Last weekend we went to visit cousins in Santa Rosa while Matt and our son attended a martial arts tournament. It’s been a while since we left the city and it’s always interesting. All of our cousins shun life in the city, choosing instead to live in homes that range from exurban to aggressively rural. These particular cousins live way, way out in the country, which is a good fit for their interest in activities like developing their own orchard, building a deck larger than our entire living space (with integrated bocce court), keeping goats, and collecting rural-type things that I can’t identify and that must be explained to me. In turn, they stare in disbelief at the news that we no longer own a car. We like them very much.
However it is an unbelievable haul to get to their place. We rented a car, as they are nowhere near any kind of transit (when I asked for a transit route on Google maps the final step after four hours of proposed bus rides was: take a taxi for the last 20 miles) and riding a bike would be about a 12 hour trip each way in the unlikely event that the kids didn’t melt down, which they totally would.
We loved the quiet at their house, which sent us all packing to bed before 10pm. Our current place is great in many ways, but now that we are going to have to move anyway, we have been thinking a lot about what we want in a new place to live, and the main thing is quiet (although we are also looking for a neighborhood that does not have the word “mountain” or “heights” in its name). Our old apartment was in the back of its building and the only noise we ever heard was an occasional fog horn. Now we live right on a street with five bus lines running down it, and we are next to the hospital, and all day and all night we hear the howling of ambulances and the WOOSH of bus air brakes and everyone gunning their engines to get up the steep hill and cars whizzing back down. I don’t even want to talk about the neighbors with the gongs. Surely they have a special place in hell reserved for them already. Anyway, we loved the quiet up there.
We didn’t love the time we had to spend in the car. It seemed like a 40 minute drive to get from any place in Santa Rosa to any other place (cousins’ house to martial arts tournament, martial arts tournament to farmers market for our daughter who rapidly lost patience with the competition, martial arts tournament to lunch, etc.) There are a lot of bikes in Santa Rosa, which is beautiful, sunny, and incredibly flat. But the distances seemed daunting. The riders who commuted despite them impressed me. One stopped by the side of our rental car (which was emblazoned with the City CarShare logo), very excited, to ask where we’d picked it up. When I told her we had come from San Francisco she was crushed. “I was afraid of that,” she said. “I wish they’d come up here!”
I like Santa Rosa, but we are used to living in the city, and it seemed empty to me (although the novelty of being able to park everywhere we took a car was amusing). Even the farmers market seemed small, as well as more crafts-oriented than food-oriented, which surprised me given that it’s an agricultural area. There was also a new-to-us hostility to organic food there. All of the market vendors were happy to report that they did not use pesticides and discuss their farming methods, but the Ron Paul yard signs and “Live free or die!” ethos apparently meant that getting certified by the government as organic was not high on their to-do list.
When we came home we were all sore from sitting for so long. I got on the bike to pick up some cheese and crackers and hummus (in our own glass jars, more to come on this topic), just to get moving again. Our local cheese shop is definitely not the kind of place to try to visit by car, as even when I’m on the bike I have to dodge double-parked cars all the way. But there’s always bike parking right by the front door. It’s so cold in the city in February that my fingers always freeze, even under two pairs of gloves, but it’s still a pleasure to ride again, every time I go out.
We were happy to return to San Francisco, but we’ll be back to visit again. It was nice to get a good night’s sleep.
[Last but not least: Thank you, internet! We'd been asking JCCSF to install new bike racks for months, and were being blown off as recently as Tuesday. After Wednesday's post, I got an email that evening saying that they'll be installing 6 new custom bike racks that will hold 12 bikes. In addition, they're going to try letting parents have keycode access to a locked courtyard with an additional bike rack for preschool and after school drop-offs and pickups. We are thrilled! I know that some readers wrote to to JCCSF on our behalf and it is very much appreciated.]