Friday, December 31, 2004

Observing on New Year's Eve in Mendocino

I drove for my first time to Mendocino on New Year's Eve day... it was an amazing experience that even included some astro content (which is why I am posting to TAC...).

It was rainy most of the drive up, over The Bridge, through Marin and the cities, past the turnoff for Lake Sonoma, and into the Anderson Valley. This is a little known wine valley, compared to more famous Napa and Sonoma. But it is a beautiful place. We had lunch at the Sagebrush Saloon in Booneville, preparing for some wine tasting before the night's celebration. But during lunch I began wondering about my clothing, realizing I'd left the garment bag with the nights "duds" hanging in the closet back in San Jose! Asking the waitress if there was any place to shop nearby, she replied with friendly small town charm, saying "you're screwed" :-) Thus began my unexpected journey to Ukiah. This allowed me to drive out to the coast at Fort Bragg, and enjoy a bit more coast scenery, passing by the town of Mendocino, on my way to our final destination of Fensalden Inn, in Albion. No wineries that day :-(

The Fensalden Inn is on the old stagecoach route through the area, and the Inn itself was a stage stop. It is quaint, ecclectic and very picturesque (ducks, goats, birds, streams, cypress trees, rainbows over the ocean in the morning) Nice group of guests, from Geneva, Napa, Newport Beach, the bay area, I was even surprised to meet a woman there who was a year behind me in my high school in Los Angeles - a few drinks, and there were lots of stories to tell. But soon it was time to head out to dinner.

Dinner was at the Ledford House Restaurant. There was a four course french dinner, which included something called "salmon sorbet"... a word of advice, never, ever, ever, taste salmon sorbet. But the rest of the dinner was great. The wine was great, the champagne was too (it was late harvest reisling mixed with champagne). The party outside was also - - - somehow I think the outside activities are typical Mendocino!

And that's where the observing part of this report comes in. The sky was clear when I stepped outside. I looked up, tried to stabilize myself the best I could, and looked at all the double stars! Even Rigel and Betelgeuse appeared double (shoot, I couldn't even read the bill when it came)! Although I did not have a "GREEN LASER" with me (please, kill that thread!) I was able to give something of a sky tour to some of the less inebriated revellers. Well, we all had a great time. Fortunately, the B&B was a very short distance - I could have (and perhaps should have) walked back...

Thanks to all who made recommendations for where to go, what to do, on the trip. I finally got to drive past the turnoff for Lake Sonoma - and if I were going there to observe, I'd definitely head up into the Anderson Valley during the day (the late harvest Reisling and Gurwurtz are awesome!)... maybe even put on a few more miles and enjoy the afternoon on the Mendocino Coast... in fact, the relative closeness of the valley and that gorgeous coast to Lake Sonoma make it a great combined observing/tourism area...

Happy New Year to all...

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