San Simeon & Morro Bay

img_7713What a fantastic winter break!! Between Doran Beach and Christmas, I had a little time for some Dory projects. First, I put up a little shelf where the paper towels used to be (those got moved next to the fridge). Next, I put flexible foam backing on a map of California State Parks so we could mount it on the front wall. And last, I installed a little drawer under the table to hold paper things, maps, and little odds and ends. All make me very happy.

 

We started the second week of vacation with a trip to San Simeon. My plan was to visit Hearst Castle, which I’d never seen before. The other part of the plan was to hang out with Annie and Linda, fellow Altoistes, in Morro Bay for a couple of days. I talked them into shifting over to San Simeon to start with, and we all went on a holiday tour together.

Annie managed to get us sites all together, even though they were non specific reservations in the Washburn “primitive” loop. We turned heads to be sure and someone asked if it was random chance or if we were “part of a club.” We had dinner together the first night and were able, with Annie’s contribution of chicken, to rustle up fajitas for four. The next day, Richard went for a ride and the gals explored Cambria. That night we headed up to the castle for dinner and to be there in time for the shuttle. *Note to future self: do not go to the Hearst Castle visitor center for dinner, no matter how exciting soft pretzels and boxed salad may sound.

 

All I can say to sum up Hearst Castle is: “Wow.” Our tour guide was really great and she did a good job filling in the history behind the extravaganza. I just love the fact that a big part of the endeavor was the idea of sharing European treasures with a new audience. I also love that this place is a self sustaining museum and part of the California State Parks. There were so many fun little stories about what it was like to stay as a guest in this place. But the one that stands out the most is the fact that the 5 mile, 1500 ft, twisty climb up from the highway would have always happened on an unpaved road. Didn’t matter who you were back then, you’re going to have a bumpy ride because paving it would have hurt the hooves of the animals roaming around as part of the zoo. I would love to go back again and do the art tour some time because it sure did seem like we were walking past some amazing medieval pieces. For the twilight tour, there were people hanging out in period costumes to help set the mood. That was an added bit of fun. The real bonus to going in December though is to see all the lights and giant Christmas trees. Be forewarned though, a good deal of the tour is outdoors and it was windy and quite chilly!

 

The next day, we packed up to move down to Morro Bay, but took a detour up to an Elephant Seal viewing area. If you like elephant seals, this would definitely be the place to go. You get to be very close to a lot of them and sometimes fights break out. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the sound a male elephant seal makes when he wants to sound intimidating, but let’s just say I won’t be chastising Richard for loud burps anymore.

We got a hookup site in Morro Bay and that’s always a treat because it means you don’t have to worry about power usage. The downside is that we were right on the end of a row and right by a city road with a fair bit of car traffic. We literally had people stopping next to us, looking at Dory, and taking pictures. I’m not sure if they could see that we were sitting right there, but I also doubt it would have mattered. Dory is just that cool. Morro Bay SP campground is not as nice, I think, as San Simeon, but it is better located, near many fun things to do. And it has LTE service, so +1 point there. Right across the road is a little harbor with hiking trails and a good restaurant. Friday, we went over to Annie’s Alto and Richard installed a Trimetric Battery Monitor, so she can be as obsessive about amps as he is. Then it was off to a little natural history museum right by the campground. That was super fun! Richard got to try out a lot of binoculars and I got to see a reptile and insect show. Later, we headed over to Morro Rock and nature treated us to a spectacular sunset. Not posting all of the pictures I took is, to be honest, a struggle. However, given how many I simply *had to* post, I think you’ll agree, I documented the hell out of it. We wrapped up the day with an outstanding dinner at House of Juju by the Bay. Outstanding!

Our last day out found me kayaking with Annie on the bay while Richard went on another ride. Bliss. I decided for sure at that point that I do enjoy kayaking. And we even ran into (literally) some snags, so it’s not like I only enjoy it when there are otters and perfection. I understand now the whole thing about needing to watch out for tides. We only went out for an hour and a half or so, but we definitely got stuck on muddy sand bars that were not there when we left. I mean, they were there, but there was a lot more water between the bay floor and my butt when we left than when we started trying to get back. Annie was polite enough not to point out that there were places where she was floating and I was in mud. Hmm. She also very patiently talked me through getting out of it before I panicked and tried to take off my shoes and walk. Eventually, we got free of the shallows and had a relaxing paddle back to the rental place.

Saturday night we had dinner together at La Palapa in Los Osos, which was also great (but they don’t have tequila margaritas). That night was New Year’s Eve and we celebrated at Annie’s with a bottle of very, very expensive champagne, provided by Linda. That was super fun and a perfect way to end/begin the year! We all agreed that raising glasses on Nova Scotia time suited us just fine and we all got to tuck in, warm and cozy, as the rest of the campers celebrated at midnight proper.

 

img_7800Sunday we headed home. *sigh* Five nights felt like a perfect amount of time to be out. Or at least, it seemed a bit easier to pack up and head back. It helped that Monday was a holiday also, and there was an epilogue to this trip in that I went and bought a kayak!

img_7806

The kayak budget has been on hold for a while, but things were paid off enough that we decided to go for it. There will be future posts all about it I’m sure, but the first thing you’ll need to know is: Nope. It is not blue. I know. I’ll explain later. For now, this was one of the best vacations I can remember and I can highly recommend it all!

Total miles to San Simeon: 236.8, 17.9 mpg, 4 hours 59 min. Site 256. Decent sites, some solar, spotty cell service. There was no water and only vault toilets in the Washburn campground when we were there.

Total miles from Morro Bay to home: 234.6, 15.0 mpg, 4 hours 44 min. Site 10 (hookups), then moved to site 124. Hookups were nice, but the sites were pretty close together. The tent loop was more camping-like, but no solar. LTE service everywhere. Many of the bathrooms were closed. Free entry to the museum for campers.

Doran Beach (3)

img_7609Site 76 in Doran Beach is officially  our most visited campsite now and it did not fail to impress. This is winter break for me and I was able to finish out December with zero reports to write! Full relaxation mode. Sweet.

I don’t have a whole lot to add to previous posts about this location. We did, however, venture out on two new trails that were each pretty spectacular. One was a loop trail and an out and back to a viewpoint at Bodega Head. Those are both very nice trails, with only a few vertigo spots along the overlook trail. There is a place where you can see the spot designated for a nuclear reactor site. Now all that remains is an idyllic little pond, but it was the focus of an effective protest effort back in the 60s.

img_7602The other trail we tried out starts a bit north, from Wright’s Beach. It is called the Kortum Trail, and it runs along some of the most beautiful parts of the California coastline. It’s a long out and back if you do the whole thing and we got back to the car just in time for the sunset. Richard had fun standing right on the San Andreas fault line, and you can even see the difference in the types of rock where the plates meet. Along the trail, we think we spotted a Red Shouldered Hawk. Not sure. It was some kind of raptor anyway, with a tan chest and a very owl like face. Later, in the campground, we spotted a Great Blue Heron looking picture perfect as it stalked something on the ground.

Dinners were standbys of Omnia Oven pizza, Shuttle Chef curry, and fajitas. Breakfast this time was “Egg McMuffin with No Upsetness,” which sounds like an item on a badly translated Chinese take out menu. This was far preferable to our previous dish of, “Egg McMuffin with Great Upsetness and Spatula Flavor.” New silicone spatula is working out well so far.

img_7606It was pretty cold this weekend, with temperatures even getting below freezing! (31 to be exact). We went through a lot of propane keeping Dory all toasty warm and didn’t use any of our outside things (chairs, awning, bikes) even once. I did a lot of pondering around whether kayaking would be fun when cold. Then I saw a guy who was out in the bay fall completely out of his boat and into the water. That would definitely be the point at which it would no longer be fun, so we hiked instead.

We got to make it a three night stay, which worked fine in terms of battery power because we had solar and turned the fridge off at night (it would probably have had to work to heat things up considering how cold it got). The grey water tank was full after three nights, so that appears to be our upper limit without having to dump. On our way home, I swear I spotted a couple of pheasants hanging out on the side of Highway 37. Richard didn’t see those and probably thinks I’m making it up. He also did not see the coyote that I 100% saw on our drive out. We both saw a whole bunch of deer on our hike around Bodega Head, so that was a lot of wildlife for one weekend!

Total miles: 86.2, 2 hours 30 min, 15.0 mpg (windy). Site 76 (again). I had spotty service with ATT, but Richard had pretty consistent LTE with Verizon.

Anthony Chabot (2)

img_752514 miles, a million light years away.

img_7513We are developing a strong appreciation for Anthony Chabot campground. I had a late meeting Friday, after a week packed with meetings, but this place is so close to home, we were able to get there just as darkness was falling. It made for an interesting time backing in because I was going entirely off of Richard on the walkie while trying not to run the car into the giant Eucalyptus trees lining the road. It wasn’t too bad though, and we had full hookups, so dinner was an easy peasy microwave Chicken Teriyaki over Minute Rice.

Then, it was all about nice beer, tunes on the Bluetooth speaker, and just letting it all slide away. It’s amazing what a difference getting away from home has on the psyche. I’m not sure if it would work in a hotel room. There’s something about trailering in nature that calms the soul and diverts attention back to the here and now. I slept very soundly Friday night.

img_7534Saturday we leisurely made some French Toast, showered (me), and got out and about for a bike ride after noon. We decided to try a trail marked as a bike trail to get down to Lake Chabot. We knew there was a nice paved trail that runs along the lake, but the trail to get there turned out to be… not so much a “bike trail” as a “mountain biking chute of death for pure adrenaline seekers.” It was quite steep.

We walked our bikes the last two thirds of the way down as I thought through backup plans for Richard picking me up at the marina with the car should I not be able to haul my butt back up. One thing is for sure: this would not be the route I would use to bring a 40 lb. inflatable kayak to the lake.

img_7521Our last hurdle once we got down there was a long, skinny bridge with stairs at the end. It was either cross that, or ride through a shallow stream, maybe three feet wide at the narrowest. I pondered the stream for quite a while before deciding to cross the bridge and carry my bike up the stairs. Once there, it was no problem and we were rewarded with a paved path and a lovely spot to eat lunch by the lake.

After our little picnic, we rode over to the marina. img_7529There is a nice snack shop and store there, as well as boat rentals. So noted for the future. Then we headed back so we could tackle the uphill trail allowing plenty of time before it got dark. This time, I decided not to mess around with carrying my bike down steep metal stairs by the bridge, but instead just launched right into the stream. I got wet. But I did not fall over, which was pretty much my expectation, so that turned out to be a clear win.

img_7532Yes, the way up was very steep. It is hard to capture the gradient in pictures. Richard got to be gallant and pushed both our bikes up the hard parts, which was, let’s be honest, about two thirds of the trail. That was nice. We got back with plenty of light left and had hot chocolate. Mine was “magical” hot chocolate, in that it was spiked with Creme de Menthe. Dinner Saturday was another Omnia oven pizza, with wine and more tunes. What stress? Again, Saturday was a deep, sound sleep.

Sunday, I was looking forward to Egg McMuffins with my little blue egg pan. Tragically, it turns out if you mess around too much with the plastic spatula that comes with the pan because you are trying to make an egg for Richard with no uncooked yolk whatsoever, the spatula will straight up melt, and bits of it will adhere to the pan. That was not the breakfast effect I was going for and I was grumpy about it the whole rest of the morning. However, I was also probably grumpy because Sunday means we have to go home. I’ve gotten so comfortable sleeping in Dory that there are nights at home now when I wake up to go to the bathroom and start scooting down the middle of the bed. I get confused when my hand reaches for the bathroom wall to help me up and then I realize I’m at home and can just step out at the side of the bed. We like sleeping in Dory is what I’m trying to say.

Richard rode the 14 miles home from the campground. This place is turning into a favorite spot. Full hookups with still private and spacious sites. Great cell signal so we can even get work done. Lake nearby, lots of trails. I still don’t know how I’d get a kayak down to the water, but that can be for future excursions. img_7517We made one upgrade for this trip: a plastic storage container for the fridge where all breakfast related items can be stored together. This allows quick removal of “breakfast” and less open fridge door time. Plus, the OCD in me appreciates the way the butter dish fits right over the top of the egg container.

Total miles: 14, just under an hour to get there and get all set up in the site, 40 min back home, about 14 mpg round trip. Site 11. All the premium sites are nice, though the ones closer to the bathroom are less private and closer together.

Limekiln & New Brighton

img_7407Happy Thanksgiving! We started our break off with one of the most impressive views I’ve seen from a campsite, at Limekiln State Park. We met up there with Altoistes Lissa and Jim, and boy, did we ever get the right sites! The crashing of the waves as background music could be heard even inside Dory. We used the Caravan Mover to spin her to just the right angle for ocean viewing and I found myself just staring for hours.

Saturday it rained pretty much all day and we pulled in as it was starting to get dark. img_7413Dinner was a Blue Apron meal of Chicken Masala with lime rice and kale. I made a few adjustments to the cooking set up in Dory, specifically for Blue Apron cooking. First off, I needed to create a clip location to hang the recipe card in just the right spot. Next, I needed to change up the cutting board and sink situation a little. You can use the sink or stove areas as a work surface with the glass lids lowered, but I found that even if I prep everything ahead of time, I either need to wash my hands or do a little cutting board prep after the stove is going. img_7499So I got a solid cutting board that spans the sink and still allows access to the water. I then put my color coded, flexible cutting boards on top of that. This also makes it easy to use different surfaces for meat vs veggies and not necessarily have to wash them in the middle of cooking. And last, I got a citrus zester because the cheese grater just does not do double duty on that task.

img_7414Lissa and Jim came over with pie and ice cream after dinner so the boys could celebrate their identical birthdays. Richard can now officially say, “I’m 50. I don’t like _____.” I’d say Dory is just big enough to entertain 2 people. And if they’re Altoiste people, you don’t have to remind them not to hit their heads. Hanging out with Lissa and Jim was excellent and we got to later drift off to sleep to the glorious sound of rain and waves.

img_7425Sunday our friends headed out and I spent a couple hours writing reports so I could get them out of the way. And I stared. And walked on the beach. Later that afternoon, we decided to brave the drizzle and go on the waterfall hike. That turned out to be more than we bargained for. I’m not sure if there is usually less water running in the creek, or img_7440if the water crossings are normally more substantial, but suffice to say, we felt very adventurous after we made it back. I took pictures of Richard balancing carefully on the sticks and rocks, but it was in the back of my mind that all those funny shots would be lost if I went down and took my phone with me. But we made it just fine and came back to make steak fajitas for dinner.

img_7452Monday morning we had enough time to hike up to the lime kilns. That was an easy hike. The kilns themselves are quite the marvel of engineering when you consider how they must have had to transport all of the materials somehow back in the late 1800s. Apparently, they used the kilns to extract lime from the local rocks. The lime was then shipped out and used to make concrete for construction in San Fransisco and Monterey.

All in all, this was one of my all time favorite places.

 

 

img_7476After hitching up Monday, we stopped for lunch and a reflection photo op just to the north of Limekiln. Then we casually made our way back up the coast to New Brighton. This is one of those campgrounds where you have to be ready to grab sites right at 8:00 am on the first of the month, six months in advance. You can literally see the premium sites get taken as you are trying to make your reservation. I can see why the premium sites are so popular though. There is a ton of room and you get your own ocean view. img_7478Unfortunately, we did not get much solar the whole time because we were behind trees. We took note of other sites that might be better for that and we turned the fridge off at night to conserve battery power. We got a bit of a recharge during the drive from Limekiln to New Brighton, but ended up hitting 57% battery by the end of 4 nights out with not much solar.

Tuesday, we took a long romantic walk on the beach from New Brighton to SeaCliff. We felt a little under financed as we were walking past the billionaire beach homes, until we came to the RV campground. There’s another place that’s hard to reserve, but honestly, it didn’t appeal to me. That campground is a long parking lot with sites right next to each other. I get that there’s an ocean right in front of you, but there are also two huge big rigs on either side of you. I don’t think I’ll be reserving that place.

An interesting sight from that part of the beach is the SS Palo Alto. This is an enormous concrete tanker, constructed during the tail end of WWI, that was never used. It became a restaurant for a while, but eventually sort of fell apart in the harbor. Now it’s home to a variety of sea creatures and a popular spot for fishing people.

img_7489After a quick detour to Marianne’s Ice Cream, we walked the long beachy walk back to Dory. Then nappy time. Then we made Alto calzone in the Omnia oven. That turned out way better than I thought it would. We used about half of a container of pre-made pizza dough, spread it out on top of parchment paper in the Omnia, then covered it with toppings and put the remaining half over the top. 20 minutes at “medium” heat and we had really good (though unmistakably bundt cake looking) stuffed pizza.

All this dreaminess did come with a price tag and we hit traffic, big time, heading home on Wednesday. Plus, our son, who is home again (long story), had developed some kind of alarming illness. That’s the worst. When you’re trying to get home as fast as possible, but every car on the planet is on the same stretch of road, and you have a trailer. *sigh*

Camping rocks.

Total miles to Limekiln: 175.3, 4 hours, 23 min, 16.0 mpg. Site 4 (wow!). Site 5 would also be great, but all the other sites would make you think, “Damn, sites 4 & 5 sure do have nice views.” Total miles to New Brighton from Limekiln: 92.8, 2 hours 47 min, 15.3 mpg. Site 79. Other premium sites that are very nice: 75 (solar), 76* (solar), 78, 79, 82, 87 (solar), 88 (solar), 90.

Memorial Park

img_7353So. There was a great disturbance in the Force this past week. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, downed as much alcohol as they could grab, and slipped into a state of shocked disbelief for a couple of days. In the meantime, we had to scoop ourselves up off the floor and go to work and do our jobs. Plus, a friend of mine passed away last Saturday. By the time Friday rolled around, I could feel the emotional trauma in my body like a physical wound. I couldn’t breathe right, everything was tense.

Still, or rather, of course, out we went.

Saturday morning I still didn’t feel right, but that could also have been due to an inadequate tapering off from the alcohol filled week. Richard went for a planned bike ride around the area of Pescadero and, feeling generally uneasy, I decided to just sag him in the car and listen to music and know where he was. We met up at Pigeon Point and I spent a long time just staring out at the fog.

img_7355And that’s when I thought: That’s what this feels like. It feels like I’m in the middle of a deep, suffocating fog where nothing familiar is recognizable. I’ve been at this spot and have looked out at the vastness and majesty of the crazy, dangerous, ocean and have been able to spot the beauty of the light reflected off the crashing waves. It must be there, I just can’t see it now. And then I looked at the lighthouse and thought, yes, that’s why there are lighthouses. Because blinding fog is natural from time to time. Lighthouses are there to guide us when we can’t see. They keep us from dashing ourselves to pieces on the jagged, rocky shore. Their light sends a warning, but also a focal point amidst the chaos.

img_7357And then I looked around and noticed that there were two guys holding hands and no one was harassing them. A blue grass band played in front of the visitor center and state park volunteers stood by the lookout points, offering their time and knowledge to any who wished to learn about the local wildlife. And there were people of all different colors walking around together, just enjoying the scene, sharing space and exchanging smiles with a large group of motorcycling veterans. And the fog began to lift. I stood at the edge and let the wind blast my face and I felt something give in my chest. I breathed fully and deeply for the first time in days.

I thought about my smart, kindhearted, passionate friends and colleagues. I thought about the artists and comedians who will strive to put words to the contradiction in ways that will help me process and understand. Lighthouses all of them.

img_7360The rest of the weekend was filled with pastries and sandwiches from the Pescadero Country Store, half and half Cream of Artichoke and Cream of Green Chile soup from Duarte’s, perfectly cooked Egg McMuffins, walks in the redwoods, and somewhat less wine. And a report. Because life goes on.

Winter is coming and the night is full of terrors, or so I’ve heard. Dory is going to be fully engaged in picking us up off the floor from time to time, and “Just keep swimming” sounds like it will be an even more appropriate motto for a while. With eyes on our lighthouses and donations made to Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association, we will keep on swimming. Perhaps literally. What better time for a kayak?

img_7347As for the campground itself, I managed to pick the worst site possible for trailers (site 6), but with the BAL Leveler at its maximum height, and with only a couple of inches between the hitch and the ground, we squeezed in. There is no dump there, at least not one that was open, but we were able to use the dump at Half Moon Bay where we stopped for lunch on our way back home. There was no solar anywhere in this park and no cell service. We are now just turning the fridge off at night when it’s reasonably cold and that extends the battery plenty for a weekend.

Total miles: 89.9, 15.8 mpg (but a long time was spent waiting at the dump station), 3 hours, 6 min. Sites 16, 18, and 33 seemed nice and much more level.

Sunset State Beach

img_7297Oh dear. I think I may have a new hobby. This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that it turns out I really enjoy kayaking while surrounded by otters. I’m going to repeat that: Surrounded. By otters. I know. Who knew?! Actually, I guess a lot of people knew that if you go boating on the Elkhorn Slough, south of Santa Cruz, you are almost guaranteed to see sea otters. I just discovered this and now I need a kayak.

The bad news is that, though the camping spending freeze is very close to being no longer in effect, we will still need to be mindful about expenses. What I’m thinking that means though is that I will meditate a lot, listen to my breathing, and allow my thoughts to peacefully pass through me, all while mindfully purchasing a kayak. I’m pretty sure that’s how that works.

img_7235We heard about this place from our Altoiste friend, Lissa, of window number etching fame. She is pretty well informed on the kayak front and recommended we rent from a place called Kayak Connection, in Moss Landing. For our first outing, we decided to go together. I don’t know much about kayaks, but I’ve already heard the joke multiple times that you can get them in two styles: the single, and the divorce. The only advice given to us there was that it would be fine as long as we were good at communicating with each other. D’oh! We did it anyway.

We got a “sit on top” version, a) because they are supposed to be more stable, and b) because they are supposed to be more like inflatables, which is something we’re interested in. Richard is not a water person. Let’s just get that out of the way up front. And the sit on top kind is not extremely responsive to paddle-based steering requests. So the first maybe thirty minutes he was pretty panicked we would make the one extremely wrong turn possible and end up in the ocean. During that time period, I was also freaking out because we were paddling right past a huge gathering of otters. We were trying our inexperienced best to keep a minimum of 100′ away, as we had been instructed, but were also not really getting the whole steering part. Luckily, there was only one stray otter who got really close, and that wasn’t entirely our fault. But I did think we were going to run him right over. I tried really hard to psychically make him understand that saving his little life was going to be up to him. Meanwhile, I just kept calmly repeating, “Right paddle. Right paddle. Right paddle.” to keep Richard on track.

img_7249Once we got onto the calmer part of the water, we sort of got the hang of it. The wildlife out there is just crazy. Yes, there are otters everywhere. There are also Pelicans, sea lions, herons, and countless birds whose species I do not know. We learned fast that the way you get really wet in a kayak is not so much from waves splashing up at you, but from your own paddle dripping and splashing you every single stroke. By the end of our outing, Richard’s shorts were soaked. The rain pants I used from the rental place had kept my pants merely damp. Both of us were invigorated by the experience, but I was the one who wanted to go back out.

img_7332The next day, Richard opted for land based entertainment and went on a long bike ride. I went back to the rental place and got a single “sit inside” kind. Wow. I really like that. It helped that the water was calmer and there was no wind, but I for sure felt more in control of the boat. I’d intended to go out just for an hour or two to get the feel for it, and didn’t think to bring a lunch. After maybe four hours, I was forced to come back in because of hunger. You can bet that I’ll be doing some serious research on this for a while though. For example, I’ve already learned that it would cost about $985 to put a roof rack, rails, and a kayak holder on Bruce. I’ve also been reminded that we have a lot of junk in our garage and would need to clear out a space somewhere if I wanted to store a hard sided boat in there. In the meantime, I will look for more rental opportunities. So much fun!

And here are some shots from Richard’s ride.

 

img_7260Another thing to report on from the weekend was that our new toaster is officially a great success! It toasts 2 slices of english muffin in 4 minutes, 30 seconds. 4 slices in 6 minutes. I experimented with making an Egg McMuffin and the toast part went great. The egg part not so much. I used three eggs and several different pans in a systematic process whereby I was able to identify each and every defect and limitation in egg frying capabilities. Result: we have ordered a non-stick egg specific frying pan. It’s blue.

img_7233As usual, we were reluctant to pack up Dory and leave. I will note that we were glad to have had the BAL Leveler with us for this trip. This site was weird in that it had a shared parking area, so we used the Caravan Mover to spin Dory to her side in order to create some privacy. We had to raise one side a lot though and I don’t think the Anderson would have done it. Our route home included a drive along Elkhorn Road, which was part of Richard’s big ride the previous day.

A weekend of lifetime highlights and a whole new world to explore! Thanks Dory!!

Total miles: 94.5, 2 hours 33 min, 18.0 mpg. Sites that would be single and not shared: 5 (uneven), 10 (uneven), 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25 (nice), 26 (nice), 27, 28, 31.

Doran Beach (2)

img_7142Wow, I really love this place. I also love my Alto buddy, Annie Wynn. So this was an awesome weekend.

Annie is full timing in her Alto (read about her adventures here) and we were able to hook up with her on her way down the California coast. One thing that is special about Annie: she has this super power where she brings rain, lots and lots of rain, with her wherever she goes. For example, she is personally responsible for the typhoon that hit the Pacific Northwest a few weeks ago. But the thing you should know about Richard is that he is personally responsible for the drought that California has been experiencing the past several years. He hates rain and has somehow managed to will it away. So it was anybody’s guess what would happen when these two were in the same place for the weekend.

img_7139At the outset, Annie was winning and we arrived to a slight drizzle. However, as soon as Richard got out of the car, it started to clear. We had shuttle chef ready and Annie came over for margaritas and dinner. Richard spread out in the back and actually got some work done. This was a happy thing for him since he had not been able to do much work in Dory before. Talking for hours with Annie was most definitely a happy thing for me.

img_7153Saturday we hosted a french toast breakfast in Dory. Then it was time for Richard to work on his project. I wanted a way to charge my iThings from my side of the bed and he had researched how to install a 12v outlet and USB charger. Annie and I slowly backed away while he got to tearing things apart and went on a nature trail around Bodega Bay. She knows quite a lot about birds, so she helped identify some of the species hanging out in the marsh. The things I have been calling “bowling pins” turn out to be White Egrets, so that’s something I now know. What she was really hoping for though was to see Pelicans.

We arrived back to see Richard on the floor surrounded by tools, but also, grinning ear to ear. He was most pleased with the little blue power indicator light on the outlet and mostly just wanted to stare at it for the rest of the day. I will say, it is a very nice installation and I can attest to the fact that it works perfectly. His happiness overpowered any chance of rain for the better part of the day and we got to enjoy sunny skies.

img_7186Then – Pelicans! So many of them! They were hanging out across the bay, but Annie and I took a walk on the little beach by our sites and they decided to fly all the way over and give her a photo op. They did an amusing dunking and bobbing thing in the water all in the same spot which looked very funny. But they probably think I look funny when I eat too. We hung out on the beach for a long time. The tide was way out and we could see dozens of seals just chillin’ on the sand bars and Annie even spotted some Brown Pelicans, her favorite.img_7182

Dinner was at the same Mexican restaurant we went to before. It is now a tradition to eat there I guess, as it is the only place we’ve ever gone to for dinner in Bodega Bay. After dinner, it was report writing time for me and Richard was again able to get some work done too. As soon as he fell asleep though, Annie’s power took over and we got pummeled with rain and wind, rocking Dory enough to wake me up in the wee hours. Everything was fine and nicely water tight, but it was an honest storm. It wasn’t until around ten, when Richard woke up, that the weather settled. I’m recounting this in a joking tone, but actually, it was a little eerie. Watch the news reports in a week and see if Death Valley is being hit with record rains. If, meanwhile, Lafayette is bone dry….. ? I’m just saying. It’s weird.

img_7190Sunday we were treated to french toast Annie style. The two Alto models have quite a different feel inside. For anyone interested in buying one, the best advice given is to actually get inside the different models. Which one you prefer will really depend on what your individual needs are. It’s cool to see different set ups being perfect fits.

Alas, eventually we had to get moving and head home. Annie gets to continue her vagabond travels and don’t think we aren’t both jealous. We’ll get to see her again as she tours California, but it sure would have been nice to just keep hanging out.img_7144

Total miles: 89.5, 16.6 mpg, 2 hours 32 min. Site 76, our favorite.

 

Casini Ranch (2)

img_7035Rain! Finally California got a bit of a break from the drought. Our friends in the PNW got quite a lot more than that I’m afraid, but we enjoyed some genuine rainfall over the weekend.

This was our second trip to this private campground and we liked the site we got this time far more than where we camped before. There are lots of full hookup sites at this place and if you’re not careful, you can find yourself in pull through slot land. You can’t reserve specific sites, but you can reserve a type of site and note which ones you’d prefer. I’m sure this is much less likely to go your way in the summer months, but it worked perfectly for us on a rainy October weekend.

img_7048This was a tent site, so no hookups, but it had a fantastic view of the Russian river. We pulled in around 6, knowing we’d be looking at a wet arrival. It wasn’t raining too hard when we got there and in fact didn’t really get serious until Saturday afternoon. Friday we enjoyed a Shuttle Chef chicken curry with Thermos cooked minute rice. Yum!

Nothing beats waking up to a water view. I love that. I get to sit in my nice warm bed and sip lattes while gazing out at the wildlife. That’s my perfect morning right there. After breakfast and shower time, I walked along the river and saw something splashing around. img_7054Grabbing the binoculars, I couldn’t believe my eyes! There were two river otters playing around on the far side of the river! Otters are kind of a thing with me. I’ve seen wild sea otters at a distance but never river otters in their natural habitat. This was quite a treat. As I gawked, a group of fishing guys walked by and I pointed them out. They couldn’t say whether they thought river otters or sea lions on the hunt to be more likely. Apparently it is not unheard of for sea lions to swim quite a ways up river to look for fish. I just know in that moment I really really wanted a boat so I could get a closer look. So now, both kayak and binoculars discussions have resumed.

img_7058Saturday around 3 it rained for real. It wasn’t the kind of pelting monsoon rain my intrepid Altoiste friends to the north had to endure, but it was significant. We turned on our little Caframo fan to keep the indoor condensation down and we just sat there and gazed. I had a report to write, but couldn’t quite take my eyes off the view. The view won for the remainder of the afternoon.

We pondered dinner for a while and took advantage of a break in the rain to go into Duncan Mills to find a place to eat. The first stop was the Blue Heron and they were setting up for some kind of magic show. No one who worked there seemed to notice us for a long time. We ended up deciding it was not a promising sign when you have to ask random people the question: “Is this a restaurant?” We went instead to a place called the Cape Fear Cafe. That was great and we were greeted in a much more open-for-business way. Richard had fabulous fish and chips and I had a Thai noodle salad, plus a couple of desserts. Then it was back to Dory for serious focusing, then bed.

Sunday we packed up much later than the group of campers next to us. There were probably six RVs there, but they were great. Not too noisy, very friendly. That would be a nice group spot actually, as long as no one needs hookups. On our way home, we stopped at Duncan’s Landing and appreciated nature’s power by watching some intense waves crash against the rocky shoreline.

img_0999We had a chilly lunch at the lookout point and then the weather just decided it was done and the sky turned back to its typical blue. We stopped on the other side of the point for a photo op and captured the perfect reflection selfie.

Home again, home again, winch up the rig. With a sky full of threatening clouds, I think this may have been our best garage-ing time yet. Great weekend all around.

Total miles: 100.8, 16.6 mpg, 3 hours 17 min. Site: 47 great! Also (no hookups) 44a, 45a, 46a, 55, 40. With solar and river view: 38, 37, 36. Site 46b flooded a lot, so that would not be a good one if there’s any rain.

Caswell Memorial State Park

img_7018This was a last minute plan. Most of the reservations I make are secured up to six months in advance. I try to make sure we always have at least two weekends out per month. And then, when non camping weekends come along when we don’t really have anything pressing or fun to do at home, we sort of panic and look for anywhere driving distance that has availability. This place worked under those conditions and ended up actually being quite pleasant.

Friday we left a little after 3. We are definitely finding the winch system to be a fast and easy way to get up and down the driveway. The campground is just a short drive over the hills and is situated along the Stanislaus River in the central valley. If it were summer, the temperatures would likely be way too hot for no air conditioning. But it was a lovely, temperate weekend, and no hookups suited us just fine.

img_7021Richard has dialed in a great chicken and rice recipe using the Shuttle Chef and this time he added Shiitake mushrooms for extra fanciness. Saturday breakfast was going to be an experiment with english muffins, eggs, and cheese. I learned two things. “Toasting” the english muffins using butter in a pan creates a lot of smoke. Also, there was no toasting happening. It was more like warming up the muffins in rapidly over heating butter. So I abandoned them pretty quickly and switched to cooking the scrambled eggs. We had forgotten the sliced cheddar, but did have extra sharp cheddar and a cheese grater. Having tested the sharpness of the grater, I can attest to its razor like quality, even on fingernails. Hmmm…. “I see what you were trying to achieve with this dish, chef, but it didn’t really work for me.” Sunday breakfast was cereal and that went off without a hitch.

img_7027Saturday we pretty much lazed around all day. I did write the requisite report and that took a couple of hours, so we weren’t completely useless. But I also spent a long part of the day in my chair throne watching people float down the river in front of me. Our site had viewing access to the river and apparently the thing to do at this park is to bring inflatable floaty things and meander with the current. Every so often, clumps of people (pods? schools? what would a group of floating humans be named?) appeared around the bend and slowly passed by. I swear I saw a bathing suit clad version of Jon Snow drift past me on a blue and white inner tube. He did not look like he was concerned about winter coming at all.

img_7025We did a bit of tinkering over the weekend, including taking off the cover to the propane heater area so we could assess what would be involved in putting in a 12v USB plug over on that side. I would very much like to charge my iPhone at night and the trailer is way too huge for me to have to use the outlet all the way up front in the dining room. We also putzed around with the rear view camera because it has been acting up lately. I do rely on it quite a bit when I’m backing into a site. Even when Richard is guiding me, it’s nice to be able to see behind Dory, like so I don’t run over him, for example. It was quite hot to the touch so we are suspecting something might be amiss. Richard will be making some phone calls to the manufacturer to see what we can see.

img_7034All in all, this was a nice weekend place close by with a water feature and some nicely spaced sites. There were no hookups and too much shade for extended stays. There was also no dump station so we had to use a truck stop on the way home. Richard felt most of the sites were pretty unlevel and we did have to jack up the tongue quite a bit. Oh yes, and we used a new kind of side leveler for the first time – a BAL leveler. That worked nicely and if I were setting up on my own, I think it would be easier to use than the Anderson leveler because you don’t have to drive onto it. It also appears that it would be able to raise the side a bit more than the Anderson. Downside is that you have to do the cranking. Nice place, nice relaxing weekend.

Total miles: 69.2, 18.3 mpg, 2 hours 25 min. Site 35 – pretty nice though clearly intended as a tent site. The camping area is set back a ways from the parking slot and it’s short, but fit Dory fine. Other potentially nice sites: 42, 5, 45, 17 (river view), 23, 32. Sites are non specific reservations so it’s take what you can when you get there. Great cell service for both.

 

Bodega Dunes

img_6982Camping in a lovely place with Dory is about as good as it gets. Adding long time good friends to the picture is even better.

This was our first time exploring Bodega Dunes State Park, though we’d stayed across the bay at Doran Beach before. We give this campground a thumbs up and would like to come back. There is good cell service in the vicinity of Bodega Bay and our site happened to have excellent solar (i.e. no trees). We left Friday afternoon and our tent camping friends arrived at the park ahead of us. They scoped things out and snagged two of the best sites in the place.

img_6985Richard had prepared a truly excellent chicken and rice dish in the Shuttle Chef and our buddies brought over their dinner so we could all eat together. Wine was shared and fun was had by all. It was on the cold side (for us), so we turned in and performed our nightly routine of GoT, shower, sleepytimes.

img_6990Saturday morning Richard headed out for a bike ride and our friends walked over to Bodega Bay to do some shopping. That gave me time to write a report and go on a short little ride around the campground to check out future sites. Then Rita and I went for a walk along the bay and got to talk and catch up. As we went by a little harbor, we saw a seal coming up out of the water with what looked like half a fish. He would sort of shake it and flip it around, just like a dog with a chew toy. Birds gathered all around to snag the bits left behind and every so often he would fling the fish way up in the air. Entertaining.

49704012346__f4834de2-260f-4dc6-8dd5-d2562b154e42-jpgRichard meanwhile accidentally stumbled upon Levi Leipheimer’s Grand Fondo, which just happened to be set for this weekend in Bodega Bay. He was a happy camper because not only did he not have to worry as much about getting lost, since he was riding with hundreds of other bikies, but he also got to bum cookies. On the solar front, Dory’s battery had recharged all the way back up to 100% capacity by 3pm and we hadn’t been stingy on electricity use. Ice cubes stayed frozen on a fridge setting of “2” and I was even charging my laptop and phone during the day. That kind of site could keep us going rather indefinitely. And since there was strong cell service, Richard is already planning to move there and just work remotely. I have yet to figure out how to teach children remotely, so this plan may take a while before reaching fruition.

Saturday night we went out for dinner in the same Mexican place we’d gone to when we stayed at Doran Beach. We had crab enchiladas and fish tacos and that was perfect. We managed to get out just in time to race to a beach front view for the sunset. img_6994Back to the campground where it was just a bit too chilly to chat outside. No problem. We simply moved the chatting into Dory. Besides the fact that Mo nearly knocked himself out hitting his head on our door, it was a fantastic evening. We discovered that Rita cannot hit her head unless she stands on her tippy toes. We put up our “Hit Head Here” stickers to try to avert injuring people we like in the future. No guarantees, however, because Richard has already hit his head, post sticker.

img_6999Sunday morning we woke to the beautiful sound of rain tapping on the roof. Yes, it did occur to us that our tent camping compatriots might not be feeling as welcoming of that sound. Yes, we felt a little guilty. But then we scrunched under the warm puffy blankets and enjoyed our lattes and immediately felt better. They began to pack up and we continued to be cozy and indoors a while longer.

img_7011We eventually made it out around noon and started looking for a nice place to lunch. As it turns out, there is a road from the campground leading right to Salmon Beach. Spectacular that was. We grabbed some snacks and took a short walk over a boardwalk to the beach. There was hardly anybody around and this would be a great spot for beach day use. There is a trail from the campground to this beach that we’ll have to check out next time.

Reluctantly, we headed home to do our requisite adulting. We are extremely pleased with how well the winch system is working. I do believe this was our fastest un-camping to date. Nice job Randy!

Total miles: 89.4, 2 hours 58 min, 14.9 mpg (strong wind)

Site: 60 (awesome!) The campground does not accept site specific reservations so you have to choose what’s available when you get there. Future sites to try for: The south loop is only open during peak season, but our favorites there are 60, 61, 67, 68, and maybe 71 (there’s a water view and some solar, but it is next to the road so you’d hear cars). The more northern loop is open all year and we liked 27, 28, 36, 38, and 47. These sites would not be as full sun as the ones on the South side, but they’d be ok.