Three For The Road: Until We Meet Again, Bay Area...

As is typical, our Bay Area travels covered a number of random delectable destinations around the region, and we'll be closing this extended series with three of those places, covering the worlds of craft beer, coffee and ice cream.

Barebottle Brewing Company - San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood is a little bit off the radar for most visitors to the area, but the area holds some fairly respectable culinary charms.  Barebottle Brewing Company's arrival to the area in June 2016 (courtesy of Michael Seitz and Lester Koga, whose success in homebrewing competitions encouraged them to go professional) added a craft beer element to the area.

Blue Heron Lands and Klezmer Bands: Cullinan Ranch Wetlands/Saul's Delicatessen

A panoramic view of the Cullinan Ranch Wetlands, an under-the-radar treasure of the Bay Area
Way back in the days when the native peoples roamed the lands of what would become the state of California, the Bay Area unsurprisingly housed acres and acres of natural wetlands. These spaces, vital ports for migratory birds of all types, remained relatively untouched until 40 years California achieved its statehood, when officials thought these "useless" wetlands would be better used to supplement the state's burgeoning agricultural industry.

Cullinan Ranch, a 1500-acre parcel of former tidal marsh, like many of its surrounding wetlands, was diked off for those purposes. Later, a proposed marina community development in the 1980s and threatened any chance of full restoration, but the proposal was ultimately defeated and led to the land's sale back to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for that very purpose.

Tomales Bay and Tasty Ways: Pt. Reyes National Seashore/M.H. Bread and Butter

One thing I will always love about California is the weather, in that it generally is much less an impediment to exploring Mother Nature's wonders than elsewhere.  With solidly fair weather in place throughout our California stay, we figured a couple of day trips to do some exploring were in order.

Tomales Bay in Point Reyes National Seashore, underneath which the San Andres
Fault runs (photo credit to Brewbooks under Wikimedia Commons license)
Geographically, the casual observer might think at first glance that the Point Reyes peninsula looks as if it were being cut in half by the Pacific Ocean. That notion is more correct than they might suspect, as the San Andreas Fault runs right along where Tomales Bay lies. Essentially, anything east of the bay is going south toward Los Angeles, while anything west is creeping north toward Alaska. What this unique clash of land masses creates is a bevy of interesting sights for the visitor.

Wine Country in Recovery: Through The Valley of the Moon

We admit, it was hard to keep our eyes on the roadway ahead of us as we made our way out of Santa Rosa down California's Highway 12, the scenic "Valley of the Moon" highway that cuts through some of the prettiest parts of Sonoma and Napa counties. The charred hillsides in the distance proved to be a consistent backdrop to be chaotic, erratic nature of the wildfires on either side of the road.

Relatively lengthy stretches of normal were interrupted by seared foliage and grasslands, or worse, a vineyard or a business blackened almost beyond recognition. Perhaps the most jarring to me of the sights I saw this day was the rubble that had been historic, century-old Stornetta Dairy complex where Napa Road and Highway 12 intersect.

Wine Country in Recovery: When You Can Beat 'Em, Cooperate 'Em to Death (Pt. 2)

Charlie Brown dons the hockey gear near Santa Rosa's
Redwood Empire Ice Arena. Creator of Charlie Brown, Charles Schulz,
grew up in Minnesota and became a huge hockey fan.
Before continuing with our travels with Santa Rosa, I did want to mention perhaps the number one attraction in Santa Rosa. The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center (which thankfully escape the wildfire's wrath) wasn't in the cards for a visit this time, as my spouse and I have visited here several times. However, if you're at all a fan of comics and especially a fan of the Peanuts gang, this museum is pretty much a must see if you're in the area.

Wine Country in Recovery: When You Can Beat 'Em, Cooperate 'Em to Death (Pt. 1)

Woodstock, along with numerous Peanuts-themed statues, watches over
the city of Santa Rosa, longtime home of famed cartoonist
Charles M. Schulz (who was the inspiration for the subject line quote)
Perhaps the most indelible images to those like me who intently watched the progress of the California wildfires in October came from the city of Santa Rosa.  Early on, the Tubbs Fire, which started 12 miles as the crow flies in the Napa Valley near Calistoga, rampaged southwestward over the coastal hills powered by powerful offshore winds, and in less than two days had reached and inundated both sides of the concrete barrier/transportation artery that is Highway 101 in northern Santa Rosa.

In many ways, the footage reminded me of what happened just over 25 years prior, when a small grass fire not properly extinguished was reignited by the Diablo Winds and blew up overnight, ravaging the hillside homes just above Oakland, California for two straight days. Watching scenes of ash fluttering down on Candlestick Park during a 49ers-Lions broadcast proved to be the final confirmation of how serious the situation had become.

Wine Country in Recovery: Hopping into Healdsburg

A view of Downtown Healdsburg, our second stop in our Sonoma County tour
Our next stop on our wine country tour took us to a town in which we enjoyed one our more memorable dinners ever at the rustic-chic barn house restaurant Barndiva.  This return visit to Healdsburg, which was named after native Buckeye and gold-seeker Harmon Heald, would be a little more casual but no less fun for us both.

Similar to Petaluma to its south, Healdsburg proved to be on the outskirts of the wildfires, though in this stylish Sonoma suburb of just under 12,000, residents had to keep an eye to their north (the mainly Mendocino-county based Pocket Fire) and to their east (the wide-ranging Tubbs Fire, which caused direct havoc to cities like Calistoga and Santa Rosa) just in case. While not directly affected by the flames, it was towns like Petaluma and Healdsburg which provided valuable assistance and temporary homes for firefighters and displaced area residents alike.

Wine Country In Recovery: Popping Into Petaluma

The historic McNear Building in downtown Petaluma, California
A mini-tour of the Bay Area has become a bit of a tradition during our holiday-time family visits  has become something of a tradition for us. Initially, we had been aiming for more southern portions of the region, an area we had not visited in earnest since late 2015. However, when the news of the tragic fires that struck the wine country areas of Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties ran through our news feeds in October, we figured we needed to lend the region a helping hand with our tourist dollars this holiday season and altered our plans.

We've always kept an eye out for this kind of assistance since my spouse and I have been traveling together as a couple: my travels to move to the Buckeye State included a trip into Joplin, Missouri, about a half-year after a devastating EF5 tornado tore through the town's center. And from all we've read, the biggest issue in this highly tourism-centric region of the country is simply letting know that the area is open for business.

Sounds good enough for us. Our little mini-journey to get that word out started in Sonoma County in Petaluma, a town of 60,000 known historically for its egg industry and long-time former home of the World's Wristwrestling Championships.

Uncharted Waters: Anchor Public Taps (San Francisco, CA)

San Francisco's iconic Anchor Brewing Company
In the increasingly muddled world of what defines a craft brewer, the August 2017 news related to San Francisco's Anchor Brewing threw more haze into the equation. Essentially, the purchase of this craft beer pioneer by Japan-based Sapporo Holdings technically made Anchor a craft brewer no more, at least according to the current Brewers Association definition.

For many craft beer aficionados, the news was disappointing to say the least and, as a long time resident of the Bay Area, it had a similar effect.  With that said, it wasn't surprising, knowing the company's numerous struggles to keep its foothold within its home port (something we learned on a tour of the main brewery roughly eight years ago, ironically just before longtime owner/brewer Fritz Maytag’s sale to an investor group was widely known) as well as get its brews out to a larger audience. In a weird way, it made the brewery's new Anchor Public Taps space, advertised on Anchor Brewing's website as a "new pilot brewery and bar" and "one-of-a-kind San Francisco experience" a must visit on our recent travels to California to see what was going on.