On the Road With Doris & Ez

We're going on a road trip!!!! Could be three weeks could be three years, we'll see. Read below to see where we are now.....

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Central California Coast - October 15-29, 2006

Our next stop was a unique RV park south of Willits, California on the site of the Ridgewood Ranch, home of the legendary race horse Seabiscuit. The location was gorgeous – acres of rolling hills and huge oaks and maples covered with magnificent fall foliage. But we were surprised to see a herd of small white deer feeding in the distance. We learned that the former owner of the ranch was a friend of William Randolph Hearst who made a gift of several European white fallow deer. Today dozens of their descendents roam the area along with wild turkey and California quail. Look closely to see one in the photo – it’s hard to get close to these shy, skittish creatures.

That evening we went outside to admire the beautiful night skies. We heard a low growling sound and walked into the dark to investigate. Could it be a wild boar, or maybe a mountain lion? (They’d been seen in the area. . ) Then we heard a loud snort that was too close for comfort and beat feet back to the coach! We learned later these deep groaning belches are made by the male fallow deer during the mating season, but it sure made for a moment of excitement!

We spent one afternoon hiking over the ranch’s hilly terrain. During our walk we scouted the elusive white deer, sampled some wild grapes (that's Ez eating the grapes) and spied our first Pileated Woodpecker! This bird is spectacular and as big as a crow!

Another day we took a drive over to the coast and traveled through Fort Bragg and the charming Victorian seaside town of Mendocino. We’ve enjoyed many days driving this beautiful, rugged coastline, making stops along the way to check out the seals and sea lions lounging on the rocky outcroppings.

We also made our first wine tasting excursion through the vineyards of Mendocino County. Many of the tasting rooms here belong to small, family-owned vineyards and so they’re much more casual than those in the Napa Valley. The tasting rooms aren’t fancy, there aren’t any tasting fees, and the hosts don’t hesitate to offer an extra sample. We picked up a case of a particular favorite and a few other bottles as well. We should be well stocked for the holidays. The folks in the picture had taken a limo for their day of wine tasting. After a few samples, they found the picnic tables outside too much to resist!

The liquor cabinet-stocking tour continued as we traveled to Vacaville,
just a hop and a skip from San Francisco, the Napa Valley and Sonoma. Our daughter Jennifer is working on her doctorate at UCSF and came out to join us for a couple of days. We spent a great day with Jennifer and a friend driving through the quaint towns in the Sonoma Valley, stopping at some of the small tasting rooms along the way. Sonoma was a step up from the wine tasting experience in Mendocino – a little more upscale, but still low or no cost. A few days later we headed out for Napa – another glorious sunny day driving through the vine-covered countryside. Napa is the Saks Fifth Avenue of wine tasting however so we paid for our tasting privileges (sigh.. ).

Another day we drove into San Francisco to spend some time with Jennifer in the big city. We checked out the old masters at the Legion of Honor Museum and Ez honed his driving skills chauffeuring me up and down the hills of San Francisco. While most people head to Fisherman’s Wharf or Alcatraz, we spent an hour or so watching the surfers just a few blocks from downtown. (And of course, one of the highlights of our visit to the Bay Area was getting to know Jennifer’s friend Eric who we’ve heard about for so long!)

We’ve been on the road for about six months now and we’re still having fun. Living in 400 square feet does present some challenges, but they’re easy to overlook when we think about all the amazing things we’ve seen. Check back soon for the next installment!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Redwood Country - October 1-14, 2006

This is coming to you from Arcata, California, just north of Eureka. We’ve been here a week exploring the redwoods and the northern California coast. But I’ll start by telling you a bit more about Gold Beach, Oregon, our previous stop and not technically “redwood country.”

On our last day in Gold Beach we took a trip up the Rogue River on the popular Mail Boat Tour. The mail boats have been have been provided postal service to the tiny town of Agness about 30 miles up the river for over 100 years. These days they carry tourists as well on a day-long trip in their open-air craft. It was clear but chilly when we set out in the morning, but the awe-inspiring scenery made us forget about the cold. We spotted great blue herons, egrets, a trio of frisky river otters and several bald eagles before we made our lunch stop in Agness. We had our choice of dining options, but Ez and I picked the historic Lucas Lodge where we had a full-on fried chicken feast served family style for us and our fellow diners. On the return trip to Gold Beach, our river pilot thrilled us by turning “doughnuts” in open areas of the river – fun, as long as you didn’t get wet!

Here's another photo of the stunning coast south of Gold Beach.

Our drive to Arcata took us down Highway 101 through the heart of the redwoods. These travel days are sometimes frustrating because we can’t always stop to check out the scenery or roadside attractions. That’s why we decided to backtrack up 101 for our first day trip. We stopped at the redwood grove dedicated to Lady Bird Johnson where we took a hike back into the forest. Words can’t describe how amazing it is to be in the middle of these towering trees – like being in a medieval cathedral with the arches soaring above. Maybe that’s why when we arrived at the Trees of Mystery, a popular tourist site that charges a $13.50 admission fee to walk a paved path through carved bears and Disney characters – well, we decided to take a pass. .

On the way back we took a scenic bypass along narrow gravel roads that hugged the cliffs above the ocean. A fog bank had settled along the coast and the scene from the cliffs above the clouds was like looking out the window of an airplane – too cool!

This was a great day, but sadly we FORGOT THE CAMERA!! Which led us to ponder the eternal question: If you didn’t get a picture, did it really happen!?!

Another day we drove south from Arcata through the Victorian village of Ferndale. This entire town of original Victorian structures has been declared a national historic site. Here are some examples of the ornate architecture.

After leaving Ferndale, we traveled another narrow, winding road that took us to the remote Lost Coast area. We saw just a few cars, some scattered ranches, and lots of glorious scenery. When we reached the Pacific the road traveled right next to the rocky black sand beach. We stopped in the small town of Petrolia for lunch and visited with some of the locals in this off-the-beaten-path location before circling back down to the redwoods. In the John D. Rockefeller grove we saw some of the largest known redwoods and also spotted two young deer feeding in the forest. Sorry - it was getting toward dusk and the photos didn’t turn out very well.

At different times on our journey we’ve explored Native American ruins, old ghost towns, and historic mansions until we’d had our fill. But at this point, we’re still a long way from burning out on redwoods! That’s OK – I’m sure we’ll have other opportunities as we work our way south through California.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Down the Oregon Coast - September 12-30, 2006

We’ve spent the last few weeks exploring the glorious Pacific Coast. We started out in Washington on the Long Beach Peninsula, across the Columbia River from Astoria, Oregon. From there we moved on to Lincoln City, Florence and Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast. Of course, this took us through the heart of one of the most scenic areas of the country - like the photo on the left. Here’s a rundown on some of the highlights.

Long Beach claims to have the longest beach in the world (hence the name!) – over 20 miles of flat, dark sand. We drove the Durango for miles watching the gulls, sandpipers and kite flyers. We bought kites and tried to fly them, but we picked an afternoon with gale force winds. But there was another guy out there though who was buzzing his six-foot kite around like an angry hummingbird.

We visited a couple of spots on the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition – a monument marking where Clark traveled up the Washington coast, the beach where they first saw the Pacific Ocean, and a spot on the Columbia River called Dismal Nitch (I love that name!) where the party was trapped for several days by a violent storm. It’s amazing to realize that was only 200 years ago – time flies when you’re transforming a continent!

The scenery changed as we moved down the Oregon Coast – lots of rugged headlands, pounding surf, and rocky outcroppings – a different, spectacular view around every bend. Just south of Lincoln City was a little bay formed where three streams flowed into the ocean. We had fun here watching the crabbers throw their traps into the water and pulling them out a few minutes later filled (hopefully) with crab. The bay was also home to a colony of harbor seals. We watched them feeding at the mouth of the bay until late afternoon when about 25 seals hauled out onto the far beach to relax on the sand.

They have a different attitude toward sea mammals in Gold Beach where the Rogue River meets the sea. The salmon were running and there were dozens of fishing boats trolling the mouth of the river. We spotted several seals and sea lions in the area, as well as a small boat labeled Sea Lion Patrol. Apparently the sea lions have become especially aggressive recently, often stealing the salmon right off the fishing lines. We watched the Sea Lion Patrol chase the sea lions out of the bay by throwing M-80 firecrackers behind them! We were assured that the animals weren’t hurt, and it did seem they weren’t too discouraged because they returned quickly. Frankly, I was rooting for the sea lions!

Gold Beach is also where we did our first whale watching. A couple we met clued us in that several gray whales had been hanging out at a spot just off the coast. We spent a half hour watching them spouting, blowing and flashing their tales as they sounded. Pretty cool! We’re looking forward to doing more of this as we travel south.

On a drive north from Lincoln City we came to a location where hang gliders sail from the top of a cliff to the beach below. An instructor was coaching some beginners and asked if I could take some photos and email them to him. Who knows? I may have my first photo credits in an upcoming issue of Oregon Hang Gliding Magazine.

Not that there haven’t been lots of other great photo opportunities! We stopped to check out a few of the famous lighthouses along the coast.

Another day we drove east from Florence and saw some glorious fall colors on our way to discover some of Oregon’s remaining covered bridges.

We’re looking forward to continuing our journey down the coast. Next stop – northern California. Come back soon. .