Bothe Napa (6)

Bothe Napa is just as beautiful as ever.

While this was mostly a work weekend for me, it was still a pleasant getaway to a beautiful location, happily not too damaged by fire. It is crunch time in special education land. What is normally a busy time with IEP goal progress updates, has been amplified by having 5th grade transition meetings happen the same week those are due. And then someone thought, ‘Wow, how could we make this more stressful? What if we also opened in hybrid in-person at the very same time?’ Well it worked, and I am officially underwater with color coded spreadsheets, and data tracking sheets, and information summaries, and a lovely stye in my left eye that I only get when I’m stressed. But Saturday was set aside for some serious catch up doggie paddling and it couldn’t have been in a nicer place. I may be blowing water out my snorkel, as a favorite colleague liked to say, but I’m still swimming.

Signs of Spring in the vineyards.

Napa Valley is looking a little better as the Spring brings in green and yellow ground cover bandaids to start healing the fire scars from last year. Yes, there is damage apparent, but also the return of life. Vineyards remain, in their orderly rows, standing in solidarity with the promise of future wine. Fields of yellow mustard look so bright and cheerful, it is hard not to imagine that all will be well.

Peaceful travel is worth a little extra time.

We took a backroads route out of town and I think that may be how we roll from now on. Skipping the 680/242/4 triangle altogether has no downsides besides time. And it felt absolutely worth it, both on the departure as well as the return. All told, it probably adds a half hour to the trip, but likely adds years to my lifespan just in merging stress reduction.

Just across the river, signs of a big blaze.

Bothe Napa was closed for a while after the fires last fall, and I knew there was some damage in the park. It turned out to be not too bad looking, although you can tell how close it came. Across from our site, just past a little river, there was evidence of an active burn, leaving blackened bark on the lower ten feet of the big trees that survived. Lots of small charred brush is still there and I imagine it will take a long time to clear the area. Nothing inside the campground seems to have burned though, nor did the historic Bale Grist Mill, so that’s nice.

Pretty nice weekend office.

Richard enjoyed a bike ride up Howell Mountain road and notes that there is a section that is totally closed off to cars. Sometimes it is hard to work out timing on bike rides vs whatever it is that I’m doing. There’s a fine line there as to how long I can entertain myself before I get bored if I’m not out doing something fun. And it’s a moving target, so Richard routinely has to gauge the precarious balance of how long he can stay out. This weekend I was fully occupied all day long, so he had full freedom to take as long as he wanted. In fact, I did not leave the campsite at all and barely left Lola. I will admit, it was a nice view out the BFW to keep me happy while updating goals.

Bit of a lunch stop before heading home.

Sunday we discovered that the fairgrounds, where we normally go to dump, is completely closed. So that left us with few options. The idea of not dumping until next weekend was discussed and dismissed, so we chose to make a stop at ABBA RV storage in Concord on our way home. It is $25 to use their facilities, so not cheap, but it was clean and on the way, so there you go.

We remain extremely grateful for the opportunity to get out. Even in the midst of business and weekend work, it soothes the soul to be in nature and away from home.

Total miles: 68.2 (taking Pleasant Hill to Alhambra to Shell), 15.5 mpg, 2 hours 24 min. Site 7 still a favorite, but no solar. LTE for Verizon enough to work in SEIS (special ed database). 1 bar of 5g for ATT- enough for email and slow texts, but not fb or SEIS. New bathroom is still standing, though we’re still self contained. No dump and fairground closed.

Coloma RV (5)

Now that’s a nice riverside site.

River plus rain, with a little reconnaissance thrown in, makes for a really romantic respite. The four day Presidents’ weekend timed nicely with Valentine’s Day this year. It also meant we were able to take our time Friday for the drive up. We had a whole plan that involved searching out backroads to see how feasible it is to avoid highway driving. All systems were go and the route was entered into Apple Car Play as we hit the road. Then my phone blew up with texts from teachers just discovering that educators can now schedule appointments for the COVID vaccine, and that everyone should log on like RIGHT NOW before they’re all taken. So it’s really hard to pay attention to driving with all that going on and somehow the navigation had gotten into a mode where it wasn’t actually giving me directions. So I pulled off and drove into some random residential neighborhood so we could sort through all the texts and restart the navigation. We sat there a few minutes until the guy with the leaf blower across the street started shooting debris our way. I’m still learning the user interface in the car, but I kind of figured out what I’d done and we did a Take Two.

Lunch stop!

With all the excitement, we figured we’d earned a lunch stop at Brannan Island. Also, we wanted to know if they (and their dump station) were open. They are, it is, and we had a nice lunch under blue skies. It was a long drive, but a relaxing one, taking back roads up to the Marshall Gold Discovery site. This is the 5th time we’ve been to this RV park and it was one of the best sites. We pulled in just in time to do a Caravan Mover View Maneuver for optimal window positioning, get our patio area and awning set up, and sit back to listen as the gentle drizzle began hitting the roof. It’s one of my favorite things to listen to the sounds of a water feature and rain feature from under shelter. Even nicer once it got chilly, was to move inside where there is also a heater.

Pretty skies at sunset.

Richard got in a bike ride on the only blue sky day and I got in some work while watching the river and admiring a cute Retro in the site next to us. Blue Apron was on the menu for the evening and all was delicious and cozy. Our second full day included a fact finding mission to a state park I’ve never booked: Folsom Lake Peninsula. The single reason for this omission of a state park close by: the look of the eight mile zigzaggy road that takes you out there. On a map, it looks intimidating for a trailer, but for an unencumbered Passport, no problem. We drove Richard and his bike out to the start of it and played leap frog for maybe six miles. It turns out I was right to be suspicious, but not for the reasons I thought. It is a well maintained road which is mostly wide enough for two cars to pass if they are careful. There are sections where it is single car width, but I think you’d have enough visible forewarning to be able to pull over before the tight spots. But for biking, it is not ideal. The grade is pretty steep, with long climbs and long descents. Richard is a badass when it comes to climbing, but he is not fond of clutching at the brakes around endless turns for an extended time. So that gives us a hmm. Oh also, there are cows that just wander into the road. And turkeys. So be careful.

Folsom Lake Peninsula Campground

We checked out the sites in the loops that are open, and surveyed the general set up of the campground. We weren’t so impressed that we’d be looking forward to that drive on a Friday after work. It’s doable for sure, even with a trailer, but that would be a long eight miles. If the reservoir levels were high, there were four or five sites that seemed like they might be nice and conceivably close enough to the boat launch to get in a paddle. But in drought, the water is waaaaaaay over yonder and not much more than a distant backdrop. So… maybe? I mean, it could be fun so I’ll put that in my back pocket now that I know what’s involved in getting there.

Perfect long weekend view.

From the afternoon on, through Sunday night and all Monday morning, we got rain for real. It was an extremely pleasant way to spend a long Valentine’s weekend. I won’t even bother reporting out travel data though. Both there and back, we took a side trip to Brannan Island and kept to back roads a lot. So what could have been a three hour trip, took more like four. Richard wants to note that he really hates the dump at Coloma but equally loves the dump at Brannan Island. It’s the little things in life, yanno? Meanwhile, I have learned several new buttons in both Google and Apple Maps, and have discovered that english muffins, with ham and cheese, for one minute in the microwave, are the best things ever.

Costanoa (4)

That’s a nice site alrighty.

Back in the swing of things. Second weekend out, post lock down, and it’s feeling more normal now. I’m even less nervous about crashing to some extent. Richard has moved from phrases like: “Drive safe,” or, “Drive like you do,” to: “If we crash, we crash.” Or like, if he takes his shoes off in the car, he says, “I’ll put them back on when we crash.” Check. We’re ready for it. Oddly, that puts less pressure out there and helps me to relax.

I mean, come ON.

This KOA is the nicest private place I’ve ever been to, but it costs a lot. And there are only some sites that are spaced far enough apart from each other that it feels worth it. I hadn’t previously realized you can reserve those premium sites for an extra (!) fee, but if you do, it’s a very pleasant stay. There are all kinds of amenities, like an on site restaurant that has to go during the pandemic, and live outdoor music. Oh and there is even a roaming cocktail cart that makes the rounds in the afternoons! None of that is cheap either, but I figure, with all the reservations that got cancelled due to shut down, we are coming out way ahead. And given all that has happened this past year, I will never regret splurging on a campsite, especially one with an ocean view.

Ok fine. That’s purdy.

We pulled over on the way down to catch the sunset and I noted that when I went inside to get my puffy, the view out the BFW was very nice. This is to prove that we are not fully anti BFW people and do notice when it is nice. Still, no regrets on our Dory2 ordering decisions and we can’t wait to get overhead cabinets and dining area lighting back.

Locking for fully closed and fully extended.

I can report on our latest Lola mod: the sliding dining room table! We have really pondered whether we would re-do the Lagun table mount in Dory2. The upsides include having the ability to move the table out of the way enough for me to get in and sit down, plus the ability to lose the pedestal stand and track on the floor, thus opening up the under table space. The downside is that eventually, the table top will tip. It’s just a really big piece of wood for that mount. Even if the material were lighter, it would list at the two pivot points and result in the far side being lower. And even if my Type A “noticing eye” could overlook the unevenness, I was also hesitant to put heavy things on that side. Our solution to that involved putting a support leg at the far corner. But that ended up making me feel trapped just as much as it had felt before the mod. And it was kind of a small pain to lock it all into place securely for travel. So, I wanted to re-think some other solution. Really, all I’m after is making it easier to get in and out of that corner by the fridge. I don’t need 360º rotation, nor do I need the ability to adjust up or down; I just want to shove the top out of the way and the track on the floor doesn’t cut it – especially with two batteries sitting on the base.

You can just make out the holes where the pedestal receiver mount used to be.

Enter a lengthy discussion and investigation into drawer slides. There are many kinds of slides, as it turns out. But with a little thought, a tiny cardboard model, and a couple of phone calls to some online drawer slide guy, we reached a prototype solution. Basically, you take the pedestal receiver mount off the bottom of the table and put it onto a rectangle of something; in this case, a made to order polypropylene cutting board. You mount the inner slide brackets onto that. Then you mount two 90º angle brackets onto the bottom of the table to hang the slide assembly. Et voila! You have a tabletop that can slide away from the middle point by however long the slides are. We decided 16″ was plenty because you will almost run into the far wall in that amount of travel. We also got super heavy duty locking ones so it will stay locked in place in its center position.

Thumbs up!

Verdict? Love it! It’s a game changer for me and exactly what I will want in Dory2. It is easy to unlock and roll the table top out of the way and easy to pull back once I’ve sat down. When Richard is sitting on the other side, I need to rotate it a bit in order to not cut him in half. We waxed the pedestal in the bottom mount so that it rotates a little easier and that way, I can get up from the table even when he’s sitting there. In fact, I made a point of just getting up and down on any whim I had. Need something from the fridge? I’ll get it! Feel like maybe getting fuzzy socks from the back. Oh no, don’t you move, I got this! Up and down all weekend. Heaven.

Because of course I took pictures of the sunset.

Saturday was a glorious day out. The weather was wonderful and Richard got out to do a loop over to Pescadero and back. I got to sag him in Bruce2 and I am enjoying driving that car a lot. I feel that I was unfairly deprived a full month of new car smell, so it was really great to crank the tunes and hit the back roads. We went past Butano State Park on our route and it was very closed. But though I could see some evidence of fire damage, it did not look too bad from the road. I am hopeful that the park can recover. Along the route, we stopped to admire the lighthouse at Pigeon Point and reflect on all the “lighthouses” in my life that have shone so brightly these past four years. It’s a good feeling. We finished the day off with a walk to the beach to watch the sunset, and a Blue Apron for dinner. And for dinner, I made sure I needed to get up and down a lot.

Perfect lunch stop.

Heading home Sunday, we enjoyed a sandwich at the BFW, against a background of mustard in full bloom, with the lighthouse in the background. Fabulous weekend, happy campers.

Total miles: 75.6, 15.1 mpg, 2 hours 39 min. Site S11 full hookups, premium (expensive) reservable site. Not great cell service for either one of us, but ok LTE down by the ocean. Campground wifi strongest at the restaurant but not useful from site. You have to bring a sewer fitting (like a funnel shaped thingy) in order to dump – like don’t just run the dump hose to the opening.

Moss Landing (5)

A break in the rain and temps in the 50s was good enough for me.

Hooray!! The Stay at Home order has finally been lifted! This is not to say any state in the country has this COVID thing licked, by any means, but it does mean campgrounds are open with restrictions in place, so yeah, we’re gonna head out and it doesn’t matter where. The state park reservation system didn’t seem to have updated to allow for reservations quite yet, so I just started going through our favorite private places. Boom! The KOA at Moss Landing had space, so this was really the first “normal” weekend we’ve had with Lola. Like not in someone’s driveway or in our garage.

Yay! Not our garage!

As long as things don’t shut down again, we are hoping to keep all our weekend reservations going forward. And that’s a really good thing for towing nerves. Given it had been about a month since the last outing, I was uneasy again just getting back into it. All was going well on the trafficky drive south until the car right next to us had a very near miss. It was like exactly the same situation as Dory’s crash: off ramp backup, someone going too fast to stop in time. The difference was that I was in the lane to the left, and a little behind. So we watched the car slam on the brakes, like squealing, smoking rubber. Then they swerved right in front of us at the last second to avoid slamming into the stopped car. They did a full swing all the way through our lane and then spun back to the right. They were damn lucky that lane had cleared enough by then or it would have been a really bad collision. So here’s me, just slowing, not braking hard cause I didn’t want the person behind me to do a rear end repeat, and I put on the hazards. I watched it all unfold in front of us and we were never in danger of actually being hit. But Damn, Universe. Could you maybe not do that??! Both of us started quasi hyperventilating after we’d passed it by, and my hand started immediately trembling. Like full PTSD there. I mean, all was ok and we just carried on our merry way, but I wasn’t at ease until we came to a full backed in stop in our site. #margaritatime

Snowy Egret and sea lions, just chillin.

Overall, it was just a normal weekend out, but boy oh boy did it feel great. There were a lot of empty sites in the KOA and everyone was masking and distanced, so it felt fully safe. Richard did a bike ride, I got in a paddle on the Elkhorn Slough and cooked a Blue Apron on Saturday. It just feels extra specially wonderful following so much anticipation and prep.

DORY2!!!! And look close in the middle of the group. ❤️

Thanks, Safari Condo. You are simply the best.

And speaking of anticipation. WOW!! We got a big, beautiful, made me choke up, surprise on Friday. Dory2 is complete, y’all!!! And not only that, but our wonderful sales rep, my new Canadian boyfriend (this might be news to him), Francois, got the build team to pose for a picture, complete with a little Dory stuffy right in the middle. How cool is that, seriously?! It is taking a lot of self control to not start driving east. But, two things: 1) the borders are still closed and me crazily trying to explain why my attempt to enter the country really counts as ‘essential’ might get me arrested, and 2) I remind myself that it is winter in Quebec and I definitely do not want to drive in that. So, patience it is, until we can get her shipped to Durango, CO, hopefully this summer. I’m SUPER glad we have Lola in the meantime.

Here I was, telling myself I would maintain a safe, emotional detachment from Dory2. Well, there goes that idea. I’m looking at her picture waving “Hi baby!! Mama will see you real soon!” Oh well, looks like the new puppy will be well loved too.

Total miles: 106.3, 17.6 mpg, 2 hours 36 min. KOA – full hookups. All communal facilities closed for COVID. Safe checkin with no indoors/contact. Management recommends locking bikes or keeping them inside vehicles. We’re happy Bruce2 fits a bike so easily.