Driving the Northern Coast

Golden Gate

Hello San Francisco – marine layer and all. Despite the fog and wind there were crowds of people bundled up on foot and bicycle crossing the bridge.  I kept the windows up.  Fog has a way of crawling into your bones, which is probably one of the reasons why SF is so popular with coffee that puts hair on chests.  Not to worry, by the time we passed Sausalito the ground cover lifted and blue skies led the way north.  Marin County was soon behind us.

Downtown PetalumaWhile we really hadn’t planned any real stops between SF and Sonoma, our big breakfast caught up with us and nature called at around the time we reached Petaluma.  Little did we know that a real adventure awaited us.  It was a challenge to find the Visitor’s Center – despite the plethora of signs both with and without arrows.  Eternal construction blocking routes and crossing rail road tracks took their toll.  But once there, it turned into a real fun experience. Petaluma has lived through several incarnations, and is currently thriving (compared to many of the towns we’ve been to across the country in the past year).  Its glory days grew from the fact that the Petaluma River is navigable to the bay.  Back in the day, it was also a main producer of incubated chicks.  And currently Petaluma is a major supplier of cheese to Wisconsin, produced by local dairy cows.  These cheese is shipped to Wisconsin and aged for a minimum of 60 days, after which it is labelled as Wisconsin Cheese.  You heard it here.

Former Bank Building Now Seed Shop

There were so many quaint shops and Victorian houses and parks, and buildings that survived the 1906 earthquake (Petaluma is on bedrock), and buildings with iron facades that looked like stone, it was a pleasure to stretch our car-cramped legs past them all.  Weather was fantastic.  And there was even a to-die-for yarn shop – Knitterly – that carries the most awesome yarns (as well as a full collection of Habu!).  Emmett pulled me away from the yarn shop, and we both pulled ourselves away from the perfect walking weather so we could head up the road to our anointed destination – Healdsburg, and visiting with Laura M.

Dry Creek Olive OilDid I mention how nice the weather was?  Maybe a little humid, but in the upper 80’s which still felt like heaven to us.  Fast-forwarding through downtown Healdsburg there were a lot of changes to note from two years ago.  As promised, there was a stop at Dry Creek Olive Oil Company for an olive oil tasting.  A few new varieties, all good.  A brown bag was in my hand when I left (;)).  Lunch al fresco at Forchini Winery – another recycled bottle added to the collection – followed a peek (with the owner) at the just-bottled reserve.  Wine-drenched cork and wet barrels bring back childhood memories from when my grandfather made his own wine in his garage.  I was in no shape to sample the wares at our next stop, Soda Rock Winery.  But I did manage to drag myself from the car in time to transfer an un-drunk bottle from their collection to ours.

Travelin' LoneSummer Friday nights in Sonoma are dominated by music and food series at the wineries.  Location, artist and foods are rotated throughout the season.  We enjoyed our little concert hosted by deLorimier Winery, with music provided by Travelin’ Lone.  I admire the patrons that were mobile enough to dance to the music!  More proof that I am a very cheap date.

Ave of Giants Store CarvingThe following day brought us back to the road.  There are so many professional shots of Avenue of the Giants that I am not going to bore you with my amateur attempts with my idiot-proof camera, which is no longer idiot-proof (much to my dismay).  However, we met up with this guy along the route and I thought he would be a fun addition to the collection.  He belongs to a restaurant that no longer exists, but, what the heck. The redwoods in this stretch of road, which is part of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, are beyond description.  There are myriads of pull-outs where tourists stop and take pictures or follow the trails.  The air is clean and feels great in the lungs.  The light is magical. The needles are soft and spongy underfoot.

Gnarly Face, AOTGEvery gnarl and turn has its own personality.  If you look close enough (or far enough away) you can see a face in the tree bark.  Redwoods that have fallen over have root bases that are taller than twice my height, and have wreaked as much damage on the nearby trees that were unfortunate enough to be in the path.  Big Basin and John Muir were impressive when we first visited them, but they do not hold a candle to the mighty giants that still grace Humboldt county.


More surprises and coincidences awaited us at Abigail’s Elegant Victorian Mansion in Eureka.  It was only a one night stay, but not to be missed.  There is an amazing amount of period items throughout the house.  We slept in the Governor’s room, which is called that because Leland Stanford (senior) stayed at the mansion many times.  Lily Langtry has a room in her name as well, which she used in her day as well.  There was a time when we lived in Palo Alto on Leland Avenue, and have walked the roads of the University campus countless times.  Lily Langtry was the entrepreneur for Guenoc Winery in Napa, and a singer in Anthem, Arizona’s Pioneer Museum saloon.  Small world with concentric circles, indeed.

Lost Coast BreweryDinner that night was at the Lost Coast Brewery. Based in Eureka, it hosts a good local crowd, the full selection of beers plus surprises, and good food to match.  We sampled the eight beer flight and picked a pint from there.  Emmett has always had a soft spot for Downtown Brown, which is hard to find on tap.  I was thrilled with discovering Great White, which is, to quote Lost Coast, “A Crisp beer with a hint of citrus, made with two-row malted barley, unmalted wheat, a secret blend of Humboldt herbs, crystal clear mountain water and ale yeast.”  Yum.

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Next: More of the Northern Coast

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