Road Trip


Doing business with Mom & Pop

Independent America: Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway

By Hanson Hosein
NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT

click here for MSNBC story (no I do not know who "I have a lovely bunch of coconuts" is)

Watch both parts of our road movie "Pacific 101" (Quicktime Mpeg4 files)
September 21, 2003




HOQUILAM, WA:

It's not an easy thing to do these days.  Shun the superhighway, along with the chain fast food restaurants, and corporate motels.  But there's a whole other U.S.A. out there, especially on the nation's most historic and scenic byways.  And the best place to start and seek out the best of Independent America is along the Pacific Coast Highway.  Which is how I decided to take a recent road trip with my wife along the world-famous 101: we decided to only do business with Mom & Pop.

Journalist Thomas Friedman once observed that no two countries with a McDonald's ever went to war with each other.  That's because globalization and the common search for profits in a capitalist, free-thinking society, had ironed out their differences.  They may have also ironed out the more fascinating quirks of this now seemingly homogenous Fast Food Nation.

Our good intentions started badly on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.  In Hoquilam, the lumber industry has come and gone.  Weeds grew up around an abandoned independent gas station.  Meanwhile, across the street, a worker was putting up the last bits of polished yellow plastic to celebrate the opening of yet another Shell.  At least the local McDonald's had seen fit to offer double cheeseburgers garnished with Tillamook cheddar from nearby Oregon. And once we get rolling down a scenic, wooded stretch of Highway 101, it was hard to ignore the signs as lumber corporation Weyerhauser trumpeted "America's First Tree Farm,"

But then things picked up.  In Artic, Clark's Restaurant offered the "best burger."  South Bend presented the first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and "Tsunami Evacuation Routes," even as it declared itself the "Oyster Capital of the World."  Washington may be the birthplace of the now-ubiquitous Starbucks, but a few decades ago, even that was just a local coffee shop in Seattle.  And this caffeine-fuelled demand is reflected in the number of drive-thru espresso huts we saw along the way.  From the start of our trip to the end in northern California the score was Starbucks: 0 -- drive-thru espresso joints like "Morning Mist" in Wheeler, OR: 21.

But you won't find any drive-thru's in Yachats, Oregon.  This town of 650 is wonderfully eclectic and isolated, much like the microcosmic worlds of the tidepools you can find down by the rugged shore.  Mayor Lee Corbin said if his zoning laws forbid all drive-thru's - of the espresso or Burger King kind - then it's not discrimination.  And fast food corporations are less likely to set up shop in a town where tourists are forced to get out of their cars.Haystack Rocks, Pacific Ocean, Heather Hughes

That's okay with Corbin and his "get-them-out-of-the-car" attitude.  He wants to keep a "village feel" in Yachats (pronounced "Yahots," Chinook for "dark waters at the foot of mountains").

"We're really bucking trends," the mayor said.  "We hope that as we grow, that we can maintain that feeling of smallness.  We want to have services here for the rest of our community.  My personal bent is to seek out independent business wherever we go.  I really abhor finding the 'Arches' in the middle of Florence, Italy."

But you will find Rachel Vanderthorne in the middle Yachats.  She's a few months into a series of personal "firsts": her first business, her first pizzeria, and her first public days as a self-described trans-gender.

It could be the thin crust, the five-cheese blend, or her homemade dough and sauce, but the offerings at Rachel's Roadside Pizza are superb and well-balanced.  It could also be Rachel's strong hands and long acrylic nails.  She was once a transmission specialist, but she says she much prefers her new line of work and appearance.

"I don't have to break my nails, and I don't get greasy," Vanderthorne said.  "When I became free, I was able to be me."  She says she's not worried if Domino's ever comes to Yachats.  "It's a pretty closed town.  My pizza is the best in the world.  I don't have conveyor-belt pizza."

A few miles down Highway 101, the sixty year-old See View Motel is full for the night.  True to the establishment's name, manager Gina Hill is happy to give us the last room, with a view of the Pacific.  Each room is distinct here, we get the "Princess and Pea," replete with a raised bed (no pea under the mattress though, we checked), medieval-looking antiques, a fireplace, and biscuits, sheets and towels…for our dog.  All for $75.Heather's Room at the See View Motel in Yachats, OR, HRH

"We recycle and we promote diversity.  And people like that," Hill said.  "And we're dog friendly.  So many times we hear, 'it's so nice to have a break from the Holiday Inn.'"

Independent hotels and restaurants are easy to find in this part of the country.  But you can forget about gas stations.  In Newport, the Oregon Coast's biggest draw, there was the usual host of Big Oil stations.  We finally found one that only had the word "Gas" for a sign.

"It's all a crock," said the man who filled the tank when I tried to explain to him why we had sought his station out.  He explained that every station in town got its fuel from the same place, the Northwest Transfer depot in Eugene.  When I got my credit card receipt, it read "Newport Texaco."  He had been right.  It was all a crock.

Partial redemption could be found at the Canyon Way Café and Bookstore.  The clam chowder there is a thick as pudding, full of clams, bacon, and Russet potatoes.  The Dungeness crabs were fresh and flavorful, accompanied by light-as-air angel hair onion rings.

"Never do restaurants, it's just the hardest business," owner Roguey Doyle said.  Which may be true, but bookstores in the age of Amazon and Borders must be complete independent business suicide.  On this score, however, the only bookshop owner in Newport (population 8,000) says she's doing the right thing.  Even if she can't offer the deep discounts of the money-losing online retailers.

"I like to do this.  It's frustrating.  Lots of times it's annoying," Doyle said.  But she said customers like her enough to call her with the craziest of questions.  "What's the time zone in South Africa?  People use us as a library.  It's fun.  And we know everybody.  And we know what people want."

When we crossed into California, we nearly blew it.  We needed to find a bathroom, and the closest and easiest one was inside a Burger King.  Fair play nearly forced me to make a purchase beforehand.  But then we discovered the facilities were unlocked and out of sight of the counter staff.  So nary a soft drink or burger were purchased, as we tried to stick to our principles.  I figured I had spent enough money at fast food chains in my lifetime to get away with this one little cheat.

Oddly enough, you won't find any corporate deep fryers or 1-800 reservation desk listing in beautiful Scotia, California.  Its clapboard white houses are entirely owned by the Pacific Lumber Company - Scotia is the only "company town" left in California.  And they do a good job of upkeep too, even with the factory in the center of town that manufactures "value-added" wood products.

Heather and Miles in the Oregon DunesAlong the road, we managed to take in at least one natural wonder a day.  In southern Oregon, we found the Sahara-like dunes that surround the intense green of a Pacific rainforest.  In northern California, there's the Avenue of the Giants: a narrow highway lined by statuesque, towering, centuries-old redwoods.

There we encountered the perils of doing business with the independent entrepreneur: copycats and shysters.  California is the birthplace of fast food, the road trip and kitsch.  So we paid our money to explore the "Drive Thru" redwood tree.  We laughed when the Hummer in front of us couldn't make it through because the hole was too narrow.  When it was our turn, we were utterly underwhelmed.  It was as if we had driven through two trees that had grown close together.  It was nothing like the photos we had seen, celebrating this 1930's-era attraction.  Then we discovered later - it was the wrong one.  The authentic "Drive Thru" tree was miles to the south.  We, and our three dollars, had been taken.

But you must take the good with the bad when you turn your back on the predictability - and reliability - of corporate American tourism.  For there is much good in this approach.  Like Jackie Martine's Seaweed Cafe in Bodega Bay, not too far from San Francisco.  She had opened her restaurant on July 4th.  Martine may be French, but she was celebrating her independence from her years with a food management company in the city.  And she was doing a roaring business - accomplishing in nine weeks what she had expected to do in nine months.  Martine said the Pacific Coast was ideal place to take a chance.

"We are probably in one of the most interesting environments from the culinary point of view in the United States, and probably in the world," she said.  "I get most of my food within 30 miles.  We go on the farms every week.  We get our produce and fruits.  We get our fish from the pier.  We get our wines from the wineries.  It's not a cookie-cutter operation."

Martine's corned beef hash was a bowlful of fresh chunks of beef, beets, carrots and organic poached eggs.  I knew I had to relish it, especially because our return trip home would be further inland on the Interstate - when I would regretfully abandon my Mom & Pop principles in the interest of cost, convenience, and speed.

Pismo Beach, CA"The coast here is very beautiful, precisely because it has not yet been colonized by a lot of commercial interests," Martine said.  "It's still very independent.  I hope it will remain like that."

The lesson of this road trip through Independent America?  Never take the easy way out -- you're bound to miss something good.

#30








Here's the unedited journal I kept during the first half of the road trip, plus photos of San Francisco and beyond:



Mom & Pop Road Trip 2003: The Pacific Coast Highway
Aka: Independent America

September 9, 2003 Manzanita, Oregon

Manzanita, OR Heather HughesIt began most appropriately: with lunch at grandma's house.  My wife's grandmother had started cooking the spaghetti sauce the night before.  And we washed it down with a glass  of chilled Washington State cabernet.  The house floor trembled occasionally from the vibrations of the bridge overhead carrying vehicles northwards to the Olympic Peninsula.

This, in a place where homegrown industry had passed its heyday.  Weeds grew up around an abandoned independent gas station island, while across the street, workers were putting up the last bits of polished yellow plastic to celebrate the opening of yet another sparkling Shell establishment.  At least the local McDonald's had localized sufficiently to offer double cheeseburgers adorned with Tillamook cheddar from nearby Oregon.  This must be the American equivalent of preparing only lamb burgers in the land of the sacred cow, India.

Hoquilam was the start of our road trip south down the Pacific Coast Highway.  It was also the beginning of a lifestyle diet.  Somehow, I, the fast food freak and child of multinational corporations had resolved that on this trip we would only do business with mom and pop.  

Otherwise put, we would make a deliberate effort to eschew the easy and seek out the best of independent, local business that profit from the community and keep the profits in the community.  Best interests of the Walmart, Wendy's or Best Western shareholders need not apply.  If this Fast Food Nation had managed to homogenize and iron out the quirks of America, we wanted to rediscover them and those courageous entrepreneurs who championed them.

This was inspiration borne from experience.  Thomas Friedman once observed that no two countries savvy enough to host a McDonald's ever went to war against each other (obviously the one in Belgrade got trashed before NATO truly forced Serbia into submission).  That's because globalization, profit, and cheap food made them too fat and happy to think about hand-to-hand combat.  

Not so in Syria, which studiously, and officially ignores Great Satanic influence to the point that you can't find one American chain in the rickety totalitarian state (even China has a Starbucks), where something that looks suspiciously like a "Mars" bar is branded "Mols" bar.  You have to travel to the Syrian puppet state Lebanon to find an ATM or a KFC - file under "Plausible Deniability" for the Assad regime.  Mercifully, Dunkin' Donuts has a huge new store at the border for all foreigners who can't wait out the drive to Beirut before they get their franchise fix.

Cape Disappointment, WACloser to home, some of my favorite and friendliest tourism outings have been in towns like Nakusp and Nelson, where the multinationals either can't justify the low traffic to find a franchisee, or don't dare put up with the rabid local residents who won't tolerate a Costco putting the local downtown hardware store out of business.   They are entire communities of Hank Hills who want to put down those Mega-Lo-Marts before things get out of hand.  RV drivers can now leapfrog from one Walmart to another, coast-to-coast and avail themselves of the retailer's fabulous parking lot services - to the detriment and tears of independent RV park-owners across the country.  This is entirely sad.

On this Mom and Pop Road Trip down the Pacific Coast, we don't even have to stop at every shop or restaurant to enjoy the independent business owner's raspberry at "The Man."  In Artic, Wa., across the road from Weyerhauser's vaunted "America's First Tree Farm,"  Clark's Restaurant offers the "best burger."    South Bend presents the first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and Tsunami Evacuation Routes, while declaring itself the "Oyster Capital of the World."  This state may be the birthplace of ubiquitous Starbucks, but even the "Seafood Outlet" offers drive-thru espresso to the road weary.  In Seaview, there's Bubba's Homespun Pizza and the Seabreeze Café.  McDonald's count so far from Aberdeen to Oregon's northern coast: two.  So far, so good.

This is Lewis & Clark territory - the region they arrived in after a two-year long road trip fraught with risk and peril.  It's quite ridiculous that I attempt to make our own journey more of a challenge my cutting out corporate convenience - it's still laughably easy compared to what they went through.  We make a pilgrimage to Cape Disappointment which lies on a peninsula at the southwestern tail end of Washington State.  In a matter of minutes, the fog rolls in from the ocean like an eerie shroud.  I try to imagine what a weary Expeditionary Corps much have seen and thought when they finally reached the coast.

Like the expedition, or a diet, holiday self-denial requires principles, planning and the occasional cheat. Are all franchises bad, or for that matter, all corporations?  Should we be allowed to frequent big businesses that have head offices in the state we're traveling in (watch out California, home to Safeway, Trader Joe's and a plethora of other big businesses)?  And what about gas stations, pretty much controlled by an oligopoly of the President's friends?  It's tempting when you need a bottle of water to run into the local Rite-Aid.  But that's just not good enough anymore.  I'm already wondering if I should have filled up at the CFN (Cooperative Fuel Network) station I saw in Ilwaco because when I'm truly empty only Arco and Exxon will be around to bail me out.

On this first night in Manzanita, Oregon, we're at the Ocean Inn.  We picked up a bottle of Pinot Noir from the Little Apple Grocery up the street.  Even the Astoria Bank is local.  Certainly we took it easy on ourselves by choosing the Pacific Coast as the first place to experiment with our Mom & Pop principles: Pacific Highway 101 is nowhere as commercialized as the I-95, and people here like it that way.  But as with any diet, getting started is half the battle won.  The victors however, are only determined once the war is over.


Tuesday, September 9th, 2003: Yachats

Welcome to the southern coast of Oregon.  One of our guide books, "Best Places: Oregon Coast," describes this region as "fiercely independent."

That would best describe Rachel Vander Thorne as well.  Rachel is a few months into a series of personal "firsts": her first business, her first pizzeria, and her first public days as a self-described trans-gender in the town of Yachats (pronounced "Ya-hots," Chinook for "dark waters at the foot of mountains").

Perhaps it's the thin crust, the five-cheese blend, or her homemade dough and sauce, but the offerings at Rachel's Roadside Pizza are superb, and well balanced.  Perhaps it's also her strong hands or great acrylic nails.  Rachel was a transmission specialist, but she much prefers her new line of work, and appearance.

"I don't have to break my nails, and I don't get greasy," she said.  "When I became free, I was able to be me."

Yachats, OR tidepools, Heather HughesAnd she seemed to have found the right place to be herself.  This town of 650 is wonderfully eclectic and isolated, much like the microcosmic worlds of the tidepools you can find down by the rugged shore.  Not quite the place where Domino's or Pizza Hut might make themselves at home.

"They can't, the mayor won't let them," Rachel said.  "It's a pretty closed town.  My pizza is the best in the world.  I don't have conveyor belt pizza."

And what about the average American family who come into town looking for a bite of predictable fast food?

"They're going to be freaked out when they come in and see me!" the independent business owner said.  "What the hell's that?  That's Rachel!"

A few miles south of town, the multicolored stripe flag of the gay and lesbian community flies proudly at the See View Motel.  I don't imagine that this was the open door, open closet policy of the original See View when it opened on these remote shores sixty years ago.

True to the establishment's name, manager Gina Hill is happy to give us a room with a view of the Pacific Ocean.  We get the "Princess and Pea" room, replete with a comfortable raised bed, medieval-looking antiques, a fireplace, and biscuits, sheets and towels…for our dog.  All for $75.

"We recycle and we promote diversity, and people like that.  And we're dog friendly," Gina said.  The motel is normally full in July and August.   "So many times we hear, it's so nice to have a break from the Holiday Inn."

I asked her whether she has supported independent businesses when she travels.

"Several times in the last couple for years, I've thought about trying to spend my money at all local places," she said.  "It's so difficult."

Even when you're trying hard like we are.

In Newport, the Oregon Coast's biggest tourist draw, we finally had to fill up with gas.  There were the usual host of Big Oil stations.  And then we saw one that had only the word "Gas" for a sign.  Contrary to what my father-in-law in Seattle had said, it looked like we would be able to stick to our principles, even on the fuel end.

Except the perceptive gentlemen who filled me up pointed out "it was all a croc."  That every station in town got their fuel from the same place, the Northwest Transfer depot in Eugene.

Even worse, when I got my receipt, it read "Newport Texaco."  He was right.  It was all a croc.

Partial redemption came at the Canyon Way Café and Bookstore.  There, I ordered a delectable clam chowder that was as thick as pudding, full of clams, bacon and Russet potatoes.  The Dungeness crab cakes were fresh and flavorful, accompanied by angel hair onion rings that light, and not heavily breaded and greasy per Burger King.  Still, a warning from co-owner Roguey Doyle, who's been doing this for 28 years.

"Never ever do restaurants.  It's just the hardest business," she said.  "It's hard doing the food good.  And we make everything from scratch."

Restaurants for sure, but bookstores in the age of Amazon and Borders must be complete business suicide.  But on this score, the only bookshop owner in Newport, population 8,000, says she's doing the right thing, even if she can't offer the deep discounts of the money-losing online retailers.

"I like to do this.  It's frustrating.  Lots of times it's annoying," Doyle said.  But customers feel comfortable enough to call her with the craziest questions.  "What's the time zone in South Africa?  People use us as a library.  It's fun, it's nice, and we know everybody, and we know what people want."

My Seattle-born wife is keeping count in the land of Starbucks, of the number of drive-thru espresso joints we have seen since we hit the Pacific Coast Highway.  "Hail Mary's Espresso" in Newport makes it sixteen.  And not one Starbucks yet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003: Trinidad, CA

Trinidad CA campsiteToday, we nearly blew it.  Convenience and urgency demanded that we find the closest available washroom: which was a Burger King.  Decency and fairplay nearly made me go and make a purchase before availing ourselves of the facilities.  Until we found out they were unlocked and out of sight of the counter staff.  So bullet dodged, nary a soft drink or  burger were purchased.

Tonight, we sit in a Mom & Pop campsite, around a fire.  We have the only tent here, everyone else looks like they're in a semi-nomadic state with their recreational vehicles and trailers.  The Patrick's Point State Park campground was full.

Before we left the capital of Independent America this morning, we visited the local chamber of commerce.

"We don't get that many young pretty girls around here," Dave Fisher told Heather.  He was happy to find the mayor for us.  "Tell him it's Dave Fisher from the Chamber Office, and that it's urgent," is the message he left at City Hall.  Yes, Yachats, home to not more than 700 people, is incorporated as a "city."  This in a place where they proudly declare on souvenir shirts, "We're all here…cause we're not all there."

Despite call it a city, Mayor Lee Corbin says he's pushing to keep the "village feel" in Yachats.

"We're really bucking trends.  We hope that as we grow that we can maintain that feeling of smallness."

That means gravel paths instead of concrete sidewalks, streets without curbs and gutters.  It forces cars to slow down because people are walking on the road.  But that's okay Corbin said.  He has a "get-them-out-of-the-car" attitude.  Which is why zoning laws in Yachats prohibit drive-thru's - even of the espresso shack kind that we've seen everywhere on this trip.  That's what he also hopes will keep fast food chains away, because if Burger King wanted to set up shop in Yachats, there'd be nothing the mayor could do about it.

"I think we'd have a general uprising," Corbin said about the townspeople.  "[But] we would be obligated to accept their plans.  You can't discriminate against a large corporation anymore than you can against an individual."

Still this mayor believes city government should be a supporting player for independent business.

"It's not a get-rich-quick scheme.  We really want to have services here for the rest of our community," Corbin said.  "My personal bent is to seek out independent business wherever we go.  I really abhor finding the 'Arches' in the middle of Florence, Italy.

There's a McDonald's in the battered lumber town of Coos Bay (where the local bank's sign reads, "Mill shut down?  We can help"), further south on 101.  But Gerry Sher pays it no heed.  A year and two months ago, the Zimbabwean transplant finally sold her fast food restaurant in the mall and opened Gerry's on Central, "serving affordable and tasty food."  She says her 9-4 hours are far less stressful, and her husband no enjoys driving a taxi cab for a living.

"The economy is not too great here where we live, but if we provide good service to our customers, they'll come in every day," Sher said.  "I love interacting with people.  I just have to give the best possible service, and I don't do that much advertising.  I just have to give the best quality food with personal service."  

On a good day, she may bring in $400 in sales.  She says she's not above doing any of the grunt work, including cleaning the toilets if it means she can stay independent.  For $3.95, we got a rich beef barley soup, a mayonnaisey ham salad sandwich, and chips.  And a very talkative café owner.

Here in Trinidad, the namesake of my parents' country of origin, the only corporate presence in town is the Chevron gas station, which sells Clos du Bois wine.  This is California after all.  At the Azalea Glen RV Park and Campground, we pay $20 for a plot of land to call home for the night.  Ten ninety-five buys you a sirloin steak salad and a delicately balanced green salad with just the right amount of vinagrette at the Seascape Restaurant and Pier.  It was the only restaurant open on a weeknight in early September.

Murphy's Grocery store was open until 10, and the woman at the check-out counter was only too happy to help me find matches and a bundle of logs for our campfire.  So it was with roasted marshmallows in our stomach, and the warm glow of the fire on our skin we retired to our sleeping bags and our tent within earshot of Pacific Highway 101.

Thursday, September 11, 2003: Bodega Bay, CA

The lighthouse down by the water sounds like a cellphone someone refuses to answer.  The fire roars in a steel drum, our tent is barely secured to the sandy ground.  But it already feels better than last night.  There are other tents around us this time, not just oldsters in their selfish Greyhound-sized RV's.  An Indian family runs the grocery where we bought our wood (enough for tomorrow morning as well, unlike yesterday).  A Mexican couple fed us at the excellent Brisas Del Mar: $42 plus tip for steamed mussels, bay shrimp enchilada, and beef and chicken tortilla, along with two perfect matched glasses of local wine).

We are knee-deep in California now.  It began this morning in Arcata, a touchy-feel granola kind of place.  Judging from the number of homeless people in the square, this is a good example of the perils of allowing people to do what feels good.  At Don's Donuts, a sign prohibits anyone from coming near the shop if they have a tent, sleeping bag, or camping equipment.  Which may preclude a good quarter of the people I saw in town that morning.

But that's the negative side.  No corporate franchises here, except for the gas stations, and for some reason, Subway.  I've seen that before, in towns where it's impossible to find a McDonald's, somehow Subway manages to squeeze right in.  Maybe it's because they don't fry their bread?

It's all forgiven when we enter the Arcata Co-Op.  This supermarket/organic grocer/health food store is nearly as large as a regular Safeway, with half the guilt.  We decide to buy our lunch ahead of time: a chicken and rice wrap, roasted vegetables, organic Braeburn apples, a jug of drinking water, and peanut butter treats from a doggie bakery for Miles (he deserves it, he's been a trooper on this trip, especially spending last night outside our tent on a leash).

We fall back and fill up at a 76 Station, worried that we were running low, and running out of non-franchise options.  Then in Eureka, I saw Gas 4 Less and Patriot Gas, and kicked myself.  Then I saw those companies again as we traveled south.  In one small way or another, they too were chains.

If Arcata and Yachats personify the mom & pop town, then Scotia is the opposite.  And it freely admits to it.  This is the only "company town" left in California, entirely owned and operated by Pacific Lumber Company.  If you don't work there, you don't live there.  It's a beautiful place far far away from any corporate deep fryer or 1-800 reservation desk listing.  Except the huge factory in the middle of town of course, that manufactures "value-added" wood products.

Miles and Hanson at the dunes, ORSince we joined the Pacific Coast Highway, we've managed to take on one natural attraction a day.  In central Oregon, it was the fascinating tidepools.  In the south of that state, the Sahara-like dunes that surreally surround Pacific rainforest.  Today, we drove through the Avenue of the Giants: those statuesque, towering redwoods that line a narrow highway in northern California.

On this drive, we came across the downside of independent entrepreneurship: the copycat and the shyster.  California invented the road trip, fast food and American kitsch.  So we thought we'd take advantage of at least two of those things by paying our money to drive through the "Drive Thru Tree:" a thick redwood with a hole big enough to fit a car.  We laughed when the Hummer in front of us was too wide to squeeze through.  Then we were utterly underwhelmed when it was our turn.  It was like we were driving through two trees that had grown close together.  It looked nothing like the photos we had seen, celebrating this 1930's era attraction.  Then we later found out: it was the wrong one.  They charged us $1.50 a person to prove how stupid tourists on a road trip through the heart of mom & pop land, truly can be.

And we also made the effort to drive to the town that boasted the Redwood Tree service station - an establishment built out of redwood trees in the 1930's.  It was still there alright, but the guidebook had neglected to say it was now a museum.  If you needed gas, you were better off at the 76 station a few feet away.

Friday, September 12, 2003: Bodega Bay

Okay, I'm being dishonest.  I'm writing this on September 20th, over a week after we left the tiny paradise that was Bodega Bay.  We're still trying to overcome the high that has left us since returning home.

Serendipity brought us to the Seaweed Café for breakfast that morning of September 12th.  We had been searching out another restaurant, but couldn't find it.  So we pulled into the parking lot of an "antique kitsch" building, that may have housed an art gallery as well.

"Welcome to the Seawood Café," the French-accented proprietor announced in a deep voice when we entered.  Jackie Martine's congeniality only added to the warm and inviting feel we got.  She's French, but had been living and working in San Francisco for years in the food preparation business.  Now, she had declared her independence, and was going it all alone.  It was perhaps fitting that the Seaweed Café had opened on July 4th, and according to Martine, was doing roaring business - doing in nine weeks what she had expected to do in nine months.

Martine exemplified to me why looking for good independent businesses along the Pacific Coast was like shooting fish in a barrel.

"We are probably in one of the most interesting environments from the culinary point of view in the United States, and probably in the world," Martine said.  "I get most of my food within 30 miles.  We go on the farms every week, we get our produce and our fruits.  We get our fish from the pier.  We get our wines from the winery.  It's highly personalized.  It's not a cookie-cutter operation."

But Martine's cookies (oatmeal and raisin, chocolate chip) are fabulous, as was the breakfast we had.  I had anticipated a greasy spoon meal of canned corned beef and poached eggs with fried hash browns.  Instead, I got chunks of meat with beets and carrots, and organic eggs.  By the time we had finished, the place was full.  Bodega Bay was a hit (so much so that we had got the last campsite the night before: we drove around the state park and only found one: covered in sand.  Then we saw the ranger and asked her whether there were any other sites.  She said, in a thick northern English accent, "you'll be lucky if you find one!"  In the end, she gave us that sandy campsite, and we were grateful.  While I was paying the sixteen dollar fee, cars were still lining up trying to get in).

"The coast here is very beautiful, precisely because it has not yet been colonized by a lot of commercial interests," Martine said.  "It's still very independent.  I hope it will remain like that."

Time was something we didn't have in our two-day rush return to Kelowna.  We took Interstate 5.  And we stopped at McDonald's on the way because it was quick and available.  I was full of regret.  It was boring, fast, cheap and convenient.  And it just felt wrong.  Lesson learned: never take the easy way out on a road trip.  You're bound to miss something good.

#30


Hearst Castle, San Simeon CA, HRH                    Miles Davis the 2nd, The Dunes, OR HRH         
           Hanson at dusk at Oregon Tidepools, Heather Hughes


                                             Heather in central Oregon, HRH                    What a road trip is really like for the dog