Thursday, May 28, 2009

Happy Cows Really DO Live in California

We took a road trip today starting out from Calistoga through the mountains to Occidental, making a large loop stopping at Bodega Bay, Dillon Beach and Petaluma before heading back to Calistoga. The drive is very scenic through rolling hills dotted with cattle (lucky cows) and sheep, and even a llama or two. There wasn’t much happening in Occidential, so after a short walk around we headed on to Bodega Bay.
We made a brief stop in Bodega, which is very bohemian with a good size artist community. We happened into an Artist Co-Op where the “artist of the day” was Annie, a 60ish, white-haired woman with braids who shared with us that the old school building across the street was used in Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Bodega Bay is incredibly beautiful. We parked at N. Harbor and followed a path to the bay through a bird habitat and marsh restoration project. Crossing over a bridge, we could hear sea lions even though we couldn’t yet see the ocean. Once we made it through the marsh to the beach we could no longer hear them and realized they were on a small rocky island off-shore. The beach has gray sand and even though is was fairly cold there were a few people in sweatshirts sitting in beach chairs with blankets over their legs and a cooler by their sides. There was even a family with two small children in swimsuits playing at the water’s edge. And a couple with their horses.

From here we headed south to Dillon Beach where the houses are not a grand as those in Bodega Bay, but the view is just as beautiful. We eat a late lunch at what seemed to be the only cafe at the beach and soaked in the view.

Petaluma is one of California’s oldest cities with a large downtown with beautiful old buildings. The egg industry started here due to high demand as a result of the gold rush, and Petaluma became known as “the world’s egg basket.” When we stopped in a garden shop Mr. Man asked if the chicken is the official bird of Petaluma. The woman running the shop informed us that they are trying to preserve this but with the passing of Proposition 2 it is hard. We must have had questioning looks on our faces because she proceeded to explain that chickens now have to be “free range,” and that her uncle has an egg business where the hens are in cages where the eggs drop onto a conveyor belt, but that people “want them to be able to spread their wings,” here she spread her arms out and rolled her eyes—at this point that Mr. Man very discretely (and gently) stepped on my foot— “and they only live... they only lay eggs for a few years,” as if the length of a chicken’s productive life is a measurement of the quality of life they should have—increased pressure from Mr. Man. She told us her uncle is loosing his business, and while I sympathize (okay, not really), I’ll be happy when all industries that profit from cruelty become extinct.

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