We’d been warned that Max the Cat would take 24 hours to warm up to us, but we managed to win him over in just a few hours, thanks to the power of raw meat on a hungry kitty’s stomach. In other words, once we fed him, he was ours.
The little guy—nicknamed Maxim Gorky by the husband and Maxim de Winter by me—was the first indoor/outdoor kitty we’ve taken care of via the petsitting organization, though the husband grew up with indoor/outdoor cats.
Fortunately, Max’s independent nature meant we were free to explore the area without copious amounts of guilt. Every day started with a run on a route that I mapped out—a choice I quickly came to regret.
Our petsit was adjacent to the hilly Trione-Annadel State Park, so we ran to the top of the residential street that snakes along its western edge, simultaneously gasping for breath and enjoying the scenery and wildlife. On the first day it was a whole family of rare California Condors—parents, kids, aunts, uncles, and cousins—scouting the area for large animal carcasses, or what they like to call “lunch”.
On the second day we spotted a fox, who ran in front of us and disappeared into the scrub. A few minutes later, the husband, who by then was ahead of me, turned around and saw Fantastic Mr. Fox following me up the road, trotting 10 feet behind me. Naturally, the purist husband doesn’t like to be bogged down by his phone when he runs, so we’ll all have to take his word for it.
On the third day it was deer.
And on the fourth day we saw something so rare, it doesn’t even exist where we live, as far as I know.
The owner of the topmost house on the road was having wildfire defense system installed around the perimeter of his property. A year earlier the fires had gotten close. Very close. A quarter mile back down the road we could see just how narrowly they missed the area’s homes.
Thankfully, our time in Santa Rosa was spent doing more than just running. There was also cycling.
We drove down to the town of Sonoma to rent bikes, then cycled the area, seeing an odd mix of wacky sights and pastoral scenery along the way.
When we crossed from Sonoma County into Napa County, the road surface improved drastically and a bike lane appeared.
On the return leg, the curious and outgoing husband stopped to ask a woman whether the animals in her rural yard were llamas or alpacas. He didn’t just get an answer. He got us a grand tour of her alpaca farm.
Several things came out of this encounter. First, I didn’t know that there are people whose job it is to travel around the country to shear alpacas, but now that I do, I’m considering a mid-life career change. Also, Vicki, the hobby farm owner and our tour guide, spins the wool and uses it to knit. When she heard we have an English Angora rabbit that gets shaved regularly, a look of covetousness came over her. Ergo, we agreed to send her our next batch of bunny fur. Finally, covetousness turned to avid interest when she learned of our petsitting organization. She sometimes travels and needs sitters for her alpaca herd, so she may join on as a homeowner.
The town of Santa Rosa itself was just fine—nothing to write home about, really—just an average city, but it was a good central location for exploring the region. The downtown was a lot like my hometown’s downtown in eastern Wisconsin, save for two things:
The town did have a great luggage store where the husband put to use the haggling skills he developed in Laos and Cambodia, coming away with a new suitcase at 20% off the already-discounted price. Granted, it’s no Solgaard®. In fact, it’s something of a Solgaard® wannabe. I’ve yet to figure out why the husband, who regularly compliments my new suitcase, refuses to get one himself, but I think it’s because he’s just being contrary. In any case, see how it compares to mine:
Santa Rosa is also home to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center (research center?). As a Minnesotan, I take umbrage to the Santa Rosans claiming the creator of the Peanuts®. I mean, the guy was born in Minneapolis and spent his entire childhood and much of his adulthood living in St. Paul, even working for the Pioneer Press, a (rather poorly-written) newspaper that still (somehow) exists to this day. But claim him, they do, since he moved there in his mid-40s.
Peanuts® character statues can be found all over town.
Of course, we also did two of our three wine tastings during this segment of the trip. You can read about them here:
Our time in Santa Clara left us with many treasures: a new suitcase, time with a cute cat, a none-too-cheap wine club membership, and most importantly, great memories. But it couldn’t give us the ocean, so we went in search of that next.
- Summer Travel is Imminent: California Wine Country, Here We Come!
- California Wine Country, Part 1: Arriving in Napa
- California Wine Country, Part 2: Santa Rosa Petsit
- Sonoma County Wine Tasting
- California Wine Country, Part 3: Bodega Bay