A Birthday Road Trip: The Northern Coastline

A Birthday Road Trip: The Northern Coastline

Last week, on Tuesday, I turned 30. The day was quiet and rainy, we went out for bowls of steaming ramen, and we ate Smitten Kitchen's red wine velvet cake in our living room with friends. But when the weekend rolled around, we loaded up Sam and my new camera gear (including my birthday present, a 35mm lens!) and set off for a two-day, 400 mile road trip up the northern coast. We drove up through Marin and Sonoma counties, past just as many dairy farms as wineries, and as we drove in and out of scattered rain showers, we counted twelve rainbows (one of which appeared directly in front of our car, on the other side of the road. I took a picture that only sort of captured it). We hiked the Bodega Head trail and ate chowder with crusty sourdough at Spud Point Crab Company in blustery Bodega Bay (of The Birds), then took Pacific Coast Highway up the coast as far as Stillwater Cove while Sam napped in the back, and drove back down in time to catch a foggy sunset over Goat Rock in Jenner (of The Goonies). We used the HotelTonight app to find a tiny cabin in the Russian River valley, in a little hippie town called Guerneville, where we had a spectacular dinner at Boon and dessert at the local historic bank building, which is now a revitalized/hipster pie and ice cream shop with a photobooth in the bank vault.

Sunday found us in Point Reyes National Seashore, a 30 mile long peninsula separated from the rest of the coastline by the movement of the San Andreas Fault. In fact, the rocks and dirt that make up Point Reyes don't even match the part of the coast it's attached to: they match coastline hundreds of miles south (a fun fact that helped me to understand why I felt like I was on another continent...or, technically speaking, another tectonic plate). We grabbed sandwiches from Cowgirl Creamery, hiked part of the Bear Valley Trail, hung out with elephant seals on Drake's Beach, drove up to the northern tip to catch the sunset, and glimpsed a few tule elk. And then made the long drive home, by way of another steaming bowl of ramen, which I'm now convinced is the only way to finish off a winter adventure.

How did we manage this with a wiggly and headstrong nearly-two year old? Well, here's the full disclosure: 1) We listened to Wee Sing America enough to make me want to drive directly off the beautiful California cliffs, 2) spent several hours at scenic pull-offs feeding him instant oatmeal and veggie pouches in the backseat, and 3) got more than a little grumpy on occasion. Also, Jordan, who sports a visible halo, gave me several opportunities to sprint down a trail or over to a scenic vista point to take pictures while he stayed in the car with Sam, because he loves and understands me. It's not perfect or easy traveling with a midget adventurer in the backseat; in fact, it can be downright difficult and you might lose your marbles a few times. But it's possible and worthwhile. It's worth the hotel room hack of a bedtime routine and less-than-optimal sleep and mini meltdowns in the car, because ten years from now, when I turn forty, I want to remind Sam how he ate instant oatmeal under the most magnificent rainbow, braved a little rain to hike on the cliffs with his parents, played in piles of seafoam and smelled like the Pacific ocean for hours afterward. Because that's what we'll remember.

All photos taken on my new Canon 6D full-frame marvel of a camera.