10 mph kind of says it all (the shotgun-blasted sign also says something, we'll get to that). For much of the drive from Ferndale down to Shelter Cove, this is about your average safe speed. The road is badly paved, ok really badly paved. There are switchbacks that require the wheel to be turned all the way in one direction. Many switchbacks. You're in 2nd or 3rd gear pretty much the whole time, for I don't know, two hours. Spoiler alert: it's tooooootalllly worth it.
First, an emergency breakfast in Ferndale and Nelson's first sticky bun.
Mario's Lost Coast Cafe was, like the Hotel Ivanhoe and the Palace Saloon, yet another place in Ferndale where you could kind of imagine yourself returning to very often. Good coffee, nice "healthy" sticky bun, and every conversation we were overhearing was just shit you couldn't make up, examples to follow.
After our really good sticky bun, our mission was to "glean information" from locals about getting to Shelter Cove. We split up and headed off to the corners of town where we were most likely to fit in and find like-minded individuals: Nelson headed for the vintage shop, and I headed off to....yes, the grocery store.
I thought my efforts were pretty successful. In the checkout line I bonded with the cashier because she called the tourist in front of me "dear" in a very innocent and automatic way, and he looked at her like she'd overstepped some highly personal boundary and called her "dear" back in a way that said some not very nice things about his personality. After he was gone she said to me "Well that was embarrassing, it's just a habit," and I said well you can call me dear any time you like and she said OK dear.
I asked her if she knew if the gas station took credit cards and she said, "You know what, I'm gonna go ahead and say that....I don't know (giggles). I don't get gas there very often because it's...(whispered) expensive. I might get a gallon there and then drive over to Fortuna to fill up."
I said ah OK I'm headed to Shelter Cove, and the kid behind me in line said well definitely fill up here before you go, I'm sure they take credit cards, and I said great thanks, is that a stupid idea, going to Shelter Cove? And he said, not if you want to sightsee, there's definitely stuff to see. And I asked is the way to get there that road behind the Ivanhoe with the Petrolia sign and he said yep sure is.
Nelson was even more successful. She met a shopkeeper named Francine who said that her sister had a café along the way down in Honeydew ("it doesn't have a name, there's only one"), and we should drop in there for lunch and ask for further guidance. And of course also say that Francine said hi.
I was going to try and put the directions down here very clearly, but then I realized that part of what made this part of the trip extra exciting is that no one else was doing it, I imagine because there are no (or very few) resources online that tell you how to do it. So let's keep it that way. I'll give you a hint: take the road that passes behind the saloon side of the Hotel Ivanhoe until you come to the Petrolia sign, then follow that sign. Now you're on Mattole Rd.
Which heads uphill through some unrevealing pine forest for a while.
Until you emerge high upon a mountaintop overlooking ze ocean.
Aside from cows and vultures and hawks, not much visible action going on. But it really does feel wild and alive.
Then you head down to the water, I say this as if you have a choice, you don't, that's where the road goes.
And then you keep doing this for another hour or so. This is Battleship Rock.
Until you get to Petrolia, which takes about one minute to drive through. Then you head south to Honeydew and Francine's sister. Or Francine's sister's daughter who was working that day instead.
This is the café/general store, your local source for gas and propane and groceries and leaving messages for people if you somehow don't have a phone, and a washing machine and probably many other services which we weren't privy to. I didn't take any pictures from out front because Kevin the van was already attracting a bit of attention out front as it was, but incredibly this place is on Yelp, is nothing sacred.
Next to the general store in a small room with what seemed like a community TV (while we were in there somebody from the general store came in and told the chef "Hey looks like we're gonna be open from Thursday to Monday now, because then we'll get Thursday Night Football plus college games on Saturday, NFL on Sunday, and then Monday Night Football, should be good"), there was a window where you could order food and beer.
So of course we did (food).
Not too too many vegetarian-friendly items there, but OK we'll bite: exactly what kind of veggie taco can you expect to find out in this wilderness? Wellllll, the sweet potato fries on the menu should be a hint that it's not totally what you would expect given the remote location and "unfussy" decor. I can tell you that at a similarly-situated outpost in, say, Georgia, for example, you would most likely not want to order the veggie taco.
I couldn't take a picture of the Honeydew Country Store taco itself because of the, forgive the expression, "hippies" who very kindly offered us a place to sit with them in the shade and eat. This is a complex part of the trip, the "hippies", not just the ones we ate with in Honeydew, but even more than that the ones we didn't meet or see, the ones that everybody in Humboldt County kept talking about the whole time we were there. Hopefully I'll write about it soon.
The taco was great btw (some kind of seitan taco meat with avocado, red onions, sour cream, and maybe beans?), as were Francine's sister's daughter's directions, basically yep head to Ettersburg until you come to a four way stop, then take a hard right, but be real careful because there's accidents there all the time, people come whippin' around that corner like crazy.