Sac and Back will be a new series of road trips to be taken from Sacramento with detailed itineraries of recommended stops along the way. This week I begin with a favorite of mine: the drive to Marin County. There are many different routes to take, along with myriad transportation methods—car, motorcycle, bicycle, limo, bus, you name it. Take these guides as recommendations and see where they take you. If you’re into Geocaching, this is a fun place to get lost in.
Highway 12 through Napa
Head out of Sacramento toward Fairfield and hop onto Highway 12 through Napa. I did this drive a week ago and the conditions are absolutely perfect. It’s spring and it shows, with green rolling hills against the vibrant blue sky, vineyards spanning the horizon, and lavender fields sprawling the flatlands. If you just can’t help yourself, stop for some wine tasting.
Ernie’s Tin Bar (5100 Lakeville Hwy, Petaluma)
From Highway 12, jump onto the 116. At the junction of 116 and Lakeville Highway you will come across a tin bar; you’ll know it’s Ernie’s because it’s the only place around. “No cell phone” signs reign throughout the building, and I advise you to obey or get hollered at by the owners, bartenders and locals. I love this place. Within minutes of ordering a drink I made multiple friends, including the bartender, who shot me a look and beckoned me over to show me the working auto shop in the back and brief on with the bar’s deep history. Owned by the same family since 1923, Ernie’s even had a secret room in the back where drinks were had and mouths stayed shut—just ask for some back story when you get there. On top of that, they sell the best corn chips on the market, Have’a Corn Chips. If your lips have never graced these triangles of sweet, savory salt, go to Sacramento Co-op right now and buy a bag. If you’re a true human (and you don’t have any sort of dietary intolerances), you will eat the whole bag before getting home. OK, enough about Ernie’s, but really, go.
Hog Island Oyster Farm (20215 Shoreline Hwy, Marshall)
After traveling through Petaluma, take Tomales Bay Road to Highway 1 and be sure to make a reservation at Hog Island Oyster Farm to eat on “The Boat.” Sit down with friends old and new and enjoy fresh oysters and a charcuterie board at the communal picnic tables. Another option is to “shuck your own,” where the pickins are vast. Learn to shuck oysters and chuck ‘em down the hatch raw, or throw them on the grill for a tasty dinner. If you failed to make any reservations but your mouth and belly crave the taste of the sea, stop by “The Hog Shack” out front and pick up some fresh fish to-go.
Cypress Tree Tunnel
Ten miles south is a must-stop, especially for photographers. At the Cypress Tree Tunnel, giant cypress trees line the street and reach across from both sides to entangle one another and create a living tunnel. It is a sight to see, especially if the fog has rolled in and allows the branches to peek through.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Just down the road you will find campsites at Point Reyes National Seashore. Whether you have reserved a campground or are hoping to find an open one, pack up the sleeping bags from the car and make the trek in. Set up camp, take a walk on the seashore, enjoy a beach fire (grab a permit from the visitor center beforehand) and fall asleep to the sound of the crashing waves. Stay one night, two nights, a week, a month—whatever suits your fancy.
Lagunitas Brewing Company (1280 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma)
Leaving Point Reyes, head north back up to Petaluma via Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, a stretch of California that many have not witnessed, but that shouldn’t be missed. In the town of Petaluma you will find the Lagunitas Brewery, a place I advise visiting in the late afternoon or early evening so you can catch some live music, a burger and a beer.
Back to Sac
As you make your way home, take Highway 37 for a change of scenery. This includes the stretch of highway surrounded by bay waters, birdwatching and one of California’s best attractions: The Lone Toilet. You’ll know it when you see it. Arrive back home for a hot shower and a warm bed. Back to the 9-to-5, until next time.
**This piece first appeared in print on pages 10 – 11 of issue #260 (Feb. 26 – March 12, 2018)**