In Fort Bragg we found a motel with a pleasant staff and a tiny bouqet of fresh flowers in our room. The price of $42 per night, including pastry and coffee in the morning, was a tremendous bargain, since we could see the Pacific Ocean from our room. The clerk told us the economy was pretty much tourism; fishing had about died out, though there is still a good-sized lumber mill belching smoke from its stack.

Fort Bragg is a charming coastal town, with a stated population of 5000, which probably doubles when the tourist influx hits in summer. It's the only town for miles around, so it has a pretty good collection of stores. All the people we met were much friendlier than those in the big cities we had just been visiting. The locals also provide services for the people who have built good-sized hillside homes along the coast for retirement or vacation retreats.

We took a couple of walks in Mackerracher State Park, on the ocean north of town. The beach was squishy black sand, with huge hunks of driftwood, and the first macadam road had been washed away and replaced with a second, further back from the shore. Laguna Point is where to go to see seals and, perhaps, whales. In fact the housekeepers at the motel had told us the whales were migrating now. We didn't see any whales, but we did count 31 harbor seals, lying motionless on the rocks in large groups. The pups will be born in April, and there were frequent signs telling visitors to leave the pups alone. The shoreline was beautiful, with rainbow-colored ice plant and frothy white breakers breaking on the rocky outcroppings.

We stopped at a funky mail and package-shipping service which shares its building with a Macintosh dealer and a store specializing in buck knives and bongs. The woman running the shop has dozens of photos of herself and her cat, Lady, who obviously runs the entire enterprise.