Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trip to California, Day 4

Day 4

Today's excursion involved another 200+ miles of driving. As with Day 2, there were some crazy, windy climbs and falls out of Clear Lake Valley. I felt like I was a professional test driver with the repeated 15-25 mph corners. The nice part is that those climbs result in some spectacular views. Here is Clear Lake from the top of the hill:

Here is an example of the turns on Highway 175:

Once we passed the initial driving course, we joined up with Highway 101 and headed south. Passing through Hopland, CA, we drove past the Real Goods Solar Living Institute. We turned around and came back to check out this place we'd read about on their web page.

The place is a small working lab for alternative energy, sustainable farming, and equitable capitalism. In addition to gardens and solar panels, there was an air of the Oregon Country Fair about the place where the utility of these methods was explained on painted signs such as the one that said "Weird Bathrooms" and others which explained or pointed out various features of the place. At the center of it all was their store (of course) as well as a central water feature (shown below) that displayed a water distribution and non-grid based pumping mechanism.

Democrats and Republicans alike can see the value in living with the planet instead of exploiting it.

After spending a few bucks on a few store items, we moved on to the south trying to outrun a bank of clouds approaching from the Northwest. We turned east from Santa Rosa and headed towards Sonoma. We were getting hungry, so we stopped for lunch at Doce Lunas Restaurant. The orders included a wonderful shrimp & salmon bisque, a Ground Sirloin, Onion, Spinach, and Egg Scramble, a burger, and an herbed chicken breat sandwich. It was apparent that this is a higher-end quality place with the preparation and presentation of the entrees. I could live off the bisque in need be.

From there, we headed up the hill from Glen Ellen to check out Jack London's humble several hundred acre ranch. Ok, maybe not as humble as our 1/4 acre here in Stumptown but anyway. It is now a State Park. As tragic in its own way as London's "To Build a Fire," London and his wife lived in a small cottage at his ranch while their dream home was being built only to see it destroyed by fire when it was nearly completed. Perhaps it is no coincidence that London died only a couple years later. Here is a view from the ranch down into the Sonoma valley which is now becoming increasingly filled with vineyards churning out world-class wines (and the cheapies too).

Clicking on the picture below provides a little more of a historical picture of the park.

From there, we ventured onward towards Sonoma where the clouds, wind, and cold (but thankfully not the rain yet) caught up with us. The Spanish Catholics in pre-USA California set up a 21 missions and Sonoma is the home of the northernmost mission, Mission San Francisco de Solano. Here is another plaque:

Here is a part of the mission (can you tell I whizzed through without paying attention?)

Here is the historical city hall:

This is a mural depicting how the whole area is turning into a giant vineyard:

This was ground zero for unique shopping experiences, so this was the most expensive day of the bunch (along with the wonderful restaurants). We finally settled on The Girl and the Fig for dinner. We were not disappointed (though our wallets beg to differ). We started with a goat cheese plate with cheeses from Oregon(! Bend), California, and Colorado. They were served with sliced baguette bread, some sweetened nuts, and a fig chutney that was quite tasty. For dinner, we ordered rainbow trout, venison, and a ham and cheese croques monsieur and all reports were excellent. I ordered the venison (sorry Bambi) and it was Wo-hun-derful. For dessert, the crew ordered profiteroles (cream puffs filled with tahitian vanilla bean ice cream in a pool of bittersweet chocolate sauce).

Evening was coming on, so we headed off towards another way home, hopeful that we could avoid another twistifest (I have that term trademarked, so back off Stephen Colbert). We passed the greater Napa metroplex towards Calistoga to the northwest. I honestly don't understand how an economy can support so many different winery tasting rooms and restaurants. There were literally dozens along a 30 or 40 miles of highway. Anyway, we turned northward at Calistoga up a windy, but much preferable (and even occasionally forested) highway up and over the ridges surrounding Clear Lake. It was here we encountered our first rain and it stayed with us nearly all the back to our home base. Our last 5 months in Oregon of nearly constant rainfall were training enough for this small smattering of precipitation.

We got back after dark and we were definitely ready to "hit the sack." The falling temperatures highlighted the fact that our furnace was having problems, but we were able to use the faux-real fire gas fireplace to keep it warm enough to get us through the week. What a great day! (My internal accountant was saying, "What a horrible day!")


The Moody Minstrel said...

Don Snabulus: Democrats and Republicans alike can see the value in living with the planet instead of exploiting it.

Rush Limbaugh: "Why should I have to change my lifestyle just to protect the environment?"

(actual quote heard on his radio show)

ladybug said...

Hey, we'll have to put up the pic of the bathrooms I took at Real Goods-they made the stalls out of recyled Prescription bottles!

Also, we thought about stopping and taking our picture in front of the French Laundry (a fancy restaurant in Yountville profiled by Anthony Bourdain in his "No Reservations" TV show) More info here

However, since it cost $240 PER PERSON (and men are supposed to wear dinner jackets), we didn't know EXACTLY where in Yountville it was, and it was getting dark, we decided to pass!

Next time Gadget, next time!

Pa've said...

Left Right Left Right, No matter which way you turn, it makes you dizzy!

Pandabonium said...

Looks like the road to the summit of Haleakala on Maui. Cool energy place. Seems north California and Oregon are hot spots for sustainable lifestyle experiments - and wine...

Dean Wormer said...

I know it's hard not to do the $ math while you're on vacation (I do the same thing) but it seems counterintuitive to the whole POINT of vacation.

Find your happy place. :)

Don Snabulus said...


Good old uncle Rush, sounds like the rationale of one of those people with 80 cats who never takes a bath. (Of course, he has his drug dealer/housekeeper to clean up for him)


Yeah, I wanted to put that up, but Day 4 had too many good pics and that one lost out. Maybe we can upload everything to Webshots and let people paw through them.


True that.


You know, with the similarities maybe we should have done the same tour here :D


Don't worry, I found my happy place and it isn't in California. Ouch. That one could land me in hell.

Swinebread said...

I went to Jack London's House way back when. I don't remember anything about it except some guy telling grandpa off about a Jack London stamp

I guess I'll have to go back. I know the SO really wants to see the wine country.

The food sounded scrumptious

Pandabonium said...

Jack London's place would be very interesting to see. Great author who lived big, made it big as an author, seemingly had it all, yet tragically ended his own life.

Hmmm, maybe when I finish Melville's Billy Budd I'll read something of Jack's....