Road Trip: Mendocino


By Aaron Hicklin

Day Two: Elk to Mendocino

Morning: Elk is a one-road town, but don't skip the generous breakfasts at Queenie's Roadhouse Caf' (6061 Hwy. 1, Elk, 707-877-3285), a gay-owned local institution with a rainbow bear paw in the window (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Afterward, walk it off with a stroll down to Greenwood Creek State Beach -- handily, the entrance is directly opposite. Drive to Mendocino for lunch, a 20-mile journey that passes the mouths of the beautiful Navarro and Albion rivers. A former logging town, Mendocino is now a haven for artists and potheads, and the town's hippy-trippy vibe can be grating (a local admonished me for looking at my cell phone -- and that was before I told her I was checking the Dow). It is, however, ridiculously pretty, with great walks along the cliffs and a fabulous Victorian hotel for fireside drinks after dark. Score extra gay points for knowing that the Blair House Inn (45110 Little Lake St., Mendocino, 707-937-1800) was used in Murder, She Wrote as Jessica Fletcher's home in the fictional town of Cabot Cove, Maine.

Afternoon: Round off the day at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (18220 N. Hwy. 1, Fort Bragg, 707-964-4352), seven miles north of Mendocino, and a popular spot for gay weddings until the passage of Proposition 8. The ocean bluffs are great for spying dolphins and humpback whales in summer.

Sleep: Stanford Inn (Hwy. 1 at Comptche Ukiah Road, Mendocino, 800-331-8884) Wood-burning fireplaces in the rooms, a heated swimming pool, an award-winning vegetarian restaurant -- which has turned the local sea palm into a star dish -- and friendly cats and dogs padding around the reception area make this inn utterly unpretentious and inviting.