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.
Wednesday, May 30
Sonoma, CA; 0 miles driven (hurrah!)
Coffee and continental breakfast offered in the hotel lobby, so we fed ourselves from the goods and called it good. Or rather, I drank coffee, which makes up my usual breakfast at home, while Clark ate pastries, which definitely does not make his usual breakfast. Neither of us wanted to invest the time and money in yet another meal out, though, so so be it.
As Clark worked online, I walked to the grocery store to pick up fixings for a picnic lunch. On the way back I stopped by the tourist information center and asked about town maps and advice for destinations we could walk to. The friendly gentleman behind the counter started pointing out tasting rooms lining the town plaza, and I interrupted to say no, no, I meant places within walking distance, if walking distance is two or three miles.
He blinked at me.
“No one ever asks about walking,” he said.
“What about Ravenswood, how far is that?” I asked.
He stared at it on the map. “I don’t know. People only ask about how far it is to bike.”
Which is kind of funny, because whether you’re in a car or on a bike or on foot, the distance is the same. But perhaps he’s used to talking in terms of minutes to get there. He did eventually remember that he had a pocket guide to hikes and bike routes in the local area, which he gave me.
The woman at the front desk of our hotel was much more helpful, and guided us to the most picturesque route to get to Bartholomew Park Winery, which MapMyRun told me was two miles, one way. By the time Clark was done with work and we were ready to set out, it was 12:30 and the forecast was for 87 degrees.
Heat and hiking and I do not get along. A few years ago we took a hiking trip in the southwest of France, one day walking 16 miles in 90 degree heat, and I turned such a bright red that the French anywhere we stopped were giving me very concerned looks and asking if I was okay.
So. Noonday sun and a hike, on an empty stomach… I was wary, but we went ahead with it, as we didn’t want to get in the car, and we had our picnic ready.
It turned out to be a lovely, easy walk, with a meager 250 elevation gain. Hot, yes, but we passed through the historic park and vineyards, and under eucalyptus and oak trees.
Roses, cactus, jasmine, oleander, and flowers whose names I do not know were all in bloom. The few people we met along the path and road nodded and said hello, just as the woman at the desk said they would. We did that where I grew up, but I’ve gotten out of the habit in Seattle; it’s one of those things that’s lovely and maintainable in a small community, but would leave you unable to function in a large one.
At Bartholomew Park Winery we bought a bottle of merlot — yes, #($*&! merlot, for those who are fans of Sideways — and went out to the picnic area to eat in the shade of an oak tree. The winery loaned us glasses, so we felt quite civilized as we ate our cheese, sausage, pickled things, and blueberries. Reading the wine bottle, it turns out the merlot grapes were from the Desnudos vineyard: named after the nudist colony that had been there circa 1900. Heh.
After lunch we looked through the museum on site; the winery was originally founded by the Hungarian Agoston Haraszthy, who purportedly planted the first vinifera grapes in the USA at this location. It was during the years of WWII that the Bartholomews had the winery, which was mostly of interest to us only because Clark’s grandmother was a Bartholomew.
We wandered the public park area and eventually found a way through it to Buena Vista Winery, which used to own the grounds to Bartholomew Park (I think… it’s very confusing), but we were hot and full of food and wine, and opted to go back to the hotel.
A couple hours later we partook of the free, serve-yourself wine tasting in the lobby, not that we needed more wine, but what the heck. For entertainment I read out loud parts of the local paper, the highlights of which were a story on the Tour de Coop coming up — a tour of home chicken coops in the area — and the mystery of a stolen maple tree. The thief left a trail of dirt to his home in a nearby trailer park, where the next morning the police found the tree in his yard and the 54-year-old thief in mud-stained jeans. He confessed to the crime, and offered the excuse that he’d been really drunk last night.
You wouldn’t think a drunk guy would have the energy and focus to dig up a tree and drag it home. Perhaps he has a secret, shameful passion for horticulture, which only emerges under the influence of alcohol.
For dinner we took the joint advice of a friend back home and the front desk woman, and walked to La Salette, a Portuguese restaurant off the Sonoma Plaza. We sat outside with the smell of jasmine heavy in the air, and listened to a chorus practicing in the building next door; they serenaded us with the medley from side B of The Beatle’s Abbey Road. We had pig’s ears, baby octopus, and tripe stew to start, thus following our basic eat-out criteria which is to eat things we’d be unlikely to make at home. The restaurant was as good as promised, and when food had made us groggy and we ran out of things to talk about, we eavesdropped on the first-date going on at the next table.
The dude was trying hard to impress, saying to the waitress: “Did you tell the chef I’m here? He knows me. Make sure he knows I’m here.” Then he tried to educate his date on bacalhau, which is the dried and salted codfish used in many Portuguese dishes.
“Bacalhau is big in the region I’m from,” she said.
But he was into what he was teaching her, and explained what bacalhau was, and told her to read the book Cod.
“Do you know anything about my region?” she asked.
There was also an interesting moment where they tried to feel each other out over their opinions on the upcoming ban on foie gras in California, and the consequent public gorging on the stuff before it goes away. The tentative way they danced around their opinions, then the relief when it was apparent they felt the same way, was the clearest indication that it was indeed a first date.
During the foie gras conversation the guy advised his date to read the book Meat. He also put in a good word for Salt. He either works with food, or just loves one-word titles.
Some of the the sights around Sonoma Plaza:
I’ve started wondering about what it’s really like to live here. People seem community-oriented and friendly; friendlier than Seattle, which is known for a polite friendliness that hides both a distrust of forging connections and the fear of intruding on someone’s independence. Seattle n-ICE, it’s called. While I take it there’s a strong sense of belonging here in Sonoma, is the dark side of that a feeling that people are getting into your business?
Maybe I’ll find someone to ask tomorrow.
More of the Lisa & Clark Expedition:
Who are Lisa & Clark?
Lisa’s latest novel,
Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells, from Simon & Schuster