Casini Ranch, Duncan Mills

IMG_4974This weekend was our first outing since the Maiden Voyage. This right here was the whole motivation for waiting a year to drive all the way across the country and back. We committed serious money on this endeavor and tremendous amounts of time researching every aspect of what we pictured would be our new lifestyle. Verdict? Let’s see, how does that commercial go….  High tech camper trailer from Quebec: $34k. New tow car: $45k. Complete provisioning for coast to coast journey: unknown but it’s gotta be a lot. Leaving everything behind for the weekend and getting away to the coast in complete comfort: Priceless.

We love her so much it’s hard to describe. At one point Richard said this was the best decision we’ve ever made. I guess without causing offense to the children, dog, friends, students and various colleagues, I would put it only slightly differently: it was one of the best decisions we ever made. We’ll just leave the ranking out of it.

imageWe got out Friday in the early afternoon. The process for hitching up was only a little rusty for me, but Richard has been out of camping mode for a good month. First, we needed to get her down the driveway and we’ve been practicing this a little so we now have a trajectory to follow. We bought some super strong steel ramps to put at the bottom of the driveway in order to prevent the bumper from hitting the street. If we come at the approach from an angle, we only need one. Once her wheels have cleared the gutter, she’s good to go and we just Caravan Mover her onto the street. She really does clear the garage framing and we got the door adjusted so it opens all the way. No problem.

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I took Dory to my school to show her off to colleagues after we were hitched up and there were oohs and aahs all around. Already looking forward to 5th grade camp. Then we were on the road. I reserved our site just a couple of weeks ago so I didn’t know much more about this place than what was on the web. Location was good, sites available, pictures looked nice, so there you go. The campground is on the Russian River, just about 5 miles inland from Jenner. We took Highway 1 along the coast after going through Petaluma.

IMG_4948The campground would be perfect for people with young kids and/or dogs. There are adorable duck ponds, dog runs, horses, playgrounds, group activities, plus fantastic river access for splashing, boating, you name it. And because this is such a family friendly place, it was packed with families this weekend. Our site had tall bushes and trees on one side for privacy, but the other side was wide open facing the river and was right on the main thoroughfare to and from the water. It wasn’t bad mind you, because it fully served the “get outta Dodge” weekend requirement. But it was not particularly secluded.

IMG_4949Set up at the site was “Full Blue” mode. Knowing we’d be there two nights, and knowing we wouldn’t have to rush out on Sunday, I wanted to bask in color coordinated blueness as much as possible. And it was awesome. Dinner Friday was microwave reheated lasagna and pre-made salads from Trader Joes. No fuss, no muss, time to relax and enjoy a bottle of wine by candlelight.


Saturday morning we treated ourselves to cinnamon rolls in the Omnia oven to go with our morning cappuccinos. I know! “Camping” rocks! After that, Richard got ready to head out on a 50 mile loop that was reported to be very nice. I got to be super lazy. I did wipe off the awning to get residual dust off it and as I was out there, people kept coming up and asking me about the Alto. I probably gave ten tours and chatted a lot about it. Didn’t mind at all. I suppose some day I may get tired of that, but it was fun. Then I walked around the campground, put my feet in the water and took a nap. Hard life.IMG_4953

IMG_4970There is NO cell service out in these parts (which seems weird being the California coast with tons of people cruising it constantly). So Richard and I made a plan that we’d meet for coffee back in Duncan Mills around 3. So I biked over and figured I’d have a beer while waiting, except I’d forgotten my wallet. I pondered what to do for a half an hour or so because there was no service and I was worried I’d miss him. Hunger made the decision for me though and I biked back to the campground (this was *maybe* a mile, so not like a big ride). As soon as I got close, a bunch of texts started coming through because even though there was no cell service, the campground did have wifi. Turns out Richard had missed an important turn and was WAY off course and about 15 miles north of where he was supposed to be. He was already exhausted so I told him I’d come pick him up.

IMG_4936Highway 1 north of Jenner turns into what locals apparently call “The Rollercoaster” and I understand why. This is not a road for the faint of heart. It’s very twisty and narrow, with steep drops on the ocean side. Now, with Super Handling AWD, I have to say, it was pretty fun. But the 29 mile trip took a full hour. Luckily, Richard was fine, waiting at the Stewart’s Point General Store with a guy who’d wiped out on his motorcycle and was also waiting for a ride. He is now busily researching apps that will provide him with maps and GPS data even with no service.

You really can’t beat the view here.IMG_4984

Dinner that night was supposed to be steak and grilled veggies on the Weber, but we discovered that the 12v fridge is really quite powerful and had frozen dinner solid. Plan B: mac & cheese. This gave me a chance to use the nesting Magma pots, so yay! It’s camping. I can be flexible. We enjoyed a lovely dinner to the sight of what we later understood was an organized bonfire on the beach. Not knowing this, I was waiting for a helicopter to swoop down and totally kill someone’s party by dousing them all. By the way, it was pretty smoky out there, despite being quite a ways from all of the active fires.

Lazy morning Sunday to pack up and head home. We stopped a couple times along the way and I snapped some coastal shots.

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Summary: Fantastic weekend. Footnote: Steak and veggies are good at home too.IMG_4988

Campground: Casini Ranch Family Campground, site 62

Total miles one way: 100.5, 3 hours 20 min, 15.6 mpg <— lots of stop and go traffic

I only snapped a shot of this because I don’t think Fragile was the word they were looking for, but the idea amused me
There were three of these vintage car/teardrop pairings in a row! They must have been coming from a rally or something. Very cool

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