Butano (4)

EHnIJ928SieS46F926yo2gFollowing the events in California this past week, I had one recurring thought: I really wish we had a flat driveway. Power went out for most of the state at varying times and for varying durations in an attempt to prevent fires started by trees blowing into power lines. Without debating the pros and cons of PG&E’s plan, one thing I was thankful for was Dory. While the need did not arise, because we lost power for less than 24 hours total, it was nice to know we had a place to put a couple months’ worth of our daughter’s insulin and have it not go bad. Dory’s fridge will run just fine in the garage, the only downside being the lack of ability to recharge the battery using the solar panels. I knew we could have powered up the generator if need be, and I suppose we could have parked her in the driveway. She would have just been very tippy. Much more fun would have been the option to move in until power was restored. For that, we needed the weekend, but by then the “breezmergency” (a term coined by an awesome fellow teacher), had passed.

oOEoHywdTmqC7tdleJ4ftQWe were pleased to see that camping continues with, or without, power. The Butano State Park ranger in fact told us that the town of Pescadero loses power all the time. So they were generally unfazed and well prepared. Butano is not the place for solar recharging though. This is a deep redwood forest campground. It is mostly populated by tent campers and most of the sites are not too trailer friendly. We’d been in #2 before, but it’s a challenge backing in uphill, avoiding various stumps and trees, all while remaining on the narrow road. I failed the first attempt and ran Bruce’s driver’s side tire into a ditch. It is also not not like you can just pull forward a little and try again. The road in front of site 2 is super steep. So, to come at it again from a better angle, I had to go all the way down the road until I could make an unadvisably tight U-turn. Then, I had to drive all the way back up, past our site, around the campground loop again, and back to the site, hoping my center of the road position would do it. I was prepared to break out the Caravan Mover if necessary, but the second time proved successful.

Hk7Ht4EnSQ2daErPHO0NJAThankfully, we had stopped at the little market in Pescadero, Arcangelli, on our way and had picked up dinner just before they closed at 6. With darkness falling and nerves on edge, a hot pesto chicken sandwich with pasta and potato salads, and olallieberry pie for dessert, really hit the spot.

IMG_3099Saturday began with the usual: a bike ride for Richard and a report for me. There is absolutely no service in the campground, but there is really good wifi down at the Visitor Center. After I’d finished writing, I drove down and used the wifi to pull up some other reports and do some thinking. Richard wasn’t too far away at that point and we met back up at Dory for a change of clothes (for him) before heading back down to Pescadero for lunch.

4qP4VkghTumClP5Gp2pdHQSaturday afternoon was spent poking around the tide pools at Bean Hollow State Park, Pebble Beach until sunset. We saw all kinds of anemones and little hermit crabs. There were seals sunning on rocks and big birds congregating atop white, bird poop covered, outcroppings. The timing for both sunset and low tide coincided, so we got to wander out quite far, taking care not to break legs on the slippery seaweed.

The sunset was beautiful. The plentiful cloud cover turned all kinds of pretty colors after the sun went down and I enjoyed the task of trying to catch the splashes of waves, back lit by the setting sun. One of them came out pretty well.fullsizeoutput_1354

hs%Xu829S0+m3nIHTC5yFQDinner Saturday was at a fifth grade teacher favorite: Duarte’s, in Pescadero. This is the go to place during camp week, and the “half and half” cream of artichoke and green chile soup is the thing to have. It is not on the menu, so don’t bother looking for it.

Sunday we dumped tanks at Half Moon Bay SP while I reminded myself that yes, I really do need to go to the Professional Development Day on Monday. “Are you suuuuuure?” was the question that got repeated all morning, by both of us really. The sign at the kiosk said “campground full” anyway and I didn’t let Richard double check. So we dumped, had some lunch in the day use area, and it was home again home again.

Wonder what next week will bring the Golden State?

Total miles: 76.4, 15.0 mpg, 2 hours 52 min. Site 2, challenging but doable. Very tippy. No hookups, no solar, no service. Good wifi at the Visitor Center. Bathrooms are fine. Crumb clean campground.


Bodega Dunes (4)

5ctXuQWiSRSTbHNiwW+FeAWe’re repeating campgrounds for sure. But at least we tried a different loop this weekend. So that’s not entirely boring. And it was a weekend of perfect weather, so even it that is boring, it’s in a good way.

The upper loop at Bodega Dunes has some nice solar sites. We were in #9 and besides the fact that the picnic table area was kind of behind us instead of on the door side, it was a good site. Plenty of space between us and other campers, and enough of a level pad at the top so as not to be too tippy.

omHxB9SdQCqULx%S2Qk5mAWe did our usual things: report, bike ride, dinner at the Mexican place. Plus, we walked down to the beach in the afternoon and caught a sunset after dinner. I spotted a seal in the water, but that was about it, besides the humans.

TOXCCJjORsO6a1d5eqblDQSunday I got the chance to hand out three of my new calling cards as we were packing up. I stole the idea from other Altoistes, who in turn had stolen the idea from someone else. It is the perfect thing for spontaneous tours because it has all of the online addresses for people to get more information. Upon handing out the third card, the person said, “Do you give a lot of tours?” Laughter all around.

H9YLzJZeR1iXtkWUroHNiwAfter dumping, we headed down to the day use area for a quick lunch at the beach. We parked behind the cute T@B we’d noticed in the campground. I haven’t a single regret about not getting one, but I still find them to be very cute little trailers.

On our way home, we witnessed a very near miss accident where some jerk in a truck nearly ran a towed car off the road. You know how those big RVs sometimes tow little cars behind them? We were a couple of cars behind one where two lanes were merging into one. This guy in a big pickup must have thought the towed car was just tailgating the RV and not letting him in. He got more and more insistent about trying to cut between the RV and the towed car.  He must have come within an inch of hitting that car before the RV quickly pulled off to the side of the road to let him pass. It was then he must have realized the situation, plus the fact no one was driving the little car. He did not pass, but instead waved the RV to go ahead. I hope that was a lesson for him on road aggression because it would have been a really embarrassing insurance claim.

Nice weekend, another ocean sunset, short post, all good. Drive safe out there, people!

Total miles: 81.6, 15.4 mpg, 2 hours 33 min. Site 9, no hookups, good solar, good LTE for both of us. Nice bathrooms, good dump.

Lake Solano (3)

LMT1xbEQRCCyr%sbTrlsQQIt doesn’t get much better than this. River side site, electric and water hookups, kayak launching from the site, herons and geese and tons of birds, plus river otters! I will admit there is road noise in this campground, and you can see cars clearly on Highway 128, right across the river. Small price to pay, in my book.

Though we could have run the AC this weekend, the temperatures were just about perfect, so no need. Richard went on a nice long bike ride Saturday and, with the help of the cell signal booster, I got a whole lot of work done. No complaining here. I got to stare at the river birds and play music and feel better about things that were starting to get ahead of me.

nxRT94U0QfygevMAbenGyQI almost felt too lazy to get my boat in the water in the afternoon, but man, am I glad I fought the sloth and launched! First off, it was a gorgeous day and the river was alive with all kinds of birdsong. And goose honking. And goose butts, which always amuse me. I went downstream this time and made it all the way down to the actual “lake” part of Lake Solano. I never had known what that was, but really it’s just a widening of Putah Creek to the point that there is no current and it looks lakeish.

EiUUjbs+TKy3QQg9hfBnqAOnce I got away from the campground, cell service came back. I’d been looking pretty carefully along the shoreline to see if I could spot an otter, because this just seemed like the kind of place they would live. As luck would have it, once I’d reached my farthest point from the campground, Richard texted me to say he was looking right at an adorable family of otters directly in front of our camp site. I wanted to tell him to keep them occupied while I paddled as fast as I could back his way. Short of throwing them fish we didn’t have, I wasn’t under the impression there was anything he could do.

Image 9-29-19 at 3.53 PMBy the time I got all the way back, they had moved on, but I wasn’t ready to give up. Otter spotting determination runs strong in my blood. I went upstream, past the campground by just a bit, and there they were, frolicking by the bank! I parked myself against the opposite shore and just stared at them playing in the water for a good long time. Not a single picture came out, but I did get some videos and grabbed still frame shots from them. Even so, none of the footage captures the adorableness of an otter head popping out of the water with a full open mouth fishy chew. Image 9-29-19 at 3.56 PMI could even see their cute little chompy teeth as they yum yummed, then blooped back under water. I think there were four and at least two of them seemed pretty little. Omigosh, what a good day!

For a county park, this is a pretty sweet spot. For some reason, there are peacocks wandering around. That brought repeated comments from us, referencing the “A Story” couple in Extreme RVs, “Who has a peacock near their RV? Me! I do!” sTevlg3%RxeJqQV7VCgTngWe were entertained every time we said it.

The bathrooms are rustic, but the toilets flush and water comes out of the tap if you push the little button a couple times. There is even a shower, but it’s the kind that makes me glad Dory has a shower. I didn’t get in to Winters this time, but Richard says there was a “carnitas festival” happening. I have a little regret about not finding out more there.

Fun place. I’ll book again and remind myself I won’t be guaranteed another otter sighting. But I’ll bet we’ll get peacocks and herons.

Total miles: 54.5, 17.2 mpg, 2 hours with Friday traffic. Site 25. Electric & water. Good solar, river side. Good dump on site. LTE for Verizon, really spotty ATT – either no service or 1 bar of 5g. Just a little outside the campground, there was LTE.

Pinnacles (4)

EAnkGl%2RwKj16UogneJHQSome trips we plan just to test out gear. That was definitely the case with this return trip to Pinnacles NP. Over the summer we discovered just how lame our headlamp gear was when we did lava tubing in Lava Beds NP. That led Richard to extensive headlamp research and the frequent recitation of lumens numbers, even though I did not know what that word meant.

YS54uEp0RRGyVaIB82M3ZAHe landed on the Olight H2R. Doesn’t hurt that the head strap has blue accents, but I swear that’s not why we got it. This little light can go from super bright, like “I’m scared and inside a cave” level, to “moon light” mode so you can walk around the campsite and not blind people. It’s also really easy to use without reading the instructions. We tested this out in the Balconies Cave on Saturday and were both really pleased. Now we are cave people and need to start searching out other caves we can explore.

Saturday night we attended a ranger talk about nocturnal animals and that was fun. The especially fun part was that I could hear the ranger even though we were sitting in the back. One of the exciting things that happened this past week was that I got new hearing aides. The others were quite old and there’s a huge improvement in quality. I kept turning to Richard whispering, “I can totally hear her!” It’s the simple things.

Screen Shot 2019-09-19 at 7.28.42 AMThe other exciting thing that happened was the long awaited airing of our episode on Extreme RVs. It has been well over a year and a half since we filmed it and we thought they were never going to show it. Richard, in fact, was pretty sure our footage alone was so terrible, it had caused them to cancel the entire season. We were relieved that it didn’t look as bad as we thought it might, but were prepared to hit the road and assume new identities if it had been really embarrassing. Only our neighbor friends were allowed to witness the first viewing and I’m thankful they did not post footage of all the screaming, doubling over, and face hiding.

fullsizeoutput_1325But back to Pinnacles. Besides the caving, we saw a condor at a distance and a tarantula up close. That was pretty cool. It is apparently tarantula migration season and they are not an uncommon sight. Pretty sure that was my first wild sighting though. A whole group gathered around to look, including a park ranger with a sense of humor. Just as one person was leaning in really close to get a picture, he casually mentioned, “They can jump up to ten feet.” Then after the person jumped nearly that distance backwards, “Just kidding.”

The dump there is still awkward to use, with a big concrete curb around it, but they have added wifi for purchase at the Visitor Center. This is a big plus for us. It’s a one time lifetime fee of $10 and you can use it any time you come back. This saved us from driving about ten miles out of the park to do a check in. It only reaches as far as the immediate area around the Visitor Center, but that is just perfect.

All we need now is to figure out an alternative to 101 on a Friday.

Total miles: 128.2, 17.0 mpg, 3’58” with terrible traffic on 101 South Friday. Only about 2 1/2 hours to get home. Site 98, electric hookups. The bathroom is located in the tent loop. We noted that site 15 would be closer and more private, but would not have hookups. It would have good solar though. NO cell service until about 10 miles north of the park. Terrible dump, but at least it’s open now.

Wright’s Beach (5)

Xmz2a1HwTT2mn2GUPeCfkwI earned this one. Whether through stressful situations beyond my control, or catastrophes entirely of my own making, the end of last week sent me searching for a large rock under which I could live for a while. The longer, the better. What perfect timing that we happened to have a premium site reserved at my favorite spot on the planet.

fullsizeoutput_1317I don’t have much new information to share, just a reconfirmation that the ocean can wash away all sins. I left the site once to get dinner on Saturday. Otherwise, I got to hang out listening to the gentle sound of the surf. Yeah, there was a report mixed in there, but also walks on the beach, sunsets, even a whale spotted off the coast.

DecCLFy3R3OKqfmG1dpPzwSince the closure from last spring, they still have not repaired the damaged culvert on the entrance road, but they allow you to drive around it. They’ve also done quite a bit of work in thinning the vegetation. Site 4, for example, used to have a thickly obstructed view of the ocean, due to all of the bushes. Now there’s less of a barrier to the view, but also less division between it and site 3. All in all, it’s an improvement, but it has somewhat reduced the privacy between several of the sites. Didn’t bother me, but thought I’d mention it.

g7ImMnIFQ9mQi2G3h8QhQgPlaces like these make it very easy to be present in the moment. I have a couple more reservations on the books and I started wondering whether I’d gotten too many. Like would I eventually get sick of it? Would I ruin it? As I sat there semi napping, occasionally looking out to see the spray from a large crash of waves, I thought to myself: that is the most ridiculous worry I have ever had.

Richard may well get sick of his boho bike ride out there, but I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this place. Status: healed and humble. Onward.

Total miles: 93.6, 15.2 mpg, 2 hours 46 min. Site 3. No hookups. Excellent solar. No ATT service until you drive closer to Bodega Bay. Verizon LTE above the campground on Highway 1. No dump. No showers. Nice bathrooms. Dump for free at Bodega Dunes.

Sunset SB (5)

img_7273Lovely weekend in another Premium site. This time it was #25 at Sunset State Beach. This site tends to be booked solid all the time, even when the rest of the campground is empty. Its popularity is a well enough known fact that when we pulled up at the kiosk, the ranger said, “If you have site 25, you probably don’t need a map.” He was correct, we did not.

It is report writing season and this weekend was no different. The only unusual addition to the weekend routine was a prearranged tour of Dory on Saturday morning. It is really nice and thoughtful, and super appreciated, when people bring delicious things as thank you gifts when they come for a tour. This super nice couple brought us delicious pastries from a place called Gayle’s. I’m happy to give them another tour, any time!

img_7276Richard spent the day riding around, but I did get a chance to get down to Elkhorn Slough around dinner time. It was too late and too windy for boating, but we were still able to enjoy dinner at Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery, down in Moss Landing. Fun fact: Phil is one of the few chefs to ever triumph in a throw down match with Bobby Flay. If I liked cioppino, I would have definitely gotten some there.

img_7279Then we got to have a (windy) romantic walk on the beach before heading over to Moss Landing Beach for the sunset. There were all sorts of seals, playfully slapping the water, and otters, doing their rolling around thing, plus pelicans, seagulls, and your usual cast of beachy characters.

Sunday we milked the premium view for all it was worth before heading out, slightly past the noon checkout time. One thing we noted: people seem to be more inclined to walk right through sites these days, sometimes passing uncomfortably close to our personal space bubble, and Dory. I was hypothesizing on this. img_7261I do not think  it is intentional on their part. I’m wondering if, because camping is becoming a generally more popular thing to do, that there are more and more people doing it who never went camping as children.

There are all kinds of “hidden rules” involved in sharing a campground. When you’re a kid, those rules become explicitly stated, like when your parents yell at you to “Get away from those people’s campsite!” You are told that it is unexpected to walk right through the middle of a campsite, or to walk right next to someone’s camper or tent. More and more, we’re noticing people who appear never to have gotten the hidden rules there, and they literally walk, and often stop, right in the middle of what is clearly, to us, our zone. And the more people do that, the more other people see it and figure that’s what is expected. img_7258In any case, it causes us to look at them with a confused expression, which most of them seem to be missing as a social clue. It’s more understandable when our site in on the way to a communal path, but this time it really wasn’t. It was just like part of exploring the campground included walking through sites and practically brushing against other people’s campers. I’m a special ed teacher. Perhaps I should create some visual supports and post them. Who couldn’t benefit from a social story, right?

img_7306On our way home we got some fun waves and honks from our super solar powered Altoistes friends. They pull with a Tesla and also blog about their adventures. You should definitely check them out! We waved and pulled off the highway to dump tanks at New Brighton, but it was fun to see them on the road!

One last thing to report: I’m trying out a new thingy on the faucet. It has been a long term goal of mine to figure out some way to get the faucet more out of the way in the sink. img_7274Short of putting in entirely new hardware and/or a new sink, I’m hoping this cheap plastic springy tube will make things a bit more accessible. We got a thingy to put on the aerator a while back that basically turns the water flow into a misty spray. That’s a good thing when you’re conscious of a limited grey water tank capacity. This new hose allows me to put the misty aerator on the end of it. The mister was probably part of a short term online scam because I can’t find it anymore. But we love our scam and got two of them before they disappeared. The hose thingy is really cheap and will probably break. But for now, it does exactly what I wanted it to do. We’ll live with it for a while and see if it’s a good addition.

Forgot to take data, but it was very slow going on Friday due to traffic. Site 25! No hookups, good LTE for both. Great solar, which kept the battery fully charged. Ok bathrooms, showers. No dump. Dump at New Brighton for free if you keep your park tag.

Clear Lake SP (2)

YvjUpURoRjeMOJ2P2mH0lAExpectation vs. Reality. Last time I saw this site at Clear Lake State Park, it was a few years ago and I noted it as being super nice and right by the water. Like kind of my dream site, with a private beachy area where I could leave my boat set up. Since that time, I’ve reserved it twice, only to have the reservation cancelled due to flooding. It’s difficult to snag, so I was super psyched to finally get to partake. And on Labor Day weekend no less!

sjNMWHhoQW6Gw7C0UIJq1QWhen we pulled in, around sunset time on Friday, I noticed the park had done a significant amount of work on the grading of the sites by the water. This, no doubt was to address the flooding issues. Great idea, and they’d put in a retaining wall of rocks, creating little beaches down at the water line. What used to be a gentle slope from the paved pad down to the water was now a large flat area, bordered by the rock wall, and a nice big sandy beach down lower. It seemed way too good to be true. And indeed, it was.

But first, another glitch. As I was basking in the sunset view on the beach, following a 4 hour drive, Richard’s job was to make a quick pan dinner. It was already kind of late and we were both hungry, not a good time to break the dusky mood with the sound of sudden swearing.

img_7251Let’s back up. Richard’s project this past week was to replace the “pigtail hose” that connects the propane tank to Dory. He ordered the part, not the one he wanted because that was out of stock, but a supposedly equivalent model. It turned out to be not that big a deal to swap out. Did he test it to make sure propane would actually move through the new hose? No, because you see, that could have been dangerous to have fumes filling up the garage. Did he take the hose he removed in order to have a backup plan just in case the new one didn’t work? Nope. Because…

So now we’re swearing by the beach, as the light slowly disappears and we don’t really have any other plan for dinner. Options: drive back out to town and go to a restaurant, or…. I had the quick thinking idea of pulling out the grill and we had the fried rice pan dinner after all. I’m hoping you are imagining grilled fried rice and have questions. Answer: I used the grill pan we purchased for the summer and it worked fantastically well. In the background as I cooked, Richard was still doing desperation moves over by the propane tank and was now swearing because of being bitten by mosquitoes while he repeatedly screwed and unscrewed things. He also realized that the propane tank was reading empty. We’re still not sure if that was an oversight before departure, or the result of gas escaping during all the futzing. Didn’t matter much at the time since we were already on Plan B.

That night he took a fully cold shower. And the next morning, I had a cold latte. But we had a plan, and that was for him to go to Brown’s RV, the service place back in Lower Clearlake while I wrote a report to stall for time so that I would not have to take a cold shower. There he could get a new hose thingy and fill propane at the same time.

img_7250Really, this was all solved by around 10:30 when he got back with a new pigtail hose and everything then worked just fine. He was able to verify that it was the hose, not the near empty tank, that was the culprit. I’m no expert, but even I can see that the little hole on the new faulty hose is a lot smaller than the one on the original hose, and I could see that causing a problem. All told, it was a relatively easy fix and not that long a time to deal with a glitch. We had two very lucky things going for us: 1) it was pretty hot so there were no thoughts of needing the heater, and 2) we don’t have a propane fridge.

Q8DALjluRqGYRvREhwf1IAWe regrouped and rebounded and he got ready to do a long bike ride in order to shake off the discombobulation. My plan was to take a non cold shower and get my boat out for a paddle. All morning I’d noticed people walking right next to, or even through, our site, and that was not a huge surprise. There is a little boardwalk path leading to a shared beach that I remembered from the last time we were there. Of course people were going to be coming and going along that boardwalk. What I didn’t realize until mid morning was that the little beach right in front of our site was now being used as an additional communal beach rather than a part of the site.AWBqoTGTS3+EtcKfq6z7lg The part of me that understands the importance of sharing recognized it would not be entirely fair for one site to have the only access to such a great launching area. The part of me that remembered the happy campers all spread out on their own personal beach the last time I was here needed to start adjusting her expectations. As it was Labor Day weekend, our site became the most popular location in the park for people to walk through. Nice people, happy people, saying hi and complimenting Dory. Many commented on what a great site we were in, as they were walking through it.

5AZHsLZOSdKf+brFSAbzugSo as I mentally shifted, I got my boat ready and tried out my new set of kayak wheels. My hope is that these will make it easier to set up the boat somewhere in shade and then roll it to wherever I’m launching. In my research, I came across one (in blue) called the “Nemo Extremo,” and that was pretty much a done deal there. I do actually happen to like it, and it’s the only one I saw that comes apart small enough to store inside my kayak bag. So see? Not crazy. Just lucky. I will say this particular application was not the greatest, since now there’s a rock wall with only a narrow footpath down to the beach. I first crashed the wheels into the fire pit grate, before crashing it into the boardwalk fence, and then getting it snagged on the rocks. Product testing complete and guess what! It’s very sturdy.

fullsizeoutput_130cThe water on the lake is not cold at all, but still enough to be a refreshing break from the heat. It hit the low 90s every day and it was awesome to be able to cool off in the water. There were herons and pelicans and egrets all along the shore, so it was a fun paddle. That night it was Blue Apron for dinner and lots of talk about how things could be way way worse.

The next day was going to be another hot one, so I sagged Richard around the lake. It’s a pretty drive and there’s air conditioning and music in the car, so thumbs up there. In the afternoon, we semi napped in our Nemo Stargazer chairs (I can’t help it if everything of quality just happens to fit within my theme). For an early dinner, we went out to Park Place in Lakeport for pesto chicken pizza, Caesar salads, and blackberry bread pudding. Note to self: the bar is nice, but make a reservation next time. 4gND6xsRRB6%3WQF+4yeKgWe had just enough time for another paddle, this time with me towing Richard around in  his floatie.

We really did have a lovely time, although, this is not the dream site I had in my mind. I would reserve it again and I’ll bet it’s not quite as much of a thoroughfare when it’s not Labor Day weekend. The little beach still offers a perfect place to launch and watch the sunset. The solar was great and we didn’t even need to run the generator. I put up the Aluminet on the fridge side of Dory, and that does seem to help when it’s hot. Otherwise, we ran fans when we were inside, or just found ways to keep cool outdoors. It cooled off nicely at night.

X3rdnW+gTB6KOGn14PFDAgAnd last: Bruce got his bumper all fixed up at the car wash for a fraction of what we were quoted by the local auto body shops. And Dory got a new tattoo, to replace the promotional “Finding Dory” sticker that fell off somewhere along the road. As we’ve just finished Season 4 of “Better Call Saul,” the phrase that comes to mind is, “s’all good, man.”

Total miles: 166.6, 16.1 mpg, 4 hours 2 min. Site 58, Kelsey Creek Campground. Great solar, great cell service for both. No hookups. Good dump on site. Nice bathrooms and showers.