As a Christmas gift, our children gave us a weekend getaway at the Coast in the form of a Groupon deal. To use the gift, we had to figure out what a Groupon is. I thought it was a fish at first, but it turns out it’s a cross between a coupon and a group. I guess that explains it. Whatever it is, it worked like magic when I called to make the reservation and I didn’t have to pay the inn anything. What will people think of next? There was one catch, however, in that Ron is currently on crutches recovering from foot surgery. The bubbly woman at the front desk who helped me with my reservation on the phone assured me that the room was accessible to someone non-ambulatory.
We drove to the Coast on Friday. Originally we planned to leave right after lunch to arrive at check-in time. But it took Ron several hours longer than he had expected to pack all his medications and figure out which pair of sweat pants to wear. I, on the other hand, had my Ugg boots, Birkenstock’s, and leggings thrown into a bag in 15 minutes. I do confess that it took me another 45 minutes to unload my refrigerator into coolers and Trader Joe’s shopping bags (seriously, who trusts restaurants to cook decent food these days?). Even so, I had a couple hours’ edge on Ron in terms of being packed and ready to roll. He settled on the periwinkle sweat pants, by-the-way, and he looked swashbuckling and debonair in them.
We only had to stop once to use a restroom on the drive, which made us both feel fit and bladder-sturdy. As we wound our way down the incomparable Northern Cali coastline, Ron gazed at the ocean and I ate seaweed snacks. I reckon that the proximity to the Pacific gave me a hankering for Nori. The torrential pouring rain was picturesque and soothing to our drought-withered souls, but a bit tricky to drive in.
We arrived at the inn before sunset and soon discovered that there was a considerable gap between the cheerful innkeeper’s concept of accessibility and ours. They had booked us into the most accessible room in the complex, which was down a flight of five stairs. Thank goodness we brought the crutches and not the wheelchair. I tried to keep my temper and not act like a grouch, but I did tell the innkeeper in no uncertain terms that it would be challenging for Ron to get into the room and she replied that it was challenging building the inn on a cliff. I refrained from pointing out that they seemed to have managed to build the parking lot without stairs for the cars to maneuver. Fortunately my umbrella did not turn inside out while I was assisting Ron down the slippery slope and stairs.
The room was advertised as having a fireplace, but I had failed to ask if it was a real working fireplace, which it turned out it was not. But it was warm, had a lovely glow, and, as Ron pointed out, he didn’t have to chop wood to use it. So we were OK with it. As I threw together a romantic digestion- favorable dinner of vegetable crackers, goat cheese, kale chips, red wine, and gluten-free soaked cashew substitute cheesecakes from the depths of my Trader Joe’s bags, Ron stared into the synthetic flames of the programmable fire. I reckoned he was trying to work out exactly what produced the heat and the vaguely holographic flame. By the time I had the meal laid out on napkins (I forgot to bring plates), Ron had been watching the fake fire for quite some time. “I don’t think those are real flames,” he said. “I think they have a repeat pattern to them.” I asked him where he had found the hallucinogens and if I could have some.
After ascertaining that Ron was not in danger of having an epileptic seizure from staring at the fake fire, I proceeded to assess the room for tiny LED lights that would need extinguishing in order for me to sleep later. These blinking, flashing, and glowing demons keep me awake at night. I unplugged the hair dryer (who needs a light on a hairdryer, seriously?), the clock radio (which was useless because it only got one station and the programming consisted of the surf report, a cattle swap, and accordion music), and the phone; covered the TV control panel with a washcloth; put a Band-Aid over the smoke detector light; and hid the digital wine bottle opener under the bed.
After dinner, we played a frustrating and interminable card game, called Spite and Malice, which is not always interminable and frustrating, but this particular one was since neither one of us was getting the right cards and because the cards kept sliding off the bed. The red wine made it all seem funny and the more wine we drank, the more perplexed we were about that fake fire and the less concerned about how many cards were under the bed. The remainder of the evening was more relaxing as I had a long soak in a bubble bath in the enormous tub, listened to an entire Keith Jarrett album, and engaged in some unmentionable activity with my one-legged husband. It was all legal, I assure you.
The next day we decided to go on an outing to the nearby casino for a meal. The casino, it turned out, was hardly bigger than our garage, and if you didn’t count the slot machines then it had less stuff in it than our garage does. From the outside it looked like a barn. We ordered simple omelets and salads in the restaurant and I promptly put too much Tapatío sauce on my eggs and choked. The security guard stopped by to make sure I was alive and we had a lovely chat with him once my eyes stopped watering. After our meal, I thought I’d try my luck at one of the slot machines. I’m not a gambler and I can’t remember the last time I was in a casino (which, at my age, means nothing as I may well have been in one just last week and already forgot). I sat down at a 25¢ slot machine, with a quarter in my hand, and attempted to insert said quarter into every conceivable orifice in the machine. Apparently a 25¢ slot machine does not take quarters. I should have realized at that point that I was not prime casino material and that I would not be able to win enough money to pay off my mortgage by playing a 25¢ slot machine. But I am a pretty determined person. I asked around and learned that I had to put a whole dollar in the machine. Doing the math, that gave me exactly four chances to win. It was thrilling but short-lived. I pulled the handle four times, won nothing, and lost my dollar. I still had my quarter, however. I can’t figure out if I came out ahead because I have shockingly poor math skills for someone with a graduate degree. Ron spent three dollars at a blackjack game but quit because the dealer was an interactive videotape of a woman and she refused to show more cleavage even when Ron asked her politely.
After the excitement at the casino, we were ready for more gluten-free soaked cashew desserts, so we drove to a natural food store where I could forage for such delicacies at my leisure. I left Ron in the car observing two dubious characters loitering on the street near his window. Ron kept his finger on the “lock” button of his car key just in case he needed to lock himself inside for his own protection. The dubious characters appeared to be discussing a pile of potentially combustible clothing left out on a nearby wooden table, free for the taking, I presume. You never know what mischief country people can cook up with a table of free clothing. Ron was prepared.
Back at the room we caught up on some reading, watched the spectacular rain and the waves that rolled in on the shore visible from our window, Ron took some photographs of said rain and said waves, we ate our finger-licking coconut/lemon/vanilla gluten-free treats, and played cards again (sensibly spreading the game out on a table instead of the bed this time). I know these illicit activities I have mentioned have made you blush, but I’m determined to give a true account. I will, however, spare you the details of later Bacchic revels of the evening.
The next morning dawned sun-soaked and diamond-clear, offering us a brilliant view of the Pacific. We packed up our leftover kale chips and apples and hiked the cliff-side steps to our car. Before heading home we paid a visit to the Point Arena Lighthouse because, let’s face it, old people love lighthouses. They remind us of bygone days when we could check into hotel rooms using cash, there were no LED lights to stifle so night was dark, the fireplace was real and completely non-hallucinatory under normal conditions, and the radio not only worked but brought fine music and extraordinary programming. Even as times change, the ocean, it seems, never does. I could watch it forever and it always brings me peace and renewal.
Point Arena Lighthouse Off the Coast of Mendocino County in Northern California.