Home » 2015 Seattle, San Francisco, and Sierra

Sebastopol and Side Trips through Sonoma and Napa County , CA

Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 6:00am by Lolo
0 miles and 0 hours from our last stop - 4 night stay


Peacock Alarm ClockPeacock Alarm ClockHerb and I spent the entire day on Friday cleaning, organizing, maintaining, shopping, etc., to get the motorhome ready for a month of travel - very boring to do, and most assuredly even more boring to read about, so I’ll say no more.

Andrew and Celeste arrived late that night to spend the weekend with us. Originally, we were supposed to run the Bay to Breakers Race in San Francisco on Sunday, but since both Celeste and I had recently sprained our ankles, we decided that running 8+ miles in a huge crowd probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do. So, we switched the plan to rock climbing at Mount Saint Helena instead . Getting out of the city for the weekend was probably a good idea -- things get really crowded and crazy on Bay to Breakers Weekend. Needless to say, Herb was relieved at the change in plans.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Andrew and Celeste are extremely enthusiastic and energetic, so a weekend with them is always tremendously fun, but rarely relaxing. Before going to sleep late Friday night, Andrew announced that we should rise by 7:30 so that we could get in a full day of climbing. They like to squeeze every precious minute out of their weekends.

Around 7:00 am the next morning, I was awakened by a very loud – it’s hard to describe – crowing noise, sort of like a rooster that had a bad night. It was coming from the cab of the motorhome, above which Andrew and Celeste were sleeping. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but it happened again, this time louder and more persistent.

Of course, Herb and I jumped to the same conclusion – it was Andrew doing a very bad imitation of a rooster in an attempt to wake us up. You have to know Andrew to understand why we immediately assumed he was the culprit, but usually he would have done something like this to annoy his brother – and Tommy wasn’t even here.

Somewhat annoyed, Herb whispered to me, “This is the last time we let them stay in the motorhome.”

When it happened the third time, we got really annoyed and said something.

Herb Climbing at Mount Saint HelenaHerb Climbing at Mount Saint HelenaAndrew, somewhat dazed and sleepy-faced, was confused as to why everyone was looking angrily at him. Then it happened again, and he wasn’t even moving his lips. Either he had to be a very good ventriloquist or he wasn’t the perpetrator.

Then we noticed that a fairly good-sized crowd had gathered outside our motorhome, several of whom were pointing their cameras up at our roof. We opened the vent above the cab bed and saw feet, and not just any feet, but big, ugly three-toed feet. They were close enough to reach out and grab. Attached to these feet was a large, and quite vocal, peacock. In fact, he also was accompanied by a friend. This is what happens when you stay at a campground with a petting zoo. Sometimes the inmates get out and wander the grounds.

We all felt badly for having so quickly assumed that Andrew was behind the annoying wake up call, but it was an easy mistake to make, especially if you know him.

Well now that we are all up, we got our climbing gear together, made lunch, and headed out to Mount Saint Helena – not to be confused with the more famous Mount Saint Helens in Washington state – about an hour north near the town of Calistoga in Napa County.

Although Sonoma and Napa Valleys are near each other as the crow flies, they are separated by the Mayacamas Mountains, so any drive between them requires navigating some pretty steep and windy roads, especially once you get on Route 29 past Calistoga. These are the types of roads we dread and avoid at all costs in the motorhome, but are doable, and even fun, in a car.

After about 7 miles of driving on a road that looked like an intestine on the map, we got to a small parking area on the left, where we squeezed into the very last parking spot. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so it wasn’t a surprise that so many people were already out recreating.

Mount Saint Helena is very popular, both as a hiking and a rock climbing destination. There is a 5-mile (one-way), somewhat grueling hike to the summit that has tremendous views of Napa Valley and the Russian River Valley. I would definitely like to do that hike someday, but since the reason we were climbing rather than running the Bay to Breakers was Celeste’s and my sprained ankles, we were just going to hike as far as the sport climbing areas, maybe about a mile and a half or so in.

Andrew Climbing at Mount Saint HelenaAndrew Climbing at Mount Saint HelenaAs I have learned during my brief rock climbing career, not all rock is the same, and its texture and features very much depend on how it was formed. Mount Saint Helena, like much of the rock in the Pacific Northwest, is volcanic, and as a result is rather rough on the hands and scattered with huecos, which are pockets formed by volcanic bubbles.

After trying, and failing, to find an open climb on a very crowded wall known as The Bear, we walked a short distance back down the fire road to The Bubble, which had about 10 climbs, ranging from 5.7 to 5.11c, many of which were sport climbs.

Everyone was happy. They had found a wall with some very interesting and challenging climbs, and I had found a comfy, flat spot to spectate from that had a fabulous view of Napa Valley.

I love watching and photographing them climbing and would be perfectly content just doing that, but not wanting to leave me out, they always find some 5.7 or 5.8 climb that will challenge, but not totally intimidate me. Although I hesitate at first, afterwards I am always glad they did.

After several hours of climbing, we hiked back down to the car, and drove the windy roads back to Sonoma County in search of cold beer and dinner. We decided on HopMonk Tavern, a really fun restaurant and beer garden in Celeste’s home town of Sebastopol, known for its tasty in-house craft beers, good pub fare, and live entertainment venue.

It was quite crowded, so we got a beer at the bar and sat in the outdoor patio area on some comfy couches by a fountain. It wasn’t very long – or at least it didn’t feel that way – before we were seated at an outdoor table overlooking a dance floor and stage where they were getting setup and rehearsing for that night’s entertainment, the Tribal Fest 2015 “After Party”.

I had never heard of a tribal fest before, but it wasn’t long before I realized it involved a lot of drum beating, hula hooping, belly dancing, and waving around of colorfully lit-sticks – something we don’t normally encounter when dining out in New Jersey. Celeste definitely grew up in a much cooler town than Andrew. We were definitely going to go through a major culture adjustment when we moved out here. I teased Herb that he was going to need to get a clip-on ponytail to fit in.

Celeste Climbing Bubble BoyCeleste Climbing Bubble BoyDinner was great and it was fun watching the pre-performance rehearsal, especially for Herb, who can never resist a girl with a hula hoop.

The next day was Sunday, and Sunday in Sebastopol means Farmers Market in the Plaza, where practically the whole town congregates to enjoy delicious fresh regional food, live music, and dancing. It would have been the perfect place for Herb to sport a clip-on ponytail.

Celeste’s parents seemed to know everyone and introduced us to some of their friends. Everyone seemed so friendly, down to earth, and just plain happy to be out enjoying a beautiful Sunday morning (as most summer mornings are in Sebastopol). I think it is going to be very easy to make new friends when we move out here.

Andrew and Celeste always shop at Farmers Markets for their produce for the week. Andrew really has come a long way since he moved from New Jersey. He was quite the aficionado of locally grown organic food.

Probably the thing that worries me most about fitting into a Northern California lifestyle is my rather limited knowledge of types of produce and what to do with them after purchase. I know the basic broccoli, asparagus, carrots, and such, but I couldn’t identify an endive or a bok choy in a lineup. Well, if Andrew learned, I guess I could too.

It was Andrew’s birthday weekend, so after the Farmers Market we went to the REI in Santa Rosa for him to pick out some presents. I love REI, and apparently so did Celeste and her mom, because not only did Andrew load up his cart, but we all loaded our own up as well.

As intimidated as I might be at a Farmers Market, I am perfectly at home surrounded by the outdoor gear and clothing in an REI. In this way, I am much more a Northern Californian than a New Jerseyian. All my friends back home shop at Nordstom’s or Lord and Taylor’s for their clothing, but give me an REI or a Campmor any day.

On the way back from REI, we stopped at a small store in Cotati called Pasta King. Celeste was hosting a birthday party for Andrew in their apartment the following Tuesday and wanted to pick up a platter of Lasagna to feed their guests.

Watching Mount Saint Helena ClimbersWatching Mount Saint Helena ClimbersWe entered a small building where there was a large freezer filled with aluminum tins on various pasta items. There was no proprietor in sight – just a note to leave payment on the desk. Wow! This would never happen in New Jersey. And, of course, the food items were all made by hand with fresh local ingredients, and had never been touched by a chemical preservative. That is why they are all immediately frozen.

Celeste selected two Lasagna platters for their party, and I did the same – one Meat and one Pesto. I couldn’t believe how reasonably priced they were: $18 for a 7 lb. tray of Meat Lasagna and $18 for a 5 lb tray of Pesto Lasagna.

I would never have to cook in the RV again. I’m pretty sure this will be my first stop on future trips to the West Coast.

That evening for Andrew’s birthday dinner we drove up to Geyserville to one of our favorite Sonoma restaurants – Diavola Pizzeria and Salumeria, where there is an amazing selection of wood-fired pizzas.

We had been here enough to know that four pizzas and a mix of appetizers was the way to go. Oh, and of course one of their craft beers to wash it down. I may not know much about preparing great food, but I sure do know how to enjoy it when presented to me.

We were so contentedly full, that I thought there was no way any of us would be able to even think about food for the rest of the night. However, the drive back to Sebastopol was close to an hour, and apparently long enough for Andrew and Celeste to make room in that special compartment of the stomach that holds ice cream to suggest a stop at Screamin Mimi’s, the ice cream shop in Sebastopol that Celeste had worked at all through high school. I don’t need to tell you that the ingredients were all natural and fresh, and locally sourced – oh, and of course, delicious.



Sebastopol is a charming town in Sonoma County, 52 miles north of San Francisco and about a 20-minute drive to the coast. Sebastopol is known for its apples and hosts an annual Apple Blossom Festival in April and the Gravenstein Apple Fair in August. Today, however, the apple orchards are becoming vineyards as wine-making moves more and more into the region.

Every Sunday, from April to mid-December, there is a Farmers market in the downtown plaza, where people congregate to enjoy delicious fresh regional food, live music, and dancing.

Sebastopol is home to the artist, Patrick Amiot, known for his whimsical, cartoon-like, junk-art sculptures. There are over 200 of his wacky, found-object works scattered throughout Sebastopol, especially on Florence Street.

Side Trip from Sebastopol

Mount Saint Helena

Mount Saint Helena is a peak in the Mayacamas Mountains with flanks in Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties of California. Mount Saint Helena is very popular, both as a hiking and a rock climbing destination. There is a 5-mile (one-way), somewhat grueling hike to the summit that has tremendous views of Napa Valley and the Russian River Valley.

Sebastopol and Side Trips through Sonoma and Napa County location map in "high definition"

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