Friday, May 31, 2019

Livin' in a bus... down by the river...

Our home base near the Kaiser Vacaville for all this foot drama has been on the Delta Loop across from Rio Vista on the Sacramento River. The closest little levee town is Isleton.

Pete's Steakhouse in Isleton has been around since the late 1800s.
The region was largely settled by Chinese migrants in the 1920s, and the beautiful stained glass artwork at Pete's Steakhouse tells the story
More stained glass at Pete's Steakhouse telling the story of the fish and crawdad history of the Delta Loop

Less than a generation ago this little town was known for biker bars and crawdad festivals. Nowadays it's mostly vineyards, almond orchards, wedding venues, grazing cattle, cute little restaurants and bars, and here and there some apparently abandoned half-baked development projects. It's an easy commute from here to some good-paying jobs in the East Bay (like Antioch and Walnut Creek) and the prices are surprisingly low by California standards for waterfront property; we considered ourselves lucky to be here in this little overlooked spot of California close to everything and yet tucked away and forgotten, and we tolerated the wind which can be quite extreme (no surprises there - the windmills just west of the river are plentiful and nearly always spinning).

Lance fishing on the Sacramento River at Rio Vista

There's some world class fishing less than 20 feet from our rig and the chatter around the park is mostly fishing-related. Lance has had some pretty good luck when he goes out, fortunately fishing from a lawn chair with cast foot elevated fit right in with doctor's orders.

The view from our campsite at the windmills of Rio Vista across the Sacramento River on the Delta Loop

Tony's is a biker bar on the levee in Walnut Grove and serves the BEST steak sandwiches on rolls of garlic bread.
But they only accept cash so plan accordingly.

Foster's Longhorn restaurant in Rio Vista is adorned with a world-wide collection of dead things on the wall.
I ordered the salad because I couldn't stand the idea of them watching me eating meat.

We finally got the green light to roam again. While discussing our next steps, we were both surprised to admit how much we have enjoyed riding in the bus together on these short-leash adventures. After much consideration we decided to put the Subaru up for sale and tow the Mini when the motorcycle trailer is not with us. We're planning a clockwise route for this next loop, up through Oregon and Washington to Vancouver and Victoria, then East to Glacier, Yellowstone, the Tetons, and then continuing East to the Great Lakes, destination Florida Keys by December. That's the rough sketch for now anyways.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Ghost in the Laundry Machine

The Northbound 405 at 10am on a Monday, we're averaging 20 mph and so it's a good day leaving L.A. 

"The ghost's name is Charlotte" the bartender told me while sliding my drink across the bartop on Sunday afternoon. Her face was totally deadpan. "I have felt her presence before but this time I saw her in the corner, over there behind the pool table."

I sipped my rum & diet coke and considered her statement. She believed it to be true.

Moments before I had placed our three loads of laundry in at the laundromat next door; one coldwater wash, two warm water washes, three identical machines.  I put the quarters in at roughly the same time, the digital timer on the coldwater load read 29 minutes to go, the other two 32 each.

29  32  32

I sipped my rum & diet and glanced at the timer on my phone, set to countdown with the first load @ 29 minutes. When it read less than a minute to go, I left my drink with Lance and went to check on them. Now the loads read:

14  14  1

My first thought was... someone here is messing with me. I looked around the room; there was a lady in the corner playing some game on her phone, a scrawny young nearly-naked man sucking on a beer in some truly ratty shorts (someone waited until ALL the good stuff was dirty before going to the laundromat), and a young mother wrangling her two littles with non-stop commentary in both Spanish and English. Nobody looking shady in the corner. Hmmm. Charlotte? Now that the third load was finished spinning I loaded it onto the dryer and reset my phone timer. The remaining two washers were reading identical timers.

12 12

I wandered back to the bar next door, to Lance and a new rum & diet. The bartender was telling folks how things had been moved around behind the counter, and how her boyfriend missed an important shot at the pool table once, all attributed to the ghost Charlotte.

When my phone timer went off, I went next door. The washers now read
2  6

Totally bizarre. Charlotte has a sense of humor. Or she hates  the idea of me finishing my laundry. Or she likes to see me wearing a path between the laundromat and the bar. Or she is getting a kick out of sending me back to the bar because every time I settle back into my barstool the bartender slides a brand new tall rum & diet at me. All this laundry is making me drunk.

One thing's definitely for sure.  From here on out I am picking laundromats with bars next door. This was the absolute best time I've had doing laundry ever.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Short-Leash Outing to Monterey

The day's fresh offerings at Phil's Fish Market
For our next short-leash outing we selected Monterey, California and we stayed with the Elks. The Lodge clings to the mountain between Monterey and Carmel, and my daily walks with Chloe included some breathtaking views of the beach. Of course each time the view revealed itself through the fog I was without my camera or phone so there are no pictures; but the image is seared into my soul all the same.

A long-time family favorite here was Phil's Fish market, and we mistakenly arrived on a Saturday. Ever since Phil beat Bobby Flay in the cioppino throwdown my family's favorite restaurant secret is out, and now the space we used to share with a few bikers and locals is overrun by tourists from far and wide, on a weekend the lines can be over an hour long. Next time we'll plan better to arrive on a Monday and enjoy the live music and a more local crowd.

As seen on my daily walks with Chloe

Try NOT taking a seagull picture in Monterey. They're quite insistent.

The Old Fisherman's Grotto, another family favorite on the Monterey Wharf

A nod to the sardine history of Cannery Row
The Monterey Customhouse is the oldest government building in California and was the first designated historical landmark in California

Gramma and Lance making clam chowder
Of course the best part about this trip was getting to spend lots of time with Gramma. That might be my favorite part of this mobile lifestyle, there's time to spend where you want to spend it, and at 93 Gramma still whoops us all at dice games.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Salt and Fog Fish Festival - Eureka CA

Our first Short Leash Outing was to Eureka, California in Humboldt County. Land of fog, Roosevelt elk and very, very large trees. I love this part of the world.

This redwood tree was cut in the late 1800's. The lateral scar you see towards the top would have been carved into it first so two men could balance on a board on each side, then they pulled a really long saw through it back and forth to each other. A tree this size would have taken about a week to cut through.

The Samoa Cookhouse
No trip to the region is complete without a visit to the last remaining historical cookhouse in the west - the Samoa Cookhouse - where the loggers of days gone by used to take their daily meals. The cooks decide what to prepare each day, and you sit at a long bench and they keep bringing food until you beg for mercy. The meals always start off with biscuits and gravy and this weekend's selection was french toast and sausage. The old lumber mill is long gone but the Samoa Cookhouse remains as do quite a few of the loggers' descendants who settled in the area. Many have clung to their traditional garb and it's not unusual to see extended families in matching lavalava (Samoan skirts) relaxing or playing games together in Eureka's parks on Sundays after church.

This picture hangs on the wall at the Samoa Cookhouse and is a good indicator of the massive width of the logs cut down at the time. Huge... yeah, that doesn't even begin to describe these trees.

Beautiful farmlands just inland from the beach along the Elk River.
The fog is trying to creep in from the ocean just a few miles away.
Wood burl laying along the beach on Samoa Island. It's surely been rolled around in the surf, probably down the river before that, hundreds of years old.

Chloe running wild on Samoa Island
It's generally pretty cold here, this weekend it was about 60 degrees and that's generally what it's like all year around. In the summertime it's a welcome escape from the valley heat. Not many restaurants have outside dining because of the cold, though, and we struggled to find things to do with the dog. She did enjoy running on the beach at Samoa Island, all of which is dog-off-leash and also OHV friendly. We even saw one dude in a large pickup driving around on the sand with his dog running along beside. At first we thought the dog was being punished but before long we realized this was their regular exercise routine. After a few laps he was welcomed back into the pickup and hung his happy and tired head out the passenger window, tongue flapping in the breeze.

Azaleas in bloom at the Eureka Elks lodge, Loretta in the background on the cliff's edge

Yes you read that right. Cutten School.
*cue the puns

The local pizza specialty is Hawaiian with cashews.
Seriously good. Cashews... this might be a new permanent thing for me.
In years gone by we came to this area for the scuba diving and to freedive for abalone. This time we came here for the party; the Salt and Fog Fish Festival of course. The citizens of Eureka arrived too, decked out in their signature wild-hair, puffy coat and hemp-wearing finery to celebrate this moment of sunshine and to welcome Spring with us.

Eureka local enjoying the sunshine at the Salt and Fog Fish Festival

Typical architecture in Eureka, love these old Victorians
Mr. Toad's inaugural trip was successful; he followed along behind Loretta perfectly, although he's a bit heavier than the motorcycle trailer. The Blue Ox system is easy to work with and we are getting quicker with the connect/disconnect process.

It was Mr. Toad's first adventure and he did great
Our next Short Leash Outing will be Monterey, another California favorite.