Having spent the previous day drivin’ south on Highway 1 to Santa Cruz, we decided to take advantage of the remaining time with the hire car to head in the opposite direction to visit some of the towns in Marin County. Initially, we had intended to travel as far as Bodega Bay, the location used for one of Alfred Hitchcock‘s most chilling films, The Birds, but another late start (we are on vacation after all) caused us to modify our plans by mid afternoon.
It wasn’t helped by the fact that my sore throat and cough had developed into a full blown cold, occasioning a consultation with the pharmacist at the nearby Lucky supermarket before we left. So, having handed over half of our remaining spending money for the pills and syrup, we set off over the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear, sunny morning that was to produce record temperature by mid afternoon.
Our first stop was in Mill Valley for coffee. As I was feeding the parkaing meter I was asked by a young mother if I knew where The Depot was. I explained that I was a new kid in the block too, thinking that this delightful, woodland scene could hardly be the locatoin for a branch of The Home Depot. Five minutes later Janet and I were sitting outside the Depot Cafe, sipping coffees and scrutinising the Marin County map I had just bought in the bookstore linked to the cafe. The sight of the menu, and the presentation of the food being delivered to other customers, made me regret having had such a heavy breakfast.
Mill Valley, one of the wealthiest communities in the United States in a lovely, wooded setting, struck us as affluent and civilised. Moreover, the people were very friendly, notably the proprietor of the jewelry store who individually gift wrapped the watch, earrings and bracelets I had bought Janet for her birthday tomorrow.
As we drove around Marin County the artists’ and spiritualist colonies for which it was renowned were evident respectively in galleries and establishments like the Vedanta Center and the Spirit Rock Meditation Center.
We had decided to take another drive today not least because we wanted to ensure that we ran the gas down before returning it to Avis. However, as we drove towards Stinson Beach we realised that if we went much further today we would need to buy more gas. We did not want to run out on an isolated part of the road. Fortunately, we found a gas station at Point Reyes Station, a raggedy western style town, where we also had a picnic lunch. With Bodega Bay still the best part of an hour away we decided to head for Sausalito via Fairfax and San Rafael.
As it transpired, we drove through Fairfax, an attractive town, and its neighbour, San Anselmo, in preference for spending the remaining hour of the shops opening in San Rafael. However, no sooner had we entered the town then we had passed through it! Perhaps the downtown area was off the main road. We considered returning to Fairfax but decided to push on to Sausalito.
We had coffee in the Bridgeway Cafe in Sausalito and sat “on the dock of the bay” marvelling at the crystal clear and deceptively close view of The City across the bay.
Now, you are never far from an ageing hippie in the Bay Area, and this was no exception as we were entertained by a character who did not look dissimilar from David Crosby (long golden hair, receding hairline, bushy moustache, tassled brown suede jacket) whom we had only seen a couple of nights before. But that is where the similarity ended. Whilst he had a guitar strapped across his chest, he only used it a mute prop to his rendition of “standing on the corner watching all the girls go by” (only readers of a certain age will remember this – hardly a west coast hippie anthem). When he wasn’t “singing” he was engaged in loud and harmless conversation with whomsoever would accidentally catch his eye. Amongst his rapid fire tips on surviving in today’s world was “if you sit somewhere long enough someone will bring you food”. Well, it worked for him as a middle aged woman delivered shepherd’s pie to him and his dog (there’s always a dog).
We could have avoided him on the return to our car but that would have required an unnecessary minor detour. Inevitably, as we passed by he said “where you guys from, it can’t be San Francisco with a t-shirt like that”, and as if to answer his own question he ventured “Australian” of course. He then offered his services as a tour guide if we wanted someone to show us around. He didn’t want paying – all we would need to do was supply a car and buy him dinner. He would even take a “day off “(from sitting on a bench rapping to every passer by) to help us out.
After crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge (at a toll charge of $6) we stopped by the Exploratorium and the majestic Palace of Fine Arts, where we spent a relaxing twilight hour watching the world winding down, including joggers, many with dogs trotting alongside them, children in their toy cars and swans elegantly gliding around the lagoon. We then retired to the apartment for dinner (seafood lasagne).