From Petaluma to the Mendocino Coast

Mendocino Coast

“Life is not measured by the amount of breaths we take,
but by the people and places that take our breath away”
— Zayne Richard Simpson

The above quote, as displayed at the main office of the Manchester Beach / Mendocino Coast KOA, certainly reflects our experience of these past few weeks. We have visited with family, made some wonderful new friends and visited stunningly scenic locations – experiences which have certainly taken our breath away.

From Monterey, we traveled to Petaluma, staying at the San Francisco North / Petaluma KOA. There we visited with two of our nephews and their families living in Petaluma and Santa Rosa.

We enjoyed visiting with Dusty, Adie and our newest grand-nephew, Connor, at their lovely new home in Santa Rosa, as well as having them come visit us at our camp. We enjoyed contributing an Apricot Cobbler, baked from fresh local produce, for dinner.

We also enjoyed making many new memories with Ben, Erin and their three girls, Maddie, Lucy and Grace – taking the girls to the playground, swimming pool and petting farm, taking the dogs for walks and to the dog park, going out for ice cream one afternoon, and making Smores at camp.

Our time with family was way too short and we will miss them all. We are already looking forward to our next visit.

While at Petaluma, we met with new friends, Pat and Sue O., at the local Lagunitas Brewery patio garden for an early evening of fine brew, food and live music. Pat and Sue are mutual friends of a photographer I know in the Bay area – one of founding members of The Nocturnes night photographers. Pat and I corresponded a bit about RVing and our perceptions on Air Streams vs. Fifth Wheels and their suitability for long-time or full-time RVers. We very much enjoyed our visit with them and enjoyed showing them around our rig after dinner. (Pat and Sue – Good luck with your RV plans and we will be keeping in touch – we will certainly give a shout next time we are in the Bay area!)

While staying at Petaluma, we also enjoyed a long drive through the Wine Country around Sonoma, Sebastopol, and the Russian River, returning along the coastline to Bodega Bay. At Bodega Bay we stopped for lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant, La Bodeguita – I had a special-of-the-day seafood dish which was really very delicious. Along our drive we had scoped out a few wineries we would like to visit on another day, but ended up doing other things. Oh well, next trip.

From Petaluma, we traveled to the Manchester Beach / Mendocino Coast KOA, at Manchester, California. Although we had stayed at this KOA several times in the past, this is the first time we visited with our current rig – a larger trailer than we had before. I was more than a little concerned with driving our Fifth Wheel along the so curvy coastal highway, CA-1, from Bodega Bay to Manchester. Calling the campground, we were advised that for a rig of our size, the recommended route from Petaluma was to take the CA-101 to CA-253, cross to Boonville, take the CA-128 to the coastal highway, CA-1, and backtrack about 19 miles to the campground. We were told that under no circumstances should we trust Google or GPS directions which would attempt to route us down Mountain View Road!

Following the recommended route, we had no problems reaching the campground – there were some stretches of steep grade and sharp windy roads while crossing the coastal ranges, as well as one very sharp set of 10-15 mph hairpin curves on CA-1. Taken slowly and swinging out a bit, there was no problem.

The drive along this route was incredibly scenic – passing through grass-covered and oak-forested hills of the coastal range roads, through the Wine Country of the Anderson Valley, and through the quiet cathedrals of the Navarro River Redwoods before arriving at the wild Mendocino Coast.

While staying at the Manchester KOA, we enjoyed day trips to the Anderson Valley Wine Country, the Navarro River Redwoods, and along the wild and scenic Mendocino Coast, from Sea Ranch to Fort Bragg and Westport.

One day we drove back to the Anderson Valley Wine Country via Mountain View Road to Boonville and we can see why this road is absolutely not suitable for large trucks or RVs. The road is certainly wild and scenic, crossing the oak and pine-forested coastal mountains, but is very narrow, steep and winding. At times the road narrows to a single lane. Grades are severe, with stretches of 11% and even 16% grade. At one point we met a pickup pulling a medium-sized travel trailer – fortunately at a turn out. We did not envy his trip over the mountain, although the rig was small enough to cross, even if the trip was somewhat white-knuckled. Another lesson in Do Not Trust Your GPS!

We enjoyed a laid-back day of wine tasting and sight-seeing in the Anderson Valley, stopping at the Pennyroyal Farm, Brutoca Cellars, and Navarro Vineyards. This region is especially suited to producing Pinot Noir, one of my favorite wines, given the grape’s favored micro climate of cool, moist/foggy conditions with enough warm days to develop flavorful character. Other varietals do well here, too, but the Pinot Noir is king. (We just missed the annual Pinot Noir Fest.) We very much enjoyed the tastings and came away with some very nice Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. We also found a delightful goat/sheep cheese at the Pennyroyal Farms which went very well in salads and with cheese, crackers and wine over the next few days.

We had a nice dinner at the Chowder House in Point Arena – our table was on the outdoor deck overlooking the working pier and harbor.

We also enjoyed a nice day trip and picnic to Manchester Beach, between Manchester and Point Arena. The coastal access was via about a half-mile trail through low conifer forest and sea grass-covered dunes. Jasmine and Pepper certainly enjoyed a good long romp on the beach and in the surf chasing after thrown balls.

Our stay here on the Mendocino Coast has been delightful and a great place to ride out the Memorial Day Weekend craziness. Once the holiday is safely past we will move on up the coast to our next stop.

That’s all for now. Take care and enjoy the journey!

Happy pups at Manchester Beach

Happy pups at Manchester Beach

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