South of Redwoods State and National Parks, the 101 leaves the coastline and heads inland, full of twists and bends. With redwood trees still towering on both sides, this road just screams cross-country motor race. The smooth curves in the asphalt just beg for speed... oh, wait! Did I just say that? What I meant to say was speeding is VERY dangerous and you should ALWAYS follow the posted limit and take corners with caution. Yes, that's it - that's what I really meant to say. And now that we've relived that flashback to Driver's Ed, let's move on, shall we?
So, after hours of cruising (but always following proper following distance and never, ever exceeding the speed limit, I'm sure) through forested hills and dales, it was getting late and we were still hours away from Redwood City. Not knowing where to find a good spot to eat, we pulled off the highway in Ukiah, heading into Old Town. After scouting out the streets we settled on dinner at the Ukiah Brewing Company. A low-key place in a historic building with amazingly high ceilings, it looked like the best bet.
Michael ordered the pulled pork sandwich while I chose the fried fish sandwich (what can I say? I know I just ate fish & chips the day before, but I'm a sucker for the fried fish; I ate fish & chips three days in a row once while in England). And since this was a brewing company, of course we had to try the beer.
All in all, the food was very good and fresh, if not exceptional. Michael's pulled pork was tender and smokey, while the fish sandwich was fresh and enhanced by red onion, tomato, and red leaf lettuce . The only complaint I have is that the batter, which was rather delicate, couldn't quite stand up to the tartar sauce and lost most of it's crunch.
One thing of note, however, is that the Ukiah Brewing Company uses almost all organic ingredients. Because of this, the fare is perhaps a couple of bucks more than similar food might be at some pubs (although I've certainly more expensive pub grub elsewhere, too), but as a proponent of using organic, and most importantly local, ingredients when possible, I found this to be worth the price.
Of the half dozen or so beers on tap, we tried the Pilsner and the 10 Guilder, a red ale. Now, I do love a good beer, but I mainly focus on wheat beers and different Belgain styles, so I don't feel I'm the best judge of hoppy beers like the ones served at Ukiah. But I did enjoy the 10 Guilder, and think it's a good choice for those who like a full flavored beer that isn't too heavy on the hops.
By the time we finished with dinner the sun had set and we were in a hurry to get back on the road. After not quite two hours of driving, I called out excitedly to my sleeping husband, "Look! Wake up! It's the Golden Gate!"
Across the Golden Gate we came - maybe not back where we started from, but I was bubbling with excitement. As were crossing the bridge, Michael commented about a toll, but I sure didn't know what we was talking about. We were here, San Francisco straight ahead, and - wait, what was that up ahead? Could it be - ? Were those, just possibly, toll booths?
Sure enough, as somehow every person we've told this to since seems to already know, the Golden Gate is, in fact, a toll bridge. And not only that, but they only take cash, six dollars to be exact, which, funnily enough, was the amount we had already spent (well almost) on parking at Redwoods State Park earlier that day.
"Do you accept credit or debit cards? A check?" I hopefully asked the woman at the booth.
"I'm sorry, cash only," she informed me. But what was I to do? We'd already crossed the bridge; there was no place to pull off or turn around.
The woman was actually very pleasant about the whole thing, saying we may get a notice in the mail requesting we pay the $6.00, but if we did we should just contest it since we were from out of state and knew no better.
In short, in our first day in California we managed to smuggle in fruit, stiff the State Parks nine cents on their parking fee, and just completely cop out on paying the toll to cross what is possibly the world's most famous bridge. And, yeah, I did speed a little - just a little, mind you - driving through the redwoods. I guess California must just bring out the renegade in the Rouses.
If You Go:
The Ukiah Brewing Company offers good organic food and beer (a true California experience) and sometimes live music, too!: www.ukiahbrewingco.com