Beach Blanket Bingo

Growing up in Kentucky, the closest body of water was the Ohio River. Our grandparents had a house boat so we would spend summer days cruising the river and flapping around in the water with tiny floaty-adorned arms. Now that I’m old enough to know what is in that water, I think its remarkable that my sister and I have only the correct number of appendages.  As we got older, we would spend summer weekends at nearby Lake Nolin with friends who were lucky enough to have families with houses and boats. The ocean was something only seen on the occasional vacation to Florida, or more often in our family, South Carolina or Georgia. For this reason, when I think of beaches, I think of a brightly painted town full of swim and surf shops where flip-flop-clad townies surf every morning before work.

Needles to say, when my friends in Napa proposed a day trip to the beach at Bodega Bay I had a very different idea of where we were going.  Imagine the shock when I hopped out of the car in my bikini and slathered in sun screen only to walk down a cliff-side staircase and onto a beach that had me wishing I had packed a blanket instead of a towel.  To surf these waters you not only need a wetsuit, but booties, gloves and a hood. And even then, the water is still brutally cold.

I have since visited Stinson Beach where I was smart enough to have worn jeans and a cardigan, a sad fact of life as a Northern Californian. Or so I thought, until  a couple of weeks ago when, as my family back home was preparing for fall, Indian Summer finally hit San Francisco.  My cat and I were splayed out on the mercifully cool hard wood floor in my studio, trying to hide in the shadows when my friend Katherine called and said “It’s hot. Do you want to go to the beach?” HELL YES. Sadie, cancel all of my appointments! I’m going out! I threw on my bikini, slathered myself with SPF and donned my cute straw fedora in anticipation of some serious sunshine. Before heading for the surf and sand, we made a pit stop for beer and sandwiches, because as we all know, a true beach day is not complete without some suds.

As we got closer to the coast, I started to worry- what if this was going to be the same thing all over again and I end up sitting in the cold sand in my cardigan drinking beer for warmth rather than as cool refreshing relief from the heat? My fears were unfounded. The beach was HOT and although the water was too cold to stay in for more than a few minutes, it was bearable enough to swim in. I had googled Baker Beach that morning before getting picked up and had read that it was known for its amazing views and its less traditional views….in other words, naked old men. We only experienced one of those that day, and lucky for us it wasn’t the nudes.  We were also treated to a visit from a large pod of dolphins that came surprisingly close to the shore. Standing in the sand, with the tide washing over my feet, flanked by two of my favorite Californians gazing out into the water at the dolphins framed by the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, it was hard to be anything but blissful and very very thankful for where life had brought me. To top it all off, we ended our day by sitting in the sand and watching the sun rapidly descend into the water. I don’t know that I’ve ever had the experience of watching a sunset from start to finish without interruption by man or mountain. It was the perfect end to the perfect day. San Francisco might not be my idea of a “beach town” as I had come to know them back East, but I’ll take it.