I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Bodega Bay. As I write, my laptop is balanced precariously on the tiny wooden table I am sharing with my husband and his laptop. We sip our coffees as we work, taking occasional breaks to observe the ever-changing cast of characters who wander into the shop.
If you ever find yourself near Bodega Bay, make your way to Roadhouse Coffee for your caffeine fix. It’s a homey place tucked at the end of a small strip of shops down a side street off Route 1. The coffee is hot and strong and there are marvelous home-made pastries to tempt you. The staff and customers are a quirky diverse bunch. There’s the aging hipster sitting in one of the two armchairs, pecking at his computer as he discusses indie rock bands with the backpacker couple at the next table. A pair of grandmothers chats at another table, talking about their families. A small freckled blonde girl bounces in and breathlessly announces to the women that the car is packed and ready to go on the morning’s adventure. A curious black and white terrier sniffs at our table, ogling the coffee cake I am sharing with my husband. We compliment Jim, the grey-bearded man behind the counter, who baked the cake. Jim is delighted to learn that we live in Reno and he regales us with tales of his experiences at Burning Man.
We’ve been camping on the northern California coast for a week, a quick family vacation wedged into a summer filled with the plans and activities of our teen-aged twins. The twins have reached the age when they would rather spend time with friends but they graciously agreed to accompany us on this adventure. Well, we didn’t give them much choice in the matter, insisting that they are still not old enough to stay home alone. They grumbled a bit but soon they were enjoying themselves.
Our vacations here follow the same pattern each year. Some days are lazy ones spent reading and lounging on the beach. Sometimes we hike the coastal trails, fly kites and watch the sunsets. Other days we ramble through the countryside to explore Sonoma wineries and sample cheeses at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes. We log many miles driving up and down the coast on Route 1 as it winds its way along cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
I grew up on Long Island only two miles from the Great South Bay. My summers at the beach were spent swimming in bays and sunbathing covered in a greasy mixture of baby oil and iodine (we didn’t know any better). The Atlantic Ocean was a warm salty bathtub that I took for granted because it was so close to home.
Now we live four hours from the closest ocean so our annual trips to the beach require advance planning. We don’t pack bathing suits and sunscreen; instead we pack warm fleece jackets and wool hats. The Pacific is the wilder unpredictable sister to the Atlantic of my youth. The water is too frigid and rough for swimming. Sunbathing is a chilly pastime in June with fog rolling in daily and winds blowing incessantly. But I love the wildness, the unbridled forces of nature I witness along this coastline. I could spend a month here but my children would object. They don’t want to be so isolated, cut off from civilization. So today we will pack up our camper and prepare for tomorrow’s trek home. I will miss the coast but I know it will be waiting for me next summer, just as wild and free.