Sunday, April 29, 2012

Los Angeles to Sacramento and back to Santa Rosa

This is what happens when I don’t write a blog right away – I fall behind and then put it off until I have several months' worth of backlog to update (I still haven’t finished September-December, for instance). So despite the many other distractions and everything that has happened since I got BACK from my road trip, I’m forcing myself to write about my last days in California. There’s a lot to tell.

I left Los Angeles (on Tuesday, April 3) without any complications and was soon crossing what I think are the foothills of the San Gabriel mountain range. Nothing about the drive was noteworthy, except for a beautiful orange flower that covered several of the hillsides like a vibrant patchwork:

Since I arrived in LA via the 101 and not I-5, the many roadside signs about water were new to me. There seems to be quite a to-do about water politics, especially among farmers, and to me it’s a sign of the times to come – water scarcity will be a national crisis soon enough, especially for drought-prone areas like the southwest.

Enough of the serious stuff - back to my awesome road trip!

I rolled into Sacramento at 7 pm. My former co-worker Victoria immediately whisked me away to Bombay Bar and Grill, an Indian restaurant two blocks from her house in Midtown. Her neighbor Judith came with us, a cool Swiss woman who runs a lovely bed and breakfast called Amber House with her husband. I was really hungry and they were regulars so I entrusted myself to their good ordering, and they didn’t disappoint. Several tasty curries and naans later, Victoria and I rolled ourselves into bed at the ripe old hour of 9:00. She is moving to San Diego but very nicely put me up on the world’s largest air mattress (it even had an inflatable head board). Despite having to unpack bedding for me – plus the inconvenience of having a guest when your house is in boxes – she was a very gracious host.

The next morning I walked to Old Soul, a famous coffee roaster in Sacramento, and took my perfect latte with me on my walk to the state capitol building. It’s surrounded by manicured landscapes, including an extensive rose garden and some modern art installations. I tagged along with a 9 am tour and learned quite a bit about the building, all of which I promptly forgot once I left. Still, I’m glad I went – I love it when history, culture, and government collide in one tour! I did take pictures but none of them are really worth posting; if you want to check out the capitol I'm sure Google has far better images than mine.

From there I cruised back to Victoria’s, making a stop for lunch at Gogi’s Korean tacos. I had two short rib tacos and a fancy iced tea, and enjoyed my meal at one of the tables lining the sidewalk. Did I mention it was a beautiful day? I really got lucky with the weather.

I had arranged to visit a farm in the Central Valley that day so I hightailed it out of Sacramento for Pleasant Grove, about 45 minutes north of Sacramento. This was really two farms in one – the land surrounding the brick Victorian house is cultivated by an older gentleman, and his son and another dude live in the house with him and rent land down the street to grow their own organic vegetables. They’re actually doing quite well after only one year and had just supplied the produce for a big to-do with the mayor. I loved the farm and all three of them, and I’ll consider going back in the springtime, but it’s too damn hot there in the summer.

After a few hours of checking out the digs and visiting with the men and the animals I hit the road again, this time headed back to Santa Rosa and Meagan’s hospitality. The fastest way was to go all the way back to Sacramento, but I’d already done that drive once before. So, I took the most direct (though much windier) way, the 129 which bisects Napa county. It was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever done. Trees that look like drawings from Dr. Seuss books cover the area, the massive Lake Berryessa is a vision for part of the drive, and everywhere you look there are grape vines clinging to the hills. I got carsick on those insanely windy roads, and was worried more than once that someone barreling toward me would run me off the narrow road, but I’m so glad I chose to take the scenic route – another opportunity to get to know what might be my new home.

I love this car shot because you can see the road in the rear view mirror.
I actually stopped and got out of the car for this shot -
I can't wait to see these vines covered in grapes!
I got to Meagan’s at dinnertime and we immediately walked to downtown Santa Rosa for a casual meal before heading back to her house and going to bed early (a theme for me, apparently). I was so happy to be back in her enclave, snuggled up in the guest room watching 30 Rock on my laptop.

The next day I headed south, past Petaluma into no man’s land Marin county. This farm was so off the beaten path I was shocked the roads were paved. Definitely no cell phone reception! I was particularly excited about visiting this place because it would involve a combination of field and office work, so I could get my fill of manual labor and also use some of my professional skills. Unfortunately it was a non-starter. The existing office manager was paranoid and grumpy, thinking I’d been sent to replace her, and called the owner (who was off-site at another farm) in front of me, saying “If you’re going to hire someone else to do my job I need to know so I can start looking for work.” Awkward. Then the farm manager – a dude in his late 20s who could barely focus his eyes – showed up an hour late, gave me an extremely lackluster tour of the leaking, stinky yurt and portapotty I would call my own, and then said “I don’t think we need any help.” Don’t have to tell me twice! When I emailed the owner to tell him thanks but no thanks, his response was, not surprisingly, curt.

I left via Petaluma and had a nice lunch at a taqueria downtown. Petaluma is a very sweet town and a well-established farming community. I could easily see myself ending up there.

From lunch I went to another massage by the talented Syy, who I had seen two weeks before. It was so relaxing I took a nap afterward, and then Meagan came home, woke me up, and took me to dinner at her parents’ house. I hadn’t seen either of them in 10 years or more and we had a lovely time, not to mention a great dinner – barbecued steak, roasted beets, Brussels sprouts, and a green salad. A dinner with three vegetables? Right up my farm-foody alley.

I’m going to cut this story off here. If anyone’s keeping track, I’ve visited 6 farms, none of which were what I was looking for. Will the last two farms bear fruit? Stay tuned to find out!

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