Day 85: It’s only a model

We continued our journey south today.  We attempted to visit Muir Woods National Monument, but their parking lot was full, and there was no shoulder parking available.  The road in said “Vehicles over 30 feet not recommended”, and I can tell you that next time, this driver of a 47 foot-long vehicle will pay heed to such signs.

We stopped in Sausalito to visit the Bay Model, a 3 acre scale model of the San Francisco bay and its feeder delta.  The model was built in the 1950s to study the feasibility of building dams across the bay to retain freshwater, and continued to be used as a research facility until recently when modeling was moved to computer simulation.


Did I mention that the model is barely enclosed in a 3 acre building?  It’s huge!  The model speeds up the tidal action of the bay by a factor of 100, so every few minutes the tide goes in and out.  It’s fast enough that the water levels can be seen changing in real time.





After finishing visiting the model, we headed across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco:


Our plan was to find curbside parking and stay for Shabbos near a synagogue, but the parking situation turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.  Area campgrounds were positioned far out of the city and were extremely expensive, so we reluctantly decided to move on.  We fought our way out of San Francisco during rush hour, heading east across the Bay Bridge.  It took us about an hour to cover the first eight miles, so it was dark by the time we reached the Walmart of Tracy, CA for the night.

  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 84: Of Wheels and Wines

After homeschool, I went for a bike ride.  The map showed a serpentine route across the mountains to the East, a sign of a tasty climb in my future.  The ride started out with a slight climb as the vineyards of Mendocino County rolled by:


Yes, this would be a good climb:


As the road continued to climb, the vineyards stretched almost to the horizon:


It turned out to be a five mile ascent with almost 2000 feet of vertical, which is a Category 2 climb according to the UCI ratings.  The descent on the far side was dicey, as the road condition was extremely poor.  Finally I ended up in the town of Lakeport, on the shores of Clear Lake:


Lakeport has the smallest Sears I’ve ever seen:


I thought this stand was funny: Closed! Closed! Now Open! Keep Out!


Warning signs as I started back up the climb to get back to the RV:


Lots of grapes on the Lakeport side of the mountains:


Here’s a view of the eastern climb.  Note the road appears twice on the left and once on the right of the photo as it claws its way up the mountain:


At least the western descent was on good road:




After the ride, we called Milano Winery and were told that we could come for a tour.  We were thrilled and flattered that Deanna, who owns the winery with her husband, was willing to take time out of her day to show us around the winery and explain to us how wine is made.  Thanks Deanna!


Here Deanna is showing us a small run of wine being made.  She pushed through the crust of skins to show us the wine below, which was outgassing carbon dioxide as the yeast convert the sugars in the grape juice into alcohol.  Fascinating stuff!



Leaving Milano Winery (thanks again!), we headed south and stayed the night at the Home Depot of Windsor, CA.

  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 83: Running out of casinos

As we continue our survey of the Native American casinos of coastal northern California, we’ve found that while some of the casinos are rather lavish, some are a bit more modest, like the Red Fox casino in Laytonville.  Nonetheless, it was a great spot to stop overnight, and we enjoyed their hospitality:


We drove quite a ways south today to Hopland, California, where, unfortunately, the southernmost casino on our route is located.  It will feel strange going back to staying at Walmarts after staying at casinos almost exclusively for the past three weeks.

Hopland is home to the Solar Living Institute, a facility that demonstrates the integration of various renewable energy technologies and recycled materials.  For example, their bathroom stall walls are made of recycled prescription medicine bottles:


They had a tiny house on display:



Behold the geodesic greenhouse next to the windmill that drives the water pump, both of which are in front of the 10,000 watt solar array:


They’ve used old cars as planters for trees.  The display board describes as it as a tit-for-tat in response for the trees that have been hollowed out for cars to drive through.  Hmm…..


We climbed up into the absurdly high treehouse:



Sun kissed RV:


Sunset over the main building (made out of sustainable materials, naturally) and the bio-diesel pump:


We parked for the night at the Sho-Ka-Wah casino outside of Hopland, CA.

  See the trip map for today’s drive and our current location.

Day 82: Say Cheese!

We left Bear River Casino and headed into downtown Loleta.  I love towns where one can see farmland in all directions when standing in the heart of “downtown”.

I’m not sure what this factory was for back in the day:


We dropped by the Loleta Cheese Factory, where there are a couple viewing windows to watch the cheese-making process:


They also have a small garden out back:




Continuing south, we exited US 101 and drove the length of the Avenue of the Giants.  Along the way, we stopped at a small room built under a hollowed out Redwood stump.  The room is round and about 15 feet across:


Here’s the view from the outside:


The Avenue of the Giants goes into and out of old growth Redwood groves as it parallels US 101.  I was mentally doing my best Endor forest speeder imitation as we wove our way through the groves:


We continued south after rejoining US 101, stopping for the night at the Red Fox Casino near Laytonville, California.

Day 81: Sea Kayaking and Weight Distribution failure

This morning we packed up and said goodbye to the Cher-Ae casino and headed into Trinidad to do some sea kayaking.  The shoreline here forms a natural bay, so the waves are smaller.  Even so, getting out into the ocean was a bit dicey:





We spotted a pair of harbor seals on an outlying rock:




We got a bit closer to this fellow on our way back in.  They remind me of cats for some reason:




I grabbed the other kayaks as they came in to avoid a capsize on landing from a wave coming up behind the kayak:


We had an amazing time being out in the ocean.  Our son insists that we purchase spray skirts so we can go farther out where the waves are bigger.



After stowing the kayaks, we headed south to Eureka.  We visited the famous Carson Mansion, perhaps the most photographed house in the US.  My grandfather had made a needlepoint of the mansion, so I wanted to see the real thing:


When parking in Eureka, we experienced the failure or one of the links in the chain that attaches (under great stress) the weight distribution bar to the RV frame.  There was a banging sound followed by the sound of the bar dragging on the ground, as it was no longer under tension.  I had noticed that the links were being worn down, but I thought I still had a bit of time until failure.

At any rate, we drove to the local Ace Hardware and picked the parts necessary to replace the chain on both of the weight distribution bars.  I also purchased extra hardware so I can replaced worn components preemptively before they fail.

Once we got that fixed, we dumped our sewer tank, filled up on gas, and did some shopping.  As the sun set, we drove South a few miles to Loleta, California, where we parked for the night at the Bear River Casino.