Summer Travel Map

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Summer Travel Summary

October 31, 2010
Peoria, AZ

I pulled a few quick statistics from our travel log:

  • 10,685 miles traveled from April 22 to October 30 (191 days, just under 56 miles per day)
  • 1,800 gallons of fuel costing $5,627, averaging $3.12 per gallon and just under 6 MPG
  • $4,984 in campground fees for 130 nights, averaging $38.34 per night (factoring in "free" nights this drops to $26.23 per night)

The "priceless" part: we got to see more family and friends this year than ever before...

Home at last...

October 31, 2010
Peoria, AZ

Since Geri's ankle was really getting worse, we ended up cutting our visit in Santa Barbara County short by a day, and made it home on Saturday instead of the Sunday plan.

We're pretty sure this is a "gout incident", but the pain and swelling has been getting progressively worse over the past couple of days. We had planned to attend a wine tasting on Friday afternoon, but I called and was able to cancel that. And the RV Park gave us a credit for our next stay for the unused day (I thought we might have to forfeit that), so we packed up and hit the road early in the afternoon. After a quick stop in Santa Paula for fuel, we were soon wending our way along I-210 north of Los Angeles. A little bit of Friday afternoon traffic slowed us up, and we knew we wouldn't make it all the way to Phoenix. Our friends Wayne and Eva had recommended the Elks Lodge in Indio as an option, but it was getting late so we pulled out back of the Morongo Casino just east of Palm Springs for the night. we've stayed there before and once again had no issues using it for a quick overnight boondocking spot.

Up early, we were on our way just as the rain showers were trying to make their way out of the LA basin and into the desert. With a nice rainbow in the rear view and a fantastic sunrise in front of us, we were quickly back on I-10, climbing the long grade east of Indio, and rolling into Arizona. By early afternoon, we were in Phoenix and after a quick stop at the Flying J Truck Stop to top off the fuel tank for storage, we were back at our place in Peoria.

Since we had all day today to do our unloading, we knew we simply needed to deal with essentials yesterday. I turned on the gas and the water first. No problem on the former, but the water, well, no joy. It turns out that the gate valve that serves as a main was stripped in the threads. It turned fine, just wouldn't open. So, being home less than 30 minutes, I was off to Home Depot for a replacement. Of course, you have to buy a whole new valve; no parts available. Back home, I jury-rigged a tool to close the underground valve out by the meter, installed the new gate in the existing valve, and we soon had water running. At some point, I'll replace the gate valve with a ball valve for more reliable operation, but not now I also had a couple of drips where the cold water enters the hot water heater, so I tightened them up as well.

We were well-prepared for an evening arrival, having pre-planned dinner of Mexican Sheppard's Pie, so we simply moved a few things from the coach: dinner, DirecTV boxes, PCs, and "morning stuff". We soon had the TVs working and the cable Internet wasn't far behind (I'd called a few days earlier to make sure it was "on".

Today, we basically spent the day unloading the coach. After all these years, we have it pretty well figured out. Start at the front, leave cupboards open once they're dealt with, and dump all the laundry in a space where Geri can tackle it in batches over the next few days. We finished up with the refrigerator/freezer, since the house units had cooled sufficiently, and were high-fiving our completion just about 3:00 PM.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From one "wine country" to the next

October 27, 2010
Buellton, CA

We've closed out our tour of Napa Valley and moved south to Santa Barbara County's "Wine Country" for a few days.

Last Saturday and Sunday were plagued with heavy rain. Geri joked that Napa Valley was sad to see Pat and Al go home to Connecticut. If that's the case, "sad" doesn't begin to describe it. We had almost 2" of rain, bad for us and worse for the grapes still hanging on the vines.

Needless to say, we took advantage of the rainy weather to do, well, not much. Geri did some laundry. We (I) watched some sports on TV. I pulled together a pretty good Pork Tenderloin with Pan-roasted Potatoes, and made a hearty Bolognese-style sauce that went well with Penne. We did some rearranging on the wine storage front (OK, some of that "rearranging" involved bottle recycling). I did some cleanup after we had a minor water leak due to the pulled fabric on the slide "toppers"; this is high on my list of "fix it over the winter" projects.

Things cleared up on Monday. We made a Whole Foods run and Geri went off to shop at Napa Style. We had dinner at Gott's Roadside (formerly Taylor's Automatic Refresher), the only burger joint we've run across with a nice wine list. We had a little excitement at dinner, not the culinary kind, though. As we were chatting with the couple behind us (as we often do), the wife started to choke. Initially thinking she'd gotten into something hot, we all became alarmed when her color started to change. The husband did a quick impromptu Heimlich and a recently-trained vacationing EMT provided advice. A restaurant employee called 911 and the firefighter/EMT crew arrived in short order. Fortunately, the Heimlich and some hot water dislodged the obstruction and soon everyone was calm. We hung around and chatted through a couple of bottles of Cabernet, and headed home later than we'd expected.

Yesterday was our travel day and we were up early since we didn't do our normal night-before preparations. We were on the road on schedule, though, leaving Napa right around 9:00 AM. South on Highway 29, a quick jog on CA-37 to Vallejo, I-80 to Oakland, I-880 to San Jose, and we were soon back on US-101. We made a quick stop in Salinas to drop off a package for Wayne and Eva and wrapped up the driving day a little after 3:00 PM, pulling into Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton.

We'd just gotten set up when the check-in person from the office came over and asked us to move sites. Apparently, they've got some digging and wiring to do, and we were inadvertently parked in a site that'll be impacted. So, dish down, slides in, water-sewer-electric disconnected and we moved 125' to a different row. Hopefully, we'll be settled here for the rest of our stay. We ordered a pizza for dinner since neither of us felt like cooking, even leftovers. It married well with a nice Napa Zinfandel.

Today, we'll spend the morning going over "back home" things. I've got to call to activate the cable Internet and Geri's got to confirm various medical appointments that are set up starting at 7:30 AM Monday morning. Oof-da; back to the alarm clock! I'll update my navigation map for the last leg of this summer's "vacation", as we'll probably head directly to Phoenix from here on Saturday.

This afternoon, we'll probably head to Lompoc to visit Geri's sister. We'll spend the rest of our time here picking up "wine club" shipments that we've had held for us. It's tough work, but someone has to do it...

Friday, October 22, 2010

A fine wine tour comes to an end

October 22, 2010
Napa, CA

Whew! We had a great - and busy - week with Pat and Al, showing them around Northern California wine country on their first (but hopefully not last) trip out this way. We're pretty sure they had a good time, as well.

Click here for pictures from this past week.

We started out last Saturday night, when we headed over to the San Francisco airport around 9:00 PM to pick them up. We parked in the Cell Phone Lot and waited until they were through baggage claim, then drove the 5 minutes to the terminal to pick them up. After a quick drive through the fog ("Welcome to San Francisco"!), we were home and relaxing. Geri made some nosh and we chatted until late (much later for them).

Sunday, we got an early start and spent the day showing them some of the sights in San Francisco. We checked out some of the hills, drove down Lombard Street ("crookedest street in town"), drove over to see the Golden Gate Bridge, and did a walking tour along the Embarcadero, from the Ferry Building all the way to the Cannery. After an unplanned late lunch at a dive bar, we headed home and capped off the evening with a great selection of cheeses (Cowgirl Creamery) and a salad.

We traveled to Sonoma County on Monday, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and heading up US-101 to Santa Rosa. We parked at the Fairgrounds, a nice, clean and quiet park (albeit with limited 50 amp coverage). Once settled in, we headed out for some tastings, checking out Chateau St. Jean and Sebastiani in the time we had available.

Tuesday was a complete change of pace. Instead of focusing on wineries, we headed south to Marin County, west to the coast, then north along Tomales Bay. We'd planned ahead and had everything we needed for an oyster lunch: beer and wine, plates and cups, multiple condiments, and of course, our oyster knife. We powered through three dozen of the freshest oysters to be found, right at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company where they're grown. We continued north on CA-1 to Jenner before turning east and following the Russian River back to Santa Rosa. We made a quick stop at the Martinelli Winery on the way (can't have a day without wine).

We moved again on Wednesday, this time the short hop over to Napa County, actually to the city of Napa where we were soon set up at the Napa Expo Fairgrounds RV Park. This is a very nice facility that we found during last year's wine country caravan. After getting set up, we headed for our first winery tour (having focused on tasting rooms so far). Since it was Pat and Al's first winery tour in Napa, we took them to the place where Geri and I had our first similar experience, probably in 1979 or 1980: Robert Mondavi Winery. They still put on a very good and informative tour, followed by a tasting. Al dug out his wallet and purchased a set of wines that don't get distributed (winery only sales). After Mondavi, we drove south on Highway 29 (the main drag in Napa Valley) and made quick stops at the Louis M. Martini and Peju Province tasting rooms, followed by dinner at a Mexican place right near the Fairgrounds.

We also had another visit with our friends, Wayne and Eva, and their Yorkie, Abby.  They were staying at the Napa Elks Lodge, and it was nice to  catch up with them and have them meet Pat and Al.  We stopped at "their place" one evening and they came over to the Napa Expo the next night.

Thursday, we headed for the "other side" of Napa Valley, driving north on the Silverado Trail. We made a tasting stop at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, tasting and buying both the Fay and SLV bottlings (Cask 23 being out of our retirees price range), before continuing north to the little town of Calistoga. We had lunch there and made a unsuccessful stop at Chateau Montelena (too busy and too close to closing) before finishing up at Charles Krug Winery. Once on the road home, we stopped at Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, picking up scallops and salad mix for a light dinner.

Nobody was moving quickly this morning, so we took our time getting started. We had a late lunch/early dinner at Greystone restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) on St. Helena, followed by a little shopping at the CIA store. This is a neat place, housed in the large stone building that was home to the Christian Brothers Winery when monks still ran the place. Greystone always puts on a nice meal, and we all enjoyed different plates (Pat "won" with the Brook Trout entree), followed by dessert and sweet wine tastings.

Since Pat and Al have an early flight tomorrow, we stopped by the coach and picked up their bags and the pups, and drove them down to a San Bruno hotel, right near the airport. They'll be able to get a shuttle at 6:00 AM that'll get them to their flight on time. Although we were sad to drop them off, it was a much better strategy than getting up at 4:00 AM to make the 1.5-2 hour trek from Napa. We got home around 9:30 and are just going to chill for the rest of the evening.

Overall, it was a great week and a fine way to cap off the "year of the family visit" tour that we've been on since April...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Valleys to rivers to the ocean

October 16, 2010
Pacifica, CA

Well, we've certainly been through some different parts of Northern California over the last few days. Here's the rundown...

We left the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning (Central Valley) on a bright and sunny Tuesday morning. Our travel day was short and pretty direct: I-5 south about 115 miles to Sacramento. Having stayed there twice last fall, we aimed the coach for the CalExpo RV Park, right along the banks of the American River. As we drove along, we could feel the temperatures rising, so we were glad we were heading for another place where we could plug in and enjoy air conditioned comfort.

Once we were set up, our friend, Jim, from back in the early Aetna days, stopped over for a nice visit. It was nice to catch up; we'd missed him last fall since we didn't have enough time on the caravan to add much in terms of extra activities.

We thought about dinner after Jim headed home, and decided that a quick trip to the local Outback might be appropriate, so I got my steak fix for the week. As I mentioned, it helps decision making if you know what's around.

We were up early on Wednesday, another sunny morning. OK, it was the pups who were up early; I wanted to sleep in. We did a walk around the RV Park, growled at a resident cat for a bit, and generally had a good time. After a quick breakfast, we unplugged, hooked up the Rover and were back on the road.

It was another short driving day, just under 110 miles. This time, we were headed for a new (i.e., we've never stayed here before) place in Pacifica, CA. We followed I-80 out of Sacramento to Oakland, then paid the modest toll to go over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. after a quick jog onto US-101 and I-280, we were on CA-1, the Pacific Coast Highway, south of San Francisco proper. We were soon parked at the San Francisco RV Resort, in a great space overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They've designed the spaces along the bluff to have motorhomes pull in and trailers (many of which larger windows at the rear) back in. We rewarded ourselves with a relaxing afternoon: watching the surf, taking a nap, and enjoying a nice sunset.

Thursday, we just plain relaxed. Geri got a couple of loads of laundry done, but that was about it. We walked the pups around the park and down the street, seeing the "sights". I picked up our mail from the Post Office and went through that (other than our Absentee Ballots and AZ property taxes going down by 31% - wow! - nothing earth shattering), but otherwise, we just enjoyed a nice, sunny day overlooking the Pacific. For dinner, I did up a nice Pork Tenderloin with Pan-roasted Red Potatoes, which went very nicely with a Cabernet Sauvignon we'd brought from Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla. We were treated to another nice sunset to cap off the day.

Yesterday, we got down to brass tacks. Well, we don't really have any tacks, much less brass ones, but we at least got busy. Geri started cleaning the inside and I started on the outside, getting the power washer going (yes, this RV Park allows vehicle washing) and cleaning the road grime off the Rover and then the coach. Just as I was finishing up outside, the wind shifted and we were enveloped in a gray "marine layer" of clouds. I'm not sure how long this pattern will last. The sun's right above us, peeking through every once in a while, but the fog and low clouds are hanging on. Of course, it is San Francisco, after all...

We did some of the Otto's Wieners we'd bought in Portland for dinner, with a pre-packaged serving of Geri's Famous Sauerkraut. Since we had a couple of pears left from our stop in Gold Beach, Oregon, she also whipped up a fantastic Pear-Cherry Tart. I did a quick walk to Safeway for ice cream (reminds me of when we lived in Brooklyn!) and we enjoyed the evening.

Today, we're still under the marine layer. Geri's wrapping up the laundry, I vacuumed and polished the tile and gave the mirrors a once-over. Pat and Al should be on their way from CT (we heard from Alicia that they at least made it safely to the airport in Windsor Locks), so we'll aim to pick them up at SFO tonight. We've got a nice weeks planned: tomorrow in San Francisco, Monday-Tuesday in Sonoma, and Wednesday-Friday in Napa. Woo- hoo!

And, speaking of "woo-hoo", a "Happy Birthday" to our niece Alyson on her 21st birthday!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Catching up on the last week, and then some...

October 11, 2010
Rolling Hills Casino, Corning, CA

Wow; where do I start? At the beginning, or course. I'm way behind in updating this blog, partially because we've been busy and partially due to limited Internet access. So, to recap...

We wrapped up our stay in Woodland, WA, last Tuesday morning. We headed south on I-5 and were soon at the Monaco Service Center in Coburg, Oregon. We spent time at the "old Monaco" in years past, but this was our first visit since their bankruptcy and acquisition by Navistar. We rolled in just after noon on Tuesday to check in for our Wednesday appointment. In a weird twist of fate, they actually did the work (changing one slide seal) in the afternoon while we were off visiting Northwest RV Surplus, Jerry's Hardware and Costco, and getting the pups cleaned up at PetsMart. That never happened in the old days.

Wednesday, we settled up on the bill, but decided to stay another day. We had a mobile carpet cleaner come out and do the little rug we have left, plus the couch. It looks good but, with the humidity, it's been taking longer than we'd like to dry. Not bad, though, to get everything clean inside and out, since I got the power washer out and cleaned the coach and Rover.

Thursday, we headed for the coast in the afternoon, following OR-126 to Florence and then US-101 south. We were following the route we intended to take last fall, before the accident with the Rover. The trip rapidly turned into a rainy day drive, perfect for a just-washed set of vehicles. On the other hand, if they never got dirty, it would mean we weren't enjoying our travels. We decided to spend two nights at a RV Park in Charleston, OR. We were a little put off by the "perma-rigs" (generally old junk trailers that haven't been moved in years and are unlikely to do so any time soon - with occupants to match) near the entrance, but once we were parked we were OK. This park is right on the beach, and we had a chance to let Merlin and Maya Lynn run in the sand and ocean several times.

Saturday, we were back on the road again, heading back through Coos Bay to US-101, then south. We aimed for Gold Beach, and managed to catch up with our friends Wayne and Eva on their last day there. We had a good visit with them, including lunch at a local restaurant and dinner at "their place". Other than Maya and their Yorkie, Abby, getting into a scuffle over dog food, it was a relaxing time and a good visit.  We haven't seen them since April so we caught up on travels, etc.

Yesterday, we traveled together down US-101 into California (where we had a 10-minute agricultural inspection, for gypsy moths, of all things) and landed at the Elks Lodge in Eureka. After a quick shopping excursion to the local Costco, we were ready for dinner: Rack of Lamb with Mushroom Risotto and a Baby Greens Salad. Oh, yeah; that's good.

Today, we left mid-morning after a nice breakfast at Wayne and Eva's, got fuel, and took the "scenic route" across CA-299, stopping in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest for a nice lunch, over to I-5 in Redding, and then headed south to the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning for an overnight. We'd originally planned to dry camp but the temperatures here in the valley are in the 90s so we opted to stay in their overnight RV Park and plug in to run the air conditioning. We had leftovers (still full from breakfast and lunch) and relaxed a bit, and are now chilling with some TV Life is indeed good...

Oh, yes, there are various pictures and they're downloaded from the cameras and phones but I'm too tired to process them tonight, so they'll get done over the next day or so...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Starting the last month on the road this year

October 2, 2010
Woodland, WA

Once again, we find ourselves asking, "Where does the time go"? We've closed out September and will be back at our "winter home" at the end of this month. It seems like just yesterday that we were packing up to head out on this year's "summer adventure". This year, we started without a "master plan" and look what happened: we did fine.

We've got a busy month ahead of us, with a stop in Oregon to get a slide-out seal replaced and then a week of touring Napa/Sonoma wine country with Pat and Al. It's a good thing we've used this time in Washington to rest up!

And, that's pretty much what we've done for the past two days. Yesterday was cloudy and cool. I used the time to do a few Blog updates and to sort through the many photos we made over our two day trips. Today turned bright and sunny, and I've finished up from yesterday. Geri's under the weather with a bit of a sinus issue, so we're monitoring her rest intake, and making sure she gets better quickly.

Last night, I grilled off the first of the Hot Dogs we got from Otto's in Portland, the Frankfurters. With Geri's Famous Sauerkraut, a touch of chili and chopped onions, and a side of kicked-up baked beans, they were a good match for a bottle of the Three Rivers Malbec-Merlot that we picked up in Walla Walla. I wish Geri was feeling better; she would have enjoyed it as much as I did! Today, I'd planned to do a Rack of Lamb, but we'll defer that until Geri's feeling better.