Sunset House at Christmas

Sunset House at Christmas
Sunset House at Christmas

Friday, February 25, 2022

02-24-2022 From Lodi to Brookings on Highway 1 and other stuff

Our time in Lodi came to an end on Saturday morning. The temperatures were in the low 50s, and the sun was shining when we departed Flag City RV Resort. Fuel at the nearby Flying J was $4.49 per gallon for regular, and I am glad regular gas works perfectly fine in the MoHo. Another little delight at the Flying J is the Cinnabon kiosk. An excellent sugar rush and oh so sinfully good!

I planned one last visit for our trip. My sister lives in Vallejo, California. We don't see each other often, but it is always a kick. Sally is a true homebody with no desire to travel anywhere, so a trip to Grants Pass for Sally won't happen any time soon. Sally has good reasons for staying close to home. At 72 years old, she has chickens, bees, dogs, cats, and a horse that she rides almost daily. Sally also quilts and makes all sorts of lovely goodies that she sells to local shops.

In addition, Sally works full time, at home a couple of days a week, and in an office the other three days. I am in awe of her energy, and visiting is always so much fun.Before her current legal secretarial gig, Sally's job was driving a semi-truck cross country. She managed that one for a few years before settling back in Vallejo, the town where she was raised and lived much of her life. I am still amazed at how Sally has turned a duplex on a city lot into a small farm. It was a fun visit, and we left with jars of honey, homemade peach jam from her trees, lemons, and giant brown eggs.

We had a great visit before continuing our westward journey toward Bodega Bay. Within minutes of leaving Sally's house traveling Highway 37, we were at a dead stop. Stuck in traffic for half an hour wasn't as bad as it could have been. I was driving and had plenty of time to check our route, look up the campground reservation, eat a snack, and recuperate from all the wonderful high-energy time at Sally's.

We arrived at the Westside Regional Park and Campground around 3, in time to settle in and settle down a bit for the afternoon. The weather was sunny, but the cold wind made walking along the bay somewhat challenging. Even Mattie was ready to go back inside after her walk.

Mo and I paid no attention to the coincidental holiday dates when making our trip plans. We landed at Bodega Bay on President's Day weekend. In California, we discovered it was also President's Day Week, with schools suspended for the entire week. Happy families filled the park with lots of kids and a good kind of noise. I enjoyed watching the big extended family come to their joint campsite next to us for huge pots of boiled crabs and clams cooking on the big bbq. The families were loud but not obnoxious, and there wasn't a single noisy motorized anything disturbing the sound of gulls and laughing kids.

After settling into our supper, we fell asleep to the sounds of people laughing and talking around the campfires. When I woke up to the moonlight at midnight, everything was silent. Unlike some horror stories I have read from other bloggers about holiday weekends at regional parks, this was a pleasing experience.

The following day, Mo took Mattie to walk along the bay before we drove south on the spit. The campground is on the bay, but nearby side roads lead to high cliffs with views of the Pacific Ocean in all its wild glory.

The wind was strong and cold, and the steep trails weren't very inviting. The view from the cliff was terrific. Whale watchers lined up watching for the migrating blue whales that pass by here daily at this time of year.

The sun was brilliant, and the winds were not too strong when we pulled out of the park. Google wanted us to return inland to Highway 101, but we had other plans. Highway 1 is narrow, winding, and gorgeous. On 101, the ocean is several miles west, but on Highway 1, the route is adjacent to the steep, wild cliffs that make for spectacular views. It also makes for breathtaking driving, especially in a motorhome.

In the past, we drove Highway 1 through rainstorms and road closures due to slides. On this day, our drive was beautiful and easy.

Yes, the road is curvy, the pavement can be rough, the cliffs are close, and sometimes I thought ferns hanging off the rocks on the passenger side were cleaning the rig. However, the most challenging part of the drive isn't the part along the coast.

The stretch from Westport to Legget is not an easy drive over the coast range. The road is steep, and the cliffs are close and crazy winding. We were worn out by the time we reached Legget, just a few miles south of Richardson Grove. We agreed that maybe we didn't have to drive Highway 1 again.

We had no plan for our day other than meandering along the highway to our night destination. I couldn't get a reservation for our park of choice near Richardson Grove, and no one ever answered the phone, and there wasn't an option to leave a message. We took our chances. Over the years, we have parked at Richardson Grove RV Park without reservations several times.

A church group runs the park in a relatively loose manner. When we arrived at Richardson Grove, the office was closed. We were used to this from past experience. A note on the board stated the price for a site and envelopes and a slot for payment. There wasn't a soul around until we parked, and I walked back toward the office. A young woman appeared and asked if I needed help. The current price for a spot is $56. I questioned if they were still a Passport America park, and she said no, and the best she could do was $50. for the night. The most we ever paid at this park was $18 with our PPA discount. That is a BIG change, but we paid the price, glad for a place to land for the night after our challenging drive.

The following day we took our time leaving to travel north toward Brookings. When we left Richardson Grove the sun was shining, but as we continued north on 101 the predicted clouds began to appear.

I had a bit of trouble making our Harris Beach State Park reservations back in December. There was nothing available, and we decided to take our chances with first-come, first-served sites or a possible stay at BeachFront RV Park in Harbor. Before leaving in February, I rechecked the ReserveAmerica website and found a vacancy. 

Our site was on a loop toward the back of the park. We have camped in several spots at Harris Beach, but this loop was a first for us. To our surprise, the site was private, and with high trees all around us, we still had late afternoon sunshine. There was no beach view, but we have enjoyed those beach views many times and didn't mind.

We were awakened by the rain on our first full day at Harris Beach.  Neither of us minded much.  I made a short run to Fred Meyer for a few groceries.  We enjoyed hanging out in the MoHo doing absolutely nothing except catching up on news while I finished a blog post.

The next two days at Harris Beach were relaxing and uneventful. The rains left, the skies were gorgeous, but temperatures in the 40s with the wind weren't conducive to long hours on the beach. We managed a fantastic walk with Mattie on Tuesday down the South Beach Trail where Mattie could run off leash outside the official boundaries of the park.

On Wednesday we wakened to another very cold, but sunny day.  We followed a leisurely breakfast and computer/tv time with a mid morning walk on the northern portion of Harris Beach.  The tides were out farther than we have seen in several years.  Much of the time we go to Harris Beach it is during the fall and winter during high King Tides.  It was fun to walk around the rocks between sections of the beach that aren’t usually accessible to us so easily.  The wind was cold, but we found a couple of protected spots to warm ourselves in the sunshine.

\We filled the rest of our days with cards, campfires, relaxing, and reading. Our initial plans included driving a few extra miles to buy fish and chips from our favorite spot in Crescent City on the way home to Grants Pass. By the time Wednesday rolled around, that idea didn't sound as appealing as it did initially. Instead, we decided to try out a restaurant in the Harbor Area that we often frequented a few years ago. 

Catalyst Seafood was preciously known as Chetco Seafood. Mo and I loved Chetco Seafood. The fish was fresh and only lightly breaded, the wine was three bucks a glass, and the coleslaw was perfect. When it changed hands, we never bothered to try it out. 

When we first walked in, the change was noticeable. The place was packed, and the decor was very different. The owners updated the pastel decor to dark woods and tables. There was a bar in the back rather than the fish counter. We opted to be seated at the bar where two young men were sitting. They moved over for us, and we mentioned that we often ate at Chetco Seafood. One of the guys said, "My grandfather owned that restaurant."  It turns out his grandfather sold the place to the new owner, the young man's father. It was fun hearing a bit of the history of the business.

I missed the old place a bit. Especially when it came to paying the bill. Our $8.99 fish and chip dinner was now $20.00 if we wanted cod instead of rockfish, and there was no coleslaw. My Lemon Drop was made well and was a reasonable price at $9.00. The fish was good, but not as perfect as we remembered from the old days at Chetco Seafood. Still, I understand that businesses have to change with the times. Judging from the busy bar and restaurant, I imagine that the change has been profitable for the owners.

We had plenty of leftovers for dinner the next day. We were heading home on Thursday morning, and it is always lovely when dinner is easy on homecoming day.

The only tiny bit of entertainment I enjoyed in town was a leisurely exploration at the "Feather Your Nest" shop. I needed absolutely nothing but still wanted to browse a bit. It tickled me to find a little bit of artsy wall decor for the master bath at home. Hopefully, we can figure out a way to put a ladder in the bathtub and hang it up where it will fit perfectly with my beachy bathroom decor.

A great trip! Easy, no problems, no issues, everything worked perfectly.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

02-18-2022 Not Stuck in Lodi

These sandhill cranes are so close to Flag City RV Resort you can see the lights of the park

As I mentioned before, we have passed through Lodi repeatedly over the years. Most everyone, at least the older ones among us, remembers the old Credence Clearwater Revival song, Stuck in Lodi Again. I thought it might be fun to research what John Fogerty thought when he wrote the song. There are a couple of versions. The simplest is that he remembered Lodi from trips where his father took them camping at Lodi Lake, a place he hated. Another time he said he hoped his career wouldn't get stuck in small nowhere towns like Lodi. Either way, Lodi was a nowhere place in central California, about 30 miles south of Sacramento. I even got stuck in Lodi once with a guy I was crazy about, on a first date, late at night when his car broke down, and we shared our first kiss on the winding road from Sutter Creek to Lodi. I have loved dancing to that song ever since.

Even though I lived in Sacramento for a time, I still didn't know Lodi as an actual destination. Not until Mo and I read the fancy brochures in the main office at Flag City RV Resort did we realize just how famous Lodi is in the world of wine, and especially the Old Vine Zinfandels that we both like.

For this trip, Lodi was our southernmost extent in the excellent wine state of California. We planned three nights and two days, thinking that we could visit a few wineries. When Mo received the shiny brochure from the Lodi Visitor Information Center, we perused the glossy ads. Finally, we decided on two wineries that might give us a taste of some good wine without too much hassle or a required reservation.

Mo also decided that it would be good to do something other than drink wine and found a couple of local wildlife reserves to visit. When we mentioned our plans to friends Sue and Randy, they were full of superb suggestions for us.
  
Settling into our site at Flag City RV Resort on Wednesday evening, we were delighted to see fabulous weather predicted for the next several days. Sunshine and wine? What could be better?

One of Mo's choices, before we left home, was to visit the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, also called the Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve. We had no clue that the timing of our arrival at the Reserve was crucial. Sue and Randy regaled us with tales of thousands of sandhill cranes flying in just at sunset to fill the ponds with the huge, noisy birds. They stressed that if we waited until after sunset, it would be too late, and if we were too early, there would be no birds to see.

After we got settled, we drove a few short miles north of the park to the Reserve. We saw a few parked cars near the sign north of the ponds. A few cranes were gathered, feeding and making garbled crane sounds. I love that sound! I walked toward an entrance gate where a sign notified people that the Reserve required a paid pass to enter. I asked a couple of people settling in at the benches if we needed an access pass to walk on the other side of the gate. Yup, sure enough.

I am sure that the view from outside the gate wasn't much different from the view from those benches.

We waited about half an hour before seeing swoops of cranes flying in the distance, and they were wondrous against the darkening sunset skies. A few landed in the ponds nearby but many more traveled farther west toward distant ponds.

Mo and I decided to drive a bit west along the old farm road and found more cranes resting in ponds, with only a few flying in to land. Randy and Sue said they had seen thousands flying and landing in the ponds earlier in the season. We missed the big fly-in but still got to see Sandhill Cranes.

We slept in a bit the following day, took Mattie for a couple of walks, and had a tasty breakfast at home. Our goal for the day was to explore at least two wineries in Lodi, and the first choice was the most distant, the Bokish Vineyard and Winery, about 10 miles east of town.

The sun was shining, the outdoor tables were bright red, with umbrellas that could open for shade. We laughed when attempting to sit in the extremely low chairs. I wasn't sure I would ever get up again! Mo waited outside with Mattie while I went inside the tasting room. Bokish Vineyard specializes in Spanish wines and as a lover of Verdujo wines. I was anxious to try them out. The Applegate Valley near where we live is famous for tempranillo grapes, and there were several blends and estate wines made with tempranillo grapes at Bokish.

I bought a single flight, but the steward was quite busy with wine club members buying many flights for six people at a table. After tasting a couple of wines in the flight, I said, "Never Mind. Just let me buy a glass of your Tempranillo blend for my friend and a bottle of the Verdujo for us to take with us." I think I missed the last two choices of my flight, but it didn't matter. It was more fun to go back outside and sit in the sun with Mo and the dog.

The Bokish Winery was close to the tiny town of Lockeford, the location of Lockeford Sausage.  Friends Sue and Randy told us about this historic meat market famous for wonderful sausages.  We took a little side trip on the way to the next winery to check out the store.  Mo parked along the busy road while I stood in line with several people in the tiny store.  The choices were amazing, and I left with some linguisa, some kielbasa, and their famous fair sausages.

When I mentioned to the Bokish steward that we were visiting Lodi to taste Old Vine Zinfandels, he told me about another nearby winery that we would not have chosen on our own. The Klinker Brick Winery was small and comfortable, an incredibly charming place to sit and order some of the best wines we tasted during our visit. I learned about estate wines made from a single variety of grape from a single vineyard.

Our purchase of choice was the Marissa, a beautiful wine made from 94-year-old vines. Our server was a delightful woman with a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. She served us al carte snacks of cheese, crackers, and salami to go with our wine. By the time we enjoyed these two wineries, it was time for us to return home.

Traveling what we thought was the main street into Lodi, we attempted to find the lovely Lodi mission arch. Mo was driving, and I was navigating but to no avail. Finally, we stopped a young woman crossing a downtown street, asking the location of the arch. Oops. She looked at me as if I were foolish and pointed to her left. The arch was less than 500 feet from where we sat at the stoplight. The history of the old arch is fun to read about if you care to take the time.

We did not need dinner after our wine and afternoon snacks and settled in with one of the best inventions we have found for traveling. We don't carry a satellite for tv. The parks sometimes have cable, but we are so spoiled with recording most of what we watch that the interminable ads drive us nuts. The choices aren't that great either. We have a smart TV and could link up our phone hotspot to the TV to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, but that uses up data even with our unlimited plan. Instead, I fire up Amazon on my phone, turn on the screen sharing on the phone and the TV, and Wa La~~good shows to watch without using up data. For some reason, Verizon will let us use as much data as we wish as long as it isn't through the hotspot.

We planned the next day to explore wildlife reserves. Rising with the sun, I made coffee for the road, and we drove 11 miles north to the Consumnes River Preserve to find birds. The Preserve is very close to I-5, and as many times as we have traveled south on that highway, I never realized how close we were to a great destination.

The gate was supposed to be open at eight AM on weekdays, but a handwritten sign said that time might be variable. We parked in an area north of the wetlands and walked the paved pathways toward the ponds. Wooden walks were interspersed along the wetlands to allow better access. There were many ducks of several varieties, but I am not a very good duck identifier without a bird book in hand.

We then parked outside the closed entry gate to the Visitor Center, where we found a QR code with maps and information for each stop along the trails. There were even fewer birds along the wetlands near the main river channel. However, it was a delightful walk, and a few other walkers were enjoying the trail by the time we left.

Back home for breakfast, we next headed toward town for another day of explorations. Lodi Lake was our first destination. We were somewhat disappointed when we found the lake, dry as a bone except for a tiny area where a few birds huddled near the puddle of water.

I am glad that we didn't plan to kayak the lake! We walked around, a bit disconcerted when we saw the signs saying No Dogs On the Lawn. What good is a park where dogs can't play? This was the part of the day that was designed specifically for Mattie!

We walked the roads a bit, checked out the campground, and marveled at the boat ramp to nothing. I couldn't figure out what white bird species were huddled by the little bit of water until I zoomed in on the photo. They were American white pelicans, one of our favorites from the Klamath Basin where we once lived.

After our lake exploration, we traveled north of town to another winery we chose from the brochure. The ad for Viaggo Vineyards and Winery was particularly glossy. The entry gate was impressive, and once inside, the long stone pathway was lined with plants and sculptures.  

Mo settled into a table, and I entered the large, overly impressive tasting room. The room was opulent beyond description, and the person serving the wine wasn't particularly welcoming. I ordered a single flight with plans to get another glass of something for Mo and buy a bottle of choice.

I have to say the wines were awful. I walked around and checked out the grounds, where the main house was a McMansion of grandiose proportions. I decided that this winery was a pet project of someone with way too much money and very little knowledge of wine.

I learned later that Viaggo Winery was considered a "venue" for weddings more than a place for excellent wine. While we were sitting at our table, a large group of chatty and giggly young women arrived, and the wine steward was all over welcoming them to the property. To him, I am pretty sure two old ladies ordering a single wine flight were chopped liver.

After a disappointing day visiting Lodi Lake and Viaggo Winery, we returned to the MoHo. I still wanted to see the Michael David Winery, (even if you haven’t bothered to click on the links, don’t miss this one ) just a few short blocks east of the RV Park. We discovered that visiting wineries could be very limited by timing. Most of the wineries we visited were open from noon to five on weekdays and often closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

We settled at the outdoor tasting bar at Michael David just 15 minutes before the last tasting. The wine steward offered us a menu, but I was disappointed that several wines were types we weren't interested in tasting. I told him we were in Lodi to experience Old Vine Zins, and he said under his breath, "I am not supposed to do this, but what the heck." He poured a glass of one of the zins for Mo and a glass of the best zin they had for me at the cost of two tastings. He was fun, the grounds were beautiful, and by the time we finished our wine, both of us were feeling quite content about the ending of the day.

Our exploratory visit to Lodi ended on a good note. Considering that we drank the equivalent of two glasses of wine each day, I don't think we overdid. We bought three bottles of wine, not the least bit excessive. Maybe that last bottle of Old Vine Zin from an estate vineyard at Michael David was a bit extravagant, and we will save that one for a celebration of something fabulous.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

02-16-2022 Sunshine and Friends

Most winters we make plans to travel south to the desert for some much needed sunshine.  Last year we stayed closer to home, traveling to the coast several times.  This year, with Covid still rearing its ugly head, we decided against driving 750 miles south to Desert Hot Springs as we have done almost every year since we got the MoHo.

I-5 between Yreka and Mt Shasta can get murky sometimes in winter

We didn’t feel much like dealing with all the complexities of dining, going to movies, hiking crowded trails, swimming in a crowded pool, and hanging out in a crowded spa.  After reading the comments from my last blog, where a few mentioned that I sounded melancholy, I realized that maybe the decision to stay home during foggy January wasn’t a great idea.

So many times when traveling south, we pass by side routes to friends, thinking maybe we can catch them next time. Or maybe we can catch them on the way home, forgetting that we are like horses to the barn after being on the road awhile.


Heading south and east over Highway 58 in 2020

We decided it was time to plan a different kind of trip.  This time, after heading south toward Redding as we usually do, instead of barreling down I-5 to get to the desert, we planned to take a few side routes.  We would visit friends living east of the interstate in the Sierra Foothills, friends in Davis, west of our main route, and take another side route to visit my sister in Vallejo.

We also decided that it was time to slow down and enjoy Lodi. In the past, whenever we parked overnight at Flag City RV Resort, we would read about the many wineries in the area that are especially known for their old vine zinfandels.  I reserved three days in Lodi, and Mo ordered the paper copy of the Lodi visitor brochure.  We read about the wineries, made some possible choices and added visits to a few wildlife reserves to fill out our three days with Lodi as our southernmost destination. 

Fun times with Jimmy and Nickie in Nevada City this year

I called our friends along the route, making sure they would be around, and planned accordingly.  The plans were probably the most detailed we have made so far.  It isn’t always possible to be completely spontaneous when including several other people in several locations!  Another minor glitch appeared as we attempted to make reservations near Auburn, California.  Every single RV Park within 50 miles was fully booked without even a waiting list available.  I tried pulling the ADA card as well, to no avail.  All those sites were filled up too. 

We had just signed up for Harvest Hosts to help with our cross country trip next August and I thought it might be worth seeing if there was anything available near Auburn.  Using the Harvest Host website was easy, and the reservation-notification process worked well.  We found two places near our friends where we could park overnight.  Harvest Host has a few minor requirements: one that you show up and two that you are considerate.  There are usually no hookups at these sites, but accommodations vary. The only other suggestion is that you buy $20.00 worth of merchandise from the hosts.  This way everyone benefits.

Somehow our plans all came together and worked perfectly.  The weather has cooperated as well, with brilliant sunshine, chilly nights and days in the high 60’s.  What could be better?!

Departing Grants Pass at 8 on Sunday morning, February 13th, we were delighted to travel on roads without ice or snow, something nearly unheard of in early February over the passes. A short stop in Yreka yielded a rare treat for us.  Not often are we interested in fast food, but those sausage McMuffins at McDonalds have been a travel treat for us for years when on the road.  Pretty sure we haven’t had one in at least two years. The adjacent parking lot was huge and the breakfast was a sinful delight.

One more stop at the Red Bluff rest area to change drivers, and let Mattie get a little walk about was all we needed on the six hour drive. Another stop at the Costco in Chico, where we filled the MoHo with fuel at $4.08 per gallon, saved us from paying the much higher prices we saw along our route on I-5. It only took us 8 hours to arrive at Nickie and Jimmy’s driveway in Nevada City.  We chose to unhook the Tracker at the local market rather than driving up their windy, narrow road.  With just a tiny bit of adjustment, we were parked and level in their driveway.

Nicki and Jimmy have been to visit us, but with a bit of searching memory banks, we realized that we hadn’t been to their home in almost 6 years!  I visited overnight in 2019, but Mo wasn’t with me on that trip.  Nickie fed us snacks and goodies before feeding us a great supper of chicken enchiladas and home grown blackberry cobbler for dessert. The Super Bowl was on in the background, but none of us paid much attention to it except when something exciting happened.  Visiting and talking and laughing definitely took priority. 

Mattie as usual was happy as can be to have two new people to pay attention to her.  So far, almost everyone enjoys Mattie and she reigns queen of the household most everywhere we go.  Nickie and Jimmy were no exception, spoiling her terribly with treats and hugs.

The next morning Nickie fed us another delightful breakfast with fresh fruit, yummy bacon, and homemade scones.  We had a couple of hours To enjoy the late winter plants in the yard, and enjoy our friends before we unhooked the MoHo and headed back down the road toward town.

Our next visit for the day was with a long time friend of Mo’s.  Mo and Jan both taught PE for more than 30 years at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, California.  Mo had a great photo of Jan, with Mo and another good friend who taught at Terra Nova.  Jan got a kick out of the photo.

Sadly, Jan’s husband had fallen just a few days prior to our visit, so was in rehab and unable to join us.  Jan picked us up down at the local market where we left the MoHo and Tracker.  This time we let Mattie wait for us safely in the MoHo so she wouldn’t have to wait in the car while we had lunch at Jan’s clubhouse.  Jan showed us her home and then took us for a tour of Lake of the Pines, an upscale housing development built 29 years ago in the foothills north of Auburn.

Named for the local lake, the development has an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, many smaller parks and beaches around the lake, and pickle ball courts.  An avid pickle ball player, Jan’s husband fell playing pickle ball, hence his time in rehab. 

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in the Sports Club restaurant, with a great view of the lake.  Behind us on the wall is a photo where Jan is playing tennis.  It seems in the 29 years that she has lived there, she has been president of the tennis club a few times, in addition to president of the golf club.  She even taught swimming aerobics.  I guess if you have been a PE teacher for many years, folks know you will be good at everything physical and want to tap your talents.

It was after 3 when we left Lake of the Pines and traveled to our very first Harvest Host destination.  It was an easy drive from Auburn, just a few miles south of town near Newcastle. Our choice for the night was Martha’s Gardens, a small family farm that specializes in cut flowers, eggs, and produce.  What makes the place a delight are the several acres of gardens created by the owners. 

The garden has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Fresh Picked Flower program.  Flowers are selected from what is blooming that week on the farm.  I had heard of CSA’s for veggies, but hadn’t heard of fresh picked flowers showing up weekly.  Love that idea. 

When we arrived after 3 yesterday afternoon, both of us were worn out.  Not sure why, except that we have been isolated so much in the last two years that we are out of practice. Then driving the short distance from Nevada City to Auburn and then on south to the farm was a reminder of just how busy it can be on California highways.

We settled in for the evening with no need for any kind of supper thanks to our afternoon luncheon with Jan.  I decided to walk the gardens a bit, and after talking with Tom learned that Mattie was welcome, and after a bit of exploration I decided I needed to return for Mo so she and Mattie could enjoy the walk with me.  It was a very relaxing evening for all of us.

The next morning we had brunch planned at Awful Annie’s in Auburn with not only Jimmy and Nickie, but our long time friends, Laurie and Odel.  Long time readers already know that these two couples are friends that we discovered more than a decade ago through our mutual admiration of each other’s blogs.  I learned about blogging through Laurie, and the web page blogger version of my blog (not the simplified phone view) is a direct result of Laurie’s tutelage.  All of us were aghast to realize that it had been six years since we last shared breakfast and laughter together at Awful Annie’s. 

Breakfast was wonderful and after a bit of shuffling, we enjoyed the very same big table by the window where we ate together in 2016.  Have we all changed much?  Just me I think, with all that white hair.

Nickie and Jimmy and Laurie and Odel get together more often, with hiking a main activity that they share.  Since they often hike several miles on steep Sierra trails, when Nickie mentioned a hike after breakfast I said to please pick something short and flat.

Laurie did a bit of searching about and found a lovely trail for all of us to share that was easy enough for me and yet not entirely boring for them.  Laurie chose the BLM Dave Moore Nature Area just 16 miles or so from Auburn along the South Fork of the American River.  We caravanned in our three cars down the American River Canyon on Highway 49 and I was once again reminded of what it was like living in the Mother Lode, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Highway 49 has almost every road in the United States beat for intense curves.  It is a great ride for motorcycles, and sports cars.

The one mile loop trail "goes from the parking lot trailhead to the South Fork American River and back again, passing through several habitat types. Nestled in the heart of Gold Rush Country, the trail is lined with remnants from nearly 150 years ago when Chinese laborers channeled creek water by hand with pick and shovel for gold mining. Tailing piles from the Gold Rush period blanket the area which lend to the characteristic landscape that makes this area so unique."

The trail was designed especially for people who are physically challenged with the portion going to the river being wheelchair accessible. After hiking down to the river, we chose to take the non-accessible portion of the trail back to the cars.  Easy and especially lovely as it meandered through a mature old blue oak/live oak forest that was just ready to burst with wildflowers.

Laurie downloaded the pdf brochure for the area and at special points in the walk she read to us.  We learned about the huge ring madrone where she took my photo.  She read about the mushroom rock created from weathered granite affected by erosion from the river.  She read to us about the beautifully crafted rock walls built by Chinese workmen more than 150 years ago.  The sun was shining, the walk was beautiful, and it was so much fun to share it all with our friends.  Mattie, of course, especially loved the walk when we reached the river and the sandy beach.

Nickie had a great time finding all the tiny dinosaurs and lizards hidden in various nooks and crannies along the trail.  They are not to be removed, but can be relocated to other hiding places.  Of course, Nickie was thinking of her sweet granddaughter and how she would have loved the dinosaurs. It was a bit sad when the hike was over and we returned to our cars.  Hugs all around and goodbyes for everyone, we all said that there was no way we were going to let six more years go by before we got together again.

Mo and I returned to Martha’s Gardens at 3 on the dot, and with no hookups to consider, were on the road by 3:20.  Our next stop was Bee Z Bees Farms, just past the town of Lincoln north of Sacramento.  It was a short drive, less than half an hour, with the only excitement being a bit of a kerfuffle with the Tracker.  After 15 years hauling a towed, we thought the Tracker was rolling.  The crazy noise on the curves alerted us otherwise.  Just goes to show that in spite of all our experience, it is still possible to make a momentary mistake.

We looked at the website for Bee Z Bees Farms before choosing to stay there, but didn’t bother reading the reviews.  There weren’t that many choices in the vicinity of where we wanted to be that night.  Mo and I were picturing a large family owned operation with large warehouses, plenty of space, and some kind of a nice little gift shop that showcased the cute stuff that they had for sale on their website.

We were a bit taken aback when we arrived at a somewhat rural looking place, with no house or shop, and an RV under a shelter.  The home was surrounded by kids toys, and there was a lot of “stuff” lying around.  The owners were not home when we arrived and the directions over the phone told us to pull in, make sure we weren’t in the middle of the road, and park toward the blue UTV.  I didn’t know what a UTV was but figured out it was the blue thing in front of us, between the RV, the chickens and goats and the very large barking German shepherd.  He was fenced, but we knew Mattie might get a bit disturbed by his barking.

So far, so good.  A bit later the husband showed up, was very nice, and gave us a few instructions about keeping the dog on a leash.  He told us they didn’t have a showroom and his wife would bring out the candles and honey a bit later.  We settled in, and after a bit she came outside with her candles in a box.  They were quite lovely, and I bought a small one for $20.  I have no idea if that was a reasonable price, but it didn’t matter because we fulfilled our obligation and were free for the rest of the night.

The place turned out to be fine for an overnight, and we learned to not have any expectations regarding what a Harvest Host location might be like.  Later, when I took the time to look at the reviews, the only complaints I found were about the dog barking all night.  He did quite a bit after midnight, but the MoHo is fairly sound proof and it didn’t bother us.  It was really a decent place to be, with no night light and no noise from the adjacent farm road.  Dark, quiet places are NOT easy to come by.

The next morning we took our time leaving.  Davis, California, is just an hour down the road from Lincoln and we had one more visit to look forward to.  Sue Southard is a work colleague from my days in California soil survey, and her husband Randy is a retired soils prof from UC Davis. 



They invited us to their beautiful home, one I had only seen in shared photos.  It was gorgeous, and filled with love and flowers.  The sun was shining brilliantly, and we wandered around the back yard in bare feet enjoying all the yard projects that have kept Sue and Randy busy since they retired.  Sue served some fresh local oranges and tasty cinnamon cake as we shared stories of families and travels.  Sue and I marveled that this time our conversation wasn’t dominated completely by soils talk.

We told them we were planning to stay in Lodi for a few nights, and they told us of some great places to visit.  One special treat in Lodi we might have missed if not for their great advice.  We left this part of our journey with good memories of good times with friends, and looking forward to what was to come next.