|August 8, 2017 California Dreamin'
That's what I will be doing shortly because I am too tired to do anything else. Even though I haven't driven that many miles since leaving Lodi yesterday morning, I have been on roads that require a firm grip on the wheel and every bit of my attention, every single second. CA 12 from I-5 traveling west towards the coast is the worst. It's a very heavily traveled two-lane with either a cement barrier or 2' tall yellow rubber stakes along the center line, and the speed limit is 55. It's like driving through a narrow construction area at high speed for 35 miles, not fun!
It was a huge relief to get to CA 29 which runs north through Napa Valley, passing winery after winery after winery, many of them with familiar names: Menage a Trois, Sutter Home, Simi. Beringer Brothers is a frickin' mansion! As appealing as a drink sounded after driving on 12, it was only 10:00 am. Besides, tasting in Napa costs $20+ vs $5-7 in Lodi. No way!
At the north end of Napa Valley sits Calistoga, a cute town with some beautiful old homes. I walked around town a bit but decided not to stay there as the Passport America campground there was not appealing at all. Instead I headed Wanda north on CA128. This peaceful and very scenic road led me to Alexander Valley Campground, also a half-price Passport park. It sits right on the Russian River and was a pleasant overnight stop after a long day. While strolling around I talked to two couples from CA, and they both want to leave the state because the taxes are so high. They also told me they never drive CA 12, lol.
This morning I headed towards Healdsburg and points south, then onto River Road heading towards the coast. It was like driving though a tunnel of big oak trees interspersed with huge redwoods, so dense it did not allow a glimpse of the Russian River except when I came to a bridge. Many curves later there was the Pacific Ocean! I decided to head south on Hwy. 1 to Point Reyes National Seashore, but it didn't take me long to figure out that I'd rather drive in the opposite direction and be on the INSIDE of the drop-offs. Point Reyes would have to wait.
There are many places to stop and walk to an ocean overlook. The highlight of my day was an unplanned stop at Fort Ross State Park when I turned there to let cars go by me. (I have found the drivers are mostly courteous, giving me a little wave and a toot-toot when I use a turnout to let them by. No, I don't mean a one-fingered wave.) Anyway, it was time for lunch so I paid my entrance fee (less $1 off just for being old), and ended up staying there for two hours. I walked the trail above the ocean, checked out the reconstructed fort which was founded by Russians, and enjoyed seeing a lot of wildflowers and a beautiful red-throated hummingbird.
Californians are so friendly. I had a great conversation at Fort Ross with a young man who was biking from Fort Bragg south to Berkeley. At a beach access stop in Sea Ranch I met Elaine and Bob (and their two dogs) who used to live in Port Townsend, WA before moving back to CA, and they gave me ideas of things to see and warned me about the wind. A lady from Lake Tahoe brought me two campground brochures yesterday after we talked about things to see in Eureka. My wine pourers in Lodi, Nick at Weibel and Rosie at Viaggio, are my new BFFs. Rosie was a hoot, newly divorced after 20 years because her husband was doing “bad stuff” on the internet, even during their three years of counseling. She called it “cheating for lazy husbands”. For some reason people like to tell me stuff. Maybe that is why I was a good recruiter.
About 2:45 I decided to start looking for a campground for the night. All the county and state campgrounds I drove through were full, so when I finally got a cell signal I called the next state park north. No luck. She was very clear you have to reserve sites at least 48 hours in advance; most are booked months ahead and only one park has walk-up spots and it was another 45 miles north. Bummer. No free Harvest Hosts and no public land where I could just camp for free. I decided I'd keep driving until I found a hotel, which I knew would set me back at least $175, when I spotted a KOA sign in Manchester. Luckily they had a spot – for $58 which is ridiculous. Even the state parks are $35 and don't have electricity or showers. Expensive camping but priceless scenery.
August 9 Update
BTW, I loved Lodi and if I wanted to live in CA, which I don't, I would definitely consider Lodi the place to be. It would be a great girls' wine tasting trip destination.
Anyhoo, anticipating more camping issues, I decided to check AirBnB last night. Up popped Richard who can park three small RVs on his redwood forested land a mile from Mendocino. I immediately booked two nights, but will be off the grid for a couple of days. I can't wait!