Mendocino Coast

Marco R. della Cava
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Mendocino Coast
0504 Gd April Map 445

OK, so driving a snorting Lamborghini Murcilago Roadster through California's hippie-laced Mendocino County seems a bit like escorting Pamela Anderson through a nunnery. And you do get raised-eyebrow glares from Prius-piloting locals.But we sucked it up, because few automotive joys can equal piloting a Lambo through Mendo. The sonorous supercar's surreal cut and thrust are the perfect complement to a serpentine coast whose waves don't crash as much as they detonate off vertiginous cliffs.

A 400-mile loop from San Francisco begins with a dash north up Highway 101, with a quick lunch detour in the tony wine-country town of Healdsburg. Soon the car's road-sniffing nose turns northwest on two-lane Highway 128, snaking past rolling ranches and towering redwoods, depositing us in seaside Mendocino, a haven for artists, musicians, and anyone who likes a time warp. As close as this region is to tech-savvy San Francisco, it might as well be stuck in 1950. Your cell phone won't work, and if it did, the gentry would politely ask you to turn it off and turn on your senses, the better to relish the inspiring vistas, laid-back pace, and fresh air.

After an overnight at nearby Little River's Heritage House, famous as the setting for the Alan Alda-Ellen Burstyn movie Same Time, Next Year, the Lambo charges due south along Highway 1. The wonderfully deserted road is a stark contrast to Winnebago-choked Highway 1 near better-known Big Sur.

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The few faded towns that line this stretch of coast fly by in a blip of the throttle. In an hour or so, we roll up on Bodega Bay, where a schoolhouse made infamous in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds is a required stop. We then head east on Bodega Highway and take leave of the ocean, jetting inland to rejoin the 101 for the trek back to the big city.

As getaways go, between Mendocino's cozy lost-coast feel and the Lamborghini's e-ticket power, only one thought comes to mind: Same time, next weekend.

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