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A Whirlwind Weekend

Two weeks ago I was doing research on enjoyable things to do with my brother and sister-in-law because they were scheduled to visit. In the Oct. 25th issue of the AVA I wrote about “Visitors Coming” with brief descriptions of destinations that looked promising. Last week there was no column because we were busy doing many of the things on the list. The following is how some of the ideas panned out. I can tell you in advance that it was fun and how lucky were we to pick a weekend that turned out to be golden with no rain and little wind. We got to glimpse the beginning of glorious fall color as almost every activity took place outdoors. Side note: the trees near the courthouse on School Street in Ukiah were so blazing with color on Monday that they actually looked fluorescent/neon; absolutely stunning.

On the arrival night we lit up our backyard with dozens of midnight blue votive candles that I bought at a garage sale (leftovers from a blue themed wedding). A champagne toast under the moonlight and the visit was officially off and running.

The next morning we went outside of Mendocino County to the Castello di Amorosa winery castle in Calistoga. Why go so far afield with so much to see in Mendo? Well, to tell the truth there is just nothing like the Castle here. A very magnificent and authentic looking stone building reproducing a 13th century style; it is a way to feel like you are traveling in Italy without the jet ride. I am not exaggerating when I say you have to see it to believe it. The view out one of the windows is shown below, like a beautifully framed painting. You have to have a reservation and it is not cheap, but it is worth the money. Google for more information. 

Continuing back through Calistoga we stopped at Buster’s Original Southern BBQ for smoked meat sandwiches and sides with a follow up of Salted Caramel ice cream. Super yum.

On Day Two we stopped for breakfast scones and coffee and friendly greetings at the Mosswood Market. We had a reservation for a tour of the AV History Museum and knew that Sandra Nimmons docent co-coordinator would be waiting so by noon we were there. Sandra had kindly enlisted Bill Seekins to guide us through the collection. Bill knows a great deal about the historical artifacts of Anderson Valley; especially ingenious work saving devices from an era before electricity. People were and are very clever when it comes to cutting work time down. Although I have been to the Museum many times I always see things I hadn’t noticed before and learn things I never knew.

Continuing on toward the coast we stopped at the Botanical Garden in Fort Bragg. There are lots of interesting things to see just inside the garden but if you pick a trail, one labeled “Steep” and another “Ocean,” you can see a whole other aspect. We picked “Ocean” and ended up right next to a killer view with no obstructions. This garden is promoted as the Botanical Garden by the Sea and that it is. We passed through a still vibrant array of Dahlias, Perennials and in a slat house many Fuchsias and Begonias. There was a great plant sale going on. At night a fanciful collection of ornamental lighting is switched on. There were lots of families enjoying a Saturday stroll through the plantings.

Next stop was Safeway in Fort Bragg where we stocked up for a beachside BBQ at our motel, “The Beachcomber,” that has propane fire pits and BBQs for the use of their guests. The “Mate Deck” is generous to accommodate lots of guests without overcrowding. A birthday party was in progress but did not interfere with our little private BBQ. Nice to have an after dark activity to extend the day and allow more time to chat with friends or family.

Up early we had the full American breakfast at Laurel’s on Laurel Street right next to the Skunk Train Station. Our table was situated right next to an actual train that is parked inside the building, a novelty for sure. Laurel’s is mostly filled with locals and the food is good and the service friendly. 

Time to head down to Noyo Harbor for our Noyo Harbor Tour at 11:00. Captain Dan was waiting for us in his awning-covered boat. An actual fisherman for 40 years and still fishing five days a week, he is kind of a quiet guy but will answer any question in detail. He has the twinkling eyes of someone who has spent a lot of time looking out to sea. We especially were held in thrall when he recounted his most dangerous time at the mouth of the Columbia River when the waves were so big they smashed out the windows of the wheelhouse of the boat he was on, swamping the engine. He also once caught a halibut that weighed 800 lbs. commercial fishing in Alaska. That’s right two zeroes. He knows a lot about the boats, their owners and the wildlife in the harbor. During the hour and a half tour there was plenty of time to learn. We saw seals and sea lions also many aquatic birds. His boat is electric and it is a very peaceful ride. I told him that his tour boat looked like the boats from the Jungle Ride at Disneyland and he said that those boats are made by the same company that made his boat! 

I agree completely with this online comment I read by someone named Tim Beckman, “Capt. Dan genuinely and enthusiastically made a weekend visit to the harbor all the more buoyant and fun. If nautical kindness be something ye’ wish (for) then hop on this harbor tour.”

Time for lunch at Princess Seafood also in the harbor. My favorite, the Lobster/Crab Bisque, did not disappoint. A quick trip to the Friends of the Fort Bragg Library bookstand next door to the Princess rewarded with some rare and precious DVDs and CDs. The Princess was having a dog costume contest (Halloween weekend) and we saw a dog dressed as a bee and another dressed as a trailer (as in travel trailer), an interesting choice. 

No trip to the Harbor is complete without checking out the beautiful and fascinating objects and clothing at “Sacred Woods” not too far from the Princess. We stopped in the town of Mendocino on the way home to check out the view from Lansing Street and drive out onto the headlands which is still as pretty as a picture and still world class viewing. 

Home again to watch “The Morning Show” one of the most compelling and cliff hanging examples of binge watchable TV around.

Monday was Hendy Woods day. The silence in the redwood forest is different than the silence anywhere else. I can see why they compare it to being in a cathedral. This is especially true where shafts of light slant through the trees giving a stained glass effect. A nice thing to share with people you love. To round out the day a late lunch of custom built sandwiches from Lemon’s Market filled the bill nicely. We took ours out to the AV Brewery where we paired them with delicious local beer and played a few rounds of “Corn Hole” toss.

Not too shabby for a whirlwind four and a half days. Now that I have passed the 70-year mark it seems increasingly urgent to make the most of every opportunity. It seems the older we get the more each day counts as important and full of possibilities. I find that this “do-it-now-and-leave-as-few-stones-unturned-as-possible” kind of energy is a pleasure to share with others and produces great dividends. I hope my brother and sister-in-law would agree!


  1. Dobie Dolphin November 11, 2023

    Next time, check out the Discovery Center, on Main St. Fort Bragg, a museum operated by the Noyo Center for Marine Science with interactive exhibits and the complete skeleton of an orca. Then stroll along the Noyo Headlands, enter at Cypress St., and walk to the Crow’s Nest, also operated by Noyo Center, where there’s a tidepool aquarium. These two places are especially great if you have kids visiting, but adults like them too!

  2. Chris LaCasse November 11, 2023

    Thanks for sharing this, sounds like a great weekend!

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