The Lisa & Clark Expedition:  Old Places and Familiar Faces, a West Coast Road Trip.

In which intrepid road trippers Lisa & Clark go in pursuit of historic hotels, old friends, rusty auto parts (the more the better), wineries, and gardens. And maybe a dress or two for Lisa, because she just can’t help herself.

Looking for the beginning of the trip? Start here.


Tuesday, May 29
Garberville to Sonoma, CA; 193 miles


The wifi is good at the Benbow, I’ll say that for them. Clark opted to take advantage of it and get some work done in the morning. He slept badly last night, for the usual reason:  worries about work stuff that might be unfinished. I got sad-faced at that, and made a comment about, “Why go on vacation if you can never go on vacation?” He said, “Sweetie, I only tell you about my worries so that you can tell me everything will be fine.”

Ah. So I told him all would be fine, that no one else was worrying about stuff not yet completed, and it was reasonable to take it easy.

clark working

Type-y type-y type-y.

It must have worked, because by the time we were finished with breakfast, he was saying that maybe he could whip through his work quicker than he’d thought. And we managed to laugh about the depressing, vaguely Irish instrumental music playing in the empty dining room as we ate. “What is this, the Celtic Woman companion CD?” “When’s the damn Titanic going to sink, already?”

Benbow outdoors

The back patio at the Benbow. Beautiful, but somehow a bad fit for us.

The Benbow Inn is… somehow not quite our cup of tea. It’s beautiful — the dining room has a beamed ceiling and small pane windows looking out on trees; the flagstone patio has the river down below and the tudor-style hotel rising behind, and sunlight filtering through the leaves — but it feels staid and stuffy. I had an inkling we might be in trouble when romance novelist Susan Squires told me she’d gone there for dinner for her high school prom.

Or I don’t know. Maybe we are over-privileged yuppies (true) who, following the trend of the rest of the yups, feel themselves over-exposed to posh restaurants and hotels and now can only value the small, the personal, the quirky, the handmade. The “authentic.” Which I expected the Benbow to be, except we were put in that new room… Oh, enough already. Move on.

road and trees

One of the very few times we got stuck behind an RV. We were surprised that the roads were usually almost empty.

Got on the road in fairly good spirits, heading south on 101, intending to exit onto Hwy 1 to the coast, for lunch in Mendocino and then we’d take scenic route 128 back inland. The map said that Hwy 1 would split off from 101 in about 25 miles. So we watched for the exit… and somehow, somehow I don’t know how, completely missed it. Neither of us ever saw it. A few miles later we suspected our mistake, and fifteen miles later confirmed it, but going back would mean losing too much time and being generally tiresome, so we opted to keep going on 101. It would save us an hour, likely, over our originally planned route.


We had learned our lesson about waiting too long for lunch, and pounced on a small Mexican grocery store-come-restaurant in a strip mall on the outskirts of town.

We had lunch in Mexican market/restaurant in a little strip mall in Willits (had ‘wet’ burritos with beef tongue), and continued onwards. Since leaving the Benbow, the scenery had rapidly changed from lush forest to dry, with the grass along the roads already yellow. An oak tree appeared amidst the trees, and then more oaks, and the sequoias disappeared.


The landscape starts to change.


Our first vineyard sighting.

We made good time, and got to Healdsburg around 3:00; Clark needed to meet up with a guy there who’d just been hired as a Sonoma County wine librarian at the Healdsburg Library; Clark will interview him for a UW Information School newsletter. First we stopped at the library to see what it was about, the most amusing bit of which — to me — was the title of one of the books:  Meditations on Gout.  And yes, there’s a wine connection, as the author thought that gout traced back to drinking port, which is made from wine.

wine history display

The library has a small display of local wine artifacts.

We met up with the new wine librarian at a winery in the Dry Creek Valley at Lambert Bridge Winery; the winery had just closed for the day, but we got some photos of the librarian looking intelligent in front of the vineyard.


Not a bad place to get a job as a librarian, methinks, except for housing costs.

And so south the last bit to Sonoma, where we were shocked to discover the historic town plaza — across from where we were staying, The Sonoma Hotel — mobbed with hundreds and hundreds of people. It was the weekly farmer’s market, held every Tuesday evening for six months of the year and immensely, monstrously popular with the locals, and also it seems a source of pride (ask anyone about it, and you get a glowing description). The selling of vegetables took up only a small corner of the plaza; the rest was food vendors, and then mobs of people having picnics, and acres of children and teens running about. It seemed like the entire county was there, with bottles of wine and picnic blankets. I’ve never seen so many teenagers together outside of a school. Clark and I walked through a bit of the market, but the crowd was overwhelming.


The Sonoma Hotel, seen from the central plaza.

We had dinner at The Girl and the Fig, next door to the hotel lobby; our dining companions at the Requa Inn had heard good things about it, as had I. And it was good, although we were just too tired to properly enjoy it.

At dinner, the male half of the young couple seated the next table over was a bit of a… well, he seemed to think well of himself, but he A) took a cell call at the table, B) sucked on olives with a piercing whistling sound (again and again and again), and C) never took his napkin out of the wine glass it was displayed in. Clark said he kept wanting to lean over and tell the guy, “Dude, you gotta take your napkin out of the glass! Don’t let the waiter do it for you!” But the guy was clueless, so indeed the waiter had to remove the napkin and hand it to him, before taking away the glass since the fellow had ordered beer. Then the guy ragged on his girlfriend about only being right about anything this once, which she seemed (seemed) to take in good spirits, all of which also ticked Clark off.  “I wanted to say, ‘Duuuuude, what are you doing?’ And what was with her? She should have knocked his block back for treating her like that.”

Besides for exchanging speaking looks about the dork sitting next to us, we also talked about how the day had been tiring, but not particularly rewarding. We didn’t do any stops or side trips beyond the work-related one in Healdsburg, which left us feeling that we didn’t get anything out of the day. It was just a bunch of driving, due in part to having missed the turnoff to Highway 1. We’re discovering it’s tricky to find the right balance between covering miles and taking side trips/making stops; just covering miles is boring, and makes you wonder why you’re bothering to be on ‘vacation.’ One too many stops or side trips, however, and crankiness and exhaustion set in.

The car is parked in a spot with no time limit, and we’ve promised ourselves it will stay there all through tomorrow. We have three nights here in Sonoma, and intend to spend as little time as possible driving around.

mannequin in hallway

The end of the upstairs hallway at The Sonoma Hotel.



More of the Lisa & Clark Expedition:

Day Four

Day Six


Who are Lisa & Clark?

Lisa’s latest novel,

Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells, from Simon & Schuster

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