After the high stress drive along hwy 1 (the road from hell) and the the second worst road along the coast and then inland on hwy 128 we were ready for a rest and some fun time.
The Napa Valley Expo RV Park was our next planned destination for a couple of days and at $50 per night we thought it reasonable considering it was in the heart of wine country. We arrived late afternoon in the warm sunshine, the warmest afternoon yet, about 80 degrees was the consensus .
After a quick set up, leveling our rigs on the concrete pads, chairs were set in a central location between the rigs on a nice grassy area. The air was warm even as the sun was dipping to the horizon.
The evening relaxation was very much enjoyed by the group especially the drivers who were exhausted from stress of the windy drive and the last couple of hours of rush hour traffic.
The next day, our first of two in the Napa Valley was to be a wine tour and a walk about the town, but after ‘H’ checked the weather, a group decision was reached to bump our trip to San Francisco up a day before a weather change.
The original plan was to camp at Marin RV park located on San Francisco Bay west of downtown and close to the Marin ferry that travels across the bay to downtown SF. The park was expensive at $85 per night for a less than top of the line park, in fact it was small and unkempt, according to ‘H’ & ‘A’ who had camped there a previous year.
‘R’ was kind enough to offer to drive the group to the San Francisco Bay Marin ferry. From Napa it was about an hour drive to the ferry and ‘A’ checked the ferry schedule so we would make the proper connection with a short wait. The cost was $34 for Lynda and I with one senior ticket (Lynda). It was well worth the cost to avoid downtown traffic and have a view of the bay on the half hour trip across SF Bay.
The weather was warm although cooler on the water. The ferry trip across the bay was amazing, we moved slowly at first out of the harbor, past San Quinton Prison, apparently the only remaining prison in the state with death row.
After we cleared the harbor the Captain hit the throttle and the large catamaran jumped like a fighter jet taking off. Most passengers quickly retreated inside from the rear deck and the howling wind. The ones that remained (our group) looked like dogs with their heads hanging out of the car window screaming down the highway.
The weather was perfect, the views from the ferry were spectacular, the Golden Gate bridge, the Oakland Bay bridge and of course Alcatraz. Approaching the down town core Knob Hill and the city skyline was interesting.
By the time the ferry docked it was noon, we had already decided to have lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, a trip to San Francisco would not be complete without a visit to this world famous landmark.
We picked the upper level Neptune restaurant hoping for a view of the water and we were not disappointed. Most of us ordered fish & chips and although it was OK the price for Lynda and I for a beer each and fish & chips was $85.
It was a bit of a shocker when the bill arrived with several taxes added and an 18% gratuity. A simple lunch was approaching the cost of a dinner out. I guess it should be expected at a world famous tourist destination.
We waundered the wharf for an hour checking out the sights including several large groups of sea lions sunning on vacant bobbing wharf.
San Francisco Cable Car
The next activity was the famous cable car ride, what a hoot, definitely a must do activity. The day’s fee was $17.00, no half day rate even though it was well into the afternoon by the time we walked the five or so blocks to the cable car terminus.
The cars were crowded but everyone was in a festive mood so it made for a memorable time for us. One memorable moment happened when we jumped from one cable car and hustled across the intersection to catch another when ‘R’ drop his wallet in the middle of the intersection.
At first all of us were confused at all the honking and yelling from the vehicles waiting for the traffic lights to change until one person started pointing frantically at the black object laying in the street. ‘R’ was a little embarrassed but it soon faded as we climbed aboard the next car and joined a group of loud and happy liquid lunch people.
Out next mission was a ride to union square and find a place to wet our parched throats. After a couple of glances into some uppity restaurants we found Lefty’s Bar………..perfect.
We ordered a couple pitchers of their not so finest beer, quickly downed them except for ‘R’ (our driver) who tea totaled his 1/2 glass.
When we hit the streets the shadows were long and the sun was ready to drop. We had determined our route back to the ferry terminal and jumped aboard another cable car.
We arrived back at the terminal with only minutes to spare for the next ferry. The waiting area was congested with the evening commuters, the thought had crossed my mind that the ferry would be overcrowed and we would be obliged to wait for the next.
It was our good fortune that the ferry’s capacity was much more than I had guessed and we boarded with still many vacant seats.
The ferry pushed away from the dock and screamed into the night. Our group was showing signs of fatigue as the lights of downtown faded into the night.
The trip back to Napa and our rigs was uneventful except for the 24 road construction project that held us up for 20 mins.
We arrived back at camp and recapped and very enjoyable day over our favorite refreshments. Most of us settled for a Walmart vintage a cheap red “Vella Burgundy” or cab sav., decent if you’re not too fussy, however the chillable varieties may be a bit substandard as ‘L’ & ‘R’ discovered.
Walmart was out of our standard vintage, ‘R’ asked me about the Chillable Red, I said I wasn’t sure, we had never tried it, but when we returned to camp Lynda refreshed my memory, we had bought it and then tried to give it away to someone, ……….anyone who preferred sweet wine. Sorry ‘R’.
Day 2 – Napa
The California Napa Valley is known around the world for it’s excellent wine. It is not only the weather that allows for excellent growing conditions but also the soil.
Much of the distinctive flavors of the wines of the region comes from the soil. The nutrients, acids and other compounds produce a unique taste that makes a variety of grapes produce a distinctive flavor.
The Napa Valley was pretty much what I expected with rolling hills of fall colored vineyards and brown grassy knolls between small green treed valleys. The estate wineries were massive with a definite European design depicting a very successful past.
Our original plan was to hire a wine tour company and enjoy a day of wineries and wines, however the cost was more that we wanted to spend. It would have been more than $100 each, although internet advertisements stated much less, but this soon changed when a quote was requested.
One suggestion from our group was for each of us to buy a bottle of wine that seemed interesting and share it with the group. I was in favor of this idea but apparently I was the minority.
The morning of the second day began as the previous day ended, with blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. The group, obviously tired from the previous day’s adventure to San Francisco, was slow to emerge from their respective rigs to gather for morning coffee as had become the routine.
After coffee and breakfast the women decided to walk the couple of blocks to old town Napa. Bob, the park host had provided the directions and a brief history of the town that was undergoing a reconstruction from the damages of an earthquake that struck the area almost exactly a year ago.
I had planned to find a Verizon store to activate my internet jet-pack. Up to this point of the trip we had been lucky enough to enjoy free internet at the RV parks, but I knew after Napa we would not be privileged to such luxury.
We had planned to re-assemble for lunch and then a token wine tour in the town. The women had found a likely venue, a small nondescript wine store on a side street. I volunteered to drive the group as we had planned a quick stop at Walmart for supplies.
The keeper of Mason wine store was most congenial and informative, pouring several samples of white and then red wines while describing the flavors of each. While the group enjoyed the samples he filled us in on the changes of the wine industry of the valley.
From his description the family wine store that we were in is one of the last remaining free wine sampling wineries in the valley. Large companies had bought up most the estate wineries and changing wine tours to businesses for profit. The charge for wine tasting can range from $5 to $80.
It was obvious that he did not approve of this tactic and the changes it would bring to the culture of the wine industry in the valley. The adjacent Sonoma Valley had not yet adopted this practice so there is still many opportunities for free wine tasting.
The group finished their samples, ‘A’ bought a couple of bottles of white and we left. As a group we were not impressed by this venue that more closely resembled a pharmacy rather than a wine store. As for the wine, let’s just say it was not the best year. I also was not impressed even though this was my first experience with any kind of wine sampling.
We continued to Walmart for supplies and as we were leaving a sign for free firewood was spotted. I suggested we pick some up knowing that firewood would be non-existent in the southern desert especially for free. We changed trucks and returned.
Our brief visit to the Napa Valley was not as impressive as I had envisioned, but we were on vacation so how can one complain.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and it helps with traveling ideas, Watch for my next article on our trip.
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