The San Francisco Bay - Point Reyes and Half Moon Bay


We left for Olema from Willits on a rainy Saturday, not having the flexibility in our reservations to wait for a nicer day. I dislike towing in the rain, but not as much as I dislike towing in the dark, so off we went further down the 101 which got more and more freeway-like as we got closer to San Francisco. Around Petaluma, the GPS guided us west over the hills to Olema. This hill driving on twisty narrow roads can make for some tense moments, but it was a beautiful drive despite the weather and we arrived at the Olema Campground by mid afternoon. We had reserved a site in the back without sewer hookups but once there they declared that our rig would in fact fit in their full hookup sites toward the front with out issue, so we jumped at the free upgrade. Yay no honey-wagon! The sites weren’t all that long, though, and to get fully off the road, we had to back further in than I would have liked and sure enough the wheels on one side began to sink into the mud. We pulled forward again, got out some boards to put under the wheels on that side and backed in again only to hear our boards split as we rolled over them, driving them into the mud. In hindsight the sandbags piled up around the campground office should have tipped me off to just how wet everything was. We managed to get level and stable and met our neighbors for the week. A retired couple from NY who live full-time in the area in their RV in order to be nearer their kids who live in the city. Not feeling like cooking after a day of driving, we drove up to Point Reyes Station to find somewhere to eat. We found a great wood-fired pizza place oddly just called the Point Reyes Cafe. They were closing for a few hours before reopening for dinner, so we decided to grab a snack at the local deli and check out the town which seemed to be having some kind of event. Turns out it was a gallery walk and the whole town was hopping. Point Reyes Station was small, but full of neat shops, art galleries and great looking restaurants. A little farm and garden supply store was selling Christmas trees so we got the smallest one we could find with the idea of keeping it outside of our rig. When we finally got it set up, we hung it from the kingpin of our 5th wheel and lit it up. Looked pretty good! Oddly, I don't have a picture, but will post one later.

Sunday we had plans. Big plans that I’d been looking forward to ever since we started planning this trip. We went to San Rafael to spend the day at Phil Lesh’s restaurant/club, Terrapin Crossroads. Phil is the bassist for the Grateful Dead and many of it’s incarnations since Jerry’s death. He doesn’t tour that much anymore due to health issues, so he plays his place several times a month. We had been planning to attend his free Sunday afternoon kids story time and music that he often does. However, a few days earlier, they announced a change and would be holding a event to celebrate Advent instead. It turned out to be a great change! We went early to enjoy lunch and their free Bluegrass by ”Old and On the Bay” a tribute to the music of “Old and in the Way”. The food was great, and the entire place was very kid friendly. They had an indoor play area with a train table and lots of books and games. Outside in the ‘backyard’, they had a large playset, lots of open space and tables, couches and fire pits. After lunch we enjoyed some more of the music and let Crayton run around outside with the other kids. At 4, the main event started. We went over to the “Grate Room” for the Advent celebration. The room itself was modest in size. There couldn’t have been more than a couple of hundred people there. On one side of the stage there was a bar and food service. On the other side they had a craft area for the kids with lots to do for Crayton. Probably half of the crowd were families with kids. The band came out, and frankly I had no idea what to expect. Phil and his band (Scott Law, Jason Crosby, Mark Levy) including special guests Jackie Greene on guitar and Nikki Blum on vocals, were amazing. They started off with some old standards and ballads including Down To The River to Pray and “Birdsong” and slowly cranked up the energy with lots of Dead classics like Sugar Magnolia, Eyes of the World and Franklin’s Tower. I couldn’t believe I was hearing such amazing music by some of my favorite musicians include Phil Lesh himself, just a few feet away in such an intimate venue with such great energy, amazing sound and so many kids and families. It seemed more like a family holiday celebration than it did a concert. It was a truly magical experience. Crayton made some friends and even found that begin short has its advantages as he rail-birded for a while right in front of Phil. To see Phil smiling down at him brought chills. We are so glad we went and to any fans of the music of the Grateful Dead, if you’re in the San Francisco area, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to Terrapin Crossroads. They even have free valet parking for 22’ long monster tow vehicles :) Should we ever find ourselves back in the Bay Area, and it seems inevitable, we will definitely be back.

The Gang at Terrapin Crossroads

Crayton meets a Terrapin

Phil!

I didn't take that many pictures and no video as I was just trying to soak it all in, but I see some other folks there did put a couple of tunes up on YouTube!

Uncle Johns Band

Second half of Eyes of the World

Encore: Let It Be, sung by Jackie Greene

Monday was another full day of adventuring. We slept in a bit, still spent from our fun day of music the day prior, but once we were up, we drove down to the ferry dock and took the Larkspur Ferry to downtown San Francisco. We then took the light rail up the shore to Pier 39 and the tourist haven that it is. We had an overpriced Mexican lunch, rode the carousel and watched the Sea Lions in the bay for a while before catching the end of the street performance of a juggling act and heading on down to Fisherman's Wharf. There we caught a cable car and rode it back most of the way to the ferry dock. Crayton was in heaven. I think this makes four different locations where we rode a train that Choo Choo Bob did. This is beginning to feel more like the Choo Choo Bob Fan Tour and less like a full-time family RVing adventure. On the walk back to the ferry we did a little Christmas shopping, but we were all getting tired, even after a short day, so we headed back on the ferry and drove back ‘home’.

Crayton on the Ferry. Almost as cool as a train...

The Cable Cars in San Francisco

One Very Excited Kid!

The work week commenced and was busier than I’d hoped. But we still found time Wednesday night to drive over the ridge to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. What an amazing drive that was. It seemed like we went through three or four environments in just a 20 mile or so drive. The views of the coast were magical. The stairs down to the lighthouse were closed, being a weekday, but we still enjoyed the windy view from what seemed like the end of the world.

The View from Point Reyes

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Get the feeling it's windy here a lot

I had planned to take Friday off for my birthday, but we had some critical issues come up at work that needed all hands on deck for a couple of days. We finally got things sorted out by noon Friday in time to go ahead with our birthday plans, if a bit late. Off we went to Traintown in Sonoma. The fifth stop on our Choo Choo Bob Fan Tour. It’s a small amusement park centered around a collection of ¼ scale trains they run that you can ride on their four miles of track. The train ride was all sorts of fun. Crayton was loving it and being unusually well-behaved, a birthday present to me, I suppose. We rode the carousel as well and Crayton rode the little planes before we checked out the gift shop and had a snack. It was a beautiful day and a nice end to what had been a couple of very stressful work days.

Sonoma Traintown!

The Roundhouse at Sonoma Traintown

We then drove over to Santa Rosa to visit the Russian River Brewing Company. They are a fairly small brewery and restaurant that arguably make some of the best beers around, including the reference beer for the Double-IPA style, Pliny The Elder. They don’t distribute in Wisconsin and I’d been trying in vain since we got the west coast to find their beer in a store, so we decided to head to the brewery for my birthday to be sure we got a chance to sample their wares. We had a 17-beer sampler flight of all their tap beers and most of them were fantastic. I knew they also brewed Belgian style beers and not just the California ales they’re best known for, but I was unprepared for how many Belgian style beers they had and just how good they were. Their pizza was pretty good, too! In the end, we left with two cases and a growler of their beer. The $5.50 bombers of Pliny The Elder we bought could easily be re-sold for 5 times that back in Wisconsin, but I intend to drink most of them and gift a few to friends the next time I travel back there.

Now THAT is a flight!

Saturday came and our week in Olema was up. We packed it up and headed back down the 101. Today, though, was special. We drove our rig across the Golden Gate Bridge! Crayton had been looking forward to this for a while, asking about the bridge as soon as we arrived in the bay area. Pretty astute for a 4 year old! Our destination was the Pelican Point RV Park in Half Moon Bay. After we got through the city, which was as much city driving as I’d ever like to do towing a camper, thank-you-very-much, the roads became more coastal and pretty. The area was packed with city dwellers enjoying a nice sunny weekend on the shore, but in no time at all we found our park. This one had me worried as all the reviews described it as ‘tight’ for maneuvering. When I made our reservation, the guy on the phone asked how big our rig was. "41 feet", I replied and all I heard on the other end was a long whistle followed by “well, I think you’ll fit in site 34.” Once we got there, it could see that yeah, it was tight, but there were other large rigs there. When I finally saw our site I did a bit of a happy-dance as it was on the end of a row and positioned such that it would be fairly easy to back into. Sure enough I nailed it on the first try. Though we had to pull the bikes off the rack and fold up the rack to back far enough into the site to not stick out in the road.

Things quickly turned worse, though. In setting up, I was putting out the kitchen slide when I heard a loud POP!. I stopped immediately, pulled the living room slide out a bit so I could get back there to see what happened and immediately started swearing up a storm. A upper cabinet door had come open, spilling books onto the couch, which knocked a firm round meditation pillow off the couch and into the space beside the kitchen slide such that when I popped out the slide it caught between the trim of the slide and the camper wall and popped much of the trim off that side of the slide. What a mess. But, I just gritted my teeth and went and grabbed my tools and in half an hour or so had it pretty much repaired. Fortunately the slide itself was not damaged and everything was still aligned. Even though it was a cruddy accident, we got very lucky in the end that the damage was minor. It could have been much worse.

After finishing our setup, we walked down to the beach, a 5 minute walk and we were on a beautiful sand beach right by the Ritz Carlton. We’ve been on a lot of beaches so far this trip, but this one seemed especially nice. I’m not sure if it was the consistency of the sand, the warmer weather, the proximity to our camper or what, but this place was nice. It was a shame to have to leave it the next day.

The Beach at Half Moon Bay

Sunday morning I was up super early, in time to get myself to the airport in order to fly back to Wisconsin for a few days to deal with some work stuff. Part of the deal of Pam being OK with my leaving for a few days was being at a site close to a beach. I think we did OK on that point, but I got to miss most of our week here.

San Francisco from the air

Flight troubles .. 8 hours at O’Hare … snow … work … work … work … flight back … more delays ... ugh I hate flying...

and… back at the beach for 36 hours before we have to move on.

Getting back late Thursday and having to leave on Saturday gave us just one full day to explore. We were looking at either the Roaring Camp Railroad (continuing our Choo Choo Bob tour) or going to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. The forecast was calling for rain, so we chose the indoor activity and went to the aquarium. On the way we stopped for an oil change. We couldn't make an appointment at the dealership as they only do drop-ins for oil changes, but they only had one lift capable of lifting our truck and they were busier than expected, so we were looking at a four+ hour wait. We took our chances, instead, on a JiffyLube down the street. So far no problems and it was much cheaper than the dealership would have been, but still $155.

Getting down to Monterrey we parked and had a great lunch at El Cantaro Vegan Mexican Restaurant and it was really good. It's always nice to find a good vegetarian restaurant as we wind up with lots more choices than we would otherwise. The aquarium itself was awesome! They didn't have a lot of 'show' animals like sharks and big whales or Orcas because their mission is rehabilitation and education, and not just to make money. That's what makes the place so amazing, though. They are mostly volunteer run and do amazing work. They had a lot of interactive stuff for kids and Crayton really enjoyed himself. The location on the bay was beautiful and the rain actually managed to hold off.

The Monterrey Bay Aquarium

Instant Death (for allergic me anyhow)

Crayton always does these backwards

Playing in the water

Too soon, though, they were closing the aquarium and kicking us out so we drove back up the coast to our home on wheels and called it a night. More rain was called for the next day, a moving day. Oh well.

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We went from 3700 square feet in the suburbs to 370 on wheels. We work and travel fulltime with our son and kitty.

 

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