Monday, August 30, 2010

Bottle Shock

ChateauMontelenaDSCN0271Have you watched the movie, “Bottle Shock”?  Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay won a blind wine tasting in Paris, France in 1976.  The revelation rocked the wine world.  Highly recommend the movie—very entertaining.  We visited Chateau Montelena today, and it was elegant.  Just like “in the movies”.     Look at the wood doors; they are stunning.  Normally, we do not like the sweetness of a reisling, but after enjoying their wine tasting, we purchased a bottle that was light, refreshing and just a touch of sweet.  Nice.

Can the oak trees get any bigger than here in Napa Valley?  They are enormous and provide welcome shade.  The V. Sattui Winery has a deli, cheese, and wine to buy at the winery and eat outdoors in their beautiful gardens surrounded by aged stone buildings under the shade of twisting, towering oaks.  Yummy panini sandwiches.  Spicy Thai noodle salad.  Tasty red wine.  We did not want to leave; in fact, we lingered there for two hours.

Another lovely day in Napa Valley, but buying all this wine is getting expensive!   We. Must. Stop.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Be Thirsty, My Friend

IMG_0635After Mike got a great haircut at Bloom Salon in downtown Napa this afternoon (thank you, Maria!), we walked over t0 the Napa Blues, Brews & BBQ.   There were three musical stages, but our favorite was the one playing good, ‘ole Stevie Ray Vaughn (man, I miss that guy).  We picked up  a couple of glasses of wine from The Bounty Hunter winery booth and enjoyed the afternoon.

IMG_0649 I have no idea how we lucked out, but we ended up sitting in the rib-eating contest area right behind the contestants.  Ten Napa Valley winemakers sat down elbow to elbow and devoured as many ribs as they could in a limited time.  Not your conventional way to watch a contest, but it was a fun, different perspective.  The girls are holding up signs indicating how many ribs have been eaten by each contestant.
IMG_0638Forget all the fancy micro-brews, Mike’s favorite is Coors Light.  Of course, there were two Coors Light girls and Mike jumped in for his picture.  Knowing this is Smitty’s favorite brew, this one is for you buddy!  Wish you and Judy were here!  (Have you noticed how all the poses these days have the Paris Hilton stance?  Interesting.  Maybe I will try it for my next few pictures…will it make me look slimmer?)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tapping Into Napa Valley

IMG_0621Looking for a rustic dining table on wheels made with Napa winery markings? How about unusual flavored meat rubs like Fennel Spice? We found these and more at Napastyle in Yountville, California (that’s me in the picture “going in”).  In a vine-covered brick building with wood-beamed ceilings, former Food Network chef Michael Chiarello offers his idea of Napa style.  And I am a fan.  Although Napa Valley and Yountville, in particular, are the epitome of yuppie-ville and mucho dinero, I still love the flavors and decor that says Napa casual. 

IMG_0619Restaurants are everywhere in this small town from the medium priced to the wildly expensive.  The famous French Laundry restaurant is located in Yountville—eating here would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience—just can’t bring myself to spend $500 on dinner for two.  I did not take picture of the restaurant for fear they would charge for the image (just kidding, I was just too lazy to pull out the camera).  We chose “instead” to eat at Pacific Blues which is a happening little place positioned for great people watching from their deck.   (Picture of Pacific Blues on right, the two-story building in the distance is the old rail station.)

By the way, I splurged on a tin of coarse salt, “Jurassic Salt” for $12.50.   I am walking away with my idea of Napa style (and a price tag I can afford).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Napa Valley Wine Train

To get a better feel for Napa Valley and enjoy dinner and wine at the same time, we took advantage of the Napa Valley Wine Train.  The train depot is located only three short blocks from our home base at the Napa Valley Expo RV Park.  We hopped aboard an air-conditioned restored vintage train taking us on a three-hour journey through some of the most beautiful vineyards and small towns.  Towns known for great restaurants and wine such as St. Helena, Calistoga, and Yountville. 

We arrived at the train depot at 10:30 a.m. for registration.  As we waited for our train departure, we were served some local wine with a short seminar given by their vintner.  The train left the station promptly at 11:30 a.m.  As the train left Napa, we ordered our meal (yellow fin tuna—excellent) with a David Mondavi chardonnay.  After dinner was finished, we were invited to another rail car set-up in lounge fashion.  Our comfy swivel chair faced the window and we were served dessert and coffee.  There is also a wine tasting bar, but we took our time with the sweet Tiramisu (heaven in your mouth) and perfectly brewed coffee. 

Our trip accomplished exactly what we wanted.  A relaxing day after yesterday’s whirlwind of activities, an escape from the heat; and most importantly, getting an idea how we will plan our outings during the remainder of our stay in Napa.

I am trying to talk Mike into a mud bath at a spa in Calistoga.  Do you think he will go for it?  No, I do not think he will do it, either.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

San Francisco Heat

IMG_0594DSCN0226Cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf,  Ghiradelli Square,  Pier 39, Union Square, the Market/Ferry Building and 100 degrees.  Lots of sights, great time people watching, but way too hot.  We thought we would escape the heat in Napa Valley by seeing San Francisco today.  It was supposed to be 15 – 20 degrees cooler there.  It was not—it was hot.   

IMG_0587IMG_0577We left the ferry terminal at 9:45 a.m. from Vallejo (only 14 miles from our RV Park) for our boat ride to downtown San Francisco.  (Picture on the left is the Vallejo Ferry Terminal.)  This a great way to travel downtown with no traffic or parking hassle.  It is a relaxing hour ride with the added bonus of sailing by Alcatraz Island and a picture perfect view of the Golden Gate bridge.   The bridge is usually shrouded in fog.  


Although, I have been to San Francisco on business on number of occasions, it has been 40+ years since I was here on vacation with my folks and enjoyed all the tourist attractions.  A lot has changed.  An incredible amount of people visit this city and we witnessed the volume today—mind boggling.  The cable car ride back then involved the conductor joking with the passengers and pointing out the sights.  Not today, but it is still a thrill to ride up and down the steep hills.

And let us not forget (or maybe we should) two butt-naked guys in front of the terminal building.  They were protesting something, but I did not pause to look.  They were not young and buff, if you know what I mean.  Welcome to San Fran!  You gotta' love it.

The weather will begin to cool down by this Thursday (thank you).  We went from mid-60 degrees on Sunday (Humboldt State Park) to 110 degrees (in Napa) today—what a jolt!  Tomorrow, we are planning to take the Wine Train through the valley in an air-conditioned rail car.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Leaving the Northern California Redwoods

DSC_0091This last week we stayed at the Ancient Redwoods RV Park, and we both agree it was our favorite RV Park this summer.  The park has 49 level-paved, big rig friendly spaces with room for slide-outs, 50-amp hook ups, laundry, gift shop, convenience store and The Immortal Tree, a 1,000 year old redwood that has survived fire, flood and the logger’s axe.  We purchased a beautiful redwood burl vase (with a glass insert to hold water for flowers) from the gift shop.   Is it not gorgeous?

The park is located one mile north of Redcrest, California, on the Avenue of the Giants, sitting among the tallest and oldest living trees in the world.  We could easily stay here another week; the weather has been perfect—daytime in the low 70’s and sunny.  The nights never got below 56 degrees, and it is so quiet at night.  Just an occasional hoot of an owl.

The park’s small size lends itself to be a very social place.  We met some extremely nice people here including Floyd (the camp host/caretaker) and Dave, Ginny and Alice, the dog (recent full-timers).  Thanks for the best blackberry cobbler, Dave and Ginny!  (Note:  They picked the blackberries right here in the park!)

IMG_0564Ferndale, California was our day’s outing.  The entire Main Street has been designated a National Register Historic District and includes interesting art galleries, gift shops and restaurants all housed in quaint Victorian-era buildings.  The ornate homes were built in the 1800s by successful dairy farmers and are called “butterfat palaces”.  The movie “The Majestic” with Jim Carrey was filmed here.  A must-see movie.   Did you check out the palm tree in the picture?  Fun day.

Pictures below were taken in our park and our site (notice one of the pictures is our gnome playing a “Joe and the Volcano” re-enactment):

Friday, August 20, 2010

Technology – Our Top Ten Picks

IMG_0559Technology has played an important role in our life; especially now that we are mobile and without a home base to rely upon.    The items included below have contributed to a stress-free life and provided more enjoyment to our already enjoyable lifestyle.  (This list does not  include technology directly associated with our RV.  That is another discussion.)  Here are our top ten picks (in priority order):

  1.  Cell phones.  Important for emergencies and an immediate link to family, friends and services. 

2.  Laptop Computer.  Laptops today do everything (except vacuum)—surfing the net, composing e-mail and the blog, Facebook, storing/organizing photographs, recipes, researching products and the list goes on and on.

3.  Internet Satellite Dish.  Internet access is a must for researching places to stay, places to see, stores, and services.  Many full-time RV’ers use the RV park internet connection, but we prefer the security and reliable connection of our own dish.

4.  Television via Satellite Dish.  We still like a little passive entertainment.   After all, we are not on vacation; full-timing is a lifestyle.   The ability to record television shows on a DVR is also a must for us.  Not only can you watch a television episode on your schedule, but fast-forwarding through commercials is a sanity saver.

5.  GPS (road).  We do well navigating with maps, but GPS makes travel (and life) so much easier.   Making a wrong turn with a large RV in tow can be…a bitch challenging.

6.  Digital Cameras.  The small “no bigger than my hand” digital camera to the more sophisticated SLR camera make it easy to take multitudes of photographs and allows picture-taking to become a daily habit.  We love re-living our travels through pictures.

7.  Digital Clock/Temperature Gauge Combo.  We have two; one for the outside temperature, and another located in our 5th wheel “basement”  When we are camped at a high elevation or during the winter, it is important to know if our pipes are still above freezing.  The receivers/clocks are  located indoors next to the bed and the reading projects to the ceiling.  A quick look above keeps us informed.

8.  Kindle (eBook).  Clutter is your enemy in a 300 square foot living space.  The Kindle helps you avoid maintaining an inventory of space-hogging paperbacks.  Plus, you can avoid a trip to the store—the Kindle downloads a bestseller in 30 seconds.

9.  Printer/Copier/Scanner (Wireless).  Wires are irritating and why put up with them with the invention of wireless capability?  Printing out the next RV Park confirmation, copying a receipt for a mail-in rebate, or scanning in a document for an e-mail attachment are functions we have used.

10.  GPS (trail).  Hiking and walking have become a daily event—anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.  A trail GPS keeps us on track and tells us how far we have traveled.   And the geocaching capability makes our hike that much more exciting.

Bonus Item #1:  MP3 Player.  Our iPod stores thousands and thousands of songs on a tiny device (another huge space-saver).  And you can put together a playlist to suit your mood—a little piano jazz for an intimate dinner, blues with our BBQ and brews and new RV Park friends, yoga-themed tunes for morning stretches—you pick the songs and the length.

Bonus Item #2:  XBox.  When you absolutely cannot get a satellite signal for television or internet, the XBox has been our salvation.  Plus, it is tons of fun.  The Lego game series (Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Harry Potter) are a kick in the pants.

Well, there you have it.  Our top ten (and a couple more).  Just ten years ago, half of this list would not be available—just a twinkle in a geek’s eye.  We will always be on the look-out for new or improved technology, but what we have is much appreciated.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gathering Our Pinecones

Of the 100 largest trees in the world, 70 are located in the Rockefeller Redwood Forest.  This was our trail location today.  We hiked about two hours through the largest untouched old growth coast redwoods.  

Lots of large animal droppings on the trail.  We decided it was elk.  That is our story and we are sticking to it.

This was by far the warmest day we have experienced this summer--around 80 degrees.  Ended the hike with a healthy dew.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sum-Sum-Summertime Produce

IMG_0548 One of the many positive things of traveling in rural locations is the fresh produce you find in little road-side stands.  Since it was time to stock up on a few groceries, we stopped first at The Corn Crib produce stand (  We were not disappointed—they had bright red ripe tomatoes—the kind that are warm and juicy bursting with flavor.   They were just picked this morning.  And we did not stop there—we also picked up snap peas, green beans,  and peaches.  I am loving my vegetables again.
We took a drive down the Avenue of the Giants in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  The big redwoods are practically right on the road; in fact, a few trees had some healthy gashes.  I am guessing a few vehicle mirrors were lost at some point.   This road runs along side Highway 101 and is meant to be a scenic alternate route.  Meaning it is to be driven somewhat slowly and savored.  So, why do people speed down the road, pass or follow on your bumper.  Slow down and enjoy the redwoods!

We also stopped at the State Park visitor center for some information on the park trails.  The volunteer at the front desk was very knowledgeable and eager to point out the special sights to see.  Side Note:  I always have to chuckle at the amount of “flair” the park volunteers wear.  You know, the buttons, pins, and badges tacked on to their vests.  I wonder how and why this fashion trend got started?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ah-Pah Trail

IMG_0546One last short walk in the Redwood National Park on the Ah-Pah Interpretive Trail.   You can not call it a hike since it was only a half mile, a stroll through the redwoods was more like it.   We took our travel gnome there to say one last good-bye to his cousin “Red”.  We’re leaving tomorrow morning for the Humboldt Redwoods State Park about 100 miles south of here. 

IMG_0543Oh,  I have learned so much about redwoods these past few weeks that I was able to pinpoint the year my mother was born on the appropriate tree ring (see picture on right).  That will get a rise out her—I will probably get a phone call tomorrow morning when she reads our blog.  Good thing I am hundreds and hundreds of miles away.

We have really enjoyed and appreciated our coastal northern California visit.  All across the country the weather has been sweltering, and here it has barely reached 65 degrees each day.  We had a beautiful view from our back window of forested hills.  Every evening and on to the morning the fog rolled up the hills, burning off by noon.  Really pleasant.  I will miss it, but we’re ready to move on!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

If a Tree Falls in a Forest…?

I always thought the philosophical question, “"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" was the dumbest thing I ever heard.  I know the question is all about reality and perception, blah, blah, blah.    Seriously, a tree makes a sound when it falls—especially a 10-foot in diameter redwood—most likely a very large crashing sound.  Like the one that fell last night.  The Newton B. Drury parkway was closed today while workers worked to clear the large redwood from the road.   This was our planned route for the next hike.  Fortunately, the south end of the road was open up to the Prairie Creek State Park visitor’s center and we were able to hike from there.  In fact, starting from the center made a much better hike than what we originally planned.

IMG_0523Our hike started out by going under the parkway.






While the  road was closed, Mike practiced the sobriety test. 





Our hike took us to “Big Tree”, 287 feet tall, 23.7 feet in diameter and a circumference of 68 feet.   One of the big, bad boys of redwoods.


Since we first arrived at the redwoods, it felt like I was here before…  Finally, I remembered!  The Ewok forest from the Star Wars movie, “Return of the Jedi”.  I did a computer Google search to be sure; and confirmed it was filmed here in the redwoods.  Very cool.


These trees do not rot and they are resistant to bugs—this path cut out (see picture below) through a fallen redwood will last for many years to come.


We are truly in awe of the redwoods.  Unless you have spent some time here, it is hard to describe the emotion you feel being among them.  There is a remarkable article and insightful pictures in the October 2009 issue of the National Geographic on Redwoods.  In fact, the article is titled, “Redwoods”.  Here is the link:

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the saving of the redwoods.  Read the article and reach your own conclusions.  But, in my mind, this is a treasure that should never be lost.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Round ‘Em Up!

Camper Corral 1Our RV home location since August 2 (leaving on August 16) has been the Klamath Camper Corral RV Park smack dab in the middle of the Redwood National and State parks of northern California.  The park has a different approach for RV spots; they have you park on the grass--most places want to keep you off the grass.  It is really quite nice with lots of trees and blackberry bushes.  And August is the time for ripe blackberries—Sweet!

The place is huge with around 25 acres allowing for lots of room between sites.  Really, it feels like a close friend or relative’s acreage  with lots of room to run and play.  So laid back.   They have a big barn with a pool table, ping pong, and a pizza parlor inside.  Outside includes shuffle board, a basketball court, and small swimming pool.  This seems to be a big family reunion destination and a fisherman’s paradise (you can walk to the Klamath River) and everyone is having a good time.  You would expect it to be noisy; but promptly at 10 p.m, it is lights out and the place is quiet.   And extremely dark—we are miles from any major populated area.

There are several black bears that come into the campground at night, but we have yet to see them.  Apparently, they make the rounds to the fish cleaning station, the garbage cans and back through the blackberry bushes that surround the campground.  One night we left grease in our BBQ drip pan and they licked it clean leaving a few claw marks on the tin.  So, yes, we believe they are here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Trails Never End…

IMG_0508We headed to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove for our daily hike through the redwoods.  Across the footbridge from the parking area was an easy one-mile loop through the grove.  We went around twice--first, because it was so beautiful; and secondly, to get some needed exercise.  The fog was heavy, the moisture dripped from the leaves and branches like rain.  Occasionally, a shaft of sunlight would pierce the mist.  Magic. 

The rhododendrons are the size of trees.  The blooming period is over for rhodies, but from the number of large buds, I am guessing the blossoms are spectacular from May to June.  And talk about ferns—holy cow! They were huge, close to five feet high.

IMG_0497I did not blog yesterday, because it was a bit of a disappointment.  We were so excited try the gondola ride at the “Trees of Mystery” (private park located in Klamath, California).  The brochure explained that the gondola took you up and through the redwood canopy to the top of the ridge.  The private park also claimed to have trails through “towering matriarchs”.  No doubt, they did have extremely large redwoods (but, we saw redwoods for the last week for free that were just as big).  If the gondola ride went through redwoods, they were very small and we missed them.  This part of the park was obviously logged in the not too distant past.  The ride itself was kind of fun, I guess.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tour-Thru Tree

009Maybe a quarter of a mile from our RV park is the Klamath, California tour-thru tree.  Notice they call it the tour-thru tree because nothing but a very small car can drive through.  We went for a bike ride this afternoon and made a detour to this tourist attraction.  It only costs a buck to ride your bicycle through. 

Note:  This is one of three drive through (or tour through) trees in Northern California. 

The tree is approximately 735 years old, and at some time, the tree was scarred by fire.  Because of the size and fire damage the tree was spared from logging in the late 1960’s.  It pains me to think these old trees were logged in mass amounts.   It is hard enough looking at the man-made hole in the tree.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Redwood Racing Stripe

IMG_0488We drove north 20 miles to Crescent City and another 10 miles east to the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.  Our goal was the 17-mile unpaved route through more towering old-growth redwoods.   This road winds around the large redwoods, probably in an attempt to preserve as many trees as possible.  It does make navigating  in a large 1-ton truck a little tricky, but the pay-back for viewing groves of redwoods was well worth the trip.  Today’s joke was we may come back with a redwood racing stripe down the side of the truck.

IMG_0479We stopped at the Stout Grove trail and took a short hike.  Seriously, these trees are monsters.   The trail winds through the trees standing and fallen.   Since this state park is back from the coast a bit, the temperature was much warmer and no fog.  Nice for hiking. 

For such a remote location and rough road, it was surprising to see the large number of people hiking and driving through.   This was a single lane road with occasional turn-outs.  With so many on the road, it made for some interesting driving.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Got Redwood?

DSCN0133This afternoon was sunny, but it is not the norm for the Redwood forest.  The Coast Redwoods require an enormous amount of moisture to survive.  According to the literature we received from the visitor center, a single old-growth coast redwood tree consumes up to 500 gallons of water each day!  It rains a lot in the winter; but in the summer, the trees depend on fog.
We are both blown away by the magnificence of the Redwoods.  The tallest trees in the world.  You almost need to lay on the ground to see the tree tops.  The bark is reddish brown and the rough bark reminds me of a licorice twist.  Not the color, I’m talking about the texture.

DSCN0129We took the Coastal Drive in the morning.  It is a narrow road with steep hills and curves--mostly gravel.  The views can be stunning, but our timing was off.  We hit the thickest fog when we took this drive.  No point taking pictures…

 IMG_0464The Coastal Drive turned into the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.  There are a number of trails off the parkway,  and we stopped to hike from the Prairie Creek Visitor Center (Prairie Creek Redwood State Park).   Rough hewn bridges crossed a number of fast flowing creeks, the trail zig-zagged up through the giant redwoods and then led you back down through a fern grotto.  

What a treat.  We are so grateful to the people who had the passion and foresight to save these magnificent trees.

Current RV Park:  Camper Corral RV Park - Klamath, California

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Surfboards @ Costco

You know you are in California when you find surfboards for sale at Costco…

We drove to Eureka today to visit the Lithia dealer.  When we purchased our Ford F350 in 2004 from Lithia Ford in Richland, Washington, we also bought their lifetime oil change package.   The purchase has been well worth the money for us.   As long as we find a Lithia dealer, we’ll have free oil changes along with a fresh filter.

Eureka, California is not an impressive town—a little grimy and down on its luck (maybe the recent legalization of medicinal marijuana will give it a shot in the arm).

But, it did have one bright spot—a cute little restaurant called Brick & Fire.  The best pizza ever.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Groceries and Whiskey

I did a double-take at Safeway in Crescent City, California today when I saw a bottles of whiskey, rum and tequila in aisle 12.  I forgot Washington and Oregon are on the short list for state-controlled distilled spirits in the United States and the remaining states simply retail from your local grocer.  After living in Washington State and buying at state run liquor stores for so many years, it seems odd to pick up a gallon of Bacardi Rum along with your produce.  One stop shopping—what a concept.   I like it.  And, it has been a while since we shopped at a large grocery with lots of choices in all food categories.  We actually had fun buying our weekly stash of eats today…IMG_0455

The visitor center for the Redwood National and State Park is located in Crescent City where we stopped to gather maps and  get our National Park Passport stamp.  They also carried a variety of adjustable canvas ball caps with a tasteful Redwood Park design, and I’ve been looking for one to wear on windy days.  Nothing more irritating than having hair in your eyes.   No doubt, you’ll be seeing that green cap in future pictures.

A quick drive-by of the lighthouse at Crescent City, and we headed back home to our RV Park in Klamath, California about 20 miles south of Crescent City.  We’re set to BBQ chicken, cook up fresh corn on the cob and drink a little vino.
I’ll have to describe our new RV Park soon—Camper Corral RV Park.  We love it!  Roomy. Quiet. Friendly.  Laid-Back.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oregon Coast – Replay

We are leaving the Oregon Coast tomorrow for the Redwood National Park in Northern California.   We enjoyed our two months here starting in Astoria, Oregon and traveling south 362 miles on Highway 101 seeing soaring ocean cliffs, sea stacks,  forests, farmland and gigantic sand dunes ending at Brookings, Oregon.  We had great walks on the beach, hiking in the forest, running the river rapids, and challenging golf.  For the last 50+ years, Mike and I spent summers in our hometown with desert heat over 100 degrees in the summer.  The coolness and green of the Oregon Coast has been a nice change.   It’s easy to understand why the Oregon Coast made it on the list for “1,000 Places To See Before You Die”.   It is a treasure.
IMG_0454Under the shade of a salty pine, our gnome is saying good-bye to the Oregon Coast.
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