Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ft. Bragg . . . where??? (California)

Most people, when they think of Fort Bragg, think of a military post in North Carolina. The Fort Bragg we discovered several years ago in California has little in common with the North Carolina Fort Bragg.

Our first time in Fort Bragg, as we left Cucina Verona, an Italian restaurant where we had eaten dinner, we were startled by the loud sound of hoofbeats, and the sudden appearance of two riders, galloping hell-bent down the middle of the road in Ft. Bragg. It was one of those adrenaline moments, when you wonder if you really saw what you just thing you saw, followed by all the things that could go wrong when you mix horses, highways, automobiles and high speed.

This time, one of the first things we saw was this sign:

 

But . . . it doesn’t say anything about riding horses, skateboards, or bicycles down the center of the street!

Ft. Bragg has a very laid back vibe. The town is full of couples who look a lot like us, maybe even a little older, maybe a little more hip and less retired military than we look, but relaxed, comfortable in their own skins. We love the vibe. My very favorite activity in Ft. Bragg is at the north end of the town, where they have a place called Glass Beach. Glass beach is where the old town dump used to be, a long time ago, and all the bottles dumped there broke and were washed by the waves, tumbled by the gravel and sand, and became beach glass. Most of what you find is pretty small these days; Glass Beach has been discovered, but if you venture out the the furthest inlets and rocks, you can find some larger pieces, sometimes even a green piece. I found one tiny little blue piece, the grand prize of all beach glass.

We love the North Cliff Hotel, where every room has the same view, looking out over the water at the inlet to the little bay.

We love the hot tub with a view.

 

We love the view. On the morning we were leaving, we looked out and someone had written a huge message on the sand, “Annie will you marry me?” How cool is that?!

Time is flexible in Ft. Bragg. We get up when we want to, we don’t have to drive to any destination, we can be lazy or we can just meander around, which is what we choose to do.

Love this tunnel of eucalyptus trees entering Ft. Bragg from the north:

This yard had no flower but yellow flowers, and a LOT of yellow flowers!

 

 

Just a short drive south is Mendocino, one of the most beautiful little California towns you could hope to find. We were looking for special gifts for two special people, and found them, polished carved natural bay laurel bowls, at this shop.

 

I read a recent article on how California leads the way for the American soul; it gives me hope for the future of our country. California pioneered gay rights, California champions the rights of immigrant children to education and health benefits, and Californians “welcome the stranger,” as all people of the book are supposed to do.

This was in the window of the main grocery/hardware/sundries store in Mendocino. When a woman saw me taking a photo, she asked me why, and I told her, it made me feel welcome and filled my heart with joy to know that it specifically would also make my Arab / Muslim friends feel welcome. She smiled, sternly, and said that they welcome ALL people, that is what California is all about. I was happily chastened. 🙂

 

I want the United States of America to be a safe place for all people. No wonder I love California!

Well, there is another reason to love Ft. Bragg – they have one of the world’s best ice creameries right on the major through street in Ft. Bragg. 

Cowlicks Ice Cream is never not busy. On our first trip (we went twice in one day!) I had a scoop of ginger ice cream. It was a huge WOW. On the next trip, I had a chocolate which was really chocolaty, but I wished I had another scoop of ginger.

As we sat, eating our ice cream, I overheard a stylish but somewhat-frail looking 80’ish woman tell her daughter that she didn’t want to be bothered being married again, she was just looking to have a little fun without the complications of a relationship. Such is life in Ft. Bragg. 🙂

 

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June 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

En Route to Ft. Bragg, California

“Ft. Bragg . . . California?”

We get that a lot; most of our friends have heard of the Fort Bragg in North Carolina but most are not familiar with the Ft. Bragg just north of Mendocino on the northern California coast. We discovered it two or three years ago on one of our hiking and exploring trips, and fell in love. Some places just send out vibes, affinity vibes.

AdventureMan was talking this morning about Ft. Bragg, saying that if we lived there, we’d get tired of eating, even at the places we love, over and over again. It’s a drive to get just about anywhere from Ft. Bragg, maybe two or three hours north of San Francisco. But it’s lovely.

The drive from Bandon to Ft. Bragg is the most challenging drive of the trip.

The scenery is spectacular, the day is beautiful, sunny and windy. The drive as far as Crescent City is a piece of cake on Highway 101, alongside gorgeous scenery part of the way.

 

 

In Crescent City, we stopped for lunch at Fisherman’s Restaurant, which looked like a lot of fun. It was:

 

 

I had to have the Cali melt 🙂

 

They had a display case full of so many different kinds of pie!


But on we went. I had taken over driving, and later, we just laughed. As soon as I got on the road, highway 101 changed to a narrow forest lane, with twists and turns, and impatient large lumber trucks coming up quickly behind me and riding my bumper. I think I mentioned before that the rental Nissan Altima drives like a beached whale. It was awful.

I drove for three hours, and most of the time it continued awful, in different ways. Going through some small town, we kept getting behind a piece-of-junk car that had a bumper sticker that said something like “you know I have a sense of humor because I drive this car.” He was a horrible driver. No matter how I tried to avoid him, he kept ending up in front of me.

Finally, things evened out for a short while and I asked AdventureMan if he would drive. Just as he started driving, we got to California 1, an even narrower forested road with steep twists and turns. It didn’t look that bad on the map, it looked like a short stretch, but that was deceptive, it went on forever. By the time we came out again along the coast, AdventureMan needed to stop and stretch and take a breath – it was a stressful road.

 

 

Entering Ft. Bragg area

 

May 2, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The North Cliff Hotel in Fort Bragg, California

When AdventureMan and I saw this hotel on TripAdvisor, we had a feeling it was a good place for us. Space? Yes, lots of it, and a balcony, too. A grand view, 180 degrees, with, yes, crashing waves on rocks! Check! And just for grins, throw in a whirlpool tub with a view of the sunset, oh my, what heaven. AdventureMan really enjoys a good massage, and these long days of driving and hiking leave him eager to try the hot swirling waters in the privacy of our own room.

When I call the North Cliff Hotel, I first ask if they have any rooms available, and then I ask if the military discount is also available for retired military. It often isn’t, so I always ask.

“Of course it is!” she replied, “You served your time, didn’t you? Of course you get the discount!”

Wow. That totally sealed the deal. We wanted to stay there anyway, but having that nice discount made it even nicer.

AdventureMan was so helpful; I said I wanted to take photos before we messed up the room, soaked all the bathtowels and robes, etc. and he was patient with me.

What I didn’t know was that I had somehow set the camera on black and white, so I got all these sepia toned photos, weird because it was an accident, but nice because I like how they look.

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There were people who complained about the fog horn. Folks, it’s the coast. If you want the coast, and the crashing waves, you’re going to have to welcome the fog horn. It’s a safety thing . . .

We loved this place, and we loved the quirkiness of Fort Bragg altogether, it felt more like a real-people town than Mendocino.

This is what the sunsets looked like from our room:
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May 1, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Hotels, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Another Great Hike

There is a huge problem with the Cabrillo Lighthouse hike, and it is obvious from the very beginning. It is only a half mile, and it is downhill all the way.

What’s the problem, you might ask?

Well, if it is downhill all the way getting there, then coming back, it will be a half mile all . . . . What? You fill in the blank.

But it is another gorgeous day on the California sea coast, and it is a glorious day for a hike, even uphill.

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There is a wonderful story about a man who came to take the lighthouse keeper position, but he wasn’t married and only married keepers were allowed to live in the lighthouse keeper’s house. So a local girl – maybe the daughter of the previous lighthouse keeper – volunteered to marry him, and they stayed married the rest of their lives.

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I love using natural means to bioengineer against erosion loss:

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And, on the way back, yes, uphill all the way, we come across some very calm deer, not worried in the slightest by the steady trickle of visitors on the nearby path:
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April 30, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Mendocino, CA and the GoodLife Cafe

Mendocino was one of our destinations, it gets such good write ups, it sounds so attractive. Mendocino has the same gorgeous coastline, and it is cute. There are a lot of Bed and Breakfast kind of places, very nice, just, as it turns out, not our thing so much. We really like spacious.

We found a cafe we really liked, The Goodlife Cafe, where we stopped, and so did a lot of other people. It was hard to find a place to sit, and people were even sitting outside on a very cool windy day.

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I found a place barely big enough for two; the woman sitting next to us had spread out all her reading materials, so I asked “are these seats taken?” and she had to make room. We barely had room, but it was all right, at least we were seated.

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AdventureMan said this was one of the best sandwiches and chowder he had on his trip:

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I felt the same way about the pumpkin curry; it was unusual and magnificent. Warm and filling after a morning full of hikes!
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April 30, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Navarro Point Park

At Navarro Point, I make my ten thousand steps without even trying. It is so beautiful, you can hike and it doesn’t even feel like you are hiking, there is so much to look at, so much to enjoy. There is a brisk Pacific wind blowing, great for hiking, so you don’t even get too hot.

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You can see this stone in front of the bench overlooking the crashing waves:

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I am careful not to go too close to the edge; I love crashing waves but I don’t want to be smashed against the rocks by crashing waves after tumbling down a rocky bluff!

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For me, this was the best hike of the trip. I love the smell of salt sea air, I love the feel of the wind on my face and the sound of crashing waves.

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

“From the Redwood Forests . . .”

When I was little, this is the song that everyone was belting out. So many people sang it, Woody Guthrie, Peter Paul and Mary – and I believe it was based on an old American folk song:

As we hit the North California Coast, I could hear this song.

“From California . . . to the New York Island . . . this land is made for you and me.”

We live in a beautiful country. No matter where we turn, we have found beauty. Even parts of the country others find desertified and grim are beautiful in the spring, unbelievably green, but California has to be one of the most beautiful states of all, so much variety, so much beauty.

We love coastal areas, but driving through the redwood forests is also a thrill. The redwoods are just so beautiful, especially on a spring day with sunlight filtering through. It’s cool-warm. Too warm for a sweatshirt, too cool without it. Fortunately, we have time on our schedule to just stop and enjoy whatever we wish, because we are making a lot of stops along these forested roads.

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Even a California Poppy! Today is a blessed day!

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Of all the vineyards we saw, I liked this one the best. It’s that Art Nouveau thing they have going on 🙂

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April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Family Interlude in Los Gatos

I have a favorite nephew, an amazing young man who is, like AdventureMan and myself, a total nerd about maps and all things geographical. From the time he was young, he showed wisdom, and understanding, and a quirky way of thinking outside the box. His license plate said “Earthling.” He cracked me up.

We watched together in horror as the planes hit the World Trade towers.

Now, these years later, he has a delightful wife, who is both intellectual equal and a playful heart who makes him happy and helps him not to take himself too seriously, nor to underestimate his talents. He has a job he loves, at GoogleEarth. They have two children, children around the same age as my own grand children, and I have never met them, so we ask if we can get together and they are eager to see us.

This was one of the best days of our journey.

One of the best moments, and you have to know four year old boys to know how serious and wonderful this is, is when my nephew’s son invited me to come up to his room so he could show me some things. When we got there, he pulled out his pajamas and underpants, and I totally got it, being a person who buys Avenger underwear for my own grandson 🙂 I was so honored, so delighted to be shown his treasures 🙂 It was one of life’s special moments.

AdventureMan had his own conquest; we had brought games and puzzles and things for children, and the two-and-a-half year old took a real shine to AdventureMan. Together, they stacked up pieces to the puzzle, and knocked them over. She had a Viewmaster that she considered her camera, and she snapped “photos” of me. We had a glorious time.

They took us to a wonderful restaurant in Los Gatos, Oak and Rye, where I followed my nephew’s wife’s lead and had a fabulous tomato soup and a shaved brussle sprout salad. This was one of the tastiest and most satisfying meals of the trip.

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We were a large and noisy group, two children and five adults who had a lot of catching up to do (we had asked that our nephew’s wife’s mother also join us) and the restaurant found a large table for us outside (it was a gorgeous day) with a shade over us to keep us cool. The kids could move around and we could talk and we weren’t disturbing anyone. Friends of the family saw us dining there, and came over to chat, so it got even noisier – just more to catch up with 🙂 It was a grand reunion.

All too soon, we were saying goodbye, wishing we could stay longer but the road is calling, and we are on our way to another stop on the California coast. We hit San Francisco in the late afternoon, and get to go across the Golden Gate Bridge in perfect weather, accompanied by hundreds of people taking advantage of the perfect day to march across the bridge on foot.

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April 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Monterey, CA; A Sentimental and Nostalgic Journey

One of the (many) highlights of our trip was spending time, once again, in Monterey, California where we had attended the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute. We used to lie in our bed in La Mesa Village, and we could hear the seals barking. We discovered that with our mighty ID cards, we could get a wonderful suite at the old Del Monte Hotel, now Navy Lodging on the campus of the Naval Postgraduate School.

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The Del Monte is one of those magnificent hotels built to welcome post guests to destinations served by the railroads. The Ahwahnee is another such, as are Yellowstone and Glacier Lodges. The Navy took it over during the war, and used it as a rest and rehabilitation center, then later turned the hotel campus into a school specific to Navy needs of navigation, engineering, strategy and decision-making.

We had a two room suite with a bathroom and a kitchen. It was spare, but very spacious. Having space, for me, is like breathing. Having high ceilings makes all the difference.

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This was the sunset from one of our windows:

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After settling in, we went out to revisit our old haunts. The biggest shock was La Mesa Village, where we once lived. When we got to Monterey, and saw our quarters, I cried. They were little three bedroom units in groups of four. We were lucky, we got an outside corner unit, so we had more windows and more light than many others, but we also had black linoleum. It was horrible. I cried.

AdventureMan found someone leaving who had carpeting cut exactly for our unit, and bought it to cover the linoleum floors. It was pretty hideous, a greeny-gold kind of shag carpet, but it covered the black linoleum. I thought he was a rock-star.

We couldn’t even find our old unit in La Mesa Village. Now, they are all duplexes, two story, I think they tore down all the old units and built new, modern ones. Each is painted differently, and they look very California suburban, no longer like military housing, except that one or two units have flags outside.

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We head down to Asilomar, always one of our favorite drives, and feast our eyes on the coastal rocks and the crashing waves. It is a glorious spring day, people are all barefoot and enjoying the sun.

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We stroll along the Monterey waterfront, which has changed also. It was always touristy, but it used to be sort of grungy, and now it is clean – and kind of bland, full of shops full of tourist kitch made in China.

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When planning the trip, we spent a lot of time looking for fun places to eat, and this was the place we agreed on instantly, the Bistro Moulin. Good thing we made reservations, they were turning people away as fast as they showed up. It’s an adorable place, very welcoming, and the food was fabulous. It got too crowded to take photos with discretion; we started with a pate, then I had the Petrale Sole, which was fabulous, and AdventureMan had Mussels in Wine Sauce which were more fabulous than my Sole 🙂

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We were totally caught by surprise by the most nostalgic moment on this part of our trip. We were enjoying ourselves so thoroughly, being back in Monterey and Carmel, just relishing soaking in all the good times available, and then, as we got back to our room, we heard a trumpet. The long, haunting notes of Taps began to play, and it was as if we were still young students at the PG school, everything stopping to pay homage to the end of the day and its sacrifices.

We were equally surprised to be greeted by Reville the next morning!

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Renovations, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cotijas Taco Shop in Los Banos

On our long trip, we became aware of just how big our country is, so big that there can be miles and miles and miles before the next gas station, or the next lunch stop. If it is getting to be lunch, and you see that there may be a long stretch ahead with a minimum of stops, stop now. Buy gas. Eat lunch.

We knew we had better make the best of Los Banos, California, as it seemed there would be a long stretch before the next good stop. When AdventureMan spotted Cotija’s Taco Shop, it was a blessing.

It doesn’t look like much. It is a drive-up place, with just two or three outdoor tables. But they seemed to have a lot of customers, and the platters coming out of the kitchen were sort of awesome.

We ordered, and soon, more food than we could ever eat started to appear.

This is how you order, off the menu on the wall. The prices are amazing.

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We ordered guacamole and chips to start; this is the best plate of guacamole and salsa we have ever eaten:

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I ordered Tacos al Pastore; there was so much meat in the tacos I couldn’t even eat all of one taco:

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AdventureMan ordered a combination plate and said he had to stop eating before he got sick, but it was so good it was hard to stop.

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Not every dining experience is as sublime as the Ahwahnee, but sometime road food can be delightfully delicious!

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment