September 28, 2007

The Mendocino “Coast”

Last weekend, Matte and I celebrated a milestone of sorts. Sunday marked one year since we got engaged in front of Cinderella’s castle at Disney World. We are sort of “anniversary geeks.” On every 11th, we recall our first date (August 11, 2005), and on the 25th of every month, we celebrate our wedding anniversary. And Matte is the only person I know, other than my friend Jenni, who celebrates a half-birthday.

So, last weekend, in honor of our engage-a-versary, we took a road trip up the coast to Mendocino. Matte found a quaint little Bed & Breakfast that had a cancellation for Friday and Saturday night. On our way to our destination, we drove past a few wineries, and took some time to stop and taste some champagne before we headed to the B&B.

Alegria was such a sweet, inviting place and had a cookie jar filled with oatmeal chocolate chip cranberry apricot cookies that we were encouraged to visit often. Our room had a private entrance, a view of the beach, and a fireplace. The innkeepers had a bottle of wine waiting for us in the room, and a bouquet of flowers — mostly irises my favorite — adorned the table, courtesy of my adorable husband.

We spent most of the weekend watching the flames in the fireplace, and listening to the wood crackle while we played cribbage. Each morning we went downstairs to breakfast, which began with the cutest bowl ever, filled with fresh organic fruit and adorned with an edible flower. Saturday morning’s breakfast was pumpkin ginger pancakes and chicken apple sausage. YUM. Sunday morning was a broccoli and sun-dried tomato fritatta and homemade blackberry and chocolate chip scones. I took an extra scone “for the road.”

The food was awesome, the place was quaint, but we wanted to venture out. On Saturday, after lunch at the Moosse Cafe and some more lazing around the room, we drove to Fort Bragg to do some shopping. Most of the stores were closed, but we had fun strolling up and down the streets. We weren’t really ready for dinner yet, so we headed back to Mendocino. But we kept going south, through Mendocino, to see what we could find on the other side.

We drove down Highway 1 for a bit, admiring the scenery. At some point Matte noticed his cellphone had no service. Around the same time, I noticed the gas light on my dash was flickering. Neither Matte nor I were too concerned about it, since we’d driven through civilization periodically and figured the next small town was just around the next turn. I had gone almost 400 miles on the tank, which is outstanding for my car, but at the same time, freaky because holy hell, we couldn’t have had much gas left.

The next small town of Elk, California was smaller than we’d expected. We spotted a B&B, but I didn’t want to stop and turn off the engine because I was afraid of wasting the gas required to start it again. Matte wanted to stop for help, so we did.

We knocked at the door of the B&B and a woman answered. She was holding a glass of red wine and was apparently entertaining a roomful of people. Before asking for her help, Matte apologized for interrupting “the séance or whatever.” She laughed, telling us they were friendly spirits. But, neither she, nor the friendly spirits were terribly helpful. We told her we were almost out of gas and could we mayhaps siphon some from someone? Just a little bit? We’ll give you five dollars! She told us she didn’t have a hose, but didn’t seem too willing to see if any of the other psychics had one. She did say that there was no gas station in Elk, but hey! there’s one in Mendocino, if we wanted to turn around. Oh, but it closed at 6 o’clock.

Great. Thanks.

We went to the B&B next door to hers, where someone at the front desk was helping a guest. We waited until she was finished, but then she left. She didn’t come back. For 20 minutes she didn’t come back. I figured the front desk was closed and her shift was over and that no one could help us there. By this point I was 1) afraid we’d get stuck in Nowheresville, with no gas 2) afraid that if we tried to drive back on the 2-lane road, we’d have to push my Accord up and down hills while maneuvering through hairpin turns 3) mad that I hadn’t thought to fill up before we left Mendocino and 4) on the verge of tears because what were we going to do? I suggested to Matte that we try to get back to Mendocino. It was plenty hilly and some of those hills went down, right? We could coast! He suggested we keep trying to find someone who would let us suck some gas from their tank.

But I wanted to try and go back.

I really wanted to try and go back to Mendocino.

We got in the car and I started it — gently. I decided I should continue driving since “I know my car.” We turned off any sort of air heating or cooling system, and even the radio. The windows and sunroof were closed to ensure optimal aerodynamics. Matte played co-pilot telling me when to take my foot off the gas, putting the car in neutral and recommending when to break and when to take the turns a little faster to gain some momentum.

I was very anxious. This weekend getaway and escape from stress was going to give me a coronary. The gas gauge dipped past the E and I pleaded with my car to “just keep going, we’ll get you a drink soon.”

We drove for miles on the winding road, not passing any gas stations. I must note that even where there are gas stations in that area, you don’t see the red and blue Chevron logo or a big red and yellow Shell or red 76 ball. The stations usually consist of a little shack with a single gas pump that has the black and white numbers that flip over, like an old digital clock. So, each time we approached a small house-looking place, or an inn, we’d madly scan the area for a gas pump.


We arrived in Albion and Matte spotted a sign for a deli and market that also sold…GAS! But by the time we realized they had gasoline and were still open (just barely!), I’d driven passed it. I made a U-turn on the highway and braced myself to run out of gas on the incline to the deli/market/nirvana.

We made it to the pump and a Dude came out to find out how much gas we wanted to buy. We were so excited to make it to a gas station, I wanted Matte to go into the Dude’s market and buy everything in there. I wanted to give him all of our money. And Matte, being the polite Midwestern boy that he is, apologized to the Dude for showing up so near closing time. The Dude said that even regular patrons of his establishment “@#$%in’ show up just before we close, all the time. No worries, dude.” I loved that he dropped an f-bomb. He may not have had all his teeth and might have been high at the time, but at that moment, he was my new best friend. We gave my new best friend fifty dollars for the fill-up, but I would have given him 100.

I rubbed the dashboard as we drove off, professing my love to my Honda Accord.

We were so elated to not have gotten stranded on a narrow bridge, all we wanted to do was drink. So we took our full tank of gas and drove north to Fort Bragg for pizza. We ordered the pizza to go and enjoyed a local brew while we waited. Back in the room, we built a fire, ate our pepperoni, mushroom and sun-dried tomato ‘za, and drank some Mendocino wine — relaxed once again.

10 people have roominated about “The Mendocino “Coast””

  • Saj says:

    Sounds like quite an adventure! I’m telling you, Matte got the patience genes and left me with all of the stress genes!

    And as for the half-birthday thing, that’s an “E” thing. I have a wonderful friend whose mom would bake a half cake for our half-birthdays. And my dad is very proud to share his half-birthday with his first grandson.

  • Jenni says:

    ACK! I was stressed out reading your post! Glad you were able to finally fill up and didn’t wind up stranded somewhere.

    Happy engage-iversary!

    (proud half-birthday celebrator!)

  • Jeff's Place says:

    Great Story! I too was a litle bit stressed reading, glad it all worked out well in the end! I also looked at the BEAUTIFUL photos on Flickr’. WOW!

  • Sarah says:

    I like the celebration of random anniversaries. I have so many bizarre dates stuck in my head!

  • Glad you made it safely. We had a similar experience a few years ago on the road from Ft. Bragg to Willets when the temp gauge hit the “H” and there was NO ONE and NO PLACE to stop. Plus no phone service. It’s a beautiful area – but not for the faint of heart.

  • I could FEEL your stress! Glad you guys got back safe.

  • kerrianne says:

    Half-birthdays! Why didn’t I ever think of that?

    Happy! EngagementOversary.

    : )

  • Annie says:

    Awesome story!! and with a happy ending even better! Gots to love the Honda Accord. I got an old 95 Toyota that runs on fumes just like that!!

    You have a super romantic guy there. HOld on to him, he’s a keeper

  • Zoot says:

    What a fantastic story. Thanks for coming by my site yesterday!

  • Neil says:

    How romantic. And I think the adventure will only make it more memorable when you talk about it in the future.

roominate on this yourself