Sonoma and Armstrong Redwood Park
Trip Start Aug 26, 1994
11Trip End Sep 18, 1994
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Where I stayed
Casa Verde Motel
I thought that we had already been to Sonoma but Jono insisted that we had not. We left Jeanette sitting in the plaza while we visited the very well preserved Spanish mission. I could have bought a nice t-shirt with the flag of the California Republic on the front for only $13, but, much to my later regret, I didn't. We visited a liquor store which stocked beer from all over the world and I bought a five year old bottle of local red wine for my eldest son, Jeremy. The shop was a bit of a rip-off. Tastings cost a dollar a glass and I didn't get a discount on Jeremy's cabernet even though it was five years old!
From the town we drove to the historic home of General Vallejo (pronounced Vallay-ho), a Mexican general famous for being a Catholic and having sixteen children. His home, built in the 1840's, oozed history. We noticed that his dining table only seated eight, so his family must have eaten in shifts. This made me homesick. The plaque outside the little house of the general's youngest son announced that he really loved animals and the outdoor life. This was evidenced by the coon pelts and snake skins which hung from the walls.
Sated with history we set off for the Santa Rosa K Mart in search of cheap pipe tobacco. Jono forced his way onto the freeway, eliciting angry blasts from the horns of offended motorists. Unfortunately he had taken the wrong road, and if you take the wrong road in California it means travelling for miles before you can get back on the right one. In any event K Mart didn't have any tobacco, so we returned to Healdsburg.
Jonathan and I walked across the road, through neighbour Sally's property to the river, collecting Sarah the dog and Percy the cat along the way. As the tourist season has ended, the dam had been opened and the level of the river had dropped dramatically. We could no longer dive off the dock and had to clamber down into an aluminium canoe before hurling ourselves into the icy waters.
Jonathan has now taken a major life decision and shaved off his beard. This was accomplished amidst great hilarity and derision on my part and great discomfort and humiliation on his. His new look has turned him into a born again Lothario, constantly making overtures to an unimpressed Maryann.
DAY 13 WED Showered, shaved and walked the two miles to Healdsburg this morning in search of pipe tobacco. It was cold and overcast and I took an umbrella in case of rain. I eventually found tobacco in the Thrifty supermarket. They had Borkum Riff for $3.20 but not in my flavour, so I bought home brand cherry tobacco for a mere $1.69 (as opposed to $11 back home). I also bought some sleeping pills. The medicinal section in supermarkets contains pills and elixirs for every known ailment as well as drugs long unavailable in Australia, such as Relaxa Tabs and No Doz.
After some sourdough bread sandwiches Jono and I set off for Lake Sonoma, leaving Jeanette to nurse her sore foot. Our journey took us in a direction I had never before travelled. After driving through miles of vineyards we arrived at the Lake Sonoma lookout, tet another magnificent view. Miles below we could see people water skiing. We took a short walk through the bush, ever watchful for mountain lions, ticks and poison ivy. We then drove back the way we had come, stopping at the Dry Creek (population four) General Store to look at t-shirts. We resumed our journey, turning into a narrow little road which ran through more vineyards before becoming a country lane bordered by pine trees and the ubiquitous redwood. I could imagine retiring quite happily to one of the tree-shaded cabins along this quiet road. As it was a dead end there was virtually no traffic and it was like driving through a forest. After a number of miles we turned around and drove home so that Jonathan could pick up Maryann.
At 5pm we drove to Santa Rosa to pick up Carol, another exchange teacher, for our night out. We had a glass of wine at her house and listened to her endless complaints about the person with whom she had swapped. We had dinner at a restaurant called "Fresh Choice" where we were able to eat all the health food we could manage for $7. We then drove further into Santa Rosa to the "Old Vic", a pseudo English pub where we drank pints and listened to a reprise of Carol's complaints.
DAY 14 THU Jonathan took us to Armstrong Redwood State Park this morning. We travelled along a narrow, winding road through yet more vineyards into a shady, cool valley. The park was densely packed with towering redwood trees, the grandfather of them all being General Armstrong, thirty storeys high and 1,400 years old. We walked along a track built especially for the physically impaired or sight-challenged (blind). Signs in braille informed the sightless of what they were missing and samples were provided as consolation prizes. At the park entrance several bus loads of jolly geriatric folk staggered around tables sagging under the weight of their party pies and sausage rolls. A banner strung between two trees proclaimed the event to be the Calistoga Age-Impaired Christmas Preview Party, which seemed to suggest that the venerable party goers might not be around in December.
We drove back along a single lane road with lots of blind corners. Jono had bicycled all the way from Healdsburg to the park and back, climbing extremely steep slopes without ever stopping to rest and without resorting to the use of brakes even on the steepest of inclines. I found his boasts a bit suspect, however I understood his need to impress his elder brother. My boots must be hard to fill!
Back at the shack I packed my belongings for the trip to Monterey later in the day. We went for a final dip in the Russian River, now much shallower and a lot chillier. Rather suspicious-looking algae floated past us with the tide, leading us to wonder nervously whether the river was a sewerage outlet. At 4.15pm we left Healdsburg bound for the Casa Verde Motel in Monterey, three hours away.
Our journey south took us through San Jose, made famous by Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach. Jono had planned to have a rest break in the main park, however the park and the streets around it were jam packed with people who had come to hear a rock band. Rather than mix with the hundreds of onlookers, we took our break in an almost deserted car park.