Tuesday we visited our friends the Sparks in Windsor and then drove down From foreground up: a dark gray sand beach; a ribbon of white sea foam at the shoreline; azure blue Pacific water; dark outcroppings of coastal rocks fringed with white breakers; a distant line of mountains adjoining the coast; and a pale blue winter sky The Mendocino Coast along the Russian River to the Pacific Ocean. Having read in the past about flooding along the Russian River we were surprised to see it looking so peaceful. This is the home of Korbel, the famous California producer of sparkling wine, and vineyards were spread around the small valley.

There had been a winter storm over the weekend; the hills around Windsor were covered with snow. But the air was clear and the sun gleamed across the blue Pacific Ocean which came into view as we neared the mouth of the river.

California Highway Number 1 hugs the Pacific coast from the mouth of the Russian River, near Fort Ross, to just north of Fort Bragg. The mountains come right down to the shore, and the road clings to the hillsides like a snake in the sunshine. The waves break over the rocks, large and small, which dot the coastline. In Sonoma County there are a few ranches along the shore, and lots Surrounded by a ring of rocks, the sheltered tidepool has a variegated coloring, reflecting the changing bottom Tidepool of public beaches, but further north in Mendocino County are lots of homes with ocean views. You can still buy an ocean front home for $275,000 -- incredibly cheap in comparison to most other California real estate. But the long twisty road has made this part of the state too far to commute to most jobs in California; indeed, the principal industry along the coast is tourism.

We stopped to look at Fort Ross, settled by the Russians at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The settlers harvested fur and tried to farm in support of the Russian colony in Alaska, but with little economic success. The Fort was soon abandoned and sold to John Sutter. It's been restored -- a plain wooden stockade with a few buildings and a Russian Orthodox chapel (although they had no priest). In the summer the reenactors are here wearing period uniforms.

We remember the Nova Scotians boasting that the Cabot Trail was the second most beautiful road in the world -- the first being California's Highway 1. We think they're right.