I’ve just arrived in my Shanti in Little River near Mendocino. “Shanti” is the California word for a shed. It’s built out of “reclaimed redwood”, at Pegasus Farm, hosted by Steve. He’s a local artist. In the grounds of his farm are the stumps of four burnt out redwoods, victims perhaps of some half forgotten fire. After all I’m near enough to where one of the big fires is currently blazing. But California is VAST. Maybe Steve used the wood he got from the remains of the burnt out redwoods on this property to build my shanti. I’ve seen a few laden logging trucks on this road bearing trunks with the distinctive soft bark, though, so some bunch of bastards is still axing these things for profit. But that’s humanity.
I’ve driven up the Pacific Coast all day, on Highway One, heading inexorably north from San Francisco. I took it easy in the morning and started at 8, a bit later than I should have.
Driving up from Daly City, the Golden Gate Bridge surprised me as I turned a corner. My first experience of it was driving over it, but I immediately jumped off the interstate on the other side and went up through a load of switchbacks to a viewing point. Jesse the park ranger was there, at war with a coyote. Someone must have fed it recently as it’s emboldened even for a coyote. It’s coming up onto the viewing platform every few minutes until Jesse drives at it or honks his horn. “I’ve seen them take small dogs,” he tells me. “It’s a beautiful animal,” I respond. I reckon I’m too big for it. I find myself thinking of the inefficient pugs Claire and I were feeling sorry for on a hot afternoon in Colorado two days ago. They wouldn’t stand a chance.
I take a few photos, and get into the car. Emboldened, the coyote comes right to the car window. I drive off carefully and hit the road. As I go, I look in my rear view mirror. Is that the coyote I see, constructing an intricate booby trap with dynamite and paint and rope from Acme? Uh oh. Beep beep!
Breakfast is of disappointing huevas rancheras at Shoreline Coffee Shop in Mill Valley. Lunch is of tasty takeaway crab sandwich on a headland over Bodega Bay, bought from Spud Point Crab Company, and well worth the Veteran’s Day queue.
I foolishly followed a sign to a winery, where a slightly neurotic older lady sells me some corked Pont Reyes Vineyard merlot. For thirty bucks.
(I thought I’d pay the extra for a good bottle of local 2007 merlot expecting something remarkable from a vineyard here right by Napa Valley. They were clearly saving money on the corks. I’ll never get through this glass and believe me I’ve tried. It’s still just on the side of wine over vinegar but the acid reflux would be hideous in my sleep and I’ve got a long drive tomorrow. $30 bucks worth of expensive fertiliser. This is supposed to be wine country so perhaps it’s worth a second look for tomorrow night. So much for luxury though. The usual point of buying at source is it’s cheaper and better. Not this time, though, damn you weird lady! In retrospect, perhaps her weird behaviour was because she knew she was offloading a bad batch on me.)
Wine disappointment aside it’s lovely to be out here. A day’s drive from the city and I already feel like it’s remote. There is feck all internet here though, despite allegedly having WiFi at the farmhouse. Since I’m sober I’ll probably drive a few miles to Mendocino and have a meal and an actual glass of wine and get this scheduled.
The sun started going down on my left, over the Pacific, slightly earlier than I anticipated. I knew I’d have to step on it to get to this place before it was so dark I couldn’t see the road. There’s an advantage and a disadvantage of booking accommodation in advance. The advantage is that you get to stay in interesting places and it’s cheaper, the disadvantage is that you can’t follow your nose.
The last two hours of sun saw me spanking down Pacific One on a single-minded quest for Mendocino. I made it just as darkness fell. And I was right to rush. Darkness has fallen profoundly, and brought a spot of fog.
Now I’m in my little hut, in a pool of light. The farmer’s collie is going mental at something and I’m thinking that the something might be me, but I’m gonna get into the car and see what’s local with food and internet and hope the collie isn’t allied with the coyotes. Come to think of it I can hear them howling not far from here. That’s what’s got the dog worried. They’re out there painting fake tunnels through the mountains…