Well, it has been quite a long time since we’ve been away. We forgot how to do absolutely everything towing related (good thing there’s an app for that). But on the upside, we were extra specially excited to get out there again. The last time we were camping was six weeks ago and this was the next available opportunity to try out some of our xmas projects. It was also an adventure in camping with injuries, more on that later.
We had a very nice site reserved for last weekend at New Brighton Beach near Santa Cruz, scenic rating “10”, but life just didn’t work out to make that realistic. Sadly, we lost our 15 year old puppy, Blaster, last Friday during the night. I can’t say it was unexpected, but it is still pretty hard to accept as reality. He’s been with us during our whole “kid” phase in life and we’re trying to get used to the lack of his presence and twice daily pill alarms. You were the best doggie, Blaster. You made it through two more Christmases than we thought you would, plus the whole summer while we were on our road trip. I’m glad we were home when it was time, but…*sigh*
Also, I messed up my ankle pretty good last Friday. I’d love to say it was the result of doing some kind of exciting, daredevil, triple black diamond ski maneuver or something, but that wouldn’t be very believable. Let’s just say there are rules against running at school for a reason. The reason in my case: ligaments are not to be taken for granted. It turns out they are rather handy and super painful when they snap like little internal rubber bands.
So I was out, like OUT, for the whole week. I hardly moved at all Saturday and Sunday and learned that we really should have put in a walk-in shower rather than a tub when we redid the bathroom. It occurred to me many times that Dory would actually be the ideal place to recover from a foot injury because everything is incredibly close (no long treks to the bathroom), the shower situation is far safer, and there are hand holds everywhere for support. It’s a shame we can’t open the roof in our garage because that is totally where I would have preferred to be. I will say it has healed very quickly and by the end of the week, I was able to walk around in a boot using only one crutch for light support. Right now, I’m back in shoes and it’s feeling a little sore, but way better. So a-camping we went!
This time we went to wine country, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, just outside of Kenwood. This was on the Sonoma side of the valley and we passed many well known wineries on the way. It had been raining (yay California!) pretty hard the past week and the campground was all but empty. Our site was right by a lovely little river, which may or may not run when not in rainy weather, and it had lots of room and privacy. There was no cell service of any kind, but that was about the only downside, if you consider that a downside. We were in the upper loop and the bathrooms there were “primitive”, but there are nice ones on the lower loop.
One of the things we were excited about trying out was our little 1.5L Shuttle Chef thermal cooker. We had gotten a Billy Boil, but something we have discovered is that, in order for the thermal cooking part to work well, you really have to fill the pots. We tried chili in the Billy Boil, and filled it about a third. After letting it cook 5 hours, the temperature was just under 120 degrees, which is somewhat questionable in terms of food safety. Really you want temps above 140 when you have meat. So for us to reach those temperatures, we’d have one heck of a lot of chili. And then we’d have to put the leftovers somewhere, which the fridge would have to cool down, and then we’d need to heat it back up. Part of the whole idea for thermal cookers is to reduce energy use, so we’re thinking the larger size will probably only get used for group gatherings or rally pot lucks.
So we got this little guy. I had my doubts about whether you could actually cook in there, seeing as how it’s so small, but it is very solid and we browned a bunch of sirloin for beef stew with no problem. We added some Penzey’s spices (part of the winter projects), chopped up some carrots and potatoes, poured in beef broth, simmered ten minutes, then into the Shuttle Chef it went! About three hours later we were ready for dinner and Richard cooked up instant rice in our even teenier thermal pot just by pouring in hot water and letting it sit. Yummo! The stew was blazing hot, too hot, and really good. There was still just a little too much food, but we didn’t actually need rice to go with this. Next time we want to try putting in a little less and maybe not making rice.
We tucked in with freshly laundered sheets and a new mounting bracket for my iPad with which to watch “Finding Nemo”. We mused about the appropriateness of Dory’s namesake and what good advice “Just keep swimming” really is. Also continued our “Breaking Bad” watching streak, which is really quite a different feel from Pixar, as we drifted happily off to sleep.
Our other experiment this weekend had to do with ventilation. It has bugged us that, in order to keep the condensation down, and also keep the CO alarm from going off, it works best to run the overhead fan continuously. Thing is, if you are also running the heater, are you not just sucking warm air out of the trailer as soon as you put it in? Also, if it is raining, the automatic rain sensor shuts the fan down, which is great, unless you wanted the ventilation. So we got another tip from the Boat Galley on a good 12v portable fan. We placed this Caframo fan on the front table and kept the window in the door open and the privacy curtain clipped back. Success. We had minimal condensation in the morning and actually found ourselves way too hot at night. In fact, we need to turn that heater way down in the future.
We also need to remember to turn the fridge off overnight. When we woke up, the battery was at 51%, which was lower than we were expecting, but likely a result of over running the heater, and having the fridge and fan running all night. The solar panels started kicking in first thing and were putting in up to 6 amps/hour. We replenished nicely, just while we were sitting there, but may not have gotten back to full by the end of the day if we were staying another night. Since this was a single nighter, we weren’t worried about it, but it was a reminder to be careful about these things for longer boon docking.
This park did not have a dump station on site so we had to take a little detour on our way home by way of a KOA in Petaluma. It was an efficient stop where we got to top up the propane as well. Home before dark, around 5, no rain. Nice weekend. Great to be back in Dory! Everything is great when we’re out with her.
Total miles: 66.6, Engine time: 2 hours, 5 min, 15.9 mpg (but it was 17.1 before we started the impressive climb up to the campground.
Site 28 is the best, 27 would be nice also but not as much sun for solar. No cell or wifi, but there is wifi at the visitor’s center by the campground entrance.