I've always loved driving just for fun! I might abhor the routine and monotony of a commute — who doesn't? — or thankless slogs across dull landscapes, but impromptu joyrides in California have always been a privilege and a pleasure.
Don't tell my mom (who taught me how to drive stick when I was fifteen), but I used to skip class in high school and drive my little yellow 1971 VW Super Beetle, all alone. I'd cruise one or two towns down, past acres and acres of blooming gladiola fields (there since the 1950s, now long gone) and pay a little visit to some stables I knew there.
Breaking the rules, basking in the fresh air and sunshine streaming in through the sunroof, breathing in the smell of hay and flowers and saltwater all at once commingled an act of freedom and rebellion and independence. With time, the drive became the reward itself, calming and meditative almost, but still invigorating.
Of course, the sort of car you're in also helps. When I found myself back home for Easter and behind the wheel of a very pretty brand new Audi A4 2.0 TFSI (thanks to the new Audi On Demand app, only in SF), there wasn't much else to do but hit the road with sentimental gusto!
Destination #1:SUISUN VALLEY
Suisun Valley is California's second oldest AVA after Napa, and it just happens to be right next door to my mama's house.
It isn't fussy or sprawling, just a dozen or so wineries using up about 3,000 of the 15,000 acres spread out across a quiet valley, but it's charming in its own right, with rolling green hills nestled between two mountain ranges and Suisun Bay to the south, then meeting the Napa county line up to the north.
Suisun Valley is the kind of sleepy, pleasant place that feels a million miles away from the buzz of San Francisco, but isn't really. We stopped at a fantastic little tapas restaurant for brunch, sampling a local cheese board and watched as the cows came slowly trotting around the hill across the street, and wondered how what was clearly once an old gas station became a pottery artist co-op and posh home furnishings showroom. I've missed that special brand of hidden California quirkiness!
Destination #2: TEMESCAL ALLEY
After our meal, I dropped my mom off and unraveled still-damp hair from a topknot to let it air-dry on the backroads, Oakland-bound. It smelled like I just missed spring showers in the Contra Costa hills, so with the sky clear, windows down and sunroof open, it felt just like old times.
I was on my way to the Temescal Alleys to meet Lauren Wolf. I first fell in love with her jewelry when we lived in the Mission and I came across her work in a case at Paxton Gate. Her druzy stingray claw ring sunk its prongs into my heart and I just had to have one.
Somehow I never made it to Esqueleto before we moved, but thanks to drop-dead gorgeous Instagram accounts, the raw and glittering, bold but still ultra-feminine treasures she makes have never been far from my mind.
When I decided to give new life to an old diamond pendant, I reached out to Lauren Wolf's team to see if they'd be willing to take it on: I knew if there was anyone I could entrust with the task, it was definitely them, but I never expected that one month later I'd be sitting down in-person with an Oakland-based designer I so admired to go over the designs!
I have another 2-3 weeks to go before it'll be ready and the waiting is torture, but I'm so excited.
Destination #3: SUNDOWN WITH THE DEPARTED
Most folks wouldn't make it a priority to spend the last bits of daylight on Millionaires' Row among the dead, but most folks have never been to Mountain View Cemetery! A landscape architect named Olmsted designed it, as well as Central Park in New York City and Boston's Emerald Necklace. He also left his mark on both the Stanford and UC Berkeley campuses.
It's quite normal for visitors and locals alike to tour the grounds, which follow winding roads and peaceful paths through hills that provide sweeping, serene views of the San Francisco Bay.
For me, it's been a sanctuary since I first moved to the neighborhood, way back when the petite was just a baby.
It's hard to describe, but this cemetery has always been there when I've needed somewhere to really lean on. It's almost like having a place that feels more like a soulmate. Whenever I'm there, I feel like everything I love is in perfect view.
By the time I rolled through the toll plaza traffic was light and the sky looked like this, so I got off at the Embarcadero on the other side of the bridge, pulled over right by the Cupid's Span, and got to watch as dusk gave way to the Bay Lights twinkling over the water. More for next time!