After having taken my sweet time exploring the beach in Ft. Bragg, I realized I was a little more than pressed for time (blame me sleeping in more than I had planned to for that) and was going to have to zoom down the California coast a little if I wanted to make it back to San Francisco in time to return my rental car. So I headed back through the main part of town to head in the direction of Mendocino, my next planned stop. And really, I meant to just drive straight through, but well….this little town is just so full of charm and character, it would have been a mini tradgedy to not at least stop for a bit to take it in a little. At least thats what I told myself as I pulled into the Skunk Train parking lot. Btw, if you’re wondering what a Skunk Train is exactly, it’s this rather awesome train that, in the official websites own words has, “Forty miles of railroad run through majestic redwood forests, scenic mountain meadows, and over 30 trestles bridging the pristine mountain waters of Northern California”. Fantastic no? Yet another reason in the dozens i’ve compiled to come back here and spend a good couple of days just enjoying the general loveliness.
When I used to live in California I was about an hours drive outside of San Francisco, in a sleepy little suburb that could only be accessed by side roads, one of which was always continuously blocked by tractors and/or curious wandering cows. To say San Francisco was an escape would be putting it mildly, especially for a girl who was raised in New York City’s never dying lights and had the matching attitude. But as much as I loved the hustle and clamor of being in the city itself, as much as I could adore the uniqueness of the city’s own brand of architecture and beauty, my favorite place was always the piers.
Nevermind the endless stream of tourists, or the wickedly overpriced food, or god, even the insanely suicidal pigeons and outright thuggish seagulls who would harass you for just a teensy bite of that aforementioned expensive food, it all couldn’t lessen my love for the creaking of wooden planks under my feet, the smell of ocean mixed with sweet candy-ice cream- donuts and yumtastic things galore. I started going at first with my mom, when she would have a Saturday off from work (or a memorable time when she let me skip school on a week day) and even though at home it was the kind of battlefield that burns scars for life, we would leave it all behind for a couple of hours, a day spent in truce. Later we started bringing my best friend Watson along, and at the piers we could sit or wander for hours, people watching, munching on fish and chips for lunch.It was where I learned to observe life, to enjoy the tide of strangers rushing past and just enjoy the experience of being surrounded by life. We would talk about life, plans for the future, little things that didn’t matter or things that did, and there we were closer than mother-daughter-friend.
Going back on this recent trip with Watson, it was like stepping into shoes I hadn’t worn in years, finding the grooves unfamiliar, but eventually comforting. Stepping away from the main centers to find the quiet benches by the docks, sipping on cool drinks in the setting sun while popping little sugary donuts into our mouth, it was the kind of bittersweet memory that sounds so cliche in the retelling but in the moment itself could not be more present and genuine , a digging into lovely old memories and little wounds.