Wednesday, January 16, 2019

'Harvest Hosts' a part of next summer's travels

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - What may prove to be the biggest storm of the 2018-2019 winter is about to bash into California today, bringing inches of rain in the low elevations - and maybe 7 feet of snow in the Sierra.
     Seven feet. Jaysus.
     But instead of watching the sheets of rain pound down or some elegantly coiffed television meteorologist squawk excitedly about flooding, I opted to check out a much-ballyhooed RV camping option: Harvest Hosts.
     What caught my eye immediately was that among the many hundreds of these spots across the nation, right in Hector, NY Hazlitt 1852 Winery in on the list.

   Yes, the same Hazlitt's where for years I have bought bottles of wine, drank wine, danced (occasionally) and even have books for sale in the winery gift shop. (NOTE TO SELF: Take copies of The Devil's Pipeline to Hazlitt's this summer as well as to Rasta Ranch Vineyards and the Hector Wine Company.)
     The deal with the Harvest Hosts is simple. You join for a fee and then get access to park your RV for free at wineries, farms, museums and other spots of interest - including an alligator farm - all over the country.  
     It's a one-night stay with the expectation (but not requirement) that you buy something. These places don't have the normal RV facilities like electrical hookups, either. But even a casual glance at the list indicates there are a lot worth checking out and staying at.
     Plus, it's a flat-out bargain. The fee for my annual membership was approximately $80. The least-expensive RV park I stayed in all last season was in Ely, Nevada - $22 for the night. Most RV parks were $30-40 per night. Plus tax, of course.
     I just noticed as I was planning my trip across the country, the Harvest Host stops I'm charting seem to lean heavier on stops at wineries, less so toward historical sites and museums.
     Wait! Here's an alpaca ranch in New Mexico to throw into the mix. It's now on the list.
     I just love those little critters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Out on the road again for a four-day foray

   POINT REYES, Calif. - After more than a month of being back from my cross-country sojourn, Adm. Fox and I hitched up The Red Writer and went an hour west to the coast.
     Although I have lived in California on and off since 1970, the more remote areas of Point Reyes (where you hike in, not drive!) have escaped my attention.
Morning at Samuel P. Taylor State Park
    When I was a young newspaper reporter in Petaluma, I went out many Friday nights to cover football games in tiny Tomales where the fog would blow in so heavy sometimes you couldn't see the game from the stands.
     It made the passing game even more challenging for the high school players.
     Our first stop was Samuel P. Taylor State Park, the campground of which is full of huge old-growth Redwoods and many other trees. The sun barely breaks through the canopy even at mid-day, making the park a pretty chilly place.
     Oh! And you are well off the grid there, too, though cell phones work, sort of.
     From other visits to Marin County with her amigas, Adm. Fox knew that the hiking around the area was amazing, with trails all over. She was right.
     I logged between 6 and 9 miles each day on my hiking boots.  The terrain ranged from dense woodland to ocean beaches.
A few of the elk at Pt. Reyes
     Out on Point Reyes, the fog I remembered came in hard late one afternoon. We stopped to watch elk wander the hillsides.
Adm. Fox caught the best photos - like the one to the right.
     But after trying to capture these magnificent animals with an iPhone, I vowed to carry our Canon SLR with the long lenses - even though carrying it is like toting a brick.
     The last day before we headed home to Point Richmond, we moved The Red Writer from the state park to a private campground in Olema that had electricity, hot showers, internet and best of all - some sun.
     It's only about 2 miles from the tiny village of Point Reyes Station where among other delightful places there is a bakery that serves some amazing goods.
With Sallie Dewitt and Rita Gardner in Pt. Reyes Station
    If the weather holds, The Red Writer will head out again soon, perhaps to Point Reyes for a return visit, or up into the Sonoma Valley to Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park - the first state park I camped in in California in 1970 when I arrived.
     And the weather might hold.
It is California, after all.
Olema campground - in the sun

A three-mile hike out to the ocean - and worth it

Adm. Fox finds a sunny spot in the state park

No skunks or mountain lions, but we did see two gray foxes...

A warm-up hike

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Read Bob Woodward's 'Fear' or the road atlas?

   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - One week home and not-yet-fully unpacked, I find myself drifting between wanting to read Bob Woodward's latest book Fear and thumbing through the road atlas.
     How far - and what roads - would I take to check out Roswell, N.M. on my next trip in an easterly direction? 
     So far Woodward's take on Donald Trump's unraveling administration is winning, though the atlas keeps quietly singing a song to me like the Sirens who tried to lure Ulysses and his men onto a rocky shore.
     Woodward's latest presidential examination was a right-on-target, welcome-home gift from Admiral Sylvia Fox. It reads as easily as a novel - a horrific, Stephen King gut-wrencher. But just as much a page turner. The Admiral knew Fear would be a must-read for me.
     Re-entry has been about as could be expected after 12-weeks' absence: a four-foot stack of mail to open, notices of missed deadlines for all manner of things, and complaints from a couple of readers of The Point website whose upcoming events I was unable to post while traveling.
Arriving in Sacramento last Saturday
     But those minor speed bumps pale compared to the many warm welcomes my neighbors and friends here in the the Point have given me - and continue to give me.
     In all the handshaking and good-to-see-you-home hugs since last Saturday, from nearly everyone I have been asked the same two questions, asked in different ways:
     How was your trip?
     When are you going again?
      The answer to the first has resulted in a dozen or more interesting conversations this past week.
       The answer to the second has been mostly just a shrug of my shoulders and a quizzical look on my face.
       I really should get unpacked from this summer's adventures before planning any more.
RV 'park' at an Ohio rest stop

Monday, September 10, 2018

Safely back home in the Republic of California

Sacramento, California - Saturday, Sept. 2018
   POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - The Red Writer crossed into the Republic of California from Nevada mid-morning Saturday, eventually landing at a familiar spot in Sacramento: the home of Pam and Steve Lovotti on 46th Street.
     I am happy to report that my electric brake adjustment made the trip down the mountains from Lake Tahoe much less white knuckle compared to zipping down Vail Pass in Colorado.
     Adm. Fox drove from the SF Bay Area and pulled in moments after I arrived, giving us our first glimpses of each other since July 11.
     We didn't look eight weeks older at all.
     The stop, just an hour and half short of home here in San Francisco Bay was to visit with Pam and Steve and also to have a small birthday party for 11-year-old granddaughter Kami Allen. She and her sister Sami came by for dinner and we had a nice party with great food and a stack of birthday presents.
     And that night I slept in a full size bed for the first time in weeks. Quite luxurious, I must admit.
     The Red Writer is temporarily parked in a secure storage area about a mile from our Brickyard Landing condo. But it's ready to rock and roll anytime we decide to make a
foray camping this fall or head down the coast to Southern California to visit the beaches.
     September and October are probably the most pleasant months in the San Francisco Bay Area all years. July and August was damn cold Adm. Fox says - overcast and fog most days.
     Well, it was Mark Twain who reportedly said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
      He probably liked the fall weather though.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Fallon's 95 degrees is cool fulltime residents say

Shade? You call that shade?
   FALLON, Nevada - The Red Writer arrived this afternoon at 3 p.m. after an up-and-down, 4-hour drive from Ely, Nevada.
     The up and down was from crossing a half dozen (or more!) passes, all well-paved, marked and nothing - really nothing - compared to the white-knuckle experience with the Vail Pass, brake-screeching episode last Sunday.
     The Fallon RV Park is an OK place, but lacking shade. Today, given that is 95 degrees at 5:30 p.m., throwing a little shade over The Red Writer trailer would be a really nice addition to the park's amenities.
     Several local folks told me I should have been here a few weeks ago when it was hitting 110 every day. No thanks, amigos.
     As it is, the ever valiant AC unit is chugging along, trying to make life inside the trailer passable.
     It's a good place to nest for this last night of the cross-country passage that started two weeks ago Sunday in Watkins Glen. At least it will be once the AC catches up.
      In the meantime, a bottle of J. Lohr wine is chilling in the Yeti cooler, a bottle picked up in Delta, Utah yesterday.
      Maybe the wine will cool things down.
Gotta love that 95-degree sun hitting a red paint job

RV Park, gas station, store and souvenir shop - all in one

Trying to see the landscape - while driving 60 mph

   WESTERN UTAH - The ride from Green Valley, Utah through the mountainous region on the way to Nevada is full of amazing geological formations.
     Just amazing.
     Equally amazing is that the State of Utah has dozens of scenic pullout areas - complete with primitive bathrooms,
     After trying to take photos though the windshield while catapulting down the highway, I surrendered and stopped to take in the beauty in real time.
     Breathtaking doesn't cover it.
     And yes, dragging The Red Writer I drive 60 mph on the highway... Saves a lot of gasoline.

   When you drop down out of the mountains, you hit several small towns, including Delta, Utah where Admiral Fox and I have stopped at a small RV park several times.
     This time though I was moving fast towards Ely, Nevada (where I spent last night). But I needed to stop for gasoline, food, ice (for the Yeti cooler!) and wine.
     As luck would have it, next to the only liquor store for probably 200+ miles was a food truck staffed by a Mexican family.
     And it was open! Woo-hoo!
   And just across the street was a large grocery store that - gasp! - actually sold blocks of ice. Blocks of ice are nearly as hard to find on the road as, well, wine in Utah. The block I purchased will get me all the way home to Point Richmond.

   I passed another cultural marker at the Utah-Nevada border that's a popular stop for people after crossing the extreme western Utah Desert - the Border Inn.
     The iconic business is a combination gas station, restaurant, bar, motel, casino and RV park.
     It also functions as a sort of social club for the relative handful of people who live in the high desert region around it. Lots of characters hang out at the bar.
     Because my gas tank was near the top, the wine and food lockers filled and a deadline to get to Ely to grab my RV space to park, I didn't stop in to chat with the locals this time. Next time I will time it better.
    But I did snap the photo below so anyone traveling in either direction will know what to look for.
     At 80 mph (the Utah speed limit) or 70 mph (California's legal marker) you can blow by the place pretty quickly.

The Border Inn

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Leaving Green River - which could be renamed

   GREEN RIVER, Utah - The state park here is probably the cleanest and best kept of anyplace The Red Writer has landed since leaving Watkins Glen.
     The Green River, right now, is anything but green. Rains up in the mountains seem to have washed down enough silt to suggest renaming it Little Muddy.
     But as nice as the park has been there was one major, major disappointment.
    A fabulous Mexican food truck/restaurant a block away was closed. Again. When Admiral Fox and I came through in June it was closed, too... Santo Crappo. Mille fois merde!
     Still, I was able to put together a quick stir fry with provisions
already on board. Plus, the last of the wine I bought in Glenwood Springs - which the clerk said they called 'Liquid Crack' - made for a nice end-of-the-day cocktail.
     Off to Ely, Nevada for tonight's lodging. I had wanted to stay in a small RV park next to the Prospector Casino. But, alas, it was torn down this April to make way for a Holiday Inn Express.
No kidding, a Holiday Inn... Instead I'll be a little out of town and way from the gambling tables. Probably a really good thing.

A view from the campground