Adventures in the Villa


Lodi, CA

2021-04-18 – Scouting The California Architecture Food and Wine caravan…

Lodi to Forestville and Beyond

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.

Eleven tan-colored male elk standing with the ocean in the background.

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.

2021-04-17 – Scouting the California AFW Caravan…

Saturday, April 17: Redlands to Lodi

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…

2019-03-24 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 12 – Fredericksburg to Plantersville, TX

Sunday morning we went to the Holy Ghost Lutheran Church.  Having been founded by German immigrants, it is not surprising that Fredericksburg is full of Lutheran churches.  We selected this one for two good reasons: we could walk there, and it had an 8:00 am service…

Apparently Lutherans enjoy 8:00 am services much more than Methodists; this service was very well attended.

After church the mens group was having a fundraiser:  drive-thru BBQ, smoked right here on the church property…


We walked back to the Villa and headed out for our drive to Plantersville, TX, located just west of Conroe, TX; along the way we stopped at the LBJ Ranch, both the State Park and the National Park…


The visitor center wasn’t very impressive; they were showing a movie in their theater; it was an NBC TV show that I recall watching in 1966.  It showed mostly idyllic scenes around the ranch with narration by LBJ while driving in his white Lincoln Continental convertible…

We did the driving tour around the ranch, a beautiful place…



Lynda was able to capture a photo of a Cardinal…


Some areas of the ranch were awash with colored weeds…


Free range cattle were everywhere…


The “Texas White House” is closed for renovations…

We drove on.  In Johnson City we drove by the Johnson family home, but there is not much else to see.

Our destination for the day is Bernhardt Winery…


This a Harvest Host site, so we parked the Villa alongside the vineyards; we will spend the night here.


The winery is a lovely place.  Local wine club members come for a picnic and enjoy the grounds.  We did a wine tasting.


They only grow two types of grapes here on the property.  The clay soil and the humidity do not provide a good environment for growing grapes.  The two grapes they grow are made into white wines – nice nose, but not much flavor after that…

The rest of their wines are made from California grapes.  We enjoyed their port and their “Sarah”, a red blend, but we bought their Pinot Noir made from grapes grown north of Lodi, CA.

We returned to the Villa, and we enjoyed a bottle of their Pinot Noir with our happy hour…

There was a lovely sunset our our door over the vineyard…


And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-07-02 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 1 – Russian River Valley

After a good night’s sleep in The Villa, in a pasture of a winery, we were ready to go!  We stopped at Starbucks for morning coffee, and we headed west on Hwy 12. We went through the Sacramento Delta, through the towns of Rio Vista, Fairfield, and Suisun City.  Then through the city of Napa, the Carneros region, and then into Sonoma County.


Yes, it is gorgeous!

As we approached the River Bend RV park we called to see if our campsite was open – we were very early again.  We were told that it was not, so we did a little reconnoitering… On Thursday, we will be pulling our Airstreams from the RV park about 15 miles south to Sebastopol, for a tasting at Kosta Browne; then we are heading south to Paso Robles.  Since we needed space to park four Airstream rigs, I wanted to see for myself.  It was an easy drive, and we arrived in downtown Sebastopol in about 15 minutes.  We found the winery (it is not open to the public, and it is located in an industrial zone).  Happily, we found several streets that appeared to have plenty of space to park our rigs!

We headed back to the RV park, checked in, and met our first caravan participants: Don and Marian Hetzler, from Troy, Ohio.  We found that their Airstream is a twin to ours!


Airstream only made 20-25 of this model between 2000 and 2005: 34′ Classic, with slide-out lounge.  And here we were with two of them!

After settling in we walked abround the park.  We had been here just two weeks ago, so there was not too much new.  The Russian River was still there:


Soon our other caravanners arrived: Nora Stapleton from Costa Mesa, CA, and Diane and Tim Sommerville, from Laguna Niguel, CA.

As is our tradition, we held a GAM, or Get Acquainted Meeting.  This consisted of happy hours, with food and wine, and lots of conversations, getting to know each other.  We also discussed our itinerary while in this location, logistics of driving to the various wineries, and other technical issues.

And an enjoyable time was had by all!


















2018-07-01 – Leaving for the WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan

We left bright and early on Sunday morning.  I love driving in the early morning hours!  We headed west on the 210, which joins the northbound 5 in Sylmar, just as the climb over the Grapevine/Tejon pass (5,000′ elevation) begins…

It was an easy drive. I set the cruise control to 62 mph and never touched the pedals for two and one half hours.  We stopped for breakfast at the bottom of the hill; there was a large parking lot:


Tomorrow we begin leading the WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan.  We will be spending time at some of our favorite wineries in the Russian River Valley (western Sonoma County), Paso Robles, and the Santa Maria/Santa Ynez Valley.  We will be joined by three other Airstreams.  Our “rendezvous” is tomorrow; more on the caravan later.

After breakfast, we headed up the mighty 5, through the central valley, to Lodi.  We pulled into the vineyards of Jessie’s Grove Winery:



We parked in their “pasture”; it made a great camping spot for the evening:


We are staying here due to our membership in “Harvest Hosts”; they find wineries, farms, museums, historical sites, markets, etc., who allow you to camp for free; the gentleman’s agreement is that you spend a little money.  We never shy away from wine tasting, so after getting parked, we wanted over to their grove of oak trees and spent some time (and money) in their tasting room.

After sitting in the car all day, we needed to do a little walking; luckily, there were three more wineries about one mile down the road. We picked one that looked good, and we set out.  It was warm, about 95 degrees, but there was a slight breeze, and it was already cooling off.  We found Lucas Winery, tasted wine, bought a few bottles of a very nice Zinfandel Rose’, and headed back to The Villa…

We enjoyed one bottle of the Zinfandel Rose’ and a few simple snacks and a pizza…  Since we had been on the road since 4:00 am, we turned in early.

And an enjoyable first day was had by all…

































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