Sonoma lies inland in the valley so next we made our slow, winding way towards the shore. Passing through towns with exotic names like Petaluma, Sebastapol and Tamales, we mused at each as to their livability. We compared them to our own towns, marveled at their likenesses and ooed and ahhed at their differences.
One of the first places we stopped was Windmill Antiques in Sebastapol. The gentleman behind the counter nodded to us as we entered as we picked around his orderly shop. We left with some old stereographs and a new turquoise ring.
Of course Pang has to stop for coffee every time we saw some little hut on the side of the road. This one looked particularly sketch from the front. A low wooden building with a caved in roof and a hand painted sign that said coffee with an arrow pointing around the back of the building was all we could see from the front. Around the side this converted trailer and chalkboard made up the storefront. We didn't get murdered though and the coffee was drinkable but not amazing according to the resident coffee snob.
Next we stopped in Sebastopol for lunch. Happycow told us there was a highly recommended pizza place called Slice of Life but sadly when we got there it was closed. So we crossed the street over to Peter Lowell's to get our pizza fix. Through an unhappy accident my pizza did not come with the advertised vegan cheese, so it was kinda boring, but the weather was great and we sat on the patio and basked. We strolled around Sebastopol a bit and peeked into its tiny thrift stores, the obligatory crystal shop and even a cookie place that happend to have a vegan cookie. We felt like we could live in Sebastopol with its convenience of Whole Foods but it's small town see-your-friends-at-the-bookstore feel.
Back on the road to get to the coast. As we drove out of the tiny blip that is Tomales we broke to the surface of the landscape and the ocean rushed toward us cloaked in fog and Pacific mystery. Pang started bouncing in her seat and stifling frantic giggles.
As we pulled to the shoulder she jumped out and yelled, "I love my life!" through budding tears.
Despite the view being actually less gripping than many we had already seen in California, the emotion that welled up in us on seeing the coast was undeniable. We fist pumped and snapped half-composed pictures in our joy. Trite though it may sound, in that moment if felt so good to be alive. We were so privileged to be in that exact spot.
In my two years of monthly travel, that feeling has not become mundane or tarnished. Each time the feeling swells in my chest I feel painfully grateful for the freedom in my life to put myself in the position to experience it. To share it with Pang, who for so many reasons has no had those freedoms at times, was an added layer I had not expected.
Past Tomales the towns become mere blips. A convenience store, a gas station and an inviting oyster bar might be the only offerings for miles until the next eerily similar blip.
Surfing Googlemaps for a route home we panned over a large swath of green above San Francisco. Point Reyes National Seashore juts out from the coastal trail that is Highway 1.
As often happens, the ocean called to me and the promise of peppered sea breeze and the whisper of whale sightings drew us out onto the arm of that green patch of charted land.
The first seaside blip we stopped at was Marshall. The pier of Nick's Cove stretched out to a little dock house over the foggy blue water and we hurriedly pulled over and jumped out to take pictures.
Further down the arm we drove until the coast disappeared again behind cow pastures.
"Hey look a trail!" Pang shouted.
I had gotten used to these outbursts and would just swing off the road at any sign of excitement from my copilot.
The Tomales Bay Trailhead snakes west over the hill towards the Bay. Pass through the gate and you are following the cowpath down to the water. As we locked the gate behind us a station wagon piloted by two dudes pulled into the lot and looked around. With only our cameras strapped to our back we set off for the Bay.
After a good bit of walking Pang said, "Did we lock the car?"
"Uh…yeah? I think so? I hope so…."
"Should we go back and lock it?"
"I mean, we're already half way out here."
"But what about those guys who pulled up as we were leaving? What if they took all our stuff?!"
"What if they stole your power suit?!"
"That's it, I'm going back, I'll run!'
While I poked around the weeds and photographed cows Pang ran back to save our belongings. Eventually she ran back breathlessly.
"We locked it."
So…we didn't make it to the Bay. We walked a long time and saw a lot of cows and then some dark clouds rolled in and we high tailed it back to the car.
But our day of coastal adventure didn't end there. What happened next was something neither of us could have foreseen…..