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.

Saddle Mountain Ranch

bwM9GcQPS2qzQwnYlo2EaAWell, this is not the first Presidents’ Day Weekend where we have had to change plans due to weather. We are stubborn people though, not easily deterred from Dory time just because of a few days of 40-60 mph winds. We aren’t completely stupid though, and we decided that perhaps camping right by the ocean in one of the most remote places along Highway 1 might not be a great idea. I had scored an awesome site at Limekiln SP where the ocean is just right there next to you. The park is conveniently located between two of the most likely places along Highway 1 to experience massive mudslides during a storm. And it’s not that we didn’t consider the possibility of being stuck there for five or six months while road repairs might be underway. We did. But Richard is kinda sick and kinda needs to attend to some dental work in the very near future, and that was unlikely to be a good match for risky camping.

+j0cB3nHR52nsCgc5IFpTwSo we did some last minute searching for more urban spots, in places where you can do things indoors, or in a car. We landed on Saddle Mountain Ranch and RV Park, a privately run place in Carmel Valley. Its location is convenient as a jumping off point for both Monterey and Carmel. It is like an upscale KOA type place, with a playground for kids, a pool, a badminton court, and nice bathrooms. The sites are close together, but there are at least some low fences in between. The first thing I noticed about our site was that it was under a huge oak tree. We’d seen tons of downed trees on our way in, so that made me just a little nervous. I spun Dory to get out a little from under the big branches and that also served as a way to not look directly at our neighbors. RVs are limited to 30′ and the road leading up to the place gets very narrow, with a killer climb right at the end. They are nice to place a sign for you, right when you’re pretty sure you’re lost, saying it’s just up the hill. It is also a tight little lot once you get up there, but we saw some big rigs able to maneuver it, and Dory was fine of course.

fullsizeoutput_1268As it was a four day weekend, we got two full days to explore the area. Friday night we started with dinner at a ramen place. Toribashi in Monterey was a great call for comfort food on a rainy evening. Saturday we tried to check out Point Lobos SP, but it was very closed and looked kind of demolished by fallen trees from what we could see at the entrance. So we shifted Plan A to visit Garrapata State Park and Beach by just driving along south down Highway 1. That way, we still got to bask in the glory of the California coast. And glorious it is.

6ChJQIxISA+Ey+ryV9VQTAPlan B was to wander around Carmel. That, however, was also the plan of a whole lot of other people, each with their own car, occupying every possible parking space. We nearly gave up there, but I was able to find a sketchy spot by some construction fences and just accepted that the price of a ticket might just be what it costs to park in Carmel (I did not get a ticket). After lunch, we headed over to Carmel Mission, which I’d only ever seen from the outside. That is a “worth it” visit for sure. The whole place has been beautifully restored and hosts museums, gardens, and historical exhibits, all in addition to the lovely basilica. We happened to get there right when a wedding was about to be held, so we killed about an hour wandering the grounds and watching informational videos until we could go inside the church. L6z03fbCRWGltIN21vivTwI really tried not to photograph too much of someone else’s wedding for my blog, but some shots couldn’t be avoided (or were kinda funny). One thing I’ll say, those dresses were a bold choice for a wedding scheduled in February. I know it’s California, but it does get cold sometimes and those poor women looked uncomfortable. Or maybe that’s me making assumptions because I was warm and toasty in my new down sweater.

Sunday we spent pretty much the whole day on the famed “17 Mile Drive” in Pebble Beach. The two themes of the day: holy moly that’s a ton of fallen trees, and wow, we really do not live like wealthy people. CwOl7s6nTJOWYuU2axLjVQI admit to feeling a little torn about all the damage. I mean, I’m sad for all the trees and I recognize there was a huge amount of damage done. But, I’m also betting whoever owns the mid size castles and full size villas, costing who knows how much, will probably be ok. One really sad thing though was the damage done to the iconic “Lone Cypress” tree. E%zv+PHZRXmO76u+qKHVKgThis tree has been standing there for over 200 years as a symbol of resilience, come what may, and we just happened to come the weekend it blew down. Now all of the businesses using that tree as a logo will need to cut a third of it off I guess.  But that doesn’t really convey the same message. Or maybe it says, “Yeah, I know it’s beautiful and prestigious here, but sh*t happens to everyone, doesn’t it?”

We did some googling and the price for a night’s stay in some of the hotels can run around a thousand per night. Not sure if that includes golfing, but that apparently is not cheap either. Maybe if I got golf I would understand.

We considered, but rejected the idea of visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, figuring it would be at least as packed as the streets of Carmel. Plus, I got to see my fill of otters out in the ocean. But these were the real badass ocean otters, getting continually tossed and turned by the frigid, tempestuous waves. And they’re all, “Whatevs, dude. I’ll just roll with it and crack some dinner on mah tummah.”

Though I’m still a little disappointed we missed out on Limekiln, I know it was a good call. Urban camping is fun too and it was a good way to take it easy. Plus, any time you get to see an ocean sunset, it’s a good weekend.Bc+RIFvGQ4OJnTDPYNFeMQ

Total miles: 130.6, 15.7 mpg, 3 hours 2 min. Full hookups. All the sites are similar with no clear winner in terms of privacy or view. Nice bathrooms, nice facilities, wifi at the office, LTE for both of us. About 8 miles from Carmel Beach or 12 miles to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Del Valle (3)

img_3473The weather out there is getting kind of real. I mean, for us, I realize it got real for most of you a couple months ago. Good thing we have spent so much money on new jackets. But it probably seemed colder than it really was down in the valley, what with the snow capped hills and all. This was our third visit to Del Valle, and it sure was nice to have hookups on a chilly, rainy weekend.

img_3486We left Friday in steady rain, and though it’s a short drive, it took us a little over an hour to get through traffic. This county park is about ten miles out of Livermore, up and over a climb loved by local bicyclists, and down into a popular summertime destination. The Del Valle reservoir is quite full right now due to all the recent rain, and what was once a dry river bed on our last visit, is now close to overflowing.

img_3480I definitely have a favorite site here, 32, because of the spacious and woodsy view. There are also hookups in some of the sites, so we got to live it up with lights and fridge settings. I noted that most of the sites closer to the river were closed, either because of the big puddles in the places you might pitch a tent, or because someone is worried they’ll flood. After getting set up in our site, I can report that the Marmot Women’s Essential rain jacket is indeed waterproof.

img_3458The weekend was all about the intermittent pitter pat of rain on Dory’s roof. This was punctuated only by a couple of strolls in the campground, some report writing, and nappy time. Speaking of nappy time, I received an awesome gift from a colleague who noticed that I do not dress up for Pajama Days at school due to lack of appropriate attire. Problem solved. Being easy to shop for is the BEST.

Sunday night it is supposed to snow on the valley floor. We’ll miss that, but I still got to go out for a nightly walk in my new Marmot Montreaux down jacket (complete with fuzzy faux dead thing around the hood). Richard is done with winter, but I’m still enjoying my new gear. I could do a couple more winter weekends.

Total miles: 42.3, 15.7 mpg, 1 hour 19 min. Site: 32. Full hookup site, but the dump outlet is kinda hard to reach and slopes the wrong way, so we just used the regular dump. Sites in the lower loop by the water do not have hookups but could be Doryable. No cell service. With booster, we got spotty 3G. No generators allowed in the campground. Nice bathrooms.

Half Moon Bay (5)

img_3442Coworker: What adventure do you have planned for this weekend? Me: Storms in Half Moon Bay. That about sums it up. Did that ruin the weekend? Nope. Would we have felt differently if we only went out twice a year? Probably. One of the benefits of going out so often is that there are no expectations riding on anything. So if we just want to hang out, run the heater, and watch the rain from inside, that is a perfect weekend.

img_3438I will say the winds got serious Friday night and we both woke up from the buffeting. I wasn’t worried about flipping over or anything, but you could feel the whole trailer rocking. Saturday we ventured out during a break in the rain for a romantic walk on the beach. Pro tip: romance can only be enhanced by the continuous blasting of sand in one’s face, carried by 40 mph winds. We did get a fair test of my new Patagonia Down Sweater and it kept me nice and warm. Richard gets his down puffy in a week or so, so we’ll be fully outfitted for Winter by the time Spring arrives.

img_3427Not much to report. We got take out dinner again from Ark Indian Restaurant, and stopped for lunch at La Mordida Taqueria on our way out of town. Bonus points for the latter: they are located in a large parking lot area with ample double spaces for trailers. The food was also delicious and service was fast, so it’s not just about parking.

We do love Half Moon Bay as a destination. One of these days, I’ll snag a site with a direct ocean view, rather than your standard big rig neighbor view. But it’s close, has a beach, hookups, and ample choices for excellent dining. We got a good sized puddle right next to us but this was as bad as it got. It did make it kind of an adventure challenge to get in and out the door each time. Good times.

Total miles: 51.8, 16.4 mpg, 1 hour 53 min with traffic. Site 11. Electric hookups, solar, nice bathrooms, strong LTE for both, plus pretty good state park Wifi.


Lake Don Pedro

img_3403This was one well earned weekend. So well earned, in fact, that I am still quite sore. But let’s back up…  Last weekend was the first of two sequentially scheduled weekends at home. What on earth could prompt something so drastic? Well, it turns out we have a bicycle problem. Or at least, one of us does, and we were finally forced to confront the situation in a dramatic way now that our son has a legitimate need for his own. img_3363There was no way we were going to fit another in the garage, so we rented the smallest size dumpster possible (i.e. “ginormous petite”) and planned to clear away the contents of twenty years of accumulated junk into it. Knowing we were going to have a dumpster available, we also set a Part B goal for getting rid of the twenty year old play structure. Extra credit and Part C was loading the newly repaired Subie full of toxic chemicals (mostly paint) to be disposed of at an authorized place. Couldn’t we have simply gotten rid of just one of the bicycles, you ask? Let’s just say the dumpster route was way easier.

img_3377The project went as planned, including the extra credit tasks, primarily because we told ourselves that if we finished everything in one weekend, we could earn the right to go camping the next. So when it was dumping rain on Sunday and we were out there, slipping and falling down in the mud, bashing out cedar dowels, hauling heavy beams, and sawing apart what could not be bashed, we were thinking to ourselves, “Worth it.”

img_3387Reveling in the glory of a mission accomplished ahead of schedule, we arranged to camp at a place in the foothills so that we could facilitate an Alto tour with the couple who’d planned to visit us at our house. Lake Don Pedro is just off Highway 120, the road that goes to Yosemite, and it looked like a nice spot, not too far from the couple. Friday I got home promptly after school and we were in the final stages of the hitching process when we both noticed the hitch seemed really low. We said that out loud even. Then, I looked over at the rear driver’s side tire on Bruce and it was as flat as a tire can possibly be. The culprit was obvious: a big wood screw, undoubtedly from the play structure, was jammed in all the way to the head. I must say, we moved through the stages of disbelief and/or disappointment in a highly efficient manner and just started doing things. One of the things was figuring out which number to call for roadside assistance and getting a person who knew something on the phone as quickly as possible.

img_3389As we were waiting on hold, we started emptying all of the camping gear onto the driveway so that we could get to the emergency equipment. This definitely felt like deja vu from the Subie battery incident. With everything removed, we clearly saw words stating, “Spare Tire (if equipped)” and a big huge arrow pointing to a button. Obviously, we pushed the button. Nothing happened. You can now begin to imagine the scene as we just kept pushing the button with more force, and then, with the assistance of tools in order to apply additional force. When the roadside assistance person finally picked up, we were both just barely subduing our frustration and Richard launched into an explanation of how the spare tire button didn’t seem to work. The person then silently assessed our mechanical developmental skill level and asked, “Are you sure you have a spare?” “Well, we think so?” (it seemed like something we would have thought to include when we purchased the tow vehicle). “Can you see it under the car?” We both bent down simultaneously. “Oh yeah! There it is!” img_3390At this point we realized three things. First, the spare is not like a full size tire we can just put on and go our merry towing way. Second, it would take far longer to wait for someone to come do this than for us to do it ourselves and try to get a new tire from Acura before they closed. The third thing we realized, critical to our decision making process, was that the button we had been pushing was actually a cap covering the bolt thingy you turn to lower the spare. Ignoring an overwhelming preponderance of empirical data, we decided to trust to our combined problem solving abilities and do it ourselves. I have to say, though we must have looked pretty idiotic throughout the process, we got er done with time to spare (get it?).

img_3392Richard called ahead to Acura, where incidentally, we’d just taken Bruce for a service after winter break and were told we should start thinking about getting two new rear tires. Sold! They were ready for me on arrival and I swear they had me rolling again in twenty minutes, with me enthusiastically signing for whatever price they wanted to charge. I was on my way, returning home by 6. I don’t usually like towing in the dark, but decided this too would be worth it so that we wouldn’t feel as though we’d lost the weekend. So all the camping gear went back in, we got hitched up again, and pulled onto the road as the last glimmers of daylight faded away.

img_3405The entire drive to Lake Don Pedro was done in the dark, so we were pleased in the morning to see that our site had a lovely view overlooking the lake. Richard went on a bike ride, recommended by our touring couple, and I spun Dory to get a nicer angle. My job Saturday was to get through three reports. It would have been two, but I couldn’t get a single thing done during dumpster weekend. I didn’t mind at all though. I was happy to type away, enjoying the lake view, while not falling in mud or swinging a crow bar around.

img_3407Sunday we lazed for a while, sitting in our swing chairs looking at the view. You can just see the snow capped mountains of Yosemite on the horizon and the weather was all blue skies and nicely warm. Eventually, we headed home and got the see the route we’d driven Friday night. I think this place would make for a lovely weekend location. There are electric and water hookups and good cell service. Site 13 is definitely a winner. Anything further along on that loop will give you a view of some kind of boat repair or storage place. I believe there is a boat launch somewhere, so it might also make a nice boating destination. All in all, we were happy, and definitely impressed, that we were able to get out there at all. Nice.

img_3402-1Oh yes, one footnote. Have you noticed how we use ice packs as weights for the camping mat? Great idea right? Well, just be careful if you do this because if you accidentally step on one, the cap flies off, turning it into a water bomb land mine. Richard’s shoe and sock are still wet.

Total miles: 118.1, 17.4 mpg, 3 hours 12 min (2:41 with no traffic). Site 13. Electric and water hookups. Nice, large, paved pad. Bathrooms, showers, good dump. Better signal for ATT than Verizon, but LTE for both.