Sleeping like the dead—there’s a cemetery across the street!
We all slept like rocks and awoke to an overcast but very pretty day. Walking back and forth from our rooms to our motorcycles as we loaded up our luggage, it was impossible to miss the many snails cruising around in the cool, moist weather. I pointed out the extra large one I found crawling up the door into our shared lobby and as I stood there cooing at it, Andy took phone pictures to send to his darling daughter. 🙂
Steve and Andy took a few minutes to check out of our room and it was then that I noticed a curious sight just across the road. A cemetery was there, neatly kept from what I could see. Time permitting, it would have been nice to take a respectful walk there to see how old the tombstones were marked. At the time, I had mixed feelings about taking pictures at a cemetery. I didn’t think it would be wrong to take a picture from afar though, and I admired the cyprus forest that grew thickly on one side.
I later discovered that this was the far edge of the Rose Memorial Park Cemetery, and learned that it IS ok to take pictures at cemeteries. Furthermore, there’s a huge database website called Find a Grave, which is dedicated to amassing cemetery and tombstone pictures so that people can see the graves of their relatives. I had no idea that a) there is a surprisingly popular hobby of “Gravers” who take these pictures, and b) there are countless requests for images of headstones by relatives and historians. WHO KNEW?!
Glass Beach and the Noyo Headlands
After a quick breakfast, we rode out to the Noyo Headlands and parked the bikes. Holy smoke, what a view!! From these bluffs, one could see for miles in all directions. The rugged cliffs, crashing waves and offshore boulders were striking, and the fog rolling inland added a touch of magic.
There were several trails that led down to small beaches and we couldn’t wait to get there. Why? These beaches were supposedly covered with glass that had been tumbled in the rough surf and promised some awesome macro photography! Hot diggity dog, let me at it!!!
We made our way down the steep but short trail that led to the beach and I will admit that I wasn’t very impressed at first. Looking down at the rocks, pebbles, and sea glass, it really didn’t seem like a big deal. That is, until I dropped down to my handy knee pads to take a closer look.
Tumbled glass in all different colors, shapes and sizes glimmered at me, along with many interesting rocks and shells. A host of various kelp and sea plants that had washed up on shore grabbed my attention too. But there was more…bits of junk and globs of what seemed to be melted metal and plastic were all over the place. Cans, gears, unidentified bits of rusted stuff of all different sizes…what the heck WAS this place, anyway?
Andy and Steve talked to a couple who were looking around, and they mentioned that the three glass beaches had once been dump sites! SERIOUSLY?!! As horrific as it may seem, it was once a common practice for beach communities to create dumps at the ocean’s edge. On top of that, fires were set intentionally to reduce the size of the dumps, which accounted for all of the melted metal and plastic everywhere. This particular beach had been a dump site from 1906 to 1943, and when it filled up, another beach was used from 1943 to 1949, and finally, the third beach was used from 1949 until 1967. At that point, the last dump was closed and conservancy groups then spent years cleaning up the beaches and hauling away most of the contents. With that explanation, it was easy to understand where the sea glass came from—all the countless bottles dumped here! If you’d like to know more about the history of Glass Beach, Wikipedia has a great article.
All three of us were like kids let loose in a candy shop. Macro (close-up) photography is our favorite specialty and it looked like every square inch was covered with interesting subjects to take pictures of. In fact, the sheer volume of STUFF was downright overwhelming! It was obvious that we could spend the day taking pictures and not scratch the surface of all there was to capture here.
We could only stay for about 45 minutes but we had a fantastic time creeping around and taking lots of pictures. I concentrated on getting at least one good picture of each type of subject before I got multiples so I didn’t end up missing out on something I was hoping for. Sea glass, dump rubble, sea weed, rocks, shells or hopefully a living mollusk, and crabs were all on my to-do list, and I managed to get some nice images of everything! I even got some fun pictures of Steve and Andy taking pictures—it’s wonderful to see photographers “in the moment” as they are working at their craft.
At one point we noticed that there was a ground squirrel running around, and Andy exclaimed, “Look! It’s the Mayor of Glass Beach!” We all did our best to get good pictures of that feisty little squirrel, but he always seemed to be in motion. Nevertheless, I managed to get two nice shots of the little guy. I will add that he wasn’t very impressed that I didn’t have any treats for him!
We made sure to leave Glass Beach with plenty of time to get to the nearby train station by 10:45. Why? We had tickets to ride the Skunk Train!!
The Little Train that Couldn’t
When Steve and I met back in 2000, I looked around for a romantic get-away and found out about Fort Bragg’s famous Skunk Train. I ended up choosing something else for that weekend, but ever since, I’ve wanted to ride on this historic old train. What I didn’t know is that this operation has more than one train engine, and only one of them is an old classic steam locomotive.
While we were planning our trip, Andy mentioned the Skunk Train and I was instantly excited! I was delighted when I discovered they had a 45-minute ride available, because it would fit into our schedule too! We booked tickets and looked forward to what we hoped would be a short but fun ride through the redwoods.
We showed up with plenty of time to pick up our tickets and that’s when I also saw that the engine pulling the train wasn’t the Skunk Train, even though the picture advertising this little jaunt showed the classic beauty. I was quietly very disappointed but still, it didn’t keep me from feeling excited and happy to go on this train ride! I envisioned the rhythmic clackity-clack of the train racing along the tracks through the old-growth forest and enjoying the beauty of the creek beside us.
As people handed their tickets to the conductor and climbed aboard, we chose to ride in their stand-up outdoor observation car for better visibility. I had my leather jacket on for warmth so we were comfortable and loved the novelty too. The train started to move out of the station and over the speakers we got to hear the history of the Skunk Train that we weren’t actually on—it gets its name because the steam locomotives have a unique odor which people can smell for miles away. Next, we were informed that this train doesn’t actually go on a circuitous route. Instead, it goes very slowly for 3.5 miles, rolls to a stop, and then it backs up—yes, it BACKS UP—all the way to the station. Can you say lame? They carefully left that “Um, no thanks.” information out of the description of the train ride on their website. And meanwhile, there’s a woman asking every single person on the train if they want their picture taken for $25.00…we suppressed our laughter when she asked the three of us with our trio of cameras in hand.
Well, even though we all felt like we’d been chumped on this ride, we still had a very nice time. It was relaxing and beautiful, and I enjoyed being able to revisit sights on the way back to the station. All three of us wished we’d known what a joke this ride was, but oh well, live and learn. And we DID get to go on a short train ride, so whatever, right?
Down the Coast and into the Mist!
There really is something to be said of travelling on a motorcycle. The wind whipping past you, filled with all of the scents and aromas of the area, gives you an understanding that you cannot get in an automobile. You feel the weather, the temperature, and even bugs that hit your clothing and helmet. You are not insulated like you are in a car, and the result is a much more immersive experience. As a passenger, I get the added bonus of sometimes entering an almost zen-like state as I stare out at the landscape and do my best to take it all in. It’s wonderful! As Ferris Bueller said so eloquently, “If you have the means, I highly recommend it!” 😀
We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Jenny’s Giant Burgers on the way out of Fort Bragg (very tasty, huge portions) and then headed south down Highway 1, which hugged the coast most of the way down California. The weather on this day wasn’t sunny but it was still dramatic and beautiful, changing between rolling banks of fog and thick clouds. The sun occasionally poked a hole through for a moment or two, but only rarely. We rode by many lovely places we would love to explore—the lovely art-centric Mendocino, natural havens like Point Arena, Jenner, and Bodega Bay, to name a few. But we did have a long way to ride, so we only pulled over a few times so the boys could take pictures.
Lucky me! I had many opportunities for pictures of craggy coastlines with waves crashing on the rocks and enjoyed trying to time my clicks for the best angle as we rode along. It was so liberating to have my camera with me—I took so many photos along the way that just wouldn’t have been possible if I weren’t a passenger on a motorcycle. Steve and Andy took a few pictures too, but they could only do this under certain situations. I felt like the cat who ate the canary!
We stopped to grab some coffee drinks at Bodega Bay and enjoyed the beautiful view as we drank our tasty beverages. Looking out over the water, I stretched my legs and rubbed my head where it had been pressure-bruised the day before. It was still sore but hardly noticeable and I felt so relieved. What would we have done if nothing we did worked? Pulling my helmet back on and buckling it in place, I was so glad it was comfortable again.
Wrong turn at Albuquerque
Highway 1 headed inland from Bodega Bay and we were enjoying the scenery so much that we missed the turn that took us back out to the coast. We ended up in the city of Petaluma, once known as the “Egg Capital of the World,” and home to the first egg incubator. Discovering our error, we returned the way we’d come and agreed that the extra 45 minutes was well-spent. It was a treat to revisit the rolling meadows and farmland edged in white fencing, livestock and pretty homes. Trees marched along the tops of foggy hills and gathered in lovely patches of forests here and there. It was beautiful.
We took the proper turn and found our way onto Highway 1 again, which took us past Tomales Bay. This 15-mile long, 1-mile wide inlet between the highway and the ocean is equally popular with oyster farmers and sports fans of sailing, kayaking, and motor boating. We saw lots of boats anchored but didn’t notice any recreational use, for good reason. Although it looked very peaceful out on the water as we rode along, the weather was increasingly brooding with dark clouds hanging low over the water. It was cold and windy too, and all of us were happy to have our warmest gear on.
Soon we were riding past Bolinas Lagoon and as I looked out over the body of water, I remembered something interesting about this place. There is a town here called Bolinas, and its residents are so reclusive that they don’t want anyone to know where it’s located. So, every time the state puts up signs that show the way into town (which they are required to do), the locals remove them within hours. As we passed the lagoon, I wondered where the road was, and made a guess. Looking at a map online, I discovered that my guess was completely wrong!
At Stinson Beach, the first beach north of San Francisco, we pulled off to admire the incredible view of the Pacific Ocean meeting the western coast of the United States. Steve arranged to have pizza delivered to my dad’s house, because we were almost there!
It was later than we’d hoped but we got to the Golden Gate Bridge before the sun had set and had enough time for a couple of pictures before heading to my dad’s house. I was delighted that Andy was in my home town, and yet, it was so strange to have him here!
“The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” ∼ Mark Twain
Twain got it right, and I should know. I spent about 38 years there, and I can tell you that it’s most often foggy, windy, and cold—especially in my father’s neighborhood. And so it was when we headed across the bridge and made our way to the base of Mount Davidson. I did love seeing the fog rolling up the streets, but I certainly didn’t miss the wind and cold!
We pulled up to my dad’s house as it was getting dark. Trudging up the front steps, I rushed into my father’s arms when he opened the door. It was so good to see him—a couple of years had passed since I’d been down to visit, and I’d missed him very much. I introduced Andy to my dad, and we were soon sitting around the dining room table eating pizza and chatting about our trip.
Unfortunately, we needed to get down to Santa Cruz where our rooms were booked, so we took our leave after about 45 minutes. Steve and I planned to come down a month later for a longer stay but we were still sad to leave.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Hates Photographers!
Our original plan was to head out of San Francisco and continue down the coast on Highway 1, pulling off for sunset pictures. However, it was dark when we left, so we decided to take the freeway to save time. That turned out to be a great idea. There was very little traffic as we whizzed south through Silicon Valley, and in no time we were on the highway that took us over the Santa Cruz Mountains and deposited us in Santa Cruz. By then it was after 10pm. We split up to go to our separate lodgings with plans to meet up at the Boardwalk. We knew we needed to boogie if we wanted to do any amusement park photography because the park closed at 11pm. Steve and I brought our luggage in, grabbed our cameras and tripod, and off we went. Our motel was a block away from the Boardwalk, and soon we met up with Andy.
Even though the rides were supposed to be running until 11pm, we were disappointed to find that they were shutting down by the time we got there. The lights were turning off, employees were closing up, and people were leaving. About that time we were approached by several security guards who let us know that professional photography was not allowed at the park, nor were tripods. Seriously? We identified ourselves as hobbyists, and they said we could take pictures as long as we didn’t use a tripod, “which was considered a hazard to patrons.” We were very sad pandas. I took a few pictures but my heart just wasn’t in it. There’s nothing like having security guards watching your every move and treating you like a criminal to decimate your creativity. 🙁
There was a cool neon sign at the main entrance to the Boardwalk, so we left and discovered that the sign would make a great picture, and was perfect for long-exposure too. Being outside the park, the boys set up their tripods and I loved watching them standing next to each other and chatting about settings and technique. When a guard came over to harass them about the tripods, Steve was quick to point out that they weren’t in the park and there weren’t even any people around. However, once they got their pictures, we walked across the street for another picture and there truly wasn’t anything security could do about us at that point. The truth is that Santa Cruz Boardwalk doesn’t want anyone taking pictures of their venue and possibly making money. We obviously know what we’re doing and they didn’t like having us around.
Andy bid us sweet dreams and wandered back to his motel, and after a few pictures of neon-covered buildings, we headed back to our room too. Soon we were tucked into bed, exhausted after a long and very fun day of riding. It may not have ended quite the way we’d hoped, but we still got a few fun pictures to share, and I was delighted at the 1,000 images I’d gotten during the day. I knew that masses of those would be tossed in the trash, but there would surely be dozens of nice ones to work on. I fell asleep thinking about the fun I’d have working on those photos after we got home.