Sunset at Macatawa

After settling on board the Imjatse Wednesday afternoon in Saugatuck, we grabbed our bikes and headed into town to explore and grab some dinner at The Mermaid. Such an adorable town! We spent the night at Tower Marina between Saugatuck and Douglas. The next morning Tom was able to work and I headed into town to provision some last minute groceries. We hadn't even set sail yet, and already we were hooked on the cruising lifestyle. E especially seemed to love the rocking of the boat, especially at naptime.

That afternoon we rode down to Oval Beach for a stroll along the lake. It was packed with families and the waves were rolling in. I swear you wouldn't have known it from a beach on the Florida coast until you dipped your toes in the water. Brrrr! On our way back from the beach we took the chain ferry across the river. The chain ferry in Saugatuck is the only one left in all of North America. It cost a whopping dollar per person, bikes and babies ride for free.

We decided around 4:30 to make a break for Lake Macatawa, about 7 miles north of Saugatuck. It was an absolutely perfect evening sail up the coast and we cruised into the inlet near the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club well before sunset. That night we dropped anchor in the bay rather than tie up to a dock. We grilled corn and chicken and watched the sun dip into the water. Such a treat, since we don't get that view on the west side of the lake.

Friday morning we headed over to the yacht club for showers and shore power. The MBYC is a beautiful facility and E and I enjoyed playing in the grass and walking around the neighborhood. That night we headed towards the dining room for dinner, but stopped for some conversation with a couple on the patio. They asked us to join them for dinner and it quickly turned into a party of at least 15 people! We saw another couple from Saugatuck, our new friends ran into more of their friends and we all had a great time sharing sailing stories. We felt right at home.

Sailing to Lake Macatawa
Corn on the grill!

Saturday morning we got up early and set sail right after breakfast. We wanted to make it to South Haven by the afternoon to meet up with members of the Chicago Yacht Club cruising sailing fleet who were there for the weekend. The wind and water were perfect and we coasted south about 22 miles in 5 1/2 hours. Just in time to get washed up and head to cocktails and dinner with the CYC crew.

We had such a great time, as we always do, getting to know more members and their families. We enjoy similar travel experiences in the Westy, but rarely do they come with the community that surrounds sailing. From Macatawa to South Haven we have met so many warm and welcoming folks. We're excited to see what tomorrow brings.

Marina at South Haven

Welcome back! It's been one crazy, fun-filled year. Last August we welcomed our darling little girl E and its been non-stop awesome sauce ever since. That's the kind of thing that you start saying a year out from those first insane weeks of parenthood that enables you to start considering adding even more to the bunch. But honestly, becoming parents has been an outstanding every day adventure. She is funny, sweet, clever, strong, and beautiful and makes it so easy to appreciate all the little things about our days.

Since February, we have been on a seemingly non-stop travel bender. We hit Tucson to visit Nana and Pop and Florida for my 30th birthday and to visit my grandparents. Then we headed south of the border to Puerto Morelos, Mexico for the wedding celebration of our good friends Tadd and Lindsay who also own a kick-ass dive shop, Wet Set. Next up was a three day backpacking trip outside of Vail Pass with the Lindes and Martins and their little girls. We've also been to Cape Cod three different times! Once for my Mom's retirement party, once in conjunction with a weekend on Nantucket where Tom competed in his third ACK triathlon, and once more just for fun. We also managed two different Westy camping weekends, a trip to the Weaver's lake house, lots of sailing, and even enjoyed a little bit of Chicago summertime.

Riding in style in Mexico
Daddy's first mate
We love Westy campouts!

Now we are capping off the summer with a week-ish long sailing trip up and down the coast of Michigan. Our boat partners sailed the Imjatse across from Chicago and up as far as Saugatuck last week. Yesterday, we drove their car up to meet them and swap. Today is perfect and sunny and we are plotting our next moves. We just ate our last banana so hopefully smooth sailing from here on out!http://www.snopes.com/luck/superstition/bananas.asp

We had such a blast on our trip this fall! Check out the video below to find out about our next adventure!!!
It’s been a while since the last update and a lot has happened! I’ll preface this by saying that my camera was left in the van last week, so no new pictures from us (except one from my phone), sorry everyone! The pictures in the post below are credited in the captions.

We last left off in Mexicali/Calexico where we were getting some repairs on the “agua pumpo”. Once repairs were finished we headed north to Joshua Tree National Park for some camping and rock climbing. We arrived late at night and set up camp at the Jumbo Rocks campsite. In the morning we found ourselves surrounded by massive boulders in every direction. Joshua Tree is truly an amazing place. After a brief morning of work in town we headed to Indian Cove campsite for some rock climbing. Many of the routes at JTree start in various campsites. The prevailing rule is to ask the occupants if you can use the route before setting up your ropes and gear. This day the campsites we wanted to trespass on were vacant, so no permission-asking needed.

We climbed a few routes before sunset and headed to a new campsite for that night. Hidden Valley is the “climber campsite” in the park. Earlier in the day we had been driving around, but no sites to be had in that spot. Finally, another climber couple waved us over and offered to share their spot with us that night. We were very grateful! While setting up camp, a new couple wandered through the site on the way back to their tent. We struck up a conversation and decided to climb together the next day. Vanessa and Colin are from Belgium and are traveling by bicycle from Seattle to Mexico. Check out their blog here (warning, it's in French). We discussed how most of the routes at JTree are trad climbing routes (meaning that there is nothing permanent in the rock to clip your rope into, you have to insert gear into the cracks in the rock to prevent yourself from falling) and the four of us only had sport climbing gear. By teaming up, we could set up multiple ropes and switch off climbing different routes. 
Joshua Tree Photo credit c3y.net
The next morning we met up with Vanessa and Colin at “climber coffee”, a weekend morning gathering set up by the park rangers. They offer free coffee (BYO-mug), tea, and hot chocolate and climbers can peruse park guides, learn about regulations, meet up with climbing partners, and generally socialize. It was really great and much appreciated by everyone. We also met up with a single climber, Natalie, who joined in with our group. Check out her blog here for some awesome climbing pics and videos. She also had some trad gear, so we would be able to get on more routes than we initially thought we’d be able to. It was a fantastic day with really fun people. Hopefully we’ll get some pictures soon from Natalie, who had an amazing camera with her all day.
Climber Coffee at Hidden Valley Photo credit leavenotracecommunity.blogspot.com
That night we invited Vanessa and Colin over to the van for a “dinner party”. They brought their dinner and we cooked ours all in the van (it was cooold that night). We even had appetizers (chips and salsa) and dessert (creme cookies)! 

The next morning we headed out from Joshua Tree in the direction of Las Vegas. Just outside Vegas is Red Rock Canyon, where there is some amazing climbing as well. It was only a 3-ish hour drive, so we figured we would have plenty of time to get in a few days of climbing before heading to Salt Lake City, where we would fly out to Boston for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the Westy started acting up after about an hour on the road. The engine would suddenly cut out and the car would buck violently in the middle of the highway, before picking right back up again and running smoothly for a few more minutes. Not good. We just barely made it onto the Strip before it finally quit picking back up again. We got a super cheap room at Bill’s Gamblin Hall and Saloon (cheap and small casino, but in the best location!) and called it a night. That night I won enough money to cover the room and dinner with extra to spare! Nothing like making money in Vegas!

The next morning Tom found a shop who was willing and able to fix our Westy-woes and also could store the van until January, when Tom would fly out for a ski trip. The initial plan was to leave the Westy with friends in Salt Lake, so we were very grateful for the alternative given the pickle we were in. They even let us borrow a truck for the afternoon so we could get in a little climbing. The rest of the Vegas weekend was a blur. Let’s just say that Margaritaville, blackjack, and gin were involved. 
Would you like some gin with that lime, Tom?
Wednesday morning as we were getting prepared to fly back to Boston, we found out that Tom’s grandfather was nearing the end of his life. He had been in a nursing home and on hospice care for a little while. He was 96 years old and had a great life. Traveling was a huge passion of Tom’s grandfather and grammy and we were inspired in part by them to take a trip like this. Not knowing how long before he would pass, we boarded our flight to Boston. By the time we landed, it was clear that Tom needed to go home to be with his family. We decided that he would catch the first flight to Detroit the next morning. So with 3 hours of sleep, we headed back to the airport. Tom’s grandfather passed away shortly before he arrived on Thanksgiving morning, surrounded by family. We were so grateful that Tom was on his way already and could be there with his family to celebrate his grandfather’s life. I stayed in Boston and had a great Thanksgiving and a few days with my family before joining Tom in Detroit for the funeral on Sunday. It was an amazing service with Tom, his mother, and his uncle all giving wonderful eulogies. His grandfather was a Navy veteran of WWII, so a full honor guard and flag presentation was a part of the memorial. It was a great celebration of a wonderful man. Check out our very first post on the blog about visiting Grandfather in July of this year. You can also read his obituary here.
Grandfather Newhouse
Today, we flew back to Boston in order to catch our original flight to Costa Rica early tomorrow morning. For those of you keeping score, that’s 8 flights in 8 days (if you include layovers) so we will be excited to spend some time on the Nocara beaches! We were so lucky to be able to see both of our families for the Thanksgiving holiday and to be with Tom’s family especially during this tough time. We can’t wait to see them all again at Christmas! We are sad to be coming to the end of this amazing adventure. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us and who has been keeping up with us via the blog. We can’t wait to see you all soon in Chicago!
Looking back on the past 9 weeks of awesomeness that have been this trip, I realize that we have had some really great times that we never could have planned for; spending our first night on the road at the gas station, facing down a ferocious T-rex, being stampeded by bison and nearly eaten by bears, seeing the world’s only folding catamaran, zumba-ing in a ski town, double rainbows, Feldner Fest (part 1, part 2, and part 3), discovering the Wet Westies, meeting Jim Henson, scuffles with the law, finding Purdue grads in wine country, falling in love with SLO, exploring electric cars and old Porches, and so much more! If we had started this trip with a concrete plan or itinerary, I doubt we would have experienced half of those things. 

This past week has been a true testament to the “go-with-the-flow” style of our travels. From San Luis Obispo we drove south in the direction of LA. Our “plan” was to head to Joshua Tree for some rock climbing and camping. We had both really been looking forward to climbing ever since we left Smith Rock in Oregon. That evening we stopped off for about an hour in Los Angeles to drive through Hollywood and see some of the sights. I know a lot of people who l-o-v-e love LA, but I don’t think it’s for me. Just being there stressed me out, so we headed a little further before camping for the night just outside of Palm Springs, CA.

That night and the next morning it poured down rain. For anyone who has ever walked on slick, wet rocks, climbing and rain do not mix well. The forecast was for at least 2 days of rain, after which the rock would need even more time to dry out before we could think about climbing. Being the spontaneous, flexible people we are, we decided to scrap the Joshua Tree plan for now and explore the area we were in. Palm Springs used to be a hopping place, but it seemed to be suffering the effects of the recession more than other places. We headed a little farther south to the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea is the result of poorly planned irrigation systems in the early 20th century. The “sea” is almost 250 ft below sea level, and when a dam broke during a flood, a basin surrounded by higher ground filled, creating the Salton Sea. Given the mineral deposits in the area, it is 30% saltier than the Pacific. During the 50s, real estate developers created resort towns around the Sea, calling it Palm-Springs-On-the-Sea. Movie stars and politicians frequented the resorts on the shores and thousands of people purchased residential property. Unfortunately, the Sea started to dry up a bit in the desert and the fish started dying off, leaving the stench of rotting fish throughout the area. The resorts and neighborhoods are now pretty cool ghost towns, with only a handful of hardcore residents remaining. It’s also a huge destination for bird-watchers given that many species stop over during migration and some are only found in that location.
Ghost town at the Salton Sea today
After a morning of exploring both past and current recession cities, we had built up quite the appetite. Tom suggested that we head down to the border and get some lunch in Mexico! We were only 90 minutes from Calexico (“Cal” ifornia + M ”exico” = Calexico) which is right on the Baja California border. The Mexican sister-city is called Mexicali (I’ll let you work out that one on your own). The border is similar to crossing into Canada, you can even walk across and back without trouble. As we rolled into Calexico, the Westy started making a horrible screaming noise. I should note that she was running beautifully since we had work done in SLO. This noise was concerning, so we rolled into a gas station to investigate. Tom took one look at the engine and saw that the water pump was at an unfortunate angle. It would need to be replaced before we could drive anywhere else. After much searching he found a mechanic shop nearby that was willing to tend to our wounded baby. (The mechanics spoke only Spanish, I speak next to none and Tom speaks a little - there was a lot of gesturing and talk of the "agua pumpo"). The part that they needed to order would not be available until Tuesday, we were stuck for the weekend in Calexico!

There isn’t much in Calexico - lots of fast food, Mexican car insurance shops, and auto dealers. We walked across to Mexicali for dinner and stopped at a roadside ceviche stand. It was delicious - shrimp and octopus - and the two men working there were hysterical. I guess it was a risk to eat semi-raw seafood served from a bucket on the side of the road in Mexico, but SO worth it. 

We then decided it was worth renting a car to get out of town for the weekend. We decided to take the 5-hour drive over to Tucson, where Tom’s parents were staying for 2 weeks at their winter house and surprise them! We knew that they were in town that weekend and were pretty sure they wouldn’t mind a visit. We showed up around 10pm at their door and shocked their socks off. They were super excited to see us and we had an awesome weekend hiking in Sabino Canyon and hanging out with their Tucson friends (they have quite the social calendar!). 
Tuesday morning we headed back to Calexico to see about getting the car fixed now that the part had arrived. We called ahead to let the mechanic know where the spare key was hidden, which involved a lot of googling of spanish phrases and names of car parts. When we got there, the wrong part had been delivered. The correct part would be there the next morning. We decided to head back to Mexicali and stay at a hotel there. Tom found an awesome place online in a nice part of town. The garage owner gave us a ride to the border where we crossed over and jumped in a taxi to our hotel. The Hoteles Lucerna was amazing! It had two fantastic pools and a great view from our balcony. We got a recommendation for a place for dinner and split the largest plate of meat I’ve ever seen in my life. After dinner we headed to the brand new casino across the street. The casino only had slot machines, which are surprisingly difficult to operate when in a foreign language! We both thought it was totally fun and awesome that almost no one spoke ANY english. Most people spoke as much english as we spoke spanish which was not much at all. It made everything that much more interesting, from getting around town to ordering dinner. 
This morning we had brunch and laid out by the pool in the sunshine before heading back to Calexico and the Westy. They say that the van will be done tomorrow and hopefully that’s true. We’d love to see a few more places before this part of the trip is over. We spend Thanksgiving in Boston and then head to Costa Rica for the last week before heading back to Chicago. But, like we said, we don’t have a plan, and we’re sticking to it!
I forget what comes next... 

Apparently we really did forget the rest of that little gem, because here we are, back in SLO fixing all the things that aren’t broken on the Westy! Not that we’re complaining. This is the happiest place on earth according to Oprah herself. There is so much to do here that we could never be bored.

Last weekend we flew to Detroit for Tom’s cousin’s wedding. We had a blast celebrating with family and friends and we totally dominated the cousin dance-off! Here are a few pics from the beautiful reception.
After the quick trip back home, we flew back to Sacramento and spent the day with Scott Blunk and his family. It was great to see him and catch up. Since the drive from SLO up to Sacramento, the Westy had been acting up quite a bit. We had taken her in for a few minor repairs which in turn seemed to have caused a whole new slew of problems. We decided to drive back to the shop in SLO that had been so great to us to see if they could figure out what was going on. 

On the way south, we decided to take a new route. Since we had already driven down the coast on Route 1/Pacific Coast Highway and we had driven back north via I-5, we decided to split the middle and drive back to SLO via Route 101, which follows the historic El Camino Real (The Royal Road). The Camino Real was used to connect all the Spanish missions in California for the stagecoach drivers. 

First we hit the Tesla factory and headquarters in Freemont, CA. Unfortunately they don’t give tours to random fans who show up in green buses, but everyone there was really nice. We toured around the parking lot a bit and checked out some of the employee Tesla vehicles.
Next we headed to Pinnacles National Monument for some hiking and possible rock climbing. We ended up finding a great hike up to a 360 degree panorama of the park. Then we headed down to another trail which went through a bunch of caves (requiring headlamps and MASSIVE control of this girl’s claustrophobic tendencies). We got a great video of the view, but Tom’s camera pooped out and we got a pretty grainy shot of me proudly exiting the cave without having a panic attack.
From Pinnacles, we continued back to SLO and had a lovely Westy dinner parked by the pier in Pismo Beach. That night we camped in the parking lot at Broad Street VW so we would be there first thing in the morning for them to check out our girl!

The next day we left the Westy in the capable hands of the guys at Broad Street. We headed out on our bikes to explore more of downtown. After lunch we headed back to Madonna Mtn for more mountain biking and hiking. On the way Tom rode through some brush and some unfortunate briars that immediately gave him two flat tires! So much for the biking! We called the guys at Broad Street and John, the owner, drove out to pick us up. He even stopped with us at a bike shop on the way back so Tom could drop of his bike for repairs. These guys are really amazing. They had checked out the Westy and found a few things that needed tightening. They also gave us a small list (the length of my arm) of things that we should consider replacing/updating in the future. We decided since they do such great work (and there is nothing like this place in Chicago!) we would have them work on the exhaust the next day and then we would be on our way.

That night we camped at Avila Beach, where they have pullouts all along the beach road specifically for camping! We had amazing views and even made some animal friends (raccoons, pelicans, and sea lions).
The next day John offered us the use of his car for the day, since he felt bad that we were kind of stranded on our bikes (even though we were having a blast!). Not just any car, but his personal 1973 Porche 914! It was super fun to drive around town. He recommended a hike along the ridge at Shell Beach that was amazing. We came back to the shop and found out that the exhaust work was going to take another day (apparently they needed to take apart a few other things to access the exhaust leak) so we called up our SLO Hero, Will King, to see if we could crash at his place for the night.
We picked up the keys from Will’s roommate and headed to his place for a shower. We had managed to get a reservation at the opening night of a new restaurant in town, Sidecar, so we headed out for some awesome food. Every Thursday night in SLO is an incredible farmer’s market, so we were also able to check that out on our way to the restaurant. Sidecar was awesome, if you are in the area definitely check it out!

Today we are hanging out in Pismo Beach again while waiting for the green light on the Westy. It’s Veteran’s Day and there was a big ceremony out on the pier this morning. Thank you to all the vets out there who make our country safe for Tom and I to travel around like fools. We really appreciate everything that you stand to protect!
Our final destination for this week was San Luis Obispo, CA where we stayed with our friend Will for 3 nights. SLO is a truly amazing town. The first night in town was Halloween so we cooked dinner at Will’s new house and waited (in vain, unfortunately) to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. The next morning we headed downtown to explore. We had dropped off our dear Westy for a tune-up and it was great to be in a town that was so bike-friendly! 

**An aside about the Westy tune-up, we had planned on bringing her to GoWesty, the renowned Westfalia shop here in SLO, but as of September they no longer do repairs, only rebuilds. They recommended Broad Street Automotive for our tune-up. We LOVED the guys there. They totally know what they are doing in regards to Vanagons and could not have been nicer. They even bumped us up in the queue given that we were just passing through town. Check them out if you are in the area**

Back to our SLOventures! After checking out downtown, we met Will for a lunch-break mountain bike ride. Will works for SRAM and is encouraged to take up to two hours to ride during his lunches. Pretty awesome company to work for! The guys biked up the trail and I decided to trail run instead. The route was up and down Madonna mountain. The ascent was one continuous hill with a few switchbacks, pretty tough for this flatlander! The descent was even crazier. The trail is called “Rock Garden” so you can imagine what it looked like. Super rocky single-track at steep grades for 2/3 of the way down that eventually flattened out to more switchbacks across a meadow on a hill. We were hurting by the end, but it was gorgeous and challenging and all-around a great workout. The video below is not ours, but gives a good overview of the trail and is pretty fun to watch.
That night we headed out to SLO Brew, the local microbrewery and restaurant for their $12 pizza-and-a-pitcher night. It was delicious and at 9pm they even switched to $1 pints of all their microbrews on tap! That’s a serious deal and we definitely took advantage.

The next day Tom and I headed out to find the local rock climbing spot (about 15 minutes from Will’s house, pretty amazing). We hiked in and found a couple of walls, but had a really hard time finding exactly the one we wanted (one that Tom wanted to lead and that was relatively easy enough for me to top-rope). Tom got in a few climbs before we were too starving for lunch to keep going. We headed back to town for some grub and to rent a surfboard for that evening. 

Around 5pm Will got back from work and we loaded up the boards and headed to Pismo Beach for some sunset surfing. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. Tom and Will were out catching waves and there were 2-3 seals out playing in the surf with them. Every time they would paddle back out to catch more waves, the seals would pop up 2-3 feet behind their boards. The boys surfed until it was too dark to see the waves. Not a bad way to end a workday!
We have truly had so much fun in SLO, it’s an adventurer’s paradise. Biking, climbing, surfing, hiking, snorkeling, diving, boating, and who knows what else all within an hour of town. Skiing and snowboarding not too far away, 70 degree temps year-round, and a thriving downtown area. Not sure what else you could ask for! We will definitely be back!
The past week has been spent in what might be the most amazing place on earth, the central coast of California. The central coast area is bordered by the endless Pacific ocean on the west side and a range of hills and peaks to the east side. Perfect for anyone who enjoys both the water and the mountains (as we do!) We started out in Mill Valley, just outside of San Francisco with Jeff and Michelle Tripp and their awesome kids, friends who used to live in Chicago. We had an awesome night with them after our brief foray into wine country. The next day we went with Jeff for a short hike through the John Muir Redwoods Monument. It was great to head out there with someone local. We were able to avoid the very slow-walking hoards of tourists and hike some of the backcountry trails. 
That night we drove towards San Francisco and ended up staying the night at the Sausalito marina. Sausalito is an upscale tourist town just before the Golden Gate bridge. The next morning we checked it out on our bikes. We discovered a GIANT indoor replica of the entire San Fran water system built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 50s. It was initially built to help scientists understand the behavior of the water system and impact of human-made changes, but is now an educational center and tourist attraction. The whole model is completely to scale and covers almost two acres of indoor space! We also discovered an entire neighborhood of houseboats just north of the marina. There were many sailboats and trawlers, but also quite a few homemade floats pieced together from found materials. It was a really neat community!

We headed back to the marina to catch the ferry to San Francisco for the day. It was gorgeous, sunny and 75 degrees, and there were a ton of boats (power, sail, and open-water scull). We docked at Pier 1 near the absolutely amazing Ferry Building. Saturday was the famous farmer’s market, so we checked out the fresh produce stalls and food trucks before heading inside. The Ferry Building is a sort of indoor mall filled with fine food shops and little restaurants. Similar to Boston’s Fanueil Hall, but less jam-packed and with more upscale vendors. We sampled fresh-shucked oysters, chocolates, and fruit before heading on our way. 
We had our bikes with us and decided, despite San Fran’s reputation for monster hills, we would  bike around as much as possible. So we headed up from the downtown area to Chinatown. They are not kidding with the hills. Seriously. There was a lot of pushing versus riding of the bikes! We arrived in Chinatown and locked up the bikes to search out some lunch. We found a place jammed with locals and figured that was probably a good bet. We ordered some fish ball curry, chicken congee, and sweet and sour broccoli chicken to share. 

After lunch we caught a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf to look around. The cable cars were pretty cool, on the hills you really felt that at any moment the packed car would break loose from the underground cable and plummet to the intersection below. Very exciting! After touring around we headed back to Sausalito on the ferry. We had dinner that night at a little Italian cafe with a live 50s/60s retro quartet a la Beach Boys/Beatles.
The next two days we spent cruising along the prettiest stretch of Route 1 so far. Santa Cruz was an awesome surf and marina town. The curving road through Big Sur cuts right into the cliffs, so you have a sheer drop-off to the ocean far below on one side and a cliff face directly on the other. It was pretty exciting driving! Especially when the fog rolled over in the early morning. It was amazing to look over the cliff and see the tops of the clouds, knowing the the ocean was somewhere underneath. We found an amazing hike right off the side of the road. It went way down towards the ocean, through a tunnel built in the rock and out onto the surf. Apparently it used to be a delivery point for illegal shipments during prohibition. We camped at the very awesome Limekiln State Park in Big Sur and stopped for some awesome smoked fish tacos at Ruddell’s Smokehouse in Cayucos, CA. The next stop was San Luis Obispo to visit Will, a friend and recent Chicago transplant to the West Coast.
This marks the halfway point of our time away from home! About six weeks ago we set out on this awesome trip and it feels like the time has just flown by. We decided to pamper ourselves a little bit for a day or two in Sonoma wine country. We found an amazing B&B in Healdsburg, CA, which is a new center for the Russian River Valley wineries. The Camellia Inn was an huge and yet adorable Victorian house with about nine guest rooms. We arrived just before the daily evening wine tasting provided by our host Lucy and her husband. It was seriously one of the best B&Bs that we've stayed in. The rooms had bottled water, wine glasses, fresh flowers, chocolates, a fireplace, and the most comfortable sheets you've ever slept on. They even sell the sheets in the office because so many people have fallen in love with them. We had a lot of fun meeting some of the other guests and got a great dinner recommendation for a place called Zin, where the food was great but the staff never smiled. 
Photos from the Camellia Inn website
The next morning after our awesome breakfast we headed out to bike Dry Creek Road that winds through the vineyards and wineries. The map showed it to be about six miles to the end of the road, so we figured that it would be a fairly easy ride with some stops for tastings along the way. It ended up being a total of about 20 miles, when we measured out the distance online! But it was still gorgeous and fun and a beautiful day for biking. 

Our first stop was the Michel-Schlumberger winery which is a little more off the beaten path. It's an organic and sustainable winery and one of the first of it's kind. We had heard that the winery tour was great and we arrived just in time for the morning tour. Our tour guide Francesco was awesome. We were able to walk through the grapevines and taste some of the cabernet grapes and then see how the grapes are processed, fermented, oaked, and blended. We learned a ton and then had a tasting at the end. We loved the Pinot Gris, Le Bon Cochon Zin, and their Maison Rouge (their take on a "house red"). We hopped back on the bikes and headed over to the Truett-Hurst winery. Truett-Hurst is also organic and biodynamic, but their vineyards and winery are not on the same property. They had a lovely garden outside the tasting room. We bought two bottles there, the Burning Man Petit Sirah and the Rattler Zinfandel. 
Our next stop was meant to be for FOOD. It was about 3pm and we hadn't eaten since our 8:30am breakfast back at the inn. We were told that the Family Winery bloc had a food truck and/or restaurant so we headed that way. No such luck on the food! Apparently he is only there on weekends. Boo! But there was more wine, so that was good. We stopped first at Papapietro-Perry, a small winery that focuses on Pinot Noir almost exclusively. It was neat to taste 5 different pinots from different vineyards and compare the taste. Across the way was the Kokomo winery, started by two Purdue alums. When we told the woman presenting the tasting that Tom was also an alum, she went back and found one of their seasonal workers who was also an alum and also works for Binny's in Chicago! He was out for the harvest season to learn more about winemaking firsthand, since he oversees all the wine sales in the Binny's stores. He gave us a private tour of the facility and introduced us to the owners. It was a very cool experience.

At this point we were famished, a little drunk, and carrying two bottles of wine in our backpack. And we still had about 5 miles of biking ahead of us before we got back to the inn. We managed to find a little general store with some great deli choices and wolfed down some food in preparation for the trip back. Let me tell you that a suddenly full stomach + a day of drinking red wine + high intensity pedaling = a somewhat nauseous Lisa. But, we made it back in one piece, rested for a little bit and then headed down towards San Francisco, where we stayed with the Tripps in Mill Valley. We had a great meal with them and their awesome kids, drank a lot more wine, and relaxed in the hot tub.

Not bad for 36 hours in wine country!
There is an ancient home video of my younger sister and I at my grandparents lake cabin when we are about 4 and 6 years old. We are hiking up a little slope and she grasps a little tree in her little hand and says "That's a youuuung tree, huh, Lisa?" (in her somehow southern accent - she was born in WV). I couldn't get that out of my head as we explored the redwoods these past few days. These trees are in no way young or small. I had been really excited to see them up close, but nothing can really capture how immense, huge, gigantic, and massive they really are.

We spent the night after driving down from Portland, OR in what was more a trailer park than a campsite in Crescent City, CA. But it was quiet and near the water, so not too bad. The next morning we headed south through Redwood National Forest for some touring and hiking. We found one of the famous drive-thru trees in Klamath, CA and got a few great pics of the Westy. We also found a great hike (Trillium Falls Trail) through the elk grazing lands where we got up close and personal with some of the giant trees.
We even found a really neat "walk-through" tree off the trail a little ways that could probably fit 10-12 people inside.
That night headed for California's "Lost Coast", which is a side loop off of Route 101. We had heard that is was amazing, if a little rough and winding. It was truly stunning and practically empty of other cars and people. We found a nice pull-out from the road overlooking the ocean as the sun was setting. There was one other camper parked there but not much else going on. It was gorgeous! The next morning we woke up and hiked down to the beach just after high tide. After breakfast we met our camper neighbors who had been staying at the spot off and on for about a week. They live in the area and had just gotten into RVing. Unfortunately our visiting was cut short when a park ranger showed up and informed us that there was no camping at this particular spot. To be fair, the sign was about this big and hidden in the grass. We were able to get off with a warning, but our camper friends got stuck with a fine since a cranky local had complained about their extended stay. We headed out after that and continued the beautiful drive down the coast.
The way to get back to Route 101 was to drive a crazy winding road over the bluffs and then through Humboldt Redwoods State Park from the backside. The road was exhausting (both for the driver, and for the passenger trying to make lunch while flying around the back of the Westy) but the final stretch through the forest really paid off. The road was lined with giant redwoods and it was totally quiet and peaceful (except for the put-put-put of the Westy).
We spent another awesome beach-side night at a more expensive ($0 vs $25) but also more legal campsite right on the ocean. Today we explore Fort Bragg, CA and more of the classic Route 1 coast between here and San Francisco!

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    The Trimmers

    Lisa and Tom Trimmer are from Chicago, IL and traveling the country in their 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia Campervan.



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