A mural depicting how Bolinas would have looked in the 50s. Not much has changed. The artist added a touch of humor with the blue surfboard the man in the brown sports coat is carrying.
Marin County had a problem. Its highway department would put up a sign on Highway 1 pointing west toward the town of Bolinas and the residents of the small coastal community would tear it down. Again and again. Located 30 miles north of San Francisco and just south of Pt. Reyes National Seashore, the town didn’t want anyone to know where it was; the town was a recluse.
Finally, out of frustration, Marin County held a vote: Did or did not the townspeople want the signs? They voted no. Today, nothing points toward the community. But a map or GPS will get you there.
I first made my way to Bolinas in the early 70s. Surfers, hippies, commune members, artists, writers and other alternative types called it home. I was running an environmental center in Sacramento at the time. Being ex-Berkeley and ex-Peace Corps, I more or less fit in. “I could live here,” I thought to myself.
The town was also known for its nude beach. I won’t incriminate myself other than to note that there are some places on the body it’s best not to get sunburned.
Ken, Leslie, Peggy and I made our way to Bolinas after we left Pierce Ranch. Other than a new park in the middle of town, I was happy to find that the community had changed little. The park, I was proudly informed by a shop owner, had been donated by one of the town’s billionaires. Big money had found its way to this small community, which is pretty much the story of Marin County. Extreme wealth and a laid back lifestyle go hand in hand. In Bolinas, VW Vans and BMW’s seemed to happily co-exist.
We wandered through town poking our heads in various shops and looking for a bookstore. It’s become a tradition whenever we travel. We love books and we like to support local bookstores. We found one on the edge of town next to the post office. It was quite unique; the owner was elsewhere and shoppers were invited to price their own selections. Seven suggested categories ranged from “unbelievably really great” for $20 to “ordinary” for a buck. It was possible (though not likely) that Peggy’s really great might be my ordinary. A small, metal box with a slot on top was set up for payment. A statue of the Virgin Mary fronted the box. I wasn’t sure whether she was there to say thank you or to haunt our conscience if we paid five bucks for a book we believed was worth ten.
A sign with suggested prices for books in Bolinas, California that depended on your assessment of the book.
Ken deposits $5 for a “great book” in the Virgin Mary box while Peggy, reflected in a mirror, looks on.
I assume this was the missing owner’s office. I believe he painted the pictures.
Leslie, Ken and Peggy stand in front of the Bolinas Bookstore named Books.
Our visit also included stopping off at a stuffed-to-the-ceiling antique store, admiring quaint houses that had been around since day one, taking photos of murals and visiting a small shop featuring incense, eastern music, and a Humpty-Dumpty Buddha.
Bolinas today, which I did in black and white to give it a 70’s feeling. Take away the cars and the billboard building and you’ll find the Bolinas featured in the mural at the top of the post.
The Grand Hotel Shop and Gallery was stuffed top to bottom with antiques.
I was intrigued with this aging mannequin I found looking out the window of the shop.
The old homes in town have aged well.
Incense, Eastern music, and this sign pulled us into a shop.
The laughing Buddha face on the upper left shelf made me think of Humpty Dumpty. The items in the shop were, um, eclectic…
We found a shrine next door that the community had put up after 9/11.
A Bolinas surf shop advertised using broken surf boards featuring Native American/First Nation art.
This pumpkin reminded me that Halloween had just passed…
And this sign reminded me that we would be buying our gas elsewhere. This station matched what I was paying in the Yukon territory this summer.
NEXT POST: Peggy and I heading off to Mexico for three weeks. To fill in, I’ve decided to put up photos that Peggy and I have taken in America’s National Parks. We’ve made a point of visiting close to all of them. I’ll close out my Pt. Reyes’ series with a Bolinas mural that I think reflects the area: ocean, wilderness, and a touch of magic.