Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sebastopol Mini-Adventure

Spring is just perfect for my mini adventure theme. The kids and I had a very lovely and unplanned quick trip to beautiful Sonoma County recently. I have an old friend who has been living out of state for the last few years (she's not old, I've just known her for a long time.)  Her family had just moved back to California, and thought they were here to stay, so we had vague plans to go see them "sometime." Well, plans change, and rather suddenly, they decided to move back out of state, and soon. That meant, if I wanted to see them, I had to get on it- like now!

So, I heard from them one night, and the next morning, loaded up my kids, a basket of food and sleeping bags, and hit the road. There really is no direct route from here to there, so we decided on a loop. On the way down, we drove through winding Napa roads. Calistoga is an adorable little town, which appeared to be having a music festival, as there were musicians outside every cafe, and people enjoying food and drink all over the main street. We are often leisurely stoppers on our road trips, but we wanted to get to our destination, and see our friends, so we just grabbed a snack and some drinks, and got back in the car.
My car, a big, old Volvo station wagon, was not in the least bit impressed with the hill climbing aspect of this route. At one point, I had a little car behind me, right on my tail, with no passing lane or turn out, and I could see the veins popping out the drivers forehead, and read her lips as she cursed my slowness. My poor car (we call her Gretchen Hildegard) was giving it her all, but she just wasn't made for hills. Since I was already doing all I could to speed up, without much success, and making my engine sound like it would explode in the process, I had my children turn around and smile and wave sweetly to the frustrated motorist. I find that this technique often (but not always) shocks road-ragers so much that they are at a loss as to how to slew further foul mouthed insults at happy children. I, of course pulled over as soon as I had a chance to let the speedy little driver pass me, and tried to mouth "Sorry!" when she passed, but she stared intently straight ahead, and refused to even look my way, let alone make eye contact. Perhaps she was a little embarrassed after realizing cute (seemingly) innocent kids witnessed her angry cussing fit.

This was my daughter's first road trip in the front seat. Being a petite person, with a paranoid mother who drives a car with old style air bags that don't shut off, the girl was 12 before she got to ride in the front seat. So, this- our first trip with just the 3 of us since her birthday- she was my co-pilot. We got slightly lost in downtown Santa Rosa, which caused me some stress at the time, but I won't hold that against her. We finally made it to Sebastopol to see our friends.

Friend and I shared lots of wine and lots of chatting, which probably was a bit distracting to her husband who was trying to work and get ready to move again, but he was a good sport about it. We checked out several nearby parks and a peace garden while there. There was also an old cemetery across the street, which my kids and I spent some time exploring. Reading headstones prompted lots of discussion on everything from average lifespan to immigration to family traditions. We also checked out some very old test gardens that belonged to Luther Burbank- a famed botanist and horticulturist from the early 1900's who is behind many interesting plant breeds like spineless cactus and hundred of fruits and berries. He has been criticized for not keeping careful records and not being "scientific enough" in his work, but that is exactly what endears him to me. He was a man who was just doing something he loved, and doing it his own way- to heck with scientific methods! His Sebastopol test gardens aren't as fancy or well maintained as his main home and gardens in nearby Santa Rosa, but we enjoyed the quiet solitude amidst a busy street- that is, until a storm blew in and we had to run back through the cemetery in the rain.

The weather cleared back up enough to spend a morning at Bodega Beach. The vastness of the ocean has a way of making all my troubles seem smaller. I miss living closer to it. It was slightly cold and windy, but at the beach, kids seem oblivious to temperature, and can't help having fun, running and playing. We feasted on delicious $6 loaves of garlic potato bread from a brick oven bakery, which were a splurge, but really, really, good. Besides, other than gas, the bread was pretty much the only thing we bought on the trip- so we still managed to have our adventure on the cheap.

It was a quick trip- two nights and we headed home- this time taking a route that was more high speed highway, and less winding mountain road. Thankfully, my car does not mind maintaining constant speeds, as long as there is not much in the way of elevation change. My co-pilot in training missed telling me about a couple of upcoming exits, so we didn't end up going exactly the way we thought, which is a good lesson in flexibility. We also stopped about 12 times, making the trip take a few hours longer than it could have. The kids and I often do this on trips when we have time to spare, checking out any oddity or place of interest that catches our eye, whether it be a store shaped like a castle, a petrified forest, a bird and wildlife refuge, or even just a Trader Joe's where we know we can get some extra snackings. This habit drives the husband nuts, but since he wasn't along, we could stop to our hearts content. All in all, it was a fun little mini adventure, and although my husband has trouble believing it, the whole thing hardly cost us anything- maybe $65 tops. My sanity and happiness are well worth that!
We're all in the mood for more good time family fun road trips now, and discussing camping versus a city trip. I'd love hearing suggestions for other adventures on the cheap...