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.

Coloma RV (3)

tb8reGvNSY6TPOb6ZSMnZAThis booking was made to serve a dual purpose, but led to a serendipitous and unexpected opportunity. Richard’s uncle was celebrating his 80th birthday this weekend, (Happy Birthday Edwin!) so naturally, the first question we asked upon hearing about the get together was, “Is there camping nearby?” There were a couple of options and we went with this place, having been there a few times already. The only downside was that, by the time I looked up reservations, all the good spots were taken. But since I’m working on not being a campsite Premium-donna, I figured, whatever, it’ll be fine.

jIZSFfR8Q420tTFwkQph3wI’ll say this about site “A”: it is definitely close to the bathroom. Like, it’s only a slightly farther walk than it is to Dory’s bathroom, from inside Dory. It is also right in the middle of every kind of campground traffic. People, kids mostly, would come so close to Dory as they passed, we could feel little vibrations. It wasn’t awful in the greater scheme of things of course. There was no actual suffering happening here. But it was enough to cause my eye to wander over to the empty site by the river.

vqUiLYGgSc2E32HqiareJgIt turned out site 63 had a cancellation and we were able to move into it. The woman in the office told Richard something about how now we “own the site.” That sounded like wonderful news, but he had no idea what it meant. I guess it’s common practice for private campgrounds to allow you to reserve the premium site you’re in for the same time next year, before it becomes available to the public. This is a very sweet site, lots of room, right on the river, shade trees, and up against a cabin on one side so there’s a bit more privacy. 6UjGFTgkRcKvkRR+TIrEigCampsite Premium-donna was pleased on a premium level. To hell with “working on stuff.” Now we could sit in our Nemo chairs and catch the cool breeze coming off the water, while lazily staring down at the river rafters as they drifted by. All the RV sites have electric hookups, so you can throw AC into the blissful mix that we now get to reserve every 4th weekend in August. SWEET.

FPI13Jy+TFaPHylTSJxroQThe little historic town of Coloma is always a fun visit and one of our favorite activities is eating at the Argonaut restaurant. They feature a farm to table menu in the summer, utilizing whatever is fresh and local that day. Since the last time we’d been there, they have built a whole outside dining experience, complete with an outdoor wood burning oven, a full size grilling station, picnic table seating, and a place for live music. c36Z6Se3QAeWtK+Lxw0AtQWe went there for dessert on Friday and had a grilled peach with ice cream, candied almonds, topped with an edible marigold and sprinkled with gold dust. Wow. Saturday we had their special roasted corn and cotija cheese pizza. The crust was done to perfection and the fresh cheese was just out of this world. All the taste sensations were perfectly paired with an IPA and musicians doing covers of oldies but goodies. We highly recommend Argonaut. When camping, it’s just a short walk across the historic bridge, but it would be worth a drive just for dinner.

Since we had our site reserved for Sunday night as well, we were able to leave Dory while we went off to the birthday party. We probably could have parked her in the shopping center lot, but we both felt better not having to deal with towing and parking.

fT8f0B5BS%OKmu5OI6iA1wIt was a hot weekend and nice to dip our feet in the frigid river water. Actually it was just on the far edge of what you’d call refreshing, seeing as it was coming right from snow melt. Our AC at home actually died on Friday, so we kind of just abandoned the offspring. “Ooooh, looks like it’s gonna be hot. Bummer about the AC. Well, bye!” Parents of the year right here.

Now that we know we will be back every year, I will have to do some investigating about the many river activities out there. It seemed way too fast for my kayaking abilities. Or at least during the day, that is. We learned that river levels can change. Like, I was genuinely confused when I noticed the drastic difference from the middle of the day to evening. I looked back at pictures to compare, and sure enough, the water was much lower.

I have now learned from my smart fb friends that this is common, especially when there’s a dam upriver. Now we know that there is actually a predictable, published, time table for water release, specifically designed to benefit river based recreational activities. Huh. Never knew.

EDA5759D-ECB2-4F6C-8EEF-C0A131FC1B3COne last thing to report: following our summer trip, we splurged and put in a new shower curtain. This was purchased on our return trip to the mothership in July of ’18, and we finally felt it was time. I’m telling you, it’s like we have a brand new trailer. #itsthesimplethings

Happy hot weekend turned into future camping tradition. I can now make plans for catching up with friends near Coloma a full year in advance, (rather than, say, texting her at the last minute to say I was there and had forgotten how close she lived). 🙂

Total miles: 120.2, 16.8 mpg, 3 hours 51 min with traffic, under 3 hours getting home. Site A, then 63. Water and electric. Shady site. Good campground wifi but no ATT. LTE for Verizon however. Also ParksWiFi across the river in the state park.

Casini Ranch (4)

jmi29fvpR2OEZNtI0Q1WdQAnd just like that, we’re back in the home routine. Our summer trip ended the Sunday before my first official teacher work day. I awoke Monday to a 7:30 am call from my principal asking if I cared where the movers put my furniture in my classroom. “Wow, yes. Yes I do. Be there in a few minutes.” I put on my teacher clothes, pulled my green purse out of my blue messenger bag, and got in my green Subaru to drive to work, signaling the color coded return to home life. The transformation was complete that Thursday when all the employees in the district gathered for a welcome back breakfast. Before leaving, I looked down at my feet, and noticed I was still wearing my hiking shoes. I dug around under the driver’s seat in Bruce, where my black, orthotic, minimal tread teacher shoes had been shoved, back at the beginning of June. Camping Levenberg becomes Learning Center Levenberg once again.

We took one weekend off of camping to do a major hosing down of everything. I’ve said it before, but I sure do appreciate plastic carpeting. The upholstery got Bisselled, the bedding got washed, and Dory got a nice refreshing bath. Bruce is still waiting for his. He got another nasty scrape on his front right bumper (I need a camera there or something to spot big rocks placed near campsite boundaries). The corner of it has pulled away enough that I’m afraid a car wash, even a fancy hand car wash, will catch on it and make it worse. Anyone know a way to fix that without replacing the whole damn bumper for $2500??

cobIMzJ8RsSFEs+PrTcHyAOur first weekend out ended up being to the same place where we celebrated our first weekend out, following the maiden voyage four years ago. Not planned, but kinda cool. It was our fourth visit and the first time I’d ever gone boating on the Russian River. It was so calm and wide, it really just seemed like a very long lake. There was no current to fight at all, so I just paddled inland for a while, until I decided to turn around and head back. No wildlife spotted, save some birds and a couple hundred humans frolicking in the river. It was a packed weekend at Casini Ranch.

Ft2rgGEuSUqQuq1yr1blZwThere’s a lot to love about this place, despite the fact it was very busy. The location cannot be beat, and there are so many fun things to do for kids, it’s entertaining to watch, even if you didn’t bring any of your own. I mean, who can’t appreciate seeing a tractor pulling a train of wagon cars around the campground, full of kids shouting, “Hey!!” It’s called the “Hey Ride” and that’s just darned cute. In addition, there’s always the fun little store where you can get anything from It’s Its to groceries, to river toys and floaties. They’ve really put a lot into upgrading the place, including some super fast wifi, with repeaters placed all through the campground. And of course, there’s karaoke for those who are into that.

9D7xXh65SlCr6sW5AC9rJgOur site was not at all private and we had so many people stop in front of us to speculate about Dory’s roof, it would have been potentially lethal to have made a drinking game out of it. We gave many tours.

Richard did his biking loop through Monte Rio while I paddled. The weather was just the right level of hot to make both those activities enjoyable. On the way home, we stopped at Spud Point for crab cakes and clam chowder.

nTUNyJgHR9GHv8lQLQ5C4QThat’s a fun place to visit, but you gotta be ready for the vibe. It’s a party place, but in a well behaved, family friendly kind of way. But for hookups right on the Russian River, I don’t know of any place better.

I was worried about reserving so many of the same places we’d already been multiple times. Coming off a trip where every destination is somewhere new and exciting, it is a shifting of gears. It turns out though, I really don’t care where we go or whether we’ve been there before. As long at it’s out and in Dory, that’s all I need. So, you’ll see almost all repeat locations for the next few months. C’est la vie, and onto Dory report writing. It’s all good, bring it on!

Total miles: 96.7. 15.2 mpg, 3 hours 24 min. Site 20D electric hookups. Great wifi, solar, NO cell service. Dump on site. Sites 2, 3, 6 have hookups and might feel just a little more set back from the main drag with still strong wifi. They would also be closer to the river for kayak dragging.

Cooking on the Road

fullsizeoutput_126aHaving now done four summer trips of around two months each, we are honing in on some things that work for us, in terms of cooking on the road. There are a lot of variables involved when it comes to finding a nice balance between ease and overall quality of the meals. Some of these include: driving days vs. staying put days, weather, proximity to towns with decent markets, proximity to fun restaurants. We aimed to reach the maximum level of flexibility so that we could adjust to the conditions at hand without having a ton of food go bad. One of our other goals was to increase healthy meals, including vegetables, and not rely quite so heavily Bertoli and P.F. Changs.

One Pan Wonders

On “journeying days,” when we need to make tracks and cover miles, I don’t usually feel much like cooking. Our go-to in these cases has been one pan meals. We can always find a variety of frozen, packaged, 2-person meals at Walmart, or Trader Joe’s when we’re on the west coast. We’ve also started to see them at smaller grocery stores. These are perfect in that they are fast, low mess, and sometimes include veggies. It’s also a nice way to eat pasta because you don’t have to strain any water. We try to always have two of these in the freezer so we can pull one out when tired. In 7-10 minutes on the stove, you’ve got yourself a satisfying dinner. Yes, they are great, but they do get a bit tired if that’s all you’re eating.

Cooking Indoory in Dory

FcwaCbpoSAm5CHfsSqoyvQBesides baked things, there’s really nothing that cannot be cooked inside the Alto, though there are a few things we avoid. One of those things is pasta, or boiled potatoes, or anything needing to be strained. We don’t like putting the waste water into our holding tanks, partly because it takes up valuable tank space, and also because it will make things get smelly faster than shower water. Rice is great, and most of the recipes I used for inside cooking included rice. Tortillas are also great, and I discovered that you can warm tortillas quite nicely if you put them in foil and use a camping toaster on medium to low heat. Just be sure to flip the packet after a couple of minutes so they don’t burn.

wwGcsbohSR2O1oXG0dG4ogI got my routine down pretty well this summer. I’d first just assemble all the ingredients on top of the stove area with the lid closed. That’s the primary surface I used for prep, with cutting boards placed on top. Then all the veggies would get rinsed and chopped and placed in their little mis en place containers. I brought paper muffin tin liners and disposable paper bowls for that purpose and that was awesome. It reduced dishwashing by a lot. The only time I used non disposable prep containers was for liquids, like sauces. The Joseph and Joseph nesting bowls saw a great deal of use and I’d say those, along with the Magma pot set, are must have items for me. I also like having color coded flexible cutting boards to separate raw meat surfaces from everything else.

Cooking on the WeberQ

J%G1suUSSJyWerYbL1tzZwOne thing that pleased me was how well things like potatoes, carrots, and broccoli do in foil packets on the grill. Most of the recipes where I tried this originally called for baking on a cookie sheet in a 450º oven. Potatoes did better as wedges than as slices, and everything did extremely well with just olive oil, sprinkled spice blends and/or salt and pepper, for 20 minutes over a medium/medium-high flame. I flipped the packet over half way through.

hBFtpibdQiWSUgSHcU8ehAThe stand out celebrity for the last trip was definitely the little Weber Deluxe Grilling Pan. This allowed me to make sauces and sautés, right on the grill. I could also use it for small things, that would otherwise have fallen through the cracks. Kale worked like a charm with a bit of garlic, sometimes a shallot or pepper flakes, vinegar, and a bit of water.

I can tell that the next thing I’m going to want to try is grill mats. For now though, I’m pretty happy with this pan.

It was sometimes a squeeze to get a cut of meat, a foil packet of potatoes, and a grill pan, all going at the same time on a WeberQ 1200. But figuring out the real estate paid off big time when it was too hot to cook inside. A few times I cooked rice meals, marked for indoor cooking, outside. In order to minimize heat from the stove, we used a small kettle to quickly boil a cup of water, which was then poured into a thermos containing Minute Rice. You get all the ricey goodness, without the 15 minute flame time.

Recipe/Shopping Cards

ZxTiqdaCQR24uUsbrtVN5gWe do Blue Apron at home, and have been for quite some time. Thus, we have amassed an impressive collection of recipe cards. One big project was to flag ones I thought I could replicate on the road. The decision making criteria I used was mostly tied to what ingredients I thought I could find in the middle of nowhere. The other factor involved how much of a pantry of weird ingredients to bring along. Luckily, there were enough recipes using the same weird ingredients that I was able to pull around 20 for indoors and 20 for outdoors with a good crossover. We hardly had any repeats after two months traveling and it’s amazing what a difference it makes when meals feel ‘new.’

bPZcgYiDQsmlSU6sipV+NQThe cards got post it flagged for indoor vs outdoor, and the ingredients I’d need to buy fresh got highlighted. That way, every five or six days, we could plan ahead and evaluate our needs based on where we were going to be, and what the weather looked like. If it seemed like it was going to be cold and rainy, we’d go through the indoor pile and pick 3-4 cards. If it looked hot, or even nice, we’d choose from the grill pile. We tried to match up recipes if we needed to buy large things, like kale, or things you can only buy in a package of 10, like tortillas. Once selected, we added the highlighted items to the Grocery Gadget shopping app, and we were good to go. I will note that things I imagined would be impossible to find (Sambal Olek, Gochujang, pickled Jalapeño peppers) were in fact rather ubiquitous. I will also note that the only recipe cards that never got used were sea food. It’s really hard to plan for getting fresh fish or shrimp and be able to cook it that day so it doesn’t start to smell everything up.

There were some adjustments needed for some of the recipes, especially those being done on the grill instead of the stove and oven. But really, I was mostly able to follow the same procedures and use the same cooking times. Overall the meals were flavorful, fresh, and satisfied the healthier dinners requirement. We were both really happy with how this worked.

Pantry and Storage

mM3apfYrQsOd6Ox69bepmgI did some rearranging of the pantry items before leaving and I think my favorite modification was my silly little garlic box. It’s a simple thing, made from coroplast and hot glue, but it perfectly fits three heads of garlic and contains the mess from the husk flakes. That lives with the spices behind the stove. Then, in a clear container that lives in the under-sink storage area, I have all of the non-refrigerated liquid items. In the fridge there is another clear container that has all of the perishable things.

tojIXuPLR0O22ZLVIggFor fruit, we purchased produce bags in varying sizes and used those for both fruits and vegetables. We hung the fruit up and out of the way when stationary, and hung it in a protected place over the sink for travel. The only fruit that went into the fridge were the blueberries and blackberries. For those, we poked some holes in the top of a couple of storage containers and that kept them from getting too moist, and/or leaking all over everything.

fj1i6+%fQaum2sLdobDuBAMostly I didn’t even need to make substitutions, but when I did, they were minor. Like sometimes I used rice vinegar instead of white wine vinegar, snow peas instead of Bok Choy, or red pepper flakes in lieu of a Birds eye red chili pepper. Sour cream is a totally adequate substitute for creme fraiche or fromage blanc.

Non perishables included: soy sauce, olive oil, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, honey, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, and maple syrup.

0jjvHR0zSPuN3g4LhjQ+rgPerishables: Sambal Olek, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup (had WAY too much), Hoisin sauce, soy glaze, Thai chili paste, Gochujang, tomato paste, capers, sour cream, and a tube o’ ginger. I liked tube o’ ginger. It might not have tasted as strong as fresh chopped ginger, but it meant I didn’t have to shop for it or end up with way too much.

Blue Apron Spice mixes: Cajun, Smokey, BBQ, Tuscan, Weekend Hero, Mexican. Also had: saffron, salt/pepper, black and white sesame seeds.

Additional: white sugar, cornstarch, Jasmine rice. Potatoes and onions got stored separately, and only as needed.

Cooler for Veggies

cSWwozTzSaWo3e9GJeTgDQOur first shopping trip did not go well. It was pretty hot and we came out of the market with bags of stuff we needed to cram into the fridge before it went bad. Our fridge is really small. You get the idea.

The very next thing we bought was a small plastic cooler and some gel ice packs. This actually worked surprisingly well. Really, all we needed to put in there was the bulky stuff, like broccoli heads, bunches of kale, scallions, Brussels sprouts, or bags of pre-shredded cabbage. I needed to swap out the ice packs every day, but that became part of my morning routine along with making my protein shake. The additional space was not much, but it was enough to handle what we needed, and it did seem to keep things from going bad for 5-6 days. I would never put meat or dairy in there, but the veggies mostly did ok.

Cilantro does not last well, but those little packages of freeze dried Cilantro worked great. Bags of pre-shredded cabbage worked great for all cabbage recipes. Brussels sprouts are hardy creatures. Broccoli is bulky and one time it turned yellow after a few days in the cooler, not sure what that was about. Kale was better in bunches than pre-chopped in bags, but it won’t last a week without starting to look sad.

Meat

yeeDxLBuQVGt+P3XE4N18gWe learned after the first shopping trip not to try to store meat in the freezer because it gets rock solid frozen, even with the fridge at a low setting. We ditched some of the carbonated lemon waters we like to keep under the freezer and used that space to store meat. That was a winner for not too cold, but cold enough to trust. Another thing that helped with storing meat was to remove it from its store packaging right away, divide servings into individual Ziplock bags, and place everything inside a large Ziplock bag. For this purpose, we got some disposable gloves so that I could do this right after shopping, and get everything stored quickly. Then it was ready to grab for meal prep time and there was no longer any worry of juices getting all over everything in the fridge (cause that is exactly what happened the first time).

I’d say the only challenge buying meat was getting what we wanted in reasonable serving sizes. Most chicken breasts sold in stores were huge and came in packages of four. Sometimes we lucked out and found butcher departments, but other times we did last minute substitutions based on what we could find in reasonable amounts. We didn’t want to be throwing out a bunch of meat, so we only bought for the recipes we’d selected. On most shopping trips we’d have: 2 frozen pan dinners and 4 recipe card dinners. With that assortment, we could store it all safely and could last about a week (with eating out an average of once a week). No meat ever spoiled and that, in and of itself, was an encouraging sign of success.

In General

XkaKazalTTmhYI6YX1AZigWe found this to be kind of a perfect mix of easy vs fancy. We had only one cooking catastrophe when a corn salad au poivre became tres beaucoup au poivre due to the unexpected detachment of the pepper grinder lid.

Paper plates are awesome. I can tell that Richard wants to never go back to regular plates.

Even the smallest change in similar ingredients feels like a whole new recipe. And having so many new recipes was really fun.

Getting the grill out of the car is a pain. We are thinking about making some kind of contraption that would create a protected slot in the trunk for the grill. All it would need to do is prevent all the other things from sitting on top of the grill so that we don’t have to empty the car any time we want to use it. That was the single most limiting factor in how much the grill got used. I really like cooking on it, so it would be worth the effort I think.

We ate well this summer for sure! Proof of concept has been achieved and now I look to every new Blue Apron recipe with an eye for how it would fare on the road. And that is a fun thing to think about.

 

Standish Hickey SRA

+i5yhJ68S1CuZLhKujKH6QThis was our very last one-night stop for the summer. *sigh* Our theme for this trip was to avoid the scorching heat. Mission status: nailed it! In fact, we nailed it so much, we got a little wistful for some higher temps and a little less moisture. I mean, we were running the heater in JULY and had a hard time drying out towels for a good portion of this trip. Anyway, we got our wish on our last day, not so much as to be miserable, but just enough to send us looking for some cool river water.

IMG_3021Leaving Patrick’s Point, we were still in a fog, literally. Richard chose to bike out of the campground and we met up about ten miles south, at Clam Beach. He said the Scenic Drive south of Trinidad may have been scenic, but also was practically nonexistent in some sections. He hit four stretches of gravel and said the road seemed to be falling off in a couple spots. Glad to have taken Dory down 101 instead. Clam Beach was muggy more than foggy, and definitely warmer. Heading further south and inland along 101 cleared the humidity and brought on the summertime temps. Finally, our towels got to dry out. Just in time for our last night.

wdbxliSdTzGVMZWgAzl3BAStandish Hickey is a smallish campground just outside of Leggett. There are one or two areas on the highway between Fortuna and Leggett that get much more narrow and twisty than one would expect of a major California highway. It was nothing Dory couldn’t navigate, and nothing scary, despite the yellow warning signs. Entering the campground is another matter if you’re trying to get down to the river. While trailers and RVs fit into many of the sites in the upper loops, you are not allowed to camp down in the Redwood Campground with a trailer. This is a legit good rule. Getting down there requires going on a very steep and narrow road with a 180 turn at the bottom. Then the pavement ends and you get to go over a “seasonal” bridge. Not sure exactly what that term means, but it doesn’t inspire confidence when traversing with a car.

aF2a6LdwRY6zLt%Ry7DCPgIt was hot enough for us that we drove it anyway, not wanting to walk our butts down there and back up. The South fork of the Eel River is very calm and shallow at this location. It makes for a lovely place to take a dip in the water and calmly float around. Lucky we’d been dragging a floatie around with us several thousand miles that hadn’t been used since our last stay at Shaver Lake. It was way easier inflating the floatie than it would have been to set up my kayak. So we just played around in the water. 0oe1P7RGQuG32a4uaa7BDwThere are tiny little fish who will come right up to your feet and lick them (or whatever fish do with their mouths). That was pretty fun. I’ll have to do some research on whether there are places where you can do “tubing” (apparently the correct term for what I’ve been calling a floaty boaty). I’d really like to do a whole lot more of that. Not having enough information on this stretch of the river, it wasn’t going to happen this time. Just getting in the river was delightful and a perfect way to cool off.

There were tons of bike tourers staying in the campground and it reminded us of our past trip. It also reinforced how much more we like camping in Dory. But we had to have done it in order to know. We feel that by suffering through that, we’ve earned the right to sleep on 2 inch thick organic wool topped cushions, with indoor plumbing and big screen projection movies. After dinner, we walked across 101 to the Peg House, where they serve grilled food. They also sell “world famous” blackberry sundaes, and we partook happily. Then it was beddy-bye time for the last time before returning home.

OWUccjupTJSz3OOpjK7RfwIt was a great trip. We really preferred staying in places for more than one night. Three nights was a nice amount of time in most places. We spent the vast majority of the time without electric hookups and that worked because we weren’t in the heat. It’s really good to have the generator because you definitely cannot count on the solar panels keeping you topped up, especially in the redwoods. Even blogging was easier this trip and I think that’s mostly because we weren’t moving so much. I maxed my ATT data plan but it still seems to be cheaper paying for additional gigs than it would be to upgrade to a full on unlimited plan year round. We also got our credit cards compromised and cancelled again. That seems to be a thing that happens when we travel.

img_5080Our geological theme this year was volcanos, and that was really cool. We visited six national parks and put a whole bunch of state park pins on the map. Cooking worked really well and I’ll be following up with a specific post on that. Mostly though, this was a really cool experience in that we got to go exploring off the I-5 stretch. We saw amazing things we never knew were there, but have passed by countless times. We towed on the order of 3,552 inefficiently planned miles, with one tune up along the way for Bruce. It was awesome hooking up with our BFF camping bud and her pack, meeting friends (new and not so new) on the road, reconnecting with lifelong friends, and even more awesome to get to spend two solid months of time with my sweetie in our Dory. These are the days.

Total miles from Patrick’s Point: 117.5, 14.7 mpg, 3 hours, 3 min. Site 16. No hookups, no dump, no solar. Nice bathrooms. No cell service, but free wifi across the street at Peg House. Definite road noise from 101 in the Rock Creek Campground.