Fremont Peak SP (2)

A tricky back-in approach after sundown.

Hello darkness, my old friend. You may think you’ve got me beat with my declining nighttime vision and with your tricky back-in sites. But you have been bested this round, with a combination of the Avoid Highways feature, and my expert level online shopping skills. I’ll put my “Add to Cart” ninja-like reflexes up against your sneaky darkness moves any day! Can’t see a thing while backing? *does quick search for collapsible traffic cones with blinking LED lights* BAM! Now we have a runway! My next level-up move really needs to be getting new glasses, optimized for darkness distance viewing. But this was a satisfying win. It really helps to take frontage roads and get off the highways whenever possible. We stayed off 101 all the way through Gilroy and Morgan Hill. That reduced traffic stress and driving fatigue by a lot and didn’t even add that much time.

It’s better when you can’t see the ground.

Now that it is approaching the shortest day of the year, we are almost guaranteed to arrive at our site after sunset. I was pleased with how not terrified I was climbing the road up to Fremont Peak. When we came before, I thought to myself I sure wouldn’t want to do that steep, narrow, windy, cliffy, 10-mile drive at night. But actually, it didn’t faze me. It may have to do with the fact that steep drop-off roads are less intimidating when you can’t see the way way down below views. There was also a lot of fog as we drove up too, so it was all about just staying on the road. I do not have pictures of that, as you can appreciate. The only part that really caused me consternation was in the campground itself when I couldn’t quite believe the super narrow section that disappeared over a hill was the way I was supposed to go. Richard got out and walked it until he found our site and waved me forward.

I had a hard time believing this was a route intended for cars.

Driving past the site so that I could back in, I had to take a turn to the left and start going downhill. That meant I’d be backing uphill after straightening out. The site was on the edge of a pretty steep hill. My memory from being there before filled in the far, far below valley views. So I did not want to overshoot. Exciting! Enter our new collapsible hazard cones, with blinking LED lights. Richard set them on either side of the front of the site, and at the back two corners, to form a flashing red rectangle that I could see perfectly in Dory’s rear view camera. All I had to do was steer. Richard guided and encouraged over the walkie talkies. Piece of cake. I honestly do not think I would have had the guts to pull that move without those blinky lights. So now they are an essential part of our gear.

San Juan Bautista valley with Lick Observatory way over atop a mountain in the distance.

We woke to a bright blue sky, high above the solid cloud layer hundreds of feet down below. We had a friend camping down at the coast who said it was overcast there. We got to look at it from above. Pretty cool. Fremont Peak is a very chill and quiet campground. No big rigs would dare that ascent, so it’s mostly tent campers. The most prevalent sounds are the woodpeckers going at it on the Valley Oak trees. It is very peaceful.

10 miles, straight up

Richard (for reasons I don’t get) wanted to do the ride up the road on Saturday. For reasons I did understand, he did not want to do the descent. So I drove him down and dropped him off at the bottom. It is a fun drive when you know it a little, and you’re not towing, and it’s not nighttime. I sent him back beta as I returned to Dory (like letting him know at 5.8 miles it starts kicking up, and at 8 miles it calms down).

Fancy. Like I could impress people with this as an hors d’oeuvre. Except they take forever to assemble. So people would probably end up being more irritated than impressed. But maybe that is what “fancy” is all about.

The rest of the time, we napped, and sort of read a little, before napping more. I enjoyed my fancy marinated mozzarella toasts, on a leaf of basil, with roasted red pepper, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a bit of salt and pepper for good measure. And then a Blue Apron re-creation for dinner. That inspired me to look for a better tortilla toasting solution, as many of the recipes are tacos or tostadas. I tried just warming them up in the frying pan, but it was not great. Any suggestions?

Perfectly peaceful

It was a beautiful weekend in a chill location. There are no services there, so we stopped at Betabel RV Park on our way back to dump. It is a $15 fee and well worth it. Uneventful drive home. All is good.

PS, we definitely have a raccoon pet now. He/she was spotted numerous times over the weekend, coming right up to the sliding glass door.

Total miles: 107.8, 16.3 mpg, 3 hours 53 minutes (taking backroads through Gilroy and Morgan Hill). Site 7 no hookups. None of the other sites are as trailer friendly or have as nice a view. Good LTE for both. Some solar, but not great. No dump, so go to Betabel just up the highway.

Morro Bay (5)

The best campground shots are the ones with another Alto in them.

Yessirree. That’s what I’m talking bout. That was about the most perfect week ever. I am very lucky to work for a school district that takes off the entire week for Thanksgiving. We really lived this one up and spent it in one of our all time favorite places. In addition, we got our daughter an early xmas present by putting her up in a hotel room right downtown. I didn’t realize how ideally located it was until I dropped her off, but wow, she had a damn good week too.

Linda with dogs (x4)

We kicked off the festivities by joining up with our dog pack friend. Linda-with-dogs had the whole team with her, so going anywhere was always guaranteed to be exciting. Two of her pack are still puppies really, with lots of energy. But I got to sometimes be in charge of the small one and the mellow one. And from afar I got to watch Linda wrangle the youngins while trying to remain on the ground. Those are some lucky ass dogs right there.

Facie with a morro in the background.

One of my favorite activities of the week was heading out to Edna Valley Vineyards for a reserved wine tasting. They are located outside San Luis Obispo in a gorgeous valley, surrounded by endless rows of grape vines and tucked in among amber hills, all showing off their best fall colors. Add to that a flight of Edna’s best vintages, and you’ve got yourself a perfect afternoon. Richard rode out to meet us there and I snuck in a paddle for a couple hours beforehand. One of the excellent things about Richard is that he does not drink, so he’s always on board to be the designated driver. This is super handy. We topped off the day by heading into nearby Los Osos to grab dinner at La Palapa.

You can’t beat Morro Bay for sunset shots

The next day we chilled and walked around Morro Rock while Richard rode out to Cayucos and back. We met up downtown and had dinner at another favorite: House of Juju. I enjoyed a good IPA, a premium sunset, and Juju roasted potatoes with three dipping sauces. We walked it all off with a stroll to ice cream and a near encounter with our daughter.

Human. I require admittance. Let’s see some hustle.

While we were out selfishly living the good life, we faced a dilemma at home. Back six years ago when we left for the summer to go pick up Dory1, our daughter held down the fort, but accidentally adopted a stray cat. Since then, Kitty (“Sketch”) has become part of the family, but really she just agrees to let us feed her and let her in and out, according to her whims. She’ll be polite about allowing you time to get to the glass door when she’s sitting either inside, or outside of it. But really, it’s obvious to everyone that we are there to serve her needs and not ask questions about where she goes. This was the first time in six years there was not going to be anyone at home though, so we weren’t quite sure what to do. Luckily, we have awesome neighbors, who agreed to look out for her and try to accommodate her lack of schedule. By the second day, we all realized this was not going to work. She wasn’t showing herself to them, nor was she coming inside to eat. So they agreed to try putting the food outside during the day, only to discover that we were now feeding an entirely extra cat! This piqued our neighbors’ curiosity. And these are neighbors who own a wildlife camera. After some strategic suveillance sessions, we were relieved to learn that Kitty was in fact eating. We were somewhat less thrilled to see that we were also feeding Imposter Cat as well as numerous raccoons and skunks. But at least Kitty was ok. And she later agreed to come inside and sleep all day on our various beds. Obviously, we now absolutely require a wildlife camera.

Back in our wonderland of irresponsible pet ownership, we took a trip over to the Monarch Butterfly Grove at Pismo Beach. You will be happy to know that the butterfly count is way up from recent years. If you follow the state park link, you can watch an informational video that is quite good and captures the clusters much better than I could. I’m looking forward to planting milkweed at our house and maybe we can attract some Monarchs one day. They were quite present in the campground and I even spotted some while out boating on the bay.

Hey! That’s a morro!

We got in a hike up to Black Hill, which is one of the “nine sisters,” which are also morros, which are essentially volcanic caps. This trail starts right in the campground and ends with a spectacular view of the entire bay. I highly recommend that one. If you don’t feel like hiking it, you can drive most of the way up and catch a nice sunset view too.

Big dropoffs + groceries = ouch

The only two non wonderful things that happened all week were: 1) I twisted my ankle really dramatically when returning from grocery shopping, and 2) accidentally poured myself a nice generous shot of canola oil for my margarita. In both cases, my mind was elsewhere rather than paying attention to what I was doing, but the ill effects of the canola shot were immediately rectifiable. The ankle wasn’t too badly twisted, but my pride was hurt, as it was quite a spectacle, with groceries flying everywhere.

Dinner view. I mean. Come on.

Thanksgiving dinner itself was so great, we might never go back to cooking again. We splurged and met family in town at Windows on the Water, where the quality of the food is equally matched by the view from their deck. We had an excellent Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner meal, while our daughter indulged in the Prime Rib. It was just fabulous.

Another sunset shot. But with bird.

All in all, this was a hard week to come back from. We spent the most time we ever have in the same site with no hookups (8 nights total), thanks to all of our tricks. For waste tank management, we used campground bathrooms, except at night, and the black tank easily lasted the whole week. We brought our Barker portable waste tank to manage grey water, and that worked well. I used that twice to fully dump the grey tank so that we could live it up and shower and wash dishes as we normally do. It helped that our site was pretty close to the dump. For power, the sun is just too low in the sky in November for the solar panels to keep things topped up, even in full sun, and even with the new huge 400w panels on Dory2. We used the generator a couple of times for a couple of hours and bumped those batteries right back up to full though. That is one thing that is far superior about lithium batteries over lead acid: the charge time is so much faster because the inverter/converter does not have to worry about boiling the battery. It can dump in a whole bunch of amps and get into float mode quickly. With the lead acid batteries, once you hit 80% capacity, the converter slows everything down and it can take ages to get from 80 to 100. As for food, I shopped once during the week and we enjoyed a nice balance of Blue Apron recreations, pan dinners, and eating out. Richard, of course, used his bike tons, I used my boat a couple times, and we even had room for a twenty three year old, with baggage.

And an otter to bring it on home

It was such a great week, none of us wanted it to end. Except Kitty. She has been extremely cuddly since our return. Mr. Racoon, on the other hand, does not approve of the relocation of the endless food bowl. He’s leaving us a bad Yelp review right now.

This place has really gone downhill since the recent change in management. It’s like they’re not even trying. I’d give it zero stars if I could.

Total miles: 233.6, 18.1 mpg, 5 hours 9 min. Site 115 no hookups. Close to bathroom and dump. No neighbors on starboard side and neighbors nicely distanced on port side. Great LTE for both. Full sun, but you know, winter. Would choose this site again.

Clear Lake (5)

Perfect site

September and October are the long haul months of the school year. If you can make to right about now, you’re doing well. This four day weekend was a most welcome gift and we could not have gotten better weather for it. The park was also pretty low key and chill for a holiday weekend. Many sites were empty, even into Saturday. Leaves were golden brown and the feeling of Fall abounded.

Highway 16 through the Capay Valley

Having a four day weekend meant we could leave on Thursday morning and venture a bit farther than our standard weekend spots. Clear Lake is a favorite of ours for exactly these kinds of special treats. On our way up, we decided to try Highway 16. There are warning signs at the start of the route saying trucks with more than 30 feet from king pin to rear axle are not advised. Sometimes that means narrow, winding roads so I’d not felt like risking it before. Nowadays, I find myself welcoming the backroads over a highway any day, even when it’s slow going. Richard got an opportunity to ride it too, since we had the whole day to get there. We pulled off at a community park in Esparto where he geared up and started his ride. I was able to leap frog easily all along the route and found the road to be extremely pleasant. What it may have lacked in fresh paving along some stretches, was more than made up for in being sparsely traveled and agreeably scenic. There are very few services between Esparto and the little town of Rumsey, with the exception of Cache Creek Casino. Once you pass Rumsey, there is really nothing except a couple of regional parks, a closed campground, and a BLM campground, all the way until you get to Highway 20. All told, 16 is just about 45 miles, starting as a nice level meander through Capay Valley. Then it climbs up through Cache Creek Canyon, sticking close to the little river until it splits off and follows Bear Creek. Once you hit 20, you’ve still got about another hour to get to Kelseyville, where the State Park is located. Our trip up took a leisurely six hours, but it did not feel at all tiring, given the slow and easy pace.

Cache Creek running through the canyon

You can see multiple areas where there is fire damage from the fires that have happened over the past few years. Things are growing back, but the burn scars are unmistakable. Some hillsides have forests of dead trees still standing, and that is sad to see. There are also places where rock slides are obviously a common occurrence. Richard said that while he was biking, he could hear the constant trickle of little pebbles, like the sound of rain, except more ominous. That would probably be a worse thing to get caught in than a hail storm.

So many White Pelicans

I do so love this park. We have learned which site offers the best balance between lake view, solar access, and lack of people walking right through the site. The weekend forecast was all about clear skies and mild temps that were not quite ready to turn the corner into the winter season. It was perfect biking and paddling weather and we both took advantage of that on Friday. I got to see multitudes of White Pelicans, plus some Egrets and Herons thrown into the mix. The Pelicans dazzled me with their swooping and clustering routines and I got to observe while floating on glassy smooth waters. I did note the lake is exceptionally low. There are beaches now where there shouldn’t be, so it would be nice if we could get a couple more bomb cyclones’ worth of water before the rainy season is over.

Beautiful Soda Bay – with otters out there (but I didn’t get a picture)

The most unexpectedly fun part of the weekend was that we were spotted by a pair of local Altoistes who popped over to chat and say hello. I love when that happens!! Rick and Dee Dee are the nicest people, who are living their absolute best life. Between their Alto, their little airplane, and their property right on the lake in Soda Bay, they have got this life thing down. I can only aspire to that level of ‘nailed it.’ They were also kind enough to invite us over to their cabin for brownies and popcorn, which we happily accepted on Saturday. You can’t get a more perfect spot for lake access and sunset viewing, and somehow, they arranged for about five otters to swim by, right on cue, just after we arrived. Such thoughtful hosts! We chatted about Altoing, and flying, and wind, and assessing risk. It was all quite lovely.

Peace and Plenty Farm

The other thing we did Saturday was return to Chacewater Wiinery and Olive Oil Mill for olive oil tasting. You know what is one of the best things ever? Meyer Lemon or Blood Orange olive oil drizzled over vanilla ice cream. Trust me on this. We also stopped by the Peace and Plenty Farm. This is a very cool place, especially if you like Saffron. The website says it is the largest Saffron farm in North America, and we did see evidence of little purple crocuses here and there. They have a store, operated on the honor system, where you can leave money or Venmo a payment for any of the items you like. They have, of course, many things available that are infused with Saffron in one way or another. According to Dee Dee, their Lavender shortbread cookies are insane, but alas, they were out when we went. We enjoyed watching the numerous chickens and honey bees, but didn’t get anything this time. We’ll definitely stop by to see what’s available any time we go up there.

Cute and fun Kelseyville

We took a little tour of Kelseyville and had some lunch at Pogo’s Pizza. It is a very cute little town with a couple of nice restaurants and a very small market. For more services, you need to go to Lakeport, or down to Clearlake.

Meeting up in Rumsey

Sunday we got to say hello to our Altoiste friends one more time as they did their morning walk through the park. Then it was time to hit the road and head on back. But not before enjoying some buttermilk biscuits, hot out of the Omnia oven, with butter and blueberry jelly. Mmmmm. We took the same route back and Richard rode just the part from 20 to Rumsey. All was nice and uneventful until a driver just ahead of me kicked up a thin piece of plywood, which smacked Bruce2 right in his face. No damage besides maybe some scratched paint, but it reinforces the theme of the unpredictability of life.

It was an absolutely perfect weekend. Thanks again Rick and Dee Dee for your company and hospitality. So fun!!

Total miles: 150.3, 15.9 mpg. 6 hours up, 5 hours back, but each with some bike sagging along the way. Site 60. Good solar, except in fall/winter when the sun is low. No hookups. Water spigots nearby. Good dump near the visitor center. Pretty good LTE for both of us.

Wrights Beach (11)

Checking off the premium sites in Wrights Beach Bingo. Still haven’t snagged 5, 6, or 8 (well… I HAD, but COVID cancelled them. Boo.)

Second weekend in a row at Wrights Beach. Life is good and there are long breaks on the near horizon as well. Glad we pushed through the launch, because it was confusing. We are so used to coming out to Bodega Bay that we don’t need navigation anymore. It’s a habit though, and Richard likes looking ahead for traffic slow downs. For reasons we didn’t understand at the time, Google Maps would not show him our normal route across highway 37. But that didn’t sound any alarms, so we proceeded on our normal way, letting Google attempt to reroute us while we simply ignored and took the usual backroads. We figured Google was just trying to get us back on the highways. After we’d crossed the Benicia Bridge and started heading over toward Vallejo, I finally turned on car navigation, just to get an ETA. This time, we were alerted that we were being rerouted due to a road closure and there were big red lines and all kinds of NO around 37. The alternate route was quite a bit out of the way, so I found a spot to pull over so we could regroup. Upon investigation, it looked like a major accident on 37 had closed it down completely and messed up traffic on all the surrounding roads in the direction we were heading. So, in fact, the path that both Google and Honda were suggesting to us was the best option, but added about an hour to travel time. It also meant we had to cross back over the Delta on the Carquinez/Zampa Bridge, and then cross the Bay, a third time, on the Richmond Bridge. That’s three bridges, two $15 tolls, and an arrival after dark.

Decent backing in the dark, but ya gotta spin that baby.

This was the weekend of the time change and we knew we’d be coming into dark arrivals soon, but this was sooner than expected. We realized Dory1 had a great mod, which is an led light strip mounted at the front of the bike rack. This facilitated unhitching in the dark, and we haven’t done that on Dory2. I think Lola mostly missed out on the darkness of winter camping because of the COVID shut down. So I believe it’s been more than a year since I’ve backed into a site in the dark. As soon as we got home, I went straight to Add to Cart to get some collapsible cones with led lights. I figure we can use them to guide me into a site, and should we ever again be waiting on the side of the road for a flatbed tow truck, we can put them out for safety. That’s always been one item I felt was lacking in my arsenal of ‘just in case’ emergency supplies. I have bottle jacks, extra bearings, and jumper cables. Now I have reflective cones.

There we go. That’s better.

Friday and Saturday were drizzly with periods of light rain, so we chilled. Site 4 at Wrights Beach is a premium site, but until recently, is has been deprived of a premium view due to a wall of tall bushes. At some point, perhaps due to complaints to the management, someone gave the hedges a haircut and made a perfect little view window. When we pulled in at night, neither of us could tell whether you could see the ocean, and it was drizzling, and we were tired, so we just unhitched. In the light of the day we realized there was a premium view to be had, so I spun her. I mean, if you’re going to be in a premium site at Wrights Beach, come on. You have to commit. I will also note that someone at some point decided the wood grain on the food locker looked a lot like either Alf, or ManBearPig. And you definitely need to view that as much as possible.

Rainbow kite showing off its moves.

We were periodically entertained by kite acrobatics all weekend. There was one couple who had a fancy blue kite that, by the looks of their flight patterns, seemed very hard to pilot. We were impressed by their perseverance as they each took turns trying to maneuver the dual control lines. But just as soon as they got it aloft, it would go into a crazy spin and slam, nose first, into the sand, mostly not into people. Later on, another couple, with a rainbow colored kite of exactly the same shape, came out and proved that it could be done. One of them must have been a professional kite pilot because it only stayed up for any duration when he was manipulating the strings. As soon as he passed to someone else, it would speed swoop into death circles and crash again.

Two kites and a bird, thinking wth.

By Sunday, the two couples had joined forces, and the skilled one gave tips and lessons to the others. Slowly, the air time got longer with each attempt, until both kites could stay airborne for many minutes. It was pretty cool to watch. There is a kite store in Bodega Bay and we are wondering whether the one in the mentor role might work there. I had passing notions of becoming a person who crashes kites, but it looked like that hobby would mostly consist of running and untangling string. I think I’ll watch instead.

One second after this, it did a high speed loop de loop BAM, straight to the ground.

We noticed the premium row was filled with mostly cute little trailers. There was a Scamp, a Casita, our Alto, and a Happier Camper. All that was missing was a T@B to complete the small trailer straight flush. We chatted with the Happier Camper owner for a while and she let me peek inside. Man, those are super cute! She had the whole color matching thing going in green and laughed at herself when I mentioned it, calling herself a “dork.” I did not invite her into Dory to witness the blueness, but Richard laughed, maybe a little too hard, as if to say, “Yeah, she’s right there with you.” Or, “You have no idea.”

Cute trailers up front!

We got to stay extra long on Sunday because I had forgotten to modify the reservation. This was one of the ones I had reserved for three nights, six months ago, thinking maybe I’ll take a Monday off. No such luck. Too many meetings and assessments to get on the calendar. But we did enjoy not only sleeping in an extra hour, but lazily hitching up after lunch, since no one was going to come kick us out. It’s a shame to leave a premium site unoccupied. But maybe someone will get an unexpected surprise. Or as nice a sunset as we got Saturday.

Bliss.

Still my favorite place and glad to see site 4 get a proper premium view.

Total miles: 108.7 (with big detour), 16.5 mpg Site 4, no hookups. Pretty good solar, though with winter coming, the sun is low in the sky. Battery stayed happy face even with 2 caravan mover maneuvers. Dumped at Bodega Dunes.

Wrights Beach (10)

Best Site Ever.

… but 8 would be awesome too…

Perfect ten. Plus one for some Verizon service for Richard; just enough to hotspot and get important texts, but not enough to work or get things done. Also, I got to spend time Saturday catching up with a friend. So it was a weekend cranked up all the way to 11.

A view that can’t be beat

Of all the sites in all the campgrounds in all the places I have been, this one tops the list as a solid favorite. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, or foggy, or anything else. I could be happy hanging out here any day. It tops Seacliff for sure because there is privacy between sites and not as many people, so you feel like you have the ocean to yourself. Unless someone decides to set up a hammock right in front of you. But even then, it just adds to the chillin vibe.

Outside window arsenal

We did a Caravan Mover spin to get the full glory of the wall of windows view. The only downside of that is that you really notice when the windows need cleaning. I’ve got that down fairly well now, with the addition of a collapsible bucket. That is a key ingredient in getting the window cleaner diluted and soaked into the scrubby cloth thing.

Indoor window condensation arsenal

For indoors, the windows get cleaned regularly when I do my condensation routine. Once the temps fall just a bit, we are guaranteed to wake up with condensation on the windows. It is part of my post coffee ritual to squeegee every pane, sending the water down the channels in the frame and onto the ground outside. My brain tells me it is a good thing to get rid of the moisture so it doesn’t just evaporate back into the air inside and end up as more condensation the next morning. I don’t know if this is true, but it makes me feel productive in the morning, even if I haven’t gotten dressed or showered by noon.

Full blue mode for fancy company

Saturday afternoon, a friend, who lives fairly close by, came out to chat and catch up. That was awesome. We just sat under the awning, talking, and sometimes remarking on the beauty of the ocean. There were periods of drizzle and light rain, and it was a bit chilly. Perfect weather for some cocktails and a nice heavy sweatshirt. I love that kind of day. It’s my favorite. An 11. Richard got out and hiked the Kortum trail while we hung out. He didn’t even get lost, so it was a win win.

Are you sure we have to go? How sure? Check again.

We were super reluctant to leave on Sunday. The premium sites at Wrights Beach are the toughest to reserve, so it’s a real treat when we get to partake. As it so happens, we have next weekend reserved as well, though in not quite as premium a premium site. We are both premium donnas now.

Note the chillin hammock guy. Maybe he would have trick or treated.

Not much else to report. I kind of wish we could have stayed out camping for Halloween, but I will also admit that it’s fun to be a teacher at your local elementary school. The looks on the faces of the kids when I open the door and they realize it’s a teacher answering, is shadowed only by their looks when they see my son, in full bank robber costume. All the little angels and witches and dinosaurs open their eyes wide and gasp, “It’s Mr. Darren!!!” And that is the best.

Happy Halloween y’all!

Total miles: 91.9, taking the long way around using back roads, 16.5 mpg. Site 7. No hookups. Oh so premium. This time we got 1 bar of LTE on Verizon. No service for ATT. No dump, so dumped at Bodega Dunes for free. Then had lunch in the day use area. Foggy and overcast, but still the batteries stayed topped up with the awesomeness of the huge solar panels. Even used the inverter to power the microwave for soup, and still, happy face battery.

Half Moon Bay (9)

Premium goodness

Back when I made this reservation, I was only concerned with the fact that it was a nice site and that I could get it for three nights. I often make reservations for three nights, thinking I will take a day off. I hardly ever follow through with that though, and things are busy enough at school that it was definitely a struggle to hold firm to my plan. But a substitute had been confirmed, so I was set to commit. The only little glitch was that the west coast was forecasted to get hit with a “bomb cyclone” on Sunday. The very name feels overly dramatic (“atmospheric river” is no better), and we mostly figured it was a sensationalized version of a regular old “storm,” so we didn’t worry too much. We had hookups and cozy little storm shelter with a heater. What’s the big deal?

Relative calm before the bomb

Then, as we drove out Friday, we noticed an eerie lack of bumper to bumper traffic going through San Francisco. In fact, the whole way there, we saw very little traffic. That was disconcerting. When we got to the kiosk, in record time, we noticed a sign saying there were sites available. That’s when we knew this was worse than we thought. We asked the ranger why there were open sites and she said, with what I perceived to be fear in her eyes, “Because of the storm.” I asked if there were evacuation warnings for the campground and she said no. So we continued on through, figuring it wasn’t going go happen until late Saturday night anyway, so we might as well enjoy the premium site tonight. There were plenty of gale warnings and small craft advisories, but it’s not like I was going to go out in my boat. Onward.

Premium view, day or night, no matter the site

The first thing I did after set up was mount our LFW, or more appropriately named FFW, where the first F stands for “Faux.” I am very pleased with how nicely the colors go with the blue cushions and wood tone cabinets. It is a very cheery look and a nice way to give Dory2 her own unique flair. Plus, now we can pretend we always have a premium site with an ocean view, no matter where we are.

Campers starting to bail…

Saturday was lovely most of the day. Richard got in a great ride and I got some work cranked out so that I would not feel stressed. Half Moon Bay has excellent cell service. There is nothing I can’t access from there, so I got to be very productive. We got takeout dinner from nearby Taqueria Tres Amigos on Friday, and I did a Blue Apron on Saturday. All was well, and still no evacuation order had been issued, and then more campers started departing. We scanned the neighborhood, assessing the diehards who were choosing to remain. All of the tenters had packed up, of course. There was one little Casita and one van in our size range, but all the others were big Class As or much larger trailers. We had Dory turned to the South, which was where the wind was supposed to be coming from, and we put nothing outside. It felt like we were sitting in the blue Marine World Splash Zone seats, waiting to see how much we would get sprayed.

Captain! She’s taking on too much strain! We’ve got to head her into the wind or she’ll buckle for sure!

I woke up at 3am on Sunday morning with Dory getting a lot of rocking. I did some weather checking to see if any more alerts had been issued and looked out the window to see if there was a Poseidon Adventure wall of water coming our way. Then I tried to go back to sleep. That was mostly unsuccessful. You’d think gentle rocking to the sound of waves would be soothing.

According to the weather app, winds maintained at a steady 25-30 mph, with gusts of 45, all the way until around 2pm. Sometimes there was light rain, sometimes it was a deluge, but always there was blasting wind. I got bundled up and went out after coffee, to document the scene. I instantly got drenched. We had faced Dory’s nose perfectly into the wind at setup, so the rocking we felt could have been much, much worse. I wondered how that little Casita felt inside, but I did notice they were still there. Down by the shore, the waves were angry, but none threatening to make it over the dune and into the campground. Then it was just a full day of staying put and feeling like we were on an airplane going through nonstop turbulence. I wished we had a television and then realized I could hang my iPad off the bathroom wall and stream mindless shows. That was awesome. I also wished we had more fun food inside because neither of us was willing to walk out to the car and go get takeout. As a note to self, I should always carry the essential elements for nachos. I’m wondering what a fun dessert would have been that didn’t require prolonged use of the stove, seeing as how we didn’t want to keep the windows open much. I’m open to suggestions.

A bit wet out there

Finally the winds calmed down in the afternoon, but that did not lessen the rainfall. There were quite a few periods of feeling someone had opened the water main in the sky. Reading stats of the total rainfall, it looks like this one broke records going back to 1962, or in some cases, ever. In some parts of California, more than 9 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. Where we were, it was supposedly around 6 inches. And that is just a ton of water. Yay California, sure, but lordy! Can we pace ourselves here?

Sea Foam spill

I don’t actually think I would have been able to drive, let alone tow, at any point on Sunday. So if we had not already planned to stay, we would have had to make emergency plans. As it turned out, Monday was all blue skies and calm as could be. The only evidence of what had transpired was an endless drift of sea foam, all up and down the beach. Living, breathing snow banks, made of bubbles, were bouncing and jiggling like Jello, as far as the eye could see. It was like the Kraken overdid it on Mr. Bubble and overflowed the bathtub. It was super cool and creepy at the same time.

Richard thinking about whether he should touch the sea foam

Monday we pulled out just before noon, triumphant survivors of the 2021 Bomb Cyclone Camper Club. We dumped and parked in the Day Use area, and then walked over to Tres Amigos again, to get a quick lunch before heading back. Driving up the coast, we saw waves continue to churn and explode against the shore, the last remnant of a very powerful system. Hopefully some of the reservoirs are collecting the bounty and are looking less grim.

Here’s to bomb cyclones and taking personal days! Both serve to replenish and refill depleted resources, and both are probably best experienced only on special occasion.

Total miles: 51.8, 17.1, site 32 premium with hookups. Excellent cell service for both. Good dump with pay per use of $10.

Bothe Napa (7)

A bit more sun in the upper loop of the Ritchie Creek Campground

Note to future self: Next time we go to wine country for the weekend, try to remember to book a winery tour and tasting. There are so many incredible wineries near to Bothe Napa State Park, but tough to get a spot when you think of it on Saturday morning when the weather is perfect and everyone already had that idea. I’m sure I could have dropped in at any number of nice places for an impromptu tasting, but I was fine with doing a little exploring of the area instead.

Driving along endless vineyards

Richard had a ride he wanted to do and that sounded like a fun drive to tag along. For him, it was an unexpectedly difficult ride, traversing steep, narrow, and not entirely paved roads, up in the hills behind Calistoga. On a bike, there were parts of Kortum Canyon Road where it was hard to maintain traction going up a steep incline of basically gravel. In a car, it was drivable, but I was sure glad no one came from the other direction. Crossing paths would have been impossible in many of the sections. Franz Valley Road, on the other hand, was delightful and not at all hilly. It was a lovely meander through vineyards and shaded backroads off the main drag. I liked that part a lot.

Hard to see from the photo, but the “Tunnel Tree” is 120′ of perfectly a preserved petrified Redwood, disappearing into a passage cut back into the hillside.

Because I got a little lost before I found him, I stumbled across the Petrified Forest State Historical Landmark. This turned out to be a super fun way to spend the afternoon! After I met Richard at his stopping point, I suggested we go back and check the place out. For an admission price of $12/person, you can walk a mile or so long trail that takes you through a site where a stunning discovery was made back in the 1870s. The signs, placed by a little gnome-like statue, will tell you that an “eccentric homesteader” later called “Petrified Charley,” stumbled upon an outcropping of petrified logs and started digging up tons of the stuff. It seems that Mt. St. Helena, across the valley, blew around 3.4 million years ago, burying the surrounding hillsides in dense ash. The ash perfectly preserve what was a forest of giant redwoods, a variety that is now extinct. The wood was perfectly preserved under the layers of ash and slowly, the organic cells were replaced with silica deposits. When the petrified trees were uncovered, the massive trunks turned out to be some of the largest specimens in the world. The informational kiosks said the giant redwoods toppled like matchsticks from the blast of the volcano, and then got immediately buried, which is why they are so well preserved. How’s that for a cool find!

Cute rig!

The rest of the weekend was our usual regroup and relax, generally in that order. We had a lot to catch up on from the week, so we are always grateful for the Dory time. Little bit of exploring, little bit of Nemo chair napping, some nice lunches and dinners, and you’ve got yourself another weekend of replenishment. The campground was full, and just as we were leaving, we saw the cutest VW bug towing a cute little matching teardrop. Whoever you are, I like your style!

So. Damn. Good.

Oh, and speaking of nice lunches, I had the best little toast things with fresh basil, marinated mozzarella, roasted red pepper, on top of a few basil leaves, and drizzled with some balsamic vinegar. OMG. Lunch so good.

Total miles; 81.6 (but we took an unnecessarily long way because we were distracted and talking and kept ignoring the car navigation system), 16.8 mpg. Site 20 in the upper loop. Nice site. Level and a bit of solar. Set apart from other campers and pretty private. Verizon got service, but not so much for ATT. Sometimes I would hit 5g, but it didn’t do much. No dump AND the Calistoga Fairground place is closed, AND the Napa Fairground place that was supposed to be open does not have a working dump AND they won’t let you dump in one of their (many) open full hookup sites. BOO. Could have gone to a private place or to ABBA, but it was $30 to dump there, so we’re gonna hold it until next weekend. I know. Could be EW. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how much we regret that next weekend.

Seacliff (3)

Just a gorgeous place to stay.

So let’s say you’re an employee in a public school district, who has to complete a certain number of mandatory annual training modules online. Let’s also say those training modules are on things like blood borne pathogens, child abuse, bullying, sexual harassment, and teen suicide. Let’s assume those activities are not top items on your “fun” list, so it is completely understandable that you may have procrastinated doing them until the last possible minute, all in one sitting. Or, perhaps you were just waiting for the most cheerful setting imaginable before strapping in for 4 1/2 hours straight hours, rather than, say, take it on it bits and pieces over the past two months. If so, you are my people, and you and I spent a good chunk of our Saturday in immersive abuse land. But, we were at the beach, so things could have been worse.

Nice sunset action

Seacliff, as weird as it is to be just right there in the middle of so many beach goers, has rapidly become one of our favorite places. It could be the gentle and soothing sound of the nearby surf, or it could be that it is walking distance to ice cream. Or both. But it really is super fun.

You can’t not, really.

We arrived just in time for a nice sunset and braved the nippy air for a walk to Marianne’s after dinner. I got thin mint and mandarin chocolate on a sugar cone. Richard got “spooky” orange cheesecake, which tastes like normal cheesecake. The weather was glorious all weekend and even though we were in the middle of the row of camping slots, we basked in the glorious views, made even better with a Caravan Mover spin.

Richard ditched my abuse sessions and went on a long bike ride. He says it was a superlative ride up San Jose Road and down Highland and Eureka Canyon Rd. He would do it backwards next time, he notes.

Simple, effective, lightweight, and comes in blue.

I settled in, swinging in my Nemo chair, protected from the sun by my new chair umbrella. That is a winning piece of camping equipment right there. It is just big enough and adjustable enough to keep my upper body shaded, making it perfect for working on a laptop, or reading a book, or napping, or watching depressing videos. The unfortunate part of my plan was that cell service, while mostly pretty good, was not quite good enough to handle sustained video streaming. So, what would have been 4 1/2 hours and done, turned into a marathon event of playing, freezing, sending me back to the start of the 20 min section, and making an already difficult ordeal take about twice as much time. It’s a good thing the surf was there to calm me down, and that every five minutes I was interrupted by strollers by, asking me about the roof. I can’t really complain, as this was a situation of my own creation. Plus, again, beach. So I should shut up.

Who wouldn’t want this as a semi permanent view?

You may notice more general scenery shots than usual, and that is because we are thinking about making a BFW without the W. I’ve been noodling on what to do with Dory2’s front wall. I had all kinds of pin maps and white boards and laminated photos on Dory1’s front wall, and I didn’t want to just move things over. I also verified that the white surface of the new fridge is, in fact, a dry erase surface. That is exciting for me in a way that most people probably cannot understand, but it does mean that I don’t need to put a white board on the front wall. I thought about decals and other maps, but my current idea is to put a giant peel and stick picture where a Lesser Front Window might be, so that we get a never ending beautiful view without the downsides of having a window there (see previous posts declaring our anti BFW stance). Some of these pictures are contenders, but then I got stuck in choice paralysis.

Oh dang, that’s a nice view too. Now I can’t decide….

Sunday we dumped at New Brighton, like you do, and enjoyed the views from the day use area there too. It was a view filled weekend with a gazillion shore birds, a couple thousand “I think the roof goes down” arm waves, dozens of boats, a few seals, and several scoops of delicious ice cream.

Just keep swimming, kids. I know. But keep swimming anyway.

Once home, I did finish off the mandated training videos. All I can say is, let’s be extra kind to our kids. It is depressingly hard to grow up these days. I’m glad I didn’t have to go through my teen years exposed to so much ugliness, with social media layered over the top of it all. How confusing it must be. Here’s to hoping the ones who are suffering can find something good and solid to hold onto through the rough patches. And let’s hope we can recognize the times we might be able to offer that for them. It’s hard. Hang in there.

Total miles: 84.4, 17.6 mpg. Hit same stop and go traffic on Hwy 1 about 5 miles from destination. That stretch takes a good 30 min to get through. Site C6, no hookups, but excellent solar. No dump; dump at New Brighton with credit card pay station. 5g service for both, but it was slower than when it hit LTE.

Sunset SB (7)

Closest we got to a sunset.

What a fun weekend! I got in some otter time at Elkhorn Slough, we spotted an Alto in the wild, and we got to have the BEST dinner with our most excellent neighbors.

There are so many species of birds in this picture. Wish I could name them all.

We got the same site we have a couple times in the past at Sunset State Beach campground. From there, it is a short hop to a boat launch, either at Moss Landing, or Kirby Park. We still can’t go to this campground without remembering the Extreme RVs shoot and how wild that was. No such drama this weekend. Just a beautiful float, launching from Kirby Park, and sharing space with a couple hundred birds. Plus three otters. It was a good day. Kirby has been closed for a while to do damage repair, but is back open, and a nice peaceful place to launch a kayak.

Coming in for a landing.

There were just scores of beautiful birds out there. Egrets, Herons, Sandpipers, and of course lots of Pelicans. The best were the Terns, who dove straight down into the water to catch little fish. The Pelicans meanwhile, swooped so close to me on their long hovering descents, I thought they might make a landing on my boat. But they didn’t. And the otters just bobbed and floated, warming their little hands in the sun.

Chillin’ while fluffy

Richard did a ride and met me at Kirby. We’re planning a one way boating scheme for some time in the future where I depart from Moss Landing and he rides to the car, then drives it to Kirby to pick me up there. That would be fun.

As is usually the case, there were no sunsets at Sunset State Beach. Just as I was thinking there might be a show, the fog rolled in so thick, it was like a statement. No. No sunset for you. I took a series of three pictures which show how fast it rolled in. The first was taken at 6:29, the second at 6:36, and the third at 6:44.

On our way home, we needed to stop to dump at New Brighton, and we spotted another 1723! Sadly, the owners were not around, but I left them a couple of Koozies and a calling card, hoping they were maybe Altoistes. I posted in the group, and sure enough! They were in fact a couple we had met at Sunset SB a few years back for a tour of Dory1. They had gone through the whole waiting process and finally got their Alto delivered to Durango, probably not that far from when we got Dory2. Nice little connection there.

Hello there Alto twin!

And though I have no photographic record, our neighbors, Caz and Steve, treated us to the absolute best English roasted dinner on Sunday night. We shared stories and our hopes and plans for the backyard “campground.” All in all, it was a very happy weekend.

Total miles: 93.4, 17.9 mpg. Site 27 no hookups. Great solar. Ok to fair service for both. Dump at New Brighton for $10 on a credit card at the dump.