July 8, 2012 … in the wine country

Windscreen wipers were used just four times yesterday.

Not because there was any rain, but simply because my first instinct is to expect the turn indicators to be on the right hand side of the steering column. Here, it is not so. I hope to use them less today.

The first time I came to Santa Rosa was in 1992, Scarily, that’s twenty years ago. Then, as now, I felt it would be a good thing to visit the wine country. Not to buy or drink wine, but just because it is a stunningly beautiful part of America. Then, as now, it was a shining clear day on which temperatures soared to around 100 degrees F (around 38 deg  C). This time, at least, we had a modern car with functioning air conditioning. Back then, we had the office hack, an ancient Oldsmobile Cutlass wagon with broken air conditioning.

We took highway 12 to Sonoma, and then 121 to Napa. I was pleased at how familiar the route and the landscape was, and how beautiful it all still is. What did come as a surprise was the poor state of these admittedly minor roads as if no maintenance has occurred since my last visit. Though they are minor roads, the traffic was moderately heavy as if everyone had the urge to visit the wine country. And why should they not?

Sadly, the necessity to focus on the ever-changing speed limits and the proximity of other traffic meant photographs were possible in a limited set of circumstances.  One such was during a pause at a roadside stall to buy some sweet cherries. A very tuneful bird  was making a lot of noise at the very top of an adjacent tree. I got out the big lens and pointed it at him and immediately he flitted off the tree and performed a flittering loop and came back to the tree still singing. I subsequently identified him as a Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).Northern mockingbird

However, we eventually got to Napa where we had lunch under a tree in a grassy park by the river. I had a brief siesta to be refreshed before the return leg of the journey. Then we went for a walk around the town, and then discovered we had no keys to the car. Aaaaghh!

Back to the park. No keys. I began inquiries in the nearby restaurant, in case some Samaritan had handed them in. Fortunately, it occurred to Mary to check the rubbish bin we had used to dispose of our bags. Sure enough, we had thrown out the keys in a bag with the banana peel. Whew! There were two keys and the warning on the tag said replacement cost was $225 per key.

Onward through Yountville and St Helena to Calistoga, and then back over a winding road though some steep wooded hills to Santa Rosa.

After dinner, since we had done little walking we went up a fairly stiff local hill in Santa Rosa, and round some of the industrial back roads, . There I saw this run-down old building, probably from farm times, with a massive tree branch leaning heavily on its roof. The house seems to be saying “it’s OK, lean on me”. lean on me

More about trees tomorrow