Olema (3)

bWAjfylKSG+vfQU07ZK0PQCalifornia seems like an entirely different place to me when it is all lush and green. Likewise, the Olema Campground left me with a better impression this trip and I wonder if that is just the spring wildflowers talking.

This is a privately run campground, and as such, it does pack in the sites so it can maximize income. %dtp0Oj0TxK1FslxZoac4wThey’ve done a clever thing though in some of the loops, where they put a pull in right next to a back in, so your front doors are facing away from each other. That helps to make the space seem more private. And as it turned out, the loop next to us was closed for maintenance, so it really wasn’t too bad at all. Plus, I reserved the site on Tuesday after having officially been notified that the last of my Wright’s Beach reservations was cancelled. So for a last minute booking, you can’t get much better.

yukuVKUBQ3u8OwL51LqOzwRichard was thinking of going on a big ride, but Saturday brought intense winds. Instead, we drove to Pt. Reyes Station for a bit of lunch before heading out to Point Reyes National Seashore. Our first stop was the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which was packed for Easter weekend. I was lucky to get a parking space, and that was only because I circled for a while until someone left. We decided to do a part of the Bear Valley Trail up to Divide Meadow, and then double back. That’s an easy, beautiful hike that also offers protection from the wind.

pnuk9C2qReSLpUYs8yWFHgAfter that, we decided to drive out to the point, although the lighthouse is currently closed for restoration. That road has seen better days. The whole thing is full of potholes and bumps, and in some areas, parts are falling off and short stretches are one lane only. There was a pretty good size flood too, and believe me, we wouldn’t have crossed it without seeing others safely cross in front of us.

YhSZOy1OSoyvHI%HYixz2gWe took a little side excursion down to Drake’s Beach where I had to yell at a family of tourists for literally poking a sea lion with a stick! The grandma was taking video on her iPad of a poor tired soul, trying to rest out of the way on the beach. Then grandpa reached over and grabbed a stick to poke him! I could not believe it. The sea lion roared at him and she laughed, like “Ha ha ha, do it again so I can get the shot.” He started toward the sea lion again and I went running up waving my hands (I don’t think they spoke English). “SIR!! Please don’t POKE THE SEA LION WITH A STICK!” The adult daughter looked embarrassed, saying “Oh sorry, sorry,” as though this was some obscure, surprising rule. They scurried off, but I was still mad and told the ranger on them. Didn’t do any good because they’d already left, but I guess it felt good to see the rangers standing guard so no one else would do it. People. Seriously.

luIU5XbBTYytGk7fXAsLdAAfter that, we drove a precariously narrow road to Chimney Rock. That’s a nail biter if you encounter cars coming the other way, which we did. The parking lot was also full, so all we could do was turn around and go back. From there, we headed out to the last point on the lighthouse road you can drive before you encounter a gate. The wind was serious by then, but we scrambled out to a lookout and tried to not become kites. Richard was 100% glad he had not chosen to try riding out there.

For dinner, we drove back to Pt. Reyes Station for some awesome pizza at Cafe Reyes. That’s some yummy pizza! They make their dough fresh daily and use fresh mozzarella, all baked in a wood oven. Give me that and an IPA on tap, and that’s a damn good day.

j3g2%kbnRuqURz1LleazmgEaster Sunday I baked a lemon blueberry cake in the Omnia (success!), and we drove home via Nicasio and Stafford Lake. The former was full to the brim with lovely water, while the latter was all a-fluff with spring goslings. I don’t know much about goose social structure, but it sure looked to me like there were two geese caretakers in charge of the entire gaggle of goslings, while the rest of the adults hung out together and mingled. I wonder if they take turns, or if jobs are permanently assigned.

SIH7jTuufR20FBtNbvgThen home again, home again. It sure lifts my soul to see California this green. It also reminds me that things come back. Even after a long drought. That’s a good reminder for the woes of the world and a lesson I needed just now. One more metaphorical lesson was learned this weekend. I bought new plastic (not real wax) candles to replace the melted Romance Package 1.0. I decided to hang them from the front wall on a shelf, and ever so slightly underestimated the distance needed to fit the tallest candle under the California State Parks map. I stared at it and puzzled for a long while over breakfast. qNJkpVclQw+z1mLer5TVzgIf I tried to reposition the sticky shelf mount, it would be ruined, but I do have another. Or I could trim a tiny bit of laminate off the bottom of the map, but it’s unlikely I could do that without having it be jagged, and that would bug me. Or I could try to make that candle stand out from the wall just a bit so it will go in front of the map…. Then it occurred to me that if I simply turned the candle around so the lower contoured side was against the wall, the problem would be removed. So that’s the lesson: when faced with problems that are tricky or complicated to solve, see if just turning something around will do it. Perspective is everything.

Total miles: 64.4, 2 hours 17 min taking Sir Francis Drake (don’t do this), 15.3 mpg. Site 208. You can’t reserve specific sites through the website. I requested a couple from previous notes (125, 126, 127, 145, 146, 147) but knew it was late in the game. Bathrooms are nice and the place seems to be getting a facelift. Wifi doesn’t work unless you’re right by the office. Bad cell service for us both, but ATT was boostable to pretty good LTE. Electric, water, dump on site. Walking distance to Olema restaurants.

Bodega Dunes (3)

img_3858*Warning* This post contains disturbing images. For anyone familiar with Wright’s Beach, located on the dazzling Sonoma Coast, it may be unsettling to view the campground in its current state. If, however, you are NOT someone who logs in to Reserve California regularly at 8:00 am precisely in order to do online click battle with the 39 million other people trying to reserve these ten sites, you may be unaffected. Additionally, if you are NOT someone who danced the sweet victory jig of reservation success, way back in mid October, only to have it mercilessly ripped from your camping calendar, not once, but THREE TIMES, you may be fine. Me, I’m hanging in there, thanks for asking.

img_3843Richard says I am a reservation “premium-donna” and should learn to be happy with non premium sites. He has a point. But, to my credit, I was able to rally and head out this weekend, setting aside my tragic losses. I was able to rise above the unrequited site 6 longing, and enjoy the full solar in Bodega Dunes site 60. In fact, truth be told, it was a lovely weekend, full of sun and spring flowers.

img_3862We even took a look at the desolation of our would be destination. I was imagining some kind of gaping wound in the campground roads, or that half the hillside above the sites had slid down onto the coast below. Nothing short of complete devastation could possibly justify the closure of such a popular campground, now expected to be shuttered through the summer months. Instead, what we found was a section of road, about two feet wide, covering a culvert, that looks to be in danger of falling down. Also, we saw a downed tree. That’s it.

img_3868There was a ranger at the staging area above the campground who was turning people away and explaining how it takes a long time for a CA state park to get a permit from the state of CA to fix a campground road. Environmental reports have to be done, engineers have to come out, etc, etc. So yeah, go check out Bodega Dunes and yes, you can walk down to the beach.

img_3865I took the opportunity to stroll through the empty campground and jot down site numbers that are not premium, but would still be right next to the beach so that I can be more reasonable about reservation angst in the future. I’m always gonna try for the oceanside sites, though. It was a shame to see them all sitting there vacant, but on the other hand, it made for a spectacular picnic location.

img_3909Otherwise, it was a weekend of sun and warm air and spring, for reals. We got in some sunsets and Spud Point crab cakes. I drove the “Boho” loop Richard likes to bike, past Wild Flour Bakery (where you gotta stop and eat a double chocolate banana walnut scone, while enjoying their gardens), through the cute little town of Occidental, and over to the Russian River. Then a cruise down the picturesque Sonoma Coast until we landed back at the Bodega Dunes day use area for the beautiful end of day show.

Good times! Even if it’s not Wright’s Beach. *sigh*

Total miles: 85.4, 14.4 mpg, 2 hours 53 min. Site 60. Great solar. Far from bathroom because the closest one is closed for the season. No hookups, good dump. LTE for both.

Ashland – Emigrant Lake RV (3)

img_3778Spring Break!!! Plus, this year’s break coincided with our daughter’s break, AND it was her 21st birthday as well as my something-somethingth. So all of that festivity added up to a group trip to this former thespian’s nirvana: Ashland. We secured our primo, oversized campsite at the lake and reserved tickets for a total of five shows, all plenty in advance. All we had to do was clear out a space for the daughter in the car (not so easy!) and drop her at a nice hotel downtown for a week.

img_3740We came armed and prepared this time for site RV 21. Last time, we had to park comically far from the middle of the huge site if we wanted to take advantage of the full hookups. This time we brought an extra long sewer hose extension and even purchased a 50′ electric cable, just in case. That one was not needed, but the sewer hose could even have been longer. At least we looked more normal in the site, and that was my ultimate aim.

img_3756Sunday’s weather was perfect and we knew it wouldn’t hold, so I plopped myself into the lake as soon as we got there. Richard was super nice and took care of the set up while I enjoyed a perfect paddle in non rainy weather. He also took care of bringing a nice dinner back to Dory from The House of Thai Cuisine. He’s awesome isn’t he? We called Sunday my birthday since I was sick on my actual birthday, and this gave me a do-over.

img_3779Monday I was a slow moving camping sloth and did nothing besides play with our new classic awning and stare at the lake. Sadly, Richard did not have the week off and he needed to work during the day. Service was so good at the lake, he’s pretty sure his work mates didn’t even know he was somewhere besides his home office.

Tuesday we hooked up with our neighbors to see “Mother Road.” We enjoyed it a lot and it was excellently well acted. It’s sort of “Grapes of Wrath” in reverse, and it captured modern day heartland hardships, while building genuine affection for the characters at the same time. Now I guess we need to travel Highway 66.

img_3799Wednesday there was a break in the rain, so we drove out to Jacksonville and Richard took off on a bike ride up to Applegate Dam. I’d never explored the Applegate valley before, and it was a perfect picture of peaceful, rural countryside, lazily stretched along the pathway of the Applegate River. If you take Sterling Creek Road, you get a good climb through untravelled, woodsy backroads. You will even hit a tiny little cluster of historic structures marking the ghost town of Buncom. I sagged him until we got about up to the lake, and then we just drove around to check it out. We’re pretty sure it was Mount Ashland we were seeing, all snow covered in the distance. There are campgrounds around the lake, but they were all closed until May.

Thursday, I saw a matinee performance of “Cambodian Rock Band.” That one was one of the best this trip, IMHO. Just the right mix of history, humor, and gut wrenching pathos. Plus electric guitars. Very nicely done! That evening we enjoyed a rousing performance of “Hairspray” that brought everyone to their feet in a long, well deserved, standing ovation.

img_3810Friday I got to re-connect with Ashland friends, and that is always a highlight. Richard and I spent the afternoon getting in a little walk through the upper trails of Lithia Park, and we topped off the day with a glorious dinner at New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro. This is a truly one of a kind experience that one must seek out actively, or you’ll miss it. It was once housed in a, well, house. And you’d surely drive past it if you didn’t know about it. img_3816It has since gotten a new facade, but the homemade feel remains. It’s as though you know a world class chef personally, and she has invited you to dine on whatever strikes her fancy and is in season at the time. Her husband will pour you a bottle of the best, from his extensive collection. For us, he recommended a light French white, which he noted, “You could get four or five of these without doing much damage.” The menu changes frequently and there is a prix fix, as well as à la carte menu. Out of this world. And our daughter got to partake this time, extra bonus special!

Saturday we had double shows of “Between Two Knees” and “As You Like It.” I thought the first was enjoyable, but needed some polish. Which is fine for a world premiere and material that is pushing the envelope on white privilege sardonic humor. The latter was classic and well done, rounding out a nice mix of theatre.

breweryInterspersed with the shows were dinners and hang out time with our long long time friends and neighbors, who had also arranged to make an outing of it. The trip really could not have been nicer. Ok, I guess it would have been nicer with a little less rain. We noticed that there were fires in the mountains every day, and discovered that these were all controlled burns, an effort of the Forestry Service to stave off some of the disastrous damage done the past few years due to uncontrolled fires. Smart. Hope it works. On our way home, we saw an abundance of evidence of the massive destructive power of the Northern California wildfires from last summer.

Great break! Now the countdown begins for summer travel!

Total miles: 341.0, 15.6 mpg, 6 hours 15 min. Site RV 21. Great LTE for both of us. Full hookups, including sewer. About 10 min drive to town. It gets super windy at times.

Del Valle (4)

12%PtPYmTkCEHqcJggTOjgOh, it is good to go out! We sulked at home all last weekend, but at least we took care of Dory’s annual checkup with Dr. Randy, of Randy’s Mobile. When we dropped her off, Randy wasn’t there, so we were helped by one of his technicians. He questioned Richard extensively about the service and things to check, go over, etc. He did an excellent and thorough job taking patient history, but we kind of wanted to explain that, with us, Randy just does whatever he thinks is a good idea and we give him access to our bank accounts, so he can take whatever he needs. It’s that kind of relationship. (Ok, kidding on the bank accounts, but that sure would simplify things). As the technician was getting our paperwork ready, Randy called to say we didn’t need to fill out paperwork. KRoHZMlSQ1aRn9yQpy9LngRandy brought Dory back to us on Wednesday, all mani-pedi’ed and in tip top shape. Here’s some advice: if you ever meet Randy in person, do NOT ask him to tell you about how he broke his thumb. Thought I was going to pass out just listening to it.

Friday was raining, but Richard brought the bikes anyway, with a hopeful eye to a Saturday ride. Del Valle has no cell service, and this posed a very specific problem on Friday. My Altoistes Facebook group has been growing steadily and was just one person shy of hitting the 3,000th member mark. I wanted very much to be timely about making the announcement (prizes for guessing the date it would happen were on the line here!). By the time we drove down into the valley and lost service, we were still stuck at 2,999. It was bugging me, so after dinner, I got in the car, drove back out of the campground, and up the long climb until I hit service. Sadly, there was no change. I was in the middle of typing up an “Oh well, I’ll let you know Sunday who the winners were” message, when lucky 3,000th came in!  Cheers all around. 🙂

xAp19Qq1T+ufKG8KP7sUXQSaturday it cleared up a little and Richard did go out for a short ride. Meanwhile, I put up our new toy: a Classic Awning. This was the first awning produced by Safari Condo, which was later replaced with the Pahaque front arc awning. That’s the one I’ve been modifying to make into a screen room, but our site had some inconveniently located boulders which would have interfered with that one. We had sent away for this one because Safari Condo started manufacturing them again, and we had some customer referral credits in our account.FXRoR%ZgS2+UGZXUGIl5Tg

So up went the classic! I must say, I do so like it, Sam-I-Am! It is super easy to put up and take down, and does not cut off the view too badly. It feels like a porch, and that was a nice spot to sit in my Nemo chair writing a report. And after the report was done, that was a divine spot to rock in my Nemo chair, wearing my sleeping bag jacket, with my feet up on a properly blue colored little table, while sipping a margarita.

m+KXUtGzTOOsJrMSY89v9wEventually, after indoor/outdoor his/hers nappy time, we went on a short walk over to the reservoir. California is gorgeously green right now and it’s a reassuring sight to see the water levels nice and full. Wildflowers and Western Bluebirds were out in full force. It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. And it feels like years since it’s been clear. But, well, here comes the sun!

Sunday Richard rode all the way from the campsite to home. We met up in a couple of spots along the way, just in case he wanted to bail. But he powered all the way home, covering somewhere around forty miles.

It was a good weekend.

Total miles: 41.9, 16.1 mpg, 1 hour 42 min. Site 32, my favorite.

Bothe Napa (4)

img_3665You know what? This is our fourth visit to Bothe Napa SP, and I have been making a tragic error. We’ve spent time hiking, biking, generally lazing around, and that’s all been fun. But it turns out that actually going wine tasting in Napa Valley kicks up the enjoyment by a significant margin. I realize everyone else knew that, but it was a revelation for me that I thought was worth sharing.

img_3675This was yet another rainy weekend for California, so the bikes stayed home. On the plus side, the days are getting longer, and this is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, so campground arrivals are getting brighter. We chilled and binge watched “The Tudors,” to the sound of rain falling on the roof. I still love the sound, even if the season has brought a bit too much water to some communities. Saturday, the lack of pre-planned Dory lunch drove us outdoors and down the road to Gott’s Roadside. I’d never been, but apparently it is very popular, and came recommended by a friend. I had a crispy Teriyaki sandwich on an egg bread bun and it was quite tasty. I found the soft serve chocolate to be underwhelming, but Richard liked his.

img_3671Afterwards, we went on a mission to expand my familiarity with wines I see on the shelves in Trader Joe’s. We were attempting to find “Joel Gott,” but ended up at the tasting room of their parent estate, “Trinchero.” No problem, I thought, we’d just stop for a quick tasting and move on to another. Well, after a couple generous pours of their cabernet suite, from bottles hovering around a $95 price point, I was quite happy. And not in any condition to continue the mission. Good thing Richard doesn’t drink. And though I have not improved the likelihood of being able to select a good red within my price range, Richard found an app that may help. Vivino will let you take a picture of a label and spit out information on it, like its rating and suggested retail price. It also saves your ratings and labels, ultimately resulting in suggestions that are tailored to your tastes. Pretty cool.

img_3666The last thing I’ll report on is condensation. This is a normal part of winter camping, but clearing it does represent a good chunk of time in the morning when temps get below 50 at night. I have a squeegee and reusable cloths hanging in the bathroom that I use to scooch the water down all the windows and into the tracks of the window frame. From there, it all nicely channels to the outside and onto the ground at Dory’s corners. That’s usually enough, unless it’s really high humidity (like when it’s raining). Then I might need to do some additional wall wiping at the front or back. The cloths I’m using are mini Shamwows, but I literally refer to them as “sham mehs;” ok to do the job, but not thrilling enough to inspire an interjection.

Nice weekend, nice valley. Next weekend I’ll be home sulking. That was supposed to have been site 6 at Wright’s Beach, staring at ocean sunsets. Instead, I’ll probably just do chores and complain. I do have two more opportunities at Wright’s before summer, not quite as awesome at site 6, but they’d better not get cancelled!

Total miles: 65.2, 15.5 mpg, 2 hours 10 min. Site 10. No hookups, but bathroom is open and brand new. Very nice. No dump, so go to Calistoga Fairgrounds. Spotty LTE/no service for ATT, weak LTE for Verizon.

Half Moon Bay (6)

img_3628Even though we count ourselves lucky to be able to go out year round, winter is still able to get in some solid licks. This trip to Half Moon Bay was a last minute consolation reservation after my sweet, sweet, lakeside site at Clear Lake got cancelled due to flooding. You know that rush you get when you are able to grab a really hard to get site? I’ve lost three of those this winter and it’s bummin’ me out, man! Still. A Half Moon Bay ocean front site is nothing to sneeze at, and we made the best of our time there.

img_3652I had planned to take Friday fully off so we could extend our Clear Lake joy. That didn’t work out, but the site I got was available Friday – Sunday nights, so I was able to do a switch and take Monday off instead. You can’t argue with three day weekends, so all’s well.

We did the usual, ate in places I’ve already mentioned, and watched a lot of rain come down. One place that was new for us was Tres Amigos, which is walking distance from the campground. The food was great, and the churros were made fresh. Delicious and crispy outside, but still warm and gooey inside, mmmmm…….

img_3647This remains a dependable location to enjoy a weekend. Yes, I was bummed when the other places closed (especially Wright’s Beach. ouch.). When I saw the call come in from an 800 number and figured it was from a flooded CA state park, I went, “NOOOOOO!” out loud. But I also recall thinking, “I wish we had some really fun place we could always count on, even if it’s raining all weekend.” Maybe this is our place.

Total miles: 57.5, 15.6 mpg, 1 hour 47 min. Site 24, premium. Electric hookups. Good dump on site. LTE for both.

 

 

Brannan Island (5)

img_3606I work in special education, right? So a huge part of what I teach is around “flexible thinking.” There’s a whole curriculum around this and I am constantly talking about it, dropping little special ed phrases all day long; “Uh oh, is this a Rock Brain moment?” “What’s a good strategy to get our thinking unstuck?” “Is this really a level 5 problem?” stuff like that. So one would expect that, when we pulled up to our reserved site to find people already there and unloading their camping equipment, I would be all super flexible. I would notice there were so many empty sites and recognize this was really not a big problem, right?

img_3607“But I reserved site 75,” was what playing on continuous loop in my brain. “I specifically wanted that site.” “Here, look, it’s got an asterisk next to it in my notes and that was why I reserved it.” I said nothing out loud and let Richard talk to the people. And once he had established they were not going to move, I just kept driving down the loop, looking for an acceptable alternative. “It’s not 75 though,” is what I was thinking. “Sure, this one looks fine,” was what I said.

So I pulled in to site 97 under protest, spinning Dory to get a good view. I was inwardly resentful the whole time. Once we set up and got the heater going, I noticed the view was way better than 75. In fact, the entire site is far preferable. 97 is now my favorite.

img_3615The rest of the weekend was about Richard getting in a recovery ride following some unpleasant dental work, while I wrote a report and played with the awning. I moved another step forward in my ultimate plan of creating a screen room. That part was sewing a skirt to block the bug entry from under Dory. It’s not finished, but what I did seemed like what I intended. What remains is to add material around the bottom flaps of the awning to create a seal, and move loops around to better attach to my suction cup hooks. img_3620I still feel compelled to give this my best shot, mostly since I’ve committed this far to it. I have a feeling that one of two things will eventually happen once it’s totally finished: either I will decide that after all that, it’s too much bother to put up, or I will love it until a gentle breeze comes along and tears the thing to shreds.

I am well aware that Clam shelters are now available in blue. We shall see.

Nothing much else to report except the water at Brannan seems to be less yellow. Still, we bring our own water when we go there. Nice place, as always.

Total miles: 39.8. 16.7 mpg, 1 hour 12 min. Site 97. The best site. LTE for both, good solar, river view, nice bathrooms, good dump. So close to home, always pleasant.