After our long drive south to visit two magnificent National Parks, Yosemite, and Sequoia, we turned north again to visit the Napa Valley. I decided to add a stop in the middle to make it easier on Tom, Lodi seemed like a good break, and there is a well-rated RV park, Flag City RV Park, just outside the city. Lodi is a lovely bedroom community for Sacramento and Stockton sitting just east of the delta region and firmly in wine country. Of course, there were grape vineyards and wineries all around. The downtown area is a lovely collection of small shops, eateries, and wine tasting venues. To the west of the downtown is a beautifully preserved section of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s homes. An eclectic collection of Arts and Crafts bungalows, midcentury modern ranches and two-story colonials.
We also took the opportunity to drive through the delta region abutting the Sacramento River. Miles of agricultural lands interspersed with small lakes, rivers, and marshland.
The next leg to Napa was a short jaunt up Ca 12, across the Sacramento River then down into the Valley. We camped at the Napa Exposition Center in the middle of town. Napa like Lodi is a small city with many older well-preserved homes and vibrant downtown of small shops, restaurants, and wineries. We use what was left of our day to explore the town.
Our second day was to see the valley and visit some wineries. Steve’s girlfriend, Heather, recommended the V. Sattui Winery in St Helena. Located about halfway up the valley, it was a great choice. Completely dog-friendly, Gracie could join us for the day. I opted for the 5 sample wine tasting, but I think he gave me about 7 or 8. All very good but my favorite was the Madeira. I began to chat with a pair of sisters on my right only to discover they are from Perry Township right outside of Canton. We had a great time tasting and talking. I ended up purchasing the Madeira, then Tom, Gracie and I bought sandwiches and a variety of cheeses for a picnic on the grounds.
We continue our drive up the valley to Calistoga then returned via the Silverado Trail. It is a beautiful valley of old homes, wineries and of course miles and miles of grape vineyards. An excellent day!
With one last day in Napa, we had seen enough of the wineries, time to look for something else. The Point Reyes National Seashore had been on my original list of things to do, and it is only an hour from Napa. Perfect. Of course, the trip took us across a few small mountains and valleys all covered with grapevines. It was a lovely drive. After a stop at the visitors center for our Passport Stamps and directions, we drove out Sir Francis Drake Boulevard toward the beaches, the elephant seals and the lighthouse (the lighthouse was closed for repairs) The Boulevard was a long, narrow, and rough road boarder by Dairy Farms and a few beef cattle. At the end of each farm lane, was a sign with the date of its founding, all in the 1850s. This would be a beautiful place to live except for isolation. Our first stop was at South Beach, a dog-friendly beach. However, the water was too rough for even wading. We took a walk along the shore with Gracie tugging to go in the water.
At last, we came to the final cattle guard to find that we now were driving through someone’s cow pasture. The cows didn’t seem to mind us, they strolled back and forth across the road at will. At the end of the way was the elephant seal breeding grounds. We could, from a distance, see the big seals lounging on the beach and frolicking in the water. I was too early for the mating season so they probably all females and last years pups. Next was the sea lion rocks. However, none were home. We did get some great pictures of the cliffs and beaches.
Retracing our drive across Sir Francis Drake Blvd, we took a left turn toward Tomales Point and the home of the Tule Elk. This particular type of elk is home only in California and was nearly exterminated in the 1800s by hunters and ranchers. Fortunately, one rancher near Bakersfield persevered a small herd, all of the existing Tule Elk are descended from this herd.
The drive out to the point was again on a narrow winding road boarded by dairy farms. I think those "happy cows" seen in the California commercials all come from this area because they are all roaming the fields not cooped up in corals. The elk were, as anticipated, spectacular. A few huge males had the females rounded up into groups, while the younger fellows had to wander around with their buddies. Although the elk were located at Tomales Point by the Park Service they roam all across the Point Reyes peninsula, we observed some near the Lighthouse area.
A few words about the history of Point Reyes. It was "discovered" by Sir Francis Drake in 1579. Drake in his ship the Golden Hind had rounded South America, then travels north raiding Spanish shipping for their treasure before crossing the Pacific and eventually circumnavigating the globe. He claimed this territory of England. The Spanish sailor Sebastian Vizcaino sighted the point on January 6, 1603, naming it "la Punta de Los Reyes" the Point of Kings as this is the feast of the Three Kings.
Time to return to the RV, we retrace our drive, stopping in Petaluma for some dinner. We had never tried an "In and Out Burger," so we had to stop there. Although still fast food, it is a step up from Mcdonalds and other burger joints. They even had a special burger for dogs, plain, no salt.
We really enjoyed our short stay in Napa, but the Pacific Coast Highway was calling.