Yay - Back to the Ocean!
We left the serenity of the valley behind us and we were soon onto four and five lane highways; skirting around the outskirts of Sacramento - oh we don't like heading towards the big cities! Give us the quiet roads any day.
Chuck had to concentrate really hard, because together with the extra traffic, we had crosswinds to contend with as well. As we approached Sonoma, we saw so many cherry trees and then in Napa and Petaluma, we began to see huge areas covered by grape vines.
We arrived at Porto Bodega and I could pat myself on the back for choosing this spectacular RV site. We were parked on the edge of the marina and could, if we wanted to, step right onto a boat, but perhaps we would have been prosecuted for trespassing?
Our position could not be better!!
....Oh my goodness we felt we were being swooped upon....scary......yes, no....oh ok we understand now, this is where the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film 'The Birds' was shot. They could well have filmed Play Misty for Me here too, as it was quite often misty, but that's the coastal areas around San Fran for you!
The Birds Cafe
We had to move from site No. 46 to No 49 then we walked around the tiny town. Had coffee at Sandpiper and then walked 1.2 miles to The Spud Point Crab Company and lunched on clam chowder and crab cocktail, delicious! A short walk down the track from there we found this very long pier so we had a walk along and saw a grey seal and some very hopeful fishermen.
The very long jetty to nowhwere
Big shock arriving in this bay, as somebody stole our sunshine! Daytime temperature was about 19 degrees and we had been warm all the way since Mt Rainier, definite shock to the system. We had to dig our suitcases out from the depths of the van boot and haul out our wintry clothes, the sum total of which was a jacket each and my wrap. We were only about 75 miles from the city of San Francisco so hoped that even the small amount of miles between us, may yet provide some warmth and sunshine.
On the second day here, we awoke to another misty morning, yet again everything outside was dripping wet, including the tablecloth, which was covered by the awning above it; a mystery. We walked up the road and found the best coffee we had had in a while. The cafe was so snug and warm; we stripped off our layers and caught up with the local newspapers.
Around mid-morning we decided to take Highway 1 (I'm getting like the Americans and sprouting off the highway numbers, just as they do), up the coast and in search of finer weather and then the 116 to see redwood trees in Guerneville. A local fisherman must have known of our boredom, so to add a little excitement to our day, he had run his fishing boat aground at Salmon Creek Beach the night before. We spotted this from the road, Chuck quickly found a parking space and we walked along the beach to see the boat more closely. After chatting to one or two locals, we found out that the fisherman had fallen asleep whilst out at sea and the next thing, he was on land. We stood there for a while, raptors soaring above our heads; must be thanks to that Hitchcock movie. And dolphin jumping out of the ocean whilst surfers caught waves.
Don't go to sleep when you are at anchor - not without a crew member on watch...
So with this local knowledge, we set off further up the coast, stopping at every pull off that we could, because around each corner, it looked more spectacular than the previous stop had. The coastline was very rugged with many rocks and that fisherman was so lucky that his boat had landed on a beach, and not onto the rocks. At Cermet beach we stopped yet again and I made sandwiches for lunch, whilst Chuck chatted to some old chap who was out on his Sunday morning jaunt. He told us that up in Guerneville, there was a jazz festival happening.
Really rugged coastline - lucky he went aground on the beach
Being keen jazz listeners, we headed off to Guerneville, meandering along a winding road, covered with canopies of Maple trees and following the Russian River to our right. Sure enough, we found the music but it would have cost $65 per person for entry. This was around 2.30 p.m. and the music was due to end at 5p.m. We said 'thank you but no thank you' and headed onto a pedestrian bridge, from where we could see and hear the music for free. The festival was held in a park alongside the river. We walked into the little hippy town to see what we could see. Luckily we found a second hand book shop with a coffee shop attached. We both needed a book and a coffee was a bonus. There was absolutely no mist inland, but as we headed back to Bodega Bay, the mist once again appeared. We went from toasty warm back to being chilly again.
Jazz festival on the river in Geurneville
It's a weird feeling to know we were sitting on top of the San Andreas Fault; just had to hope it didn't 'fault' whilst we were visiting!
We hit the road for San Fran. As we worked our way slightly inland we started to leave the cold and mist behind us. I am convinced, although there was only one version of the GPS which we bought, that we got the 'cheap' version. 'She' will insist on sending us via farm back roads and often we see another vehicle, which was just ahead of us before our turn off, then we see him later on, ahead of us again, having made no turns! They must have purchased the deluxe model GPS!!
We travelled along Highway 101 and eventually reached the Golden Gate Bridge. Would you believe it? More mist again, so those photos of the bridge were shrouded in mist, and went into the 'trash' basket. We reached our park and had to put on jackets, as it was so cold getting from the RV to book in at the office. The very helpful lady checking us in said 'mist and cold?' 'Oh this is San Francisco in summer, it's always like this'. Apparently Mark Twain had said "The worst Winter he had ever experienced, was summer in San Francisco". Oh dear we are both warm weather people. On the plus side, we were given a sea facing site with no other vehicles in front of us.
Since arriving in California, if I was to be given a $ for every Mustang car we have seen, and Chuck has pointed to, it would be as if we'd won the lottery. They are everywhere! Bet Ford Motor Company did not expect this sort of success in their wildest dreams!
Happiness was waking up to a mist free day - yeah hah!!!!! Headed into town and onto Highway 101 to get the scooter to the repairer - this thing is becoming the bain of our lives!! Hairy trying to find parking in the city, we took up two parking meters and I just hoped Mr Plod did not come along to fine us, whilst Chuck was booking the scooter in. We decided that it would be better to park the van back at the RV resort and take transport into town.
Whilst we were getting ourselves backed in at the RV site, our neighbour beside us, who had checked in a couple of hours after we had, the day before, came over to say 'hello'. Would you believe, Arnie and Brenda Mohr from Cape Town? I figure somebody from CT who reads this blog, will know them. So we shared an Uber and went in to the city together, where we then split up and continued to do our own things.
We started off with the bay cruise, which at $30 pp was money well spent. We had a lovely cruise (around the bay with personal audio); under the Golden Gate Bridge, passed Alcatraz and we saw and heard much about the various areas and places.
Alcatraz - 'The Rock'
We had a long walk around Pier 39 which was filled with shops and eating places and lots of very lazy barking seals lolling about the place. From here we bought tickets for the hop on hop off bus which would last us 48 hours.
Pier 39 - middle of the day, and this couple dancing to the sounds of the busker. Brilliant
We decided to remain on the bus for the entire tour, as we had hopped on late in the afternoon, see everything and then decide which places we would like to hop off at, the following day. The tour took over two and half hours and was really fantastic. We saw beautiful old Victorian homes with lots of embellishments, drove up Haight Street which is famous for being a hippy area. There was an entire Japanese area, with authentic buildings; in fact a Japanese architect had designed most of the area. Italian eating area, Chinese eating area, and so it went. The bus driver pointed out to chaps with backpacks and guitars sitting on a grassed area, where they were spaced out on marijuana. Quite legal here and we thought their dogs too must be high from constantly being in the smoke.
Victorian houses - all immaculate
The bus trip only ended around 5.40 so we hopped off once again at Pier 39 and went in search of sundowners and dinner. This was not easy, because all the cafes we had seen earlier in the day had almost no patrons or atmosphere. We eventually found Seafood Marina, which was full of people and even managed to score a window seat. Chuck had clam chowder which was served inside a large bread loaf and I had salmon salad, both meals were delicious as was the wine and beer. Then an Uber home and time for bed.
A real yummy Salmon Salad for me
And a Chowder in a big Sourdough Bun for Chuck
And on the way home, one of the bridges lit up at night
Another yeah hah day.....no mist.....so lucky!! It was a beautiful day and not much wind either, another bonus. We decided to take an Uber into the city again and what a pleasure our driver, Ronaldo, was. He was very caring, wanted to know if the temperature in the car was perfect for us; there were water bottles 'just help yourself' and 'take care, don't rush' etc. As we approached the city he asked if we had been to the famous crooked Lombard Street. We told him that it was our plan to get there and he said 'no worries I will take you'. He dropped us off at the top of Lombard, we walked down and he met us at the bottom of the street and then dropped us off at our planned Pier 39 stop. Lombard Street, or as it is famously known 'the most crooked street in the world' was very winding and the home owners very proud of their well-manicured gardens. One lady was out with her clippers tidying the hedge. The road has eight hairpin bends and the recommended car speed is 5 mph as the grade is 27 degrees - not to be driven by the feint hearted or those with a dicky heart!!
Lombard Street - Crookedest Road in the World
We arrived at the Pier, did some people watching and then hopped onto the topless bus. Being a perfectionist and always in search of the perfect photograph, we needed to go over Golden Gate Bridge for the fifth time, just to make sure that at least one pic would be good enough.
Golden Gate Bridge
We stopped at Golden Gate Park which was a very impressive park. Sculptures, flower gardens, conservatories, tree ferns, you name it, could be seen within the park. I was absolutely blown away by the Dahlias. My dear late dad was a proud grower of Dahlias and he would have loved to have seen these gigantic flower heads of all colours, stripes and dots.
The Dahlias in the Golden Gate Park
And a few Close-ups - they were spectacular
Chuck wanted to walk down Haight Street and pretend to be a hippy. I could just see him, visualizing himself 40 odd years ago with his bell bottomed jeans, material inserts to make them more flared and hippyish....... We had a few laughs at signs, enjoyed the vintage wear second hand shops and just enjoyed walking around the hip area. We saw more selfie sticks in San Francisco than we had so far on this trip. Will keep a lookout and update if another city beats this one on selfie sticks!!
Legs out window - A store in Haight Street
San Francisco has many hills and the houses almost seem to cling onto the sides of those hills. We had one last look around Pier 39, an ice cream; (love the sugar waffle cones in the states) and then made our way back to the RV park and took in the beautiful sunset. Cheers San Fran., we enjoyed our visit to this lovely hilly, clean, graffiti free city, filled with helpful and friendly folk.
Sunset from our RV Park
We started off the morning by doing a grocery shop before leaving San Fran and happiness was??? Finding Rooibos tea on the shelf! The reason for our stay in Santa Cruz was to see the famed Redwood trees. Talking of trees some of you may know that one of the highlights for me, on this trip, would be to photograph 'the fall' which I believe will be best seen in NYC. However, we are beginning to see changes in the trees, so we may be lucky to see fall colours before we hit NYC.
The start of Fall
It was an easy drive to the State RV Park in Santa Cruz. We checked in, had lunch and then drove down to Santa Cruz beach and Bay...'of barking seals'. This was a lovely seaside town, long beach, fairgrounds - a kid’s delight with all kinds of fun rides on the beach front. We opted for a walk along West Cliff towards the lighthouse and then in the opposite direction along the pier, from where we could hear the barking of the seals.
The Santa Cruz Bay - all the fun of the fair
Whilst photographing these lazy animals my trusty lens hood, (which had a split in it and Chuck had mended with super glue), fell off the camera and onto the seal platform. The seals were startled and barked more and jumped a bit and there the lens hood sat! I have no idea why, but not one person, (not even Chuck), volunteered to go down the few steps to the platform to collect my lens hood - maybe it was their large teeth??..... We watched for a while as the lens hood got flung back and forth by seals flopping into and out of the water and eventually it went in and sank to the bottom.....
🎶🎶🎶Good-bye my trusty friend,
you had a split which we tried to mend,
but the Pacific you chose in the end,
you were old, tired, expired and difficult to mend... 🎶🎶🎶🎶
The Seal and the Lens Hood
We headed back to our campsite, and realised just how very special this forest was as we were nestled deep in the woods, surrounded on three sides by oak, and pine trees, we could only hear and see nature. Quite different from the outer city park we had left behind, where we were crammed in like sardines, (with great sea views), but that's city life for you.
....I talk to the trees....We had a short hike to the Redwood tree's passing two deer on the way in and a fox on our return. We had noted to beware of Poison Oak and Rattle snakes in the area but fortunately missed out on those. The giant redwoods, the largest trees on earth were amazing. It was fantastic to finally walk amongst these huge red barked giants, better than what we had seen in the brochures. They are very straight trees, with such interesting bark, some have 'warts' or burls which are a mass of natural dormant buds from which new foliage can sprout. These burls give the trees amazing character too.
The photo of me standing in front of the tree known as The Giant grows to 83m and over 5m wide! What is fascinating is that the tree started out from a seed the size of a piece of oatmeal.
Taqui and the Giant Redwood Tree
After taking in these beauties, it was time to head off to the town of Santa Cruz. The town was lovely and we even found Andy's auto supply here. We had woken in the morning, to the smell of rotten eggs. At first we thought it was something smelly in the camp, then I blamed Chuck, and he blamed me... But then it dawned on us, we had read about the secondary battery 'smelling like rotten eggs when it begins to fail'. So fortunate that we were in a town where we could replace the battery.
A week or three back when we free camped, we noticed that the RV water pump and lights were not working as efficiently as they should, when operated by the secondary battery and, on looking up what could be the cause, we had found the information regarding the smelly egg syndrome. Phew, let's hope we left that smell behind.....