Travels with Charlize, in search of living alone
Part 38: Eureka
The Whale Watch Inn doesn’t have a breakfast room. At 8 a.m., according to my Timex, a discrete knock on the door announced my breakfast’s arrival — the time I selected the previous evening. I opened the door to find a wicker tray waiting for me. There was a tasty omelet, homemade corn meal muffins, coffee, juice and fresh fruit. I couldn’t eat it all but Charlize was happy to clean up the omelet and muffins. I polished off the coffee and fresh fruit on my own.
We continued north on Highway 1, trying to concentrate on the road rather than the distraction of one magnificent view after another. Pacific waves crashed against stark dark rocks, sending plumes of white water and spray into the salty air. On the beaches, the waves retrieved grains of sand and carried them back to the ocean floor, only to replace them with the next tide.
We stopped to stretch at Manchester State Park. where Charlize made friends with blonde, 16-month-old Chelsea and her proud parents. Chelsea conducted a long conversation with Charlize who was in a “down/stay”. I had not a clue about the information and/or wisdom being communicated, but Charlize was completely focused and responded to probing fingers and baby pats with licks. I asked Chelsea’s parents if they understood anything the little girl was telling Charlize but they told me my guess was as good as theirs. Charlize was totally engaged but uninterested in sharing any of Chelsea’s secrets with me.
We said our goodbyes, Chelsea crying about being separated from her new best friend. Charlize was thankfully content to stay with me. Her loyalty is sometimes incomprehensible.
We meandered on north to Mendocino. I don’t know why that small town seemed so familiar. I can’t recall ever being there previously, but it is quaint, a throwback to hippie times. Mostly old buildings, many of them decorated with street art. I found a coffee shop, of course. After collecting my two-Splenda latte, I had a short conversation about German shepherd dogs with a couple of seriously un-bathed, heavily bearded, philosophers who were occupying the sidewalk in front of the shop. Charlize sniffed each of them once and indicated she was ready to leave. I avoided getting close enough to challenge my olfactory senses, content to trust her judgment.
Charlize stayed in Old Blue while I took a quick, self-conducted tour of the Mendocino Art Center, followed by a slow drive-through tour of the town. Inside the art center, the volunteer docent on duty indicated that there were a lot of writers living and working in the area, along with many local visual artists and musicians. I spotted an open real estate office and went in to chat about local housing prices with one of the agents, just curious to see what living in that mecca for artists might cost. Half a million buys a 1,000-square-foot, or less, fixer-upper without a clear view of the coastal scenery. I thought California real estate had been hard hit, apparently not in Mendocino.
Back on Highway 1, the road swung east to Drive Thru Tree Park, where the road magically converted to Highway 101. We continued northward, inland from the coast, and experienced several groves of Redwoods including the Richardson Grove State Park and the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The highway was now identified as the Redwood Highway, offering samples of once many hundreds of square miles of Giant Redwood forests. Once again I wished I could have traveled with Jedediah Smith to be one of the first Americans to experience that time and place. Charlize, Old Blue and I crossed and re-crossed the Eel River, continuing north past Humboldt Bay and on into Eureka, where we had reservations at the Carter House Inns.
We found the place, which was actually three separate buildings on the north end of Eureka’s Old Town. Our room was on the ground floor of the Victorian Bell Cottage building, with a private outside entrance to the room. I was trying for an “artistic” view of the building framed by the setting sun, didn’t get it. Our room had wood floors, a bathroom with Victorian fixtures and a large bedroom with Victorian furniture but a comfortable bed. There was an extra charge for Charlize but came with a flannel blanket and a stainless steel food bowl as mementos of our stay.
After dinner, Charlize and I went for a walk past the marina, where we encountered a middle-aged man riding a bike outfitted with a single-wheeled trailer stacked high with his possessions. A pit bull was comfortable on top of the collection. We were never closer than 20 yards or so, but Charlize strained against the leash and the pit bull rose to his feet, both of them with hackles up. I presume both animals were just defending their respective pack leaders. I put Charlize into a sit/stay and blocked her line of vision to the other dog. I made her pay attention only to me by touching and talking to her whenever she tried to look for the other dog. She calmed and the bicycle man and his dog pedaled away without incident.
– By Dr. David Gross
After his losing his wife of 52 years to cancer, Dr. David Gross has embarked on an extended road trip with his new dog, Charlize, and is writing about his experiences.