We were going to a town called Petrolia, on California’s Lost Coast. I have heard of The Lost Coast before but I never thought about it very much, I figured I would never actually come here. I have discovered, however, that the surest way to end up in a place is to imagine you’ll never go there.
We had tacos at a truck in Red Bluff. They were extremely good tacos, made special with onions that seemed to have been pickled and then charred. I could have eaten ten of them but we split four. Tor added some oil to our very old Prius. Here is a photo that the 12-year-old son of the woman working the taco truck window drew.
We spent most of our time on Route 36, which took us through a town called Dinsmore, and another called Platina. It was just a two-lane road, bordered on both sides by cows and elm trees shattered in recent storms. The tree situation was pretty apocalyptic. They’re what I remember most, though this photo we took of the landscape does not have any broken trees in it. I don’t know why of all the photos we took we do not have broken trees. Here are some intact ones, sorry.
I also remember a brightly-colored house, sad in the rain, and a small plain subtly sinister white church. I bought a terrible apple at a general store, ate half of it, and threw the rest of it into the grass. We crossed the Van Duzen river several times.
Speaking of rivers, after the 36 was a quick jaunt on 101, and then, another river, the Eel.
In its broad scenic valley sits the Victorian paradise of Ferndale, an important source of much of California’s dairy. We had good biscuits here, with blackberry jam, and marveled that the town seemed both perfect and not at all real. We saw a pet grooming place and commented, as we do every time we see one, that Merle really needed to pay them a visit.
Google maps said we were 29 miles from Petrolia, but a little over an hour away. That can’t be right, we said, but it was, we realized, as we began to drive over a mountain. At first the narrow road was very dark and shaded, the green moss coating the trees — fir, spruce, cedar — was almost neon-bright. The road emerged from this chilly jungle to open space, green hills where cows grazed in the sunlit mist, then we were back in the gloom, then out again. We did a bad job taking pictures of the gloom part, here’s the part of the trip with sky:
We climbed and climbed, and I drove, and Tor read to me from an endless Facebook exchange between a hippie and a Marxist wherein the Marxist patiently explained and re-explained to the hippie that a. he was an asshole, b. no, you could not “opt out” of “the system” by doing yoga or getting all your clothes in a thrift store, and that c. the word hippie was not in the same ballpark as racial slurs.
“I seek to unite people, you seek to divide them,” the hippie kept insisting.
Eventually, the Pacific Ocean, rough, blue and studded with enormous rocks burst into view. Cows stared at us, like, yeah, we look at this every day, whatever.