Many B.C. residents visit California at least once in their lifetime. Lured by Mickey Mouse, Hollywood, the climate and the iconic beauty of San Francisco, a California road trip has long been a rite of passage. But one feature of California that most Cloverdale residents are probably unaware of is our “Sister City” of Cloverdale, California, and how much it has to offer. It has even been recently voted as one of “America’s Coolest Small Towns.”
If you’re looking to see more than just one Motel 6 after another and actually meet real people who are the heart and soul of small-town America, it’s definitely worth getting off the I-5 for a little bit on your next trip. Cloverdale, California is located along Route 101 in the famous wine district of Sonoma County, only 139 km north of San Francisco.
Much like our Cloverdale, people are friendly and have tremendous community spirit. When the “Clover” movie theatre closed down, locals rallied to save it, and it now boasts four screens in a town of only 8,800 people. Arts enthusiasts will also love the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center. It seats only 100 patrons but it has a large stage and hosts everything from Shakespearean plays to musicals and open mic competitions.
Incredibly, there are live bands and dancing at the Cloverdale Plaza as part of “Friday Night Live” every Friday night from June until September and there is truly something for every taste. Bands represent diverse genres such as honky-tonk, funk, Bayou Americana, blues rock, Texas swing, jazz, Chicano rock, retro soul and more.
And speaking of taste, Cloverdale has endless wine tasting possibilities, ranging from sipping rooms on the Cloverdale Boulevard, the main street of town, to “Tickets to the Wine Road,” a full-fledged touring program that is featured on Trip Advisor. Local wines boast as much character as the names of their vineyards, including the BobDog Winery, the Fritz Underground Winery or the JR Darn Fine Barn Wine.
But no trip to Cloverdale is complete without a visit to Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub located on 1st Street just off of Cloverdale Boulevard. Local bartender Jeremy Wilson was a truly fine host and allowed customers to sample his many fine products, including Caroline’s Blonde Ale, Floyd India Pale Ale, Ruth’s Citrus Wheat Ale, Monster Brown Ale and others.
The food was great and the genuine friendliness of his regulars to a Cloverdalian from the Great White North was even better. I brought back as much product as Canada Customs would allow, and my friend Rick Hugh kindly offered to help sample and savour it. He agrees that we definitely need it on tap in our Cloverdale.
Overall, both the similarities and differences between the two Cloverdales were striking. At Cloverdale High School, the head football coach told me that his school’s impressive bleachers regularly fill with anywhere between a 1,000—2,000 fans. In contrast, at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, we don’t even have bleachers and lights, and there would be no need for a special building with three ticket booths. In fact, bureaucracy even delayed putting up our school’s scoreboard by over a year, as if it was some kind of “clear and present danger” to have one. There are lessons for Canada’s Cloverdale here.
Another impressive experience was at the Cloverdale History Museum. Elissa Morrash, the Executive Director of the Cloverdale Historical Society, graciously gave her time and literally walked me through the Gould-Shaw House, an 1870s gothic revival cottage, as well as through the entire history of her Cloverdale. First Nations such as the Pomo Indians, a French Utopian society known as the Icarians and even the legendary stagecoach robber and poet known as “Black Bart” all are colourful parts of local lore. To say that the Cloverdale History Museum is worth visiting is truly an understatement.
Indeed, there is something for all Cloverdalians to see and enjoy in their sunny sister city to the south. Whether you’re looking for a thick milkshake and a 14-oz “Mondo Burger” at Pick’s Drive In or a fine cabernet sauvignon at one of the many local wineries, Cloverdale, California is definitely worth a visit.
Walter van Halst is a History teacher at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary and has been a resident of Cloverdale since 1974.