Prequel: Summer Travel is Imminent: California Wine Country, Here We Come!


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.

Hi. I’m Max. I like this 6-foot social distancing thing. When’s dinner?

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.

Steep . . .
. . . and steeper.

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”.

Endangered my ass . . .

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.

His word . . . and my artistic rendering.

On the third day it was deer.

Dasher and Blitzen on a quick summer getaway.

And on the fourth day we saw something so rare, it doesn’t even exist where we live, as far as I know.

If this guy ever wants to move to Minnesota, he’ll need to get a new career.

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.

Fire-scorched hill. Too close for comfort.

Thankfully, our time in Santa Rosa was spent doing more than just running.  There was also cycling.

Such a great place. Very friendly and helpful service.

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.

Sonoma County is to Napa County as Pawnee is to Eagleton.

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:

Hey, maybe this belongs to that disembodied head we saw on the bike ride.
Does anyone else find this strange? Two hundred seventy-one dollars?

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:

Velcroed-in shelves. Nice try, honey.

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.

Hmmm . . . it’s a tossup.

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.


31 thoughts

  1. This looks like so much fun. Max is a wonderful cat, clearly knowing who to trust. I’d like to visit the Peanuts museum. Snoopy is my spirit animal. I’m glad your vacay went as planned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post all around! Enjoyed your varied activities from biking, to alpacas, and of course Charlie Brown. I would love to visit the Charles Shultz museum…although it does seem strange that it’s in California and not where he was born and raised.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. First off, I love your drawing! I think it perfectly captures the essence of your experience. You should frame it in and hang it in your living room.

    I think I told you I have fond(ish) memories of that area. My aunt used to live in Santa Rosa and then Sebastopol. I always enjoyed visiting them. You weren’t too far from Jack London State Historic Park. He’s my favorite author and the park is a great place to explore. You can even visit his writing cottage tucked amongst the towering trees. Check it out next time you’re petsitting those alpacas! https://exploreredwoods.savetheredwoods.org/park/jack-london-state-historic-park?gclid=Cj0KCQjwu7OIBhCsARIsALxCUaOTQnBEP_FtLk38_ft8k8jeKpi0ft0SjZfUakTZxlO7Pgl2xOZYNBsaAp3pEALw_wcB

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! Few people compliment my artwork – I think my avant garde style distracts them from my talent, or perhaps it’s as simple as envy? – but I very much appreciate your compliment.

      You’re right – we were very close to JLSP. Next time! Perhaps when the alpaca fiber-induced sneezing starts in earnest. It would be a great day out!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow just look at all the amazing photos – I am glad to see that you had heaps of fun in California, makes me want to visit one day. Can’t wait to read and see photos from your trip to Bodega Bay. I had to use Google to see where it is. California’s rugged coast is certainly stunning 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It boggles my mind that California has so much untouched land that I had no idea about; I suppose living in my bubble of big-city life makes me rather sheltered, in that respect! What an opportunity you had to cat-sit out in the wine country, and hearing of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, comes as a pleasant surprise! I grew up reading the comics, and it truly is an endearing part of many Americans’ childhoods!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Really enjoyed this post. It looks like a beautiful area for running (downhill, not sure I’d fancy going up!) and cycling. It seems if you ever go back you might be in luck and able to alpaca-sit for your next petsitting adventure too!

    Liked by 1 person

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