Oceanside, California  9/15 – 9/21

Oceanside, California: Population = 167,086, elevation = 66 feet, Average January low temp = 45º, Average July high temp = 73.9º, Average precipitation = 11.3

From Penngrove, our plans lead us South along the coast.  After just a few miles of scenic grassy hills, Highway 101 plummets down to the sea.  Tourists that we are, we MUST see the Golden Gate Bridge.  Up close, the bridge is staggeringly huge, long, and tall.  My photos do not do it justice.  I was looking down the center of it.  The best view would be from the side, showing the whole length.  Unfortunately, to get that angle, one has to be somewhere in San Francisco.  In the midst of this gigantic, frantic, anthill of people and cars, our main impulse was to get the hell out town of and back to sanity.

The Golden Gate Bridge looms large over us as we enter San Francisco
The view from the Presidio

After many slow miles of stoplights and city traffic, the political entity that is Highway 101 turns back into a freeway and, relieved, we speed happily along our way, following the Bay.  Until everything slows down again and traffic slows to a crawl for miles and miles.  The 60th annual Monterey Jazz Festival starts today, so we are alongside the many, many fans headed toward Monterey.  Much later than expected, we arrived at our dingy little hotel in dingy little Soledad.

That water tower says Soledad

The next day we set off through California’s “Salad Bowl of the Country” region.  We see fruits, vegetables, and nuts of every kind, growing in precise rows, stretching out to the horizons.  Eventually we turn East toward Highway 5, California’s “backbone” highway.  Along the way we  spot another big product California produces: oil.  Our stop for the night is a hotel in Lebec.  This is, apparently a popular stop for truckers on the way to LA. and our hotel has several acres of asphalt to park the big rigs on.

Rows and rows of vegetables
Where the veggies end, the oil wells start
Park your rig in Lebec, tomorrow is L.A.

The next day we climb to the top of the coastal mountains then plunge down into the human swarm that is Los Angeles.  We timed our journey to cross through LA on a Sunday, when traffic would be light.  After slogging along with 6 lanes of slow moving vehicles, we shudder to think of what it must be like during a weekday rush hour.

Passing over the coastal mountains
A very quick look at Los Angeles

At long last, we come to our destination, Oceanside.  This city is a contender for our new home town.  It is about the right size, even if it does sprawl a bit.  It has the Great Climate All Year thing going for it.  The town is full of interesting shops, restaurants, and breweries.  And right there, mighty Mother Pacific Ocean!

Toys at rest in the Oceanside Marina
Endless beaches and a very long pier
One of our favorite names for a brewery

Family calls.  We are on the way to attend the Navy retirement ceremony for Marylu’s brother Bill, in San Diego.  We will be back in Oceanside for a better look later.

Next up: San Diego

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Penngrove, California  8/25 – 9/15 (part 2)

To the South of Penngrove lies Petaluma, a city of about 60,000.  The freeway cuts it into two portions; the quiet bedroom community, and the compact historical downtown.  It is a town of great restaurants, nice city parks, and lots of community activities.  So far Petaluma is my favorite potential settling place.  I like the size, the amenities, the geography and climate.  The freeway is a nuisance, but at least it is built up high so city streets pass under it and, barring rush hours, offers a quick shot to Santa Rosa or San Francisco.

The Historic downtown in Petaluma features a Seed Bank
The Wednesday Farmers Market has produce, food, arts and crafts, and music. The Saturday market is larger.
The patio at Dempsey’s overlooks the boardwalk along the Petaluma River.
Good beer, a lively patio, and fun food with these guys.
Up until 2001, Petaluma was the home of World Championship Wrist Wrestling

Driving North from Penngrove, you find Cotati, Rohnert Park, and Santa Rosa.  Cotati is a sprawling bedroom community with a cute little downtown square and some nice restaurants and bars.  Rohnert Park blends into Cotati seamlessly, but features more big box stores and malls near its freeway centered downtown.  Rohnert Park is also home to Sonoma State University.

Stroll past the sidewalk cafes to get to the bandstand in the park in Cotati
Going to SSU for a major in Pinot

Santa Rosa is a city of about 175,000, with a mix of all kinds of neighborhoods, a somewhat gentrified downtown, and a good selection of breweries and wineries.  Downtown there is a big public square where we had great fun joining in a political rally.  We also found a huge enclosed mall downtown, just a block away from the Sonoma County History Museum.  A little further North is the Charles M. Schulz Museum, for all of us Peanuts fans.  And, of course, it is home to many fine breweries and wineries.  Highway 12 exits the city to wander Eastward through over a hundred wineries.

Fourth Street in Santa Rosa is nicely landscaped, gentrified, and populated with shops and restaurants
These guys are world class brewers with several gold medals awarded to their beers
The Sonoma County museum has trophy Seabiscuit won at Santa Anita
The typewriter that was used by Luther Burbank’s secretary
The WW1 flying ace saves the day.

We spent a lot of our time here searching for a new place to live.  It is one thing to pull up stakes and set off; it is another thing entirely to stop and set up a new home.  There are very few furnished rentals available long term, so we have to consider re-investing in furniture, plates, kitchenware, towels, cutlery, sheets, etc., etc.  All of that drives a stake into the ground that may or not have to be pulled up again later.

Maybe…

Next time: San Diego

Penngrove, California  8/25 – 9/15

Penngrove, California: Population = 2,522, elevation = 85 feet, Average January low temp = 39.2º, Average July high temp = 78.6º, Average precipitation = 26.65

From Eureka, we got onto Highway 101 again and continued our run down the West Coast.  The road passes through spectacular mountain passes and next to expansive ocean vistas.  It varies from freeway to two lanes to flagmen controlled, one lane construction sites.  It is a beautiful drive, but if you are in a hurry, take a different highway.

On the descent from the coastal mountains, we learned about micro-climate.  There is a layer of cold air that the ocean creates that chills the coast.  The first of the coastal mountains scrapes off some that layer so more hot air from the inland mixes in.  The higher mountains stop what is left of the cool air and the temperatures climb.  Penngrove lies in the Petaluma Gap, a break in the coastal mountains that allows the cold air in.  In a week of record-setting heat, our garden-level rental in Penngrove was cool and comfortable when nearby cities were scorching hot.

California microclimates
After escaping the heat at a movie, this is what we found on our dash thermometer.

Our stay in Penngrove is not the same routine that we have been going through for these (almost) two years.  We are starting to look for a place to settle.  We know what we like as far as city size, climate, geography, infrastructure, and so on.  Now we are going to visit cities that fit our criteria and see how good a fit they are.  Rural Penngrove is located in an area where several of the nearby cites look like good candidates.

A rural scene in Penngrove
A few of our neighbors
More neighbors. We love the roosters crowing and the occasional, hilarious BAAA from the sheep.

Sebastopol is a small city to the Northwest of Penngrove.  We did a quick tour of the town and found a nice shopping area, some parks, a couple of breweries, some great food, and some fun street art.  In a good news / bad news way Sebastopol is only 20 minutes from the ocean at Bodega Bay.  Good news because it is so close and bad news because the traffic going to the ocean often clogs the town to a near standstill.

The used car salesman
Happy campers
A fine ale for a warm day, cold and not too hoppy.
Playing on the wind in Bodega Bay

East of Penngrove is wine country.  This is the heart of Sonoma County and home to hundreds  of vineyards.  We picked a Saturday to drive out to the town of Sonoma.  Our route took us over the high hills that parallel the coast, past hundreds of acres of vineyards, along narrow twisty roads, and finally to Highway 12, the Wine Highway.  Saturday was probably not a great choice, as the Highway was solid traffic for miles.  The town itself was busy, but not jammed.  It seems a nice little town, with a big town square and lots of quaint, touristy shops.  There were even a couple of breweries amidst all that wine.

Vineyards along the Wine Highway
Wine shops are everywhere in Sonoma.
Historic old buildings line the streets around the town square in Sonoma.

There is too much to see and do around here for just one blog entry, so I will add another chapter later.  To be continued…