It was 43 degrees at sunrise in the vineyard. As the light hit the solar panels I switched on the furnace to warm up the place. We treated ourselves to bacon and eggs for breakfast, along with coffee. After a relaxing while we hitched up, locked the vineyard gates behind us, and aimed the rig towards Bakersfield! Bakersfield? Yes. In Bakersfield there is a very large house by Frank Lloyd Wright and two smaller houses by Richard Neutra. In addition, there is some celebrated ecclesiastical architecture, the last operating Woolworth’s lunch counter, and several fine dining restaurants. Bakersfield is not to be missed!
To get to Bakersfield from Santa Maria is a 100 mile long lonely road, through the towns of New Cuyama and Cuyama. Finally we arrived at the town of Maricopa, population 1,229. This fine church stands at the center of town:
This church was built in 1908 by C.H. Hoogenboom, my grandfather. I have a snapshot of the church taken by my grandmother in 1908. It has not changed one bit!
We pulled into the River Run RV Resort, right alongside the Kern River. The Kern River has not one drop of water in it… But there is a nice pool and lots of shade. It is 80 degrees this afternoon…
We had lunch, a short dip in the pool, and a quiet dinner in the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…
We pulled out of Marina Dunes RV Resort a little after 10:00am, headed back to the 101, and drove south for many hours. Traffic was light, scenery was beautiful, with the hills still showing green, but not for long. We stopped of the side of the road, made a quick lunch, and ate in the car as we drove…
At a little after 1:00 we arrived at the El Camino Vineyard, owned by Saarloos and Sons Vineyards. We pulled in and parked next to a giant oak tree. This will be our home for the night…
We were amazed by our surroundings… We thank the Saarloos family for letting us camp here…
We drove the 3 miles into Los Olivos and stopped in at Saarloos and Sons and at Wayland to buy a few bottles. You can never have too many bottles of wine… We walked around the block a few times to get some steps in, then returned to the Villa to prepare for dinner.
Dinner tonight is at Bell’s, in Los Alamos, CA. Bell’s used to be a quaint little French bistro until the recent unpleasantries. When indoor dining was banned, they cleaned up their patio, and now serve just a few tables per night; reservations only, prepaid deposit with reservation, 5 course prix Fixe dinner, and mandatory 20% gratuity. We had been here last August, and we were so impressed that we had to go again tonight. Our dinner consisted of:
Santa Barbara Sea Urchin
Salad of Finley Farms Lettuces
shallot & medjool date vinaigrette
crispy veal sweetbreads, caper berries
asparagus, truffle noire hollandaise
Croustillant of Bar Raye’
charred fennel puree, beurre noisette
Steak au Poivre
5 oz. coulette, Steve’s peppercorn sauce and frites
creme chantilly, pistachio crumble
We enjoyed a bottle of 2016 Land of Promise Terra de Promisio Pinot Noir and 2017 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir, both from Sonoma Coast. Service was top notch, the patio was delightful, sitting under the evening sky. A perfect evening.
Then back to the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…
Easy day today. We spent a leisurely morning in the Villa, then headed out from Redwood City at about 11:30. Destination: The city of Marina, just north of Monterey.
We traveled down the 101 through San Jose, on to Morgan Hill, then onto the 156 through Watsonville and Castroville, finally to Marina. Marina Dunes RV Part is located right between Highway 1 and the dunes. This is a very nice park; they have just recently added a new addition, and this is where we were to camp for the night.
After unhitching and setting up, we left to do our research. First, though, we needed fuel and DEF. (For those who don’t own a diesel vehicle: DEF is Diesel Exhaust Fluid, a liquid that somehow lowers the emissions and makes the diesel engine run cleaner. I need to add about 5 gallons every few thousand miles (sometimes more often…). It’s very unpredictable; usually the warning light comes on just AFTER I have refueled at a truck stop (where it is very easy to add at the pump); often if comes on when I am in remote places, like in northeastern Nova Scotia, like I was in 2017 (where it can be hard to find…). There is no way to check ahead of time, because there is no gauge…) Anyhow, we bought DEF and then we went looking for Moss Point KOA. Moss Point is a quaint seaside village adjacent to a marina. The campground was very nice, but small. We were welcomed nicely and they would be happy to host our caravan next year. (It is about 1/2 the price as Marina Dunes, and is adjacent to restaurants and other seaside attractions.)
Our next stop was another KOA, this one near the highway, and not nearly as nice. Good place, as all KOAs are, but not what we are looking for concerning our caravan next year. So we drove back to the Villa.
We walked across the street and onto the dunes:
The path was fenced in, keeping the fragile ecosystem safe; it is being restored, mainly by killing off the ice plant, which is very invasive and kills all other vegetation. Again, thanks to the Coastal Commission, these lands are kept as pristine as possible, and the coastal access is not impeded.
Just over the crest is the beach and ocean.
We stood and enjoyed the beauty as long as we could. IT WAS COLD!
We went back to the Villa and hunkered down, enjoying the warmth of the fireplace. We enjoyed some pate with fine wine for happy hours, with a chicken Caesar salad for dinner. And an enjoyable time was had by all…
We said farewell to Forestville and the Riverbend RV Resort; we drove south, just past Petaluma, where we stopped in at The Land of Promise. We shared a few glasses of wine with this wonderful family, picked up our lasted wine shipment, and discussed our planned visit next year. This is a “must do” stop on the caravan.
Further south we stopped in at the Marin County Civic Center, the last major project designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (FLlW) before his death in 1959. The building was completed in 1961, with some additions coming later…
It is a remarkable building, and it will be our first stop on the caravan to see architecture. I was very pleased that the building is very well maintained, and that updates (signage, furnishings, computers) have been sensitively integrated. As you may have noticed, the theme here is circles!
Unfortunately, there were no docent-led tours, so we followed their “self-guided” tour handout. It was a great building to see and experience, and we were only denied access to one area, and kicked out of another…
After the fun of the morning we drove south for a grueling time in San Francisco Bay Area traffic. We ignored the GPS telling us to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge (we had already done that in 2011…). We drove over the Richmond Bridge and headed south through Oakland to Hayward, then across the San Mateo Bridge and on to Redwood City. The Redwood City Trailer Villa was spartan, but well-located. We will stay here if we can confirm a tour of the Hanna house (FLlW) in Palo Alto. As soon as we were set up we drove to Menlo Park and caught the CalTrain into San Francisco, another option for our caravaners. I needed to see how it worked. Once in San Francisco, there was only one place to go:
Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District, Tadich Grill is the oldest (1849), continuously run restaurant in California, and third oldest in the United States. Long ago, when I was working, I visited Tadich once per week for over a year… Yes, I know – 3,000 great restaurants in San Francisco and I went here every time…
We enjoyed a few Old Fashioneds, Clam Chowder, and Ciopinno. We made the 8:09 CalTrain back to Menlo Park; an enjoyable time was had by all…
More research today! In case you missed it, this trip is all about research. We are planning to lead an Airstream caravan, next year, in 2022. It is called California Architecture, Food, and Wine. I think the title is pretty self-explanatory!
Since, shockingly, I don’t know everything about California, Architecture, Food, or Wine, we need to do this research. A tough job, but somebody has to do it!
So we have explored the Point Reyes National Seashore, sampled restaurants, visited RV Parks, and driven the proposed route; today we are wine tasting, and researching more restaurants.
First on our list today is Kosta Browne, in Sebastopol. No rolling hills covered with vineyards here; just an industrial complex full of wine-making equipment. We met our host, who knew who we were, knew what we typically bought, and made us feel like honored guests. He led us on a brief tour of the facility. (We had been here in 2018…). As we tasted the recent vintages we discussed the possibility of bringing 20 people in for a tasting. Many wineries will not or can not handle groups of this size, but K-B was happy to accommodate us. We exchanged contact information and we were on our way.
Next up was Rochiolli Vineyards, in the Russian River Valley. We have been buying wine here for over 20 years. HERE are the hills and vineyards…
However, he tasting was fairly perfunctory… We tasted a sampling of their cheapest, most common wines, and there was no personal touch. Great wines, but not much more.
We moved on to MacRostie Vineyards. Again, a beautiful view and a beautiful building.
Our final tasting was at Williams Selyem. Again, a beautiful place; in the past we had done the tasting in their extravagant “Tasting Palace”; today we were escorted to the owner’s house! It is a spectacular, simple two bedroom house overlooking the property. (Sorry – no pictures!) We sat at the dining table, with the retracting glass wall open to the view. Our host, again, knew everything about our wine preferences, and he knew that we starting buying W-S wines in 1999 (after being on the waiting list for almost 5 years…). We discussed the caravan and I’m sure we can work out a tasting for the group here.
By now we were ready for dinner. We drove to Petaluma and looked at a few places. We settled on Speakeasy, which is exactly what a speakeasy generally is not… We sat outdoors on their patio; in the adjacent courtyard there was a local band that played covers from Crosby Stills and Nash, Credence Clearwater Revival, and others.
Music was great and food was traditional (she had a burger and fries, I had braised short-ribs in blue cheese risotto). We’re not sure we will take 20 people here, but there are other options in the neighborhood.
We walked back to the truck, stopped off for gas, and headed back to the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…
Sunday morning we left the Van Ruiten Winery as the sun was rising. Again, we drove east for about two hours to finally reach Forestville, a very small town along the Russian River in Sonoma County. The countryside is beautiful at this time of day. We easily found the Riverbend RV Resort. We had arranged early check-in, so we were in our spot, unhitched, and set up in no time.
We then headed back south to Petaluma, where we looked at the Petaluma KOA to see if it was a better fit for the caravan than Riverbend. It is a very large KOA, with varied sites and many amenities.
Then we were off again, setting the GPS to the town of Olema. Olema is in the heart of the Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay State Park. Point Reyes National Seashore is a vast expanse of protected coastline in Marin County. Beaches here include Wildcat Beach, with the cliffside Alamere Falls. On a rocky headland, the 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse is a viewpoint for migrating gray whales. The Phillip Burton Wilderness features extensive trails through grassland, firs and pine forest, and up to the peak of Mount Wittenberg.
Tomales Bay State Park is approximately 2,000 acres, divided between two areas, one on the west side of Tomales Bay and the other on the east side. The main area, on the west, is part of the Point Reyes peninsula, and is adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore.
Tule elk once inhabited the grasslands of the Point Reyes peninsula and the Olema Valley, as well as other grasslands within Marin County. They were the dominant grazers on these lands until their local extirpation (local extinction) in the 1850s. State and Federal legislation in the early 1970s authorized the California Department of Fish and Game, in cooperation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, to reintroduce the extirpated Tule elk to Tomales Point.
Point Reyes National Seashore remains the only National Park unit where Tule elk can be found. The majestic animals you see as you travel through the park embody the restoration of the dominant native herbivore to the California coastal ecosystem. They shape the landscape around them as they did for centuries before they were extirpated by humans. They symbolize the conservation of native species and ecosystem processes, one of the primary missions of the National Park Service.
We didn’t see any elk today, but we remember seeing them when we passed through here in 1977. Today we proceeded north along Highway 1, which hugs the eastern shore of the bay. The shoreline is dotted with a few small ramshackle houses and restaurants, located at the water’s edge. Thanks to the California Coastal Commission, enacted in 1972, this shoreline has remained virtually unchanged and undeveloped. Without the Coastal Commission we suppose this area would be lined with hotels and McMansions, and the bay itself would be totally obstructed, much like we see in places in Florida today…
We stopped at Tony’s Seafood for a light lunch. Oysters are a specialty all along the bay.
We continues north, enjoying the scenic drive. We passed through the tiny hamlets of Marshall, Nick’s Cove, and, well, Hamlet.
We returned to the Villa for a brief break, then we drove north to the town of Healdsburg.
We checked out a few restaurants, settling on Rooftop. There was a short wait, so we walked around the delightful downtown area. After receiving a test message that our table was ready we quickly returned.
Rooftop is located atop a small hotel. The exterior deck is wonderful…
The food was great. The menu is short, but it listed very innovative and creative food. After a leisurely meal we returned to the Villa; an enjoyable time was had by all.
We left Redlands at the crack of dawn. We have a long day of driving ahead of us We are driving to Lodi….
Update: We last posted in July of 2019; we had returned home from our 2019 caravans and were spending the week at San Clemente State Beach with family and friends, many of whom we had not seen in many months. But as we anticipated staying close to home we were less energized to be blogging every little local trip we were taking. We were scheduled for four caravans in 2020, and we were saving our blogging energy until then. And Covid happened…
We were camping with the Airstream Club at Pechanga in Temecula on my birthday weekend of March 8, 2020, when news of widespread Covid hit. On March 11 I did my stint as a docent at the Hollyhock House, traveling back and forth via train. I saw one person wearing a mask – about average. That night the NBA cancelled its season, and things were beginning to be shutdown left and right. On Friday, March 13, we had invited new friends from the neighborhood to dinner. They were all still working as school administrators; 15 minutes before dinner was to start they called to cancel, saying that they were being required to work all night to figure out what to do about schools being closed. Luckily we had other friends nearby who had not started dinner who agreed to come by and help us eat all the food that Lynda had already prepared… Tuesday, March17, I did my last session volunteering at a homeless shelter; it, too, was closing. And the rest is history…
All four of our 2020 caravans were cancelled. We didn’t take out the Airstream for over three months – a record! We hunkered down, spending our stimulus checks on ordering food for take out and delivery to keep our local restaurants afloat. Finally, in June, with all the state parks still closed, we spent 4 days in Temecula, at the Pechanga RV Resort. (Indians don’t have to listen to Governor Newsom…) The park was nearly empty and we had a lovely time just relaxing and walking on different streets for a change. We did this two more times before the state parks re-opened. We spent a week at San Clemente in August. And so the year dragged on. The Airstream Club had a few camp-outs as usual, but different because lack of potlucks and group dinners.
With the surge in Covid in December we forwent our annual New Years trip to Palm Desert. The winter progressed much the same.
So today we start a one week “scouting” trip in preparation of the caravan we will be leading next year. More on that later…
We left at about 5:15, as the sun was breaking in the east. Luckily, we drove west, towards Los Angeles and north over “The Grapevine”. After a brief breakfast stop outside Arvin, we continued north up the 5. Long boring drive; but it was fun to be on the road again after so long. We refueled in Lodi and easily found out campsite for the night – Van Ruiten Family Wines, vineyards, an outdoor tasting area, and “free” overnight parking…
We found a table in the tasting area and enjoyed sample of 10 wines, plus cheese and crackers.
After a lovely time here, much of it spent talking to a couple from Ventura who were also camping overnight, we retired to the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…