Skip to comments.Old Redwood Highway: Highway 1 Connects Coastal Haunts
Posted on 05/16/2013 12:28:43 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Because of its spectacular scenery, Highway 1 is officially an All-American Road, but long before it got its official number in 1964, the trip north along Sonoma Countys coast was slow going.
Rather than just one road, there were pieces that eventually joined together. Russians built the first leg from Fort Ross to Bodega Bay and Bodega. Spaniards added to it, forming a rough trail to Olema. In later days, a stagecoach traveled between Petaluma and Olema.
Thats why seeing the historic sights along the Coast Road sometimes requires you to leave the highway.
Starting at Sea Ranch and heading south, Stewarts Point Store is one of the first landmarks. It started life as a stagecoach stop, with the dilapidated building next door once a that accommodated 19th century travelers.
A little farther south is Fort Ross, established in 1812 by the Russians. They used the next stretch of Highway 1 to get back and forth to Bodega Bay and Bodega. In 1972 the road was rerouted to protect the fort from people who were loving it to death.
The late Milton Cunningham of Bodega used to tell the tale of an early-day traveler riding in a horse-drawn wagon with a very tough character.
The pair came upon a Chinese man fishing from a sea bluff. The driver became enraged and, with no provocation, attacked the fisherman, hurling him to his death on the rocks below. Once back in the wagon, he threatened to kill his traveling companion if he said a word.
Back in Bodega, the ruffian safely ensconced in a saloon, the passenger sought out the sheriffs deputy. A gunfight ensued on the road, and the murderer was killed.
You can keep that piece of history, more legend than fact, in mind as you drive the hair-raising On the hair-raising Jenner Grade, the highway regularly self-destructs and often needs rebuilding. In the 1980s, a bad storm wiped out the whole stretch. The government rerouted traffic to the ridge on Meyers Grade Road for months while a World War II metal Bailey bridge was installed over a chasm south of Fort Ross and the road reconstructed. Locals were appalled when, in 1976, Congress made Highway 1 an international bicycle route. It required painting a white line on either side of the road to designate a bicycle lane. In many places the white line is the bicycle lane.
Just north of Jenner the dramatic outline of Goat Rock becomes visible. Pull over at a wide spot and look down at the mouth of the Russian River, watching for its colony of mother harbor seals. They use that spot as a haul out on which to have their babies and teach them survival skills.
In the old days a ferry carried travelers across the river. These days theres a bridge, followed by the stretch of road that winds down to the placid waters of Bodega Bay. The oldest building still in town is the house called Wood Haven.
At the Bodega turnoff, make another detour to see historical sights along the old coastal road. The Murray House, on a curve at the east edge of Bodega, once was the stagecoach stop. A building across the road that housed a store and tavern is still there, too. It houses the Casino, an informal town hall, watering hole and even a theater on occasion. Back on the coast, Highway 1 climbs two steep hills known locally as the camel humps and goes to Valley Ford. There you will find Dinuccis, built as a hotel to serve rail passengers until service stopped in the 1930s. It still hosts a crowd, serving Italian family dinners in the dining room and cocktails from behind a rosewood bar brought around Cape Horn on a clipper ship.
Outside of Valley Ford, the road takes a sharp right on its way to Tomales. The William Tell House has been beside the road since 1877 and now serves as a restaurant and tavern. As you come into Marshall youll see a little island in the bay. It is Hog Island. It used to be privately owned but is now part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. You can enjoy the views of the serene bay and the mountains of the National Seashore that protect it all the way to the town of Point Reyes Station.
There you will find another piece of history. The Western Saloon was once a brothel and then a speakeasy, but now is a beloved watering hole that Prince Charles of England has visited. Its a great place to end an exploration of our little piece of the great road.
I’ve driven the Old Coast Road that winds through the Sur Ranch, north of Big Sur, South of Carmel.
In those days, the gate was often closed, and if you were lucky enough to find it open, it was a hell-of-a drive. Crashed a car on it in the early 80’s.
My wife and I took our honeymoon in Bodega Bay.
We both like the ocean, but hate sitting out in the sun on the beach.
We wanted a unique place that wasn’t overrun by tourists.
We had a box lunch picnic near Goat Rock, on the isthmus that connects it to the beach, with a view of Arched Rock. It was my wife’s favorite meal.
I once took the road leading from Carmel Valley to Greenfield, near Soledad, to pick up Rte. 101. On the map, it looked like a short cut, but it also turned out also to be a hell of a drive, along a narrow mountain road through numerous cattle guards.
I live a couple of blocks from highway 1 in the LA area, but the part of highway 1 that I have driven that is truly remarkable is from Point Reyes National Seashore down to where it joins the 101 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. There are parts of that ride that where the road is very narrow, winding, and right on a cliff, which dropped down to the ocean far below. I had to slow down to 5 or 10 miles an hour to go around the curves. Driving a minivan. I’m not good with heights. I had dear hubby and the kids admire the scenery and I just embraced the challenge of staying on the road and praying for no earthquakes.
I remember three or four hellish drives on California roads that looked fine on the map. On one of them, the road narrowed to one lane, which turned out to be ten miles of blind curves. There was literally no shoulder and no rail between the road and drops of 1000' or more. I don't know what we would have done if we had met a car going in the opposite direction. Fortunately, we were the only fools on the road at that point.
That sounds almost like Turnbull Canyon Road, between Whittier and Hacienda Heights.
Marshall is also the home of the Marshall Conference Center, which originally was the transmission site for the geophysical radio station KPH in Bolinas.
The Bolinas site, is an earth station— miles of copper wire is buried under the site, and uses systems designed by Nikola Tesla and Ernst Alexanderson. It is on a site hand picked by Guglielmo Marconi and when operational, it was the most powerful ship to shore radio station on the Pacific rim.
Both sites are beautiful and spooky too! There is a terrible history as well. It was basically confiscated by the US government, given to the Navy who then handed it over to RCA corporation which build the Art Deco style building that is on the receiving site. In the end, RCA gave the site over to national Park service, the government allowed an ngo called Commonweal to operate it as a ‘land trust’, and they who set out to destroy the station along with General Electric Corporation. The building was trashed, some equipment was dumped into a creek the rest vanished. In the end, the last RCA employee was electrocuted by the BL-10, the last operating transmitter for the station.
Click link for panoramic view of receiver site termination frame.
Click here for a picture of the BL-10
Always wanted to own Hog Island for some peace and quiet...
Thanks for this. I drove this once, one of the most beautiful drives ever.
Nothing like getting up early on a Sunday morning, top down on my 325i convertible and ripping up the road to the top of Mt. Tamalpais starting from Mill Valley near the 2AM club.
No one on the road except the pack of occasional motorcyclists.
Then I park and hike up the 1/4 mile or so to the Summit and on a really clear day during the Winter, you can see the snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The view of SF and the Bay Area is fantastic and you feel like you can almost reach down and touch the Farallon Islands, 27 miles off the coast of SF