It feels like years since Bob and I have taken a weekend away “just because.” A trip where we weren’t driving to Portland to visit or help one of our kids, and we weren’t visiting family or going to a special event in the Bay Area. So on a recent two-day break from work, we did exactly that. We booked a two-night stay at the Humboldt Bay Social Club, a four-hour drive from Ashland on the Northern California coast, just outside of Eureka. When I saw photos of the lodging, and read that you can buy fresh oysters to barbecue from the attached bar, I knew we should check it out.
Humboldt Bay Social Club is an Airbnb in restored officers’ quarters at Samoa Field, a historic World War II airfield and blimp base. The hanger on the property is a delightful indoor/outdoor bar and event space, and is located on the Samoa Field Airport.
The drive from Ashland is lovely, and on the way we stopped a few times to check out the sites, including a large herd of wild elk just outside Redwood National Park, and a hike on the California shoreline at Patrick’s Point State Park. This part of Northern California is surprisingly rugged and remote, a perfect place to visit during a pandemic. After our hike and picnic lunch, we continued on down to Humboldt Bay, and our unique lodging at the Social Club.
I’ll admit that when we first arrived, I was nervous that we had made a big mistake, because there was so much noise coming from the airstrip. But we quickly realized the airstrip is also home to the Samoa Drag Strip, and an informal drag race was happening (ergo all the noise). After stuffing little wads of toilet paper in my ears, we walked over to check it out, and WOW is all I can say. My drag racing knowledge before this came exclusively from John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, and the real thing is way better.
It seems wild to me, but any car can race during the informal drags at Samoa Field (as opposed to the official bracketed events), as long as the driver is licensed. We watched true suped up drag race cars, complete with parachutes on the back, hurling down the quarter mile track. We also watched a Volkswagen bug, a Chrysler Sebring, and a brand new Dodge pickup truck, to name just a few of the more “regular” cars. A couple of juniors also raced in mini top fuel dragsters (yes, this is a whole new language for me), and they could not have been much older than 10.
Once the drag racing ended, we were ready to relax into our stay at the Social Club. This started with cocktails from the Lobby Bar and appetizers we had brought from home, which we enjoyed in Adirondack chairs in the expansive outdoor area of the Club. With multiple fire pits and barbecue grills, as well as well spaced picnic tables and chairs, the property is well suited for social distancing. We followed up our drinks with 25 fresh oysters for $25, quite a bargain, that we grilled up with a little butter/garlic/parsley sauce. While you can purchase coals, a shucking knife, and other essential items for grilling the oysters, we came prepared with all those items from home. They were absolutely delicious. We finished off the evening with a soak in the outdoor bathhouse, where two clawfoot tubs sit side by side under eucalyptus trees. The tubs are open to all guests, and are tucked inside four wine barrel walls and wooden doors.
We filled our daytime by sitting in the Adirondack chairs on our front porch (Suite #6 is the only one of the four rooms that has its own porch!) and watching the goings on at the airport – on average, one plane lands per day. We were lucky enough to watch the same plane repeatedly working on its takeoffs and landings. We took walks on the completely deserted beach, drives into the neighboring towns of Eureka and Arcata, and more down time just sitting in chairs on Humboldt Bay, listening to the water lapping on the shore. It was restorative, honestly.
I love visiting our kids and other family, or going to sporting events and/or concerts in big cities. But when this pandemic ends, I’m going to find a way to keep quiet, unstructured weekends away in our schedule. And if they can include some oysters and drag racing, even better.