Doran Beach (7)

img_9068We skipped a weekend of camping (for fun reasons) and took advantage of the opportunity to bring Dory in for her yearly physical with Dr. Randy. Randy, of Randy’s Mobile, is really not merely a super skilled mechanic. He is kind of our trailer Yoda and we always end up leaving him with far more knowledge than we expected. Help you, he will, sure, but you will learn the ways of brake shoes before you go.

img_9064He was all ready for us with a lesson on wheel hubs, which included an explanation for how the electronically controlled magnet engages against the metal plate. He showed us how the markings against the metal, combined with the wear patterns on the brake shoes, can tell him exactly what kind of a driver I am. And he was right; I am slow and cautious, rarely engaging the brakes suddenly. It was like an autopsy for our wheel hub.

img_9066He showed us the bearings and explained his criteria for deciding what to replace and why. I mean, he had us years ago at “Let me winch you out of this,” and didn’t really need to earn our trust any further. But it was nice he took the time to go through his rationale for the work he did. And now we have an entire backup hub assembly, serviced and ready to install, should we ever find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. He also went through a diagnostic process on the solar panels, determining that they are both in fact working just fine. What we were seeing as reduced input was probably just the effect of the low angle of the winter sun. We have since verified amp input of greater than the capacity of one panel, so they check out A OK.

img_5474Backing up a week, the reason for the camping gap was caused by a celebratory trip to Disneyland because my school was recognized this year as a “California Distinguished School.” That’s pretty cool, and I’m very proud of my school and all, but what was really fun was the excuse to play with colleagues in the parks. We put a lot of thought into whether we could make this into a Dory trip and ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the drive. It would have saved us a lot of money, because of course the district did not spring for travel, hotel, or park tickets. But having recently driven through L.A. traffic, I opted to fly by myself.

img_9007After all was said and done, I really wish Richard had been able to see the new “Star Wars” land with me. And hotels, even nice ones, are still not my speed, so I would have far preferred having my Dory bed on wheels. Here’s the downside though: if we’d been there together with Dory, we would have slept in. And if we’d done that, there is no way we’d have been able to score entry onto the new “Rise of the Rebellion” ride. For that, you need to be in the park right at 8, ready to click buttons on an app faster than the other thousands of people doing exactly the same thing. “Boarding Group” spots for the day are all gone within a couple of minutes. Imagine Main Street, packed with people all staring at their phones before the park has officially opened. At precisely 8:00, the whole place goes pin drop silent. Then, after a few seconds, people start whooping and cheering. I got boarding group 34 and you bet I whooped. We’re still thinking about how or whether we’d try to do it. There’s an RV park about a mile away. And lest you wonder why Richard didn’t simply fly with me: as soon as Starbucks becomes the only convenient coffee option, he’s out.

img_9117But fast forward to the next weekend and we were out camping again. This time, we got to enjoy a four day weekend in Bodega Bay. We revisited the Pinnacle Gulch hike, and there are still plenty of sea stars. Richard did his normal bike ride, I wrote my normal reports, we gazed admiringly at another normal coastal sunset, and we went to our normal restaurant. About the only thing out of the ordinary was that we spotted a gorgeous bobcat, just sitting on a patch of grass like a normal cat. As our school mascot is the Bobcats, I feel this was a little blessing from the Universe, reassuring me I’m in the right place doing the right thing. All is well.

Total miles: 82.1, 14.9 mpg, 2 hours 14 min. Site 14. Great solar. No hookups. Nice bathrooms. Pay $7 for long line (took about an hour of waiting) at dump. Strong cell service.

Bothe Napa (5)

img_8932Richard is a really, really, really good husband. I don’t think I mention this enough, though it is probably implied. I was a lot to handle this weekend, by any standards, and he did a masterful job. From just being patient and letting me rail against the world, to going on night hikes where mostly I was cry walking, to getting me out of my funk by bringing me mint truffle gelato, that guy is definitely a catch. I’ll just say, it was a rough week and it wasn’t until Saturday night that the tension finally broke for me.

img_8935The turning point came after a delicious dinner, that I was too grumpy to fully enjoy, at Sherpa Kitchen in St. Helena. Richard has learned by now that when I reach a certain level of turmoil, there’s really nothing left to do short of throw me in a river with my kayak. As it was winter, he deftly chose an alternative plan of taking me out to a wine bar that was open late on a Saturday in Napa. See? Smart.

img_8936Oddly, we have never really walked around downtown Napa. This turns out to be tons of fun. Who knew? It was hopping with dozens of restaurants, sweet shops, wine bars, jazz clubs… the whole scene. We walked up and down the main drag, taking in some of the River Walk along the Napa River. Twinkly lights reflected off the water and sounds of people chattering and laughing carried along the paved riverfront walkway.

img_8938We ended up at John Anthony Vineyards Tasting Lounge. I’ll admit I got the expensive tasting flight and had samples from bottles that go for up to $750. That’s close to a hundred times what I tend to spend on my evening staple wine. I felt quite out of place, wearing my camping clothes in a swanky wine bar, but after glass #2, I really couldn’t have cared less. I’m not much of a wine connoisseur, despite my steady relationship with the stuff. Hints of cherries? Blackberries? Sure. I just know the reserve 2006 Cabernet was a whole lot better than what I normally drink. We learned some interesting grape facts, like how more and more vineyards are moving to “dry farming” especially after the drought. It makes for smaller fruit, but a taste that packs a more earthy punch, since roots have to go deeper to get water. Also new information for me was that argon gas is commonly used on open bottles to keep the remaining wine stable inside. Now we’ll need to mount an argon tank on Dory, next to the propane. Just kidding, I’m still a cheapo and will continue to drink wine that probably doesn’t need its delicate flavors preserved.

img_8943Richard got to enjoy a good bike ride, so his weekend was a win. This time he explored a loop around Old Mount Howell. He said there was a section that was “hellish” because it was narrow, steep downhill, and lots of traffic, but it only lasted 1.6 miles. The rest was beautiful.

Even angry/upset/sad, it’s better to be out in Dory. I think at home I would have just kept it all in, where it would fester and eventually kill me. In some ways, detaching from home allows me the space to purge all of the emotions. I’m just glad Richard is able to roll with it. He’s maybe a keeper.

Total miles: 64.8, 16.6 mpg, 2 hours 4 min. Site 7 no hookups, no solar, no dump. Pay $15 to dump at the fairgrounds; good dump there. In and out cell service, enough for most things, but it can drop out. TWAW

Half Moon Bay (7)

img_8928I have but two things to report on this, our seventh stay at this campground, and they both have to do with the benefits of taking daily walks. The first is that we discovered a nice bird refuge just a little to the south of the park that we had never visited before. And the second is that fresh, hot churros are easily walking distance from the campground.

img_8922The Wavecrest Open Space is a 206-acre protected wildlife refuge that is particularly important for wintering raptors. We saw many flying around but only identified one as a Northern Harrier. The other might have been a Red Shouldered Hawk, but not sure. It’s a nice easy walk with dirt trails and sweeping ocean views. All told, we walked about 2.5 miles from the campground and then headed back.

img_8905Tacqueria Tres Amigos is just one mile from the campground and will make you fresh churros with warm gooey interiors, covered in cinnamon sugar. It’s a really good thing there are no churros of this caliber walking distance from my house. Here, I’d be doing all this walking, wondering why it didn’t seem to be making an improvement on my health. It would definitely be a strong motivator though to get in my steps.

Richard did his Stage Road ride to Pescadero and back while I did a report and watched the waves. We dined again at Spice Me Thai. All good. Carry on.

Total miles: 59.6, 16.0, 1 hour 37 min. Site 22 electric hookups, oceanside. Great solar (didn’t need it), great cell service.

Wrights Beach (8)

img_8870“Are you locals?” we were asked by the server at our favorite Mexican restaurant. “Sort of?” we answered. We had been there just the week before and my favorite camping area is now pulling way out ahead as the most frequently visited spot. I scored site 7 at Wrights Beach this time, quite premium, but only for two nights, and that was before I realized it was a three day weekend. Of course, by the time I went back to see if I could extend the stay to Sunday night, all the premium sites were booked. I took 11 anyway and figured it wouldn’t be so bad to move.

img_8893Saturday we did our usual with not much interesting to report, besides there being a camping pig in the campground. We heard this wild scream at one point and went to investigate. Richard asked the owner, “What is the short story with the pig?” and we learned her name is Penelope and she is the result of his wife being exposed to adorable baby piglets. She’s a Vietnamese Miniature Pot Belly pig and weighs 110 lbs. They took her on walks on the beach and around the campground and she wagged her little pig tail as she walked. I wonder if kitty would like a pig friend. And I wonder if pig rules are the same as dog rules.

img_8895Sunday we thought we might get to upgrade our move to another premium site, but our (my) hopes were dashed when it turned out the ranger had made a mistake. I pouted, but secretly, and only for a brief time, as we packed up enough to move over to 11. It was really totally fine and I’m a big whiner.

img_8881We hiked the Kortum Trail over to Shell Beach and I admired the Memory Labyrinth near the parking lot. I couldn’t find a lot of information about it, but it appears to have started around ten years ago, and has grown over time as people have left items as tokens of someone they perhaps have lost. I saw some photos, painted rocks, small toys, letters, all apparent tributes to loved ones. It was sweet, and peaceful, and some of the tiny displays in the grass were very beautiful.

img_8897Monday morning we noticed the people who had robbed us of our momentary premium site joy had left. So we squatted and had coffee while watching the waves from site 10.

The water tanks and battery managed just fine for a three day weekend. We think there might be something wrong with the connections for one of the solar panels, as we have not been drawing in as many amps as we should be. It hasn’t actually made too much of a difference, but we do need to get that checked out.

Data same as usual. This time Site 7, then site 11 for one night. For the record, that is a totally fine site.

Doran Beach (6)

img_8810There’s always something new, isn’t there? Staggering away from a Friday that left me thinking, “Yeah, you guys definitely won that round,” we headed to one of our fave Bodega Bay locations. It really wasn’t until after our night walk along the beach that I was able to shake off the feeling of getting my ass handed to me by third graders. But there was a full moon, crashing waves, big screen movies in a cozy Dory bed, and perhaps some alcohol involved in the rescue of my mood, if not dignity.

img_8828Saturday we kind of lazed around until the afternoon. Then we went for a hike on the Pinnacle Gulch Trail, where you can only do the whole thing when it’s low tide. We timed it specifically, also planning ahead for optimum sunset viewing. What we didn’t expect was to find more sea stars than I have ever seen in my life, all in one place. It was crazy! There were even some researchers out there in the tide pools too, taking measurements and cataloging the phenomenon. img_8823They said that in 2013, most of the sea stars had gotten some kind of disease, all but dying off. For some reason, they had come back with a vengeance. I also noticed the rocks were covered with muscles in numbers that defied estimation. My hypothesis is that the sea stars faked their deaths, allowing the muscles to take over everything. Then, they could just mount a sudden return campaign saying, “Psych!” and feast to their little hearts’ content. Whatever the reason behind the comeback, they were really beautiful to see.

img_8841Yes, we saw another glorious sunset, as well as crazy ocean bathers in frigid weather. Frigid for us. They were probably from the east coast, or Canada or something. After the show, we enjoyed our usual Mexican restaurant and all was well.

Sunday, Richard rode out and I planned to meet him at the Wild Flour Bakery. Sadly, Google was not aware they were on their winter break closure. But we’re coming back to the area next weekend, so maybe we can have a do over.

Sixth visit. Still fun.

Total miles: 82.5, 2 hours 29 min, 16.0 mpg. Site 71 no hookups, great solar. Dump not so great, you have to pay $7 for it, and there was a line. So went to Bodega Dunes to dump. $8, worth it. Great cell for both.

Morro Bay (4)

img_8801Buh bye winter break! Glad we got to end in such a happy place. Dang we love Morro Bay! We were super pleased to be able to get a site in the state park campground and attribute this to it being the off season. It’s normally a lot harder to book there. Practically the first thing we did after setting up was walk down to the Bayside Cafe and got a late lunch and a large IPA on tap. All the driving from the day before became instantly worth it.

img_8803We did our night walk from the marina area out to Morro Rock, and followed with dinner at one of our favorite restaurants – House of JuJu. A nice glass of Chardonnay and fish tacos finished off the evening with a commitment to fully enjoy every last possible minute of vacation.

img_8771The next day, Richard really really tried to go on a bike ride. The fates were against him though, or his time traveling future self was trying really hard to keep him off the road. It worked, and after repeated flat tires, a trip to a bike store in San Luis Obispo to fix the flat tire, and then another flat tire, he decided it was time to give up. We salvaged the day though and went on a gorgeous ocean view hike until sunset.

img_8782Here’s a tidbit on equipment storage. We actually do put a lot of thought into what gets stored in Bruce vs. Dory. Like we think through what items we would want if we were away from Dory and wanted to do something spontaneous. So, after trying and failing at dropping Richard off for a bike ride, we were prepared with hiking shoes, head lamps, binoculars, and jackets to set off on a hike that might include watching the sunset and getting back to the car in the dark. #sunsetpreparedness

img_8798The return home was smooth and uneventful. Yeah, we hit traffic at the last 50 miles, but that was expected. The offspring did an awesome job taking care of house and kitty, and guess what we had waiting for us on our coffee table: the box of coffee pods we had our daughter try to general delivery mail to us! Mailing is hard. And it is not always obvious that you need to cross out the original “To” addressee if you’re re-posting a package. So she just ended up mailing it directly from our post office to our house. But no harm, no foul, all’s well that ends well.

Super awesome winter break! Already scheming next winter.

Total miles from Buena Vista: 134.0, 2 hours 52 min, 14.8 mpg. Site 93 no hookups.

Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation (2)

img_8736All I’m really going to share in this post with regards to the day is the fact that driving through any portion of the ‘big bowl’ of the greater Los Angeles area pretty much sucks. We left Anza Borrego, taking Montezuma Valley Road. This is a twisty road that climbs something like 4 thousand feet in about ten miles. It was fine taking Dory up it, but I wouldn’t want to take her down. From there, we took San Filipe Road to Highway 79. All of this was beautiful and sign warnings forbidding large trucks and RVs were unnecessary for small trailers. It was perfectly fine.

img_8732Once we got to Temecula, everything changed. From there, all the way through the valley, out 210 to 5, and out the Grapevine, it was yucky and trafficky. In fact, it was grueling enough that I would seriously consider bypassing the valley altogether and trying to do the back way, over the Tehachapi Pass and down 395 next time. That would be a hell of a lot of additional miles, but it might be worth it. At the very least, my future self will hopefully remember that it’s better to take 210 across the top of the valley and over to Indio via highway 10 than the “short route” on 215. Ugh. No likey.

img_8740I pushed farther than I’d planned, just to get out of L.A. The day was lost in terms of travel happiness, but I knew we’d earn a good next day and happy end to vacation. I will say that the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area campground is a solid place to overnight. We were able to get a spot by the water on arrival at around 5. No hookups available, but we didn’t need em. Someone needs to fill me in on what happens at this place when it’s packed. It is clearly set up to accommodate a lot of parked cars, so there must be fairs or events that happen there. I’d say the only downsides are the subtle smell of the reservoir, which I imagine is worse in the summer, and the audible bang bangs coming from the nearby shooting range. But hey, it is a little haven off I5 near Bakersfield. For us, it fits the bill for traveling days and it’s the second time we’ve been super thankful for it after a long day of traffic driving.

Total miles from Anza Borrego: 259.0, 17.9 mpg, 5 hours 51 min. Site 61, no hookups, by the water. Ok bathrooms with weird sinks. LTE service for both.