I left Portland on a fairly overcast day and flew into Sacramento, California. I treated myself to a flight for this journey. I could have taken the bus for 14 hours but I chose the 1.5 hour flight instead because I'm coming to the end of my trip and I'm treating myself now.
When I arrived in Sacramento it was 100 degrees, which is the first time I've had hot heat since South Dakota so many weeks ago. But I picked up a car from the airport and drove out to Santa Rosa, where I would be staying, in the center of wine country. As I drove the two hours the temperature fell steadily to a more bearable 80 degrees. In the evening, just after sunset, as I walked out to a grocery store it was a really pleasant temperature. Because I was staying here a few days and had a mini kitchen in my hotel room I actually bought cereal and milk so that I could have breakfast every day - quite a rarity on my travels where breakfast has been occasional and random.
If you remember my previous blog from Alaska you'll remember that I talked to a girl on my flight in Seattle airport who worked in a winery and who invited me to come along and get some wine tasting. Well, on my first day in Santa Rosa I went down to Ledson Winery to meet Rosie. I walked up to her and said "Hi, how was Anchorage?". Her reaction was priceless, she was in total shock. True to her word she spent the next two hours providing me with free tastes of nearly everything she had. They were some very nice wines and, since it wasn't very busy at the bar she was working, I told her all about the adventures I'd had in Alaska and afterwards. She did ask me first, I didn't just start boring her with my stories.
In the evening Rosie and her boyfriend Loren took me to a bar where she used to work. I know I won't offend her in the slightest when I say this place was a real dive. It didn't scare me, but it's not a place I would choose on my own to go to. For a start there were no windows. As we were waiting at the bar to get served a very drunk woman started talking at us and was very insistent on telling us repeatedly that she'd had two sons that had died. It was quite uncomfortable and I resisted the urge to ask how and when it had happened. She told us we had to drink to them and kept raising her glass and telling us to "get f***ed up like rock stars!!". When we got served we took our drinks to the outside patio.
On my second day I took a drive out to Bodega Bay, which is the nearest good ocean destination. The temperature got colder all the way to the coast and it ended up being just 60 degrees when I got there. After a delicious, enormous lunch in a lovely seafood restaurant I got over to the actual coastline and did a little walking around. I saw a lot of wildlife on the short mile long trail - a snake (albeit small), three small groups of deer, a skunk (which I kept well away from!), a mouse and a whole bunch of birds.
On my third day I went to Jack London State Park, which was not too far south of the wineries. It was an okay place. The museum didn't really give me a good story-like history of the guy. I'd taken a slight interest in the guy after going to Alaska, since he set some of his books there, and also the subject of the book Into The Wild liked him a lot. There was some nice walking around the park though.
In the evening I met up with Rosie and Loren again. We tried to go bowling but it was league night. Then we tried to go to the movies but it was 8pm and everything had started around 7-7:30pm and wouldn't come around again until 9:30-10pm. So we went to a brewery bar in the centre of town which had some nice beer and food.
On my final day I was able to express my gratitude to Rosie for providing me with free wine at her winery. She had told me that day that she wanted to get out to other wineries in the same area and try their wines but she never had anyone to go with because of working weekends. So I offered to be her chauffeur and take her around. Since she works in the industry she got free tastings and long conversations at each place. However, the gesture backfired because I also got free tastings at these places. I had to be careful because I was driving so I only took sips of each wine and had to force myself to pour away the rest of the sample.
We started kind of early, clearly, because when we got to the first winery at 10:15am we were the only car in the lot and the only people in the large tasting room. After two places we took a break for lunch and some food to soak up the wine. We hit three places after that and in the final one there were 19 wines to try, including three ports and a sherry. By the end we were both sick of wine for a while but I had had a fantastic day.
I got a kind invite to Rosie and Loren's house for dinner, after which we made it to the movies after our previous failed attempt. Rosie and Loren were extremely kind to me to take me around and I'm especially grateful to Rosie for getting me all that free wine, the vast majority of which was very nice.
This was a really cool stop. I got time to relax, the wine was excellent, some of the countryside was really nice towards the coast and I had my new friends for company. Now that I've visited California my aim of visiting all of the fifty states in my trip is complete. It took me five months and six days to get to the last state and I have until the end of the sixth month to enjoy it. My next stop is Los Angeles to finally visit my cousins, and again I'm treating myself to a flight down there to avoid the eight hour bus ride.