The Lisa & Clark Expedition: Old Places and Familiar Faces, a West Coast Road Trip.
In which intrepid road trippers Lisa & Clark go in pursuit of historic hotels, old friends, rusty auto parts (the more the better), wineries, and gardens. And maybe a dress or two for Lisa, because she just can’t help herself.
Looking for the beginning of the trip? Start here.
Thursday, May 31
Sonoma; 0 miles driven
Another night of throwing off blankets because of the heat, and getting up in the middle of the night to open the window, road noise be damned. Why, why, why do Californians put down comforters on their beds? The last three places we’ve stayed have had them, and we had to pull them off every time.
This morning I dropped off copies of Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells and Wake Unto Me at the independent bookstore here, Reader’s Books. They seemed happy to have them, but as usual made no promises about ordering copies. I’d tried to get my publisher to set up a signing there, but the squeeze between printing date and our time here was too close. Sigh. Most of the time, promotional efforts feel like a waste of energy. The only thing I’ve found to be of value is having copies of YA books sent to YA bloggers; they have an excitement for books — and a love of talking about books — that far surpasses anything I’ve found with adult readers.
On the walk back to the hotel I stopped in at Fleurtique, a small boutique, and bought a poppy-colored dress with turquoise embroidery; it looks like it has Mexican influence. The tag claims it’s an L.A. company (THML), and their designs are inspired by a touch of vintage.
Lunch at the Swiss Hotel, in the outdoor cafe. Amusing moments: busboy going by with a dog dish full of water — they have such dishes on hand for pooches; waitress singing Oh Canada when fellow patrons said where they were from, and shocking them — “How do you know our national anthem?”; and listening in on the blowhard next table over talking about Carnegie and, “Make lots of money, save lots of money, give lots of money.”
After lunch we walked up to Ravenswood Winery, mostly because A) it’s in walking distance and B) on the James May Road Trip with Oz Clark (where Top Gear co-host and gear-head James May travels California wine country in an RV with wine expert Oz Clark), James May liked the place for being the only one he’d encountered where you could get a decent bottle of ‘plonk’ for ‘under ten quid.’ Attention, supermarket shoppers! (like us)
When we’d almost reached the winery, the road was blocked by a tow truck and sheriff’s cruisers, pulling a brown Mercedes coupe out of a vineyard. We were wary of walking by, as the tow cable was under tension; and the tow truck driver warned us of that, as well (a cable can snap and go whipping by, taking off your head). So we walked up on the grass, only to have a guy from the Ravenswood winery, watching from the slope above, say it was safer on the road — as we later saw, they have, “Danger, rattlesnakes” signs all over their grounds.
In the tasting room, the guy who poured for us, Bob, told us he’d seen the whole Mercedes debacle: a woman came tearing down the road, ran into one vineyard, pulled out, ran into a second vineyard, pulled out, then hit the stump of a huge eucalyptus and did not pull out; instead, her car ended up off the road in the vines. She was okay, though, judging by the fact that she took off running when the police showed up.
“Were they Ravenswood vineyards she ran into?” I asked.
“No. We wouldn’t be laughing so hard, if they were.”
Since Ravenswood was the only actual wine tasting we were doing on the whole trip to Sonoma (Bartholomew Park was really more about the picnic), we opted for the high-grade vintage tasting, or whatever. Anyway. Tasted some wine, said we wanted to buy a few bottles, then got a couple glasses of rosato (don’t know why it’s called that and not rosé) and sat out on the patio looking at the hill and vineyard opposite, and watching the breeze ruffle the leaves.
At about 4:10 (most wineries close their tasting rooms at 4:30) we came back indoors to settle up and pick up our wine; Bob asked where we were walking back to, and then offered — if we were willing to wait twenty minutes and have a couple glasses on the house — to give us a lift back to our hotel. With enough arm twisting (none), he got us to agree.
On the drive back to town I asked Bob what it was like living in Sonoma, and he said that it really is as nice as it seems; that he’s only been here six years, and it already feels like home. He said people vote ‘real quick’ with their pocketbooks, and if, say, a restaurant isn’t nice, people don’t go, and they go out of business.
Evolution in action: survival of the friendliest.
Again took advantage of the hotel’s free wine tasting at 5 pm, but really only vaguely sipped it; didn’t feel the need for any more wine. I feel done with wine, for quite some time… But it was a good opportunity to chat with the woman behind the desk (it’s always a woman, although the face changes depending on time of day), get restaurant recommendations, etc. We ended up going to Maya, a Mexican/Yucatan place, as we were tired of upscale restaurants. Had margaritas, lime tortilla soup, etc. and discussed what men thought when they saw women wearing different types of clothing, or with different shapes — a conversation sparked by a gorgeous, Amazonian tanned blonde in a white maxi-dress who walked by. This was not a willowy, dainty creature; this was a woman who could wield a broadsword, kill a knight, then wrestle his horse to the ground.
Clark said, “It’s a matter of logistics,” for what a man would think: if he’s a small guy, he might not know how to “climb that.” If he was a bigger guy, “he’d be all over that.”
Which then turned into a discussion of yoga pants and fleece, for which the guy perspective is, apparently: Married, or otherwise off the market. As Clark put it, for a guy to think a woman is on the market, “Looking nice has to come before comfort.” It always cracks me up to hear these straight-from-the-guy comments, uncensored. There’s a lot of politically correct wishful thinking that goes on about male-female relationships and perceptions; sometimes it’s good to hear the unvarnished truth.
One last word of wisdom from the Clark: if you’re a single woman, don’t wear anything that your mother’s single friends used to wear. “All guys my age hate hippy chick sh*t,” Clark says. “That’s what our mothers’ single friends used to wear. Muumuus, big blousy shirts, chunky beaded necklaces…” His shudder expressed a deep, primal aversion.
Clark finally is relaxing; I remember now that it took him a week to relax on the last trip we were on. When I mentioned that to him, he said, “Sweetie, you know I’m wound tighter than a steel drum. It takes me a while.”
It’s been a good day. It’s been a good two days, really; we’ve very much enjoyed staying in place, and Sonoma has turned out to be a great place to do just that. Small town feel, great restaurants, nearby wineries, friendly people, warm weather, and the scent of jasmine on the air.
“Could you live in Sonoma?” I asked as we sat in adirondack chairs at Ravenswood, the breeze gently blowing, the sun turning the hill opposite into a mound of gold.
Clark was silent for a long moment, and then, “Yeah, I think I could.”
More of the Lisa & Clark Expedition:
Who are Lisa & Clark?
Lisa’s latest novel,
Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells, from Simon & Schuster