Tuesday, July 26, 2011

North Coast Travelogue: July 24-25

Went down to UCSF again on Sunday. A little different trip this time as we changed a couple of stops: Our lunch/ bathroom break and the overnight accommodations.

Left around 10am Sunday. About an hour earlier than normal, but the motel we were staying at was a bit further south. Connie offered to make some iced tea for me so we didn't make our traditional stop at Taco Bell on the way out of town.

That turned out to be a bit of an annoyance. Connie had used an old Taco Bell cup for the iced tea and fabricated a lid out of the lid from another container. She'd punched a hole through the top for a straw. That seemed ok to look at, but when I tried to take my first sip of tea, I got a bunch of air mixed in with the tea. There was a leak in the straw, probably caused by the rough edge where she cut the hole in the lid.

I put up with that for a while but finally figured out I might fix it by turning the straw upside down, thus putting the hole in the straw beneath the liquid. That worked, and we got another straw at our first stop.

It was nice to see water in the Eel River, although it wasn't as high as I'd expected after hearing so much about the high water in local rivers and the resulting drownings. I guess much of the Eel's water gets sucked up by counties south of us.

First stop was The Peg House for food and bathrooms. We traditionally stop at the One Log House in Piercy but since they stopped offering hand made sandwiches, we decided to try somewhere else.

There was a bit too much hustle and bustle at The Peg House for me, summer vacation being in full swing. People all over the place. Connie wasn't happy with the bathroom as she said it was pretty dirty. I think I'd heard that from someone else, too. I used the porta- potty outside the fixed bathrooms and thought it was remarkably clean.

Connie bought one of the store's deli salads for $6.00 and later said it was great, although they didn't seem to offer different salad dressings. You get what comes in the container. I wasn't that hungry so just bought a Toll House ice cream cookie for about $3.00.

So the food was ok and, taking a brief walk around it seemed like a nice place to stop with their immaculate container gardens. The Peg House Grill, out back, seemed a bit pricey though, with a hot dog going for $4.00.

Will we be back, or go back to the One Log House? I'll let Connie decide next time.

As we got to Willits I was getting a bit of a headache. It didn't help to be surprised by traffic backing up at the north end of town. I'd forgotten it was summer and congestion was to be expected so it took a while to make to the Willits Safeway for gas.

As we approached the Safeway I noticed the Chevron station to our left seemed to have cheaper gas than Safeway. I think it was $3.50 something at Chevron and $3.69 at Safeway. How could that be? It might have been a mistake as when we came back through on Monday Chevron gas was once again a bit more expensive than Safeway's.

The Safeway gas station was packed. The vacationing motor homes added to the mess. I thought I'd have to wait but the car in front of me passed by an open pump and I slipped in and got my gas right away while other cars piled up behind me. Connie bought some cold drinks for us at the Safeway's Starbucks and off we went.

A bit slow south of Santa Rosa all the way through Petaluma then it cleared up. We drove by our usual place to stay, the Novato Day's Inn, and I didn't think much of it. It would have been nice to put an end to the drive right then, but I was game to try some place else.

Connie had expressed a bit of frustration over the Day's Inn. The rooms not being furnished with microwave and refrigerators seemed to be a big issue with her. I had to admit I was getting a bit tired of the same place, too. Connie took to the internet to look for a new place and then I got involved. Eventually, we came up with The Villa Inn, in San Rafael.

As we got into San Rafael I went on alert for the Lincoln Avenue turn- off. I usually just drive by without looking when we go through there. Now I had to pay attention. The instructions gave me the impression the turn- off was right after you enter San Rafael. Turned out it was like the third or fourth exit.

Directions also gave me the impression it was just two blocks down Lincoln Avenue. Seemed more like four to me, although there wasn't much in the way of cross streets to gauge that by. On the way out it seemed like it was definitely two blocks as we were back on the freeway before I expected it.

The Villa Inn is in a mostly residential area and it's remarkably quiet being right next to the freeway. When you see those walls alongside the freeway in San Rafael, that's where the place is and those walls really do cut down on the noise.

I won't go into a full account of the good and bad of the place. I did write a review for Yahoo Travel that you can read here. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. As I write in my review, I wouldn't say I'd look forward to staying there, but I never look forward to driving to San Francisco to begin with. The place is ok and if we can't find some other place to try, we might well stay there again.

One good thing about Villa Inn is checkout is at noon, a bit later than some other places, but I wanted to get to UCSF before the parking garage filled up. We left a bit after 9am and arrived at UCSF about a half hour later. Still the same hassle of a drive, albeit a little less of it since we started from a ways further south.

Plenty of parking in the parking garage, as there was when we left. If it was always like that and, if I wasn't such a worrier, we could hang at the Inn for an hour or so more instead of being stuck at UCSF.

While we waited I tried to check e-mail on my laptop. I couldn't get into the UCSF wifi. It's always worked before although I'd have to remember just how to log in. I was connected to it but I couldn't seem to log in. Not sure if it was me, or the system. I finally gave up.

Despite a chart showing the doctor was running on schedule, she showed up at least 15 minutes late, if not later. After Connie got her consult the doctor asked her to get a pulmonary test done and I was bummed. We both wanted to get out of there, but we went along and the place for the test was on the same floor.

Remarkably, we got there and were in and out within maybe 20 minutes. Not too bad, although I'd prefer she do tests like that up here when she has more time.

So, off we went, with the parking garage tab coming to $17.50. That was more than we usually pay and Connie suggested maybe the rates went up. They might have but we were there a bit longer than usual.

So we race away from UCSF only to get stuck in a traffic jam a mile or so out from the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought it was from the road work being done but the radio said something about a traffic accident near the bridge.

A problem developed earlier on: I was getting really sleepy back at the clinic. Usually when we get headed home that goes away. This time it wasn't going away. As we headed north I was getting sleepier and sleepier. I was worried.

We got to discussing were we should stop next and both agreed to get something to drink and take a bathroom break at the Cloverdale Starbucks. Turned out to be a good idea. After we got going from there I felt half way decent again.

Some burritos at the Willits Taco Bell for dinner on the road and gas at the Willits Safeway. We were both surprised and relieved there wasn't the usual bottleneck in northbound lanes of Willits that is the norm for summer. I think getting out of UCSF about an hour later than normal saved us from the traffic jam in Willits.

It was straight through to Eureka after that, arriving home a bit after 8:30pm when there was still light out. I love getting home when it's still light out.
Next time we won't be so lucky.

Addendum: Looks like the page with my review of Villa Inn shows my ratings one time but not the next. Just to clarify, I gave the place a 2 for Cleanliness only because of the water stains and peeling wall paper in the room. The rest of the room seemed quite clean.

Some of the other reviews of the place, both good and bad, I find a bit out there. Especially ones saying how it's the best place in town. Then again, each to their own.

While I wouldn't exactly recommend the place, I don't have a problem with staying there. There's only one motel that comes to mind that I would recommend and look forward to staying at although I rarely stay there: The Discovery Inn in Ukiah. It's generally not near enough to where we're going but, when I do get a chance to stay there, it's something for me to look forward to.


At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why didn't you try the Travelodge at the same exit as Days Inn? It is newer but we have never been there either. We have enough points to stay for a free night at one of the motels under the Wyndham trip rewards. Days Inn in Novato seems to be discounting rooms - maybe to stay full with the gas prices.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

We've discussed that Travelodge before, but not while we were doing this search. The main worry I mentioned to her about that one is that we might get stuck with a room on the third floor. I prefer first floor, can deal with a second floor but no NOT want to be on the third floor.

We stayed at the Healdsburg Travelodge about five years ago and, while I didn't mind it too much, Connie thought it was a bit run down (funny, coming from someone living in the dump we live in) and neither of us like their version of a breakfast room which is just a small room with a couple airpots of coffee and a bunch of store bought packaged pastries.

So that, plus one of the dislikes we developed about Novato was the difficulty of finding some place to eat. We've had a couple hassles driving around finding places to eat or ordering delivery over the last few times we stayed at Day's Inn and the Travelodge would mean those problems would likely remain.

I'll admit that from what we could see, there wasn't any place to eat near the Villa Inn, either. When we called to make reservations the guy said there were restaurants within a 15 minute drive but I'd rather not have to go drive to find one and I didn't notice any as we drove to and from the place.

But, at the Villa Inn, at least every room has a microwave and fridge provided so you could store and cook your own meals if you planned ahead.

The Novato Day's Inn doesn't have either in all their rooms. You have to either be lucky to get a room that already has one, or ask for one and hope one is available. I usually specified we wanted one when making reservations but it got to the point they never put one in the room so I stopped asking for one.

Time to look around, we decided, although I still wouldn't shed tears if I stayed at Novato Day's Inn again.

It's a tough search with our criteria. Cost and location being the bigger factors. We have plenty of time to look but if we stay at Villa Inn again, no biggie. It's only one night.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Oh, and are you sure you have enough points to get a free night? Wyndham Trip Rewards changed their point requirements a year or two ago. It was just as we'd gotten about what we needed for a freebie at Day's Inn and it pissed us off as the point requirement went waaay over what they were. I figured I'd be dead before I got that many points so I stopped participating in Wyndham Trip Rewards.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Hmmm....just noticed the link to my Yahoo Travel review goes to a page with reviews but I don't see mine. What's with that?

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous skippy said...

Here's something I could suggest Fred. Have you seen this or been there? Check it out sometime.

Consider staying at the Marin Headlands Hostel at the old Fort Barry site. It's thousands of acres of peace and quiet near the ocean in it's own pastoral valley. 10 minutes from the bridge and Sausalito. A rare treat. The history and buildings go back to WWII, I, and the Civil War. It's filled with history.

Skip the hostel part of the main house. Reserve one of the private officer quarters, instead. They're more removed, much nicer, roomier, and private for the both of you. Last time I checked, they ran about $50. You need reservations because they are popular. Shhh...

The money you save from not being in the urban city can go towards a nice dinner in Sausalito-- or make your own at the hostel.

Granted, it's not for everyone. Connie may not like it, yet you'd dig it. It's funky in parts. Let's face it, it's an old area of old redwood buildings and with some deferred maintenance going on. Other parts are quite nice. The good thing is you can only get there by car: it's not served by bus nor is bicycling or walking there easy; this means low lifes or ne'er-do-wells aren't around. It's also routinely patrolled by the GGNRA park police who have a way easy gig doing mostly nothing but driving in circles.

You might meet young travelers from all over the world. It's also a great scenic adventure with some views and privacy of an old California that's rarely seen. Take in the old buildings, the parade grounds surrounded by eucalyptus trees, the abandoned Nike missle base and fortifications nearby, the Marine Mammal Center, the trails, lagoon, and ocean. Make a fire on the beach in the evening. Hard to believe you're only 10 minutes from the City.

Drop on in and check it out sometime on your way down-- just to take it in and see what it's like beforehand. Here's some pictures, info, and phone

Happy adventures... skips

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Thanx, Skippy. We'll add that to our list of places to check out.

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another place to consider is the new H2 Hotel in Healdsburg. Certified LEED construction throughout with a great restaurant called Spoonbar. It is two blocks south of the Healdsburg Plaza. A wonderful hotel.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Healdsburg is a bit far from San Francisco for my needs.


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