The Excellent Adventure V.11 Return to Cali

#EAV11 - Return to California

Now in its 11th year, three of us - Tom Green, Doug Winnie and I - spent the Excellent Adventure (#EAV11 - look it up on Instagram and Twitter - it's a real thing, yo) once again in Sonoma County. This time there was a difference - our base of operations was Ranchero Del Bevo (Grande); the stunning mid-century escape that Doug and his husband recently purchased in Santa Rosa, California. I don't think I have the words to truly describe this beautiful home, but I'm pretty sure I've got some photos to do it justice.

Just some of the scenes I captured at our home base for this year's Excellent Adventure. Suffice to say, we weren't roughing it this time. Del Bevo acted as our home base for several excursions, from as nearby as Santa Rosa itself (and the Charles Schulz Museum), all the way to Mendocino.

While this was a more laid-back EAV than in the past, it was by no means short of adventures; we simply drove to most of them. I didn't realize at the time, but a theme for me for the trip was going to be around motion.

Charles M. Schulz Museum

In many ways, this was the highlight of the trip for me. Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang were a staple part of my childhood (and my adulthood). I often felt like Chuck when I was a kid, dreamed of having the talent and humour of Snoopy and insight and depth of Linus.

Me and Woodstock outside Snoopy's Home Ice
No words are needed...
An iconic Peanuts scene, created using thousands of Peanuts comic strips
The main exhibit on our visit was a look back at Snoopy, the World Famous Author.
Where the magic happened, a reincarnation of Charles Schulz's studio

Another feature exhibit was the history of Pigpen

Abbey Road with the Peanuts

The gift shop held many treasures, including Lucy as Mona Lisa

Stunning stained glass work, this porthole window was easily 4 feet across.
Walking up the ramp to the upper floor of the gift shop (which was sort of a "retail museum"), you could run your fingers over this extensive wall mural, made of carpet. Above is only a section of the entire mural, featuring Snoopy and his Beagle Scout troop.
Sonoma County Fair

Much to my and Doug's surprise, Tom had never attended a county fair before. As luck would have it, the Sonoma County Fair was in full swing and we headed over to it for an evening of people watching, pie-inspecting and photography.

Music, laughter, marquees and neon - and everything that could be fried and still called food - surrounded us at the fair.

I took this opportunity to make some images I had wanted to make for many years - long exposures of carnival rides. I further tempted fate by doing all of this handheld, no tripod.

Sights, sounds and smells of the fair
The Garden Building showcase incredibly detailed scenes of many events and holidays. Guess which one is my favorite...
Point Cabrillo Light Station, Mendocino and the Pacific Coast

Our next major excursion was a drive to Point Cabrillo and Mendocino in Doug's 2-door, open-cab, Jeep Wrangler. Short straw got the wind-tunnel ...errr....back seat. If there is one thing that always surprises me about California, it's the number of twisty, turny roads that it has. This drive was no exception. But the destinations were worth the "drunk-driver" feel to the trip.

Point Cabrillo Light Station

Point Cabrillo Light Station is part of an historic state park. The lighthouse is fully functioning and there are three lighthouse keeper cottages that can be rented if you wish to spend time at the park.

The walk up to the lighthouse and the coast
I took this opportunity to make use of my Hoya Variable Neutral Density filter to create long exposures of the ocean movement. My exposures often ranged anywhere from 6 seconds to 25 seconds.

Mendocino and the Pacific Coast

The town is a quaint, kitschy spot filled with restaurants and a variety of craft makers, many of the buildings are heritage buildings, so the facade of the town throws you back to an earlier time. And a short walk from the town's main street was the Mendocino Coast, fenceless bluffs with a steep drop, with panoramic views of the ocean.

More than once, I had to insist that Tom step back from the edge of a minimum 10-stoery drop to the water below.

Tom tempting fate - again.
The rugged coastline - and perilous drop - in Mendocino
Ranchero Del Bevo

Of course, we also spent a good deal of time at Doug's place - did I mention it is amazing? He and Mike are also owned by two gorgeous cats (I have cats, I know the deal). Rocket and Shadow were not too sure about the intruders to their castle at first, but eventually warmed up and graced us with their presence.

Almost every night we played a different board game, where much hilarity and degradation of Tom usually ensued. One of my personal mini-challenges was to get some good photos of the feline ambassadors for EAV11. Of course, we did have to eat, too, and we each "came to the table" with different offerings throughout the week.
Russian River Winery

What started as a simple wine-tasting and lunch, expanded into an entire afternoon of conversation, laughter, wine appreciation, lunch and photo session. Russian River reminds me a lot of the ambiance of Ontario wineries - lots of character to the location and no one is pushing you out the door.

Doug is happy - really...
Russian River has this amazing collection of old junkers, parked in different areas around the winery. They are great subject matter for photography - before and after a wine tasting!
Mount Diablo

On the second last day of EAV11, we met mutual friends Patti and Michael Clawson in Walnut Creek for lunch. We had a wonderful time catching up over lunch at Va de Vie bistro, and then after hugs and a group photo, we went our different ways. The EAV team had to conquer Mount Diablo!

I have never, in my life, driven up so many switchbacks; not to mention that none of them even had a guard rail! Not a good road for night driving. But once again, the view was worth it.

iPhone panoramic from lower level of the observation tower
Stellar views from the top of Mount Diablo, nearly 4,000 feet above sea level.
Final Day of the Excellent Adventure - Petrified Forest and Korbel California Champagne Cellars

Petrified Forest

There's something about roadside attractions, sometimes corny, sometimes cliche, other times impressive and surprising. Like a "box of chocolates", you often never know just what you'll get. The Petrified Forest in Calistoga was a bit of everything. I admit my first thought of visiting the forest was, "It'll be cool to see all those stone tress standing up," but in that regard, I was disappointed. Not surprising, really when you realize that most of this forest was made up of massive redwoods - there's just no way they'd still be standing as stone giants. And if they were, I doubt the State of California would be letting visitors in. Just think of the lawsuits if one were to fall...

At any rate, it was an interesting little jaunt through the forest of long-dead, often moss-covered giants lying on the ground with red-barked Manzanita trees and Poison Oak peppering the landscape. Often we found ourselves walking on what I thought was poorly poured concrete, only to learn that the same ash that covered and killed the trees also coated the forest floor in a light grey coating, hardening over time.

Korbel Champagne Cellars

Yes, you read correctly. Korbel is one of the very few wineries outside of France that can actually use the word "Champagne" in its products without getting sued by France, all due to a loophole. The Korbel brothers began making champagne back in the 1880's, before the international laws protecting the brand of sparkling wine created in the French region of Champagne came into being. An agreement was struck between France and Korbel that they could continue to use the name Champagne, but it had to be in conjunction with the word "California". Hence, Korbel California Champagne.

The saw blades and "fairy-ring" Redwood tree you see below are symbols of what the Korbel brothers encountered when they first bought this land and decided to build a business; the land had to be cleared of the towering redwood trees to make way for the vineyards. With no power tools at their disposal, all the trees were cut down by hand, sometimes taking up to two weeks to take down a single tree.

A final, bubbly excursion to cap off our Excellent Adventure
The Three Amigos

Friday evening we gathered for our traditional group photo. Although the group was smaller than usual this time, it was an unforgettable and awesome week to spend with longtime friends.

Departure Day

We were up bright and early on Saturday morning, psyching ourselves up for the 2 hour drive back to San Francisco Airport. Sonoma seemed a little sombre and misty-eyed to see us go; we as well were a little quieter than usual. The final day is always a tough one. But we know our friendship only grows stronger over time, whether that time is at a distance or in person.

If you've read through this entire Excellent Adventure story, thank you. I hope you chuckled from time to time and were able to see at least in part, through my photographs, how special this annual trip is to all of us.

But wait...there's more!

If you'd like to learn about our other Excellent Adventures (to Newfoundland, and Lake Superior Provincial Park) I've included links below.

Created By
Jim Babbage


Unless otherwise indicated, all photography created and copyrighted by Jim Babbage. No commercial use or derivative works allowed without express permission by the creator. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs  CC BY-NC-ND

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