lighthouseWhile you are staying with us you might want to take a run up the coast a few miles to Point Arena. The folks that live there are proud of the town's hippie heritage of independent thought and they guard it jealously. The town is fairly certain that they have more artists per capita than any other community on earth and are absolutely convinced that there are more individualists living there than anywhere else in the world. They are concerned about their fellow man and their fellow beasts as well. Among them are experts on the life and times of the native abalone, the Point Arena beaver, and the African zebra. Dinosaurs used to roam there (and they have the bones to prove it), Native Americans prospered there long before Anglo-European settlers arrived, their cove was used by eighteenth century explorers, their river was named after the recipient of one of the first Spanish land grants in this part of the state, their dairy farms long sustained early immigrants throughout the West, their lighthouse was a critical part of the coastal navigation system during the Age of Sail, San Francisco was rebuilt with their redwood trees after the fire, and today the town offers a wealth of largely undiscovered treasures by tourists that are in too much of a hurry to even slow down (except for the 90 degree turn that Highway One takes at the school house).

Everything Under the SunMain Street has a little bit of everything including a vintage movie house, a regionally famous pastry shop, a shy but talented tile-maker working in a corrugated steel shed, a purveyor of jams and jellies with a national customer list, a couple of gift boutiques with exotic articles for sale, an art gallery sometimes showing important Native American art, a couple of good solid restaurants, the town library, and several serious specialty markets offering organic produce. Heck, you can even get your motorcycle serviced by a master motorcycle mechanic at the Zen House. (What was the name of that book anyway?) The "downtown" area is eminently walkable so park the car and poke your nose in some of the shops. You will be surprised at the variety of what you find hidden away in these classic storefronts that most people just drive past on their hurried way up or down the macadam strand that is the coastal highway. We suggest that you slow down and take a moment to explore a traditional American small town.

Certainly, you do not want to leave town without first visiting the wharf. It is the historic heart of the community and has several eateries and a popular local coffee shop. If you bring your fishing pole with you it might even be worth spending some time on the pier. The experts say that it is some of the best pier fishing in the state - and you don't even need a license! If you have children with you (or even if you don't) you should also see if you can make a reservation for the African animal preserve. They take a few folks with them in the late afternoon when they feed the zebras and antelope that are in their charge. When was the last time that you got up close and personal with a magnificent wild zebra or a sleek African antelope? Besides, the modest cost of your admission ticket will help pay for the upkeep that these beautiful animals receive in a very real effort to save them from extinction. Take a moment and chat with the folks who are befriending these endangered creatures - it is an eye opening experience.

If you want to know more about Point Arena check out the new web site that the Merchant's Association is putting together to tell folks about all of the events, festivals, and "doings" that are in the planning stage right now: Merchant's Association web site. (Go easy on them - the web site initiative is just getting started! It is more than a little thin, but it will almost certainly grow in usefulness over the months ahead.) And definitely do not miss the opportunity to visit the historic lighthouse just outside of town! If you stop by one of the markets and buy a loaf of bread along with a jug of an appropriate potation you could add in a picnic on the wild side in the Stornetta Public Lands and the Point Arena expedition would turn into a great way to spend a day for the entire family. What the hey - you might as well throw in dinner and a movie with popcorn as well.