Thursday, 11 July 2013 15:30
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eurleadThere's some truly fabulous scenery up in this neck of the woods. I got to see a lot of it, but also had the first technical problem of the trip with the car.

My stay in Occidental was very quiet and laid back, and mostly consisted of quality time with my sister and nieces (who are awesome, in case you're wondering.) Occidental is a very cute little town, with more than its fair share of good places to eat, stay, and hang out. Apparently it's becoming more and more popular with weekend travellers from San Francisco so there's a bit of that flavor, but overall it's still just a very secluded little hamlet in the redwoods.

As I departed that little hamlet for points north, I had not gotten too far when the first car-related issue of the trip decided to show up. While crusing down one of those secluded little backroads (where, naturally, there was no cell coverage), the car sputtered a couple of times, and then stopped altogether. Even to the mechanically disinterested, this is obviously a bad sign, so I got out and did a little troubleshooting. There was fuel at the carburetors (my first thought was clogged fuel filter), but no spark at any of the plugs, so it was an electrical problem. Fuses were all good, ignition switch was working, so that narrowed it down to the ignition module (the car has the top end of a distributor from a 1980 200SX, so it's got electronic ignition instead of points and a condenser, a concession to reliability for the trip) or the ignition coil. I had no real way of troubleshooting the ignition module other than by process of elimination, but I did have a voltmeter which meant I could check the coil, and indeed, the readings on the coil were not where you'd want them to be for it to be healthy and functioning.

The culprit, unbolted and ready for a trip to NAPA auto parts
One of the nice parts about coil failures is that they rarely just go belly-up entirely. If you let them cool down a little, they'll often perk back up and work, at least for a little while. This was the case with my coil, too--it'd run for a little while, then it wouldn't again until I gave it a rest. I limped the car back to my sister's house using this 'drive/stall/rest/drive again' method for an hour or so, then borrowed my brother in law's truck to run into Sebastopol for a new coil. Luckily, it's a simple car with a simple coil, so pretty much any 12V coil from, well, anything will work. The NAPA store had a generic NAPA part that was a cross match for a Bosch coil that was a cross for the 200SX coil, and on returning to my sister's and hooking that up, everything was back to being fine. Let's hear it for manufacturers re-using parts over and over again.

I started up the coast toward Eureka on Highway 1, but unfortunately my little electrical automotive adventure cost me a fair amount of time, so what was supposed to be a scenic and sunny drive along the Pacific turned into a battle with the fog, which had moved in right down to the deck. By the time I got further inland near Eureka and got out of the fog, it was dark, so between those two things I can't really tell you a lot about Highway 1 between Occidental and Eureka. It was a great road, and I'm sure it's even better when you can see what's around it. I did stop in Mendocino for a snack and some water, and Mendocino is just as quaint and cute as I'd heard it was, even in the fog.

My stay in Eureka was actually a stay in Rio Dell, California , which is about 20 miles south of Eureka. This was another find, and my host Jen was very gracious about me arriving later than planned. Jen's place was fantastic--an octagonal house set on some beautiful land pretty far out in the woods, complete with two cats, a donkey, and Nikita, the awesome Akita. I had the whole downstairs section of the house, which included a sort of living room area, half bath, and bedroom. The shower was in a secluded little niche outside, looking into her gardens and small orchard. There was also a small one room guest cabin about 50 yards from the house, and a larger separate studio/guest house on the opposite side. Everything had been built to her design over the years, and it was warm, cozy, and inviting with a very distinct style to the entire property. This was not your average four-walls-and-a-garage kind of place, and it was really great to find that at the end of a somewhat difficult travel day.

The octagonal house. Guest room is downstairs under the deck. The 'living room' area of the guest room The guest bedroom, with fantastic featherbed The outdoor shower, just outside the bedroom
Nikita on watchdog duty Combination burro/alarm clock  The guest house/studio. I didn't stay here. Nikita was a little camera shy

After getting the tour and some basic instructions, Jen and I got acquainted over some wine. I gave her the basic rundown on my trip and what I'd done previously, and she gave me a couple glimpses of what looked like a remarkably interesting life--artist, musician, polyglot, former fashion industry designer, teacher...this is the kind of person that you hope you'll meet when you roll the dice on this type of lodging, and this was a really good roll. On top of all that, I got along well with her dog. After a bit more discussion, I turned in for the evening.

I had two full days ahead of me to explore the Eureka/Humboldt area, so I figured I'd hit Eureka and areas to the north during the first day, then go south into the redwood forests and more remote areas of the coastline on the second day.  Eureka is a fairly small town, but it's got a great downtown area ("old town"), and I wandered around there for a while. I grabbed a snack at the farmer's market (along with some of the biggest blackberries I've ever seen), then drove out through Arcata to the coast near Samoa and wandered around there for a while. It was pretty fogged in, but still a nice, secluded beach area.

Farmer's Market: Always a good bet for a snack The Carson Mansion, an incredible Queen Anne victorian Mutant blackberries I was sitting pretty, but unfortunately no ukelele accompaniment

After my trip to the beach, I headed south to the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Reserve and hiked through that area for a while, then late in the afternoon went further south to "Victorian Ferndale", which was yet another quaint late-1800s small town with a nice downtown area and real small town feel.

One of the locals, getting in a little fishing You're in the danger zone The local fire department doesn't see a lot of action Downtown Ferndale

I took one more drive to the coast for the day from Ferndale, and it was really socked in with fog there. I took advantage of the black and white environment to shoot some black and white pictures, and I was also lucky enough to see a river otter hunting for crabs (and eating those crabs with a lot of gusto when he got them). River otters are pretty big as otters go--at first I thought it was a harbor seal, but then when he dove down I saw his tail and realized it was an otter. He knew I was there, but kept his distance and continued chowing down on the local crab population.

Washed up timber They don't mess around when it comes to driftwood up here Not a good fence Spooky shoreline
Flying in the fog More shoreline The fog almost pulled the red out of the paint Bad picture of an was foggy, and he was far away

I went back to Jen's place, and we had a nice evening chatting over mojitos about the area and all kinds of other stuff by the fire pit outside my room, with the bonus of having a crystal clear night and some really great stargazing, which is usually not available due to fog. Nikita provided perimeter protection from whatever critters she heard out in the woods.

The next day, I went south into the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to some truly majestic redwoods, including the Rockefeller Forest, which is the "the world's largest remaining contiguous old-growth forest of coast redwoods".

Generally pretty rural around here Big trees The car already looks small under normal conditions... Count the rings

I was on about a 30 mile loop called Mattole Road that would put me back in Ferndale by the end of the day. The drive was spectacular, doing that California coastline magic trick again where you're sweating your butt off on one side of the mountains, and freezing it off on the other. Sunshine, fog, giant redwoods, rocky beaches, tiny little towns, one lane bridges...the drive had everything. Well, everything except good pavement. This was probably the roughest road I've been on with the car yet, and it was 30 miles that looked like a blind guy with a trowel and a bucket of library paste paved it. Not that I'm complaining; it's amazing there's a road out there at all. But the car did have a few new squeaks and rattles after a couple hours of that shaking, which I'll have to chase down later. Well worth it, though.

One lane bridge into Honeydew, CA Some rugged coastline; north end of Lost Coast Dinner AND a show! Fog rolling in

After the drive, I went back into Eureka to take advantage of their coin-op car wash, as a lot of those roads were dirt and gravel and the car was covered with dust and dirt. After a nice bath for the car, I had dinner at the Lost Coast Brewery, where they make a good burger and a fine IPA, and then it was back to Jen's place to crash for the evening.

I got up early the next day for the drive to Mount Shasta, where another Datsun Roadster get-together would be in progress starting that night. I took Route 299 out of Arcata, which is yet another great drive through the mountains, and did the reverse-temperature trip of freezing in the fog in Eureka to sweating in the heat in Willow Creek, where 299 met up with the Trinity River. Taking advantage again of the "nearby river" air conditioning for the roadster, I found a nice swimming hole and took a dip in the Trinity, which was super cool and refreshing. It was a good thing I got my refreshment in early though, as there was 90 minutes of construction delay further along down the road. One of the hazards of a long road trip, I suppose.

Swimmin' hole du jour, Trinity River 90 minutes of this took some of the fun out of it

The rest of the drive into Mount Shasta was easy, scenic, and uneventful. I'm looking forward to meeting some of the roadster folks of the northwest and checking out the cars over the next couple of days.

**Quick blog note: I added a Google map to the "Route" tab on the front page for whatever the proposed route through the next state is going to be. You can zoom, pan, etc for a closer look at the route. Oregon is up now, will update as I go from state to state (or area to area).


#1 lectacave 2013-07-13 07:12
Just sent in my application to the VFD Fire Department. I hope they're hiring. Inspiring post, true to form! Sounds like both you and Jennifer got a fortunate roll of the dice. :)
#2 laceytrynn 2013-07-13 09:36
Good shots of the trees - hard to get the scale of them in a photo. We loved having you here visiting, happy travels!
#3 chickline1 2013-07-14 17:03
The pic of the datsun-grey-fog ....timeless. Reminds me, my hand on the front windshield. Sitting in the passenger seat. Feeling the rubber seal, the air hitting my hand, harder than it was hitting my face. Lost chances in O.C. The harmonic cement road expansion joints. Too much. Not enough.
#4 Zippy67roadster 2013-07-14 19:59
Just an epic trip. Enjoy!
#5 Mom 2013-07-15 05:32
Great stories, loving it...Nikita was gorgeous,and the burro hysterical..LOL with your description of him !

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