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.
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.
Boonville Hotel, Boonville(707-895-2210; www.boonville hotel.com). Luxury naps and great eats on the way to the coast.
Heritage House Inn, Little River (800-235-5885; www.heritage houseinn.com). Rustic cottages with ocean views. Setting for Same Time, Next Year.
Little River Inn, Little River (888-466-5683; www.littleriverinn.com). The comfy bar offers Celtic tunes and towering burgers.
From East of Eden (Mendocino) to The Birds (Bodega Bay), the region has seduced Hollywood countless times. Find out where the stars came to work and play at Web sites such as www.oldmovies. com and www. mendocinocoast. com/filmoffice.
The region is rife with festivals, celebrating everything from wine to mushrooms. Check in with the Mendocino County Alliance (707-462- 7417; www. gomendo.com).
While hotels abound, longer-term visitors often opt for seaside homes, available through outfits such as Shoreline Vacation Rentals (888-942- 8284; www. shoreline vacations. com).
Hidden San Francisco and Northern California, 10th ed., by Ray Riegert.
Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce (www.mendocinocoast.com).
Mendocino Coast & County Online Directory (www.mendocino.org).
What we drove
Who knew that driving a four-wheeled Stealth fighter would be so easy? Other than needing a highway to get out of first gear, the 571-hp, V-12 Lamborghini Murcilago Roadster is surprisingly compliant, with an easy clutch and effortless steering. But don’t take the complex canvas top off unless you’ve been cleared for a few days of cloudless skies.