the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Postcard from the Road

(from our hotel room in Fort Bragg)

Travelling can be stressful at times, so I’m glad Sophia and I decided ahead of time to enjoy ourselves, and to laugh off any bumps in the road. Napa is pretty, but not our glass of wine. How many wineries can a person visit? How many wineries can one visit and still safely drive those windy country roads? And how many restaurants can serve fifteen dollar organic chicken sandwiches?

Our favorite wine country town was Healdsburg. It is quaint, but not sickingly touristy. Santa Rosa is cool also, mostly because Charles Schultz lived there, and there are sculptures of Charlie Brown and Snoopy all over the place.

Safari West in Santa Rosa was as overpriced as our arugula salad in Sonoma. They advertised themselves as an “African safari” experience, but for safety reasons, they don’t have any animals that could actually eat you. So, you travel around on a crowded jeep watching giraffes and antelopes sleeping, eating, shitting, and ignoring you. At least at Universal Studios, the Jaws shark comes out to attack you at least once!

The tour guide at Safari West recently wrote a children’s book about animals, and he seemed more interested in promoting it than giving us a tour, always saying that we could “pick up a copy in the gift shop.” This is embarrassing to admit, but I fell asleep on Sophia’s shoulder while riding a bumpy jeep on a “African” safari. Still, it was an entertaining and different experience, but not worth the sixty bucks a person.

We liked this zebra the best. These electric zapcars are all over the place.

We had hoped to take a mud bath and massage in Calistoga. I was especially excited about posting a photo of myself with mud up to my neck, but we changed our mind when we actually saw the spa that we chose from some brochure we got at the hotel. Rather than it looking like an “Oasis,” it looked like a trailer behind a motel. When we went inside, Sophia asked the owner if we could see the mud bath before we paid, but the owner said we couldn’t — they were still “getting it ready.” Sophia asked to use the restroom, and like Nancy Drew, sneaked into the mud bath room. She immediately came out and told me that we should leave.

“It looks filthy.” she said. “They’re cleaning it up with dirty rags”

We were a little disappointed. I owe Sophia a mud bath.

Today, we drove from Napa to Mendocino. It was very interesting to see how the landscape changed from lush wineries to massive redwoods. Sophia was fascinated at her first look at these amazing trees. She even started to cry.


“It’s like a fairy tale forest,” she said.

I didn’t have much time to be emotional, since the darkness of the tree cover and the curvy roads made driving a little scary.

Eventually, we made it to Mendocino. While Napa had an upscale wine lover/foodie vibe, the Northern California coast has maintained much of the hippy vibe of the 1960’s (although wealthier hippies). We stopped to buy some fruits at a food co-op. If Sophia was ever in political enemy territory, it was here. There were anti-war petitions hanging over the dairy aisle, and photos of Bush with X’s marking out his face. We especially enjoyed this sign posted by the front door, telling customers to shut off their cell phones.


The views of the ocean are beautiful here. The oceanfront is rugged and… manly. In comparison, the beaches of Los Angeles are, as Ann Coulter might say, for faggots.


We’re staying the night in Fort Bragg, which is one town over from Mendocino, and is known as the place where visitors who can’t afford Mendocino stay for the night. As I’m writing this, we’re in a small coffeehouse that serves organic coffee and we’re listening to a talent hippyish-looking singer doing a Joni Mitchell song. What could be more Northern Californian?


Travelling is fun, but you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next, especially when you’re travelling on a budget. We were concerned about our hotel in Fort Bragg because it looked a little Bates Motel-ish when we pulled in at night.

“I’m not staying here.” said Sophia. “There’s a homeless man standing right outside!”

Luckily, as we got closer, we saw it was just the sea captain.



  1. ms. sizzle

    you are making me want to go on a road trip. it sounds like, despite some glitches, you are having a great time. 🙂 i wish i was in a coffee house listening to some hippy sing joni mitchell.

    electrically sensitive community? hmmm, that could explain my heart palpatations when my cell phone rings… 😉

  2. Pearl

    Did you tell the sea captain your “whale of a story” that you shared with us a few posts ago?

    Sounds like a great trip so far, even with its quirks. Stay safe…

    We need more travel pics of Sophia. Oh, of course, and of you, Neil.

  3. Churlita

    Oh, you’re making me miss living in northern California. I used to live in Standish and Hickey (hee hee) State park on the Mendocino/Humboldt County Border.

    Poor Sophia. Her being there, is probably similar to me being at the Republican Convention.

  4. Not Faint Hearted

    I agree with the rest, it’s making my feet itchy for a road trip. I can’t get over how absolutely ROMANTIC this trip sounds.

    I know it’s impolite to ask, but when has that stopped us?

    IS IT WORKING??? (feel free to interpret “it” however you like.)

  5. Danny

    I want to see those Redwoods, they look amazing. I prefer living in southern California but I love the people up north, it’s like a different species. The Land That Time (and the Reagan Revolution) Forgot.

    Neil, your birthday packages are still arriving en masse. It’s to the point where the UPS guy says “Neil Kramer?” and I just say “yes.”

    Hey, stay away from those dirty MUD baths!

  6. V-Grrrl

    Still laughing over the mud baths being “filthy.” Ha, ha, ha.

    Love the manly beaches. I bet your penis was VERY impressed with the redwoods. No wonder Sophia cried.

  7. Michele

    Oh I am so jealous. I hope you keep having a great time.

  8. plain jane

    Wait until you get to the “State of Jefferson”!! That’s where the real progressives live.,_Oregon

    Your trip sounds great! Too bad about the “dirty” mud baths.

  9. Mist 1

    I’m guessing that the co-op didn’t have free wi-fi.

  10. Rhea

    Good thing Sophia insisted on checking out that mud place ahead of time. When I did Route 66 a couple of years ago, we insisted on checking out the room of the very first motel we booked — sight unseen — on the route. The room was disgusting. We left immediately and found another room.

  11. rach

    How many wineries can you visit? I’m gonna have to come over there and slap you I think! Sounds and looks like a great holiday, and glad you enjoyed the pre birthday treats from the blogsphere. Sorry I didn’t get my shit together in time……as usual. Big birthday snogs coming your way. Sorry Sophia!

  12. Blitz Krieg

    Wow, Bruce Dern was sitting in that coffee shop! Did you say hi to him?

  13. Jenn

    for a good mud bath you shoulda headed south to Club Mud at the Glen Ivy Spa… north of Temecula, south of Riverside.

  14. mysterygirl!

    Ah, the picture of the forest really is beautiful. Glad you’re having such a great trip!

  15. molly

    Oh man…I am simultaneously jealous and carsick hearing about your trip — I love the redwoods and the coast, but those roads are wicked windy! Still, you’re making me homesick, in a good way.

  16. Dawn

    “How many wineries can one visit and still safely drive those windy country roads?”

    Isn’t that the truth! I went wine tasting in upstate New York (which I highly recommend, by the way) and by the third stop, we were trying to figure out where we were gonna stay for the night, because there was no way there could be more driving.

  17. kapgar

    I want that car!

  18. better safe than sorry

    wow, sounds like the two of you are having a great trip!!!
    to me it looks like the best part of the trip is going to be the part that costs nothing, the ocean, those trees.
    stay safe.

  19. Dagny

    I haven’t been up to see the Redwoods in years. Guess I know what I’ll be doing over this summer.

    And didn’t y’all know that many of the folks in Mendocino County voted to not uphold the Patriot Act? Of course I live in a city that had a resolution on the ballot in November asking that Bush be impeached. So maybe y’all might want to skip a stop here as well.

  20. janet

    great trip report. I especially love that you seamlessly wove in an Ann Coulter line. brilliant!

  21. Two Roads

    Love the Travels with Neil & Sophia! Hope it is doing it for you two!

  22. Marilyn

    Wait a minute…I gave travel tips to a Republican?! 😉 Hoo-boy, just wait till you get to Arcata! HA! I’m laughing about the mud baths. I’ve never done them there, but I have seen the place…and yes, it’s not at ALL what one would expect. You wanna know what’s manly? Standing on the beach at Point St. George with the wind blowing about 40 miles an hour…and that’s on a good day. 😉 Wow, Churlita used to live in Standish and Hickey…now THAT’S cool. My mate is (unbelievably) playing a gig in Phillipsville next month. (That will only mean something to those who know the more obscure spots in No. Calif.)

  23. Ariel

    Neil, thanks so much for sharing your trip. As I sit here in my small office in the middle of the cultural wasteland (but I have a great view on a sub-power station mind!) my mind is enticed by your fantastic pictures and witty account of ‘life on the road’…

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