Posted June 8, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
Chapter 5 in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series.
“… I turn, I turn,
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.
My folks made the drive without a cell phone. Using public pay phones they checked in once a week from Out There.
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.
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.
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.
Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair
We partner with machines.
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.
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.
Every calendar year, we call early for a place on the work schedule at 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 gave us a thorough look-see …
Clayson inspected the brakes and seals …
Vinnie checked the tires …
and the hitch …
Clayson resealed parts of the roof.
An old Airstream pro kept a close eye on the project.
Vinnie found signs of future work that will need attention …
but Beauty – a 20 year-old active rig that loves to off-road – got off easy.
That night we celebrated at Umai and drafted a last-minute wine-country tour.
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.
I’ve always thought that old vine California Zinfandel makes it’s own music …
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.
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 is a winery with a lot of heart.
After a wonderful tasting, they took us in for the night and served up a stunning flamingo pink and violet sunset.
Moving up the road …
We pulled into …
Four Fools Winery
On San Pablo Bay.
We settled in beside a dog-friendly park …
within walking distance to Rodeo and …
If a Harvest Host can compare to Four Fools, please let us know.
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.
Heading north toward Bodega Bay we stopped in Cotati …
for breakfast 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!
“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.
Following our GPS through pasture land, we began to doubt Barbie-who-knows-everything.
Was she playing some kind of game?
The tiny village of Tomales, clued us in that we were on the right path …
Then, suddenly “Ta-da!”
Most of the campers were regulars, families who have come here for generations.
Don’t mind the cows, they’re used to campers.
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 …
and moved up the road to …
Mia Bea Wines
in Redwood Valley
In an ideal world, wine is a libation of legacy.
From the moment we arrived and Christina welcomed us to the Barra Family Vineyard,
Christina’s parents Pete and Beatriz founded the vineyard.
Pete and Beatriz are gone now, but their life’s work continues with the premium wine grapes they planted sixty years ago.
Honor, responsibility, commitment. These things are hard work and Mia Bea is a beautiful reminder that the best work is all love.
Cin Cin! Proost! Cheers!
Eureka, our last California destination
We came here to visit childhood friends, Frank and Nancy Riley.
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.
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 …
and enjoyed a tour of the city’s fascinating architecture …
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.
Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series
- Chapter 1 – San Diego to Malibu
- Chapter 2 – Malibu to Morro Bay
- Chapter 3 – Morro Bay to Santa Cruz
- Chapter 4 – Santa Cruz to San Francisco
- Chapter 5 – San Francisco to Eureka
- Chapter 6 – The Oregon Coast
- Chapter 7 – The Strait of Juan de Fuca
- Chapter 8 – Victoria, British Columbia
- Chapter 9 – Victoria to Mackenzie
- Chapter 10 – The Alaska Highway – coming soon!
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.