Petaluma, petrified forest, Calistoga hot springs

At a hot springs resort !

liz in bathing suit

My sister and I had a good leisurely trip up 101. Lunch in Petaluma – on our way to find a riverside cafe we were accosted suddenly by some really nice people with film equipment who asked if they could interview us about the women’s march. They’re organizing Petaluma’s first women’s march this coming January. I agreed (my sister did not) and they fussed with lighting and screens and sound for a bit, and then said something nice about how I marched with my kids and a disabled women’s contingent with huge banners at the Women’s March in 2017 in Oakland and it was not going to immediately fix anything politically but it is great for feeling solidarity, hope, and love which are all important for giving us strength to keep working to improve the current bad situation.

Somehow, I just thought it was hilarious that we were in a kind of deserted corner of Petaluma downtown and out I pop like a magical funny haired wheelchair gnome to do a reasonably competent off the cuff sound bite. But then I really needed to run off and find a bathroom and some food!

We noticed during lunch that across the river there was a strip mall with a Merle Norman makeup store. “Jesus! That still exists!?!” “Pretty much if you’re wearing that makeup you’re likely to be nearly dead.” I suddenly wondered who Merle Norman was. Wikipedia save me! But no. She’s not in there! The rest of the internets inform me how she started her business in the 1920s, blah blah blah. It was almost interesting… But not quite….Maybe if I read up a little more I could write Merle Norman’s wikipedia entry. But why?

Onward to a 3 story antique store in a giant old bank building complete with vault! It was amazing! I recommend it! I got a nifty chinese medicine chest sort of thing with tiny drawers. I’ve always wanted one! Need to translate the characters. One of the ladies in the bank vault elevator told me they have a ghost in the building. There was other gossip which I’ve forgotten already but I told another lady at the checkout (who told me a little of the history of my medicine cabinet) about a book I read where a girl goes to stay with her stern great aunt and there is a chest with dozens of tiny drawers each holding a different object, and when she opens the drawers and looks at the thing (like a pair of gloves or a locket) she is sucked back in time to different days and then realizes that the old timey girl she makes friends with is really her great aunt. I could be remembering the story wrong and I’ve never found this book again, but the point is it would be so cool to have a card catalog-ish cabinet and put things in the drawers…. Which I will soon do.

I read a little bit out of Roadside Geology of Northern California, about the Cotati Valley and the volcanic ash all over this area.

We stopped again at the Petrified Forest in the hills just west of Calistoga. The giant sequoia and redwood trees were blasted flat by a Mount-St-Helens-like explosion & covered with hundreds of feet of ash (I think several million years ago but am too lazy to look it up to check right now). We went on a loop trail up a steep hill. Model CI took it like a champion and I had a blast just being able to do that at all. We went backwards around the loop since I thought the end of the trail being paved looked easier for going uphill. Robert Louis Stevenson was here! I am his huge fan! Now I have to read his book The Silverado Squatters which is apparently set in this area and maybe mentions “Petrified Charlie” (?) There was a grotesque statue of Petrified Charlie and his burro. Also a lot of fire damage to the trees from last year’s wildfires but everything still very lovely, the buildings were saved (we learned later from the guy at the front desk) by the volunteer fire dept. coming heroically to fight the fire. The petrified trees were truly enormous, some of them half excavated from the hillside of cemented ash flow, with huge live oak trees growing through cracks in their petrified trunks. Satisfyingly, near the top of the hill as we went down, there was a sign (facing the other direction) that said “Suggested Wheelchair Turnaround. Thank you”. You can imagine how I got a huge kick out of this!

liz-turnaround-sign

The hot springs place is super nice, we had some free wine and cheese, unpacked, laid in the hammock out back of our room under some palm trees, then wandered around, had dinner at their restaurant, and went swimming. Perfectly clear night so we got to float around in the hot pool and look at the stars, just as I had hoped.

The people next to us in the restaurant seemed like they were dating. I wasn’t really noticing them much but when they got their food the lady in a fluffy white sweater was having halibut and she said with charming enthusiasm to her date, “Have you ever caught a halibut?” There was a sort of weird pause. “That’s a great question,” he said, in the tone of someone giving a talk who was asked something a bit unexpected and they need time to think of some sensible response. (I am not sure he really thought it was a great question. On the other hand, I enjoyed it.) “I can’t say I have.” “Well, they really put up a fight and then you just sort of spin them out [ed.: or some such fish talk – i’m a little hazy on the details]. Just like a flounder!” she said happily as if we all knew what it was like to catch a flounder even if we hadn’t been lucky enough to catch a halibut. “I’ll have to tell that to the boys,” said her hapless, square, not-knowing-things-about-flounders date. “Is it hot in here?” she later asked me. “Yeah it’s warm.” “I should just take my sweater off!” “Actually I already took mine off.” “Oooh! Well, I mean, I HAVE CLOTHES UNDER IT. THEY’RE CLOTHES! *charming laugh*” (she shimmied out of the fluffy angora sweater giving me a little eyebrow wiggle, which I returned.) I would totally fish with her.

My sister and I wrote lists of the things we did this year so that if we felt despairing and like we hadn’t done anything at some later point we’d be able to look at our retrospective of Things Done and feel comforted. They were good lists! I’ll write mine up soon!

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