Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Northern California: farther away than Vietnam


Oh faithful readers, I am happy to report that I am finally on the grid again after 7 days in the bush of Northern California!  Wow, I didn’t realize that we would have less internet connectivity in our own country than while we were traveling in SE Asia.

But here we are in a coffee shop in Fort Bragg, on the coast 130 miles north of San Francisco, so before we blast off to another state park, I’ll post a few picks from days 1-5 of our California vacation.

We left SLC in a rented van last Thursday.  My truck went into the shop for a possible transmission problem last Tues, so I found and rented a sleeper van that runs on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).  We were off on a camping, racing, hiking, biking, wedding-going adventure!

We made it through Reno and up to Donner Pass before crashing for the night at a rest area.  When ya got a bed in the back, there’s no need to find a tent spot or hotel! 

Friday we rolled through Sacramento for groceries, beer, ice, and CNG and then headed up the mountain to Boggs Demonstration Forest for the 8 Hours of Boggs mountain bike race.  We were both entered as solos, along with our friend Leslie from SLC and Irene, formerly from SLC but recently relocated to the Bay area.  With Leslie’s husband Rick for support, we were set to show these Californians how to race Smile.

Friday night we went out for a preride of the course.  It is made up of some fire roads like this


but also lots of moderately rocky singletrack.


Friday night, the campground was jammed. 



That didn’t stop us from having a nice solar shower to clean up.  Gotta race clean, ya know.



Race start was at 8 AM Saturday. We didn’t even need arm warmers! 

What happened over the next 8 hours, I would rather forget.  In short, for me the race was Very Hard, Not Enjoyable, and notably more PAINFUL than other races I have done. There were a couple of fun sections of trail, but the combination of my aluminum hard tail bike, rocky dusty trail, very aggressive riders, and especially my lack of any type of conditioning or training, made for a difficult day.  Still, after walking 5 hills and stopping for a back rub (thanks Leslie!), the Advil kicked in and I made it around the 8-mile course 7 times.  Race time 7 hours 48 minutes, which put me 6th out of 7 in the Expert Women category.

Drew faired better, completing 8 laps even with a broken seat rail and broken spoke.  He beat his performance last year (7 laps) and enjoyed himself despite a sore back and the mechanicals.  Thanks for the seat loan from Leslie, who unfortunately had to call it a day early due to a sprained thumb incurred on lap two. 

Drew’s face post race is testament to the dusty trails!


OK, I was looking pretty rough too.


But we all survived.  Irene did 6 laps and placed the best out of all of us – 2nd in Master’s Women. Yay, Irene!

After the race we hung out, drank beer, had another solar shower, and went to bed early. 


Sunday, as a reward for the difficult day prior, we went wine tasting in Sonoma and Russian River Valleys with Rick and Leslie.

First stop Ferrari-Carano.  Great wines and their mascot was a wild boar.  We like pigs, right.


Next, we got some lunch at the Country Store and then to Jordan Winery.  We have had their wines before and they are really tasty.  Apparently, Jordans are snobby, as they wouldn’t even let their namesake in for a tasting on short notice. 


So we went to their affiliated winery and Leslie’s favorite, J Winery, which specializes in sparkling wines.  They were sooooo good.


We went for the cheese and charcuterie plate and were astounded by how different foods make the wines taste so different.



I splurged and bought 2 bottles of fine wine.  Now we need to make a special occasion to drink them! 

After the tasting, we got a mini tour of the bottling facility.  Hook me up to the spigot on that one!


After all that finery, what better place to relax and feel at home than …


a Brewery!  Home of Racer 5 IPA, a new Lucy and Drew favorite.

After our brew pub dinner it was back to chill with Rick and Leslie at their hotel on Clear Lake in Lakeport for a few minutes.  nice view from their room!




By dark, we figured it was safe to just troll around the area looking for a park or quiet lane to pull off for the night.  We found just the place on a dead end lane next to a cow pasture.  Living large in our rental van we are!


All the fun and games have to come to an end sooner or later. Monday we pulled out of Lakeport and headed north to go find some big trees.  On the way we picked up more beer, groceries and ice in Willits


and got some clothes clean.  We don’t live the glamorous life all the time Winking smile


Then it was north to Humbolt County, the home of the Drive-Thru Tree!


Our van was, of course, too big to drive through, but it was fun to see others go through.  Everyone has a kitschy grin on their faces.


Jean Luc encouraged us to ham it up on this shot.


From there, we continued north to Humbolt Redwoods State Park.  We will pick up there when we get around to another coffee shop in a day or two when Drew’s patience for my blogging is restored Winking smile.


  1. Wish you could make it up North! I'd love to see the CNG van! Sounds cool :) Great shots of the Redwoods!
    xo Ruth

  2. Dear Lucy,

    We love your beautiful pictures and related commentary of your Northern California rugged bike race and fun filled excursions.

    We are thrilled your friend Leslie’s favorite winery is J. We are excited that you enjoyed the cheese and charcuterie plate paired with the J wines, a fun, engaging and educational tasting experience, by your great photos it looks like your experience was quite sparkling.

    We thank you for visiting J and look forward to your next visit, and reading your next fun filled excursion experience.


    1. I know why J is my friend's favorite! We really enjoyed the people at your winery and, of course, the wines!!