You can visit November in the summer
at Moss Landing
By Debra LoGuercio
©Copyright 2004, Debra LoGuercio, all rights reserved
When you visit a bed and breakfast, you don't just check in. You, quite literally, move into someone's home for awhile. Someone you've never met. Is it awkward? Not when you're greeted by Melanie Gideon at the Captain's Inn.
Melanie gets plenty of practice greeting people. Even though the Captain's Inn has only been open for business in Moss Landing for about a year and a half, many people have already returned several times.
"You build friendships. That's very special," says Melanie, explaining that people are really the joy of innkeeping.
"I really enjoy the people. You learn so much about them. They come for their 20, 30, 40, 50 year anniversaries and they're still in love. It gives you faith for life in the future."
With a smile as wide as sunrise, Melanie shows you around her beautifully restored turn-of-the-century home, pointing out the various amenities, like the cozy reading nook, classic Victorian guestrooms in the main house and a darling dining area adorned with a strawberry motif. Her enthusiasm really shines when she takes you to the boathouse out back. It is, quite literally, a boat house.
Each boathouse room has a nautical theme, into which Melanie has poured incredible creativity and whimsy. We're not talking mere sailboat decorations. The beds ARE boats -- retired vessels cut down and reshaped into bed frames, their parts redesigned into furniture. Where do all these boats come from?
"Being married to a captain, boats just seem to follow him home," says Melanie. "One time I went away for an afternoon and new boats had popped into the yard while I was away, suddenly, sort of like flowers from bulbs."
The bed frame in our room was once a wooden salmon troller, the rails from its hull crafted into a bed frame. Its bow became the nightstand, and the armoire was the back of its wheelhouse. In the Catamaran room, the bed frame was an actual catamaran platform, complete with colorful flag-lined ropes extending to the ceiling.
How does Melanie create these charming rooms? She says it starts with dreaming up wild, crazy ideas and sharing them with your spouse.
"And then your husband just rolls his eyes, and then goes away and makes it happen!" says Melanie.
The nautical theme in the rooms complements their expansive view of the Elkhorn Slough, where the Salinas River empties into the Monterey Bay. The bay sits just over a sand ridge across the slough, which is a haven for wildlife, particularly shorebirds, otters and seals.
If you want a closer look at the abundant coastal wetland wildlife, Melanie can hook you up. Her husband, Yohn, is the captain of the Elkhorn Slough Safari nature tours, which have been featured on the television show "Bay Area Backroads." Melanie even calls Yohn "Captain," when they talk, which is just precious. (Captain. Captain's Inn. NOW I get it!)
So, you're all checked in. Now what? You probably passed through Castroville to get there, and if you're like me, decided it was a lovely town to pass through. Although Melanie says there's a wonderful artichoke festival there every May, the day we came through Castroville -- where artichokes meet the ocean -- it was not exactly a happenin' spot. Not a problem. Moss Landing is located halfway between Monterey and Santa Cruz, only about 20 minutes to either, and baby, if you can't find something to do in Monterey or Santa Cruz, you might as well stay home and read.
Me and my favorite travel partner (who moonlights as my favorite daughter), opted for an afternoon in Monterey, where we made a beeline for a cheesy tourist shop. I'd broken the cardinal rule of visiting the northern/central California coast: Always bring a jacket, no matter how sweltering it is inland. Brrrrr!
We bummed around Fisherman's Wharf for awhile and headed back to Moss Landing for dinner. After perusing the binder of local menus at the inn, we chose Charlie Moss', which didn't look like much on the outside but on the inside was charming as it could be, with wonderful service and an enchanting display of coastal cow art. (Of, not by, of course.)
Charlie Moss' had my favorite kind of menu: so many things from which to choose that making a decision was tortuous. You wish you could just throw a dart and order whatever it lands on.
Not having a dart handy, I went with the cioppino, a saucy, soupy seafood dish featuring shellfish and crab. In the shells. Yes, you're gonna get some on ya. Before they even place this mouth-watering mess in front of you, the waitress brings you a bib. No, it's not optional -- she ties it right onto your neck. Which is wise, because there's no way to eat cioppino neatly. In fact, you don't "eat" cioppino, you "dig in" -- with nutcrackers, seafood fork and bare hands. (Helpful hint: do not order cioppino on a first date unless you want it to be the last. There's nothing sexy about snapping a crab claw in half, spattering yourself with red sauce and sucking meat out of the shell. Trust me, the spell will be broken.)
Following dinner, we returned to the inn and discovered something I just adore about bed and breakfasts: they sweat the small stuff. While we were out, they'd turned down the bed, spread thick, white terry cloth robes out and left a plate of fresh cookies. Give me cookies and I'm your friend forever.
I washed down the cookies with a little merlot I'd packed along, my gal did her homework (what a good girl!) and I nodded off by the warmth and glow of an in-room fireplace. Yes, a fireplace in August.
It sounds crazy, but think about it: wouldn't you like to spend a weekend in November right now? You can at Moss Landing, where a cool, gray day isn't uncommon this time of year. What a blessed reprieve from triple-digit valley heat! Sadly, Melanie says cool weather isn't a guarantee. Often it's merely warm and sunny, hovering at a balmy 80 degrees or so. How disappointing!
So right about now, you're fanning yourself and thinking, "Hurry up and print the phone number! I need to cool off now!" Not so fast. You need a few more details about Moss Landing.
Although I personally have no interest in antiques, I'm aware that some people just love old, used, musty stuff. If you're one of them, Moss Landing is your spot. Pound for pound, this tiny community of about 700 has more antiques stores than anywhere on earth. Some are classic shops, others are funky rehabilitated school buses and boats, collected together at a town square of sorts called Moss Landing Village. And, I've saved the best for last: the beach.
When you step out onto Moss Landing State Beach, you'll see something you hardly ever see on a California beach: nobody. When's the last time you had the beach all to yourself? When you listened to crashing waves and crying gulls, rather than a boombox or shrieking children? This is how Mother Nature intended it: just you and the ocean. You can close your eyes and feel the life's stresses drift away on the breeze.
After one of Melanie's hearty breakfasts (we polished off a whole plate of "sloppy eggs" -- spinach, onion and egg scramble, and I would have put a cinnamon scone in each pocket if she wasn't looking), there is nothing like strolling out onto that cool, serene beach and decompressing. Don't even bring a book. Just be.
Sadly, sooner or later it's time to go home. But you can always go back. And trust me, you will. And the lady with the sunrise smile will be there to greet you.
All the details:
8122 Moss Landing Road
Moss Landing, CA 95039