would cost us $10 each for a cooked breakfast.) We were brought a folding chair. Outside our bedroom window we had a nice garden view; it was full of flowers that were flowering, including lots of alstroemeria.

The bathroom had a claw foot tub with shower, the usual toilet and sink (with some drawer space) and also had a mini frig, microwave, coffee maker and hot water boiler. There was an étagère that had tea and so on it(with a little extra space for our stuff). Audre suggested leaving the shower curtain outside of the tub on the first morning and the water went out of the tub onto the floor and there was no floor drain. It was a swimming pool in there after our showers. The second morning Audre learned from Dimitri to put the shower curtain inside the tub and then we didn’t create a swimming pool.

The bedroom had white lace curtains which did not block out any light so that at dawn we were awakened but breakfast did not get delivered until 8:30 a.m. The breakfast, when it arrived on Wednesday, was coffee, 2 small orange juice cartons and 4 (too sweet) muffins with raisins and walnuts. We carry our own cereal and bowls and milk and fruit. So we sat at the table and had our own cereal, banana and strawberries, with our apricots as our morning fruit. We had left some bread with Jim Owen, innkeeper, to toast and it was forgotten. We went to the telephone in the hallway to call the office and it didn’t work (or we couldn’t work it). We called on our cell phone and learned our bread was brought to another room; it was retrieved and brought to us. So Dimitri had his toast and cheese (that we carry) but no butter because butter was not brought with the muffins (and we don’t carry it). The coffee was good.  Raku House should not be called a “Bed and Breakfast”. It should be called a “Bed, Muffin and Coffee”. 

We had paid for 2 nights so we stayed 2 nights but we were not happy. According to our thermometer, the temperature in the room went down to 67° during the night. Fortunately, the portable heater in the room worked. We heard the footfalls over head; luckily the people went to bed when we did and their walking around in the morning was not too annoying. To watch our TV shows on the computer before bedtime, we sat in our wicker chairs and put the laptop on the bed (protecting it from overheating by putting the folding chair under the computer). We had checked out the sitting area in the main house of Alegria across the street, but that area had uncomfortable seating with no coffee tables to put the computer on.

The design of the tiny West Room was not well planned. Under the bed there should be drawers and in the closet there should be shelves. The table should have 2 comfortable chairs; the folding chair brought for Audre was very uncomfortable, even with a pillow. The bedside tables should have drawers. The curtains should keep the room dark (it is, after all, a room for sleeping). We looked at the “Aloft” room ($179 per night) and that would have been a better choice for us but lugging our luggage up that flight of stairs would not have been pleasant. We used the Jacuzzi at Alegria on our second afternoon after our 25 mile bike ride along the headlands and through the Cabrillo lighthouse up to Ft. Bragg and Noyo Harbor. It was nice and much needed after that ride.

We went to have a look at Sea Rock Bed abd Breakfast Inn, 11101 Lansing St., Mendocino, CA 95460, tel. 707-937-0926, www.searock.com. At $300++ a night we would have been very happy there.

Mendocino is a cute town with Victorian houses. Most of the houses have a tower on their property covering the pumping equipment for their wells. Water in Mendocino is from these wells. It adds a certain distinctiveness to the town. We walked across the street from the Raku House to the Alegria and down the stairs there to the beach on our first afternoon. There were big Monterey pines on the slope and lots of underbrush. It was very far down but we enjoyed sitting on a log looking at the seashore for a while.

The North Coast of Mendocino County has cliffs and headlands and is quite beautiful. It reminded us of the coast of Scotland or Ireland because the promontories over the water were so green and the rocks were generally black. The north coast is more populated and that gives a different feel to the area.
The north coast of Mendocino County reminded us of Scotland or Ireland
For our first dinner we went around the corner to Cafe Beaujolais (961 Ukiah St., Mendocino, CA 95460, tel. 707-937-5614, e-mail: cafebeau@mcn.org, www.cafebeaujolais.com). We had a lovely dinner. The room is cute but very small and the tables were small and very close together. We were able to sit at a larger-sized round table and that was good. Our server, Jamie, was knowledgeable and attentive. We shared everything as usual. We had the salad of Butter- Braised Beets, Micro Greens, Crispy Polenta + Herb Crusted Formaggio with Tarragon Vinaigrette ($10.00), and the Roasted Rack of Lamb with Mascarpone Polenta, Roasted Asparagus, Balsamic Braised Grapes and Onion Confit ($36.00). Both dishes were delicious and the lamb was prepared as we had requested. We had a ½ bottle of Navarro pinot noir ($28) and it was very good. For dessert we had one Panforte ($4) and one decaf coffee ($2.50). We enjoyed the meal very much and spent $82.33 for dinner. The panforte was so good we bought a slice to take with us ($11).

On Wednesday, we went for a bike ride. Wow, what a bike ride it was: 24.76 miles, some on sandy headlands, some on back roads and some on Route 1. We rode for 4 hours and had a great time. We started in the Mendocino Headlands State Park and stayed along the shoreline as long as we could. It was gorgeous and green with cliffs that reminded us of Ireland and of Scotland. We had to hop over to Route 1 for about a mile until we got the Cabrillo Lighthouse State Park where we hugged the coast again. There were wildflowers, grasses, the sound of the waves, birds chirping, seagulls squawking, seals barking—perfection.
Biking from Mendocino to Ft. Bragg
Dimitri had an idea as we emerged and rode back up to Route 1. He wanted to ride 6 more miles north to Noyo Harbor in Ft. Bragg to find sea urchins which we had been told were processed there. Sea urchins are Dimitri’s absolute favorite shellfish (oysters being Audre’s). At that point, we had ridden 8 miles and 6 more seemed doable. If we had lunch at the harbor, Audre thought she would have the energy to ride the 9 miles south to Mendocino (hoping that they would be all downhill). The ride along Route 1 was not bad—there was enough of a shoulder and there wasn’t a big hill to climb.  We turned on S Harbor Dr. and made a pit stop at the Holiday Inn Express there where we picked up a map. We learned we needed to go north, over the bridge and then turn on N Harbor Dr. to get to Noyo Harbor. We did and had a great descent to the harbor. We stopped at the first fish shack and were told where we might go to find sea urchin. Dimitri climbed the stairs of a fish processing plant and found a man at Ocean Fresh (http://of.mcn.org/) who sold him a pound of cleaned and frozen sea urchin for $10. He emerged triumphant with his plastic container of sea urchin! We had lunch on the harbor at Captain Flint’s (Cap'n Flint's,  32250 N. Harbor Dr., Noyo Fishing Village, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, tel. 707-964-9447). That  lunch was a blast from Audre’s past: fried oysters. Audre and her family used to have fried clams and oysters on the north shore of Boston in the 50’s and 60’s. She probably hadn’t had them since. Captain Flint’s were delicious. The batter was thin but enough to give the oysters a crispy outside and a creamy inside. We had them with crispy French fries (for a little more oil-infused food) and we were very happy.

After lunch we had enough energy to climb the big hill up from the harbor to Route 1. The 9 miles back to Mendocino were not difficult—there was room on the side of the road for our bikes without being scary. We arrived back at Raku House very happy with our 25 mile achievement. We had a soak in the sister hotel’s Jacuzzi and were even happier.

On Wednesday night we had dinner at Wild Fish (7750 N Hwy 1, Little River, CA 95456, Telephone: (707) 754 7555 and (707) 937 3055, Web:  www. wild-fish.com). We had a great meal at Wild Fish and enjoyed the service by Amanda, Kelvin and Liz. Our table was by the windows with a terrific view of the cliffs, rocks and the ocean. We shared everything, as usual and started with the soup of the day. We had a bottle of the Husch Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (around $32). It was good and we had some to take home (good for us!) Next we had the Raw Platter ($23) described as "Lime and garlic cured large wild white shrimp, local wild King Salmon cured with lemongrass, Thai chili, brown sugar and basil with wasabi cream, oysters on the half shell with champagne, shallots and cracked pepper mignonette; organic springleaf,radishes, watermelon and cucumber." It was excellent.
The Raw Platter at Wild Fish
Audre can't remember the other dishes we had but it was all delicious. We spent $93.63 plus tip.

On Thursday morning we first went to Good Life (10483 Lansing St in Mendocino, CA, (707) 937.0836, web: http://goodlifecafemendo.com/?page_id=11). They didn’t make eggs for breakfast so we left. We wanted to have scrambled eggs because we wanted to put some of the fresh sea urchin that we had bought the day before on top for an “over the top” breakfast. We went to MacCallum House (MacCallum House, 45020 Albion St., Mendocino, CA 95460, tel. 707-937-0289, www.mccallumhouse.com) and they had the breakfast made to order that we wanted. The dining rooms are Victorian and nice. We had a lovely sea view. The service was good enough, after the person who seated us got friendly and wanted to talk to us about our sea urchin garnish on our eggs. We spent $20.47 plus tip. Our sea urchins were really delicious but Dimitri has decided that he doesn't like sea urchin that has been frozen.

After breakfast we packed up and off we went to Point Arena. That would be our last stop before our month long stay in Oakland in June.