Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 5: San Francisco to Eureka

Posted June 8, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
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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.