023. ROADTRIP: SONOMA TO EUREKA / by Cara Hines

I’m on a roadtrip. My brother John is with me. Well, a few of his ashes, photos and memorabilia, his favorite music, lots of memories, and—I’m fairly certain—his spirit are traveling with me. He and I were supposed to drive this coast in the opposite direction during the summer of 1997 on our way back from Seattle, but we didn’t. We’d talked since about doing it someday. He mentioned a couple times how much he’d like to do it on his bike. I’m on four wheels, not two. But I’m doing it. No time like now.

I said farewell this morning to that little slice of heaven—the Sonoma guesthouse—where I’ve been staying for a few weeks. It was a perfect place for peace, quiet, nature and healing. I did a lot of leaning into the sharp edges inside myself and grinding them down a bit. I left Sonoma and drove toward the coast to hit up Hwy 1.

I stopped in the tiny little town of Bodega which consists of a single block of businesses including local artisan galleries (wonderful local crafts), a coffee shop/bakery, a surf shop, and a handful of other businesses. I popped into the Bodega Country Store (http://bodegastore.com/) where owner “Big Mike” let me sample his amazing homemade chowders. Turns out he’s a chef who’s more passionate about making great tasting, fresh, healthy food—happily and relaxed—than in his former life in upscale restaurants where stress and drama prevail. Oh, and if you’re a Hitchcock fan, they have the “largest selection of Hitchcock memorabilia”…anywhere? Well, at least in Sonoma County.

I took my smoked salmon chowder and garlic breadstick and found the coast. I stopped somewhere just north of Bodega Bay and sidled down to a crude and beautiful beach structure. Braving strong winds, I plopped down with an eager group of seagulls and shore birds intent on feigning indifference and ate in the midst of this primal art collaboration between humans, time and elements of nature.

Continuing along Hwy 1, I stopped occasionally for photo ops and to soak up the sounds, smells, and energy of this coast. It’s an awe-inspiring convergence between powerful forces and contrasting forms, and—if you get quiet enough to feel it—emptiness.

A highlight in my day was a little unexpected gem on the side of the road—The Sea Ranch Chapel (http://thesearanchchapel.org/). According to the website, “The Chapel was the gift of Sea Ranch residents Robert and Betty Buffum, who envisioned a place for meditation and spiritual renewal at the Sea Ranch”, and it was designed by “renowned San Diego artist and architect James T. Hubbell”. Every one of the many details was crafted by hand with respect for the ongoing collaboration of time and nature. You just have to look at the pictures yourself.

I continued through increasingly heavy rains, stopping briefly in the quaint town of Mendocino which apparently caters to the tourist searching for the idyllic seaside village. Winding my way inland through forests of redwoods and eucalyptus trees, I passed a variety of well-used VW buses, wide rivers, and roadside attractions vying for your dollars in exchange for Americana trinkets, bigfoot carvings and such. I was on my way to Eureka where I’d arranged with my couchsurfing.com hosts, Jack and Anna to stay with them for the night. I reached them and their two black cats in time for a chat by the wood-burning stove. They were gracious and shared liberally about their love of Hawaii, local brewery beers, and skiing. And afterward I slipped easily off to sleep with a serenade of Pacific rains.

This morning, I wished Jack and Anna farewell and looked up a local coffee shop before heading out for another day of experiencing the west coast. Tonight, I land in Port Orford, Oregon.

View more photos in the Roadtrip: Sonoma-Eureka Gallery