Cotati!

11/9/21

Today was wonderful. Wow. After a frankly challenging birthday yesterday (up at 5 am, lodging snafu, technical difficulties with data on my phone, heavy rainstorm—though luckily I was inside when it hit—and various other annoyances) I bounced back today with a beautiful place, wonderful host, delicious food, and even a rainbow!

After my hotel in Rohnert Park, just south of Santa Rosa (where I had arrived by bus yesterday from Fort Bragg) I tried to cycle to my new host’s place in Cotati, but I wanted to jog north first to hit up Amy’s Drive Thru, the vegetarian fast-food place I had hoped to visit, then thought I had missed, but then serendipitously passed on my way to the hotel last night. After last night’s vegan cheeseburger and chocolate bar, I thought I’d try the sweet potato fries and a cinnamon roll for breakfast.

Alas, however, I turned the wrong direction on the road outside the hotel, and found myself in “downtown” (which is tiny and cute and charming) Cotati instead! So I pivoted and had my breakfast at the Redwood Café, a local landmark. The tofu scramble was delicious and filling.

Then I made my way, in a light mist, to my new spot for the night, in a wonderful cohousing community. The place, which includes 30 dwellings, opened in the early 2000s, after several years of planning (including by my host) and it felt absolutely idyllic to tour. (If you’re curious, and find yourself in the area, tours are available, but must be set by appointment; click on the link to schedule.) There was a community kitchen/dining room/gathering space, of course, as well as a workshop, a dance space, indoor and outdoor kids’ play spaces, a library, guest quarters, a vegetable garden, electric-vehicle charging stations, and even a hot tub! (I indulged tonight, which felt so decadent.)

The place also had winding walkways filled with various fruit trees that are specifically planned to produce fruit at different times of the year, so that there is always something producing. (A concept like that has long been a secret dream of mine, which should come as no surprise to those of you who are aware of my love affair with fruit trees.) Many of the trees are private, for enjoyment by residents, but quite a few are planted outside the complex, along the street, with the fruits available to passersby. Today I was able to enjoy fresh figs, pineapple guava(!) and even madrone berries! I had been unaware that madrone trees (spelled and pronounced “madrona” in the Northwest, but apparently not in California) produced fruit—let alone edible fruit—until just the past week or so, when I tried a very small one at Kitty and Creek’s place in Willits. That one was small and not at peak ripeness (perhaps due to the elevation?) but this one today was large and soft and perfectly ripe, and tasted deliciously tropical-tasting!

After my tour of the community, I ventured out to explore the small town a bit, which included frog ponds, a commuter-train station, wooded pathways, and a shopping center with a cool locally owned grocery store, where I found a delicious house-made vegan chocolate cheesecake brownie.

Later, my host met up with some friends at the nearby bar, and I joined them for a sweet-tea cocktail and to hear their stories. One friend is a current resident of this community, and the other is a former resident. One had recently completed a motorcycle tour from Minnesota back to the Santa Rosa area, his own personal re-creation of the journey in the classic novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. (How cool!)

And in another amazing small-world coincidence, both of these people turned out to have personal ties to Leesburg, Virginia, the small town outside which I grew up, and where we used to do our grocery shopping and other errands.

This journey’s magic continues, indeed. Tomorrow, I head to another new-to-me place: Sebastopol!

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