West Coast Spring 2018 – Petaluma

June 26

As we were meeting Joanna’s Uncle Matt and Aunt Shana in Napa at 10am, we got a move on early Tuesday morning, saying goodbye to Jessica and Kris as they went off to work, retrieving the car from the same garage we used before for $18, loading up, and hitting the road.

Oakland to Petaluma

Oakland to Petaluma

Usually if we are meeting them for breakfast we go to a well-known spot in Napa, Buttercream, but this time they suggested we go to a smaller, less crowded gem, the Jefferson Street Café.  While catching up with Shana and Matt we did justice to a large breakfast, a vegetable omelet for me and a pancake dish for Joanna, the details of which are lost in time.

With some time to kill for the rest of the day before heading to our lodging for the night, the Best Western Petaluma Inn, we took our time driving up Highway 128 to Calistoga, detouring into this quaint town, the home of mineral springs, to see if it had changed much since our last time there.

We spent a memorable New Year’s Eve here the year Jessica was born, setting out to camp with Gail and Don at Harbin Hot Springs, but finding the vibe there not receptive to having a three-month-old baby in residence (it was a new age meditative type of place) and with some bad weather forecast for the next couple of days, we opted to bail out and find a motel in Calistoga.

Having done so, Don and I raced back up to Harbin to dismantle and pack our tents and equipment and return to town for a nice evening, Jessica safely asleep in our room, us out at the nearby hot tub keeping track of her on the baby monitor.

We continued on towards Santa Rosa on Highway 12 which led us to Highway 101 and down to Petaluma, but on the way observed the remnants of the damage inflicted on this area by the horrific fires that raged there last year.  Blackened trees and shrubs, lone chimneys amid rubble, and yet, new construction next to the former dwellings left an indelible impression on the two of us.


We arrived in Petaluma and checked in, dropping off our bags and returning to the car to head out for some sightseeing.  Our first stop was the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, former working ranch of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo and his family.  One of California’s first governor’s he rose from his beginnings as a officer of the Republic of Mexico to become one of the most powerful and influential men in the early years of the state.

Second Story and Courtyard

Second Story and Courtyard

Restored and maintained to period authenticity, we read about the history of the adobe and Vallejo himself, a figure we were familiar with from our visit to Sonoma State Hstoric Park with Shana and Matt two years ago, where the six sites there ( Mission San Francisco Solano, the Sonoma Barracks (sometimes called the Presidio of Sonoma), the Blue Wing Inn, La Casa Grande, Lachryma Montis, and the Toscano Hotel) he oversaw contain a detailed accounting of his life and times.


We spent over and hour walking the first and second floors of the adobe, viewing the sleeping quarters of the family, servants and other living and work areas that were on display.

Married Servants Quarters

Married Servants Quarters

Finished with the adobe, we drove to downtown Petaluma, a lively and charming few blocks of shops, restaurants and bars.  Of particular interest to us were to two large buildings that had housed banks in the past.  One was vacant at the end of one of the blocks, the other down the street and also on the corner had been converted into a multi-story antiques and gifts shop.

Bank Ceiling

Bank Ceiling

We prowled all three floors of the place, including a basement as large as the first floor, then returned to the car and drove to the outskirts of town to hit the 101 North Brewery, being that our usual go-to for Petaluma, Lagunitas, was closed that day.  We sat at the bar and ordered a couple of pretty good beers, sharing the space with a couple of locals engaged in a board game with the bartender.

101 North Brewing

101 North Brewing

As they didn’t have food for sale we drove a short distance away to a highly rated joint, the Willowbrook Ale House for another round of beers and planning to eat.  Not a brewery, they had a diverse selection and was crowded for that time of day, obviously a popular place for locals, many of whom talked to us. We checked out the food menu and weren’t too excited about the options, and so after watching a little dog do his jump up on the bar stool trick, returned to the Best Western to picnic in the room with the cheese, apples, and Triscuit’s we had with us in the car.

That Dog at Willowbrook Ale House

That Dog at Willowbrook Ale House

We enjoyed a last night indoors as we’d be embarking on six straight nights of camping along the coast, sneaking in a couple of episodes of House Hunters on HGTV.  The drive the next day to Mendocino and Russian Gulch campground wouldn’t take too long, so we planned on a leisurely start, a good night’s sleep preparing us for new adventures.


Jefferson Street Café: https://www.yelp.com/biz/jefferson-street-cafe-napa

Best Western Petaluma Inn: https://www.bestwestern.com/en_US/book/hotels-in-petaluma/best-western-petaluma-inn/propertyCode.05085.html

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park: http://www.petalumaadobe.com/

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariano_Guadalupe_Vallejo



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