Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Two Almost Perfect Days

After taking all of our food and scented items out of the bear-proof lockers at Yosemite, and all of our gear out of our packs, we reorganized the van (or probably I did, since I am the one who feels that everything needs a place in the van) and set out for San Fransisco. We had another beautiful day of driving and arrived in San Fran in the late afternoon. Luckily, we remembered our friends Brian and Lisa had been to the city, so we called Brian and he told us that Fisherman's Wharf is a fun place to visit on the bay. We spent a few hours looking around in shops, watching the street performers, and checking out the sea lions at pier 39, then eventually settled on sourdough bread bowls with clam chowder for dinner (Jeremy's idea believe it or not). It is surprisingly cold in San Fransisco so hot soup sounded perfect to me. The place we ate at…a bakery called Boudin…claims to be the original sourdough bread bowl maker. It was a cool place. They had tons of fresh bread and a really large bakery operation. It was all automated, but still interesting to watch.

After finishing our soup, we decided to keep moving, so we headed back to the van. Jeremy was on the phone, so I took the keys and we were on our way. Now most of the time, Jeremy does the driving in the van, and I definitely haven't driven it in a lot of tight spaces, so getting onto the Golden Gate bridge made us both a little nervous as there were several narrow lanes marked with some kind of plastic yellow tubes sticking out. I definitely smashed one of those tubes and realized I might need to hug the left side of the lane a little more. Unfortunately, it was so foggy that even when we were on the bridge we could barely see it.

After crossing the bridge the plan was to drive to highway 1 and up the coast until we found a campsite for the night. As we came to the fork in the road where highway 1 and the road we were on split off, Jeremy noticed that there was a sign saying the next fuel stop was 26 miles, so we checked out the gas gauge and everything seemed like it would be okay. The next section of road was fairly scenic, but I was a bit uptight about maneuvering the tight curves and Jeremy did not like how close his side of the van was to the guard rail. We did all right, but after about oh…26 miles or so…we started wondering if that sign we had seen was meant for us or the road that we exited.

Still thinking we would be okay, and really having no choice, we pressed on. When the gas gauge read below a quarter tank we started getting a little nervous. After consulting our map, we decided that there were a few small towns soon enough that should have fuel, but every time we would pass through a little town, there didn't seem to be any fuel in sight. We finally pulled into a little inn to ask where the nearest fuel was and they said it was two more miles up the road and closing in ten minutes. By this time I had been trying my best to conserve fuel by coasting as often as possible on the down-hill stretches and maintaining a fairly slow pace, but we decided it was time to hurry. We roared the two miles up the road and pulled into a gas station that had a closed sign in the window and all their pumps were shut off for the night. At this point we really weren't sure what to do, so Jeremy went to ask someone down the street where else we might be able to get fuel. This nice old hippy had a few gas cans sitting around, so he offered to give us some fuel. We pulled over there and…of course…he shook about five little red gas cans and all of them were pretty much completely empty. He told us all about how California has a law that you can't sleep in your car and the loophole to get around that law and told us we could park in his parking lot overnight. He told us the police (in the station right across the street) wouldn't bother us. I told Jeremy that I would rather go back to an RV park we had seen a few miles back and come for gas in the morning. So, we turned around and went back about 2 miles to the RV park thinking our problems were solved. When we pulled into the RV park nobody was in the office, but the self check-in board said that it was going to cost us 45 bucks just for a tent site and an actual RV site was close to 70. We (mainly Jeremy) decided that it was not worth that much and we should just try to make it the 16 or so miles to the next town large enough to have fuel. So we headed out on the road again only this time driving east away from the coast and drove toward San Rafael. Honestly, we don't know how far our van goes once it is on empty, but when we finally pulled into a gas station that was open, the needle was in the red and it was dark outside. Needless to say we were pretty relieved. We ended up going up the road a little further and staying the night at a state park that was still overpriced, but definitely not $70.

The next day our goal was to see the Napa Valley and possibly stop at a winery that someone recommended to us. So we headed north and began seeing signs for wine country. Our first two stops were very lucky. One of the first wineries we happened upon was a fairly large winery with a large sign that said complimentary olive oil and wine tasting. Now, most of the trip, we see places along the way that look nice to stop and Jeremy just drives right on by. He says "Oh we can come back" or "We'll see another place to stop up the road" and then of course I nag him that we missed the best place to stop, so this time we did. They had really lovely olive oils with bread samples for tasting and also a really nice gift shop and wine bar with free tasting…not too bad for our first stop in Napa. As we were leaving, just across the street there was a great little fruit stand with really cheap local fruit.

After eating mostly Pasta Roni and beans and rice, we were feeling like a little fresh fruit would do us good, so we got enough to last us a few days. Next, we decided to go into Napa to find the visitor center to find out more about the area. They had a really nice little welcome center and shopping area so we walked around in town a bit and headed back out to look for Goose Cross, a winery that a friend had recommended we stop to see. Goose Cross is located in Yountville just north of Napa. As we pulled into town and slowed our pace, Jeremy kept complaining about a rock in one of the tires clicking. After a stop or two, the rock was still with us and we started to think it might not be a rock after all. Jeremy checked over the tires and found a large screw in one of our back tires. So, we did some checking around and driving back and forth looking for a tire place and wound up back in Napa. The guy told us he thought that he could fix it and that it should only take about an hour. We decided to go get some coffee and use the internet a bit and wait to see how much it would cost to fix the tire. After probably an hour and a half, we started getting antsy, so we walked back to the tire place and the van was still sitting right where we left it. Jeremy went inside to see what was going on and the guy told us that he had already fixed it no problem. When Jeremy asked how much it was he told us just to come back to see them when we want new tires and didn't even charge us. Jeremy didn't remind him that it is a real long way to come buy our tires. By this time we started thinking that we really like the Napa Valley. Everything seemed to be free!

Luckily, the van was finished quickly enough that we could still make a stop at Goose Cross with plenty of daylight left to drive through the rest of the beautiful valley and back toward the coast again…as luck would have it…we were headed toward another state park that was overpriced and happened upon a beautiful little county park with rather large redwood trees that only cost us $15. We were both pretty excited that even though we had two days with minor hiccups, we came out pretty well unscathed!



  1. Free, free, free! And some adventure too:) I need to get myself to Napa sometime soon!

  2. Your posts are awesome! I'm jealous of your trip and what you're seeing. Can't wait for the post on Glacier - we were there last September and loved it.

    PS - do you know there is a National Park Passport that you get stamped at each place? Yours would be full if you had one!