Springtime in Sonoma, Part One

Welcome to Our New Digs!

We arrived at noon, met the homeowners and their cats, got the tour and within an hour the owners departed for their trip to New Zealand. We would be here for a month without a television but with a fabulous cook’s kitchen! So remarkable in fact there were instruction manuals for the special ovens. One was a steamer oven that even intimidated us into not using it at all. These appliances were lost on us but looked great and must do wonders for actual chefs. 

This house was quite close to the other homes we’ve stayed in, so the area was familiar to us. The yard was an oasis of sprouting bulbs, herbs, and some flowers, what joy. I spent a lot of time out there inspecting the plants and photographing them. There wasn’t much need to water anything as the spring rains took care of that!

Cat Number One

This warm and cozy house came with two cats – a male and a female. The homeowners had informed us that the female was friendly, loved affection and sleeping on people. As you can see in the photo below, she had no trouble adjusting to us.

Her housemate, however, had a lot of anxiety and spent most of his time outdoors. The owner informed us we’d have the best luck at petting him when he was outside. He wore a collar that emitted calming aroma for him, don’t know if it helped, but a good idea nonetheless.

This friendly girl was quite small and extremely friendly. She followed us around all day long when she wasn’t sleeping. Okay, she did take a few short journeys outside during the day. Although she sat with me and on top of me often, she didn’t sleep with us at night. Maybe it was because we weren’t in the master bedroom, who knows.

One might say she was a healthy eater. In fact, so much so that we had to watch that she didn’t devour all of her housemate’s food as well as her own. She was quite the classic house cat – always around, very attentive, friendly and affectionate. It was impossible not to love her!

Cat Number Two

This guy was quite the stunner, a gorgeous fellow indeed. He let us pet him a bit, but spent almost all of his time outside. We often saw him out in the yard or across the street, so it didn’t seem that he traveled far away. 

At the start of our stay, we didn’t have much contact with him. Not for lack of trying, but he was timid, and every noise startled him, and he’d run off and hide.

For the first few days, he came in at night for a late dinner or an early breakfast and sometimes allowed a few light strokes down his back, and off he went. He could be loud and insistent, even at 3 am, demanding to see the menu and ordering up something quick. After a few quick bites off he went back into the night. “Good to see you. Thanks for stopping in. See ya’ tomorrow?” 

As we’ve seen in other homes, the smaller female was the alpha here. The big guy didn’t seem afraid of her but was not the one in charge. She didn’t attack or hiss at him, but when she tried to eat his food, he moved away, and we’d have to intervene, or she would get all of it.

The Neighborhood

Technically, this house wasn’t in Sonoma, but an area called Boyes Hot Springs. It was rather a funky neighborhood. Streets wiggled around, some only wide enough for one car, intersections at strange angles, no sidewalks, every kind of house and structure with no common design element – looked like the unincorporated areas we see around cities.

A lot of the area had small apartments buildings, maybe only a few units, mostly one story, and lots of duplexes. A little further off the main road, you’d find single family homes: yards, driveways and all that.

The unique thing was the variety, which was far more than normal. Enormous and grand next to tiny and modest, large yards next to no yards. It’s true – some of these house plots made us wonder about the city planners. 

How could they possibly approve sticking a house in some of these lots? (Assuming they did – sometimes you had to wonder.) That seemed weird to us. But then that’s what gave the area its character and, in many parts, its charm. It was the opposite of the modern suburban development. 

We took quite a few walks in the area and got a sense of the neighborhood. When we turned left and went up the hill it got funky with woodsy looking houses perched on the hillside. That’s where the X-hippie crowd found their way to – or so it seemed to us.

Our New Address

As we previously described, we planned to move to South Dakota. No, not physically move there – just become residents. While at this house we decided to get the ball rolling on the official address change and set up our mail-forwarding service.

After gathering all the necessary forms, we sent them off to MyDakotaaddress.com. We are officially moving to South Dakota! A place we’ve never been and wouldn’t see for months.

We got to be regulars at the UPS Store during the process! They’d grab the notary book whenever they saw us walk in. It wasn’t a complicated process to set up the mail-forwarding service. What took a bunch of time and money was the Power of Attorney for the car registration process. It’s amazing how much travel you can avoid with a notary, a scanner, and email! Go UPS!

More Bay Area Houses

We had a flurry of activity regarding new house sits while here as I found a bunch of three-day house sitting opportunities in San Francisco. We set off one bright and sunny morning to meet one of the owners.

Many of our readers may know this, but as you get close to San Francisco from the north, there are tons of open areas and a bunch of cows.

It’s quite beautiful and on this day, sunny! We hoped that the city itself wouldn’t be shrouded in clouds as we hoped to sightsee a bit.

There it is – the Golden Gate Bridge. We’ve both seen it and driven across it, but it always instills a sense of awe as you traverse it.

What would a trip to San Francisco be without a couple of photos of these lovely old homes?

We’ll Let You in on a Secret –

We were terrified while driving up the hill you see in the photo below. If you consider the geometry involved here, you’ll see the angle of the road, and the front of that building is greater than 90 degrees. In fact, this is at the top of the hill where it seems almost level. Mid-block it’s even steeper. Is it possible that the streets of San Francisco alone moved the entire auto industry to automatic transmissions? 

Jim grew up in Kansas, known for its flatness. He said there’s not a single place in the entire state that goes up as high as the hill on this block of this street in this city. Have they not heard of switchbacks? Why were they so dedicated to putting the streets on a grid with so many hills around? It was terrifying!

Finding a Parking Spot

Have you ever tried to park in downtown San Francisco? In a particular area at a specific time? Say, downtown on a sunny Saturday morning? It was not easy, but after searching a while, we found an empty spot and pulled in even though we didn’t know how far we’d need to walk to find the homeowner. With a little help from the phone’s GPS and maps, we discovered our location and destination and walked and walked. 

At last, we found him, a young man and his sweet dog at an outdoor coffee shop. After a few minutes, we all agreed it was a match. We talked logistics while walking to his apartment building. There he showed us how to get in the building and his apartment and all about the dog. After that, we said our goodbyes, and off we went. 

After walking this way and that we found our car and searched for a way back to Sonoma that didn’t involve steep hills. Our two-dimensional maps were no help in that. We just turned away from every incline. Please believe us: that’s the long way out of San Francisco, but it worked. 

A Hike in Sonoma

First, I have to mention all the flowers. It was spring, and they were blooming everywhere and it was glorious! Okay, back to the story. A few days into our stay, we drove up to the Sonoma Overlook Trail hoping it was indeed an overlook of the area. It was a long walk for me, perfect weather, lots of people, a bit muddy, and beautiful.

The trail starts off here, right next to the town cemetery, then follows a stream up into the hills. It was one of those ‘over the hills and through the meadows’ kind of walks with pleasant views all the way up and down. 

It’s a wonder the city managed to claim and keep this prime spot for a park and trail. The land in that area is rather pricey: close to town, high up enough to provide fantastic views and right in the middle of a forest. Any developer worth their salt would pay a fortune for the land, turn around, and charge two fortunes for building homes there. Just like they did on nearly every other hillside in the area.

 And there, friends is the view of Sonoma from on top of the hill. Gorgeous.

Near a bench, at the top, we found this container. It’s not anything someone left there by mistake. So, we had to look. Inside there was a journal with an invitation to visitors to write something about themselves and any impressions of the park.

Now that was an interesting read. People from all around the world and the next street over had hiked up here and put pen to paper. We found wonderful little stories, poems, a few drawings, prayers, verses: a neat thing we’ve seen only in one other place: a cabin in Big Sur, a long time ago. And that one probably went up in flames with all the fires down that way lately.

If you turn the camera a little further to the left, you can see the San Francisco Bay, way off in the distance. Wait! It isn’t that kind of picture since we don’t have that kind of camera. We took a different part of the trail on the way down and saw all these stately oak trees.  

Finally, here’s a photo of the stream that kept all these trees and the hillside so green and healthy. Though a bit muddy in places, this is a great hike!

A Bit More About the Cats

Below you see my workstation, looking suspiciously like a chair at the dining room table. However, there were times when I found my seat occupied by a feline! She loved that spot! I put two chairs together and shared the area with her. It was sweet as she would sleep right up against me during the day.

And then there’s this fellow – almost always outside. As time went on, he was more and more secure with us and wanted human affection which we most willingly gave.

Our time at this house is not over just yet, and we have more to share – see you next time!

What’s NextHappy Feast Day!

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