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Why Am I Not Exalted? Jack London; Crawfish, Ducks and the Sarah Reed! Wine Country; Hiking; Serenity; Armstrong Redwoods; Dry Creek General Store; Lost Baggage Art?

We had set up camp in the Elks Campground in Petaluma, and while walking Rudy and Gretchen one day, I noticed the reserved parking sign for the head of this lodge… I told My Lovely Bride that I wanted a sign like this at our new house, and hoped that she would show me the respect and admiration that the Lodge’s Exalted Ruler obviously deserved… she replied, a bit sassily, “Yeah, Ty, you see the meter? You’d better have a lot of quarters!” Like Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “I don’t get no respect at all!”

Nearby our campground is Petaluma’s 500 acre Shollenberger Park, where we went for several runs, walks and bike rides on their delightful trail system. On one ride, we encountered some local wildlife on the path… a signal crayfish (Pacifistacus leniusculus). It’s actually an invasive species and crowding out native crayfish in California. The first photo is when we first met… he (she?) was walking across the path. When we got closer, the crawfish (the term us Cajuns use in Louisiana) went into self-defense mode… spunky little critter, I must say! Good thing for him I wasn’t on a crawfishing expedition!

This mother duck with her nine little ducklings also caught my eye. I think the one out of formation guy is a dropout from the duck version of the Blue Angels…

The Petaluma River is adjacent to the trails, and I was happy to see this well-kept tugboat one day. Whoever owns and runs her is very attentive to her condition – we would say she is “shipshape and Bristol fashion”, a tip of the hat to well-built and kept ships in the 18th and 19th Century built in Bristol, England, on the River Avon. 

We stayed in Petaluma in order to have a base for wine tastings in Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley. On our first wine tasting foray, we were accompanied by Holly Berkley, a friend from nearby Healdsburg. Here we are at Amapola Creek Vineyard in Sonoma .  This amazing vineyard is owned and operated by a good friend we have only met on-line (to date), but whom we will be meeting in person later this summer. Richard Arrowood (Proprietor and Winemaster) and his wife Alis have been in the wine business for five decades. Their experience and love of winemaking shows in their fabulous wines, all of which have been highly rated by Robert Parker and Wine Advocate magazine. (See the link above for more information on the Arrowoods and Amapola Creek Vineyard.)  

 We were hosted and given a tour of Amapola Creek by Alyssa Smith, who here is explaining that we cannot buy a complete vat of their outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon for our RV… thanks, Alyssa, it was an unforgettable experience!

We also got to spend some quality time with our friends Jerry Facciani and Karen Barrett from Las Vegas and Baltimore. Jerry is a real oenophile, and has an incredible wine cellar (see this blog of Nov 16, 2016 for more on his collection). We visited and had tastings at Martinelli Vineyards, Peter Michael Winery and Aubert Wines, shown here with the owner, Teresa Aubert. (And yes, the tastings were on three different days, thank goodness!) 

Here we are in the beautiful tasting room at Martinelli Vineyards and Winery in Windsor. The wines kept coming… and coming… and coming… 

We enjoyed three gourmet dinners with the owners of Roberts and Rogers, Bevan Cellars, and Morlet Family Vineyards. Jerry’s vast experience in Napa and Sonoma gave us insights that we would never have been able to get on our own, and the experience of vineyard owners and winemasters bringing their own wines that the restaurant served was unique and a real delight! Here at Market in St. Helena with Russell Bevan and Victoria de Crescenzo of Bevan Cellars; their wines are phenomenal! 

And here with Luc and Jodie Morlet  of Morlet Family Vineyards at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville… fabulous Morlet wines and delicious authentic French cuisine! (Very appropriate since Luc is from France; his family has been making wine in Avenay-Val d’Or for five generations.)

One could get accustomed to wine tastings in beautiful Sonoma and Napa Valleys, but there are other things to see and do in the vicinity. We took a trip into San Francisco to drop Suzanne off at the airport so she could fly to Virginia to teach at The Monroe Institute. The Golden Gate Bridge and the harbor will always be impressive!

I also got to do some hiking – shown here at Shiloh Ranch State Park while MLB was back in Charlottesville. 

This trail was quite “rooty”! It wasn’t too bad in hiking boots, but would have been challenging on a mountain bike. I usually don’t do challenging trails while MLB is on travel because of my responsibility to take care of Rudy and Gretchen and the possibility of injury, since I am a bit of a klutz sometimes. Having gone over the handlebars and crashed twice in the past 6 years, I am getting a little bit more prudent in my old age…

My routine for several days was a morning hike at a state park and then a walk around Shollenberger Park in Petaluma at sunset… what a serene place… I may have to get into Zen…

I enjoyed another delightful hike at Jack London Historical State Park in Glen Ellen, which is the site of London’s Beauty Ranch, located on the side of Sonoma Mountain. It was named for the natural beauty he found there. When I was young, he was one of my favorite authors. An avid sailor, he was on a circumnavigation aboard his ketch Snark when his health declined and he had to give up the voyage in Australia. He was truly a man’s man. 

Two of his great quotes run like this… 
– “Get up; wake up; kick in; do something; deliver the goods; come across; arise or be forever damned.”
– “I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”   

29 miles of trails wind through Jack London’s Beauty Ranch, and this ancient redwood is just a small, but important part of it. Often referred to as The Grandmother Tree, it is about 1800-2000 years old, 14 feet in diameter, gnarled and not especially lofty, but it is a beautiful reminder of our close connection with the natural world. 

Our friend Holly was accepting packages for us, so one day I drove up to Healdsburg to collect mail. Holly took me for a drive around the area to Dry Creek Grocery, a famous and very busy 1880’s bar, store and deli. The food was delicious.

Holly had recommended that I not skip one of her favorite hikes – at Armstrong Redwoods State Park. It was one of the most rigorous hikes of our trip so far, 7 miles with 1,300 feet elevation gain. I was really whooped at the end of the hike, but finished in this beautiful grove of coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). It is truly a sacred place. I am not a great meditator, but when I sit on a stump or a bench and look at these magnificent trees, I know that I am near God.

Well, our time in Petaluma, Sonoma and Napa was drawing to a close. Suzanne returned from The Monroe Institute, and took this photo of the baggage claim sculpture (really) at SFO… I’m guessing that the National Endowment of the Arts paid 2.3 million bucks for these… 

So we saddled up our wagon train and prepared to head for our next destination, Lake Tahoe. Neither of us had been there, and we were really looking forward to its natural beauty and cooler weather. As we prepared to leave, this unusual rig drove into our Elks Lodge campground, right in front of our bus… a dump truck pulling a small “A-Liner” camper! Whatever works….

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    Posted November 22, 2020 at 1:07 am

    I like those Jack London quotes. May have to read some of his books. Thanks for all the nature and wine shots. That is a good combination any day! Brad


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