Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ft. Bragg to Calistoga Springs; A Short Day and a Mud Bath

 

OK, here it is. There is no point in being “old enough to know better” and not taking any chances. Life is short. It might as well be sweet, and sometimes, you just have to take some risks.

You might say, and we might agree, that life is full of unknown risks, like ending up on California highway 1 through the hilly, unguarded woods in late afternoon. On the other hand, a little adrenaline is the spice of life for AdventureMan and me.

One year, long ago, AdventureMan and I were living in Tunisia and we found ourselves at the beginning of the road General Montgomery took to break the Mareth Line in WWII.

(from Wikipedia:

Battle of the Mareth Line

Montgomery launched Operation Pugilist against the Mareth Line on the night of 19/20 March 1943. Elements of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division penetrated the line and established a bridgehead west of Zarat on 20/21 March. A determined counter-attack by 15th Panzer Division destroyed the pocket, re-establishing the line by 22 March. On 26 March, X Corps (Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks) drove around the Matmata Hills, capturing the Tebaga Gap and the town of El Hamma at the northern extreme of the line in Operation Supercharge II, making the Mareth Line untenable. The following day anti-tank guns from German and Italian units checked the advance of X Corps, to gain time for a withdrawal. In the next 48 hours the Axis defenders pulled out of the Mareth Line, establishing a new defensive position 60 kilometres (37 mi) to the north-west at Wadi Akarit near Gabès.)

The road was challenging at first, a rocky dirt road, very narrow. “How on earth did they get tanks through here?” I wondered to myself as my 3 year old son went sound asleep in the back seat. The road became dicey, but there was no place to turn around, so AdventureMan gamely drove on. Several times, he had to find a place in the road wide enough for me to get out without falling over the cliff, to guide him around ruts in the road that went 2 – 3 feet deep. It got later and later in the afternoon, there was no other traffic on this pass, and I was beginning to  . . . . have a little anxiety, but we never say anything, like to say it might make it true. There comes a point where the adrenaline doesn’t even surge any more, you just want it to be over, you want to be safe. And, as you can see, we lived to tell the tale 🙂

All that to introduce that today is a day of challenges.

First, as we drove down Highway 101, we looked for a winery I really wanted to find, Graziano winery. We had a bottle of Zinfandel from there, a red, complicated zinfandel, which changed my idea about zinfandel wines. We never found the winery, but we did see a sign for it, pointed back the way we had come. Arrrgh.

On to Calistoga Springs, where we check in to the Golden Haven Spa, a quirky motel/hotel with it’s own hot springs and spa, where we are going to have a first – a mud bath.

 

This is our very spacious room, with lovely high ceilings.

This is in the quiet room, at the entrance to the spa itself.

It’s always fun when you really don’t know what you are getting into. I couldn’t tell from the photos if this place was “nice” or “clean. You can read reviews, and you can’t always believe either the really good or the really bad. I looked at all the places in Calistoga, and this one looked quirky and fun, and I just had to hope it was clean (it was.)

The other thing is that with these mud baths, you can be totally nude, you can wear a bathing suit or underwear, whatever makes you comfortable. There will be an attendant in the room with you to help you, so how does that work? We brought our bathing suits, but once we saw the mud bath (black black mud mixed with peat moss) we figured we might as well just go nude. There were two of us, and we’ve seen each other nude before. It made us a little braver.

The attendant was sweet and modest, explained how things worked and then left us, saying she would be back. Well, the whole process is actually funny; you don’t climb into these big concrete tubs that look a lot like sarcophagi, you are supposed to ROLL into them, which got us giggling right away. And they are very hot, and you are not supposed to put your feet on the bottom, or you could get burned feet, and the mud is so thick you really do float. While you are waiting for the attendant to return, you use your hands to put mud over all the parts you  . . . ummm. . .. you know, like want to keep hidden, and that made us giggle more, but you can’t giggle too much or you bend and might start sinking and the mud/peat moss is really HOT.

Then the attendant knocks, and comes back in and puts a special mud on your face and then leaves again for about half an hour while you soak. We were ready when she came back, and we ROLLED out, but actually, I couldn’t figure out how to do it by myself so AdventureMan came over to give me a hand, but he looked so funny I was laughing too hard and couldn’t roll out the right way for a couple minutes.

Then you take this two-person shower, which sounds a lot sexier than it really is, because you have mud everywhere, and it really needs two people to spray each other in places you can’t see for yourself, like your upper back and your hairline, and other places where you can’t see yourself, the other person needs to spray you.

After you’ve sprayed as much as you can, you get into the hot tub, which is also very hot and I forget to mention, sulpher-y. Sulpher doesn’t bother me in hot springs; I got used to it as a kid, Baden-Baden, Wiesbaden, there were fountains where you could “take the waters” and it was always sulfur-y. It’s kind of stinky, but you get used to it. After the hot tub, we were like limp noodles, perfect for having massages, which was our mid-trip treat, along with the adventure of having a mud bath. We slept well that night.  🙂

So was it worth it? Oh yes, it was. It’s not often we are so out of our comfort zone, nor that we laugh so much. It’s a good thing to try something new and different. Would I do it again? I might, but I wouldn’t seek it out. It was fun, and there are other fun things in the world we haven’t tried yet.

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June 3, 2018 - Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel, Values | , , ,

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