McNear's Dining House Saloon (right), situated in an 1886 building, is a popular draw for customers in Petaluma. Next door is the Mystic Theater in a building built in 1911. —Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

On Oct. 7 my wife Sarah and I set out on a road trip through Northern California, Oregon, Washington and to the top of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. We stacked up more than 3,400 miles in 17 days. Averaging around 50 mpg in our 2021 Honda Insight hybrid, we visited seven relatives and eight friends and took in an astonishing range of beauty and wonder.

We headed north from Watsonville on Highway 1 and over the hill on 17 to north Highway 280 and made our first lunch stop at The Falafel Stop. We heard about the place on the KQED TV show, Check Please Bay Area, hosted by the lively Leslie Szabrako. While we weren’t dazzled by the meal, the influx of customers—which we guessed were streaming in live from the surrounding dot-com arena, added a zesty glimpse into the click, drag and scroll world without having to get the app.

Catching Highway 101 brought us in the backdoor of San Francisco on 19th Street which offered a refreshing but brief taste of Golden Gate Park, the Presidio and a glorious introduction to the north over the Golden Gate Bridge that was being swallowed by the clutches of a fog bank.

We sailed past Sausalito and wound through wine country and into Petaluma for our first night there at the Hampton Inn which is set in the restored 1892 Petaluma Silk Mill.

Giant tea kettles are part of the outdoor artwork in downtown Petaluma at the train station. —Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Once we dropped our bags, we wandered along the Petaluma River into the old town and were welcomed to the rustic waterfront by the sprite and catchy live music of Spike’s Awesome Hotcakes Band.

We strolled through the downtown area and were taken in by the old brick store fronts, the busy streets and settled for an outdoor dinner at McNeary’s Dining House and Saloon.

After breakfast at the hotel, on day two we drove north to visit Sonoma State Historic Park that features the former home of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (1807-1890), a widely known Californio who founded the city of Sonoma among other achievements. Next, we hit the History Museum in Petaluma and learned of the lumber, grain, fishing and oil industries of the past, all of which funneled their goods from the docks, some of which still remain, along the Petaluma River. For lunch we found the Bagel Mill which turned out an excellent meal.

In the afternoon we drove to Jack London State Park to pry into the American writer’s past. London was the highest paid author in the land around 1900. After dinner in Sonoma at El Dorado Kitchen where we savored their salmon and lamb chops, we caved in for the night back at the old silk factory.

In the next part of this travel story we head north to Fort Bragg, Klamath and into Oregon to Reedsport.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.



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