Going to California: Real Goods Solar in Hopland, CA

Welcome to Real Goods
Welcome to Real Goods
As I mentioned in my previous post, along the way to Red Bluff and Woodflock, we made a stop at Real Goods in Hopland, CA.  The place was so unique and fun that it deserved its own special blog post.

The Real Goods Store got its start in 1978 with a focus on solar equipment. According to their website, the store was originally envisioned as a one-stop-shop where people could find everything they needed for their remote homesteads. The store began with the sale of the first retail solar panel in the United States and the humble goal of changing the world.

Setting up solar water heater on Hopi Reservation in 1990
Setting up solar water heater on Hopi Reservation in 1990
This is of particular interest to me as I worked in the Solar Water Heater industry in Japan from 1989 to 1991 for Asahi Solar Corporation.  During that 2 1/2 year stint I represented the company on visits to China and the United States, in conferences and exhibits and more.

Sumoflam with the Colorado State Stellar V, which took 9th place out of 32 cars
Sumoflam with the Colorado State Stellar V, which took 9th place out of 32 cars
We also sponsored two college solar cars in the original GM Sunrayce in 1990 (Colorado State’s Stelar V and Arizona State’s Sun Devil Cruiser) and  brought the cars and their teams to Japan to compete in the Asahi (TV/News) Solar Car Race in Kobe, Japan.  Further, during my work I assisted in the installation of the first solar water heater on the Hopi Indian Reservation.  Working with the company, I was also instrumental in the company adding solar electric panels to their new headquarters building in Oita, Japan in 1991.

real-goods-solar-living-sourcebook-1With my involvement in solar, I also purchased a copy of the Solar Living Source Book back in 1990, while attending the Solar Energy Conference in Denver, CO.   Real Goods founder John Schaeffer published his first edition of The Solar Living Source Book in 1982. It was written as a one-stop information source for renewable energy and sustainable living. The Source Book is a comprehensive reference for the layperson on renewable energy technologies and sustainable living. It is now in its 14th Edition and has sold over 700,000 copies.

Sumoflam with Solar Expert and Real Goods founder John Schaeffer
Sumoflam with Solar Expert and Real Goods founder John Schaeffer
Little did I know that when I visited Real Goods on this trip that I would also have the opportunity to meet and speak with John Schaeffer, the founder of Real Goods and also the author of this Solar Living Source Book.  In fact, I now have the latest edition which was kindly signed by Mr. Schaeffer and he was also kind enough to get a picture with me.

Needing to Pee? Evidence of things to come!
Needing to Pee? Evidence of things to come!
Initially, I was not aware that we would be making a stop at Real Goods (nor did I even know of its existence!).  But Carla surprised me.  Knowing my penchant for quirky and unique places, she thought this would be a good place.  As we pulled into Hopland, immediately I could tell that a unique place was coming up.  First thing I saw on the side of the road was a “Needing to Pee?” sign. HA!  I had never seen one of those before.  Other signs included:

“Real Goods Solar Living Center”

“Everything Under the Sun”

“Weird Restrooms”

“Soothing ponds and Oasis”

“Greenest Store on Earth”

Soon we were turning into the Real Goods entrance, which is also home to the Solar Living Institute. I got pretty excited about the “solar” part though didn’t have much time to look at that AND the store.

MetalSculpture
Sumoflam with “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris
First thing that caught my eye as we pulled into the parking lot was a giant metal sculpture which looked like a dragon with a square Victrola speaker head.  Turns out that this sculpture is called “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris.  I am always enthralled by scrap metal sculptures such as this (and sometimes these are plain metal sculptures…not made from scrap metal).  this one was a doozy!

The sign talking about "Weird Restrooms"
The sign talking about “Weird Restrooms”
From there I went to the store.  They were supposed to have “Weird Restrooms,” which would be a “must see” quirky adventure for me.

I needed to use the restroom anyway…the red sign provoked me, I promise!

DSC_2463
Explanation of Weird Restrooms

The "weird part" is the recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall.  Other recycled items can be found within as well.
The “weird part” is the recycled toilet tank lids that cover the wall. Other recycled items can be found within as well.
I also caught an interesting sign in the restroom, though there were no examples of this to be seen in the restroom.

The Toilet Sink sign...there were none here...
The Toilet Sink sign…there were none here…

Caroma2
…but we have one!! Our Caroma Profile Smart toilet
I got a kick out of “The Toilet Sink” sign.  Many probably don’t get it, but I can assure that Julianne and I do get it.  We actually HAVE ONE!!  When we remodeled our home a couple of years ago, we were going to have a small half bath. We thought back to our days in Japan and VOILA! We found one here in the use made by Caroma called a Profile Smart toilet. A bit pricey but perfect for our needs.
caroma1
The Caroma Profile Smart has a dual flush system too in order to conserve water. We may have the only one like it in Lexington, KY
Just around the corner from the “Weird Restroom” is an even stranger contraption, a funky drinking fountain…

The funky drinking at real Goods
The funky drinking at Real Goods

Grow-thru Cars at Real Goods (photo courtesy of roadsideamerica.com)
Grow-thru Cars at Real Goods (photo courtesy of roadsideamerica.com)
And, from what I understand, there are many other quirky things I missed on the grounds (due mainly to our lack of time there) including trees growing out of cars (The Memorial Car Grove).  This is where the rusting hulks of 50s and 60s “gas hog” cars have been turned into planter boxes for trees and flowers! These ‘grow-thru cars‘ are a fitting counterpoint to the ‘drive thru‘ redwood tree a hundred miles north. I am sorely disappointed to have missed this one since I have been to a number of other car art places such as Carhenge, Cadillac Ranch, Rabbit Ranch and “Spindle” (which no longer exists).

A view of the Real Goods Store
A view of the Real Goods Store

Another view of the Real Goods Store
Another view of the Real Goods Store
The inside of the store is a menagerie of uniqueness with all sorts of items that homesteaders can use.  They have bee keeping equipment, composting toilets, self help books, solar chargers, etc.  Truly a fascinating, one-of-a-kind store (and website).

Bees working in the "see thru" working beehive at Real Goods Store
Bees working in the “see thru” working beehive at Real Goods Store
I was fascinated with the ‘see thru” working beehive.  I have never seen anything like it and to watch the bees hard at was amazing!!

They also sell all of the equipment needed to do your own beehives.

A larger view of the hive....truly an amazing site
A larger view of the hive….truly an amazing site
Real goods is probably the most comprehensive TRUE “do-it-yourself” store I have ever seen.

Beekeeping for Dummies...yes, there is a book for that
Beekeeping for Dummies…yes, there is a book for that

Another view of products in the Real Goods Store
Another view of products in the Real Goods Store

Need hats?  They have plenty of them at Real Goods
Need hats? They have plenty of them at Real Goods

Real Goods Store
Real Goods Store
I am really glad to have been able to stop here and recommend that anyone driving along the Redwood Highway (US Hwy 101) near Hopland, CA stop by this unique store and Solar Education Center.  Unlike me, plan a couple of hours rather than a quick 30 minute stop!!

 

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Going to California: Santa Rosa – Ukiah – Red Bluff

Goofing around at Carla's house with her pink flamingo hat and a few Antsy McClain posters
Goofing around at Carla’s house with her pink flamingo hat and a few Antsy McClain posters

Day 2 of my Woodflock trip started off nice and slow.  No hurry so I was able to sleep in over at Carla’s doublewide in Santa Rosa.  Woke up to a beautiful morning in the trailer park.

Soon, Carla and I were on the road heading north.  She decided to go through Ukiah for a more scenic route (and likely to appeal to my wanderlust!)

In good hands with Carla!! Standing with Agraria by Larry Kirkland
In good hands with Carla!! Standing with Agraria by Larry Kirkland

Santa Rosa is home to a couple of quirky roadside attractions, so we stopped at these on our way out of town.  The first of them was a big hand in front of the mall.  Reminded me that I was in good hands with Carla!!

The Hand statue is actually titled “Agraria” and is by artist Larry Kirkland, who is originally from California but currently has his studios in Washington, D.C.  It was commissioned in 1996 and is made from the same marble quarry that Michaelangelo used centuries ago.  Kirkland has done commissioned works all over the world.

Back side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria"
Back side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria”
Front side of Larry Kirkland's "Agraria" in Santa Rosa, CA
Front side of Larry Kirkland’s “Agraria” in Santa Rosa, CA
"Guardian of the Creek" - a big fish in Santa Rosa, CA
“Guardian of the Creek” – a big fish in Santa Rosa, CA

After the big hand, we visited another site, a big mosaic fish in a park. Entitled “Guardian of the Creek” this one and a half ton fish by Santa Rosa artist Mario Uribe. It is 13 foot high and covered in mosaic. It is surrounded by a 30 foot diameter mosaic map of the Santa Rosa Watershed. The large rainbow trout has become an icon and reminder of the restoration efforts by the city to nurture the creek habitat to a more natural state. I really loved the colorful mosaic…certainly one of the nicer big fish statues I have seen.

"Guardian of the Creek" by Mario Uribe. In Santa Rosa's Prince Memorial Greenway
“Guardian of the Creek” by Mario Uribe. In Santa Rosa’s Prince Memorial Greenway
Detail of Park Bench at Prince Gateway
Detail of Park Bench at Prince Memorial Gateway
Another portion of lovely park bench in Santa Rosa, CA
Another portion of lovely park bench in Santa Rosa, CA
Sumoflam at the base of "Cyclisk"
Sumoflam at the base of “Cyclisk”

Another Uber Quirky Attraction in Santa Rosa is the 65 foot tall obelisk completely made from junk bike parts.  The artwork, entitled “Cyclisk.” It was created in 2010 by Petaluma-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector and weighs about 10,000lb and is made from roughly 340 recycled bicycles collected from local nonprofit community bike projects. It took nearly four months of welding to manufacture.

A conglomeration of old scrap bicycle parts makes up the "Cyclisk" sculpture
A conglomeration of old scrap bicycle parts makes up the “Cyclisk” sculpture
"Cyclisk"
“Cyclisk” by Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector – 2010
US Highway 101 heading north into Mendocino County
US Highway 101 heading north into Mendocino County

These three unique pieces of art really made the entire trip worthwhile in and of themselves! But, there was much more to be seen on the way to Red Bluff. We took the scenic route up US Hwy 101 through Geyserville and Hopland and then up to Ukiah.

Needing to Pee?

Roadtrips always have their surprises, and this one was no exception. As we approached the small town of Hopland, once a thriving agriculture area known for hops, the first thing I see is the big red sign shown to the left. No joke! I’ve never seen a sign like that before!

IMG_2911.JPGTurns out that the sign, and the others that followed it, were to get one to stop at Real Goods Solar, a store that sells off-grid living items including solar panels, bee keeping equipment, hemp products, composting toilets, etc. Founded in 1978, The Real Goods Store is the original purveyor of Solar Living goods. Originally envisioned as a one-stop-shop where people could find everything they needed for their remote homesteads, the store began with the sale of the first retail solar panel in the United States and the humble goal of changing the world.

Scrap metal “Horn Serpent” at Real Goods

Indeed, the place was so unique that it deserves its own blog post (which will be the next one after this). Suffice it to say it was quirky fun! Read all about soon!

Of the many unique things available for viewing at Real Goods, I have to admit that the scrap metal sculpture entitled “Horn Serpent” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris was the best.  Many know that I “collect” scrap metal art from around the country.  In fact, my most visited post is my “Yard Art” post which features scrap metal art found all over the country.  This one is now part of that post as well.

"Horn Dragon" by Diego Harris.  Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
“Horn Dragon” by Diego Harris. Currently on display at Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA
Ukiah, CA
Ukiah, CA

From Hopland it was on to Ukiah. I have now been to three towns that also are names of Doobie Brothers songs. The other two are Blackwater, MO and China Grove, TX. Yes, I collect (and visit) town names from songs.  Still gotta make my way to Lodi, CA and LaGrange, TX, to name a couple of others.

Carla with some fresh California strawberries
Carla with some fresh California strawberries

Before we got to Ukiah actually, Carla decided that we would make a stop at a Strawberry Stand along the way.  I think we stopped at Saechao Strawberry farm, on the Redwood Highway, another name for this portion of US Hwy 101.  These strawberries were AMAZING!!

They were sweet and luscious.  Who needs candy or cakes when you can enjoy the wonderfully aromatic freshness of these strawberries!

Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry
Sumoflam enjoying an amazing California strawberry
California Strawberries!
California Strawberries!

With strawberries in hands (and mouths), we passed by Ukiah on US Hwy 101 and made it to Calpella. From there we headed east on CA 20 through some beautiful hill country and then on to Clear Lake (actually, to the small town of Upper Lake, CA).

CA Hwy 20 goes through scenic hill country
CA Hwy 20 goes through scenic hill country

CA 20 is dotted with many small lakes and a number of scenic views.  It is MY KIND of back road highway, with a variety of things to see along the way.   Lots of beautiful scenery and vistas on this drive.  I was so glad we came this way.

Upper Lake, CA
Upper Lake, CA

We finally stopped in Upper Lake, which is a rustic little place nestled in the upper reaches of Clear Lake. The town of Upper Lake is the gateway to the Mendocino National Forest and is a fun little town.  In the middle of town sits an old hotel and also a quaint little outdoor saloon/eatery.

Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA
Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake, CA

The Tallman Hotel was built in the 1890s and is now a 17 room luxury hotel/bed and breakfast place.  It fits in nicely with the rustic, old west style of the town.

Next door to the hotel is the Blue Wing Saloon and they have a number of nice outdoor dining tables.  The property also has some unique art…yep, more scrap metal art and an array of lovely flowers in the gardens.  It would be a fun place to just chillax for a couple of days.

Taking a selfie with the "springy lady" in the courtyard area of the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, CA
Taking a selfie with the “springy lady” in the courtyard area of the Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, CA
Rustic old motel chairs...reminds me of the 1960s..Upper Lake, CA
Rustic old motel chairs…reminds me of the 1960s..Upper Lake, CA
Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Welcome to Upper Lake, CA
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
Old Town Upper Lake Antiques
"Christmas" Carla (her birthday is on Christmas) poses with a singing cowboy in Upper Lake as we think about Antsy McClain
“Christmas” Carla (her birthday is on Christmas) poses with a singing cowboy in Upper Lake as we think about Antsy McClain
Old fashioned architecture on a shop in Upper Lake
Old fashioned architecture on a shop in Upper Lake
Carla photo bombs me on my selfie of Terry Church's "Moth to a Flame"
Carla photo bombs me on my selfie of Mendocino County artist Terry Church’s “Moth to a Flame”

And, I couldn’t forget this sign which gave me a chuckle….

DSC_2510Heading southeast on CA 20 we skirted the northern part of Clear Lake.  It was a lovely day and so we had some wonderful views of the lake.  Plenty of birds in the water.  I saw grebes for the first time…a really nervous bird.  Also saw a cormorant in flight.

A solitary grebe sits in the lake
A solitary grebe sits in the lake
A cormorant glides across the waters of Clear Lake
A cormorant glides across the waters of Clear Lake
Then there are the human types that glide across the water on their skis
Then there are the human types that glide across the water on their skis
A view across Clear Lake, one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America
A view across Clear Lake, one of the oldest freshwater lakes in North America

According to some sources, Clear Lake is believed to be one of the oldest lakes in North America. The lake sits on a huge block of stone which slowly tilts in the northern direction at the same rate as the lake fills in with sediment, thus keeping the water at roughly the same depth. Apparently, core samples of the lake’s sediments, taken by U.S. Geological Survey geologists in 1973 and 1980, indicate that the lake is at least 480,000 years old.

We all know who is really Nice!
We all know who is really Nice!

There are a few towns along the lake, but none as nice as Nice…well, at least not in name anyway.

Nice is actually pronounced “neece” like the town in France.  But, to me, the nice guy, it is Nice.  And it is a nice name to add to my collection of unique named towns like Tightwad, Normal, Romance, Success, Friendship, Uncertain, etc.

Wall painting on a rest area in Lucerne, CA
Wall painting on a rest area in Lucerne, CA

Just up the road is Lucerne, named after the town in Switzerland.  The Rest Area at Lucerne Harbor Park, a turnoff by the lake, had a beautiful painting on the back that you can see coming in from Nice.  One of the more intricate wall paintings I have seen.

Full view of the mural in Lucerne
Full view of the mural in Lucerne, CA

This artwork was completed in mid-2009 by muralist Gloria De La Cruz of Clear Lake, CA. The painting depicts the Old Lucerne Hotel and has intricate work of animals and plant life as well.  I really appreciated this one!

DSC_2544After a brief rest in Lucerne, Carla and I were off again, this time to Williams, CA. Williams is at the crossroads of CA 20 and Interstate 5. From what I could see there were two parts to this town…the off the freeway fast food places and the local places in town.

Detail of a mural on the side of a building in Williams, CA
Detail of a mural on the side of a building in Williams, CA

The Old Masonic Lodge has a wonderful mural immortalizing the old Williams Hotel, which apparently burned down in 1913. The mural covers the entire two story face of the building.  Painted by Petaluma mural artist John Ton in 2014.  Folowing are a couple more detailed photos:

Williams Hotel mural by John Ton in Williams, CA
Williams Hotel mural by John Ton in Williams, CA
Second story portion of the Williams Hotel Mural in Williams, CA
Second story portion of the Williams Hotel Mural in Williams, CA
Welcome to Red Bluff, CA
Welcome to Red Bluff, CA

Once the break was over, we were on our last leg of the day…north on I-5 to Red Bluff and to our home away from home at Woodflock. This small unique music festival and Flamingohead retreat is held annually at the Sycamore Grove Campground in the Red Bluff Recreation area along the Sacramento River.  A beautiful little location that gets bedecked with flamingos and Antsy McClain music over the course of three days.

Welcome to Woodflock!
Welcome to Woodflock!

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