With the Thanksgiving weekend over, Mavis and I once again headed south along US Route 101. Even though it consistently rained the entire time, the views were breathtaking as we weaved in and around the coastal mountain range. We stopped at a log-themed tourist trap near Benbow, California and I had a sturdy breakfast and later shopped for tacky knick-knacks/stocking stuffers for the upcoming holiday. You see, in my family stocking stuffers are much more important than actual gifts. We shop for the perfect, mostly tacky, cheap, silly, and/or exotic tchotchke and distribute them in custom, oversized stockings that my mom and aunt sewed together over two decades ago. In years past, it was an arms race to see who could outdo the other, however cooler heads have prevailed recently and my family has endeavored to spend less this year than say, the GNP of Andorra. At any rate, I think I have the exotic category nailed this year with my Redwood-themed card decks and shot glasses. That night, I decided to stay at a Motel 6 to catch a shower (which I didn't have the quarters for the nights before) and get some Zzzzzs.
The next morning we moved further south, eventually into Sonoma County. Once again, I could not find a library. Once again, no available public wifi. Finding myself with ample time and studiously avoiding the wineries lest I fall down a well of drinking on an increasingly empty stomach + temptation to buy wine + driving from winery to winery, I decided to bypass the wineries and pull into Petaluma, California, where, you guessed it, the library wasn’t open as it was a Sunday. The town itself was very charming with a homey, small town business district that featured a homemade pie company, a toy store, two (!) Christmas stores, a tattoo parlor, some bars, nightclubs, antique shops, etc. It reminded me a lot of my mother’s town back east of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I loaded up on more stocking stuffers and moved on to Mt. Tamalpais State Park just north of San Francisco where I van-camped for the low, low price of $25.00.
Mt. Tamalpais, or Mt. Tam as the locals call it, has got to be one of the best kept secrets in the Bay Area. I got there in the late afternoon hours of that Sunday, after weaving my way through some of the more spectacular byways I’ve driven so far. It was a challenge hugging the curves of the zig-zaggy roads of Marin County in the Honda Odyssey, but it handled much better than I thought. However, I still couldn’t help wondering what it would be like driving a sports car of some sort. Oh well, in my next life… The state park was jammed with hikers, bikers, families all enjoying the day using the facilities of this spectacular state park. Though most people tended to be local, I noticed a few Europeans had taken public transportation up from San Francisco just to take a hike. I myself would have taken advantage of the amazing hiking and camping opportunities, but the paths were too tough for Miss Mavis and the campground was positioned on the side of a mountain with a stiff breeze and the threat of rain/wind. As it is, I saw a flock of wild turkeys from the parking lot. That evening, Mavis and I took a curvy, spectacular road with amazing Pacific views to Stinson Beach and enjoyed the wifi from the parking lot of the local library (thank you Stinson Beach PL!) and had a hamburger at a the Parkside Snack Bar beach restaurant, which had been decked out with heat lamps as the temperature had dipped to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The people of Marin County have it rough.
Pictures below (click to enlarge): A.) Tourist's map of Petaluma, California, B.) Looking down the main thoroughfare of Petaluma Boulevard. I wished I had that roadster. C.) You too can purchase Downton Abbey for your Christmas town! Only $240.00! D-G.) An amazing Christmas store shop window, with close-ups of individual panes. H.) When in Petaluma, have the pie! I.) The Abstinence Fountain. I find this cracks me up as Petaluma probably owes part of its livelihood to the nearby wineries of Sonoma County. J.) Looking east onto residential Stinson Beach. K.) My view of Stinson Beach Public Library from the parking lot. L.) The burger I ate at the snack bar in Stinson Beach.