Remember when I said I would never drive Scoopy on the Avenue of the Giants? Little did I know that there is a section of Hwy 101 that is just like that road! Curvy, with giant redwoods leaning inches away from Scoopy. Eeeek. Turns out, though, that was a cakewalk compared to what was to come.
We left Eureka on a fog-less morning. Whew! All that worrying for nothing! We originally intended to drive halfway to our next destination for an overnighter, but at the last minute decided to make it a long day and go the way to Napa, nearly 260 miles.
Most normal people would probably drive to Petaluma and take Hwy 12 East, but not us. Nope, we took the "shortcut", Alexander Valley road to Hwy. 128 north of Healdsburg. (I know. hahahaha). It was a gorgeous drive, for sure, but we had absolutely no business being on that road. In fact, somewhere along the way there was reportedly a sign saying "Not recommended for vehicles over 30 feet" but we never saw it. So we blindly drove all 54' 2" of our high-profile selves down that road.
It was narrow and twisty, which made for slow-going. There were no turnouts to speak of, but thankfully, few cars. That was our saving grace, although I did mange to get over far enough to let a couple of cars pass us. Worse yet, this route took us right through all the little towns that were teeming with tourists where traffic slowed things to a crawl. Ever driven though St. Helena? Then you know what I'm talking about.
We arrived in Napa safely, but not unscathed. There was one particular twisty curve on Hwy 128 with a tree that was hanging a bit too low. We clipped it, and lost a little piece of casing on our front door awning. All-in-all, it was a freakin' miracle that we didn't lose more - like, say, my temper. But I held it together and actually enjoyed the drive. In hindsight, I don't regret taking that road, but I'll never do it again.
Considering that Napa is a world-class destination, it amazes us that we could camp there for a week with full hook-ups and not bust the budget. The Napa Elks Lodge is the best deal in town at $25 per night, and we snagged the last spot, which in our opinion was one of the best of the bunch.
We were originally staying for six nights, but extended to a full week. This is Napa, baby! Not only is there tons to do in the valley, but we also made a couple of day trips into San Francisco. Once we took the Vallejo ferry and the second time we drove in.
Sourdough and New England clam chowder! San Fran selfie.
Although this lifestyle represents freedom from the constraints of to-do lists and schedules, we did have some engagements nailed down before we left our hometown of Sammamish. It was important for us to visit with some good friends along the winding road to West Texas, our ultimate destination for the winter months.
A few years back, Steven collaborated with Mark Johnson and the gang from Fat Monster Films as the cinematographer on a music video for singer/songwriter Vienna Teng (click here to see that gorgeous video!) The production team shot in the wild winter weather on Whidbey Island and Cape Disappointment, both in our home state of Washington. Mark and Tim (the director) stayed with us at our lake house for a few days and we had a blast getting to know them. Mark is an extremely generous and kind man with a keen sense of humor and a huge heart. We have kept in touch with him over the years so it was a no-brainer to put him on our must-see list when we hit the road.
Mark is also an experienced UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone) pilot along with his business partner and fellow pilot Romeo Dursher (click here to see their extraordinary work). Since Steven owns a Phantom Vision, we were hoping to have them over for dinner and go flying during our stay in Napa.
By design, our visit to Napa coincided with Mark's annual hosting of an evening of wine and cooking at Tante Marie's Cooking School in San Francisco. In fact, this was the last of its kind after 16 consecutive years. The legendary school was closing its doors. We felt privileged to be invited.
We met up with Mark and Romeo and some of the other invitees for a few drinks at the Sheraton Hotel in San Francisco before the big event. It was great to see Mark again and soon we were on our way to Tante Marie. What followed was an incredible night of meeting new people, laughter, cooking, drinking and general shenanigans. Steven was on Team Baked Alaska and I was on Team Beef Wellington. Dinner was fabulous, but it was the people that made it truly memorable.
Believe it or not, we actually drove home to Napa just after midnight. We barely got in a few hours of sleep before the gang showed up to continue the party with a picnic at the V. Sattui Wineries, before moving on to the breathtaking grounds and film museum at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. This was my most favorite winery of all.
But wait! There's more! The following day, we joined Mark and his lovely partner, MP for a private tour of the Regusci Winery where we enjoyed spending time in their extensive vegetable garden, sampled delicious wine and learned all about the wine-making process. After all of that indulgence and extravagance, the four of us had lunch at etoile, the fabulous restaurant at the Domaine Chandon winery. The food was beautiful to look at and even better to eat.
After a week of nonstop partying -- let's just say we consumed an impressive amount of wine over these few days -- we were in serious need of detox. It was time to move on. While the hectic schedule did not allow time for Steven to fly with Mark and Romeo, our stay in Napa and the wonderful people we spent time with is something we will remember forever. We are hoping to get the boys to join us in Texas while we are there in December, perhaps for Steven's 50th birthday???