Sea Ranch Thanksgiving Weekend, 2009

As the final event of this year's two-month-long celebration of Martha's 60th birthday, the family rented a house for three days at Sea Ranch, a small planned community on the ocean about a hundred miles north of San Francisco.

The big attraction of Sea Ranch is that efforts have been made to keep the human footprint small and let the sea do its thing. For example, the landscaping is all natural; the native grasses are tended by a flock of sheep.

The moment we started out someone mentioned being hungry, so we grabbed lunch at the Boilerhouse, a new restaurant in what once was the boiler room of Richmond's Ford Motor Co. factory.

The boilers and pipes, painted bright colors, make for a festive decor. The menu, basically diner food, is noteworthy for including sweet potato fries.

The bay location (below, left) affords distant views of Oakland and San Francisco, and close-up views of Richmond's oil refineries.

Our next stop was Fort Ross, now a state park but in 1812 a Russian fort on what was then the Russian-Mexican frontier. (For linguists, "Ross" in this name is cognate with "Russia.")

Below are a shots of the house. It was huge, with several fun things we never

got to use, like a hot tub. Next time, maybe.

Here's the view looking out from the driveway:

Minutes after we arrived a Champagne bottle apeeared and we toasted Martha.

The basic plan from there on was to do very little and just bask in the spectacle.

But we did go for a ride or two on the days following. Martha knew of a rhododendron park nearby but despite her recollection, a road map, and Jesse's GPS system, we gave up after an hour of twisting through rugged hills. It was way early for rhododendrons, anyway.

Along the way we passed by a rustic post office with huge rose geraniums growing in front. Martha, known for her green thumb, jumped out of the car for some cuttings to take home.

Will, always eager to avoid federal prison, cautioned against it. Martha decided to ask permission, and the result is these pictures taken with the station manager, a very sweet man who had originally planted the rose geraniums himself and who let Martha take all the cuttings she wanted.

Martha & Station Manager 1Martha & Station Manager 2Martha & Station Manager 3

That evening we had dinner in nearby Gualala. (Gualala means "where the water flows down" in Pomo, the  nearly extinct language of an Indian group that once covered a huge area in Northern California.)

The restaurant was St. Orres, part of an over-the-top  hotel operation. At the right is a picture from their Web site. The inside is just as lavish but a little less odd.

Don't ask me what St. Orres means. As far as I know, there is no saint named Orres, nor anything else.

The menu included venison, quail, wild boar, and so on, right in keeping with the wild surroundings. Not that wild boar roam the woods, though we did see signs alerting us to panthers.

The dishes were nicely done and decorated with an artistic hand. Susan snapped some pictures (and indeed most of the pictures from the weekend): the ravioli, quail, rabbit, and venison dishes below. There was also a steak that was left out because it was too un-exotic or unphotogenic, or maybe it got gobbled down too fast.

Mart's mushroom  ravsJesse's quailWm's rabbit at St OrresSusan's venison

Back at the ranch, we did jigsaw puzzles, read, watched TV (on several flat-panel sets), and yes, checked email. This was no rustic cabin in the woods.

But don't tell the deer that. They were everywhere. We saw more deer than people at Sea Ranch.

Deer 2DeerDeer in front of 'our'house

The house came with a couple of bikes, so Jesse and I took a quick spin one day. We rode past a number of houses with sod roofs–and deer, and panther signs.

 For me the sightseeing highlight was the Point Arena lighthouse, 115 feet tall, with steps we climbed all the way to the top. Lots of ocean vessels pass nearby, and a huge sand bar (arena is 'sand' in Spanish) caused many ships to run aground before the lighthouse was constructed in 1870.

The original structure toppled in the 1906 quake, and in the photo on the rightthe rightward shift in the road and fence leading from the lighthouse show where the land shifted as a result of that quake.

The new structure is probably more earthquake-resistant, but fortunately there were no tremors to test that fact while we were up there.

What did happen was the fog came up, and in 10 minutes the bright sun was blanketed by total fog. What luck that we were up in the tower while it happened. The next group of folks waiting their turn to come up were not so lucky.

Approaching fog from lantern 1Approaching fog from lantern 2Approaching fog from lantern 3

We took a few more pictures and headed back to Sea Ranch.

This being a birthday, and Susan being known and wanted in several states for "major" cakes she has baked over the years, cake figured in this celebration:

Mart and b'day cakeDan & Mart & cakeCake operationMart dismantling cake

Having eaten so well throughout the trip, we decided to go easy on lunch one day, the five of us sharing a single sandwich.

It had a pacifying effect.

Before we knew it, our time was up, and we were back on the dreaded 101, headed back to civilization.

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