Casini Ranch (8)

Site 92 is set back just enough to feel more calm, and almost private.

We have stayed at this place many times and there isn’t much to update about the campground. It’s a great place to go if you want amenities and a fun campground store, while still having access to a nice calm river. There are always tons of people, but we tried a site a bit out of the thick of things, and it was nice. You can pay lots of money to camp in a covered wagon, or pay lots of money to camp in a cutesy cottage, or pay lots of money to camp in your RV. Any way you slice it, the place is not cheap. But they sell six different kinds of It’s Its in their store, so I rest my case.


Our Saturday was all about me getting my boat in the water to test my patch, while Richard tried the King Ridge Loop again to see if he could do it without getting lost. Last time he tried, he wound up thirty miles up the coast. I had to drive up to Stewart’s Point to retrieve him. I then contacted my Occupational Therapist friend to ask, “No seriously, what is wrong with him?” Now he has assistive technology in the form of Guru Maps. The app runs without service on downloaded maps. It can show you where you are on the map, and where you are in relation to a downloaded route. All good stuff.

It came so close to working.

No sinking here!

I probably spent around two hours paddling around. My boat passes the does-it-leak test, and it was a lovely day on the river. There was a couple on rented kayaks out there, looking very happy. As they passed, the woman called out to me, “Isn’t this great?? It’s my first time! I’ve never done this before! I’m having so much fun!!” She even thanked me for being out on the water with her, to share in the fun. That just made my day. It’s great to be around that kind of excited energy.

She was right. It was so much fun.

Eventually, I decided it was time to get in the car and see if I could catch Richard on the road. I, too, had the downloaded route, and the plan was to follow him until we met up. It all started out great as I took Austin Creek Road to the tiny place known as Cazadero. I was mostly curious to see it because of my bestie neighbor, Caz. It really is just a couple of buildings and a general store, but cute all the same.

I mostly just took this for Caz.

Then I took the right fork out of town and started up King Ridge Road. Here’s the thing. Richard does these roads on a bike. To him, there is always plenty of room, even it it’s a one laner. I specifically asked if the road was wide enough for two cars to pass each other, because I don’t like scooching by someone coming the other way. He’s all, “Yeah, most of it is wide enough.” So I took the fork.

Not two lanes

Here’s the other thing. I keep listening to the bicycle rider with impaired spatial awareness regarding driving conditions when he hardly ever drives. My fault. He did notice that the road conditions were potholey and terrible, except in the places they have newly paved. But yeah, there is no way two cars can pass each other comfortably on almost all of that road. Add to that the fact that most of it is also blind corners, so you can’t tell if the car coming the opposite direction will just suddenly appear. And then, to top it off, much of the road goes along a ridge. Like its name would suggest.

Still not two lanes

I did not enjoy most of the fifty miles spent crawling along that ridge. And there was no cell service. Are we having fun yet? When we were able to occasionally get texts through, I was all about hands free mode, due to the vice grip of my hands on the wheel. As I finally approached the end of the ordeal, many texts from Richard came through at once, the last of which sounded like: “You passed me :(” The car said aloud: “sad face emoji.”

Not scary part of ridgey bits – because hands too clenched during scary parts to take pictures

By that time, I was almost back at the campground and I wasn’t sure what he meant. Once stopped, I went back through texts and tried to reach him. One of his messages also said, “running out of battery.” So, the poor guy, exhausted from his massive ride, had tried (poorly) to communicate that he was going to wait for me at a vista point on Highway 1, where he wanted me to stop and give him a ride the rest of the way. But all of Richard’s poor communication super powers, combined with low cell service and and expiring battery, messed up the landing. I did go back and look for him, but he had abandoned the vista point after I passed it by, and proceeded down the steep and windy section of Highway 1, shivering all the way because it was getting late.

At least Hauser Bridge was wider.

We didn’t connect until Duncan Mills, the little town about a mile outside the campground. Way too late to be helpful. I decided that since it was already into dinner time, I would pick up some pizza at Gold Coast Coffee and Bakery. That, at least, was a plan that worked as expected. We wolfed down a variety of pizza by the slice combinations, and examined all the ways the day could have gone better. We do own a portable iPhone battery charger, and that is now going to go with Richard on any long ride. We parsed some unclear grammatical usage, like ill defined indefinite pronouns. My advice to him is to avoid pronouns generally, so a sentence like “hope all is ok” would be revised to: “hope the plan to have you pick me up at vista trail is ok.” Also, vague verb usage should be avoided when rides are hoped for. Like, “gonna stop here” would be much more effective if it read: “gonna stop for the day at vista trail. I will wait for you here.” Because then, even if I got texts sporadically, I would know exactly what the plan was.

Seaview and Myer’s Grade Road are two lanes at last, with a nice finale to a hard ride (or drive).

Anyway, he made it safe. Shaking and exhausted, but not enough to deter him from planning the next time he wants to try that ride. Trust me, we will have a much clearer sag plan in the future.

Always a fun place to visit

Still and all, it was a great weekend. We stumbled upon a pair of Altoistes camping with friends. We introduced ourselves and said the magic word: “Altoistes.” There were cheers and embraces like meeting long time friends. They mentioned Randy and how they are trying to get in to see him. It’s one of my favoritest things to run into Altoistes on the road. Just after proper grammar.

Total miles: 92.9, 16.7 mpg, 3 hours 8 min. Site 92 hookups. Good dump. Good cell for ATT now; used to be a dead zone. Campground wifi not as strong in this site as it is closer to the beach area. Awesome campground store. Activities for kids.

Lake Solano (5)

Nice site, even if the river view is mostly obscured

Well, I got the boat leak figured out. And the CM did not give us any trouble getting out on Friday. And we saw a river that was lousy with otters! And Richard got a lovely, hot bike ride. The only downer of the weekend was that I was not able to get in much of a paddle when circumstances were perfect. But on balance, that’s still a lot of positives. And I reserved a do over at this campground later, to try again.

Day Use area at dusk

The Caravan Mover working on the second try was a great start to the weekend. The people at Powertouch called Richard back and explained that replacing the turny nut thing would mean replacing the whole actuator, which sounds expensive. They did advise him though that doing a reset means you need to turn the turny nut thing a full two rotations. We had only been turning it maybe one rotation. So we did that, and after one round of engaging, retracting, and engaging again, it worked! And in fact, when we got home, it worked the very first time. So maybe this is a longer term improvement. Crossing fingers.

Tiny river view – but not tiny enough to foil OtterDar

It was going to be a rather hot weekend, so we were glad to have hookups for the AC. We could have maybe gotten a site with a better river view without no hookups, but it was worth the view sacrifice. This site allows just enough of a view through the trees that my OtterDar was able to spot some splishing activity while I was drinking my Saturday morning coffee. Out I ran, and over to a place where I could get a good look see. There must have been at least six playful river otters diving and gliding right in front of me. There is no better way to begin a Saturday.

So many otters!!

Richard set out for a nice ride and I got ready for a paddle. I knew I would need to address the slow leak at some point, but my hope was that I’d be able to stay afloat long enough to find my otter friends before I ran out of air. All looked good at set up and the conditions were spectacular. I am quite the princess when it comes to boating conditions. It doesn’t take much in the way of wind, or cold, or clouds, for me to go “meh” and skip it. This day was the perfect level of hot; just enough that being on the water is refreshing. I got to bliss out for about a half an hour, but then I could tell for sure that the main tube chambers were going down. The floor was fine, and I wondered how much weight the floor could hold all by itself. But then it started to look like the whole thing might just fold in half, and I did not really want to go swimming. So I got out.

Great launch, but things slowly deflated from there.

I thought I could maybe take the whole thing apart, find the leak, slap on a patch, and jump back in. First off though, Advanced Elements boats are constructed using air tubes, wrapped inside an outer cloth cover, and then inserted into a boat shaped skin. They are clever, in that you can easily disconnect the valves from the outer skin, and unzip the cloth cover, to finally get to the tube. But this all took a while. And I did not see any obvious punctures, or seam ruptures. So I accepted defeat and threw everything back in the roof box. I went back to Dory and started micro inspecting the tube while it was inflated. Eventually, I located the tiniest of holes, hidden underneath a seam flap. Hooray! I brought out the patch kit and read the instructions, which indicated a 24 hour wait time after applying the patch. Boo!

The conditions were beautiful

Richard returned to a sad, grumpy sweetie. Things were looking bummy for me, so I tried a desperation move at 4:00 by driving back over to Day Use to see if maybe I could rent a boat. Their rentals are all due back by 4. *sigh* With that, I spent the next forty five minutes just putting my boat all back together so at least it would be ready to go the next time.

Winner recipe

I did cheer myself up with an absolutely delicious grill dinner. We had Sour Cherry-Dijon Pork with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots. The vegetables got grilled in foil packets with olive oil, and then mixed together with butter, and lemon juice and zest. The pork got coated with Weeknight Hero spice blend, and topped with sour cherry spread and whole grain Dijon. OMG it was so good.

Looking for otter buds, but did not see them again

We tossed around the idea of trying to get me back in the water Sunday morning, even if it meant reserving the site another day so we could stay past check out. The princess declared “meh” because it would be a hassle, and a silly expense, and mean arriving late at home. I wasn’t wanting to force it just for the sake of getting on the water. It was just a shame I had missed out on such perfect ottery conditions. I did get a reservation for a weekend in December. My guess is it will be too chilly. It’s not easy being a princess.

Same view in the morning. Just lovely.

My goal for the weekend was honestly just to deal with my boat. So from that perspective, the mission was accomplished. It’s fixed, and now I know how to fix my boat. Both very good things. Next weekend we will again be on a slow flowing river, so chances are good that I will be able to test the repair. Richard says the Lake Solano Loop ride is very nice, but the road conditions are not great. He didn’t get lost though! So we both had definite wins.

Total miles: 54.0, 18.1 mpg, 1 hour 54 min. Site 33 EW hookups. Almost no cell service. Tiny view of river through trees. Went to first dump where there was no rinse hose. Use second one next time. Launching from Day Use area means no mud, but there is limited parking down low. They do rent boat there for $15, but only until 4pm, and they stop renting at 2:45.

Putah Canyon (4)

Shade, with direct view of the lake

It is always good to get out. Lately, it has not been easy to get down our driveway because the Caravan Mover on the driver’s side does not want to fully engage. We have adjusted it using a big T wrench tool thingy so many times, that the nut has become stripped. Now we use a 7mm socket that sort of works, except then it gets stuck on the nut and has to be pulled out with pliers. And now there is rebar sitting in our driveway, from the still unfinished outside landscaping project, that we also have to get past. But we struggle through the launch, weekend after weekend, during the last five feet of the maneuver that gets us off our driveway and onto the street. We’ve got ramps, and gutter fillers, and a winch, and the caravan movers that we patiently engage and disengage, maybe ten times, before they finally move fully into position. Once down, everything works just fine. But this process has become frustratingly more time consuming, and it takes all we’ve got on a Friday afternoon to keep it together so we can just get rolling. By Sunday, we are cleansed of the week’s worth of piled on stress, and we are likely to forget about it. We have reminders to call the manufacturer to see what the hell can be done, but then the week gets away from us both and there we are again on Friday.

Reflection is a wonderful thing

Even so, once we’re en route, it is like our weekly therapy session. Sometimes we have a lot to process, and sometimes we just get to unhook. But whatever happens, we always always always come back better. This week was no different. We acknowledged that we’re both so so done with the unfinished outdoor project. The frustration with the contractors is deep and intense. Yelling at them does no good. We’re on a spending freeze until we get the debt under control, so the whole “add to cart” retail therapy strategy is unavailable. Plus, since I’m going to be counting calories forever, there is no binging away the blues. Somehow, the magic of Dory time still does the trick.

Quick trip over to Lake Henessey

Lake Berryessa is the perfect place for a weekend of fun in the sun, or lying around just being lazy. We did a little of both. Richard rode out to Lake Henessey and I met him there with the car. Richard wants to remember that the roads out that way are in pretty bad shape. It’s a nice drive through rolling hills and wooded valleys. There are still lots of standing burned trees from the big fire, but there is also new growth. The lakes are still looking good and high, even at the tail end of summer. And there are vineyards along the way, supplying lovely grapes to nearby Napa Valley wineries. Blue skies and hot weather made for a lovely day.

Somewhere along Chiles Pope Valley Rd (the valley waves hi to Mark and Gaye)

We stopped on our way back at the Turtle Rock Bar & Cafe. This is a funky little place where they have pinned hundreds of signed dollar bills to the ceiling and walls. They’ve got a few groceries and hot food to order. It’s a favorite stop for bikers.

That’s a lot of dollars!

Once back at the campground, I weighed whether or not I wanted to get my boat in the water. Last time I used it, I noticed there was a slow deflation in the main tubing. It wasn’t enough to put me in danger of sinking, but it was enough to make me think about the possibility of sinking. So if I were going to go out, I’d need to either find the leak and repair it, or stay pretty close to shore. Anyway, apathy won out and I chilled out in my Nemo chair while watching others in the water instead. That was quite nice.

Perfect dinner for hot weather

Dinner was a Blue Apron lettuce cups recipe, with turkey, mushrooms, and bell pepper. It’s a make your own adventure dinner, where you get to assemble the cups and top with a delicious sesame-sambal sauce, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Then it was shows and bed, with the critical dongle in its proper place.

Sun going down on another perfect day

Once again we return rejuvenated after another successful therapy session. We can only hope that our metaphorical boats are pumped up enough, and the leaks slow enough, that we make it through the week for the next round without sinking.

Total miles: 68.5, 17.5 mpg, 2 hours 19 min. Site 98 no hookups. Great solar, excellent cell. Good dump but $25 fee. Boat launch, but no easy way to get down to the water with a kayak from any of the sites.

Willow Point RV

Site 1 with nice view of the lake; close to the entrance, but very well lit

There are just so many things out there that we have no idea about. County Fairs, for example, represent an entire cultural phenomenon, a way of life for lots of people, and we only just now got to experience one up close. Beyond visiting the carnival and midway parts when I was a kid, the extent of my fair smarts could be captured entirely by “Charlotte’s Web.” We specifically reserved this new campground a year ago, when hearing about the “boat races,” and thought it might be fun to stay nearby.

Easy kayak launch (assuming the water levels are high)

For a three day Labor Day weekend, we did not encounter much traffic heading out. I’ve gotten used to taking the twisty turny Highway 29 out of Napa Valley, and we made the trip in about three and a half hours. This campground sits on the edge of the public park and boat launch in Lakeport. Lakeport lies on the southwestern side of Clear Lake, which has noticeably less algae than the southeastern side tends to see in the late summer. We pulled in through a large open gate and checked in with the owners before setting up in our site.

Public paved launch right next door

I liked the owners and they were upfront about the positive changes they have made to the campground. Apparently, there used to be a problem with people coming through the property, so they got lots of street lights and cameras for security. They gave us a heads up on the bathroom situation, with no hot water for the showers, and a door that will stick shut if closed too hard. None of that intimidated us, and all we needed to decide was whether to spin for view. With the lake in view and a three night stay, we went with the spin.

Clear Lake looking full and beautiful

We were super tired and barely had the energy to set up for shows. Here we realized we had tragically forgotten the all important “dongle” at home; the thing that makes it so the rear screen projector can connect to an iPad or iPhone. We were outta luck and resorted to watching silly shows on the iPad. Hard fail there.

Lake County Fair

Saturday was all about the fair. But first, we walked over to the Lakeport computer store to buy the last HDMI to lightning dongle they had. For a mere $16, Richard suspected it was a knock off and had little hope it would work. He turned out to be right, so it was a gamble that did not pay off. Oh well. “Dongle” has been added to our camping check list to make sure it never gets left again.

The Midway

We lunched at Taqueria la Mexicana and it was a perfect way to fuel up before entering the world of cotton candy and fried Oreos. Everything is walking distance in Lakeport and we paid our $12 per person to go check this thing out. Right away, it was a sensory overload, with live music, carnival ride sounds, and a wild mixture of unhealthy food smells combined with, but more overwhelmed by, the pungent odor of livestock.

And do I hear a ten, mndbbm ten, mnndmndmnd ten, mmdnbmdn eleven, do I hear eleven, mddndmbm eleven, eleven, mnmbdmd, eleven! Sold to number 109!

Most of the people seemed to be gathered in the auctioning area. Here we learned all about how kids join the 4H Club to raise turkeys, pigs, sheep, etc., so they can be sold come fair day. They all proudly brought up their specimens, one at a time, while an auctioneer chanted in rhythmical, rapid fire, unintelligible sounds, until at some point, he would sing-song his way toward announcing the winning bidder. It was all fascinating and mesmerizing just listening to the bid calling. We’ve seen that kind of thing in movies or TV shows, but this was our first time seeing one for real. The kids all knew what to do and I didn’t see any of them losing it over selling off their animals for “harvesting.” I don’t think I would have done so well as a kid. I would have desperately wanted a Charlotte.

Some sheep. Radiant even.

We left the scene to wander through the other categories. I decided I could definitely handle being a tiny fairy garden fair person. Those were adorable. They had displays and ribbons for flowers, flower arrangements, and produce of all sorts. I can just imagine the pride having your little succulent garden, with the tiny river rocks, itty bitty bridge, and mini string lights, displaying its nice blue ribbon. Fun!

Adorable fairy garden

After we’d been immersed for a couple of hours, we retreated for some down time in Dory. We knew we would be returning for the big event and made a plan for how to have fair food dinner, without seriously regretting it later. Richard went with a corn dog, and I got one of those big hot dogs. We split a basket of tater tots, opting for the plain version, rather than the loaded versions, topped with combinations of nacho cheese, chili, bacon, or jalapeños. There were lots of other fair food options to choose from, but I didn’t want to blow all of my weight loss in one evening.

Go Shark Car!

At last, it was time to find the grandstand and await the beginning of the “Boat Races,” with a Demolition Derby preview event to whet the appetite. The pre-show was about what one would expect: put a bunch of old beater cars in an arena and watch people bash them until they can’t move anymore.

Nemo! Don’t crash into Nemo!

The main event was something special though. Knowing you were going to watch a boat race on land doesn’t quite prepare you for the fact that nary a watercraft was going to be traveling by trailer. They just hitched up a bunch of boats, some not bad looking, to some kind of tow vehicle, and dragged them round and round on a watered down track. The point I guess it to knock off each other’s boats from their tow cars, until no one has a boat anymore. It’s like the least safe thing you can imagine, unless you wished they had moistened the track with gasoline first.

I don’t even think there is a prize involved here. People just do this for fun.

We were laugh crying the whole time it was so funny. I cannot believe all the drivers came out of that alive. There was definitely some car on fire at some point and we had to laugh ourselves silly while simultaneously being asphyxiated. It was so much fun and now we want to just go around touring fairs for the rest of our lives. What a blast!

Lovely day for a paddle

Sunday was a much more normal day for us, though we could still hear the fair going on all day. Richard rode all around the lake; a 67 mile ride for him! I got my boat on the water and enjoyed a nice float on a very full lake. In the afternoon, we were treated to a lovely visit from our Altoistes friends who live in Soda Bay. We chatted and caught up, and they gifted us some wonderful home grown produce. They said the tomatoes were not outstanding this year, but we were sure impressed. In fact, once we got home, we made ourselves some homemade Pizza Margheritas, and they were out of this world.

Fresh tomato, basil & mozzarella – YUM

We really love Clear Lake. The vibe is like a throwback in time. It is unpretentious and uncrowded. The wildlife viewing there is always a draw and this time it was all about the Black Crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax). They find their way to Clear Lake every year to nest and make quite the ruckus. They also poop all over the trees they have taken over. We thought we were seeing ash fall from the sky. We looked up what wildfires there were nearby, but it turned out to be flakes of dried Heron poop. So that is something.

Black Crowned Night Heron

We will come again for sure. And we’ll probably do the boat races again too. This park was a perfect place to stay in terms of location. It felt a little weird to be so close to the public park, but if it had been hot, I would have appreciated to possibility of plugging in to the 110 outlet nearby. All in all, it was a fun and memorable weekend.

Total miles: 113.4, 16.5 mpg, 3 hours 30 min. Site 1 “hookups” in the form of a 110 outlet nearby. Water spigots rather far away. Good solar in the middle of the day and nice shade in the afternoon. Excellent cell for both. Can launch close to site or use paved boat launch also close by. Sewer outlet in the site, but we didn’t use it because it was kind of high. There is a free public dump in the boat launch area that is good.

Doran Beach (10)

Site 76 has a private little sandy path to the lagoon.

Super chill weekend for us at a favorite location. No hurricanes, no earthquakes, just fog and romantic walks on beaches. Hoping everyone in Southern California is ok and not washing away. The deserts are getting doused right now.

Heron on the hunt

Nothing much to report on this end. We will finally be taking a rest weekend next week so that we can clean all the things. I did some more recipe pantry rearranging and made a Blue Apron to use up the Romesco that didn’t get touched over the summer. The Romesco Chicken & Poblano Pepper with Currant Couscous was so good that it put Romesco sauce right back in the required pantry items. It’s not that easy to find, but it sure is good.

Lots of driftwood about

Another thing that is good is Wild Flour Bread. I met Richard out there so that I too could enjoy the sconey goodness. We split a nectarine, raspberry, chocolate chip and a Meyer lemon, mango, raspberry. They were exquisite.

Going down the Shorttail Gulch trail to the beach

In order to have earned those calories, we did the Pinnacle Gulch beach trail loop. This time we went clockwise, going down the steep part of the Shorttail Gulch trail, and then back up the gentler climb on the Pinnacle Gulch trail. We liked that. It wasn’t low tide, so the tide pools were hidden from view. We had to take the high road along the beach at times, and eventually got stopped by a rock outcropping. There was a couple just going right into the water and they disappeared through a natural tunnel in the rock. When they reappeared, they said the water got deeper on the other side, so I’m not sure that could ever be a dry way of walking the whole beach. We were content to stop there.

Cool tunnel

That’s it. Just a nice fun weekend. Sorry, boring is good sometimes and I’m appreciating the very boring weather. Hang on tight SoCal!

Total miles: 77.1, 16.4 mpg, 2 hours 32 min. Site 76 no hookups. 5g for both. Great solar. Adequate dump, but waited in line for an hour. $7 paid at the kiosk.

Westside (5)

Homecoming tradition

The weekend camping trip that follows coming home from summer is probably the most important trip of the whole year. Lots of people laughed at me when they asked if we were going out again and I said, “Of course.” And we don’t go out because we are already in camping withdrawal. This is a critically important, specifically designated reassurance trip. It’s a gear change and a way to slide back into normalcy before the post vacation depression has a chance to set in. I intentionally plan the return home leaving very little time to think before school work days start. I set myself up so that I have tons of work to do right away, and am a little stressed about getting it all done. That’s the aim and it works like a charm. I’ve learned over the years that the last thing I need is time to think and reflect. That never goes well.

And look at those blue skies.

It’s a strange thing, when you’ve spent the past 2+ months with your spouse, intensely together, for better or for worse, in a seventeen foot trailer, to then leave for work the next morning and say, “Bye. Have a good day.” Don’t get me wrong, every summer we almost get divorced at least once. But when you’re inseparably together for that amount of time, you’re going to be working through some shit. And by the time you’ve done all that, you end up pretty tight. Or divorced. Or (as some of my colleagues speculated on how they might fare), one person down and one going to jail. So we both felt the melancholy a couple days after we got back, but then just like that, we headed out for a very normal weekend in our favorite area. We are taking a weekend off after the next one (which is also in Bodega Bay), so that we can clean out the car and give Dory a bath. It’s just important to not do that too soon.

Evenings bring ‘zee froggy’

Bodega Bay is a guaranteed mood booster. We love everything about it and could repeat the same things, going to the same places, a million times without getting tired of it. We usually even manage to find something just a little bit new too. This time, Richard rode a tried and true route up Bay Hill to get a huge, delicious scone at Wild Flour Bread. I did have work to do, but the service is great. AT&T has really stepped up their 5g game and we have found improved cell coverage where there used to be little to none.

Majestic California Redwoods

In the afternoon, I met him in Duncans Mills where we found a nice new hike. This one is called the “Islands in the Sky Loop Trail.” It starts close to the Russian River, but then climbs steeply up to an open meadowy area where you can see the ocean fog on one side, and golden grassy hills on the other. There are many redwood groves in these parts, and most of the trail was cool and shady. It was about four miles round trip, with nine hundred feet of climbing. Nice hike.

Fog on the horizon. I’ll bet in the mornings, these really are islands in the sky.

We hit our place, La Bodeguita, for dinner. It did not disappoint. It is comforting to be in a very familiar and very beautiful place. It’s a short and easy drive from home, with very little highway time. I will plan to land here every single year, until we’re retired, to bounce back after the summer.

Bumble bee butt on a thistle

The official changeover has taken place. Summer travel things are getting put away, while recipes and pantry items are getting evaluated and graded based on how much they were used. For the culinary minded among you, mango chutney and sour cherry spread will be upgraded to larger containers, while Romesco, polenta, and tomato paste are getting the boot. I grilled more this summer than last, and did Blue Aprons mostly only in the beginning. Still need to figure out a solution for “I don’t want to cook” when there are no restaurants anywhere.

Thanks, Bodega Bay! You always come through for us. See you next weekend!

There’s no place like home, and our home is mighty fine. I mean, it would be nice to not be staring at small bulldozers out my window. That would be mightier and finer. But that day will come…

Total miles: 79.8, 16.9 mpg, 2 hours 29 min. Site 36 no hookups. Strong 5g for both. Good dump. Pay $7 by check or cash at kiosk. Great solar.

Rollins Lake – Orchard Springs

There’s good old California!

Well, we finally had to concede it was time to wrap this trip. It’s always hard to resist the urge to keep on going, but resist we must. Knowing it would be hard, we cancelled Donner Lake in favor of this new place off Highway 80. It is less crowded, had hookups, and most importantly, was at a lower elevation so I could drink. We factor these things in, you see. You must plan correctly for mental breakdowns.

A post parade parade

On our way up and over Donner Pass, we saw so many vintage cars returning from the Reno parade. That was very fun. Lots of them were being towed, but many did the climbing all by themselves. This is a change in elevation of around three thousand feet, with grades of four to eight percent. Impressive.

Nice to find a new place

Rollins Lake is a nice little reservoir with a couple of marinas and campgrounds. Orchard Springs boasts sites with full hookups, although we learned the hard way that the sewer inlet is too small for a standard dump hose to fit into. If you had a funnel type fitting, it might work better. We should have dumped at a place down the road, or even waited until we got home to our new spiffy sewer clean out.

Bike ride just in view of, but not on, 80

We had two nights to enjoy and no weather events whatsoever. No rain, no hail, no lightning, no thunder, no wind, no tornado threats. We realize why we are such weather wimps. Both of us were born and raised in a state where any hint of weather, like the rest of the country experiences regularly, costs billions of dollars in catastrophic damage. We don’t get afternoon wind and hail storms. We get afternoon gentle breezes.

Nice and calm on the lake

Richard was able to get in one last “Jay’s Essential Ride” and I got in one last paddle. I do in fact like storing the kayak in the roof box. It was easy to take everything out and I like that I can put things back not completely dry, rather than have to air it out before packing it away. I figure the blackness of the box must aid in evaporation of any residual dampness by making it pretty hot up there. The small size is perfect for my inflatable kayak, paddle, kayak wheels, pump, life jacket, and stinky water shoes.

Last supper

For our last dinner, we cooked up a couple of Chicken Cordon Blues that we have carried around frozen the whole two months. We had green beans, so I just sautéed them in olive oil, with a little garlic and balsamic at the end. It was a very nice way to celebrate Wrap Day.

Those little frozen fancy chicken things sure are fun

The drive home was bleh. It was kind of windy (despite my previous California weather gloating), and a lot of the driving was on the interstate. Once through Sacramento, I got off and followed back roads the rest of the way. But it was still a long drive.

Some progress in the back yard

Once home, we had to remember how to do everything. Like where did we put the house keys and how do we do that whole ramp/winch thing again? It came back to us, and Dory is now safely inside the garage. Our back yard has a big scoop and some machinery sitting there, so some progress was made for the future Dory1 backyard campground. And we were very pleased to see our daughter and our kitty. The former made us welcome home cookies, and the latter trotted up excitedly and gave us good purrs. It does feel good to be home. We still love our new shower and that sure did feel luxurious. Not that we wouldn’t have continued if we could. We have yet to hit that “let’s be done” wall. Traveling is hard and scary at times, but it’s where we feel the most connected and alive. 75 days on the road and only a few parts missing. Not bad for a summer.

Really delicious welcome home cookies

Speaking of missing, we were using a fold out step after the Dory step crunching incident. We carry that with us for sites that are very tippy, but it worked great as a substitute. Well, we seem to have left that behind in Reno, so for our last stay, we really did have to climb in and out. So ridiculous. It’s probably propped up against the fence at River West. Since we use it so infrequently, we weren’t used to checking for it on pack up. I did send an email to Safari Condo to inquire about the price to send replacement parts for Dory’s step. That will go on the list of things to do before next summer.

Other things we want to investigate or get before our next summer trip include: replacing the stabilizer(s), installing a fan cover (that can be taken off when we need to get in the garage), a surge protector, an electronic sway controller, a propane conversion for the generator, an E-bike for me, and a portable air compressor for tires.

By and large, we did fine with what we had, but weather was the ever present theme and that’s just not going to get any easier. Anything we can do to assist in dealing with it could only help. 400 watt solar panels keep the batteries charged just great when there is sun. Gas that sits in a generator that doesn’t get used in over a year goes bad and gunks it up. Lighting is a thing and so is wind, so we’d better plan for it. And after two months on the road, tires need topping up. We got it done easily on the road, but it could be even easier if we could take care of it on our own. The E-bike is just for fun.

In terms of new rules and procedures learned from this trip, here are the top ones:

  • Have Richard spot me out of the site ALWAYS
  • 2/2/2 (200 miles/arrive by 2/stay 2 nights) unless there is a good reason not to
  • Electric hookups unless there is a good reason not to
  • Check for cell service when making reservations
  • Sandwich non service stays with recovery stays
  • Roll by 9 unless there is a good reason not to
  • Yellow Alert: All outside things put back in car, awnings removed, unplug if lightning is coming
  • Red Alert: (do all Yellow Alert things if not already done), Roof down and/or nose into the wind for serious wind or hail threat, move car in front as a buffer if possible

We did great on supplies, except for Vadouvan Curry Powder. That was a total fail. I had curry powder anxiety with the small glass jar it comes in, so I took extra in a Ziplock freezer bag. Realizing quickly that this does not work to contain spice smells, I double bagged it. That also does not work. So rather than throw it all out, I just let all of Dory become infused with the delicious, bear attracting smell of curry. For coffee pods, we had a box shipped to Jack and Lee, which we got to about half way through the trip. We had TP anxiety but were able to find our brand at Walmart. Everything else we could score on the road, even mango chutney.

We are back in our home routines now and will definitely go out this weekend. The calendar is looking bare, so I’ll need get busy booking weekends. Thanks for keeping me company on the road!

Total miles from Reno: 87.9, 20.1 mpg, 2 hours 44 min. Site 243 full hookups. Worst. Dump. Ever. Good cell for both. Boat launch. Campground store, but wasn’t open.

River West Resort – Reno

She looks cute all tucked in next to the big rigs.

Getting close! Travel between Austin, NV and Reno is less scenic than the eastern stretch, even along 50. It is still preferable over highway 80, but the long flats are longer and flatter. The Mormon Crickets seem to have dissipated and the salt flats have picked up. There is one last range before falling into the Reno/Sparks valley, and then you hit the Sierra Nevada range.

Salt Flats approaching Fallon, NV

We cancelled plans at Donner Lake in favor of an overnight stay in Reno to coincide with the Honda Passport service. If you need a service in Reno, I can recommend Bill Pearce Honda. They were fast, efficient, and there were no unexpected charges. They also have a nice waiting room with wifi. Bruce2 checks out in full health and topped up fluids, but will need a thorough cleaning when we get home. I guess we’ll have to take off the roof box to do that.

Check up all good! And no more warning light telling me service is due soon.

I was super surprised to find the casino RV places up the road in Verdi all full. I later realized that this was likely due to the Hot August Nights event downtown. We had no idea this was a thing, but we’re glad we accidentally hit the timing right to see it.

Reno is a fun place for little big city stuff.

We had to do some last minute calling to get a place, but found the River West Resort through our Allstays app. They had a couple of free sites with full hookups right downtown. We lucked out here because it would have been horribly difficult to unhitch and deal with Dory at the Honda service center. Instead, we got to leave her in a safe place while I waited for the scheduled service and Richard biked around Reno. The staff there is super friendly and happy to accommodate us on short notice. Honestly, I’d stay there again. It’s mostly a place for huge full time or long term RVs, but they have a row near the entrance for short term stays. Full hookups, great cell service, that’s more than enough for us. It’s not cheap, but that was ok for a night.

Truckee River running right by the RV park

When I returned to Dory in the afternoon, something scary happened. I had just walked inside Dory and saw a woman across the way waving in my direction. I thought she might have been waving to a family member or something, but her face looked worried. Then I saw her go down onto the ground and into a fetal position. I immediately went to her to ask if she was ok and she was clearly not. She was trembling all over and said she couldn’t feel her hands. She had called 911 and had her husband on the phone with her. She came outside her RV to wait for paramedics and wanted someone to just be with her until they got there. That poor woman. I could so relate to what she was going through and just tried to keep her calm and conscious. Shortly, an ambulance arrived and she said she was ok then, so I left her in their capable hands. Her husband returned later with their two kids and they did not end up taking her to the hospital. From talking to her later, it sounds like this may have been a case of dehydration combined with a classic panic attack. Could be elevation played a part too. She’s ok, but oh lordy how scary for her. They are just starting out on a one year traveling adventure across the country with their two kids. She is going to homeschool them while they go to national parks, visit family, and live the dream for a full year. I would be having a panic attack too. Here’s the really sweet part: the next morning, she came by to drop off a sun catcher as a thank you gift to me for being with her when she was so vulnerable. I swear, I will treasure this thing for the rest of my life. This is such a beautiful reminder of what it is to go out on long adventures. It is scary, and risky, and you never know what is coming your way from day to day. You feel very fragile and out there all alone, so far from home. But here’s the thing: people want to help you. People get what it feels like to be in trouble and we’ve all been there. What I did to help her reminds me of all the angels who have helped me when I needed it. I will always remember their kindness and she will always remember mine. That is the beautiful part of leaping into these adventures. So Janelle, if you ever find this blog and see yourself here, I will be thinking of you. You are brave, and you are strong, and you can do this.

Bike ride above 80 with Prime trucks bringing eagerly anticipated deliveries over the Sierras.

After all of the excitement, Richard returned and we were ready for dinner. We ate out at a place called Moo Dang and it was very good. They had a big TV screen on the wall, showing images of the food, so I guess you could get a preview of what you were ordering. After dinner, we hit the Patagonia outlet downtown and I got a happy purchase. I have now sized down from all of the clothes I own, which is a wonderful thing, but also expensive for some of the nicer items. One such item is a Patagonia fleece, which I was able to score in a smaller size for 30% off. Sweeeet!

Casinos galore!

Then we just walked through the closed off downtown area to check out Hot August Nights. There was a vintage car parade at 7 so we had to kill time until then. We checked out a couple of casinos, did not play anything, and got frozen yogurt. All super fun and not at all what we’re used to.

Incredibly impressive work on display

The parade was a blast. Now we understood why all the RV places were full up and why we had been seeing so many classic cars around town. There were lots and lots of California plates, and in fact, we saw tons of these crossing the sierras with us on 80 the next day. Some of these old timers were being towed, but some hauled their own selves up and over. There were all kinds of cars, from very old looking ones, to jazzed up 70s cars. I guess the 70s is now a “vintage” era, which is sobering. I wonder, if I’d kept “Frodo,” my 78 Honda Civic, would I have been allowed to drive him in the parade?? Probably not. These cars were mostly super fancy looking. It was obvious how much care and attention, and money, goes into this hobby. The drivers sure looked like they were having fun. Super time!

Have an amazing adventure, Janelle!

As I write this, we are in our last place of the summer, back in California. I’ll save the post trip reflections for the last post, but my big takeaway from this one is about finding angels when you’re far from home. Eternal thanks to all the people out there giving kindness and help when we go down.

Total miles from Bob Scott: 180.2, 19.7 mpg, 4 hours 5 min. Site 201 full hookups. Excellent cell. Dump in our site too high, but one next to us was good and we were allowed to back in. Nice friendly hosts. Safe place close to downtown. View of Truckee River.

Bob Scott

Nice little rustic campground just off 50

This stop got us roughly half way between Great Basin and Reno. It is a small, first come first serve place with no services. There is a toilet, and that’s about it. No water, no trash, no hookups of any kind, and no pavement on the rough dirt loop just off highway 50. However, there is absolutely incredible cell service because the place must be situated next to a tower.

By the way, Richard biked all of this once upon a time. He was cray cray.

Not much to report from the day except that it gets windy across those open plains. As the basins stretch out between increasingly distant ranges, the wind sweeps across the open landscape and can result in a nasty north/south crosswind. It helps a lot that there is very little traffic, so you can go slow.

Now he bikes 20 miles of it.

We pulled off at Hickison Petroglyphs, a campground we stayed at once before, but decided to go about twenty miles further to Bob Scott. Richard got out and rode it, feeling thankful he did not have to haul his ass across all of Nevada on a bicycle.

Passed through Eureka!

While he was kitting up, we were menacingly approached by many huge black beetles. We looked them up because they were striking and becoming unnervingly abundant. Turns out they are Mormon Crickets and are totally a thing in Nevada. Apparently, they cover the roads in places, to the point that they can cause accidents by making the roads literally slippery with their gross squished bodies. Yuck.

Wind defense

We had one last grill dinner of steak with miso butter, corn on the cob, and eggplant and zucchini marinated in miso paste and sesame oil. I have learned to put all of the food, paper plates, and paper towels into my nifty grill bag so they don’t all blow away. This is me learning to live with weather.

Elevation 7200′

We will have just two more stops before home. We planned a last hurrah at Donner, but the Passport needs a service. That’s what happens when you go to Quebec and back. So instead we’ll do a one nighter in Reno, and then a new place to have our nervous breakdowns. All good as we make our way Californyways.

Total miles from Great Basin: 209.9, 17.7 mpg, 5 hours 47 min. Site 8. 10$. First come first serve. No water, no trash, no hookups. Incredible cell for both. 4 bars super fast 5g. Many sites not level.

Great Basin NP (2) – Lower Lehman

Fab first come site!

Once again, the ‘arrive by 2’ guideline saves the day. We rolled out of Deer Creek and down highway 189 before 10 am and that was helpful in two ways. First off, we dashed in front of a huge storm system that would have stalled us for a good long time. In doing so, we were able to grab a beautiful first come first serve site in the Lower Lehman Campground, where there are only eleven sites to choose from. Because all of that happened the way it did, our stay in Great Basin was logistically much easier than if we’d had to stay either at Baker Creek Campground, or down in the town of Baker. Either would have worked, but not as well.

Highway 189 into Provo was a nice surprise.

I will again make a strong endorsement for taking 189 and skirting Salt Lake City, rather than navigate the interstate maze through downtown. This route passes gently down a lovely canyon, full of river views and waterfalls. We made one super efficient stop to top up on gas and restock groceries before we left civilization for the duration of Nevada. Then it was 6 to 50 East; the Loneliest Highway, all the way to Baker.

Lovely lonely country of western Utah

Highway 50 is a beautiful way to travel western Utah and Nevada. The landscape changes as you go up, over, and down a series of ranges, each followed by a basin. In the east, the waves of basin/range follow each other one right after another. There is greenery in the form of low scrub, and even wildflowers to please your eye as you pass the miles.

“If we drive fast, we can do this…”

Given the vast expanses of relatively flat land, you can see weather coming from afar. We saw a deep dark scary looking system looming on the horizon directly in front of us. Consulting weather apps, and comparing that with our planned trajectory, it looked like we just might be cutting off and heading west right in front of it. That is, if it didn’t catch us before turning right. “Drive fast, drive fast, drive fast.” We came a bit too close for comfort, but did in fact get just in front of it. We got some wind and rain, but not too bad. Later we talked to a group that had stopped in that little town of Delta for lunch, and regretted it. They said it was white knuckle time and that they pulled over a lot, getting jostled around by the wind and doused with blinding rain.

Whew! Made it!

After we crossed the Confusion Mountain range, we could see the mountains of Great Basin obscured by clouds at their upper peaks. It was an exciting and breathtaking approach. The road just lays out straight in front of you until you can’t make it out in the distance. Eventually, you turn left for Baker. There, we got gas and then headed up to see if we could get a site.

There’s our destination; just ahead and in the clouds.

There were four available when we got there and we got to select a beauty. Lehman Creek runs right behind it, providing a background noise of gurgling water at all times. There was unobstructed solar, and the elevation of 7500′ made it nice and cool, day and night. It was a score and we were jubliant.

Nice Visitor Center

We stopped at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center to see if there were any tickets for a caves tour. That was our bad for not thinking to reserve ahead of time. I’ll give us a pass though, cause we’ve been busy. Nothing was available that day, but you can come at 8am every morning to try for a drop in tour that can accommodate 20 people.

Triumphant crossing of the last bridge to the parking lot

We had plenty of daylight left, so we drove up to the Baker Creek Trailhead parking area. We had a mission to accomplish here. Last time, we took what was supposed to be a loop trail, but due to failing light and lack of confidence in the trail map, we turned around at the top and returned the way we came. There was lots of dispute over whether or not we were actually on the right trail (can you guess which one of us did not believe we were on the right trail?). This majorly conflicted with those of us who, at the time, really struggled with hiking uphill, and knew we were on the right trail, and knew it would be shorter to continue rather than turn back (can you guess which one of us that was?). This time around, we had light and less complainy hikers.

Meadow Turkeys

I can totally understand what happened. Once you reach the “top” of the loop, after having climbed 900′ (which is a lot already), you cross the river and think you should now be heading down. Instead, the trail goes UP and over another little ridge, so that you actually follow the South Fork of Baker Creek down. Mission status: accomplished. Bottom line: I was right about being on the right trail. But, Richard was right, at the time, to play it safe and turn us around. It is a super steep descent along the South Fork trail, and that would have been dangerous without light. Plus, we would both have been scared we were off trail and might have to haul it back up if I had turned out to be wrong. So, we both win!

Bikey goes high

The next morning, Richard headed up to the top of Wheeler Peak on his bike. This is an unrelenting climb, at an 8% grade, for ten miles, up to an elevation of 10,000 feet. While he was playing Tour de France, I was leisurely showering. I headed up in the car later and went slowly, taking the middle of the road. It is steep and cliffy a lot of the way, but the views are incredible. I could feel the elevation, but it didn’t thwart me. I know the secret now: drink water, no alcohol. All good.

Touching eternity (almost)

The Bristlecone Pines hike was also on the list of do-over activities. It’s about a three mile hike up to see the trees, and the trails were flowing with little streams all over the place. It had rained steadily overnight, but we got to enjoy clear skies and perfect temperatures up at that height. I took a then/now photo of myself showing off how not ass kicked I was at ten thousand feet.

The last act of our two night stay was a tour in the Lehman Caves. Richard went before 8am to the Visitor Center to get tickets and was not the first person in line. One person was trying to talk their way into getting tickets for 15, and that would have sunk our chances. They had a sob story about having reservations, but cancelling them. The rangers took them over to the side to work with them, but that meant Richard got tickets.

Soda Straws, forming stalactites in super slow motion

Our tour was at 4pm and it was great. We saw the same things we did last time, but the camera on my phone has gotten a lot better. The ranger did a nice job explaining the cave formations to us, and I am better at retaining cave terms, such as: speleothem, stalactite/stalagmite, cave popcorn, cave shield, soda straw, cave bacon, cave turnip, and drapery.

Cave Turnips

Oh, by the way, because I looked back on the blog from 2017, I knew to ask about the movie filmed in the cave: “The Wizard of Mars.” For reasons not well understood, we went ahead and watched that last night. How it is possible for a movie to be both: 1) the most impressively bad 60s sci fi movie ever made, and 2) so boring it was hard to stay awake through it? I can’t describe this thing. Richard fell asleep during the super exciting bits where the martian encased in a crystal tube mind melds with one of the stranded astronauts to tell him they need to follow the golden road to find the lost city in time. He asked what he’d missed and I told him it really didn’t matter and that he should NOT rewind to watch it again. I just could not take it.

Cave Bacon (flashlight shining through)

We enjoyed dinner indoory in Dory as we watched a small rain cloud pass by. We were both very tired, and very happy. We love this park, even if we do the same things we did before. I was happy to be far better able to hike at elevation, even going uphill. Richard is just Richard, and never seems to age or be daunted by any physical activity. It is always a thrill to walk amongst thousands of years old trees. It’s a glorious oasis with bountiful plant life and creatures. We saw what was later identified as a Blue Grouse, lots of deer, and a whole lot of wildflowers. Absolutely fabulous and a highlight of the trip.

What a great place!

Total miles from Deer Creek: 211.7, 16.9 mpg, 4 hours 18 min. Site 10 first come first serve. No hookups. Great solar. No water in campgrounds. Sometimes 1 bar of 5gE. Lehman Caves Visitor Center has wifi. Cell hits better from visitor center.