Friday, August 28, 2009

Mixed reviews: Redwoods Hostel and Colombi Motel

We spent two nights on the road between Eugene and Berkeley, since we drove down the coast most of the way.

Redwoods National Park

Our first night we spent at the Redwoods National Park Hostel, a beautiful old house on the edge of Del Norte State Park (part of Redwoods National and State Parks). We were lucky that when booking last month they still had a private room available: the house has two private rooms and two (gendered, I think) dorm rooms. Bathrooms are down the hall, and not surprisingly the house, guests and staff, is mostly younger hippies (although one guest was celebrating his 31st wedding anniversary).

The kitchen at the Redwoods Hostel is reasonably well stocked with pots and pans, although their spice supply is not as good as advertised (old-looking dried garlic, oregano, paprika, and mustard powder; we had brought a fresh head of garlic from Wintergreen Farm and used that). The kitchen has two refrigerators (we had our own coolers) and two powerful gas ranges, as well as various counter-top appliances (microwave; toaster; coffee grinder, complementary Starbucks coffee, and hard-to-use percolator; electric griddle and complementary pancake batter, to which we added blackberries from the free shelf in the fridge). My first major complaint about the kitchen is the lack of usable sinks. They have a small hand-washing sink and a wonderfully large three-tub pot-wash (sink tubs, all with the same faucet, are kept filled with soapy water, clear water, and bleach water). However, no where in the kitchen was a food prep sink, a must for washing vegetables. Wash veggies in the dishes sink and you dilute the tub; the hand sink is too small; none of them have nearby counter space. A better set-up would have been to use two tubs for dishes, and keep a small sanitizing bleach bucket and sponge; use the third tub and adjacent counter (currently covered with drying dishes) for food. The best setup would be to invest in an energy- and water-efficient electric sanitizer (the kind that recycles its water, kept at 180° hot).

My second major complaint about Redwoods Hostel is their no-alcohol policy, mentioned nowhere on their website. I understand not wanting undergrads getting wasted, but I was surprised by it, and disappointed: we had brought an Oregon Pinot Gris, a gift from my dad. We probably would have opened it up anyway had we remembered where the pocketknife was.

The dinner consisted of yellow summer potatoes, cut into eighths and boiled ten minutes, then tossed with butter, olive oil, rosemary, and minced garlic; tuna, seared in garlic olive oil; and a lettuce salad with lemon and oil.

Fort Bragg

When we drove to Oregon last spring, we found the cute Colombi Motel in the cute town of Fort Bragg. The motel is acceptable, and a good bargain: clean, although without enough pillows and blankets. Each room has a small kitchen: sink, electric range, full-sized fridge, drying rack for dishes, and cutting board. Otherwise it is completely empty, but for five dollars you can rent enough dishes for two: large and small plates, small bowls, flat wear, large plastic cups, tea cups, two medium sauce-pots and two nonstick fry-pans, two wooden spoons and a plastic spatula, a brand-new sponge and dish soap. Notably absent are wine glasses and a corkscrew (notice a pattern?), a serving/salad bowl, and a strainer. We made do: cook pasta in the larger of the two sauce-pots and use the smaller to hold it back while pouring out the hot water; serve food in the cooking dishes; forgo salad. Also, travel with your own salt and accept a night without pepper.

For dinner we bought very local Rex sole from the excellent Harvest Market, which had been cleaned but not filleted, and pan-fried it in oil and garlic. The dish that took more prep work was a tasty pasta: penne with local tomatoes, diced, basil, toasted pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese.

Other than the lack of pillows, Colombi Motel's only other failure is that the advertised WiFi is hard to make work. (The folks at the front desk say that it only works on Windows, not Mac; this is a lie, but a good one.) The town of Fort Bragg makes up for it, though. Fairly remote, Fort Bragg relies on tourism, and doesn't think it has much to offer: a beach no more or less gorgeous than any other in Northern California, local hiking. Nevertheless, the town, with all its empty storefronts, has really cute cafes and absolutely no campy tourist-trap vibe.

Our favorite part of Fort Bragg is also one of our very favorite book stores: the Estates Gallery Book and Antique, on Franklin Street (the entire downtown is two blocks, so you can't miss it). No website, but the rave reviews online are spot on. I spent an hour perusing the cookbook section, enjoying the rare, old, and out-of-print books. B found books for his research that are almost no where else in the country. It turns out that the best book flotsam and jetsam washes up in Fort Bragg.

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