Moving On.

26 Apr

I would expect that if you mentioned Napa Valley to anyone in the UK they would connect it with wine. We have ben fortunate enough to discover and visit some of the other, less well known, really good wine growing areas in California but of course we had to visit Napa too.


Actually our very first visit to the US quite some time ago now, was to San Francisco with a side trip out to Calistoga and the Napa Valley, Sonoma area. We had not been to the town of Napa before, not sure how we missed it but we did. There are not any Harvest Hosts (yet) so we chose to stay at the fairgrounds RV Park. It was small but beautifully maintained, plus an easy walk to town.

We were surprised by how small the town centre area was, a modern arcade dominated the middle of town the small stores were very quiet and quite a few were empty. A short distance from here is the Oxbow Market, we needed some fresh foods so thought we would take a look. A complex of small units within a larger building the market immediately reminded me of Granville Market in Vancouver BC. We were delighted to find a really nice cheese outlet and bought some local (Californian) cheese. We could have tasted Oysters at the oyster bar, or olive oil, bought teas or spices or any of the many other products on offer. In a second building a bakery sells lovely fresh bread, we made our way over to get a baguette to go with our cheese … yum!

Now, you may be surprised to hear we did not taste any wine… at around $15 to$20 per person we gave them a miss plus Robert was driving! This is why we like Harvest Hosts, he can taste and not drive.


From Napa we drove through the Sonoma valley, which I still prefer. It has a more rural, less commercial feel to it. The vineyards extend almost as far as the eye can see in places. Spring is well under way and the leaves are beginning to show on most of the vines, the bright orange and yellow of the California poppies between the rows makes a pretty sight. In fact the whole area was very pretty in its spring attire and with a blue sky overhead we enjoyed our journey across to the coast and Bodega Bay.

In early 2009 we had our first view of the California coast when we arrived at Bodega Bay, I was looking forward to revisiting. Three years down the line we are a little wiser with our travels and now were aware of more than one camp site in Bodega. We chose to stay at the county park, a little further out of town but with a great view of the water. We were indeed very fortunate to arrive in time to get a front site so had an uninterrupted view.



With this great view to look out on we did not need to move far but of course we cant sit still for long. We walked back towards the main part of the bay and the marina.


Then in the opposite direction towards Bodega Head. This took us right around the bay, most of it is protected wildlife zone with many wading birds sitting in the shallow edges sifting the mud and sand for the tiny creatures they love to eat. A side path caught our eye and we walked to investigate finding a large freshwater pool. The information board told how this area was used by the Indian Miwok people. Nearby their village of almost 200 people had used the fresh water and hunted for fish and other sea creatures. Later Russian colonists also lived here but more recently the land was acquired for a nuclear power plant. Only the actions of concerned locals put a stop to the plant being built in very close proximity to the San Andreas fault in 1964. However, a huge (90ft x 120ft deep) ‘hole’ was dug in the ground as a preliminary to the construction. This hole is constantly being replenished by the same spring water so useful to the earlier settlers. It is known as “Hole in the (Bodega) head”!

When we awoke next day it was to a completely changed scene. Overnight fog had come down giving a grey eerie look to our view.


They say you should not try to relive good experiences for fear of being disappointed. The next section of our drive I had been looking forward to for a long while but with the fog I saw little of the Mendocino County coastline.


The sun did break through a little for us walk out from the campsite in Gualala to the beach but a strong cold wind was blowing and soon in bought back the fog. We were camping in a tiny (for us) county site which we felt was a real find. Surrounded by big redwood trees the sites are tucked in between lush woodland which looks for all the world as if it had been created by a very clever gardener. Maybe it had. I would have loved pictures but it was all much to dark.

The small town of Mendocino is very quaint sitting on the coast, pretty when the sun shines cold and damp when the fog comes in. We were lucky, the sun came out for our stroll around. I found the yarn store…. and, we also found a great wholefood store too.

Highway 1 on the California coast is a great drive, it twists and turns rises and falls with the contours of the hills. The same hills are on the move, rock and mud slides are a constant danger, road construction is a regular feature of the drive. There are not so many places you can pull off in a 36ft Motor Home to look at the view, or even places where you would want to pull off, some of the pull in’s look decidedly fragile.


However, it is so worth the drive for views like these!


The northern point of Highway 1, the last 22 miles of the road, is a challenge for the driver. P1070070Robert worked hard at the wheel to keep haRVey moving constantly from left to right before we joined the 101 at Leggett. From here the drive north would be through redwood forests. The Avenue of the giants and the Redwood National Park are both located along this part of the highway 101 before Crescent City (the last big town in northern CA).

We had visited before and as the fog was once more with us we chose to drive mostly the 101 where you still get to see the trees but without going on the narrower road.







Our last night stop over in California was at Patricks Point. We chose not to use the State Park as a nearby private park was more cost effective and gave us an electricity supply. The RV Park was called Sounds of the Sea and as we walked back to the State Park we realised it was not the waves they were referring to. We could hear the sea lions out on the rocks, joining the Rim Trail around the cliff tops and headland we could look over at them way down below.


It was a great walk around the cliff top but unfortunately again Mother Nature is taking her toll and the trail to Agate Beach has collapsed closing it and the beach to visitors.




Once more the Indian presence was evident, an Indian village is preserved, and still used for teaching and ceremonies. The substantial buildings are made from planks of native redwood. Peering through the round doorway into the very dark interior we could see a sunken area inside which gave the structure much more internal room than you might at first think.


So – Goodbye California. We had loved our time spent here the first time around, were determined to see something other than those places we had visited before and I feel we have managed a good mix between the two. It is a beautiful State with so many sides to it,  and happy memories too.

We have already been in touch with many of our friends to explain that this will be our last trip in haRVey. We hope to find him a new owner before we return to the UK in July from Vancouver BC. haRVey has been our home on wheels for the past three and a bit years, we will miss him, all the places he has taken us and the people we have met.  In The next few weeks we will be travelling up through Oregon into Washington and onto Vancouver Island hoping to fill every day to the brim to fit in just as much as we can before we leave.



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