Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 5: San Francisco to Eureka

Posted June 8, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
To listen to the podcast, click the play button

Chapter 5 in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series.

“… I turn, I turn,
        exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
        wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
        precious to me.”

The dream of going to Alaska is almost instinctual, a kind of migration that is reborn within each generation.

Pulling out of Marin County

My folks made the drive without a cell phone. Using public pay phones they checked in once a week from Out There.

Alaska
2002 – Patsy & Allen Perry (Carmen’s parents) on their way to Alaska stopping in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, on their 50th Anniversary

Now, with the Canadian border reopened after a two-year closure, we expect to share the Alcan Highway with a record-breaking number of senior retirees, their RV’s packed tight with puffy coats, woolen underwear and touques, whatever it takes to meet the Alaska of their imaginations.

Airstreaming to Alaska

We’re in the Alaska state of mind, on our way to a land that humans will never tame to submission, one that tests the resilience of man and beast. We hope to capture some moments of the old Alaska Dad explored in the 1950’s.

Alaska
1954 – Allen Perry standing watch near Nome, Alaska. Happy 88th Birthday Daddy!

This drive north shakes long-lost memories out of the dust and into our travel conversation. Recently, I remembered an Oprah episode in the early 80’s when Alaska was recruiting marriageable women.

It’s a curious place where the people shun billboards, have pet reindeer, hang their fish outside to dry, and everyone is welcome because, why not?

We dig curious.

Alaska

Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair

We partner with machines.

wilton
On the way to Wilton

If Living in Beauty challenges the conventions of generic housing solutions and arouses cultural assumptions, then so be it. We’re in it for the love of the land which we feel coursing through our old bones like a tonic. Someday, when we must depart from this gallivant, it will be a difficult transition. Like leaving a beloved country.

milk farm restaurant
Milk Farm Restaurant, Dixon, California

Until that fateful day arrives, we depend on Beauty and The Beast for housing, energy production, water, food and fuel storage. All the rig asks of us is care and maintenance.

Most things we can handle on our own, but our active travel schedule requires a support team. Our Airstream technicians are good. So good that appointments are necessary.

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair
Pulling into Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair in Wilton, California

Every calendar year, we call early for a place on the work schedule at Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair.

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair

Preparation for Alaska began years ago with this list:

  • Replace 20-year-old axels
  • Replace 20-year-old suspension shocks
  • Install a “Lift-Kit” to raise the Airstream 3 inches
  • Repack wheel bearings
  • Brake inspection
  • New tires
  • Black and Grey tank proactive maintenance
  • Pressure check for leaks and seal all
  • Upgrade to Lithium batteries
  • Replace broken rivets
  • Inspect undercarriage for loose areas or damage

When we pulled out of San Francisco in mid-February, we felt ready but we never leave California without Vinnie’s blessing. As a worst-case scenario, Jim scheduled a week for last-minute repairs but, evidently, all that glamping in Arizona and San Diego spared us the usual damage. We were finished by noon on the first day!

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair
Vinnie installing our new stove

Vinnie gave us a thorough look-see …

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair

and walk-around.

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair

Clayson inspected the brakes and seals …

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair

Vinnie checked the tires …

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair

and the hitch …

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair

Clayson resealed parts of the roof.

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair

An old Airstream pro kept a close eye on the project.

Vinnie found signs of future work that will need attention …

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair
Separation on the front gave Vinnie a bit of concern

but Beauty – a 20 year-old active rig that loves to off-road – got off easy.

Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair
Leaving the shop. Ready for Alaska!

That night we celebrated at Umai and drafted a last-minute wine-country tour.

Highwater Brewery

Heading toward Lodi, (just a few miles south of Vinnie’s), we found this Harvest Hosts brew mecca. With thirty-six taps, a full kitchen and an outdoor beer garden, Highwater Brewery provided a friendly, safe and comfortable overnight stay in downtown.

Harmony Wynelands

I’ve always thought that old vine California Zinfandel makes it’s own music …

Harmony Wynelands

Moving up the road a couple of miles, we pulled into Harmony Wynelands where a music legacy taps into the joy of nature.

The 2/11 Robert Morton Organ at Harmony Wynelands

This boutique, small family winery in the beautiful Lodi appellation area produces about three-thousand cases annually. These wonderful handcrafted and sustainably produced wines made us want to dance and there was plenty of room. What a perfectly harmonious overnight destination! We will return to Harmony Wynelands.


Van Ruiten Family Winery

Winery-hopping through Lodi is always an education – usually we learn something about California history, or a current trend in agriculture and water management.

Van Ruiten Family Winery

This year, as tasting rooms re-opened, the families disclosed how the next generation of winemakers are now upholding the family legacy. Many said Harvest Hosts helped their vineyards stay economically afloat through the pandemic.

Van Ruiten Family Winery

Van Ruiten is a winery with a lot of heart.

Van Ruiten Family Winery

After a wonderful tasting, they took us in for the night and served up a stunning flamingo pink and violet sunset.

Van Ruiten Family Winery

Moving up the road …

Crossing the San Joaquin near Sherman Island, California

We pulled into …

Four Fools Winery

On San Pablo Bay.

Four Fools Winery

We settled in beside a dog-friendly park …

within walking distance to Rodeo and …

Four Fools winery!

Four Fools Winery

If a Harvest Host can compare to Four Fools, please let us know.

Four Fools Winery

We were invited to bring our dinner to the scenic patio. Jim liked it so much he broke out the Humboldt Fog, our favorite California cheese.

Four Fools Winery
Jim’s Cali Nosh: Humboldt Fog, Strawberries, Almonds, Artichoke Hearts, Olive Tapenade, Prosciutto, Medjool dates, tuna salad, Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes and 34 Degree crackers.

Heading north toward Bodega Bay we stopped in Cotati …

for breakfast at:

The Twins Restaurant

The Twins Restaurant
Julie waves as we roll away from our table at The Twins Restaurant

Okay, Vinnie told us we had to try out his nieces place in Cotati.

Your technician tells you to try his twin-nieces place, you do it, right? Still, we had a feeling The Twins would be awesome. Now we know that we’d drive far-far out of our way to eat here. Best biscuits in California!

Lawson’s Landing

Adventure Barbie, our San Diego friend, recommended we check out Lawson’s Landing at Dillon Beach. Barbie had recently spent an Airbnb weekend there with her boy George.

Barbie and George

“Dillon Beach? Never heard of it” we said. Turns out Barbie, who grew up in Santa Barbara and knows everything, had just discovered this remote beach about twenty miles from Petaluma.

Lawson's Landing

Following our GPS through pasture land, we began to doubt Barbie-who-knows-everything.

Lawson's Landing

Was she playing some kind of game?

Lawson's Landing

The tiny village of Tomales, clued us in that we were on the right path …

tomales

Then, suddenly “Ta-da!”

Lawson's Landing

The Beach!

Most of the campers were regulars, families who have come here for generations.

Lawson's Landing

Don’t mind the cows, they’re used to campers.

Lawson's Landing

This is the last private California beach resort offering fishing, boating, kayaking, tide pooling …

and wildlife viewing.


After a fabulous week on Bodega Bay we pulled out …

Lawson's Landing

and moved up the road to …

Mia Bea Wines

in Redwood Valley

Mia Bea Wines

In an ideal world, wine is a libation of legacy.

Mia Bea Wines

From the moment we arrived and Christina welcomed us to the Barra Family Vineyard,

Mia Bea Wines

we felt the generations of care that go into Mia Bea‘s clean award winning wines.

Mia Bea Wines

Christina’s parents Pete and Beatriz founded the vineyard.

Mia Bea Wines
Christina

Pete and Beatriz are gone now, but their life’s work continues with the premium wine grapes they planted sixty years ago.

Mia Bea Wines

Honor, responsibility, commitment. These things are hard work and Mia Bea is a beautiful reminder that the best work is all love.

Mia Bea Wines

Cin Cin! Proost! Cheers!

Mia Bea Wines

Eureka, our last California destination

Eureka

We came here to visit childhood friends, Frank and Nancy Riley.

Nancy and Frank

Our little church youth-group reunion led to some small town good luck. We arrived to Johnny’s At The Beach RV Park in the rain with a leak in our fresh water tank.

johnny's at the beach

Fortunately, we were only a short drive from Century Service Center and Barry, Frank’s friend, was kind enough to make an opening in his busy schedule to shut off the broken valve.

Meanwhile, we lunched with Frank and Nancy at The Samoan Cookhouse and Logging Museum

Eureka

and enjoyed a tour of the city’s fascinating architecture

and murals.

And, of course, the local breweries.

From here we are out of our comfort zone, crossing new bridges, going places we’ve never been. But old age is about moving on anyway. We wander in and out of towns like the elderly characters in novels and plays shuffling in to drop a gem – usually a benign zinger stating the obvious – and then exit the scene.

The kids say our peripatetic life is cool.

That makes us feel worthwhile at least, and rescues us from the bleakness of sepia invisibility. Every day we wake up inside the journey, living a dream, and the dream takes us by the hand leading us from beauty to beauty. 

Lawson's Landing
Lawson’s Landing

Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series


If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


51 thoughts on “Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 5: San Francisco to Eureka

  1. Thanks for bringing us along… your doing our dream trip… have fun and safe travels from Texas!

    1. Hey Shirley!

      Thank you for the good wishes from Texas!

      Shoulder season is the best time to enjoy the California coastal areas. Now, having said that, this year had an exceptionally cold, wet and windy Spring. It’s a bit of a gamble but if it’s sightseeing you’re after, Spring is best. But if you like to sunbathe, you’ll have to deal with summer crowds and traffic.

      So great to have you here with us, Shirley!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Timing is everything, Tom. Alaska will be there for you.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  2. I have no desire to go to Alaska myself but I love going vicariously through photos and stories.
    Thank you for taking us along and keep posting.

    1. Hey Cathy!

      We’re at our first stop on the Alcan Highway in British Columbia. The campground is packed with RVers and motorcyclists. Some campers have “Alaska or Bust” signs stretched across their vehicles. Pico is making friends. I guess this is really happening!

      Thanks so much for being with us. We will keep you posted!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  3. I see there are new places that I need to explore! Thank you for sharing! Safe travels, my dear Friends and Pup!

    1. Kathy!

      Now that is very cool! We’re happy to share!

      Be safe and well, Dear Friend!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. We’ll be in Tok on the 6/16, North Pole on 6/19, Denali on 6/23, Homer on 7/2, Seward on 7/5, Glennallen on 7/7, Valdez on 7/8. If you’re going to be near us, let’s meet!

        1. We are behind you by a month. We plan to arrive in Tok about mid-July and stay in Alaska until mid-September. Sorry our paths do not seem to cross. Stay safe out there!

  4. Possibly one day. We are in Tofino on Vancouver Island and have seen 10 other Airstreams from all over (Az,Co,Ca and Qc) Safe travels.

    1. Sylvie,

      We had the same experience – Airstreams everywhere along the West Coast. Even with these fuel prices towing an Airstream so much more affordable than a diesel pusher. I can’t even imagine what a fill-up costs for one of those big RV’s.

      Thanks so much for being with us.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  5. Carmen and Jim,

    Once again your post is like a breath of cool evening breeze refreshing my spirit. You turn a travel blog into an art form.

    1. Pete,

      Wow! We’re speechless. Thank you so much. And your timing is great. We are reading your lovely comment as an evening thunderstorm passes over the Peace River Prairie. Beautiful!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  6. Hello Carmen and Jim!!!
    We have been land locked for just over a year in Santa Fe. Our Airstream is gone. Our truck morphed into a Land Rover. And – I feel like my feet are nailed to the ground. I’ve begun SERIOUS whining for another RV. Would love to be on the road again. We are both grateful for the good health we enjoy. The kids have started to come visit us instead of us going to them. Is this a sign they are counting down out final years…..?!?! And – most importantly – I am loving every chapter in your Alaska adventure!!! I am with you every mile of the way – and know I mean wishing I was doing it too. Keep enjoying each precious memory maker.
    Sending hugs from us both….Susan and Edmond

    1. Susan! We think about you and Edmond all the time!!! We must get together in Santa Fe. We will be in touch about that when we return from Alaska. Yesterday we heard that a dear friend recently lost her house in a wildfire. Hopefully you haven’t suffered any damage from the smoke or fires. Fire season begins this week in British Columbia so I will not complain about rain and low temps.

      We are so happy to hear that you are both in good health. I haven’t met your kids, but I would guess that they are grateful you both made it through the pandemic and they are counting their blessings … and speaking of blessings, I’ll bet you look great in that Land Rover!

      I love that you are keeping us on your radar! You’re on ours too. xoxo

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  7. Carmen and Jim,
    I am living vicariously through you two. I am sure you have not heard that before. You both are living my dream. My wife and I will be taking our first caravan this month and have one scheduled for each of the next 2 years. Thank you for sharing your adventures and things like your gear. My wife is not on board for full timing but we have blog instead.
    Safe travels,
    Woody

    1. Hey Woody!

      Best wishes for your first caravan! How exciting!!!

      It’s so rare for both partners to be on-board for full-timing. Jim and I have an agreement that when one says, “I’m done” we stop even if the other isn’t ready to call it quits. Jim has more energy than I do and he’d be happy to move more frequently, but taking it slow (4-3-2) is very important for me to avoid burnout. Alaska will be a challenge because we will have to move more often in order to cover the immense territory we intend to see. When we return from The Great North I will be ready for a good long stay in a balmy place with a good pool.

      We’re delighted to have you on board, Woody. So glad you like Our Gear. We try to keep it updated.

      Get out there and have a great time. Keep living your dream!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Fantastic! We hope you have a wonderful and memorable journey, Matthew!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  8. Good stuff. Did you not take US1? I see a lot missing. We are planning a US1 trip to wherever and whatever we end up doing in late September

    1. Hey Pat! We took US1 when we felt it was safe enough to pull our 50′ rig, otherwise we took 101. If we had a van or a shorter rig, absolutely we would have stayed on 1. However, Hwy 1 was also slow in places due to repairs. We drove 1 through the Redwoods but it was raining the entire way, so no pics.

      What a great idea to travel the Cali Coast in September! The Pacific is warmest then and tourism is low. Have a wonderful time!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. Thanks, it will be our second trip. The first was in a 45′ Super Class C, Class 8 Truck RV. We started the section above SF at Bodega Bay. This trip will be starting on the coast at Muir Beach.
        Here is our rig. It should be an easy trip and we will be able to fit in the campgrounds that we could not prior.

  9. God’s speed, traveling mercies and joyful happy times!!! Excited for your next journal entry!!! Love and Hugs!!

    1. Claudia!

      Yay! The California coast is a treasure trove. You will find places we had no idea about. When you do, please share!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

      1. We will go South from Portland this summer ending this trip in the Bay Area. Looking forward and will share my finds for sure.

  10. I drove there in a VW bug when I was 17 and newly married. It was quite an adventure coming from Houston Texas in February 1969. 1200 of the miles on the Al-Can Highway were unpaved. As I mentioned, quite an adventure.

    1. Becky!!! Wonderful to hear from you!!! A VW Bug! I would love to see photos of your EPIC adventure. This week we head up to the Northern Territories. So excited!

      Thanks for sharing you crazy, crazy girl!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. We agree, John. Next time in Eureka we’d like to spend more time on the beach and check out Clarke Historical Museum, the Skywalk and Blue Ox historic millworks … So much to see!

      So great to have you with us, John.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  11. This was a fun trip through the out-of-the-way places in Northern California. Thanks for finding these gems and sharing them with us. Can’t wait for photos from the next leg of the trip.

    1. Barbara!

      We could spend a year in Central and Northern California. We’re fantasizing about doing that someday. It would take a year, at least, to cover half of the places we missed

      It’s so great to have you here.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  12. You two are doing it right! Slow travel and loads of enjoyment! We recently stopped at the industrial zone in Lodi to spend one night among the truckers on our way to Auburn. Not so glamorous. One day, we will have fun again. 🙂

    I am aware of Bodega Bay as we house sat in Sebastopol in the past. Nice area! But I never heard of Lawson’s Landing (or I forgot). Looks like a gem.

    Enjoy discovering new territory!

    1. Liesbet!

      Slow keeps me going. Time-efficiency is not my bag. I need a whole day for house-cleaning, another for shopping, kayaking, blogging, etc. In the average two-week stay I might only have one unassigned day of activity. And, as I age I am always asking, “Where does the time go?”

      Central California is exquisite. Agriculture, small towns, hiking, wildlife, seafood and we saw so much free camping – even on the beach. Dillon Beach is more expensive than it looks. It was the most expensive dry-camping we’ve ever done. But it was packed on weekends primarily with fishing tourism.

      Lodi is our favorite wine country. Poor man’s Napa. We love it. We’ve even been offered free camping if we help with harvest. Hopefully, someday we’ll do that.

      I hear you’re having some difficulties right now. Hopefully these things will be resolved soon. We wish you the best.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. We need to meet up!!!

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  13. We spent an amazing time on our 25th (years ago now) with a National Geographic small boat in Alaska – it was a deep and beautiful experience! Missing you both!

    1. Deborah! Oh, I miss you too! I’d love to see photos of your small cruise. About 25 years ago Susan and Martin went on an inland kayaking tour. A guide escorted them up a river and they spent the nights in B&B cabins along the shoreline. Deeply Beautiful is how they describe their Alaska experience too. Tonight we’re camped in a First Nations Reserve in The Northern Territories. A small lake with wild swans will be our only company for the night. It’s 8PM and the sun is still high 😎

      Thank you for coming along for the ride. xoxo

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

  14. I love that you’ve started your Alaska trip early and are taking us to all these wonderful places along the way. It all presents such a juxtaposition to the rest of your trip. I doubt you’ll see many wineries or Victorian mansions north of the Alcan, but I bet the breweries, seafood, and wildlife viewing will be out of this world. Can’t wait to see it all! Stay safe, you three!!!!

    1. Laura! You might want to grab your rain gear for the next two months as we take you through Oregon and Washington and Victoria. It rained everyday. I didn’t even know it was possible, that much rain. I used to love rain and I’m sure that I will again someday, but sheesh! We’re finally drying out in The Northern Territories. Tonight we’re camping on an extremely remote lake and have the entire campground to ourselves. Best travel day ever. As you wade through the bureaucracy, I am hoping your Portugal plans all snap into place so you can be on your merry way. All will be well!

      Hugs to Thor 🐾

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Allie ♥️ Well, of course. Didn’t we learn to follow our dreams from the best? You and Fred continue to inspire us. We would love to visit when we come through Texas next time.

      Safe & Happy Travels!

      Carmen@LIB

    1. Ruth, so glad to hear from you! Yes, we are living an adventure, that is for sure. I find it hard to believe I was in your 10th grade Creative Writing class 51 years ago! 51 YEARS AGO!!!!!!! Happy to see you are following Living in Beauty. One of these days when we are traveling though Oregon, we would like to stop and catch up over coffee or happy hour. Jim

Leave a Reply