Friday, August 24, 2007

mieke, welcome to my neck of the woods


dear mieke,
you're on a plane right now, headed for california! my nerdy tour guide heart breaks that i won't be there to show you around, but another time. as a substitute, i offer you the following tips for sonoma county and beyond which i frantically compiled when a co-worker ventured west this summer. since you'll be based out of napa, a lot of it may not pertain to you, but i know you wanted to see the redwoods. maybe the other stuff will also help you a little, or anyone else visiting northern california....
you don't trust me? you want a testimonial? i thought so. just in case, i copied said co-workers response and will paste here:

"Hi Kitty!
Thanks sooooooooooooo much for all of this! I did almost everything in this email! You would be proud.
I can’t wait to see you so I can tell you all about it. (I could also go on and on forever) But, I will say now…it was definitely the best vacation ever!
Thanks again!"

you can tell i didn't write it because, well, it's capitalized! and i don't mean ALL CAPS.
by the way, i recommend printing this whole post out if you're really touring, as well as the links i've included for addresses and further info.


the bottom line is there are a million amazing ways to get out to the redwoods--to Armstrong Woods. so hard to choose. i've drafted two different options.

OKAY, MIEKE--YOU'RE COMING FROM NAPA, SO TAKE HIGHWAY 12 EAST ALL THE WAY OUT TO SEBASTOPOL. YOU WILL DRIVE THROUGH THE TOWN OF SONOMA, AND BEAUTIFUL VALLEY OF THE MOON. ON THROUGH SANTA ROSA (the big town we'd go to for the mall. i also completed my associates degree here at SRJC, and hitchcock filmed 'shadow of a doubt' here), AND WEST TO SEBASTOPOL (my hometown!!). ONCE YOU HIT SEBASTOPOL, YOU HAVE TWO CHOICES. A) THE COASTAL ROUTE BELOW--AMAZING (FORGET BRUNCH THOUGH, BY THEN IT MAY BE LUNCH!) OR, ROUTE B, THIS WILL TAKE YOU THROUGH THE FOODIE/COUNTRY PLACES BELOW, THROUGH FORESTVILLE, AND INTO GUERNEVILLE MORE DIRECTLY, CUTTING OUT THE COAST. AT SEBASTOPOL, YOU WILL MAKE A RIGHT ONTO HIGHWAY 116 GOING NORTH.

EITHER ROUTE YOU CHOOSE, SCREAMIN' MIMI'S, at yhe intersection of hwy 12 and hwy 116 IS THE PIVITAL TURNING POINT, SO I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU STOP THERE TO STRETCH YOUR LEGS AND HAVE SOME GREAT HOME MADE ICE CREAM! YOUR CHOICE!


ROUTE A--COASTAL ROUTE--SUPER DELUXE--ALL DAY AFFAIR! click for directions!!


View Larger Map
also the detailed driving directions...

DETAILS ON ROUTE A: WEST on HIGHWAY 12 (BODEGA HIGHWAY), passing through sebastopol (my hometown!--7 miles west of santa rosa). continue 5 miles out of sebastopol.
turn RIGHT on BOHEMIAN HIGHWAY at FREESTONE. stop at Wild Flour Bread Bakery
on the left hand side. This is the best bread i've ever had in my life, i think. sample all, buy some for later or for another day! it's amazing! especially for a snack when you're in the woods, at the beach, or wine tasting! don't eat too much though, because you're headed to brunch!
continue on BOHEMIAN HIGHWAY until you hit the town of OCCIDENTAL. tom waits lives here. I used to live here before i moved to new york. on the right hand side of the two block town you will find "HOWARD's CAFE". go there for brunch! i HIGHLY reccommend the PRIMO POTATOES seriously. also the tofu rancheros kick ass. and the shooting star smoothie is great! after brunch, window shop (or shop!) in the quaint little stores. HAND GOODS is a great local artisan store. as well as one across the street that has vintage and new fun stuff. when you've had you're fill of occidental, turn LEFT on COLEMAN VALLEY ROAD, which heads west and uphill out of the center of town. this breathtaking road will take you through the woods and out to the ocean. my dad used to tell me when we drove on this road that we were driving to the moon. and i believed him. at the top you will see a lot of big rocks and cows. in the winter the grass is lush green. it's looks like ireland! you will notice that california looks very brown and dry in the summer, espcially compared to the lush summer east coast. it's because our dry season is summer. it doesn't rain here at all in the summer. but it doesn't snow in the winter. rains a lot. so winter is green, summer is "golden". it took me forever to get used to this switch. also, i used to hate the "brown" hills in summer. now that i come back from living in the city i have a different appreciation for them and call them "golden" like everyone else.
soon you will see the pacific ocean. keep following the road until it ends at the ocean.
TURN RIGHT (NORTH) on HIGHWAY ONE. this road loops along the ocean. ocean here is cold and very dangerous!! we don't swim, and we don't turn our backs on the ocean. but there are beautiful rocky coves to explore and tide pools with sea life, and sea lions etc. continue north until you hit GOAT ROCK STATE PARK. you can't miss it. turn left and drive down to the rock. legend says that the land separated from this rock so quickly that there were still goats grazing the top of it. this is where i spent my late nights in high school. walk on the beach and check out the beautiful arches. WARNING: sometimes even if it's 90 degrees inland, the coast will be 20 or 30 degrees cooler! and nights ALWAYS cool down. bring sweaters and light jackets! the weather is so different than new y ork!
from goat rock continue north till you cross the bridge over the russian river. turn right on the road that points toward guerneville, more redwoods!
BY THE WAY! GAS IS SO EXPENSIVE IN CALI, EVEN MORESO IN THESE COASTAL TOWNS! MAKE SURE YOU GAS UP IN SANTA ROSA OR SEBASTOPOL!
guerneville is a resort town which has always been a getaway for gay people from san francisco. you will find it to be pleasant and liberal (well, like all of west county). the sad thing about guerneville is that it gets completely flooded about every other year, so property value is low. you'll find some damage evident, and some riff raff.
turn LEFT on ARMSTRONG GROVE ROAD!!! and follow to the end (just a couple of miles). park your car in the lot and walk in for free. DO NOT MISS THIS PARK!!!! it is one of my fave places on earth. walk the easy forest floor trails or take a more strenuous hike if you're into that in the hills. you can also pay and drive up to the top of bullfrog pond for an amazing view of the county. be ready for 5 mph hairpin turns. check out the forest amphitheater. as a child my sisters and friends and i had races running on the benches, and dreamed of being married there. it's a nice place to grab some quiet and lay on your back looking up. if you see a water fountain, drink from it. it is so cold and tastes like so clean like the woods. in the winter the park teems with water.

IT'S BEEN A LONG DAY AND YOU'VE SEEN SO MANY BEAUTIFUL THINGS! THE QUICKEST WAY BACK TO NAPA IS TO:
TURN LEFT BACK IN GUERNEVILLE (RIVER ROAD HEADING EAST).
IF YOU NEED A SPOT OF BUBBLY, KORBEL HAS AN INSANELY GORGEOUS TASTING ROOM ON RIVER ROAD ON THE WAY BACK. EASY TO SPOT!
FOLLOW RIVER ROAD ALL THE WAY TO SANTA ROSA, HIGHWAY 101 SOUTH
TAKE 101 SOUTH UNTIL PETALUMA
THERE WILL BE A TURN OFF FOR NAPA. HERE IS A MAP WITH DIRECTIONS HOME. 1.5 hours.

'the way home': ARMSTRONG WOODS TO NAPA, DIRECT. or if you just want to get to the woods as quickly as possible, reverse this route.


View Larger Map


ROUTE B--THE COUNTRY TOWN ROUTE


View Larger Map

DETAILS ON ROUTE B
The foodie/country route: leaving sebastopol, heading north, these are cute country places to pop in...all within a 1.5 mile stretch of each other....

ANDY'S PRODUCE a great produce stand and so much more! buy some whole wheat raspberry bars in the nut section!
1691 gravenstein hwy 116

ACE IN THE HOLE CIDER PUB hard cider tasting
3110 gravenstein hwy 116

MOM'S APPLE PIE. oh my god. grab a pie for ezra's brother! they're amazing.
4550 gravenstein hwy 116

KOZLOWSKI FARMS for jam tasting and gifts.
5566 gravenstein hwy 116

once you pass through forestille (don't blink, you will miss it!) the country road meanders out to guerneville. to repeat from ROUTE A, so that ROUTE B is also complete:
BY THE WAY! GAS IS SO EXPENSIVE IN CALI, EVEN MORESO IN THESE COASTAL TOWNS! MAKE SURE YOU GAS UP IN SANTA ROSA OR SEBASTOPOL!
guerneville is a resort town which has always been a getaway for gay people from san francisco. you will find it to be pleasant and liberal (well, like all of west county). the sad thing about guerneville is that it gets completely flooded about every other year, so property value is low. you'll find some damage evident, and some riff raff.
turn LEFT on ARMSTRONG GROVE ROAD!!! and follow to the end (just a couple of miles). park your car in the lot and walk in for free. DO NOT MISS THIS PARK!!!! it is one of my fave places on earth. walk the easy forest floor trails or take a more strenuous hike if you're into that in the hills. you can also pay and drive up to the top of bullfrog pond for an amazing view of the county. be ready for 5 mph hairpin turns. check out the forest amphitheater. as a child my sisters and friends and i had races running on the benches, and dreamed of being married there. it's a nice place to grab some quiet and lay on your back looking up. if you see a water fountain, drink from it. it is so cold and tastes like so clean like the woods. in the winter the park teems with water.

again, i give you the most direct directions back to napa:

IT'S BEEN A LONG DAY AND YOU'VE SEEN SO MANY BEAUTIFUL THINGS! THE QUICKEST WAY BACK TO NAPA IS TO:
TURN LEFT BACK IN GUERNEVILLE (RIVER ROAD HEADING EAST).
IF YOU NEED A SPOT OF BUBBLY, KORBEL HAS AN INSANELY GORGEOUS TASTING ROOM ON RIVER ROAD ON THE WAY BACK. EASY TO SPOT!
FOLLOW RIVER ROAD ALL THE WAY TO SANTA ROSA, HIGHWAY 101 SOUTH
TAKE 101 SOUTH UNTIL PETALUMA
THERE WILL BE A TURN OFF FOR NAPA. HERE IS A MAP WITH DIRECTIONS HOME. 1.5 hours.

'the way home': ARMSTRONG WOODS TO NAPA, DIRECT. or if you just want to get to the woods as quickly as possible, reverse this route.


View Larger Map

ALTERNATE ENDING TO ROUTE A THAT DOESN'T TAKE YOU TO THE REDWOODS. IF CHOSE THE COUNTRY ROUTE B, YOU COULD MAKE THIS A WHOLE SECOND DAY'S JOURNEY--OR WEAVE IT INTO YOUR OYSTER TRIP, AS IT TAKES YOU TO BODEGA BAY.


ONCE COLEMAN VALLEY ROAD HITS THE OCEAN, make a left instead. this will take you past SALMON CREEK a beach with lovely sand dunes and brave surfers. it's also a breeding ground for great white sharks. you're welcome to sun bathe. but i really can't tell you enough. do not swim! (you will follow the signs off the main road a piece to get to the beach. turn right after the creek, by the big whale bone. there should be signs).
continue south on highway one. you will come into the town of bodega bay. if you are a fan of hitchcock, you'll recognize this town from 'the birds'. on the biggest hairpin turn you'll find a fish n chips shop that sells jalapeno poppers, onions rigns, french fries and cheese sticks, if you want to fry out. they also offer whale watching trips. i don't know what the whale season is.....that place is just before candy and kites. a cute taffy store, but not my preferred one. for my reccommendation, stop at the taffy shop on the right hand side of the road that is PINK AND WHITE STRIPED. buy a shitload of taffy. it's so good. YOU MUST buy the following flavors, in this level of importance: APRICOT, CRAN-RASPBERRY, MOLLASES, WATERMELON. then choose your own. continuing south on highway one, you can stop at THE TIDES for tourist stuff. they also sell great food stuff. kozlowski farms is my local jam maker. amazing stuff! BUY SOURDOUGH BREAD!!!
if you're jonesing for a little hike. and i mean low key hike...on the way out of bodega bay, turn right at the GOLF COURSE. there may be signs pointing you to PINNACLE GULCH. basically, you drive up the hill, turn left, then park on the left hand side of the street in the state park parking lot. across the street is the trail head. 15-20 hike down to a beautiful beach with less people (possibly) and great tide pools.
back on highway one, heading south, TURN LEFT ON HIGHWAY 12 TOWARD SEBASTOPOL AND BODEGA. the town of bodega, different than bodega bay has a beautiful creepy cemetery amid the eucalyptus trees. you will also recognize the catholic church and the school house from 'the birds'. my friends were married at that church! continuing on highway 12, in sebastopol, just past the main intersection, where the bank clock is, you will find SCREAMIN' MIMI'S ice cream shop on the left hand side. AMAZING HOME MADE ICE CREAM. their signiature flavor is mimi's mud, and they have kick ass sorbets too! after screamin' mimi's, make a left (sebastopol is a mess of one-way streets, bear with it!) and follow the town square around past whole foods. make a right on highway 116 (main street), which loops around past safeway. TURN LEFT ON FLORENCE ROAD, a small residential street where our local favorite junk sculptor has transformed the street into a sculpture garden. so cool. you can just drive through slowly. the traffic is used to people gawking. don't miss!! when florence hits bodega highway (yes, you've made a bit of a circle), turn left on highway 12, which takes you back to santa rosa and highway 101 too!

if you chose to do the redwood route, i recommend just following bodega highway (12) out to bodega bay (right on higway one) and hitting those other highlights then turning back. both routes are amazing. two days of great fun!

okay, other recommendations:
ALSO IN SEBASTOPOL (my hometown!):
COFFEE CATZ--this was my high school hangout. they have THE BEST ICED COFFEE I'VE EVER TASTED. make sure to ask for the AWARD WINNING ICED COFFEE. 6761 Sebastopol Avenue. This coffee shop is located in the old sebastopol railroad station, on the left hand side of the road when your coming into sebastopol from santa rosa on highway 12. immediately after the first light
THAI POT--no frills Thai food if you have a craving. downtown sebastopol, same block as screamin mimi's
Sumbody--bath shop and spa. lovely, hand made. Downtown sebastopol (downtown is only two blocks!)

VIVA MEXICO
is an amazing mexican place on the south side of sebastopol (highway 116, also known as Gravenstein Highway) 841 Gravenstein Ave

SANTA ROSA
brunch: OMLETTE EXPRESS. this is the best place in santa rosa for brunch!!! make sure you get a side of toast! that sounds silly, but you'll understand. this place is in OLD RAILROAD SQUARE, an adorable part of santa rosa. there is a great coffee house opened by my friend's aunt: AROMA ROASTERS, and all kinds of bars, restaurants and shops.

my other fave brunch place in santa rosa is called sam's for play cafe. but it's kind of in the ghetto part of town, and you'd probably rather go somewhere else. but it's super local. so if you're interested.....i go to the one on sebastopol road

dinner in santa rosa: Ca'Bianca is a cute italian restaurant in an old victorian house. in downtown santa rosa.

HEALDSBURG, near the alexander valley has the most adorable town square with FANTASTIC gift/window shopping
places to eat:
BEAR REPUBLIC is a fun, casual, nice place after a day of tasting.
BARNDIVA comes highly recommended, though it's new to me.
DRY CREEK KTICHEN is another upscale place
WILLIE'S SEAFOOD & RAW BAR

CALISTOGA
IF IN CALISTOGA, HAVE BRUNCH AT SARAFORNIA CAFE 1413 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga.

WINERIES I LIKE: Basically, i love the alexander valley and the russian river valley. get a designated driver (you'll be surprised at how drunk you'll get) and just bounce from winery to winery. you will trip across one every foot or so!
CHALK HILL/ALEXANDER VALLEY TASTING MAP---I LOVE SAUSAL on this map
RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY WINE TASTING TOUR

HOP KILN RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
Hop Kiln Winery
6050 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448

TRENTADUE
---Geyserville (just north of healdsburg) beautiful winery. MUST TRY THEIR CHOCOLATE PORT!@!!!

CHATEAU SOUVERAIN-- KIND OF TOURISTY, but pretty! right off highway 101 in healdsburg


SAN FRANCISCO
MY FAVORITE 2 CHINESE RESTAURANTS:
FOR FOOD QUALITY: HOUSE OF NAN KING AH-MAY-ZING!!!
FOR AMBIENCE: FAR EAST--MAKE SURE TO SIT IN A PRIVATE ROOM BOOTH. OLD SCHOOL STYLE. THE RESTAURANT USED TO JUST BE NARROW HALLWAYS BETWEEN THESE PRIVATE BOOTHS. NOW THEY JUST LINE THE WALLS. FUN!

TOURIST SPOTS
THE SUTRO BATH RUINS. EXPLORE THE RUINS, OR HIKE FURTHER
THE FERRY BUILDING SHOPS AND FARMERS MARKET--TAKE A FERRY TO SAUSALITO AND WALK AROUND.
THE MISSION DISTRICT--THE WILLIAMSBURG OF SF. AMAZING BURRITOS AND MEXICAN MURALS IN THE SIDE ALLEYS. ALSO GREAT SHOPPING. PANCHO VILLA TAQUERIA--LET ME REPHRASE THAT --THE BEST BURRITO ON EARTH!!! 16TH STREET AND VALENCIA? RIGHT NEXT TO THE BART STATION!

10 comments:

Suzan Given said...

Hi Kitty! Your posts are so much fun to read. Although I grew up in NorCal, I'll admit that I have never heard of many of the places in northern California you have mentioned, so I will have to try visiting a couple this fall and winter when I am back up in Sebastopol! Imagine that, taking a road trip in my own back yard!

kitty8joe said...

that is the most awesome compliment my happy, nerdy, little tour guide heart could receive!

kim said...

I am craving one of our driving days!

Amy said...

Kitty, what an awesome tour! And the photo to go along with the post...breathtaking!!!!!!!! When and where did you take that? Sister Christian

kitty8joe said...

what in the world are you doing up at 2:44am, amy?! you party animal.

i took this photo on highway one sometime a couple years ago in january. it was when emre was with me and we stumbled across the sun setting. even better are the pictures of him, because he was gleeful with the beauty! i liked the warm tone on the hills.

Anonymous said...

if I ever go to Calfifornia, I must definitely let you know! It sounds wonderful (kinda in the mood to go right now)
Giovanni

Rein said...

Dear Kitty,

Past thursday i've enjoyed the "staten island ferry"-trip thanks to your excellent guiding! You took us to the nicest spots on the ferry and told us interesting stuff about NYC!
And today (after a real hell-trip back to Belguim : beside the delayed planes got my luggage lost and it is actually stil lost :-( I'm reading your mini-'guide du routard'-guidebook you wrote for Mieke! Amazing!!!
If I ever need a private guide, I'll call you!!!!

Love from Belgium
Rein, the silent reader ;-)

kitty8joe said...

oh rein! i'm so sorry your trip home was bad! it was great to see you on the ferry and great to hear you're still reading!

kiyomi said...

As if you need more advice... if you're near Coffee Catz in the afternoon or evening, you should check out the Starlight wine bar, some friends of ours own it, it's in an old train car. Great for dinner and/or dessert. And roshambo winery (near hop kiln) is cool, it's got a very hip and modern feel, quite different from the others. (kitty, next time you're out here I'll take you, so you can add them to your official tour recommendations!) And if you stop by the saltwater taffy store, buy a shitload, but if anyone in your car is prone to carsickness, wait until you get onto less windy roads before eating a shitload. I learned this hard way, and let's just say that saltwater taffy puke is gross and hard to clean up!

kitty8joe said...

oh kiyomi--that's good taffy advice! i've learned that the hard way too many times, though stopped just short of the gross taffy puke. maybe if it went that far i'd stop binging myself to nausea every time!