08 April – This is take two of my attempt to post this blog (I got it all typed in via my tablet and then found I couldn’t save it – grrrr!!). We left our spot in the hills at the FairPlay winery and found our way back down to Highway 49 via Pleasant Valley lined with many boutique wineries and stopped at Placerville. The little museum had some historic records which Bob checked out and then it was suggested that he try out the local library who in turn suggested the Mormon church. That took a bit of finding – original Placerville is in a very narrow valley with steep narrow streets so was quite a mission to navigate the RV. The ladies at the Mormon centre were extremely willing and spent a lot of time with Bob sifting through any possible leads they could think of. Nothing concrete was to come of the search but several leads found for future research, so it was worth a try.
Left Placerville and headed out via Coloma (site of the original gold find in 1848) and Auburn to our camp for the night at Bear River near Colfax. The road in to the camp was torturous – really narrow and windy and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when we finally arrived (only to find that there was a much quicker and gentler road in to the camp from the other end – Murphy reigns supreme again!). Bear River campground was really pretty, only about a dozen sites along the banks of a small river, with forests up both sides. An eclectic mix of campers – prospectors, alternative lifestylers and ordinary folk like ourselves. With the sound of the gently flowing river it was quite idyllic.
09 April – Made our way out via the easy road to Colfax and then back on to the 49 at Auburn through Grass Valley and stopped at Nevada City. Another town with steep streets and loads of history. Had a wander around the old shops and houses and paid a visit to their local historical records room housed in an early settler’s house which had nothing relevant but sent us on to the local library archive room. Once again, very willing people who are so keen to help out. More local records were consulted but nothing could be found that was of any help to Bob. The library itself was very original from early 1900’s with dark ornate wood inside. The volunteers at this library were digitising the local tax records from the early 1850’s – what a task, but interesting work to undertake. Trying to fathom handwritten documents from that far back needs a lot of patience.
From Nevada City we headed towards Marysville and our campground was a county park in Browns Valley. What a nice find – this had been a commercial RV park but had gone under and was now run by the County. For $20 we got electricity, water and free hot showers and a picturesque spot to boot. In among Sycamore trees, with a serenade of frogs from the little creek and abundant birdlife as well as grey squirrels (bigger than their brown counterparts which have been common until now – and with bushier tails). The maintenance guys passed by and had a chat – they were so proud of their camp and pleased that we had found it.
10 April – Another year older today! After filling up with fresh water and dumping the old we continued our journey. First stop Marysville and on the hunt for more historical records in the county records office. It was a bit hard to find, the address we had had us ending up at a juvenile detention centre, but there was a local education office nearby and from there we got directions to the right place (the lady insisted on leading in her car to make sure we found it). Bob’s first stop was nearly his last as he went to the local courthouse and on going through the metal detector set it off with his pocket knife which didn’t impress the officious security guards. He couldn’t make it past the door, but it obviously wasn’t the right place. He finally managed to get an address but after walking up and down the street was not able to find it , so the search was abandoned for the day. We decided to park down by their little lake and had lunch and a relaxing walk around the lake before heading on towards Sacramento and our stop for the night at the Thunder Valley Casino near Lincoln on the outskirts of the city. My treat for the night was dinner and gambling – an ‘all you can eat’ buffet – good job we don’t do this every night as we would be the size of a house. With so much to choose from you just had to try a little bit of everything! Didn’t make my fortune on the pokies but didn’t lose my shirt either. Our parking spot was a huge empty parking lot with a few other campers and truckers for company.
11 April – Into Sacramento and amazingly we were able to find a carpark right next to the Railway Museum which could fit our RV. Bob got a chance to go and play trains whilst I explored the Old Sacramento town. A really neat area, with loads of restored old buildings complete with wooden boardwalks. There were stores, bars, hotels and many little restaurants. Sacramento is a river city and the early town was built right on the river banks. It was originally about 20 feet lower than it is today, but with constant flooding in the early 1900’s it was decided to raise the town, so the original buildings all built a couple of stories on to their existing single stories which then became the basements. Met up with Bob for lunch and then visited the new part of town and their public library and another search for leads. Helpful staff were able to point him in the right direction but no new evidence was forthcoming. Problem seems to be that good records only started after 1850 when California became a state of the US, and he is looking for records during 1849 when the territory was casually administered after annexation from Mexico.
I had been told that there was an old car museum in the town and it was only a mile or so down the river from the museum so we set off to find it. A lovely walking and biking path goes along the river so it was a very pleasant walk. The museum was housed in some large warehouses and was well done. It had some interesting displays of some very early plus 20’s and 30’s cars including Clara Ford’s (Edsel’s wife) Lincoln – obviously owning a run of the mill Ford was not for her – she had to have the best! One car that Bob hadn’t heard of before was a friction driven Cartercar. There was a good number of later model cars as well as a small collection of racing cars. A special feature was a display of electric/hybrid cars with about a dozen of these different vehicles. My favourite was the Ford Tesla sports – a really nifty looking red (of course) machine. Each month a different car club is allowed to put on a display of about ten vehicles, which allows for a regularly changing exhibit. We returned to our RV via the river walk and managed to find our way to our boondocking host for the night. A quiet suburb where we parked in the driveway. Our host Linda had a lovely rose garden and she insisted I pick a bunch, which lasted for several days along the way.
12 April – Left our quiet digs to head for a road that looked interesting that followed the river. Getting there was a bit of a chore – sometimes what looks like a little backwater on our map turns out to be completely different. Elk Grove was like this, we went through an endless stream of traffic lights – all turning red as we came to them before we managed to get out the other side. We passed by Hood and then on to Highway 160 – the river road. What an interesting road – it was on top of the levee, so a bit disconcerting driving along with drops on both sides. Dotted along the road were little settlements, a bit what I imagine the towns are like along the Mississippi. We stopped at one which advertised an historic town centre. It was a few old shops and buildings mostly shut up. You could still see through the windows of the Chinese Store – not open or trading but you could see all the shelves stacked with boxes. You know how in days gone past all merchandise was not on display but in boxes, well that was what this was like. The top shelves had all sorts of hat boxes and lower down, gloves, scarves etc.
It was a fairly slow trip along the levee as it did require some concentration on the narrow uneven road to stop from driving off into the drink. Made our destination which was Sherman Island basic campground – just a parking lot really but different. The area had a huge wind farm on the other side of the river and because of the wind was a favourite haunt for kite and wind surfers. We couldn’t escape the wind but it did abate during the night.
13 April – Back up on the levee to complete the rest of the road and then up and over the Antioch bridge – and I mean up – it seemed to go steeply uphill for an eternity and with only single lanes we ended up with a nice queue of traffic backed up behind us. Our task today was to cross back over to the coast – we did this by way of the San Mateo bridge over San Francisco Bay and several freeways before finally hitting Highway 1 again at Half Moon Bay. We had organised to stay at another Harvest Host, this time in Pescadero about 15 miles from Half Moon Bay. It was at a small farm with produce shop attached. The farm grew mainly beans for drying and had over 50 different varieties of dried beans available for purchase. The farm itself was a bit run down and the owners had sold off some of their land to neighbouring farms, so I guess times had been pretty tough for them. We parked in a small area next to the shop and had one other RV for company.
14 April – Stopped off in the village before heading south, but we were a bit early as none of the establishments were open for business. Only had a short haul down the coast to Santa Cruz, where we filled up before heading up the hill to Bonny Doon and Ken and Sharon’s place again. The last of our expected mail had arrived and we had another pleasant night of home cooking and good company.
15 April – Bob had a bit of DIY to do before we could set off from Santa Cruz. With the loan of Ken’s ladder and some caulking compound it was up on to the RV roof to see if the source of a leak could be found. Nothing was obvious, but a fresh seal was put around the possible area and hopefully that will solve our problem. It was farewell again to Ken and Sharon and off we went to retrace our route back up Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay and our most expensive campground yet. Needs must however and Half Moon Bay was the closest we could get to San Francisco so that we could get through the city without striking peak times. Also the town had a laundromat (joy of joys – we can have a stock of clean clothes!!).
16 April – Set off from Half Moon Bay and timed it pretty well – we managed to get right up to San Francisco city quite easily but the last little bit to get to the Golden Gate Bridge was tedious, continuous sets of traffic lights along congested narrow roads. We hit the freeway just before the Bridge and crossed over – a bit hairy as the lanes were narrow and we had to travel in the right lane so it felt like being a sardine. Once over we thought that Sausalito would be a good place to go though, but with no RV parking to be had and no street parking in the very narrow streets we had to be content with a drive through. To get back to Highway 1 and our journey northwards, we had a very nerve wracking trip over the Mt. Tamalpais road, a steep, winding road with loads of traffic but once we hit the coast at Stinson Beach the road improved and we could relax. This part of the coast is much more open than Big Sur, the road is winding in places but not so narrow and many more sandy beaches. Our stop for the night was in a boat launch carpark overlooking the harbour and Tomales Bay. Had it not been so windy, I would have enjoyed a spot of fishing from the wharf.
17 April – The wind had abated overnight so it was a nice calm start to the day but still a little chilly. First stop was coffee and fresh bread from the bakery at Tomales – a small settlement with some lovely old houses and a nice looking restaurant only open on the weekend – obviously a great place for a weekend drive from San Francisco.
Stopped off at Fort Ross, this was the site of the southernmost Russian Colony in what was then(1812) Spanish Alto California. The Russians came down from Alaska and set up a fort and colonised the area with only 25 Russians and 80 Alaskan Alutiiq natives. They formed the Russian-American Company and with the abundance of sea otters in the coastal area set up a lucrative fur trade. The other purpose was so that they could grow crops and wheat for the Russians in Alaska. In addition to farming and hunting the sea mammals, Ross colony industries also included blacksmithing, tanning, brickmaking, barrel making and even ship building. The Russians sold off the Fort Ross holdings in 1841 to John Sutter (whose fort and farming empire was located where Sacramento now stands) ending the Russian involvement in the area. The land was bought by the State of California in 1906 and today many of the buildings have been preserved and restored.
18 April – Continued northwards with nice coastal views as we meander up the coast. Although windy in places, the roads are good and not too narrow which makes for a much more relaxed drive. Stopped off at Gualala and a top-up of provisions from the small supermarket and then lunch stop overlooking Point Arena Lighthouse and a more rugged bit of coastline. Topped up with gas at Mendocino (ouch – nearly 40c a gallon more expensive up here). This was a bustling little town, loads of restaurants and boutique shops and obviously a popular destination for the tourist traffic. We had in mind that we would stop at the Jackson Forest Campground but on arrival at the road to the camp found a sign to say it was closed for the season, so opted to boondock on the side of the road and hope we don’t get asked to move on. It is a bit hard to be inconspicuous in a 24ft White Elephant.