For the first time since we've been together (nine years and counting, folks, eight of it married), quelonzia and I took a real, live vacation. The Fire of my Heart got handed a week off -- comp time for the continual overtime she puts in for her corporate overlords -- and I have, conveniently, been working temp, rendering my schedule flexible while still providing the additional income needed for Escape.
We deliberately left our plans vague. We just wanted to go -- but we didn't want to feel hurried. We spent the weekend preparing for the trip: cleaning the car, doing the laundry, that sort of thing. We left late Monday morning, neatly avoiding the rush hour traffic, and headed up 280 to San Francisco. We peeled off on Highway 1, and went right across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausilito. We wandered around there for a while and got some lunch, then took off.
We were originally going to stop in a hotel just outside of Sausilito, but it was only 3:30, and we still had Travellin' left in us, so we took off along California State Route 1, a.k.a. the Pacific Coast Highway. The normal route across the coastal mountains was closed, so we took a detour over Panoramic Highway, an Extremely Scenic Route Atop The Ridge.
Once we hit the Coast, we toodled north until we hit Bodega Bay, a charming little seaside community full of fishing boats and pricey bed and breakfasts. We stopped at the Visitor's Center to see where to head next and stop for the night, and finally decided to ask the gentleman there if there were any inexpensive places in town. He directed us to The Bodega Harbor Inn, a lovely, chraming little place with a view of the bay and Entirely Reasonable Rates. We loved it, but, alas, the mattress was hard as a rock. Great fish & chips across the street, though; the place was a fishing charcter company that had a fast-food place up on the highway. I will never have fish that fresh again.
There was a bit more planning on Tuesday: we took the PCH up to Fort Bragg, then turned inland to take the Extremely Scenic State Highway 20, which may be one of the most gorgeous drives anywhere (my mother squealed when she heard that we'd gone that way).
By that point, we were getting tired. We probably overdid the driving that day; while Day 1 left us excited at the prospect of Yay More Go Tomorrow, by this time, we were already pooped. We decided to head down to Ukiah (home of Col. Steve Austin and the Bionic Woman, for all you '70s geeks).
On the way there, we passed the Coyote Valley Shodakai Casino, with its billboard featuring a wickedly grinning Coyote -- who better than The Trickster for a casino mascot? I suggested that we stop by and drop a couple of quarters in the slot machine to thank Coyote for not messing with us too badly on this trip, but we missed the turnoff...
...only to look up and see a billowing cloud of smoke on the hillside to the West.
A hillside which turned out to just two or three hills down from the motel we'd targeted for the evening, of course.
I looked at Quel and said, "I told you we should have given Coyote those quarters."
Fire or no, we still crashed at our target: the Discovery Inn, which lacked the "quaint charm" of the Bodega Harbor Inn, but more than made up for it by being large, comfortable, and well-equipped. And the bed was far more comfortable. We had a nice dinner, watched some TV (the less said about which, the better), and collapsed. The next day, the motel was intact, the smoke was either gone or lost in the morning fog and clouds -- and a couple of fire department pickups were parked in the lot, since the Discovery Inn was the ideal place for the firefighters to catch some shut-eye, too.
Nevertheless, come Wednesday morning, we were ready to spend a night on our Very Own Hoard again. We decided against continuing on 20 into the Clear Lake area, so -- after going back up to Coyote Valley to dump a few dollars in the slots -- we zipped right down US 101 and took California Route 128 to Calistoga. There, we actually did Touristy Stuff for the first time on the trip: Old Faithful Geyser (no, not that one, the other one) and the Petrified Forest.
We then headed back to the Lair, veering off-course only long enough to hit the only Chick-Fil-A in a hundred miles.
We then had four more days to recover from our vacation, which was much more pleasant than hitting the ground running at work the very next day.
It was a good trip, though it was sort of a "recon mission" more than anything else. As much fun as just wandering aimlessly was, we have a much better idea of how to prepare and where to go next time. I'm glad we had this opportunity to escape and let the steam off, because Life Is About To Get Very Interesting.
In that Chinese Curse way.