Monday, 10 September 2007

Week 26 : San Francisco To Rocky Point

Returning from real travel to virtual travel is a bit of a culture shock. Your frame of reference is different and you move from a passive perspective (experiencing the real sights and sounds that surround you) to an active one (within certain constraints, determining what those sights and sounds will be). I explained all this to Amy, my Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, as we made our way across Golden Gate Bridge. She dismissed my philosophical musings, pointing out that whilst I might have been cruising up the Atlantic Coast of Europe for the last few weeks, she had been stuck in a kennel. For her, virtual travel meant that she could ride on trains, eat in the best restaurants, sip beer in seaside bars and chase walruses. Compared to a concrete floor and barking neighbours, virtual travel won hands down any day.

And so we entered Marin County ("our mission is excellent service") I reflected that we were now leaving the urban sprawl of Southern California behind and heading towards the near wilderness that is the northern part of the state. California is certainly a state of contrasts but this is not really surprising if one remembers the very scale of the place. As I was walking Amy the other day someone called out "where are you now". When I explained that I had just crossed the Golden Gate Bridge they replied with a note of surprise "still in California?". People shouldn't forget, I mumbled to Amy, that walking the Californian coast is equivalent to walking from London to Barcelona. She ignored me. She usually does.

Once we had left the famous bridge behind we entered the Marin Headlands which forms part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Amy and I soon found ourselves hiking up and down steep hills and finding deserted rocky bays, all within just a few miles of downtown San Francisco. Like the San Francisco Bay itself, the Marin Headlands are noted for their frequent fogs which roll in from the Pacific. But on the days we virtually walked the hills, the fogs stayed away (according to the Fog Forecast carried by the SFGate website) which meant we got a good view of Rodeo Lagoon as we approached from the east. On Google Earth the lagoon looks a poisonous green colour and this has prompted someone to ask whether it is a toxic lake. The answer appears to be, "it depends when you go". The lagoon is separated from the sea by a sand spit which is normally breached by high winter tides. Such breaches refresh the lagoon with fresh, blue, seawater. Between breaches it tends to get brackish and very salty. Amy had a quick taste and then demanded a beer to quench her thirst. Sad to say, we couldn't find a bar.

We were now back on the Pacific coast and we going to follow the coast north for the rest of the week. What roads there are tend to have an off-on affair with the coast, sometimes they will come close, sometimes they shun the sea as and hide in the twisting valleys. We followed paths across the bare hills, keeping close to the coast and knowing that would eventually take us to Muir Beach. Muir Beach is not a big place. With about 150 houses it is tiny compared to the great metropolis's we were passing through as we approached San Francisco. But this was the scale we would now need to get used to, and both Amy and I found the comparative loneliness of these hills and small towns quite refreshing.

And talking of refreshing, the reason we were so keen not to miss Muir Beach was the wonderful Pelican Inn. Our tongues had been hanging out ever since we had sampled the waters of Rodeo Lagoon (OK, since Amy had sampled them and told me about them). And here, in a remote spot in Marin County was an authentic English Inn. They served Yorkshire pudding and had Fuller’s London Pride Ale on draught. At $250 dollars per room per night it might be on the pricey side, but what the hell, this is the virtual world with, I assume, virtual money. The taste of that beer was anything but virtual.

The next day we were due to continue along the coast. Both of us had slept well and were convinced that this place was pretty close to paradise. We realised that we could abandon the great project and spend the rest of our virtual lives as house-guests at the Pelican Inn. There were all sorts of wild critters for Amy to chase and all sorts of beers and whiskeys for me to sample. We thought about it long and hard. While thinking about it Amy polished off a plate of bangers and mash and I flirted with a bottle of Theakston "Old Peculier". It was Amy who eventually got up and pulled me away. If she noticed the tear in my eye as we left the Inn behind us and headed towards Rocky Point, she was kind enough not to mention it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I grew up in Stinson Beach and still live in the Bay Area--I think that you're getting the feel for the place pretty well. It does, however, seem like you stopped a little bit short of Rocky Point, and missed your chance to comment on Slide Ranch. Did you sleep walk?

-- Hjal