Adventures in Mendocino + Mormon Country

Over Thanksgiving I experienced the pure majesty of having six paid days off for a total of 10 calendar days away from the office, a.k.a. my kitchen table. The fruit stand that I work for shuts down for the full week of Thanksgiving, and we were gifted Monday 11/30 off as a thank you from our team’s leadership. Last year for the holidays I was a contractor, so actually getting paid time off was a really big deal.

Since I’d been holed up in my 400 square foot San Francisco apartment since March, I decided to book some travel. A much needed and long overdue trip up the California coast to see one of my ride-or-die homies in Mendocino, and a flight out to Utah to visit my aunt for Thanksgiving. Certainly some huge risks I was taking, but I weighed it, and decided that I needed to just bite the bullet and see my people. Plus I did a solo Thanksgiving the year I’d just gotten back from my Eurotrip, and it was the pits. My pets and I ended up eating a lot of turkey.

HemiTime

The Mendocino trip was definitely a #TreatYoSelf situation. Since I sold my car this time last year, I had to book a rental for the drive up. Normally I’d just book whatever the cheapest car was, which would typically end up being a Kia Soulpatch or a Nissan Versa, which is essentially a roller skate with a steering wheel. But this time I scrolled down a bit and found myself lingering over the Dodge Challenger. Since it always says “or similar,” you never really know what you’re going to get when you get to the lot, but sure as shit, when I walked onto the Mission Enterprise lot, I saw two gleaming Challengers sitting right next to each other just waiting. A few years back I toyed with actually buying a Challenger (my brother bought me an SRT Hellcat hoodie for Christmas that year), so this was a bit of a dream coming to life.

The agent walked up, checked me in, and asked if I would like to rent the V6, or the V8 R/T Hemi for my roadtrip. Is that even a question? While I was waiting, another agent asked if I’d been helped yet. I told him “Yeah I’m waiting on the Challenger.” He asked which one. “The Hemi,” I replied casually. He paused, looked me up a down for a split second, and shrugged “Ok” as in “I see you.” Just hearing the throaty monster fire up with the push start was pure happiness.

After not having driven a car since my last rental six months ago, I was pretty nervous driving off the lot. Especially on the roads surrounding Enterprise, which strongly resemble an M.C. Escher drawing.

I briefly thought, Crap, this might be too much car for me. But that was a fleeting thought. This land yacht was disgustingly powerful — and perfect. Opening her up on the highway, listening to the gears shifting, changing lanes, it was intoxicating. I’d been warned by folks before about the Challenger’s blind spots and hot damn, were they right. But as my brother joked when I told him about the adventure, “I guess there’s no need to check blind spots when you’re doing 140 miles per hour.”

I was responsible, but I did have some fun driving on 128, the 70 mile long stretch of two-lane highway that carries you from 101 out to the coast. It was a breathtaking drive, you pass grapevines and vineyards, farms, cute country storefronts, then you pass through cool, dark, spooky redwood forests, and finally get spit out onto Highway 1 hugging the twisty coastal cliffs. I took about as many pictures of the car as I did of the trip itself, natch.

That first night I got in to the AirBnB, my friend came over and we drank some wine, smoked a spliff, solved the world’s problems, and soaked in the hot tub to this view.

The next day, we loaded up in my friend’s truck and set out for adventures. First stop was a little Mendocino headland hike and a visit to the tide pools and scenic cliffs. Stella was wound up, so getting her to stop and pose for a picture was damn impossible.

You get the gist.

Then we climbed down to the tide pools to hunt for abalone shells, and to check out the mussels and sea urchins. I was slipping and sliding all over the rocks, but Stella was like a little mountain goat, bouncing along the path like she’d lived there her whole life. For her it was like a wet, rocky version of Discovery Zone.

Then the tide started rushing in so we got up out of there. As my friend sagely commented, “The ocean does not care about you, and will fuck you up.” On the walk back, I snapped a few more pictures, including one of this sweet sinkhole.

After that we drove to the little downtown Mendocino area and order some delicious pizza from The Brickery at Cafe Beaujolais. We got the lemon pesto and garlicky kale to go, but there was also a cute little outdoor patio area and a garden where they grow some of their own ingredients.

From there, we drove over to the local high school soccer field, where we had a picnic on the bleachers and I could play some frisbee with the pup. My friend and I tossed the frisbee around with Stella playing monkey in the middle, which she did happily until she caught on to the game, then she just plopped down and pouted for a brief moment, only to jump up and make a few interceptions (of course). What we didn’t realize until the end of the picnic was that Stella had been collecting these nasty little burrs in her fur at the soccer field. After a swim and some fetch at Little River Beach, she was in full on dreadlock mode (but so stinkin’ happy).

The lemon mask makes an appearance.

After that, we hit the adorable Harvest Market in Mendocino, picked up some more kale (don’t forget the kale!) and some other provisions and cooked a little vegan dinner at the spot. We made hot Italian Beyond Sausages, and kale and white beans braised in (vegan) butter, brown sugar, veggie broth, and apple cider vinegar. The flavors all went together really well.

The next day, I checked out of the AirBnb, picked up my buddy, and gassed up at the little local service station that had manual (!) gas pumps. She told me that you can even gas up after hours and just leave your cash, honor system style. I thought that was really cool, and made me think of how that concept would never work in San Francisco. We took the Challenger down south and did another little headlands hike at the Navarro Point Reserve and Public Trail, which had more breathtaking views.

I didn’t have service the whole time (not surprising, since homegirl still rockin’ the 6s with Boost Mobile). It was great though, aside from taking pictures I was almost completely disconnected the whole time. I asked my friend to play DJ for our ride back and she put on this song, which they played in the movie “Drive” with Ryan Gosling. It was so fitting for the car.

Utah

A day and a half after I got home from Mendocino, I turned around and flew to Salt Lake City to visit my aunt and her three huskies for Thanksgiving. Since it was only $35 more, and I had a voucher leftover from my cancelled flight to Texas for the Austin Terror Fest, I upgraded to first class on Alaska Airlines. Sitting in the first row, I had a number of interactions with the flight attendant. She had her blond hair pulled back into three equally-spaced messy buns forming a kind of mohawk. She was also wearing a black, glittery, sequined face mask and when I complimented her on it she quickly replied “My boyfriend calls it my stripper mask.” I savored the statement, it was our little joke.

After hustling through the schmancy new Salt Lake City airport, I was waiting for my aunt to pick me up at passenger pick-up, when I noticed an impeccably groomed (read: Mormon) reporter and cameraman running toward me. They asked me neutral questions about how my trip was and if I was concerned about traveling in the time of COVID. After mainlining coffee and Kind bars on the flight in, I was amped and said something to the effect of “Yeah dude, it was great!” Only to get home that night and turn on the news to watch the full story, the gist of which was essentially “Traveling is BAD! Do NOT host out-of-town guests for Thanksgiving!”

Lemon mask makes its televised debut.

HuskyTime

Seeing my aunt, spending time with her dogs, and just having a change of scenery was really nice. Her dog Willow and I had some serious cuddle time. We gossiped, painted each other’s nails, and read Tiger Beat together. Then there was Scout:

AKA Captain Handsomepants

We went on walks through Midway that were just bucolic af. I took a few pictures, but after having some filtery fun this one was definitely my favorite.

Park City

We also took a jaunt into downtown Park City where I was shocked at how many people were not wearing masks. Apparently if you have enough money, you’re immune to COVID. Pretty sure that’s how it works. Park City is known for great skiing, as well as Sundance Film Festival, so you can be sure it’s a Robert Redford-a-palooza. We stopped into Dolly’s Bookstore so I could continue my hunt for a new moleskine notebook. There were also some cool art galleries.

Love me some mixed media.

Then there’s always:

Afterward we stopped at Freshies, where we got some delicious Maine lobster rolls.

Since then it’s been back to San Francisco and back to quarantining. But thanks for coming on the ride with me!

Stay safe,
Sarah

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