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Everything good is in California

Alex’s breakfast treat: choc chip pancakes!

We loved Santa Rosa so much that we ended up staying a week! Alex demolished some chocolate chip pancakes at a diner (regretted it a few weeks later when all her clothes were a little tighter than before).


Vineyards were visited in Sonoma county where we thought it rude not to try some Pinot Noir. We also tried some locally brewed ciders and some local cheeses. Continuing on the food theme, we rode down to Bodega bay with our friends, Mel and Cole, to meet up with another GS rider (we’re everywhere!) this short trip also included chowder and fresh crab so a win on all fronts.


Our friends in Santa Rosa


A fruity Pinot Noir

As we carefully rode through the tight winding road to Bodega Bay we were overtaken by two sports bikes doing at least 80mph. The corners were quite tight and had been gritted for the forecasted ice so we thought they were pretty brave. Moments later, after a particularly nasty bend, we found one of the bikers enmeshed in the barbed wire of a farm, bike stripped of fairings, mirrors and lights. We stopped to help the guys out, satisfied that no bones were broken we continued on to collect our new biker buddy and get some chowder!

Nasty crash

The road to Bodega bay was perfect for riding, despite a tugging wind which switched and changed between the hills we wound through. We came upon a little seaside town brimming with crab and chowder and homey little restaurants.


A little chilled by the wind, we decided to stop for a bowl of chowder which was definitely a good decision. It was served hot with little oyster crackers. Simon particularly enjoyed the bbq oysters which accompanied.


Chowder and sourdough

Santa Rosa is very close to San Francisco so we decided to visit for a few days. In fact, Helen, Alex’s Godmother, treated us to a visit. We were to meet in San Francisco and continue the journey together.

Whilst in San Francisco, waiting for Helen’s arrival, we were taken aback by the number of homeless people in parts of the city. In fact, Alex was waiting outside the motel when a man ran screaming past running a 12 inch blade along the brickwork as he sped past, shouting at an unknown suspect. Alex opted to wait indoors at that point…

Our friendly cable car

We rode a cable car across the city and admired the world’s crookedest street (Lombard Street), Alex thanked her lucky stars that she didn’t have to ride down in all the traffic.  The banter from the cable car operator was great as he heckled people on the street and hanging off the car.

It dropped us off at the pier and we wandered around admiring the area, resisting the urge to take the ferry just to see where it went!

Hyde Street Pier

Fisherman’s wharf


















Simon and Golden Gate Bridge

We left San Francisco across the Golden Gate bridge with Helen in convoy with a hire car (we’d contemplated a pillion ride arrangement but decided the weather was probably a little too cold for such shenanigans). The next adventure would be the sequoias, Yosemite and the rest of Highway 101 north.  When in California and on a road trip, the only car worth hiring is clearly a red Mustang. Helen looked particularly cool at the wheel of her 2015 Mustang! Driving towards Yosemite, the weather was suddenly much colder albeit dry and gloriously sunny.

The Mustang’s coffee break

Gorgeous cafe


















We set off towards Yosemite park and stopped in the must-see Big Tree park where one could admire the sequoias and redwoods. We drove up the winding road towards Bear Valley, called the alpine highway and saw only normal pine trees. Doubting that the big trees were really all that big, we turned into the park. As soon as we parked and pulled up we noticed something different about the forest. It was a lot less leafy at human height and as we hiked deeper along the trail suddenly these giants emerged. We could hardly contain a gasp as the first tree one sees on the trail is actually just a stump but the stump itself showed a bigger floorplan than most London flats.  Walking further along the trail we saw more and more majestic trees soaring above us. The heartwood of these pines has a higher level of tannin than other trees so the felled trees take ages to rot. For example, we came across one felled giant which still looked pretty much freshly fallen but it was 150 years dead.

Sequoias : a.k.a. Big Trees

These trees can grow up to 300ft tall and are up to 3000 years old! Many of the ones we saw were about 1000 years old. The bark is surprisingly soft and spongy but its essential for the trees survival as it protects it from fire (of which the whole area is prone). The air was clear and thick with oxygen, it was an energising experience and almost reverential, standing amongst these ancient trees which had been there longer than the first pilgrims.

A very big tree – those bugs you see are Alex and Simon

Helen and her Mustang

King of the Bears at the Bear Ski Lodge

Satisfied with our experience of the trees, we carried on to Bear Valley where we hoped to grab a coffee as the snow had become quite thick by then. In fact, the Mustang made it through a few hairy turns where the snow-plough had not quite made it yet. It proved impossible to get a coffee as the lodge was being renovated… However, to our delight, the bear theme prominent in California was further emphasised in Bear Valley where we found more souvenirs and even furniture inspired by the furry beasts. We even spent the night in a little wood cabin called Bear’s Lair which pushed the Bear theme to another level entirely. Who knew one could get bear door handles??

Yosemite Valley involved a beautiful drive through walls of pine forest and snow. We drove down to the valley to check out El Capitan and the Half dome and try to get a coffee (impossible here too as the season was out). However, there was a good permanent collection of Ansel Adams photography to admire in one of the lodges and many more bear themed souvenirs! The view was breathtaking from the top and even more awesome from the valley itself where we felt pretty small next to the massive granite wall of El Capitan.

Yosemite Valley approach

View of half dome

Simon’s newest pal


Simon was followed most of the time by a crow who was determined to be photographed.  If he was hoping for a crumb he came to the wrong place, the cafe being closed for the season and all… We walked around and attempted a few of the shorter hikes but light was fading fast as sunset is early in these parts and we were pretty sure the roads would ice after dark which would have made the Mustang pretty, but deadly! We headed off towards Napa Valley in order to compare the Napa vineyards to the Sonoma ones.

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