Ray Taught Grandad and Grandma How to Speak American…..
Plug Your Nose. Start Talking. And…..Voila! Instant American Accent.
Its all in the Nasal-ness,’ you see.
So lets all ‘pinch our nostrils’ and get REAL nasaly’ on this one. Because its our last blog set in the good ol’ US of A before move across the pond to the UK. We still have a story to finish…. and it all starts where I left you last, in the heart of California.
Saturday, June 4th: Sonoma, California. Wine Country. It was all a part of the plan.
However, everything went spinning far off its axis like a spastic YO-YO and sent us straight SOUTH of the boarder after our slight *pit stop* in Sundance, WY. (After the little mishap shall we call it with our engine #2 or was it #3? I lose track….)
And plans, so to speak Changed.
But I was still left a bit ‘empty’ after not getting my Yellowstone National Park fix as we had to unfortunately bypass this little marvel in Wyoming in order to:
A) seek warmth (we had a crazy pants idea that heading South= ‘Hotter’)
B) make up time (at this rate, we would be in England by Christmas) and,
C) most importantly, keep from losing our sanity (what little was left, that is)
So, what better way to ‘fill up’ than with some of the most sensational vino from the land of Sonoma. AND it was even a part of our original ‘Oregon-Tastic-Trail’ plan …. SHOCKING!
So we hunkered down on that plan and camped Saturday night in Sonoma at a beautiful state park called Sugarloaf at the top of a valley right in the middle of the ‘mist.’ (Its sounds better than ‘rain’). It was that night that we started to feel the strain of the weather. *REMINDER ALERT* We are in California….. Where is that ‘South=Hot’ we drove over 3000 miles for? And our boxed wine (we hadn’t hit the vineyards yet) just wasn’t doing the trick.
There was a point that we were even putting plastic bags on our feet to go in and out of Diva as we were so sick of the mud on our shoes. When you are camping, everything is harder when its raining. Full stop. Ray said it perfectly that evening in Sonoma when we pathetically looked out the windows of the Van feeling so very trapped at our campsite….“SO-NO-MO-RAIN please.”
But then the next morning, the rains parted just in time for our ‘Special VINO Day’ to go and drink UP all the beautiful vineyards. (I can’t say this literally enough, we were thirsty). Although, I can honestly say we were a bit more than surprised with how fabulous these wines were in the Sonoma area. Perhaps we had been hopped up on boxed wine for far too long (do not judge me….. or my grandparents) but we were literally skipping from each vineyard in anticipation to see what flavors would escape into our mouths next….
SIDENOTE: We had picked Sonoma over Napa for the price as the tasting rooms are $5-10 per tasting in Sonoma (and many times let you share) where in Napa it is always $10-15+ per tasting with no sharing. And Sonoma is a bit more, how do you say… ‘Wyatt savvy?’ A bit more relaxed and they let you picnic on their grounds with your cheese and wine. We loved every minute and may I suggest if you are ever in the area to go to the Sonoma Market in town before you get started to stock up on their incredible selection of cheese (Ray was drooling up and down the aisles!) and bread so you can picnic on one of the gorgeous Vineyards for lunch.
WYATT WINO AWARDS: Drum Roll Please……
And the Wyatt Wino Pick of the Day goes to: VJB Vineyard and Cellars Most unique goes to: Deerfield Ranch for their Cave Wines (tasting room) and The Congeniality award goes to KAZ Vineyardsfor the eccentric owner (KAZ) pouring in own organic selections into our cups.
So that Sunday evening spent at Sugarloaf State Park was so much more enjoyable as the last of the ‘Sonoma-Sun’ peaked through upon on our camp.
Another QUICK RAMBLING SIDENOTE:
The previous night we were getting ‘scolded’ from the ranger for going around the wrong way around the ‘one way’ loop on the campground… reeeeallly? They are extremely strict here in Cali campgrounds as well as their ‘gathering wood’ policy as we have never hadto pay for wood before, and now having to pay upwards of $7 a BUNDLE. Extortionate! But they do check… and penalties are high. Oh, and showers in Cali are also ‘not free.’ They are coin operated and usually about 25-50 cents per minute or so. (Ray and I would have ‘quarter-shower races’ to see who could do it cheapest!) They have ‘peace officers’ (although they wear bullet proof vests) that drive around making sure everything is *okeedokee* and you are following the rules. For a whopping $35 a night at some of the campgrounds, (other state parks across the country average at about $18-20 for a tent site, FYI) I would assume you wouldn’t get the rough sort of kind? … but when you are wearing plastic bags over your feet dancing around to maintain sanity~ I suppose we look like a bunch of full-blown-wackaloos! Then a visit from the ‘peace-officer’ would be appropriate, I suppose. 😉
Tuesday, June 7th: This is when we hit it…. the big HWY1. PCH. The big guns of coastal jigsaw maneuvers and sensational jaw dropping views. ….Annnnnd the punch in the gut chill to the bone weather that washed over us as soon as we hit our first Cali beach. (seek prior post blog pictures) But we pushed on in search of warmer weather. Surely it must be South! (Optimism…. one of my best charms!)
But first up, San Fran….. I think it must have been Diva that led us right to Lombard street. Naughty Naughty girl! It was the thrill of the steep climb~ I am sure of it! But for once she had the last laugh as I think it was us that worked harder getting up this hill. But the exercise was much needed after our fish and chips adventure in Fisherman’s Wharf….hey, everyone needs a walk on the ‘touristy-tastic-side’! (and Ray needed to complain that the fish and chips were more like ‘fish-STICKS’, tee hee). Unfortunately we couldn’t take Diva through the wiggly long route down Lombard St. as ‘no camper vans’ allowed…. so we had to take the steep drop back down. I may have let out a few screams. We were literally NOSE down. .
……Did that nice man in the cross walks ahead of us know that a massive ton of metal was heading straight for him and he was relying on our breaks to save the day?
That evening we pulled into a lovely campground right off the beach (ahem, chilly Beach- still not far SOUTH enough) called Half Moon Bay. But what did this sign we see before us? FULL? Nonsense. This couldn’t be?! First time in weeks that we had pulled into a campsite that was full up. (sometimes, we were the only ones. Perhaps the weather was the culprit. It worked for us in some respect… see? Optimism. Glass half full kinda’ of girl.) But we would not take no for an answer. Not us Wyatt’s. We proceeded on in…. and lucky us. After 7pm if no one claims certain spots that are not reserved you are allowed to take it. (Just a little tid-bit if you are ever camping in Cali and turn up at a campsite in, say– Half Moon Bay and the sign says FULL.) So after a dinner of burnt jiffy-pop and S’mores (c’mon, its not gourmet feast every night people, OK-OK….so this was the first and only time I can ever remember having anything BUT …..and just HAD to make a note of it) we slowly dozed off to the crashing of the waves.
Wednesday, June 8th: SANTA CRUZ. Diva’s place of birth. Or where we always ‘dreamt her to have first had the wind blow through her metal locks’ as the crispy bumper sticker in the passenger side window read Santa Cruzon it when we got the van. We first got our bearings and found ourselves at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amongst the amusement rides and under the…… SUN. Thats right, the sun was shining.
It was almost TOO wickedly bright and it came out of no where. We had to slowly come back into the light. But it was GLORIOUS. Our plan was coming together. If you go far enough South, perhaps the sun does start shining through! Diva was home.
And we were finally just warming up….. And so were the drums it seemed. After getting 1 of the last 3 last campsites at all of New Brighton State Beach in town, we rolled in to see that alas! We are just next to the church camp group of 75 kids that are singing Kum-ba-YA and playing the bongo’s. It was a glorious rendition, might I add…. but you can only imagine our surprise. Just insert Ray’s face here. Need I say more? *snicker snicker*
But the sun was shining, we were on a beach and did I mention….. I am holding a margarita? Ah yes, we spent a glorious day in the surf town of Capitola in our two day stint in Santa Cruz and treated ourselves to a few marg’s right off the bay. You see, when traveling and tight on cash, and in need of ‘normalcy’ (for us that was being around others in a bar, perhaps that is something I shouldn’t be sharing….) we found that by finding going to a Mexican joint A) you will always get free chips and salsa (free lunch) and B) there is most always and margarita happy hour mid-day.
Capitola was such a little gem and I highly recommend it if ever you should roll on through. Margaritas and all…. (and they have fabulous stickers for your top-box, too).
Thursday, June 9th: Did I mention how insanely wild the views were on Highway 1? From San Fran down to Long Beach was some of THE most breathtaking, cliffhanging, show-stopping 500+ miles of our journey. You don’t rush this scenic highway. OH NO. And we were sure to take our time. And its a good thing we did….. as there just so happened to be a major bypass set before us. They had been working on a long stretch of HWY1 for months due to a severe mud slide that had recently occurred and it would have taken us miles inland (and who knows how much that would have taken us off of that sensational route). We unknowingly didn’t realize this was to re-open up Friday morning, June 10th and literally pulled into a campground called Kirk Creek in the Los Podres National Forest area, nearly 10 miles before we would have had to take this bypass Thursday afternoon if we would have continued on. We also got the last campsite. Now, how is that for luck? And the views from this campsite were stunning. The site literally overlooked the ocean and the sunset was a massive fireball that set right before into the water us as we ate our dinner that evening. And our Chef? Well, he wasn’t too shabby either.
Friday, June 10: After an oil change and valve adjustment later that morning (Ray is incredibly quick at this, its quite impressive, indeed) off we went to our final and last day with our Diva at camp before we pulled into ‘the shining beacon’ that has been our ultimate goal.
Long Beach, California.
But one last challenge….. I had read in our Lonely Planet (oh yes, Lonely Planet, USA has been our guide every once in a blue moon throughout our Oregon-tastic’-trail journey) that there was a special campsite called Jalama Beach that is 14 miles off of HWY1 and said literally that if it is full there is a sign that will show before you proceed town the twisty turvey 35 mile road that will take you 45 minutes to get there. We crossed our fingers and toes and eyes. We hadn’t seen this campsite, but we knew that this had to be where we would spend the last night with our Diva in California. It just HAD to be…..
As we drove off of HWY1 the sign didn’t read FULL. Perhaps we were still in luck? We carried on and as we came up and over the cliffs there it was. Jalama Beach. *insert Jalama Picture here*
It was absolutely stunning. Everything that we imagined and more. The colors of the kites from the kite surfing in the sky created the most perfect backdrop as we came down the hill towards the campsite. Which should have noted straight away, that it was going to be incredibly – ridiculously WINDY.
Lets just say, that we will never forget Jalama bay, as there will be sand in Diva’s crevices for all of time after that one nights stay.
But we made the most of every moment as Ray even humored me as we attempted to have a fire but had to put it out straight away as we were worried we would put the bathroom facilities alight as the ‘breeze’ was a bit forceful in that direction. Diva even made a friend as we parked next to another VW that night and got to exchange a few, well- oddities. They were an interesting couple, but it made for a few smiles in between almost being blown away. ….Holy hanna, though. Small children and dogs literally had to be held down or lost forever. I haven’t seen anything like since off the coast of Tarifa, Spain. Unbelievable!
Saturday, June 11th– FINAL US DESTINATION, LONG BEACH:
Of course, no entrance can be DULL when it comes to the Wyatt’s. It must have RAZZLE DAZZLE. (or perhaps, that just me.) But after 3,624 miles, my goodness, that deserves a show…. or at the very least, a few balloons.
So after a short stint in ‘LA LA’ land and Hollyweird (oops, not the place to go with Diva but I suppose I fancied a snapshot of her down Sunset Blvd or in front of the Hollywood Sign. That didn’t work out so smoothly. Ray, you can forever blame that two hour detour on me!) But what we did get were over a dozen of red and white balloons that a lady was just ‘giving’ away after a local play outside a school right outside of Hollywood. I felt like Carrie from Sex in the City walking down NYC with the balloons….. It was senSATIONAL! (and the best bit is, no one looks like you in any sort of odd way in Hollyweird when you are walking down the street with over 2 dozen balloons like you own the road).
So we officially had our ‘Razzle Dazzle’ tied to the top of Diva as we drove down Al and Dean’s street in Long Beach when we arrived at our final destination. It was glorious… (it was surreal, really) and it was even more incredible to see them both waiting for us at their terrace of ‘Casa Del Dingo and Al.’ This, my friends and family is the place where we were so graciously welcomed in under the roof of their beautiful home for the next week 1/2 until we took Diva to her port and we took our flight to Hastings, England. I cannot even begin to express how fortunate we were to have had the opportunity to stay with some of the most amazing and special people in our lives. To take us in for that amount of time was too much to ask, and we are still in awe to this day~ and so very grateful.
To give you a snapshot of the heaven-like circumstances we had for the time we were there~Al and Dean (Dingo) literally live a half a block from the beach (dreamy, right?) and a block from 2nd street (similar to Grand Ave. in MN, but more poshy-posh) which is a absolutely fantastic street that has cafes, restaurants, shops, etc… and it is so alive and beautiful 24/7.
We used their bikes much of the time to get around with everything so close, there was no need to strain Diva! She hardly moved from her spot on their street throughout our stay. But we always gave her a good wave when we rode by~ especially the night that we rode off into the distance on our way to the Reggae Boat Cruise, Mon. One of my favorites of our time together…. Just make sure to note that you have to actually RIDE your bike back home, too. Simple miscalculation.
Then along came the kites…. The Kite Boarding that is.
Oh holy hanna. Did I ever mention that the entire trek across country we had kite boarding equipment in our top box? The kites, the boards and the life jackets. The whole bloody lot of it! And I had never in my life even tried the darn sport. I was shaking in my flip flops and I had just dropped a mad amount of cash to take 4 lessons to have not wasted the space across country. And better yet, it must have been fate as that beach that was just a half a block from Al and Dingo’s just so happened to be one of the most popular kite surfing beaches along the California coast.
How is that for ‘get your butt out there’ and get this sorted? So to make a long story short (because you know I can draw this out real bloody well) I bit my lip and sucked it up, made a few jokes and “I didn’t die.”
I’ll tell you that much for now. I am no kite boarder, by any means… not even close. But at least I faced my fear. Because those kites have some crazy power, and I respect those out there that are a part of this sport. Good on ya. Lets just hope our lines never cross.
But to the ones that helped us, supported us and housed us throughout our 3,624 miles to California— I can only tell you how much I do hope our ‘lines’ cross again.
“You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails to always reach your destination.”
….NEXT UP, ACROSS THE POND AND BEYOND…..