Friday, June 10, 2011

Napa Time

Ah, Napa Valley…the pastoral beauty of rolling hills patterned with a patchwork of vineyards and dotted with lovely country homes. The orderly rows of grapevines marching along the undulating terrain instill a sense of calm and well being. The splashes of color from roses and perennial flowers elevate the already pleasing scene to one of extraordinary beauty. It’s a very, very nice place to be.

Pour yourself a beverage and get comfortable – this is a long one… We stayed for a full week, figuring correctly that any less wouldn’t seem like enough time to do the area justice. It rained for the first two days, limiting our outdoor time somewhat, but we still got in to downtown Napa to have a walk around and initiate ourselves into the wine tasting scene, and to take a drive part way up the valley to visit a vineyard (Black Stallion).

The third morning I was reading the blog of our new friends Danielle and Tommy and I learned that they were in Napa. I fired off an email to see if they were still in town and a few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Not only were they still in Napa, they were parked just a few spaces down from us in the same campground! How we missed each other is a mystery. We got caught up and made plans for a bike ride and dinner at the end of the day. Then I took Toby to the vet – he had several inflamed areas on his paws that needed professional attention. He would be there for most of the day, so we headed out to another vineyard (Michael Mondavi) for another tasting (loved the petite syrah). When we picked Toby up later that day he had all four feet shaved which looks ridiculous! The vet removed three grass seeds and a thorn which were embedded in four different spots. Poor guy! He’s much more comfortable now.

Tommy, Danielle and I went for our mountain bike ride on the very good trail system here at Skyline Park. We meant to ride up on the double track and descend on single track, but we missed a turn and ended up climbing most of the way up a challenging single track trail complete with switchbacks. The ride back down was fast, flowy and fun. Along the way we saw a herd of deer, a flock of turkeys and a gaggle of stoners! The deer peered at us silently. The turkeys gobbled comically. The stoners were like: “Dude. Have a good ride.”

After the ride we got cleaned up, then Tommy and Danielle came over and I made a couple of pizzas for dinner. We had a great visit and are so happy that we found each other here in Napa. Their RV trip is almost over, but their adventure together will have many excellent chapters.

The next morning we said our goodbyes to T&D, I took another bike ride, then we ran some errands. When we got back to camp we saw that we had a new neighbor. Right away they approached us with bad news: as they were parking their trailer they hit ours! Ironically their trailer is a Bullet. Thankfully we were just grazed: the damage is not severe and will not affect our travel plans. At first is appeared to be limited to the fiberglass “nose cone” of the Whale. A small area was cracked, exposing some of the fiberglass. Later I discovered that in addition one of the front landing gear jacks was damaged when the whole rig shifted from the impact. This was more un-nerving and required me to hitch up the truck to take the weight off of the jacks, bend part of the metal back into shape, add a safety wire, then set it back down. The nice youngish couple were very apologetic and clearly wanted to make amends. They ultimately decided to contact their insurance company since their trailer sustained damage as well. So, when our trip is over we’ll need to get these things fixed before resale. A bit of a bummer, but certainly could have been worse.

One of our days we drove first to Oakland, then to San Francisco. In Oakland there is a breakfast & lunch restaurant called Brown Sugar Kitchen. It is owned by celebrity chef Tanya Holland and her husband Phil Surkis, brother of my good friend Dan. Dan has always raved about how good the food is, so we definitely wanted to experience it for ourselves. Nancy got the house specialty of fried chicken with a cornmeal waffle and I got an oyster po-boy sandwich. The food was excellent! The staff somehow learned of our connection to the place and gave us each a t-shirt bearing an image of their famous waffle! So nice!

After lunch we popped over the Bay Bridge and drove through San Francisco, ultimately parking near the Fisherman’s Wharf.

We spent a few hours walking around taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the city by the bay. Heaping piles of boiled dungenous crab…

… seagulls crying on the bow of a WWII submarine…

… brightly painted horses on the Pier39 carousel…

…barking sea lions…

…and the fascinating array of old arcade games including this one, so very funny and puzzling:

Our last day I replaced the grease seals on the Whale’s wheels in the morning – a messy two hour job, but one that saves us considerable hassle over having it done at an RV shop. After a tasty lunch of grilled sourdough and havarti we drove further up Napa Valley, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, and stopping now and then to taste the products of several vineyards. We loved the moscoto from St. Supery, provence from Peju, and the sauvignon blanc from Markham. It was a beautiful afternoon, sipping wine and strolling the splendidly manicured estate grounds of these vineyards. Life is good, eh?

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