California Dreaming in Sebastopol

 Come to Sebastopol if you want to experience what California looked like before it was taken over by chain stores like WalMart.  Main Street displays plenty of local color, in the form of locally-owned businesses such as Copperfield's Books, Milk & Honey, and Wine Emporium. You'll see young skaters conceding the sidewalks to retirees, then speeding away to parks and bikepaths. On Sundays there's a Farmer's Market in the town Plaza where you can mingle with the locals and buy some tasty fruits and vegetables. With only two motels within the city limits, many of the folks you'll see are day-tripping from nearby larger towns such as Santa Rosa or even San Francisco. Sebastopudlians seem enjoy their rather eccentric reputation, and are proud of their little corner of the California dream.

Sebastopol makes a good jumping-off place for various "theme" road trips. Twice a year there's the Art at the Source event, when local artists open their studios to the public. Getting to some of the studios involves an intriguing drive down the backroads of West Sonoma County. If it's food or wine you're after, you could pick up a Farm Trails or winery map at the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce. This will tell you where the U-pick fruits or cut-your-own Christmas tree farms are located. A scattering of wineries invites backroads explorers on their way to the Russian River wine area. Or you could also stop by the deli at Whole Foods or Pacific Market and get a gourmet picnic to take to the beach at Jenner or Bodega Bay. I never try to go any farther than this on Labor Day or Fourth of July weekend. Why should get onto crowded Highway 101 with all the tourists, when there's plenty to see and do right here?

 The West County Museum is a good source for local history. If you're a railroad fan, you'll enjoy the old photos of the trains that once served this town, and actually ran right down the center of Main Street. You can also find out about local plant genius Luther Burbank, who had his experimental garden on the edge of Sebastopol. The volunteers at the museum and at the garden will fill you in on plenty of local history.

This town seems to be overflowing with community spirit and a LOT of fundraisers. Almost any month of the year, you can find a pancake breakfast at a local grange hall or fire station, pasta feeds at schools, and several more unusual types of fundraising efforts, such as crab feeds or teriyaki dinners. The local weekly paper, the Sonoma West Times & News, lists upcoming events on its web site at