Friday, April 1, 2016

Elking It Up The Coast

Over the past six weeks we have slowly made our way up the California coast into Oregon where we are happily parked at the Salmon Harbor Marina in Winchester Bay. We are boondocking again, which we haven't done since we left Rincon Parkway.

Scoopy at Salmon Harbor Marina in Winchester Bay.

I'll tell you, once you get a taste for hook-ups, full or otherwise, your boondocking chops fall by the wayside. While we've been able to manage our solar very well (thanks to some beautiful sunny days!) we have let slip a few little tasks that we would typically do, like unplug stuff we don’t need. I think we need a checklist, but it would go into the black hole that is Steven's iPad where all our other checklists are buried.

As we traveled we honestly thought we had missed El Nino altogether, in spite of the constant and dire warnings for Southern California. We did, in fact, have gorgeous weather for weeks in SoCal, but El Nino finally caught up with us when we rolled into the San Francisco area. With only a few exceptions, it has stayed with us ever since! 

In fact, it rained so much that Scoopy sprung a leak when we were in Napa! Water suddenly came streaming through an A/C vent in the ceiling. Steven sped off to Walmart to get a tarp while I grabbed a bucket and worried. Steven got out the ladder and went up top to secure the tarp and managed to stop the leaking. 

Rain, rain, rain kept us inside our rig at the Napa Elks.

Funny story about that ladder, though. Later that evening we planned to meet friends Mark and Abbe for dinner at Bouchon, a fun little bistro in Yountville. We decided we didn't want to be driving at night, in the rain, after enjoying some adult beverages, so we hired a Lyft driver to deliver us to the restaurant. A fabulous time was had by all, and when it was time to return home, we Uber'd it back to Scoopy. 

Our friends Mark and Abbe at Bouchon.

By this time it was very late, and raining very hard, and we had both indulged in the aforementioned adult beverages. There we were standing outside Scoopy getting drenched in the darkness while Steven fished around in all his pockets looking for the door key. Nothing. He repeated the process. Nada. His pockets were empty. Toadie was right there with a spare door key inside, but both of her keys were in the rig! What to do....what to do.

Steven finally recalled that he might have left a side window unlocked. I think we both had visions of one of us trying to boost the other through that window, and not being very happy about that option. Then he remembered the ladder! Five minutes later we were inside warm and dry, and oh, so happy! The next day Steven had a few extra keys made, and two days later the Lyft driver called to say he had found our key. We arranged to have it mailed to Zoe in Seattle.

Napa, of course, is all about the food and wine and believe me when I tell you we indulged. A couple of days after our key incident, Laurie and Odel drove from their home for an overnight stay in Napa and we ate and drank our way through the countryside. We had a great dinner in town and a lovely picnic at the V. Sattui Vineyards, all in celebration of friendship and birthdays, mine and Odel's. As always, it was so great to hang out with them!

laurie_odel  fries
Living it up in Napa with Laurie and Odel.           Garlic fries and wine: Lunch of Champions!

chocolate  olive_oil
Sweet and savory offerings at the beautiful shops in nearby St. Helena.

We ended up staying an extra day in Napa waiting for our Eternabond tape to arrive. When it did, Steven fixed the leak on Scoopy's roof and we were off to wander north!

Even though we traveled up the California coast in the low season, staying in state parks and commercial campgrounds is expensive. One of the smartest things we did before hitting the road in 2014 was to join the Elks. Many lodges across the country offer RV facilities to traveling Elk members at a cost significantly lower than local RV parks. The amenities vary greatly from lodge to lodge, from those with full hook-ups, Wifi, full bar and restaurant, laundry rooms and showers, to those offering a parking space in a gravel lot behind the lodge. In the time we have been on the road, 20 percent of our stops have been at an Elks Lodge. 

Our first one after the Rincon Parkway was the Santa Maria Elks, which had full hookups, free Wifi and all the amenities. After weeks of boondocking, we were so excited to be there! Very few of the Elks take RV reservations, but Santa Maria happens to be one of them. We stayed for nine days but both of us had colds so we spent most of our time trying to recover. We wanted to stay longer but had to go because someone else had reserved our spot. We took off to Salinas Elks, which was a great place to stay while visiting Monterey, Pebble Beach and so many other beautiful places. We also visited the National Steinbeck Center in town and really enjoyed it. 

bixby  pebble_beach
Day trips to Bixby Creek Bridge and Pebble Beach Golf Course.
fishing  pier
While at Salinas Elks Lodge, Steven’s favorite place to photograph was Pismo Beach Pier.

salinas_07  steinbeck
Downtown Salinas and the enjoyable National Steinbeck Center.

Because we were so close, we drove north in Toadie to check out three Elks locations in the south San Francisco Bay area to see where we wanted to stay next. Santa Clara was first, and while we could have stayed there, it required a loooong backing in process that we would rather not have to do. Next up was San Jose, and we didn't care for that one at all, it was right next to the highway and, frankly, a little junky. Finally, we visited the Fremont Elks and decided that was the one. It's in a great location and we were able to visit friends and take the BART into San Francisco from there. 

sanfran_rain  sanfran_bay 

sanfran_building1  sanfran_building2  Stout Grove, California
San Francisco and the giant Redwoods are just some of our favorite places to visit in California.

After Fremont came more Elks camping - Napa, then Ukiah, and Eureka. We crossed into Oregon and stayed at the lodge in Brookings so we could visit the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Most Elk’s facilities are "First Come, First Served" and we are always nervous that we won't get a spot. It's a game we play - "will we or won't we?" – but most of the time we're surprised to find plenty of room. Between boondocking and Elks Lodges, we've become sort of allergic to commercial campgrounds and avoid them when possible. We've only been to one this year and it was Passport America, so 50 percent off. About the same as an Elks Lodge. 

coast  gordon_juanita
Two things we love about Oregon; coastal views and the company of friends. Here with Gordon and Juanita.

We are still on track to head to Alaska this summer and we're pretty darn excited! More on that next time.  


  1. I so wish we had joined the Elks sooner in our adventure. Convenient and inexpensive. And all so different. Never know what you will find. Nice recap of what you've been doing. Love the ladder/key story.

    1. We're looking forward to eventually checking out s few east coast lodges, many of which offer only a parking lot. It's gonna be fun!

  2. We have stayed at many of those same Elk lodges over the years. In fact, we stayed at some of them last fall on our way south.
    Enjoy your journey north. We are about a month behind you.

    1. These west coast lodges have been great! Safe travels on your way north!

  3. Don't know how I almost missed this on my blogroll - glad Steve posted on FB! If only there were video of the soggy missing key adventure - although I did see most of it in my head :-))) You have seen some amazing places in your travels up the coast! Elks is sounding better and better, although I do like the security of knowing I have a place to stay when I arrive. 10 months in, and I keep saying we're going to make a check list. Good luck on your Eugene repairs and travel safe!!!

    1. A video would have looked like the Keystone Cops. We were kind of spinning and I kept thinking sleeping in Toadie was actually an option if only we could get inside her! We've never ben turned away from an Elks. In fact, if spaces are full, most allow you to boondock in their parking lot until a space opens up. That's the best Plan B for us.

  4. You might think of hiding extra keys in a magnet box affixed under the car or Scoopy.

    1. Laurie told us they had one in the generator slide out and wondered if we had found it yet. We had, and it was sitting in a little cubby beside Steven's chair INSIDE the rig. Ugh. We're going to have to get it together!

  5. Have enjoyed reading your blog from start to finish.If your in Wash.sometime this summer we'll be in Chimacum at the Skp park there.Hope to meet you on the road sometime. Sam and Carolyn Kidd

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. Front start to finish, that's quite a commitment! We will be in Washington on Saturday, but only for a couple of weeks while we visit the kids and prepare for our trip to Alaska! We hope to cross paths with you somewhere down the road. Thanks for commenting!