2014 Roadtrip: Novato, CA to Santa Rosa, CA

We arrived in the afternoon in Santa Rosa after a very short ride from Novato. We stopped at a road side stand for apricots and bought 2 lots they were so good. We like all of the delicious fresh produce in California.

Dimitri is in charge of our accommodations world-wide. Not only was he confronted with a near impossible task to find our one month accommodations in the bay area for June, but finding accommodations for the week of Memorial Day were unbelievably tough. We settled on Santa Rosa and the Santa Rosa Quality Inn and Suites (3000 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95407, tel. : (707) 521-2100, e-mail: rogerp65@yahoo.com) because of price--$137.05 (senior rate) per night--and the ease of getting back to SF for our 3rd reconnoiter trip. 

We do not agree with the negative comments on TripAdvisor that are given to the Santa Rosa Quality Inn and Suites, although we understand some of the criticisms. We have what we would call constructive comments for improvement. They are directed mostly to the owner, rather than the hotel manager or staff. Roger Patel, the hotel manager, was an excellent host. When we checked in, he made sure that we had a room we would like for our 5-night stay. He is professional and easy going. The room we chose was 105, a rectangle with the bed, drawers and a window seat at the end under the one window. The TV was on the chest in front of the bed. While it turned toward the sofa which was on the other side of the rectangular room, we could not sit on the sofa and watch TV. We sat on the sofa and watched TV on our laptop that sat on the coffee table instead—what a waste of a TV. On the wall across from the sofa was a table which was large enough for both of our computers—one at each end. Between the bed and the sofa was a long counter which had a sink, a microwave, coffee maker, a mini fridge and storage cabinets. Across from that was the closet. There was ample storage so we could unpack and put everything away. The light in the room was dim but the light in the bathroom was very good. The bathroom had a small vanity, tub with shower and toilet. The main room, though dingy, worked for us. The different daily rates worked out to be, on average, $137.05 per night (senior rate). Over the Memorial Day weekend we were happy to have a room big enough and comfortable enough for the 2 of us at that price. The Internet worked well enough but it was annoying to have to sign in and agree to something or another every time we opened our laptops (several times a day). The walls of the Quality Inn were paper thin and we heard voices in the rooms around us and footsteps over us. It was good that the people around us went to bed early enough and, for the most part, stayed in bed all night because the foot falls were really bad. The climate control system didn’t work well enough for us; during the day it was either too cold or too hot. At night we set the thermostat at 73 ° and our thermometer registered that it went down to 69° before it cycled off. The breakfast room was large and could usually accommodate all of the holiday weekend guests. The food offered was “the standard breakfast fare” that we’ve encountered during our 40-day road trip. The woman who kept everything filled up and orderly was quite nice and accommodating. When we arrived at the Quality Inn we needed to do our weekly laundry but Roger said there was no washing machine in the hotel we could use. He suggested that we walk across the street to a coin operated laundry. Audre did that but was put off by the large machines costing $5.50 since we only had a puny amount of laundry. We went to another laundromat where the wash cost $2.50 but the whole experience was totally inconvenient. It sure would have been nice if the Quality Inn had a washer/dryer for its guests. We think that the owner of the Quality Inn needs to make an investment in the hotel. The first thing that should be done is a thorough cleaning of each room—walls, rugs, furniture, ceilings, cabinets, inside the cabinets, inside the microwave, the shower curtain—everything--needs a good scrubbing and, with better lighting in the bedroom, the room might not be so dingy.

On our first night we went to Sazon Peruvian Cuisine (1129 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95407, tel. 707-523-4346, www.sazonsr.com). Michele was a very good server and Juan José a very good host. We had a delicious and authentic Peruvian meal. We started with Ahi Ceviche  Nikei ($14) described as ahi tuna, soy, ponzu, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, huancatay, sesame seeds, sesame oil, avocado and wonton chips. It was very tasty. With that we had one yuca frita ($7), very crisp and yummy. Our main was Arroz con mariscos ($16) described as Peruvian style paella, calamari, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels and salsa Criolla. It too had wonderfully complex tastes. We had one foamy and delicious pisco sour ($8) and one Terra Rosa Malbec ($7) with dinner. For dessert Dimitri loved the arroz con leche ($7) and Audre loved the Lucuma ice cream ($4). Both desserts were home made. We spent $73.95 plus tip and were happy and impressed. We highly recommend Sazon.

On the Friday before Memorial Day, we drove to San Francisco to find our one month accommodations for June. This was our third reconnoiter trip. We had about 5 appointments to see apartments and each one was outrageously expensive and awful. Fortunately our network in San Francisco came through with a wonderful house for us to rent in Oakland. We visited it and made a deal. When we drove back to Santa Rosa we could really be "on vacation" having solved our June housing problem.

On Saturday we did normal things like going to the Santa Rosa Tourist Office and the Farmer's Market. We had a very good lunch at the Thai House (525 4th St., 2nd Fl., Santa Rosa, CA 95401, tel. 707-526-3939). Then we drove to Healdsburg and walked up and down the streets. We determined that there was no wine tastings that would be free and we were not interested in that anyway. We drove up the Sonoma Valley and down Russian River Valley to the Alexander Valley. It was all pretty.

On Saturday night we went to Simply Vietnam (966 N Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95402, tel. 707-566-6910). It had been recommended but we were under-whelmed. We had a good meal (not a great one or even a very good one). We had one Goi Cuon Ga Nuong Xa Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken spring roll ($2.50) and it was good but it only had lettuce in it—it needed mint and basil to make it taste good. The peanut sauce was okay. Dimitri had the small Mi Hoac Hu Tieu Bien: Seafood Soup ($8.50) and it was very big. It had prawns, imitation krabmeat, fish balls and squid as well as the clear glass noodles (Dimitri's choice). Audre had ordered the Five Spice BBQ Chicken (leg quarter) with noodles ($10.25). What arrived was a huge bowl of noodles and vegetables topped with 2 barbecued leg quarters. It was overwhelming. The chicken was good but a little dry and it didn’t really taste of five spice. A little disappointing. We shared on Tropical Fruit Medley ($4.25) and that was very good. We really enjoyed that. We spent $28 plus tip.

On Sunday we brought our mountain bikes to Annadel State Park, consulted with the volunteer in the ranger office and did the easiest route we could find: Channel to Richardson to Canyon. We are very proud that we were able to do the 4 miles up to Lake Ilsanjo--about a 700' elevation gain amongst Douglas-fir, bay and redwood trees. The grade was about 6% on average but 16% in places (according to the helpful folks at the Santa Rosa Cycling Club). The 2 ½ hour and 9 mile ride will go down in history as one of our best and most enjoyable rides.
Audre biking on the single track in Annadel State Park
Dimitri decided that on Sunday night we should go to Ca'Bianca (835 2nd Street Santa Rosa, CA 95404 (Cross Street: E Street), tel. (707) 542-5800, http://cabianca.com/) based on two things: the way they spelled their name in Italian and how beautiful their white house was. We had a very good—not great—meal with good service by James and his colleagues. We were served ciabatta with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We ordered a bottle of the Maru Negroamaro ’11 (from Castello Monaci, near Lecce/Taranto, Italy) for $28. It was very good. For dinner we shared everything and started with the day’s soup; a carrot ginger soup made without cream ($7). It was very good and was big enough for the 2 of us. For our starter we had the impepata with clams and mussels in a tomato saffron sauce ($12) and that was also very good, although the clams were very tough. For our main we shared the day’s special of coniglio (rabbit) in a nice mushroom sauce, served with a polenta patty and sautéed vegetables ($24). The rabbit was a little dry but the dish was generally good. For dessert we shared the biscotti served with the moscato ($8). The biscotti were very good and Audre enjoyed the moscato. We spent $88.63 plus tip and were happy.

On Memorial Day we spent the day driving to Point Reyes Station to have oysters at Drakes Bay Oyster. When we got there at 12:44 p.m. 62° and windy and foggy. Along the way there were flowering trees, wildflowers, flowering magnolia trees and rolling hills that were green—not golden. It was a very long drive for Audre to eat oysters but in the blustery area of Point Reyes, eat oysters she did. The oysters at Drakes oyster farm were $2 each which put off Dimitri. We were sitting outside eating them and we were cold, which also put off Dimitri. After our Point Reyes National Seashore and Limantour Spit experience, we had lunch at Saltwater (12781 Sir Francis Drake Dr., Inverness, CA 94937, tel. 415-669-1244, www.saltwateroysterdepot.com). We had one brunch pizza ($17) with chorizo and egg that was good—including a very good crust. The service was only so-so. We spent $19.36 plus tip.

The Zagats rating was high for SEA Thai Bistro (2323 Sonoma Ave (@ Montgomery Village), Santa Rosa, CA 95405, Tel: (707)528-8333, http://seathaibistro.com/). We went there for our last dinner in Santa Rosa.The food was very good. The service by Anthony was not—too inattentive. And when we walked in, the woman at the front of the house was less than welcoming. Once seated, we started with Chicken Galangal Soup, described as coconut milk broth, clamshell mushroom, cherry tomato, shallot ($7) that was delicious, with complex tastes. We had one glass of Primativo Spann Vineyards red: 80% primitivo and 20% zinfandel ($8) which was also good. For dinner we had one Pan Roasted *Market Fish* which was mahi mahi, seasonal mixed vegetables with spicy green curry sauce ($22). The fish was beautifully cooked and the green curry sauce (which we asked to be mild) was very tasty. It probably needed more Thai basil but was otherwise very good. We ordered one jasmine rice ($1.50), and one Black Noodle (which were not black), pork, wide rice noodle, egg, Bok Choy, clamshell mushroom and carrot ($13). That dish was also very good. The food took a very long time to arrive but that was okay. The server just never seemed to arrive; that was not okay. The dessert menu was not at all interesting to us. So we spent $56.01 plus $7 tip.

On Tuesday, we left Santa Rosa for our Mendocino experience in, well, Mendocino.

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