West Coast Report Ten: Friday and Saturday

We wandered around the Bay, then came home.

Santa Rosa

After spending the night in Santa Rosa, we decided to visit the Charles M. Schulz museum before leaving town. We didn't decide this until we'd made it to southeast Santa Rosa, and the museum is at the northern end. So we turned back and discovered the museum was a lot like the first light house we approached in Oregon: Unaware that visitors might not be able to guess what hours it keeps. Having made a special round-trip tour of Santa Rosa in order to see the Peanuts gang, we found that they don't open until noon. I was especially glad it wasn't Tuesday, because then they don't open at all.

On our journey around town to find the museum (we knew we'd seen the sign when we approached from the north, so we finally backtracked enough to see the sign again) we discovered that Santa Rosa has its own petrified forest, certified as such by the State Legitimate-features (or some such) Agency. Discovering that we had time to spend before returning to an open museum, we headed out to the Petrified Forest on Mark West Springs Road. (Where did that name come from? Did someone identify the West Springs with a visible sign? Did Mr. West discover the Springs?)

While we were pleasantly surprised that the Oregon Vortex did offer some interesting phenomena, we remained skeptical enough of "promoted roadside attractions" that we nearly skipped the forest when we saw, in addition to the California Certification sign, a billboard urging one and all to visit the hometown petrified forest. "Can any good thing come out of tourist spots?" we wondered.

But we weren't hungry enough to spend our waiting time eating and we were curious enough to risk a tourist trap, so we gave it a shot.

Like the drive-through tree parks, it appears to be a moderate section of land, privately owned and maintained, that supports itself by charging moderate fees (no matter what some of the guest book signers said: another indication that the place was on the up-and-up, since they didn't purge the guestbook of complainers) to pay taxes and provide new asphalt walkways (being provided even as we were touring).

Apparently Mount St. Helena (not Helens, as I first assumed; after all, the "S" and "A" are pretty close on the keyboard and anyone could make a mistake; apparently I have on several of these travelogues, for instance!) blew up like Mount St. Helens, only much earlier, and after knocking down all the trees for miles around (at least seven, anyway) it buried them in ash and lava. Gradually, the carbon-based cells were replaced by silicon-based cells, and the trees became stone. Seems as reasonable an explanation as any, and it is quite obvious that the trees are pretty hard.

We did wonder if the first discoverers of these trees (Petrified Charlie was one such discoverer) learned the hard way not to use axes on them. Once the erosion got the trees to the surface again, the moss that soon covered them looked very much like the beginning stages of "back to the beginning growth" that happens to all fallen trees in the Redwoods and on the Olympic Peninsula.

The trail around the petrified forest (or grove, since it really wasn't very big; Santa Rosa is growing up into its hills) was easy to follow visually and physically, and the signs were very informative. The gift shop was easy to navigate as well, although they didn't limit themselves to products from their own land. (Their petrified wood seemed to come from Brazil, for instance.)

We left for the museum, opting not to press our luck with another tourist attraction (California's Old Faithful Geyser) that didn't mention a state certification.

What can one say about Peanuts and the Charles M. Schulz Museum? "Just as we remembered them" about the comics; "Sparky would have liked what they've done with the place," about the strip's creator. "That's cool!" about the mural. No details, since I don't want to spoil it for you.

Back to the Bay

We traveled the wine country on the way to San Jose. Mile after mile of rolling hills and foot mountains covered with grape vines. Some were already heavy laden with purple or green clusters; others were barely more than twigs. In earlier vineyards, I'd noted that the plants generally followed the contours of the land. Not in Napa county. The lines varied from vineyard to vineyard, but within a single field the rows were straight no matter how the hills were shaped. Do they not get gully-washers in the grape hills? In the Midwest, farmers would lose their soil to their neighbors (or to the next town downriver) if they let the rows march straight down hill.

As we traveled the vineyards, I was reminded of the early California wine commercials in Seattle. Apparently one vineyard thought it important to mention all three wine counties in its labeling: Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino. The ad agency played up the difficulty of the name by having the lead actor in the commercial stumble over the name. One of the final commercials in the series had the gentleman very pleased that he remembered the whole name without prompting; but as he left with his wine purchase, the viewers saw that he'd forgotten his pants instead.

We determined to spend the night in San Jose, so that meant filling our tummies in Vallejo. Good choice! Otherwise, we'd have been ravenous (vulturous? eagleous?) by the time we got through three hours of traffic to get probably 45 miles. The museum's late starting time meant that we hit the Bay Area about rush hour. And part of the time, we should have been going against the rush, heading toward Oakland and San Francisco in the evening; but apparently people along the Bay rush both directions. If we were ever to move there (no plans for such, of course), we'd want a house next door to wherever we worked.

Home, Sweet Home

Stephen did remember to pick us up, and the flights were uneventful, the way one wants them to be. (Actually, I'd still like to get to use the oxygen masks sometime. I mentioned that to one fellow passenger several years ago and she looked at me so askance that I've not mentioned my longing since. Until now.) We could see the Los Angeles coastline and most of the metro with its twelve million people. We saw the Grand Canyon and a hill fire (forest? brush?) east of Riverside. We used the GPS to figure out where we were when the clouds obscured the ground, and generally had a good time even on the flight.

At home, the driveway was not only cleared of a Honda (I'm sure it was and is a fine member of its species, but it hadn't moved from in front of the garage for a year or longer), but the garage itself was straightened and almost usable again. I understand both Sandee and Stephen worked on that project for us; a pleasant way to greet us returning wanderers. And the dishes were even washed up before we got back!

The laundry is done. The pictures are saved on two machines. We've been back to church and back to work. And now the web site is updated. Wonderful memories, astounding beauty, excellent weather (except for evening fog), and a time of refreshing for both of us.

Thanks for joining us.

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