Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sun, Fun and Cotes du Beaune...

Hello All - Haven't been able to update for awhile, so this may end up being a long one... we'll see. Internet is kinda hard to come by, and at the hotels, it's usually 20-30 bucks. When last I wrote, we were headed for Monaco. We headed back through the Mont Blanc Tunnel towards Italy. Fortunately I had kept my receipt from the previous trip, and got the 10 Euro return rate instead of the 40 Euro one way. Expensive, but I guess you have to pay for a 12km long tunnel somehow. On the Italian side of the tunnel lies Aosta, and the beginning of the Piemonte wine region of Italy (think Barolos). Beautiful country - mountains and vineyards everywhere. We didn't have time to wine taste this time around. Hopefully we'll get to come back. We continued down the speed camera and toll both laden Autostrade toward Monaco. We arrived in Monaco and checked into the Marriott. A nice hotel, and they gave us a great ocean view room looking at the Harbor, which was home to some VERY big boats. We decided to head over to the area around the Monte Carlo casino and explore. The money in this town is unbelievable. Winning the lottery probably wouldn't even be enough to rub elbows with these people. The 6 cars that the valet had in front of the casino were worth more than a million dollars. Ferarri, McLaren, Lamborghini... They were all there. So what did we do? Marched right into the Casino and gambled! We didn't win enough for a new car, but we did win enough to buy a nice dinner! Monaco was neat to see, but very busy and crowded. Also, there weren't really any good beaches. Driving around there was probably the toughest place yet. The streets aren't much wider than your car, and infinite scooters whizz by like lightning.
I had originally booked two nights at the Marriott, but changed my mind at the last minute and book the second night at the Le Meridien in Nice. What a great decision that turned out to be! The room we got at the Le Meridien was awesome. They put us on the top floor in an executive room, and our King size bed faced the beach. Waking up to the sun rising over the Med is something I'll never forget. We did have a bit of a scare though... After we checked in, we dropped our stuff in our room and headed up to the rooftop restaurant for lunch. We both ordered hamburgers, and I washed mine down with an excellent, well chilled Sancerre. When we came back from lunch to our room, we noticed all our stuff was gone. We were kinda freaked that our stuff, especially our passports and computer, were gone! After a couple of frantic calls to hotel security, it was discovered that one of the bellmen had goofed and thought that we had changed rooms. They brought our things from the other room and everything was right again. But still, there was about 10min of genuine panic. To calm our nerves, we headed over to the hotel's private beach and I ordered a cocktail. On a tip from the Conceirge, we headed to a French restaurant about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. It was kinda hidden, and out of the way of the tourist area. It ended up being one of the best meals we've had so far. I had rack of lamb over french beans and potatoes au gratin and Alison had salmon. I selected a Crozes-Hermitage to go with it, and it was outstanding. On our way out, I told our waitress that it was the best food I had had in France, and she gave me a hug! For Brandy and Ray: In case you want to check it out if you go to Nice, it's called Les Epicuriens. 6 Place Wilson - 06000 Nice. Tel 04 93 80 85 00.
The next day was pretty much just a driving day to get us up towards Paris. We took the long way from Nice to Avignon, up and over the mountains above Nice and then down into the Provencial plains. We did take a funny side trip... Our guide book had mentioned this thing called the Fontaine de Vacluse, which it claimed was a very impressive and very deep natural fountain. It even claimed that Jaques Cousteau had attempted unsuccessfully to dive to the bottom of it. Since it was only a few km off our route, we decided we had to see this thing. Well, as you can see from the picture, we must have been there on an off day. Oh well. At least the 20 minute hike past all the souvenir carts and fried food stands got our blood pumping after being in the car all day. We got back in the car and headed towards Carpentras, which was our planned stay for the night. But when we got there, we weren't sure we wanted to stay. It was a bit dirty, and kind of a college town. We decided to check out Avignon (20km NW) instead. We're sure glad we did. Avignon is a walled city right on the Rhone River, and it has a really neat cathedral/palace. Apparently it was the pope's residence at one point. We found a nice hotel, and took an evening stroll. Being rather tired of restraunts, we settled for a couple of sandwiches from a street stand. Good stuff, and cheap! We headed back to the hotel early for a good night's sleep.
After a quick breakfast of espresso and baguette frommage (basically a sliced baguette with about half a wheel of brie on it - Delicious!), we headed north for Beaune and the Cote d' Or. Following the Route du Grand Vins, we saw several of the famous Burgundian regions I am familiar with - Macon, Puligny Montrachet, Pommard, and Beaune. We stopped at a few wineries and tasted some great local stuff. I'm not sure how were going to get all the wine we bought home. We took a lunch break in Beaune and were going to stay the night, but there was not an empty hotel room to be found. We decided that we'd just continue to Paris since it was only 2.5 hrs more. So that is where I find myself now, in Paris, at The Le Meridien La E'toille. Looking forward to seeing the sights over the next 2 days, and to coming home after that. Talk to you all soon!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Touring the Alps...

Hello Friends!
This time from Chamonix-Mont Blanc in France. Made our way west today from Andermatt over Furkapass. The drive over Furka was incredible. So green, and so rocky. The road is kinda scary; drop offs to oblivion and not much more that one car width in some sections. Did I really ride this on a motorcycle?! Funny story... I figured that I shoudn't be the only one having all the Fahrvergn├╝gen on this trip, so I asked Alison if she wanted to drive. When I had asked this previously she said no, but to my surprise, she said "yes". I was happy to hear that she was interested in driving, so I pulled over about 1km from the top of Furka. After giving her a few tips on some of the wonderful differences that make a BMW special, it was all hers. She began rather directly, and drove as if she had a sports car at home in the garage. I was fairly impressed. So, if you've ever experienced a pass in the alps, you probably know that there are a LOT of hairpin turns. Some so sharp that you must downshift to first gear, and crank the wheel to its lock. We exited such a turn as the road narrowed to the point where two cars might BARELY get by each other. No sooner than I noticed that a car was coming the other way, did I notice Alison wasn't slowing down to let the other car pass. You know when you're watching a movie, and they slow the action scene down to half speed for dramatic effect? This happened to me in real life. On the passenger side, I saw the mirror no more than half an inch from the rocky wall. On the other side, was a van that couldn't have been more than an inch away. I was positive that the next sound I was going to hear was sheet metal on rock. We heard a sound, but it wasn't that. Alison said she had no idea my voice could go as high as it did. Of course we didn't hit anything, but I have enough adrenaline in my system to last the rest of the trip.
The ride down the other side was less eventful, but just as stunning.

From there, we made our way to Martigny, which is the at the base of the Col du St. Bernard - one of the great climbs of the Tour de France. We stopped at a grocery store to grab some cheese and wine, as we planned to have a picnic at the top of the Col. The weather was nice, so we dropped the top, and began the climb. All the way up, we saw the left over signs of the Tour... "go Lance", and many other rider's names painted onto the road. I'd love to be here sometime for the actual tour. It started raining just as we got to the top, spoiling our idea of a picnic. We quickly put the top up on the car, and decided to seek better weather down the hill. We crossed into Italy just after the summit, and the rain continued. Getting rather hungry, we stopped about half way down the hill and ate in the car. Not quite as romantic as a mountain top picnic, but the cheese and baguette were excellent. We descended into Aosta, Italy and turned west toward Chamonix via the Mont Blanc tunnel. A rather impressive tunnel, it runs almost 12km under Mont Blanc. Not a whole lot going on in Chamonix at the moment (think Mammoth in August), but beautiful indeed. We had a great dinner with some great french wine, and are taking it easy tonight. Tomorrow it's off to Monaco for some beach time!! Stay tuned...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Greetings from Switzerland!

Hello friends! I am writing to you today from Andermatt, Switzerland. A sleepy little town in the swiss alps at the base of 5 different mountain passes. We arrived here last night via Oberalppass (literally "over the alp pass"). Today we're off to climb the Col du St. Bernard and do some more alp exploration.

Since this is the first time I've had a chance to sit down in front of the computer since we've been here, I'll use the opportunity to back track a bit and tell you where we have been. We arrived in Frankfurt early on Saturday and cleared customs. I had previously reserved a rental car at Sixt, so we made our way down the long path to the rental car booth. Much to my excitement, they had upgraded me from the standard 4 cylinder, 4 door BMW 318 and given me a 6 cyl, 2 door BMW 325i hardtop convertable. Short of an M3, I couldn't ask for anything more! Fortunately, it is equipped with BMW's excellent GPS system which has proven invaluable on this trip. When I was here 10 years ago, I was staring at a map and trying to remember the directions before shoving it back in my motorcycle's tank bag. Now, I tell the car where I want to go, and it guides me there!

We made our way out of Frankfurt via the Autobahn towards Wurzburg, which is where we had planned to meet up with Brandy and Ray. Flying down the autobahn in a BMW at 120mph is absolute heaven. And even at that speed, I was being passed by cars going much faster. It took us about 1.5 hrs to get to Wurzburg and since we had arrived a bit before Brandy and Ray, we decided to take a walk around town. We were surprised to see that everything was closed, but later learned that it was a national holiday; the celebration of the reunification of east and west Germany. When Brandy and Ray got to town, we met for lunch at a greek restaurant and dined on Gyros and coke with no ice. After that, we headed south towards Munich. Since we were going to be in Munich for two nights, we thought we'd take it easy the first night, and hit up Oktoberfest the next day. While having a drink at the Hilton bar waiting for Brandy and Ray, our waitress suggested a restaurant for some local bavarian grub. It ended up being fantastic! I was introduced to a local favorite called schwinebraten, which is basically roasted pork shoulder in a gravy of some sort. Delicious! It also came with two potato balls (as did every other meal we ordered in Munich), that were strangely gelatinous. The Oktoberfest brew was tasty, and they even had an alcoholfrei brew for Alison.

Well, that's all I have time for at the moment, but I'll post more soon! Take care, and have a Gute Fahrt! (Good ride or trip - I'm sure you can imagine the smirks and stifled laughter that phrase has caused).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

European Road trip!

Hello all,
Today we are furiously packing and wrapping up last minute details before our flight to Frankfurt tomorrow. I must say, I'm pretty excited about the trip. Visiting some new places, and some that I visited almost 10 years ago on a motorcycle. We'll also be touring some of the famous Cols of the Tour de France; Col du Sant Bernard and Mt. Ventoux. Yes, I do wish I were going to be pedaling up those on my bike, but with a pregnant wife in tow, I think the BMW is a better option this time. Maybe next time. Well, who knows... maybe there will be a bike rental shop next to a giant mall that Alison wants to spend a few hours in! Hey, a man can dream right? I look forward to sharing our adventure with you, and will try to update as often as possible, both here and on twitter (nsgrillo).

Our planned route:

View Larger Map

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lake Trinity and the home stretch...

Due to a lack of internet and time, I wasn't able to update from the road for the last couple of days, so this one may be a bit long. We're happily home now, but I wanted to complete the blog with our last couple of days.

We left Arcata on Wednesday, heading east up the 299 towards Lake Trinity. I had never been up this way, having always come to the lake via I-5 and Redding. What a beautiful way to go. The two-lane road climbs up out of Arcata through coastal forests and passes through several summits that are around 2500ft. Each summit offered a commanding view of the valleys below. The last summit set us down in the Trinity River valley, and the highway followed the gentle curves of the river for the next 30 or so miles. We began to climb up the steep grade toward Whiskeytown in the 100 degree heat. The truck protested the climb a bit via the temp gauge, but never got high enough to consider doing something about it. It peaked at about 235 degrees, and the transmission temp peaked at 241 degrees. Without an auxiliary trans cooler, this climb might have been trouble. As we crested the last hill and started to descend towards the lake, I began to get excited, and suggested to Gabby that she should start to look for the lake through the trees. I had a bit of an unfair advantage, having been here before, and pointed out the lake as soon as it came in to view. I was shocked to see how low the lake was this year! According to the folks at the dock, this is the lowest the lake has been since 1978. Three drought years in a row will do that I suppose. Hopefully El Nino will work its magic this year. We camped at the Minersville campground, which was deserted except for a couple of motorcycle campers. Oh, and again we saw hippies. This time they came by Volkswagen van. I'm sure I heard a guitar and drums coming from their direction. Our travels had taken their toll on my poor pregnant wife by this point, and she ended up taking a long nap after we arrived at the camp site. Gabby and I took the opportunity to go exploring around the lake shore. I answered more questions in an hour than I probably ever have. Truthfully we were all pretty tired and so after a light dinner, we turned in early.
The next day we rented a ski boat (I believe it was the same boat my parents rented 10 years ago), and spent the day cruising the lake. For the Trinity houseboat crew - we headed up to Hay Gulch, and tried to go to the spot where we usually beach the houseboats, but we couldn't! The lake was so low, that it was impossible to get back to that spot! We spent most of the day floating in the middle of the lake and swimming. The water was about 80 degrees and the air about 95. We only saw two other boats the whole day and the water was pretty much glass the whole time. Even though we only spent a day on the lake, it was still awesome. We headed back to camp and had a great evening BBQing chicken. Gabby and I walked the lake shore again, but this time we took mommy with us!
Friday morning we woke up early to head out for Sacramento to visit my cousins there. We had planned to tour the capitol, but received some good intel from my aunt and cousin about the tea party tax protests that were to be held that day. As much as I wanted to join the crowd, I figured parking a trailer would be a challenge. So we headed over to my cousin Brian's house where he welcomed us with his keg of Blue Moon! Since it was 100+ degrees outside, I gladly accepted a pint or three. Brian's wife Shellie joined us, and we spent a great afternoon catching up. Later that evening, we were joined by my cousin Megan and her husband Bill, along with their kids, including the new twins! Aunt Kathy joined us as well and Brian grilled up some great BBQ Chicken. It was really a great way to spend the last night of our trip! Aunt Kathy had us over for an excellent breakfast the following morning, and it was a great sendoff. We had toyed around with a stopover in San Luis, but we were all pretty anxious to get home at this point. We settled for an excellent lunch stop at Harris Ranch. I had a tri-tip sandwich with a blackberry cheesecake milkshake. I was making the most of my last day of vacation! Gabby and I both though that it was pretty much the best thing we had ever had!

Well folks, that's pretty much it for my account of our roadtrip. Thank you all for following along, I hope it was enjoyable to read about! I would definitely do something like this again, although I'd love to bring others along next time. To check out the complete photo album from the trip, go to

Love you all,
Nic, Alison and Gabby

Some metrics from the trip:
Days: 9
Total Miles: 1728
Average Fuel Economy: 8.2 mpg
Total Fuel Used: 211.8 gal
Hottest Temp encountered: 104
Coolest Temp encountered: 51

Thursday, August 27, 2009

First time we've seen the sun in 3 days...and it feels sooo good!

I'm sitting at our campsite at Lake Trinity waiting to take a long, hot shower. Last night we noticed that the empty campsite next to us had water and electric hook-ups so we switched first thing in the morning. Although, I don't think there was a danger we wouldn't get it. It's pretty deserted here as it's the middle of the week and the lake is only about 50% full, the lowest it's been since 1978!
Yesterday Warren took us on a short hike down to the beach in Trinidad, a neat little town near Arcata. The way down to the beach is like a rainforest and then one step more and you're out on sand and waves are crashing. We just don't have things like that in SoCal. Of course, we also don't have quite the shark population that they have on the northern coast!
On the way out to Trinity yesterday the traveling and everything we've been doing caught up with me big time. I think I slept most of the 2 hr drive here and then some when we got the trailer settled. After all that I had no problem falling asleep right after dinner for the rest of the night! I feel much more like myself today and we had a great time out on the lake cruising and floating around on rafts.
Tonight we're starting dinner a little earlier so we can do s'mores and hot cocoa around the campfire and look at the stars. We didn't do it last night because we were all pretty tired. And yes, mom, I brought the hot cocoa maker you gave us. We've been using it every time we're at a campsite with electricity! Why not?
Oh, and before I forget, I cannot believe Nic stole my thunder and posted a picture of my finished knitting project before I got a chance to! The funny thing is I finished the coin purse about thirty minutes after I blogged about knitting it! I thought I had at least a couple more hours of work left and I do about an hour every time we drive. Gabby was asleep when I finished it so I got a picture of her with it later. She's very excited about it and has been very careful not to lose it. So I guess I'll start on the hats that have been requested once we leave tomorrow! Hope you guys don't mind the color purple, it's the only yarn that came in the kit!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Giant Redwoods, Hippies and Oysters

I must say that the north coast is quite impressive. Still the same Pacific ocean that I am familiar with, but at the same time so different. The intense greenery, cliffs and rock formations are something to see. Shortly after we left our Westport campground, Hwy 1 left the coast to rejoin the 101 inland after about 33 miles of tight turns and grades that I would have enjoyed much more if I were planted in the saddle of a motorcycle. I also noticed several cyclists making the trek in the opposite direction and I thought about what a reward it would be to arrive at the coast and have a cold beer after all that. Once again following a tip from Craig, we took a scenic detour and followed the Avenue of the Giants. This stretch of road parallels the 101, but shows off many of the region's ancient redwood trees, some more than 1000 years old. It runs for 33 miles and offers endless photo opportunities. We rejoined the coast at Fortuna, where we were pleased to become reacquainted with such wonders like mobile phone service and Starbucks. We immediately stopped for lattes and checked our voicemail messages. This was also the point at which Alison finished her first knitting project. Posting a picture of your wife that you know she's going to hate you for - THAT'S good blogging, people! Since Warren was in class, we had some time to kill, and decided to cruise downtown Arcata. We drove passed the town square, and noticed a rather large concentration of "hippies" (people with dread locks wearing tie-dyed clothes and playing drums). On a side note, one of Warren's friends told me that it is perfectly legal for women to walk around topless in Arcata, but only in the summertime. I was disappointed that we didn't see any, well maybe not. After sampling the local flavor, we decided to head out to Warren's and wait for him to come home. Warren lives on an Oyster farm, which is well outside of town, and at the end of a long one lane road. We had about a half hour to kill until he got home, so out came the bikes and we went for a cruise. Gabby was thrilled that we got to ride over a bridge and see real cows, even though she thought they smelled awful. After Warren got home, he gave us a tour of the Oyster/Clam farm that he lives/works on. It was really amazing to see that clams and oysters start off not much bigger than a grain of sand. Warren fired up the BBQ, and brought out a bag of fresh oysters that had been harvested that morning. He handed me a raw Kumamoto (my favorite) and I was in heaven. He also BBQed some and we enjoyed those as well. It was a great evening, getting to know Warren's friends and enjoying the BBQ.

Stay tuned... Trinity is next!

Wine tasting, tall trees and a broken toilet

Being the captain of this 12,000lb land barge (mileage has improved to 7.9mpg by the way) doesn't afford me too many opportunities to add to this story, so I have a bit of catching up to do. It also doesn't help that cell coverage has been virtually non-existent on the north coast. (Thanks a lot AT&T.) Seriously, Alison's verizon phone gets service everywhere, and I get nothing! Boooooo.... But hey, I guess it's not the worst thing in the world to be "unplugged" for a bit. So let's see, where did I leave off? Ahh yes, the drive north from San Francisco. We had a great BBQ at Jeremy and Damara's of tri-tip and sausages. Craig made his famous "salchicha" and Ryan brought a cheesecake. I offered up a bottle of James' chardonnay that he had given me, and it was very thoroughly enjoyed! As were the 4 bottles after that. The night concluded with Ryan and Gabby dancing to Hannah Montana. Very Entertaining! The next morning, Jeremy decided to take a half day off and join us for breakfast. We were also delighted to be joined by Jeremy's parent's. Allan and Marcy hadn't yet met Gabby, so it was great to be able to see them. Marcy gave Gabby some games to play during our travels, and Gabby has loved them! We played an intense game of Memory last night!
Leaving San Francisco, we made our way over the Golden Gate bridge and into the Sonoma Valley. We stopped for lunch at the Oakville grocery in Healdsburg and had some of the best sandwiches that any of us have had in a long time. Continuing north, we passed Hopland and headed west on Hwy 253 and joined Hwy 128 at Boonville. On a tip from Craig, we decided to stop at Goldeneye Winery in Philo. Goldeneye is one of Duckhorn's wineries, and is dedicated to Pinot Noir exclusively. They have a great setup for tasting which had us sitting out on the lawn overlooking the vineyard, while being served each tasting. A great way to break up a long drive! After that, it was on to the coast through some beautiful mountains and the Navarro Redwood Forrest.
We settled for the night at the Westport Beach KOA, which is when I discovered that we had run into a bit of a problem. As I was connecting the trailer to the site's hookups, I noticed that the drain valve and hookup for our black water tank (toilet waste) had broken off and were MIA. Looking underneath the trailer, I noticed that there was a giant hole in the plastic black water tank where the drain pipe should be. Shit! Well, actually no shit. Houston, we have a problem. I'm not sure when or where this happened, but I do recall running over a good sized piece of a truck tire tread on the 101 just north of Healdsburg. I figure that it must have come up from one of the trailer wheels and slammed into that plastic drain pipe which sits just behind the driver's side wheel, snapping it off. There goes my deposit... So now we are reduced to shower only, and campground toilets! Bummer.
Anyhow, I realize this is getting a bit long, so I'll pause for now and continue a bit later from the lake!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Next stop: Arcata

After a quiet night at Westport campground north of Mendocino we're on the road again. We had a rare morning where Gabby actually slept in and practically slept through breakfast. Sidenote: breakfast has never tasted better than the meals we've been cooking in Nic's grandma Dolly's cast iron pan. It's really adding to our camping experience.
To keep myself busy on the longer drives inbetween destinations I decided to teach myself how to knit. I've always wanted to learn and I figured the drive would give me some spare time. I bought the Klutz knitting kit after reading good reviews on Amazon. It's actually a kids' book! I learned all the basics by the first day and am working on the first project. It's a little coin purse for Gabby which I should have done by the end of the trip. Eventually, I want to make her some cute little hats and maybe some baby blankets! I'll post a picture when the coin purse is done because that's good blogging, people.
We're driving through redwoods again. Yesterday I forced myself to stay awake for the drive because it was so pretty. I'm sure we're in for some good views between here and Arcata. Can't wait to be there!

Monday, August 24, 2009

My $100 house with the $1,000,000 view

Yes, it's true. I did live in a mobile home once. And it did have an amazing view. It was torn down and hauled away a few years ago, but as you can see, my custom mailbox still remains... As Alison said, we did have a great time in King City. I also enjoyed visiting Dan and Stephanie's house in Templeton. Dan, I have serious BBQ envy after seeing your smoker. Looking forward to our next visit... I'll bring some big steaks!
The bike ride through the vineyard was really awesome. I had driven those vineyard roads many, many times, but it was a whole other experience on a bike. Made me feel better about drinking all that wine and eating that excellent rack of lamb the night before. While spending the evening at James and Colleen's, I had the opportunity to visit the winery with James and sample some of his latest creations. We had some of his latest Chardonnay which was just my style - Well developed tropical fruit and excellent body with a nice long finish. We also tried his Pinot Noir which was outstanding. Nice cherry and raspberry flavors with some subtle toasty oak to round it out. For a treat, James sampled us some of his late harvest Viognier and a ruby port.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

And we're not even half-way done...

I'm still finding sand in places that I shouldn't, but the real shower that I was able to take this morning definitely helped. We're on our way to Jeremy and Damara's after a great visit with James, Coleen and adorable 1yr old Keith. Last night we had lamb with veggies that all came out of their garden. Gabby and I also ate our fill of the fresh strawberries and raspberries growing in the backyard. James made a dessert (a pavlova) that I am going to have to try to replicate and we tasted some great wines from the vineyard he works on.
This morning began with one of the several new things I would experience before lunch. I tried vegemite (like peanut butter for Aussies) on my toast being advised against it by Nic and Coleen. It wasn't bad but I don't know if I would choose it again. Maybe. I've been told that most American's can't even aquire a taste for it.
After breakfast we went for a bikeride on the trails through James' vineyard. It was gorgeous, although a bit of a challenge getting through some of the sandy parts with my beach cruiser. As we rode through we were able to try grapes right off the vine. The sauvignon blanc grapes tasted very much like the wine. All in all it was a great start the the day and now I'm ready for a little nap as Nic hauls us and the giant trailer for a couple hours.
It's safe to say I probably won't be driving much this trip.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lunch with Big Al

Decided on woodstocks over firestones today. It just sounded better
after all that meat we ate last night. But don't worry... I still
ordered my pizza with pepperoni and linguica!

The deep sands of Pismo...

What a day! We made pretty good time up to Pismo, but at a cost... We averaged a whopping 7.7 mpg. The 6.0L had no problem towing the aerodynamic brick that is our travel trailer. And I must say, the new 6 speed auto makes towing a 5000lb trailer a breeze, but the gas tank doesn't lie. When we stopped in Santa Maria, I added 25.8 gallons to my 26 gallon tank!

We arrived at Pismo, and drove out onto the beach. The weather was less then perfect; the fog was rolling in, but it wasn't too cold. The beach was pretty crowded and it was difficult to find a beach front spot that was above the tide line (more on this in a minute) so I decided to venture up sand highway a bit and find a spot just off the beach. Now, let me preface this next part by saying that I did this many times in college in a 2 wheel drive truck and had no trouble getting around. For some reason it didn't really cross my mind that I was dragging an extra 5000lbs. this time and that it might require a bit more "pull" to get around in the soft sand. So, I started up Sand Highway, and was making decent progress until I reached a bit of an incline. So, when you're driving in the dunes without 4 wheel drive, you have two friends: Horsepower (wheelspeed) and Momentum. Because I forgot to disable traction control, both of those friends deserted me when I floored it to increase my wheelspeed and maintain my momentum. The truck decided for me that I really didn't want my wheels to spin, and so there went momentum. Tried to get going again, but it was hopeless. I was stuck. Buried up to the frame. What's worse - I forgot my tow strap, which I swore up and down to myself that I wouldn't forget. So I made a quick call to Bill, who was bringing his family to meet us for a bonfire. Bill agreed to pick up a strap and try to yank me out of the sand. It did help my ego a bit that another truck ( a big 4x4 diesel truck no less!) had gotten stuck behind me and hadn't made it half as far as I did. While waiting for Bill, some nice guys from bakersfield stopped and asked if I needed some help. I humbly said yes and they hooked up to my truck. The big Duramax Diesel 4x4 pulled me out like a champ. I supplied the guys with some beer money and said thank you several times! Sorry Tommy, but I'm not going to be able to make fun of Bakersfield with you anymore (at least not for awhile).
I wisely decided that the firmer sands of the beach might be a better option for us. As I mentioned before, it was pretty crowded, so the only spots available were slightly below the high tide line. I found one that was on a bit of a rise, and just barely below the tide line. To be safe, I dug somewhat of a trench to stop any advancing water. Since the beach is so flat, the water just kinda dribbles up, and it doesn't take much to stop it. We ended up being fine; the water never came closer than about 10 ft, but I stayed up until high tide at 11:30 just to be sure ;).

We had a great time with Bill's family and with Dan's family. The campfire was hot, the S'mores were sticky and the beer was cold! We're really glad you all were able to join us! Today, it's off to San Luis to visit Alex and then continue up the road to visit James and Colleen. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 21, 2009

To the beach!

OK, so the Camarillo airport cafe is somewhere I'll definitly go again. Good food and the outlets are right aroud the corner! Actually, walking distance if you wear tennis shoes and bring a wagon to drag your loot back. I thought right after lunch would be the perfect time to go today but Nic didn't agree. Oh well, they'll be there on the way home!

Another version of the $100 hamburger

A quick stop for lunch... What better place than an airport? I try to
visit the waypoint cafe anytime I am in Camarillo. They have one of
the best patty melts anywhere! The airport is busy today as they
prepare for the airshow this weekend. I had no idea this was going on,
or I would have started our trip a day later! I tried to convince
Alison to let us camp in the parking lot. She said we could if I would
give her my wallet and a ride to the outlet mall. Looks like we'll be
heading to pismo! Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I am too tired to blog right now but I'm sure I'll have something witty and exciting to say tomorrow. Stay posted.

Ready to go!

Well, here it is... Our home away from home for the next 10 days! We're taking a roadtrip up to visit Alison's brother Warren at college in Humboldt. We've planned to stop a few places to visit friends, and see what kind of adventures (or misadventures) we can find along the way.
We've got most of our stuff packed, just a few last minute errands to
run in the AM. Then, it's off to our first overnight stop, Pismo Beach! Hope you all enjoy our road stories. The map above will keep you up to date on our latest location. This is my first attempt at a blog, so bear with me! -Nic