Rookie mistake, number 876

Okay, so we learned in no uncertain terms that only IDIOTS set out for a day trip to Stinson Beach in Marin county at midday on July 3.  Because the ENTIRE population of the Bay Area (close to 8 million) was on the road for the July 4 long weekend, silly.  Apparently in the state of California, 3.8 million were driving over the weekend and it felt like they were all on our bit of the Interstate 580.

I had given it no thought. We cheerily picked the kids up from their Nike Cal tennis camp at midday and, picnic packed in the boot/trunk, we headed north for our favorite local-ish beach, our equivalent of Piha here. On a very good day, you can get there in 45 minutes but our high spirits were soon given a sharp talking to (is that possible?) when we barreled into a good five miles of stationary traffic  leading up to the tolls before the Richmond-San Rafael bridge.

At this point, the family driver decided that life was too short and whose bright idea had it been to do this anyway and I had to make a graceful climbdown and agree to a picnic in Tilden Regional Park instead. Tilden Regional Park is this expansive parkland of over 800 hectares, five minutes from our house – it has a carousel, miles of hiking trails, horse riding, you name it. Our favorite spot is Lake Anza which has a lovely trail going round it, happily fitting in with my motto: “I don’t mind hiking as long as I can see water.” Must be the Kiwi in me, I guess. I love that feeling when you have had a good ol’ hike  and then you emerge to a sea view ideally with crashing waves and cliffs etc. That’s why I like Mendocino so much.

Close to Tilden Park are the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens which I finally made it to last week thanks to Mum. It has themed gardens from all over the world including New Zealand (lots of ferns, no pohutukawa), a lovely old rose garden, Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden, loads of cactus, surprise surprise. California has a third more plants than other parts of the US because of its Mediterranean climate apparently. The birds love it there- they are part of the entertainment, a Western Scrub-Jay swooshes past you when you least expect it. Truly a gardener’s idea of heaven I have no doubt. I, of course, would have stayed longer if they had had a cafe – might just put that in their suggestion box.

Anyway we’ll make it to Stinson Beach another time I guess. The month of July stretches out with very little planned apart from two archery camps for the boys, so we’ll get there.  Next time we’ll leave at sparrow’s fart, ideally mid week.  This Bay Area traffic is not going to get me next time.