Believe it Or Not

Trip Start Jul 26, 2005
Trip End Aug 20, 2005

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, July 31, 2005

Back on the road, southwards via the coast. We enter our third state, California, soon after leaving Ashland in the morning, and while I am still having a go at winning the "sleeping in car, number of hours in a trip" award, every time I wake up there is another enormous tree facing me. This is the redwood forest, home of California's giants. We pull off the road at a sign that proclaims "World's Largest Tree House, Believe it Or Not!" I want it to be a treehouse up in the branches, but redwoods don't really do branches in quite the right way for that; as we get closer to the tree sporting the sign and its attached gift shop, Dad spots the little window down at the base of it. It's like a hobbity treehouse, round and in the tree itself. You have to go through the gift shop to get inside, but at least they're not charging entry to go inside the tree; it's about ten feet in diameter inside, and goes about fifty feet up inside the tree. Definitely not manmade: ages ago a fire burnt out the core of the tree but left the rest of it intact. The tree is still green and reaching for the sky above.

The coastline south of the redwoods is socked in with chilly, wet fog until we turn inland a bit and pop out of the grey into the green and gold of wine country. Napa and Sonoma are the big names in the valleys, but we're going somewhere that's still a little off the beaten track: Dry Creek Valley, just over the hills from the others. There are vines growing up and down the slopes alongside the road and the ornate gates that mark cellar door tasting at the vineyards. I have pleasant flashbacks to grape picking in Margaret River.

Healdsburg, our destination for the night, is another one of these little American towns that seems to exist solely for tourists. You can acquire wooden knick-knacks, taste wine, eat Thai food or fresh fish or cabernet sorbet, or visit the world's smallest hand-fan museum; all this around the town's leafy central plaza. But all the houses we pass seem to be bed and breakfast establishments, converted hotels, or wineries.
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