Whirlwind Tour Through Northern CA

The Mechanic and I just returned from northern California, a whirlwind tour of my favorite childhood places. Ranging from Sacramento, to San Francisco, to Mendocino and Napa Valley, we covered a lot of territory in about ten days.

The first few days I was on my own in Sacramento at the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change conference. The keynote speaker was Dr. George Lakoff, whose book Don’t Think of an Elephant, I finished rereading on the plane. Panels on making behavior stick, social marketing, and even behavioral economics were all very inspiring. I attended last year, so I had a better idea of what to expect, but nevertheless, I came away energized (as it were) – as illustrated by me at the end of a conference workshop. IMG_7488

Before The Mechanic arrived after the conference was over, my mom and aunt and I went wedding dress shopping. Although we joked about having a “Say Yes to the Dress” argument, we had too much fun to even pretend to fight over something, and yes, I ended up getting a dress. But you’ll have to wait with The Mechanic until June 14 to see it!

I think this amazing sunset the day I bought my wedding dress was a mark of approval by the universe. (okay, probably not, but it's nice to think about!)

I think this amazing sunset the day I bought my wedding dress was a mark of approval by the universe. (okay, probably not, but it’s nice to think about!)

I dragged The Mechanic around Old Sacramento, where we had a tasty lunch at Rio City Cafe, toured the California State Railroad Museum, admired the new green lanes, and struck up conversations with the owners of Practical Cycle, a bike shop that specializes in electric bicycles and transportation bicycling. Their mission is “to make cycling more practical for everyday people,” people just like me, and I applaud them. More on them in a later blog post.

Practical Cycle, in Old Sacramento

Practical Cycle, in Old Sacramento

Then we spent Sunday night in San Francisco, where I was able to meet up with some friends, and geek out on the vintage streetcars, which I haven’t seen before. I haven’t spent any time in San Francisco in ages, so I was happily surprised at how bike-friendly the city has become. I’m sure any local will tell me it’s not perfect, but trust me, it’s an improvement!

We didn’t bike in SF but we rode the buses and streetcars everywhere. We were amazed at the fact that we never needed a bus schedule to figure out how long we needed to wait – they seemed to appear within 5-10 minutes! I really loved the streetcars, and the fact that they cost the same $2.00 as the buses did. We made use of our transfers, too. The Mechanic was super excited about the fact the electric buses are amazingly quiet.

After visiting Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, three friends, Golden Gate Park and the museums (although we didn’t go in any of them), Huckleberry Bikes, and watching the San Francisco Ballet “Nutcracker” projection in the mall dome, we drove up the coast to Mendocino, my most favorite place in the world, where we met up with my parents, aunt and cousin. We had a rental house just outside of Mendocino village for four nights, over Thanksgiving, allowing us time to really enjoy the area.

We vacationed here for a week every summer and the week of Thanksgiving for years, while I was in high school and college, and we used to consider ourselves locals of sorts. Local tourists? It’s been years since I was able to spend more than one night, and the weather gifted us with perfect warm temperatures and clear blue skies. I could go on and on about this area, but there just isn’t enough space! Pictures will have to do.

The Mechanic and my cousin and I drove back to Sacramento through Anderson Valley, where we did a wine tasting (and buying!) at Navarro Winery, plus a beer tasting at Anderson Valley Brewing Company (well, they did), and had a picnic lunch at Sattui Winery, the most crowded I have ever seen that place. Well, it was a perfect day, so who can blame the other tourists?!

My goodness we did a lot! I think the only reason why we weren’t exhausted at the end of this trip was because Mendocino was so relaxing. Wandering the Mendocino Headlands State Park, sitting watching the waves crash on the rocky shoreline, and just soaking up sunshine was almost all we did. It’s hard to relax and experience everything at the same time, but I think we did a pretty good job this trip! CAM00285



Napa Valley Velo


It wasn’t difficult to convince my parents to take a day trip through Napa Valley. My parents love the area as much as I do – I always say it’s their fault I love it! My mom’s uncle had owned vineyards and sold grapes to local wineries, so she was familiar with the area long before my parents met. Growing up visiting the area as a kid, I loved Napa before I could appreciate fine wine. So now that I’m an adult, well, I’m quite partial to California wines!

We started out in downtown Napa. I was amazed at how fancy everything has become! Saw my first bike shop there, as well as a cute bike rack with a grape leave design. Alas, I wasn’t able to get a picture of that.

New development in Napa, overlooking the river.

Folding e-bike!

We went back to our traditional place, The Marketplace 1870, formerly known as the Vintage 1870.

The original name, now fading away

How cool are these wine barrel bike racks?!

When I was little, we would get cute pastry frogs from the bakery at the Vintage. Now that’s gone, and Bouchon is where tourists flock.

Then we had lunch at our other traditional place, the Sattui Winery. This winery has the best deli and huge picnic areas under giant old trees. It was rainy so we picnicked in the basement – just us tourists and old wine casks.

I love the ivy covering the gift shop and deli at Sattui.

Yum! I could happily eat like this every day!

One of the lovely old trees at Sattui

All the wineries we visited sold bike jerseys but the Sattui one was my favorite. I didn’t get it – I want to earn it with a cycle tour of Napa!

After stopping at yet another tradition, the Oakville Grocery (yes, we have many traditions in my family!), we tried something new. New and quite grand!

The Castello di Amorosa looks like a medieval Italian castle, but was built almost twenty years ago by Dario Sattui – yes, of the aforementioned Sattui Winery family. His story about the history of the place is pretty incredible. Ah, to have money to do all those things!

Although I wasn’t excited about the wines we tasted, it was worth the $18 entry fee to visit the castle.

We didn’t stay much longer after our visit to the castle, and drove home in dreary rain. But I was inspired by all the signs of bicycle tourism in Napa Valley. I think I will need to do a bike-and-wine tour there in the next few years. I want to earn my Sattui jersey! And I really need more than a day to explore the area. There is so much wine there!