Summer Travel Map

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 29: What comes before Oh-Dark-Thirty?

September 29, 2012
SFO Airport

Alarms and fog.  Things we hate in the morning...

Well, another nice visit has come to an end.  We were all up early, around 5:00 AM, and the Rover was quickly loaded for the trip to SFO.  The fog was so thick ("How thick was it"?) that I could hardly see the road in front of me as we headed up CA-1 to the I-280 merge.  Pat, Al and Tanner were all safely delivered to United Airlines for their trip back to the East Coast.  They'll be traveling most of the day, with a change of planes at Dulles in Washington before they get back to Hartford.

We'll be on the road as well, continuing our trek south.  But, that's for later.  Now, it's time to go back to bed!

Friday, September 28, 2012

September 25-28, 2012: Quality time in San Francisco

September 28, 2012
San Francisco RV Resort, Pacifica, California

Tuesday, we headed back to the “City by the Bay”.  Geri and I have loved San Francisco for years, although we’ve usually visited later in the year.  It’s easy to love a place when you always seem to visit when the weather is at its best.  On this visit, that oft-quoted saying “The coldest winter I every spent was a summer in San Francisco” (variously attributed to Jack London, Oscar Wilde, H. L. Mencken and, of course, Mark Twain -- all disputed, by the way) seemed to be the order of the day.  But, we’re a hardy lot and we survived quite nicely, thank you very much.  Even Tanner wore his sweater when needed.

We stayed at a park in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco proper, situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.  When we stayed here two years ago (when Pat and Al visited the last time), I mentioned that the oceanfront site we were in wouldn’t be there forever.  Well, this time the whole row of ocean-facing sites was closed off, with a big porta-fence running through them to keep people away from the eroding and unsafe cliff.  It looked like the sea and wave action claimed about 20-30 feet of the Park in the last two years.  Of course, this just allows the Park to raise their rates to recoup the lost revenue.  

Because we were right on the ocean, we had low clouds and fog, supplemented by drizzle, for most of the time we were there.  Fortunately, the topography of the area allows the sun to burn off the fog in some areas, and we were able to go “over the hill” to San Francisco and actually have better weather a few miles away.

Wednesday, we took a ride south along the Pacific Coast Highway, CA-1, to Santa Cruz.  It was nice but not as scenic as the coastline further south, past Monterey.  But, we didn’t have time to go that far, as we needed to get back in time for one of the better dinners we’ve had in a while.

Geri’s a devoted foodie.  And, like any good addiction, it means she’s always on the search for interesting things online.  About six months ago, she came across an article about a chef who immersed himself in pasta.  Not literally, of course, but he moved to Italy and worked in a bunch or restaurants to learn the secrets from the masters.  Well, Geri did a deep dive on this and found that he’s opened a restaurant in San Francisco called Flour + Water.  Get it?  Flour plus water equals pasta.  Clever.

So, knowing that we’d be stopping in San Francisco on our way south, we made a reservation a few months ago.  Was it worth the wait and effort?  You betcha!  We had an early reservation (6:00 PM) so we were able to drive over, find the place in the Mission district, and find a place to park the Rover on a side street.

We ordered a bottle of wine to start while we perused the menu.  After some discussion and cajoling, we finally agreed to the autumn pasta tasting menu (“whole table must participate, no substitutions”), coupled with the wine pairing flight.  Pat and Al were a little reluctant to commit to a menu with rabbit, duck and quail courses, but they were eventually won over.  Good thing, too, since it was fantastic!  I’m now inspired to explore home-made pasta over the winter, but even more to learn more about the great sauces.  For a guy who likes his South Philly “Gravy”, I was really taken with the lightness and flavors of the sauces.  Mmmmm...

As a post-dinner treat, we headed downtown to find a little food stand called Smitten that makes fresh ice cream, while you wait.  A long wait, you ask?  Nope; they mix the ingredients in front of you then freeze them instantly with liquid nitrogen.  Creamiest ice cream you’ve ever tasted.  Double Mmmmm...

After such a nice evening out, nobody was moving quickly Thursday morning.  This was OK, though, since there wasn’t much on the agenda.  Al and I left mid-morning and headed for the BART station in Daly City, where we hopped on a train for Market Street downtown.  From there it was a short walk to AT&T Park for a baseball game, where the Giants beat up on the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In spite of the fog in Pacifica, the weather in town was crystal clear and we had a good game with great food (Al’s first Tri-Tip Sandwich) and beer (all overpriced, of course).

Today was their last day with us on this trip, and we used the time to head back to San Francisco, this time to the Embarcadero.  We poked around in the Ferry Building Shops, picking up specialty cheeses, some mushrooms and a black truffle (leaving me wondering why on earth I left the truffle slicer in AZ), and some Italian specialty foods like Fregola and Marcona Almonds.  We stopped by the wine bar in the Ferry Building as well for a round of flights and even picked up a couple of bottles that I’ve never had before.

From there, it was off to Ghirardelli Square for more shopping for Geri and Pat.  Al and I retired to an Irish Pub for a Guinness.  Back home early, we wrapped up the visit with a nice dinner of Honey-Sake-Lime Shrimp over rice.  It’s been another nice visit, and we really enjoyed getting to meet Tanner.

We’ll call it an early night, since their flight is early in the morning and we’ll be up between 5:00-5:30 AM to get to the airport.  Hmmmm...

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 23-24: A quick stop in Sonoma and Napa

September 24, 2012
Elks Lodge, Petaluma, CA

[As always, please click on any picture to enlarge it.]

Yesterday was a travel day.  We left Ukiah and retraced our route back south on US-101, stopping at the Elks Lodge in Petaluma, which is south of Santa Rosa and north of Marin County.  We took advantage of the Lodge’s lounge for some football and beer, and then basically called it a day.

Today, we were up and moving reasonably well.  Pat, Al, and Tanner seemed to be adjusting to the time zone change, and I had a day planned in Napa.  OK, “planned” might be a strong term since I didn’t make any advance reservations for anything, but I knew what I wanted to accomplish.  And, we did!

We started out driving north on US-101 to Santa Rosa then cutting east on CA-12 toward Sonoma before taking the “back road” to Calistoga.  After a winding and scenic ride, we descended into Napa Valley and were soon at our first stop, the winery tour at Castello di Amoroso.  The place is actually built like a castle, with some of the materials and even the laborers imported from Europe.  The wines are just OK, but the tour is fun.

After our tasting (and purchases, of course), we headed south on Highway 29 to the upscale burg of St. Helena.  I aimed for Gott’s Roadside (used to be “Taylor’s Automatic Refresher) for lunch.  The burgers were good and the wine was better as we ate “out back” at the picnic tables.  The pups enjoyed running around while we ate.

Our next planned stop was at the Hess Collection winery.  After a somewhat white-knuckle ride along Mount Veeder Road, we made it to the winery, high above the city of Napa.  We were too late for a winery tour, but didn’t need one at that point.  We did stroll through the always interesting art collection before tasting.  We tasted, bought and rolled down the hill, picking up CA-121 through Carneros, then CA-116 back to Petaluma.  After another relaxing evening at “home”, we called it an early night.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 20-22: Ukiah/Mendocino, plus Pat, Al, & Tanner

September 22, 2012
Elks Lodge, Ukiah, California

[As always, please feel free to click on any image to enlarge it.]

Thursday was our travel day for this leg, and an easy and scenic drive it was.  Our route was simple: drive 1/2 mile to US-101, head south for a couple of hours, and get off the right exit in Ukiah.  In reality, this part of the country is one of the most scenic places to travel.  Alternating between forests of huge redwood trees and incredibly scenic coastline, we didn't mind at all that we were moving at a relatively slow pace.  This kind of drive is why we like the Pacific Northwest, and why we like to leave the Interstates behind when we can.

We were soon at our destination and parked at the Ukiah Elks Lodge.  We've stayed here before, so we knew the location and layout.  It's blacktop parking with 30 Amp electric and water, but there's a dump station on-site and you can't beat the price!

Friday, we were up early (OK, early for us) and had the Rover packed for the drive down to San Francisco to pick up Pat and Al for their visit.  There was extra excitement in the air because they brought their puppy, Tanner along.  Tanner’s basically a Chihuahua, but a little larger than the yappers you might see on TV, and he’s just less than a year old.

It was a long drive from Ukiah to SFO and back, but we wanted to show Pat and Al a different part of California than the more developed Sonoma-Napa-San Francisco from their last trip.  We easily found the Cell Phone Lot (right where it was two years ago!), walked the pups and had a sandwich, and waited for the call that they were through baggage claim.  Their flight was on time but delayed on the ground, but we were soon heading for the arrivals area and picked them up.  We didn’t have time to really introduce the pups properly, but everything worked out fine, other than Tanner didn’t care for the fact that Al was riding in the front and Pat was in the back with her Mom.  So, we had some back-and-forth before things settled down.  Merlin and Maya Lynn were fine; they were just happy to be out in the car and especially please to be with Pat and Al.

We had sandwiches and Coors Light ready for them and they quickly enjoyed the refreshments after being on planes all day (Hartford - Dulles and Dulles - SFO).  We quickly made our way north from the airport, bypassing the US-101 corridor through the city and getting to the Golden Gate Bridge before the real rush hour traffic started.

Once over the iconic Bridge, we hopped off the first exit and took everyone up into the Marin Headlands for a little bit of a scenic excursion.  This gave everyone a chance to stretch their legs and the pups to have some “get to know you” time.  We did a few photos before heading down the hill and getting back on the northbound US-101.

Once on the highway, we snaked through Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties on the way back to Ukiah.  Of course, our little scenic detour had allowed traffic to catch up with us, but we weren’t in a hurry.  In fact, I was able to use Google Maps on my phone to see real-time traffic so we’d know where things picked up.  Once we were north of Santa Rosa, it was more or less clear sailing.

Once we were back in Ukiah, we whipped up a quick snack and enjoyed some wine, but it was soon time for the East Coast crowd to call it a night.


Saturday was designated as a “touring day”, so we piled everyone in the Rover, fueled up and headed out early.  After a big breakfast in Willits, we swung west on  CA-20 through some very nice redwood forests to the coast.  We picked up CA-1, the Pacific Coast Highway, just south of Fort Bragg, and were soon in the little seaside town of Mendocino.  After some browsing and resting, we continued our trip, exploring a little of the coast before heading back inland on CA-128.

This route took us through the Anderson Valley wine region and we already had a destination or two in mind near the little town of Philo: Schramsburg Cellars for some sparkling wine tasting, followed by one of Geri’s favorites, Goldeneye for some Pinot Noir.  Goldeneye does wine tasting right, with all the wines served out on their patio as opposed to crowded up against a tasting room bar.  We ordered up some pate and a cheese plate and thoroughly enjoyed the wines.  As a bonus, it’s dog-friendly, so the pups were able to hang with us while we relaxed for a while.

Tasting (and purchases, of course) completed, we continued on CA-128 to Booneville, where we picked up CA-253 back to Ukiah.  Overall, it was a very nice day for touring.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 13-19: Chilling out in Eureka, California

September 19, 2012
Elks Lodge, Eureka, California

Once again, our master plan to beat the heat of Phoenix has worked well.  OK; maybe too well.  I think it kind of defeats the purpose when you have to turn the heat on most mornings to "take the chill off"...

So, we spent a week in Eureka.  There's not a heck of a lot to do here and that was just fine with us.  We didn't have big plans and we exceeded expectations.  We did a little shopping (they have Costco and Walmart here), found a laundromat for a "big wash", got Geri a pedicure (way overpriced) and went to the "cook your own steak night" at the Lodge.  I got in a couple of walks, of 4.7 and 3.2 miles respectively.  It was nice to relax a bit.

As mentioned above, it was a cool visit.  The coast seems to be in a cool and damp weather pattern this September.  It was cloudy and/or foggy several days and even the sun didn't warm things up.  I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, though.  In fact, we ended up staying an extra couple of days based on the forecast of warmer (aka "hot) temperatures inland at our next destination (Ukiah).

Sorry; no pictures at this stop (worth of posting, anyway)...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 9-12: Brookings, Oregon

September 12, 2012
Elks Lodge, Brookings, Oregon

As always, please feel free to click on any picture to enlarge it...

Another travel day, another easy drive.  We’re really getting the hang of this “short hop” travel mode.  We did some of the travel preparation the night before and finished up in the morning, but took our time.  We didn’t leave Charleston until after 11:00 AM.  This wasn’t an issue since we didn’t have too far to go, just following US-101 south to Brookings.  

It didn’t take too long for the sun to return, and we had a pretty good day for driving.  We fueled up (both the coach and the humans -- lunch) in Port Orford and had some construction between there and Gold Beach.  Nothing held us up, though, and we were soon parked at the Elks Lodge.  We were here last fall, so we knew exactly where to go.

We set out the dog pen and our chairs, and had a chance to have Happy Hour outside for a change.  We were parked next to a maple tree that was already starting to generate foliage, a reminder that autumn is coming.

With nice weather (although a little on the cool side in the low-60s), I got out for a nice walk, about 6 miles from the Elks to Brookings Harbor.  Later in our stay, we took a couple of rides along the coast, both north and south of Brookings.  Of course, it’s not too far south of Brookings to the California border, so we didn’t go far, stopping at Crissey Field State Park.  The beach is littered with debris (none from the Japanese Tsunami that we could see), but the pups had a good time once we climbed over the logs and got to the beach.

The following day, we headed north toward Gold Beach, stopping at numerous overlooks in the Boardman Scenic Corridor.  It was more hazy, so the photos weren’t as interesting, but we had another good day.

It was hard to get back in the swing of cooking after the fabulous crab fest that Wayne and Eva put on, but we did well over the past few days.  Geri tried a new recipe for a no-knead-pizza-dough, and turned out some fantastic pies in our little electric pizza oven.  And, she whipped up a wonderful Couscous with mushrooms and sautéed carrots to go with a pan-seared/oven-finished pork tenderloin.  Sorry; no “food porn” pictures this time...

Tomorrow, we continue south, with a longer drive planned all the way to Eureka, well over 100 miles.  Wow!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September 4-8: A quick stop in Charleston, Oregon

September 8, 2012
Oceanside RV Park, Charleston, Oregon

Having spent a relaxing Labor Day in Florence, it was time to resume our leisurely trek south on US-101, the “Oregon Coast Highway”.  Our destination was Oceanside RV Park, just past Charleston, which is just west of Coos Bay.  Wait a minute!  Weren’t we just in Coos Bay in June?  Yes, but that was for a RV Rally.  This time, it’s all about the beach!

Of course, weather patterns being what they are, we were back to the cloudy and foggy weather.  No matter; it’s great to be at a park that’s within walking distance of the beach.  Geri and the pups thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  OK; I like it too.  Of course, we probably tracked a few pounds of sand into the coach in the process, but that’s why we have a vacuum.

Flowers were in bloom here as well, although many were just past their peak so I got some pictures as they were fading.

Our friends Wayne and Eva were in town as well, although they stay at a different park near the marina.  We caught up with them several times.  Wayne and his friend, Bob, actually saw us driving through town as we arrived and stopped by the RV Park.  They’re big into the fishing experience, and had great plans for a tuna dinner but got skunked during a full day trip out in the ocean.  We heard through the grapevine that most of the locals had the same experience, which was odd because conditions were supposedly “in the zone”.

They made up for the reluctant tuna the following day, though, with a great haul of crabs.  Geri helped with the cleaning, Bob did the steaming, and we ate our fill.  We hardly made a dent in the catch, though, so Geri, Eva, and their friends Sally and Eve did a masterful job of picking the remainder.  Eva packed up some for us to take on the road, so crab cakes are in our future.

We probably could have stayed longer, but the Park could only give us a reservation for five nights, so tomorrow we’ll continue our journey...

Monday, September 3, 2012

August 27-September 3: A double stop in Florence, Oregon

September 3, 2012
Florence, Oregon

As always, please click on any picture to enlarge it.

We spent the past several days in Florence (Oregon, not Italy!) and managed to stay at two different locations.  The Florence Elks Lodge is one of the few that has a separate RV Park located just outside town, and they also have spaces at the Lodge in town.  We ended up staying at both, for four days each.  The “Park” has a lot of trees, but we were able to get a site that afforded us a satellite signal window.  Cell service (voice and data) was a little spotty, though.  The Lodge has an open paved lot for RV parking, with better cell coverage but no on-site dump station.  It’s all about the trade-offs.

Florence is a nice little town, and the weather was much sunnier and a tad warmer than we experienced in Newport.  It all depends on the lay of the land against the sea.

This was a relaxing stop for us, as we didn’t have a lot planned.  We took a drive inland to Eugene to do some shopping (last chance for Market of Choice), and did some trips along the coast for sightseeing and Geri’s rock collecting.

I took a few walks for exercise, and we made a couple of trips to the “Old Town” section of Florence, right along the Siuslaw River.  It was neat to see all the flowers in bloom at this time of year, and Geri had a good time poking around in the shops and outdoor vendor displays.

Overall, we had a relaxing week+ and will definitely spend time here again when we’re in the area.