February 23 2016 Morgan Hill to Calistoga

It was moving day today so we broke camp in Morgan Hill and headed north. We started north on 101 until we got to I-880 which runs through part of Silicon Valley and Oakland. Once we passed the east end of the Bay Bridge, the highway designation becomes I-80 and we continued northbound until we crossed the Carquinez Strait at Vallejo. Shortly after that we exited and proceeded northwest on CA-29 through Napa, St. Helena and finally to Calistoga. We traveled mostly at midday and the traffic was pretty good except for what seems to be an extraordinarily high number of idiots on the road. These folks have little regard for lane discipline, happily passing traffic on the right, using the slow lane. Merging with traffic when they are entering the freeway is a lost art for these folks who enter the high speed lanes substantially below the speed of traffic and only accelerate after they finally realize people are trying to pass them by bailing into all the adjacent lanes. At that point, they accelerate, sometimes to almost terrifying speeds, before falling in behind some motorist blocking the right lane while driving 25 mph less than all the other cars. They may be a bit short on attention span. We only had to slam on the brakes a few times to make room for these important folks.
Once we made it to CA-29, things became less hectic. 29 initially has two lanes each way and ample signals but as progress is made northward, the road gets skinnier and the signals disappear except where some are installed in St. Helena and Calistoga. It is a very nice drive through the whine country even when towing a trailer. The wineries and houses are beautiful. At Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga, we turned off and found our way to the Calistoga RV Park and Napa County Fairgrounds. This park mostly resembles a large RV parking lot although there are lots of naked trees. They may throw ample shade in the spring, summer and fall but they look like the skeletons of deformed people in the winter. Recent rain has not been kind to this place; there is an abundance of mud. They do, however, have full hookups, only cost $25 per night and the park boasts of having wi-fi.
We set up all our utility connections, lit off the satellite antenna and climbed into the Barbarian Invader for a nap. Neither of us fell asleep but we did get some drinking in and had wraps for lunch.

February 22 2016 Prep for departure

Today I took apart our water system and removed some trailer stabilizers in preparation for our departure from Morgan Hill tomorrow. Tomorrow we will be going to Calistoga up in California’s wine country or whine country. We have found if we get out early and complete our day’s drive before about 1:00 PM, we may get better camping spot in the destination park. We will see if that works out tomorrow.
We did have time for Peggy to go to a Columbia sportswear store where she perused the selections before leaving empty-handed. It was strange. We also had time to pick up some food to go from a place called A.J.’s in Gilroy. We took the food to Redwood Retreat Road to again see if we could spot some wild turkeys. We were rewarded with getting to scope out two herds (flocks?, bevies?, murders?) of turkeys and again the males were putting on very impressive mating displays that seemed to be ignored by all.
We got back in time to spot a dog-walking miscreant cutting through our neighbor’s campsite where the miscreant stopped long enough to let her dog pinch a loaf. She had just started to wander off when a she heard a voice say, “Hey! Pick up that shit!” In an RV park it is quite difficult to pinpoint the origin of sounds so the woman looked around, unable to find the source of the command. She must have thought it was her conscience. She backtracked to the locale of the fresh dog poop, studying the area for clues. She spent about five minutes looking for the apparently well-camouflaged crap. She finally wandered away with a plastic something in her hand. I feel great about getting her to do the right thing.

February 21 2016 Frisco

Today we drove up to see my brother, Pete, in San Francisco. He has a gorgeous house directly across the Great Highway from Golden Gate NRA. Nobody will be building across the street from him blocking his excellent view of the surf breaking against the west coastline of San Francisco because it is owned by the government or us. After only getting bollixed up a few times in transit, we arrived in front of Pedro’s house and went up the stairs to pound on the door.
Pretty soon Peter’s grinning face appeared and invited us in. Once inside, we found Pedro’s now all grown up and quite striking daughter, Maddie, and her beau, Jack. Making sure we didn’t do anything suspicious was a new dog, Indie, and a cat whose name I can’t remember because I’m ancient. Indie was a little worried about us but soon figured out we were harmless and almost wooden in action so we didn’t get bit. After a few minutes, Pete’s wife, Karen, came back from a vital re-supply mission and joined the hobnobbing.
I have always preferred to dine in an old San Francisco restaurant called Tommy’s Joynt at Geary and Van Ness. After fooling around for a bit at Pete’s, he was nice enough to put Peggy, Maddie, Jack and me in the car and set off for the Joynt. We went in all directions getting there, due to the unique, convoluted San Francisco roads but ultimately we pulled up near Tommy’s and hopped out to gorge ourselves. Tommy’s has very strange interior decorations, unlike almost every other eating establishment I have visited. Hanging from the ceilings one can find hubcabs, bike parts, an artificial leg and other oddities. The walls are completely covered with informational and beer signs, little displays of things like medicine bottles from the past and other items not usually utilized in the interior decorating trade. The sandwiches are simple and very tasty. The beer selection is superb. They have a regular bar for those preferring booze.
Peter picked up the food tab which was very generous on his part. After a leisurely feed and some staining of my shirt, we hopped back into Pete’s chorro and wandered over to the casting pools in Golden Gate Park. The ponds were pretty slick and the park itself was absolutely gorgeous. Their grounds crew must be top-notch because the place was beautifully maintained. Pulling away from here we drove by some buffalo (actually bison) that they have penned up in the park. Strange place to see these critters. Back to Pedro’s for some more light banter and then we headed back to Morgan Hill. We had good traffic all the way and managed to get back to the park right before dark. Good day today.
A couple pictures can be seen by clicking here

February 20 2016 Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory east of San Jose was our destination for today. We left our place in Morgan Hill and headed north on 101. Near San Jose the retarded Garmin directed us to exit and take Quimby Road east to County Road 130. The first mile or two of Quimby was a multi-lane parkway but soon it shriveled to a two-lane blacktop before morphing into a twisting upward incline with a width just inches wider than our four ton, 21 foot long, 6 foot wide F-250 pickup. We crept around miles of corners with sight lines of about 10 feet but, fortunately, we only encountered a few vehicles going the other or wrong way. After going up 1500 feet and then dropping about 1000 feet, we finally joined 130 for another 2500 feet of climbing on skinny, terrifying, poorly paved road to the observatory complex.
Although the access road is doo-doo, the views from the top of the mountain are spectacular. When it is clear, you can see Yosemite looking east and San Francisco looking northwest. It was clear enough for our visit to see about 1/4 of California. The Lick Observatory main building houses two telescope domes with observation slits, a 38″ refractor telescope and a 40 inch reflector. We waited around for a tour and were treated to a trip into the dome of the refractor built by old Lick himself, back in the 1890’s. The thing still works but its capabilities have been overwhelmed by the intervening 125 years of technological improvements.
After the tour and some impoverishment in the gift shop, Peg and I walked over to a nearby dome housing a 120 inch reflector telescope passing a small dome housing something called an automatic planet finder. Every clear night, the APF scans space looking not for stars but for the planets surrounding those stars. According to the staff, the APF has found thousands. At the 120 inch telescope, astronomy nerds were working on the telescope despite it being late on a Sunday. The nerds looked like the kind of guys that rarely leave the mountain, preferring to get as much time on the telescope as possible.
It takes a while to get to and leave this place. The last 18 miles of road to the observatory complex is mostly single-lane although some sections have a center line separating the two half-lanes from each other. Just this 18 mile section requires an hour to drive so if you are in a hurry and not riding a motorcycle, forget it. Once on top, though, the views and the observatory are great. It is free with the exception of the fuel and time required to get here.
A couple photos can be seen by clicking here

February 19 Redwood Retreat Road

Today we intended to loaf around for most of the day and we were pretty successful. We got in long showers in our shower pipe, had a big breakfast and settled down for some protracted lounging. After a while, however, we got bored so we hopped into the truck for a local spin.
Not too far down Watsonville Road from our campground there is a side road that takes you a back way up Hecker Pass, which we have repeatedly traversed on our way southwest on CA-152 to Watsonville. We turned off Watsonville Road onto Redwood Retreat Road for about 150 yards when we spotted a big flock of turkeys not far from the road. The males must be getting a bit frisky because they are offering up gorgeous displays of their full, breath-holding size and fanned tail feathers for the females. The females seemed pretty uninterested and merely continued their busy pecking for treats in the grass.
Not 300 yards further we spotted another flock of turkeys numbering more than 30 that were calmly strutting along with the females showing their usual disdain for the males’ exuberant displays and showboating. Another quarter mile up the road and we spotted half a dozen deer browsing around some farmer’s pasture. They looked pretty robust for wintertime. There seems to be no shortage of wildlife in this tiny valley.
We soon turned off Redwood Ridge onto Madonna Mountain Road which initially looked great with real paving and yellow lines running down the center. Very quickly, however, the yellow lines disappeared because the road became too skinny to support two lanes. Not too far after that, the paving quit. We continued up the dirt road for a mile or two before chickening out, turning around and retreating back to the house for a sip and a puff. The turkeys had split by the time we passed their former location so I was glad we got to see them on the way in.
For pictures, click here

February 18 2016 Nothingness

Today we were slugs. We woke up after 8:00, drank fortified coffee, cooked up a big breakfast and otherwise did nothing productive. It was great.
Last night it rained quite a bit and it was still going at it until about mid-day. There were no leaks in the trailer and that is always good. We have been extremely fortunate in this regard.

February 17 2016 17 Mile Drive

The day started with Peggy and me heading over Hecker Pass again and, like every other time we go, we stopped to see the sea otters in the lagoon at Moss Landing. We weren’t disappointed. These animals seem like they only have a good time.
After that we headed south to Monterey again to see if we could take a spin on a very scenic section of the coastline called the 17 Mile Drive which wanders around through the ritzy Pebble Beach golf course and through neighborhoods filled with big ass houses. Last week our efforts to take this drive were foiled by golfers, their bat slaves and watching wannabes who apparently couldn’t be bothered by slow-moving traffic a few miles away.
Today we were successful. We gave the gate troll $10 and we were in. We went in the south entrance where the first few miles of the road pass through some skinny conifers and sections with glimpses of houses obscured by big ostentatious gates to keep out the ordinary folks. Soon the road breaks out of the hilltop scroungy forest and into a vista of the entire down slope landscape and a gorgeous coastline beyond. The water between the shoreline rock formations and the beach is turquoise. The wind was blowing offshore and perfectly formed blue waves spewed spray that blew into the air and formed rainbows as it was blown over the shoulder. It was pretty spectacular.
Peggy and I took advantage of the many coastline pullouts along the drive, giving us time to photograph the sights and explore the beach. We spotted big groups of sea lions that were hauled out on the offshore rock formations. We spotted numerous otters fooling around in the seaweed clumps and floating over the swells while laying on their backs. As usual, the adolescents were roughhousing. There is a great variety of gulls, cormorants, kiwi-looking guys with long beaks that were digging around the shoreline rocks and we spotted a few hawks. Peg spotted some deer that were apparently getting fat on some of the most expensive grass in the world as they dined alongside the fairway.
The beach sections have lots of open mussel shells that are dark blue, big snail or hermit crab shells, small abalone shells and the broken bodies of some quite colorful urchins mixed in with the extraordinarily clean sand.
We drove the entire route both ways and the sights were magnificent along this section of private road. The houses near the golf courses or the coastline are massive structures that I doubt even their owners have explored. They have big towers, copper fences, acre-sized residential footprints, stainless gates, ample lot sizes and beautiful views but terrible access. There is one road in and out and the speed limit is 20 mph. The multiple golf courses surrounded by the drive are a luscious emerald color except where there are ponds, streams or sand dune hazards. This place offers truly wonderful views and we think we definitely got our $10 worth.
We departed through the north gate into the town of Pacific Grove where we clogged up the skinny streets with Charlotte’s ample volume while checking out the beautiful old houses sprinkled around. We then hopped onto CA-1 north headed back toward our campground. Below Watsonville, we pulled off the west side of 1 to shop at a fresh fruit stand. The fruit may be okay but getting back on 1 northbound late on a weekday is almost impossible since both the northbound lane and the southbound lane were filled with endless lines of traffic doing about 50. We quickly abandoned our effort to turn left across the highway and instead went south, exited east, hung a U-turn, turned right and headed north on 1. As we passed the fruit stand, we saw the car that was trying to turn north in front of us still stuck on the west side of the road.
Not too long after we got back to the Invader in Morgan Hill, the weather turned to shit and it started to rain quite hard. I’m glad Peg checked and fixed any roof defects yesterday.
For pix, click here

February 16 2016 Mo’ maintenance

Today was beautiful with clear skies and warm weather. It probably would have been a good day to explore but we had some maintenance issues we wanted to resolve before it rains and the weather goons on TV say that rain is coming. A couple times in the last two months we have noted evidence of a tiny roof leak near the shower skylight when towing through heavy rain. We are not fans of leaks so we addressed them today. It was not fascinating.
We have also identified a loose trim issue on one side of the trailer and it is getting the ax today, as well. I also needed to address a nasty little piece of broken plastic in our spacious shower (about 2 square feet) which will be fixed by using my Dremel. Other than these niggling issues, the Barbarian Invader has been a remarkably good purchase with little maintenance required. Anything that has gone wrong in our two years of travel has been able to be fixed by an idiot with simple tools because I fixed them.

February 15 2016 Up your Highway 1

Today started out comfortably warm with clear skies so we went exploring. We had a quick breakfast then piled into Charlotte for a drive toward the coast. The route through Hecker Pass on CA-152 to Watsonville has sort of become a favorite for us with redwood patches on the east side of the hills and expansive views on the west. We moseyed through the pass and then headed down the hill to Moss Landing where we had spotted sea otters doing otter stuff a few days ago.
We arrived and were delighted to find the otters were right about where we found them previously and they were up to their delightful otter antics. The adult otters were idly floating on their backs. We think this is the position they take when napping. The adolescent otters were engaged in furious horseplay and roughhousing and are just a delight to watch. This species seems to have a very good life. Surrounding the otter clan was big herds of sea lions mostly sleeping on the sand and a tremendous variety of birds. All this wildlife was hanging out in the lagoon for cooling water for the Moss Landing power plant. There must be an abundance of food in this lagoon because predation seems to be the activity of the day.
After scoping out the otters for a while, we started north on CA-1 toward Pacifica near Frisco. I may have used faulty reasoning to select today as an exploration day on the coast because it is the day the government has decided is the day to celebrate the birthday of some long-dead presidents and almost everyone in the central portion of California elected to go the coast. Although the weather was absolutely beautiful, the traffic was horrible. In Santa Cruz, we ran into bumper-to-bumper traffic long before we entered the town limits. This terrible traffic continued until quite a ways outside Santa Cruz but it eventually thinned out and we continued north through some truly spectacular coastline to Half Moon Bay. Here the traffic again turned to doo-doo for a while but once we left town it again cleared out allowing progress without braking. All the little dirt turnouts at the multiple state parks along this route were filled with sun worshipers enjoying the magnificent weather and stunning coastline views.
Soon we arrived in Pacifica where we wanted to take a look at the San Francisco RV Resort which ended up being very unresort-like. The RVs in the resort were parked so close to each other that only air and victims of starvation could get between them. There may have been upgraded RV spots at the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean in the past but California has had some El Nino weather this year and any clifftop spots are now cliff bottom spots, having fallen onto the beach through the pesky and inconvenient process of erosion. There are three fences installed at the brink in an attempt to keep the stupid from disappearing over the edge. From the resort parking lot I was able to get some photos of an adjacent property’s clifftop deck jutting out over the ocean unsupported by anything other than air and the deck’s ability to bend. We will not be staying here unless properly bribed.
From Pacifica we got onto I-280 south back to Morgan Hill TT, making a stop at the local Costco on the way. I think we spent more this trip to Costco than ever before maybe due to including $130 worth of booze in our grocery purchases.
Got a few pix if you click here

February 14 2016 Valentine’s Day

It is Valentine’s Day and Peggy and I celebrated in our usual fashion; we ignored the fact that this day was created by candy merchants and florists in their own interest. Instead, we started out the day with breakfast augmented by fortified coffee before progressing on to Mimosas. Peggy had cleverly acquired a magnum of champagne and some orange juice that were taking up space in the fridge and we felt compelled to clear out space for groceries or at least that is how we justified it to ourselves.
Not too long after we finished all today’s booze off, we found comfy spots in our chairs where I settled in for some movie watching and Peggy got in a quick nap. After this clearly productive activity we mostly loafed around. It was quite nice.