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 http://picasaweb.google.com/nsgrillo/CampingTrip809#

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

Tomorrow

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