Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Vacation from Being Connected - Gloria Alden

My daughter's house in Benicia
Several weeks ago I flew from N.E. Ohio to California to spend a week with my daughter, Mary. Only once did I go online, on the Thursday my blog was posted to read the comments. I used my daughter’s computer. I don’t have a smart phone of any kind – only a little Tracfone to use for emergencies. I didn’t listen to the radio and the only TV I watched was a mystery on PBS that Thursday evening.
 bloom on her pomegranate tree in her back yard 

I arrived at Oakland airport around noon after eight hours of travel counting a brief layover in Phoenix on a Monday. Mary took me to her home in Benicia, approximately 30 miles north of San Francisco where we had lunch before showing me what she’d done with her house and yard since I’d last been there last year. Because I got up so early to make my flight, and jet lagged, I went to bed early.

The following morning we left to go camping at Big Basin State Park quite some miles south of San Francisco in the mountains near the Ocean. She’d reserved a cabin for two nights. I’ve been to the park with her before, but only to do some hiking in the beautiful redwoods forest. Because students were back to school, there weren’t many others there.  It was quiet and peaceful.

Our cozy little cabin on a cold night.

Our little cabin had two beds with plastic covered mattresses, a table with two benches, and a small pot-bellied stove in the corner with a brick floor underneath it and on the walls behind. The little stove was a blessing that night because the temperature dropped into the low forties. 

Mary outside our cabin nestled in the redwood forest

Outside we were surrounded by huge redwood trees as well as other trees, too. We had a fire ring with a grill where we cooked our meals, a picnic table and a large metal box with doors that closed tight to store all our food and pots and pans to keep wild critters away.

Cafe next to Book Shop Santa Cruz with lots of books.

During the two days we stayed there, we visited some of the small towns in the area, and the second day went to Santa Cruz and the ocean.  We had lunch at a charming little restaurant at a small table outside. The food was delicious. Even better, there was a large bookstore next door, the Book Shop Santa Cruz, where I bought at least four books. My daughter bought several, too.

Young surfer who was watching that day instead of surfing. 
From there we drove to the ocean and walked in a park on the cliffs above the ocean to watch surfers catching the waves. Back at camp we cooked supper over the campfire. We had steak as well as potatoes wrapped in foil baked in the fire, and baked beans heated in the can. The night before we had lamb chops, fried potatoes, and I forget what else. It was almost dark before we ate, and a family of raccoons came to visit before we were done. We had to jump up and close the open metal box.

Mary in front of an ancient redwood tree.

Thursday morning we headed for home. We were a little late getting a start because we walked through the area with the oldest redwoods in Big Basin near the park’s office building, museum, and store before we left. It took hours to get to her place.

I forget the name of this lighthouse. 

We did drive along the ocean on our way back and stopped to watch wind surfers and visit a lighthouse. The one thing I hate about California is the incredible amount of traffic with four or five lanes of vehicles where almost everyone seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Mary seems to handle it pretty well except for when slow pokey drivers meander along in the fast lane.

We relaxed when we got home - or I did. She was busy unpacking the car and putting things away. I checked my blog and then logged off. That evening I watched a mystery on PBS, before heading to bed to read before going to sleep.

One of many shops some with  walkways to others.

Friday morning we packed enough for overnight and headed to Mendocino where she’d reserved a room for the night. After we got off all the highways with frantic drivers trying to get somewhere important, I guess, we drove on a quiet country road winding through the mountains with only one lane going each way – my kind of road. All along the road were acres of vineyards with beautiful redwood forests behind them. Each vineyard had a winery open to the public. It was gorgeous country, and the small towns we went through were few and far between. Eventually, we got to Mendocino, a charming little town full of little shops including another bookstore.  

The historic  Joshua Grindle Inn

We checked into the loveliest of B&Bs I ever stayed in.  The Joshua Grindle Inn is a historic home dating back to the mid to late 1800s. Jeff and Lindsey Meyers purchased it a year or so ago after it had sat empty for several years. They fixed it up so it fits in with the time frame of the 1800s with its décor, but at the same time it has modern comforts, too. It has Wi-Fi, but no TV’s, which was fine with me. 

It was a very comfortable bed.

We had the Joshua Grindle room upstairs with two large windows, two beds – one a queen size that I slept in, and the other a twin sleigh style Mary slept in. There was everything one could want in the room including a nice and clean bathroom.  In the parlor there was hot water with numerous teabags and homemade cookies for those of us who would like to relax in the afternoon. There are also private cottage rooms, and rooms in the water tower. (Mendocino is full of water towers that have been converted to other things now.)

Wonderful bookstore with a resident cat

After we settled into our room, we walked to the little town to visit the shops. By talking to the owner and her friend in one little shop, we found out there was only one doctor in town, if you had to go to a hospital, it was three hours away. For an emergency you went to an airfield nearby and hired a plane or helicopter to take you. It was a two hour or more drive to get to a Costco or any big store to buy supplies for the B&Bs in town. We stopped to listen to two guys playing Celtic music outside a café/bar for a while before wandering on.

I was thrilled to find a bookstore there; The Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle’s. (Bookwinkle’s specializes in children’s books). Of course, I bought more books. There were so many interesting little shops in town. Would you believe there were at least two shops that sold nothing but socks? And they weren’t stores where you could buy a pair for a few dollars, either.  Mary is thinking of retiring in or near Mendocino in the future.
The parlor where I had my coffee before breakfast.

The next morning, I got up early and went downstairs to the parlor to read until breakfast. There was coffee waiting in the parlor. Breakfast starts at 9:00. The owners do the cooking, and breakfast included small bowls of assorted fruits, quiche, sausages, a delicious bran muffin, and coffee, tea, orange juice, and cranberry juice. There were twelve guests and some ate on the porch. We had pleasant conversations with those around us, and some at the other end of the table before others came down and filled the seats between us.

A part of glass beach that isn't as easy to get to.

After we checked out, we headed for Fort Bragg and the glass beach. There were a lot of people there, but as we’d already heard, very little glass is found anymore because tourists have taken it all. Still we poked around in the pebbles and found tiny pieces of clear glass and a few darker red ones.

Mary and I at the gardens when they reached the ocean.

Next we went to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres that ends at the top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Part of the gardens are a forest area with narrow walking paths going through it up and down with little streams babbling over rocks here and there. The dahlia garden we visited was fabulous, too. We didn’t cover everything because we were heading home, and it was hours away.

The Benicia Bookstore

On Sunday, we did things locally like walking around her town of Benicia, visiting the state house museum, and eating lunch in one of their cafes. In the afternoon we went to see A Walk in the Woods at a movie theater in Concord. On Monday morning I was up before 2:00. We left for the airport by 3:30 so I could make the early plane.

I had a good time seeing things and visiting with Mary. A lot was crammed into a week.  However, I got three books read – one I’d started before I left, one I finished there, and a third I bought in one of the book stores, recommended by the people who worked there. Not only did we meet nice people at the Joshua Grindle Inn, but also a young surfer in Santa Cruz, who had been surfing since he was two years old with his parents. I met a really interesting young woman wearing short shorts and a tank top with tattoos over every part of her exposed body and bright pink hair. She was carrying a tiny 5 week old baby in a front pack. I found out she was the daughter of the retired police chief, who was also a minister. I asked her how he felt about her tattoos, and she laughed and said he wasn’t happy at first, but since she’s a good person, he accepted it. She is definitely going to be in a future book of mine. I got a lot of reading done on the airplanes or while waiting for them, and I met some nice people on the planes, too, but the very best part of any vacation is coming home.

Yeah, my gardens are a bit wild, but it's home.

Tell me about one of your favorite vacations.


Jim Jackson said...

Unplugging occasionally might be as good for the soul as some folks think periodic fasts are good for the body. You had a great time, and that’s what counts (and have some great pictures to show off).

We prefer vacations that involve lots of outdoor activities; we have a limited tolerance for museums and the like, although we do make a point of visiting state capital buildings when we are near them.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I prefer vacations that have outside activities, too, although my visit earlier this month to the Lincoln Museum was very interesting and touching in many ways. I also enjoyed the several times I've visited Monticello. When I think back on it, many of my camping trips with my family included a visit to a museum. Of course, they were short visits. I remember my ten year old son, Joey, telling his teacher in the fall all about Monticello and the things Thomas Jefferson had invented and done when they had to tell about what they'd done that summer. She was quite impressed with what he remembered.

Warren Bull said...

Springfield, Illinois has roughly four or five places of interest concerning Lincoln. They are well worth visiting. It is good to go off the grid from time to time.

KM Rockwood said...

What a great trip! And your pictures are wonderful.

I don't get away as often as I'd like. This winter I'm sticking fairly close to home, hopefully addressing some health issues, and next summer we have a planned family reunion with my in laws. It will be, as my Philadelphia rowhouse raised husband says, "down the shore."

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Gloria, I loved your travelogue. I visited many of those places when we lived in northern California years ago. For 2016 we have family events in Washington DC and New Orleans and are hoping to make a special trip "off the grid."

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, I certainly enjoyed my visit to the Lincoln Museum and other places in that area connected with him in July.

Kathleen, I'm not going anywhere after Bouchercon until Malice next spring, either. One of the things I like about winter is the hibernation and having more time to read and write.

Thanks, Margaret. I'll bet you enjoyed northern California when you lived there. I hope you have the opportunity to go back sometimes. I hope you have time to be off the grid when you go to the DC and New Orleans, too. It's more important to spend time with family than "on the grid."

Kara Cerise said...

I'm impressed by how much you fit into your vacation, Gloria. I love visiting northern California and have taken many memorable vacations to San Francisco and surrounding areas. The redwood trees are magnificent!

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, I agree with you that northern California including San Francisco are places I always love to visit as is Oregon, Washington, the Smokey Mountains and the Shenandoah National Forest. I guess I love just about every place with lots of trees.

Shari Randall said...

What a great trip. I love the trees, too. Don't you just feel that those grand old redwoods and sequoias have a lot of wisdom stored up?

E. B. Davis said...

Sounds like a wonderful vacation, Gloria. I think getting away and deplugging is essential for a writer. As great as it is to have a community, time away restores in many ways. I hope you feel restored and ready to take life by storm!

Gloria Alden said...

Yes, I do, Shari. The sad thing is there's a chance that the drought in California could cause many of them to die in addition to those being lost in the wildfires.

Thanks, E.B. Yes, I feel better, but it always takes time to come back to earth and catch up on things. From August 30th to Sept. 30th, I actually read ten books, thanks to the time spent on the planes and at layovers. That was good. Usually, the most I read in a month is 6 books, and usually only 5.