Egret and crab

Monday, March 11, 2019

Northward ho

I have just returned from a short visit to Northern California. A friend invited me to deadhead with him on a Gulfstream jet headed north and how could I turn him down? We would rent a car and cruise around Sonoma, Napa and Marin. Hell, yes.

It was a great weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, the trip and the good company.

We flew to Santa Rosa from Palomar Airport on Thursday. I had never been on such a luxurious plane before. Fast and smooth and free M&Ms to boot. Disembarked and rented a midsize Toyota.

We made our way to a dumpy hotel in Rohnert Park, you basically had to enter through the Burger King. It was supposed to be non smoking but evidently many occupants never got the word, the place stunk of camel non filters. Place was so classy every print on the wall in the room was exactly the same.

Oh well, a toilet and a bed is all a man really needs, right? We went out for a steak dinner and plotted our upcoming weekend.

We were originally going to go to Napa the first day and sightsee the second day. The weather report was forecasting rain for Sunday so after a middle of the night conversation we decided to switch things around and travel to the Sonoma coast first, on Saturday morning. Found a coffee shop and leaded up and then made our way to Occidental.

I had called my friend Rick Petteford for a little advice about where to go and he of course delivered in spades. He said that soon after he had moved into the area forty years ago he discovered the wonderful but seldom traveled Coleman Valley road to the Sonoma coast. We took small back roads out to Occidental and found our bucolic and verdant windy road after a short comical interlude. Basically asked a man for directions to a road we were actually parked next to.

Made our way up and over the ridge. It was truly a beautiful and pristine area. Harriers and red tailed hawks soared gracefully on the thermals above us.

We drove north a few miles and parked near Arch Rock.

I walked out on the bluff at the beach and noticed a peregrine falcon flying around, the speedy raptor eventually landing on a large rock jutting out of the ocean ahead of us.

I stuck the long lens on the camera and took a few shots. Didn't take my best lens but did take my longest lens. Wasn't going to bring the lens but finally did anyway, luckily. You know how much I love raptors. Would have been s.o.l. without it.

I watched the banded male fly to various abutments to perch. I never get tired of watching these gorgeous birds, the fastest creature on earth short of a rumour.

Afterwards we drove up to Fort Ross so he could see what it looked like north of the river's end.

The morning light made the environs look far different than they did in the afternoon gloom I saw when I was there last summer on the way back from Oregon.

We went back to Jenner and then headed east along the river, through Duncan Mills and Forestville and various other quaint and historic towns on the Russian River.

Unfortunately the recent floods had pretty much devastated the place. Huge piles of refuse were pushed to the street everywhere you looked, waiting to be removed. River region got hit hard. Flood had to have been wicked.

We made our way to Healdsburg. Jim had not been there for a while and enjoyed the new exploration. We had a great lunch at Korbel. I bought Leslie a couple champagne bottles that you could only buy at the winery, the pinot rouge and the sec, the latter which they started making sometime in the 1880's.

We stopped at Twomey as well and Jim bought a bottle of Silver Oak for his daughter. We also stopped at the ultra trendy Rochioli but they will not see visitors without an appointment. Oh well. I guess I don't have to drink snobby wine.

Speaking of which, Silver Oak cabernet is my personal favorite wine but because of my recent cardiac problems I am not drinking at all and kept dry and sober all weekend. Can't afford it these days anyway, to be honest.

One thing I love about Sonoma and Napa is the dearth of stucco and twentieth century blah, the number of great homes from the 19th century into the 1930's that still exist and are kept up. We pretty much stayed on the back roads all weekend and I loved the beautiful old farmhouses. The only drawback to the area that I could see was that the quaint little country roads are in pretty terrible shape with steep drop offs and many potholes. They are so narrow that I don't think they would be very forgiving if you were a drinking person and had to navigate them at night.

After Sonoma we traveled to Napa. Tooled through Calistoga and then found our way to Rombauer Vineyards and bought some chardonnay for Jim's wife. It is a very popular wine and the place was packed. Had enough of wine and wineries and started back to our hotel. The GPS on my phone took us over the mountain from Yountville on a pretty hairy road but we survived somehow. Grabbed a burger and we both crashed out very early, exhausted.

The next morning we decided to head back home. We were going to go down the California coastline to San Simeon and Hearst Castle but had not cancelled our preliminary Los Banos reservation in time so we were forced to eschew the coastal route. Oh well, we would make the best of it.

We headed to Bodega Bay, had a great breakfast at The Tides, he, corned beef hash and eggs, me, Dungeness crab cake benedict with hollandaise. Drove around Bodega Bay and then down to Point Reyes and Tomales Bay, catching more epic California coastline.

This cow horse was on the wrong side of the fence on our way to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. (Unfortunately my comrade was born in the city and obviously hasn't spent a lot of time in the country. He thought that these here critters were horses. Not wanting to correct him and cause him to lose face, I played along for the trip. If you see him and he insists that this is a horse, please say nothing.)

I was not really that tuned into my camera all weekend. More like grab some decent snapshots. You get what you get but not really my finest effort. Light and providence only gives you so much sometimes.

Loved the Muir Beach Overlook. Had a great afternoon.

Finally drove through the city. I personally hate making the transition from trees to concrete.

We started thinking about dinner plans. Decision to make. He finally decided Creola sounded too good, I had been bragging about the filet all afternoon.

Unfortunately it would not open for several more hours so we stopped at the Hiller Aviation Museum to kill some time. Cool museum in San Carlos dedicated to Northern California aviation. Drove by a million times and never saw it. Lots of hands on stuff for kids of all ages and an excellent staff.

Jim is an ex Marine aviator. Thought it was fun to see him in an A4 cockpit since he flew one for a long time at work. Was waiting for him to crash the simulator but he declined to give me the pleasure. He is obviously better with planes than he is with livestock.

Creola did not disappoint. Edwin was glad to see us, turned out he was once a helicopter mechanic in the navy. Another brown shoe. Jim had the filet, I had the flounder with shrimp etoufee. Superb. I had wanted to try the basque restaurant in Los Banos but it would have to wait for another trip.

Stayed at the La Quinta. It was a step up. No garbage trucks making noise in the middle of the night.

A happy and cherubic beekeeper from Minnesota gave me a container of his vaunted basswood honey the next morning. He was making a thrice annual bee run to the west coast. Much appreciated!

We made our way home on the 5 without difficulty. All good. Thanks Jim!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures glad you had a great weekend.
Deli man

Anonymous said...

Great weekend! can you imagine Blast fans in the East, South, Midwest reading about this and wondering "what am I doing here?" The Air Museum is our favorite we are members and go once a month, you can almost learn to fly as the docents (not confirmed) are all retired pilots.
Thank you for sharing a really fun trip.


Anonymous said...

Lovely post!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great trip aside from the airplane. Beautiful country!!

I’m jealous


Ken Seals said...

Very enjoyable story.

Jim said...

Hey, you left part where I thought that the cow (horse) smelled better than you!

Unknown said...

Looks like a great trip! Do you know which model the jet was? Looks like a 450 or 650...

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous trip. Thanks for sharing. - DO