How to avoid traffic on the 101, beautifully
Posted in DIY / Good Ideas / Northern California Wine Country / Outdoors and on the Road / Places | No Comments |
Road trip afficianados know the basic rule: if the road has two numbers, chances are you’ll be moving quickly and rather impersonally across land, if there’s three numbers (and it’s not in a city) the pace is probably slower, and if there’s a name on the road you’ll get the closest look around. I have yet to master the complexities of the highway numbering system, but I know most interstates are made up of just two numbers, and routes that stay within statelines have three. Whatever the rhyme or reason, heading off the highway because of high traffic or just on a whim can make for a wonderful adventure.
The 101, the famous coastal highway that runs along the west, doesn’t follow the number rule – it goes up through Oregon and on to Washington from Los Angeles. California’s portion of the 101 is known for its perennial beauty, and thus it gets clogged with traffic on summery July weekends like this one… Add to that the fact that in Northern California the 101 is the main thoroughfare for getting in and out of San Francisco if you are heading due north or south of the city. LA is more well-known for its traffic, especially this weekend with “carmaggedon,” but this 101 situation can be just as parkinglot-esque.
If you find yourself in this common conundrum heading between Santa Rosa and San Francisco, I have a solution for you. Skip the numbers altogether and take a road that is itself an attraction. The roads just to the east of the 101 (if you’re facing south) are the stuff of dreams. Rolling hills are corduroyed with grapevines, fluffy clouds of sheep, and Jersey cows intersperced with farm stands selling fresh berries and barns stacked high with bales of alfalfa.
To name a few of the farms: Green String Farm (at Frates and Old Adobe Rds), Valley End Farm (on Petaluma Hill Rd. in Rohnert Park), and Adobe Pumpkin Farm (also on Old Adobe Rd., at East Washington St.), a full Farm Trails map and guide can be downloaded by clicking here.
You can’t take this in if you stay on the 101. Follow this map – the markers indicate where to continue ahead and where to turn. You can make your own alternate route next time you’re in traffic on another portion of highway; using maps and/or GPS it can be much more fun than staying on the main road. Our route home was as memorable as the day itself.
Sonoma and Napa are like the Bay Area’s backyard vacation place – where you can get away for a day and feel truly transported. Every travel writer will tell you to go to these popular tourist destinations in the off season – but there are smart ways to make high season vacations work, like this. It turns out we even saved time, according to our GPS. We would have arrived home a full 35-minutes later had we stayed on the 101. And we wouldn’t have witnessed Sonoma’s lavender crop in full bloom.
*If you’re biking this route be aware that there are several spots where the road is very narrow, and others where there is a full bike lane. For the best and safest routes ask the folks at Norcal Cycling or another reputable, locally-owned bike shop. They’ve got loads of good, free advice.