corning to arcata
First of all, after 46 states, we've become pseudo-experts on hotel pools and free-breakfasts. This place had the best of both. The Inn at Rolling Hills Casino in Corning was one of those unexpected gems. It's located in the heart of olive and almond country, so the warm, night air is rich with nutty aroma. (Hint to the concierge: when someone asks if the smell is olives, say, "yes", not, "hmmm, it's probably the chemicals.") The hotel was great, the pool like a perfect little oasis surrounded by palm trees, a waterfall, and a waist deep shallow spot for Yoda. The breakfast was an all-you-can-eat buffet at the casino: waffles, pancakes, muffins, piles of giant California strawberries, heaping bowls of fresh-whipped cream, omlettes, quiche, blueberry blintzes, bagels, juices, sausages, coffee, watermelon, pineapple, crepes and in case that wasn't enough, yogurt and baklava on your way out.
The second reason that 106 was fine by us, is because we're in California. Sure, there's a drought, but dry air means that 106 degrees feels like taking a walk on a freshly toasted bagel. In Minnesota, even 95 degrees feels like arson in Madame Tussaud's house of wax.
First stop on our way to Eureka, was the Olive Pit in Corning. Half restaurant/half tasting shoppe, we all fell in love with something. From the chocolate olive oil, to the fresh almond brittle, to feta cheese peppers, to smoky olives, to the ripe green ones that taste just like the black ones. We spend half an hour trying to decide what to buy (toffee almonds, olive artichoke dip, and ripe green olives).
Good thing we had a pleasant morning, because the next few hours weren't. Oh wait - make that FIVE hours. Never mind that interstate 5 could have taken us to Oregon much more quickly - the scenic route is much more beautiful.
From the bottom.
Because let me tell you something. It ain't so great at the top. It's 150 miles of hairpin mountain passes full of road construction, rock slides, pissed-off semi drivers, 1,500 foot drop offs with no guard rails, and extreme motion sickness brought on by this Fear Factor drive. I don't even know how this can possibly classify as a road. Lewis and Clark and one malnourished donkey couldn't fit on this thing. Throw in a rogue bison and it's a wonder they made it at all. Don't believe me? Here's the view out of the passenger's side window:
The lone bright spot in this entire stretch is the Frozen sing-along. Thanks to the San Francisco contingency, we are the proud owners of the complete Frozen soundtrack. Thanks to our own genetic mutations we are also the proud owners of three kids who know the words, notes, and subtle idiosyncrasies of every song on the cd. I know what you're thinking - "three hours of Anna, Elsa and Olaf, why the hell didn't you throw yourself over that non-existent shoulder on the edge of the mountain?!" This is why. We don't have to listen to Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff or Hans. Instead we have the clear, bright voices of our two youngest, coupled with Punk's versions of Kermit the Frog, Morgan Freeman, Miss Piggy, Obama and Arnold Schwartzenagger. You haven't heard a Disney Princess sing until you've heard her trying to out-belt the Terminator.
When the nausea stopped, we found ourselves on the northern coast of California, in surreal Trinidad Bay. I'm not sure how we ended up here, but it was dreamlike.
We spent 30 minutes, skipping stones in the bay, hunting for giant crab shells, finding more jellyfish and sea glass. Then it was on to the Days Inn in Arcata.
Tomorrow we head to Oregon, our 47th state. I hope the road to get there is at sea level.