In July 2005, we decided to take a road trip along Northern California Highway 1 in California for my birthday. Being a fairly new couple (we had only been dating about 8 months) this was our first vacation together. We were both excited as neither of us had done this before.

We made no planning and were just being spontaneous and stopping wherever we wanted and didn’t bother keeping track of time. We had a great time although we had a little anxiety on day 1. Below is our log of our 3 wonderful days and our not-so-fun 4th day!

Day 1

On the road we got as far as just shy of Bodega Bay. We had spent the day stopping whenever we felt like it, taking pictures, scouting for coastal souvenirs (shells and rocks) and being in general laid back. Being from the Bay Area, we are used to almost everything being open 24 hours.

What we discovered, the hard way, is that as you go north along highway 1, hotels-motels-inns close up the lobby a lot earlier. About 9 pm we were getting tired, and this being lets “jump in the car and go” trip, we had not booked a stay ahead of time. This is where being out of our own neck of the woods became a problem!

Every place we drove past the hotel lobbies were closed for the night. We stopped at a small roadside restaurant to get a possibility of where to go we arrived at the Bridgeport Inn outside of Guerneville. We got lucky, the Inn manager happened to just be passing thru her closed office when she saw our headlights. She kindly let us in, set us up in a room and even offered sandwiches if we were hungry. Having already taken up her time, we declined sandwiches and went to our room.

It was clean, quiet, and we were just tired. We flipped on the TV to catch up on the news, and it was already on channel 9, which here in California is our PBS channel. To our surprise and delight, it was showing the history on the building of Highway 1. We both saw the humor in this as this was the trip we were embarking on. It couldn’t have been a better surprise and ending to our first day of our road trip vacation.

Day 2

The following morning we made our way back to Highway 1 and had breakfast at the Sandpiper in Bodega Bay. Being a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan, I made it a must-see. Any of you whom have seen “The Birds” knows why. Not much of the old town from the film still exists, but I could now say ”I have been there”. While we were there, we took pictures and gathered stones and shells.

Next came the Mendocino coast. Art, wine, food….who needs to say much more here? We wandered around, ate too much from a bakery, and eventually got back in the car. From this point we happened upon a small sign pointing up a steep road stating “The Annapolis Winery”. I like wine even though Tracy doesn’t, but since it was my birthday trip we went and did some wine tasting.

As we approached the winery, it appeared like we were driving up to an old beat up barn. However, when we entered the barn, we were surprised at how nice it was inside as the entire barn had been renovated into a wonderful tasting room. I sampled the offerings of the day, and just melted for the 2005 Rose’. We ended up getting 6 bottles and have just recently finished the last one this past Christmas. Unfortunately, I wanted more but the 2005 was out of stock. To this day, the business card with the varietal and vintage is still housed in my wallet.

Then we made our way to Glass Beach, which is near Fort Bragg. This beach is literally spattered with glass shards of all colors from years of trash being dumped there that were spewed into the bay and have washed ashore. They are smoothed over from the movement against the sand while tumbling around out there. Unfortunately, so many people have taken the colored shards that there is hardly any of them left.

As the late afternoon approached we had made it to Point Arena, which is a small coastal city in Mendocino County. We walked the bluffs and took some more photos. We took an amazing photograph of the Point Arena Lighthouse, which is still working to this day. We then made our way to Eureka for the night.

In Eureka, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. We wanted to stay with a chain we were familiar with from my business travels. As neither of us was at all familiar with Eureka other than the historic miners cry, we asked the person at the front desk to recommend a good place for dinner. We were told the Longhorn Steakhouse was good and given directions to get there. The food was excellent and reasonable. We then retired for the night, having had an amazing 2nd day of our road trip vacation.

Day 3

As we departed Eureka, we opted for a drive-thru meal at McDonalds so we could get on the road and headed toward Orrick which runs alongside the Eel river in Northern California. As we headed north we saw a lot of cars pulled over, so we slowed down to be sure nothing was wrong…what we saw was a herd of elk lazing along the river.

Behind them in a field was the Orrick School House, a little red school house reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie. Of course, we stopped along with everyone else and took the photo opportunity that was presented. This is when we decided that since we were so far north already we might as well cross into Oregon since neither of us had been there. With a brief stop in Crescent City to walk the beach, take some photos and gather intact sand dollars, we headed for our goal; Oregon!

We crossed over into Oregon (more on this in the next post) and there was a restaurant right there so we ate and then turned around and headed back to California to sleep in Eureka. Great day once again on our 3rd day of our road trip vacation.

Day 4

It was time to head home as both of us had to work the next day. Therefore, in order to make it home on the same day we took the main freeways. Whenever either of us are ending a trip, it’s always so fun and leisurely but when it’s time we just want to get home as quick as possible. Which would probably explain why we got that speeding ticket!

Final Thoughts

This trip led to us doing road trips whenever we can, and we go on many of them. However, this trip is still our favorite and we have continued to do many more along Highway 1 over the years – there is so many things to see all along Highway 1, enjoying the beautiful views of the ocean along the way. What places have you seen on Highway 1?


Til next time,

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