We arrived in Santa Rosa, mooch-docking off our friend Peter who has been a west coast mainstay throughout this journey. It was a busy time as we had deep cleaning to do on the rig, readying it for prospective buyers back in Portland. The weather was hot but mellowed out after a few days.
On a foggy Sunday morning we woke up before dawn (we haven’t done that since we retired 😜), and headed for Old World Vineyards Winery to partake in the annual harvest and crush. It was cold! After being briefed on how to harvest grapes we headed out to the heart of the Russian River Valley to their vineyard next to the famous Gallo Estates. We parked up in a lovely grove of Redwoods with another fifteen or so folks along with the extremely industrious LatinX workers, got our gloves and clippers and walked through an apple orchard into the vines.
The size of the clusters were amazing. Unfortunately, due to the recent storms that had pummeled us on Highway 1, some of the larger clusters inside the vines had molded. I spent time surgically removing these offenders, and the smell of the rot was certainly pervasive – in a wine grape sort of way. After a couple of hours the sun began to break, and the hills and forests began to open up. Being Sunday, and that we were out in the vineyards, it was pretty peaceful.
The LatinX were like machines, plowing through the vines with precision. They ranged from young to middle-aged. I can’t fathom them doing this all day; we witnessed them picking the crops, mostly strawberries as we motored up from Santa Cruz.
Being at ground zero at these agricultural centers is seriously eye-opening. It’s not something you witness on a regular tour and you gain such an appreciation for the horrendous amount of thought and work that brings food to our tables.
At Old World Wines the process is organic and they age the wine in neutral barrels. After finishing up and peeling off layers of clothing, we journeyed back to the winery for a great Mexican lunch; we had huge burritos!! The weather had warmed into the high 60’s with a pleasant breeze and inviting sun. We tasted a few vintages processed from the same vines we had just picked; we opted for the Rose’ and Merlot – so tasty and Bob can drink both!
After getting slightly buzzed from the tastings, they set up the containers so we could do some good old fashioned crushing! Well, it was an interesting experience that was purely performative; the grapes were cold as we had picked the grapes after they had been sitting in fifty-degree weather most of the night. But we crushed all the same so we can honestly say we did the heavy lifting of what goes into wine making🍷🍇
After working since the crack of dawn for several hours; stooping, bending and twisting, we wound up flaking out for the rest of the afternoon. I was fine with that as Monday was a big day and we need to prep emotionally for the upcoming French Visa Interview.
On Monday we toodled down to San Francisco, passing over the Golden Gate Bridge that was emerging from the fog. The bridge was symbolic in a way, as we passed from this stage of our life to another. We arrived in plenty of time for our appointments with HSBC (for opening up a US and French Bank Account) and then off to the Visa Processing Center.
After finishing a smooth transaction with the bank, we grabbed a quick snack and then headed for the Visa Center – it’s actually VFS Global; they act as a broker for the French Consulate. We were crammed into a small room with other applicants, some ranging from Portugal to the Netherlands and awaited our turn. The desks that the processing agents sat at were tiny with only room for one chair and Bob had no choice but to stand behind me. We gave them more documentation than what was required partly because we had been given advice for the helpline and other blogs on what to expect. I was glad for it as other folks hadn’t made photo copies of their passport pages or thought their travel insurance would cover the requirements (it doesn’t – you have to pay for the more expensive coverage such as Cigna for actual full health insurance) resulting in denial of their application at the get-go. We breathed a sigh of relief as the agent took our fingerprints and photos and we were on our way.
We had one last dinner with Peter that evening, packed up the RV and bid a fond farewell; he had been a much-needed stop for us as we approached the end of our trip.
We set out for McKinleyville the next morning, past the now dry rolling hills that were a lush green the last time we passed through here.
We decided to stop at, you guessed it, our favorite spot, the Founders Grove in the Redwoods National Forest, for tea.
This was Grogu’s third time in the Redwoods; for Shoeless and Bob Jr. it was the first. Grogu has been with us on this entire journey, having lost Dave at the Grand Canyon😥
We were lucky to find an RV leaving as we arrived and gladly slid into their slot. We stepped outside with our tea and soaked in the atmosphere; I fantasized of having a log cabin with a large porch nestled in this grove, where I would sit for hours, in a tranquil respite, listening to their stories.
We had been there in late winter and early spring when it was cold and damp; it was now early fall, with sentimental shafts of light breaking through an emperious embrace. The dry, temperate air filled my lungs; the forest perfume swelled around me that I longed to capture in a forever memory. The drying needles softened our footfalls as we got lost in our revelry. And we literally got turned around! But you didn’t find us complaining as we meandered through the grove, swiveling our heads to and fro as we finally made our way back to the rig.
Memories don’t define the Redwoods very well; I still find myself in awe as they emerge from the forest proper, an astonishing contrast to human frailty. They are not defined simply by a singular grove, but by an ancient ecosystem that lies deep in the heart of us all. Here we become true-to-nature, if even for a fleeting moment in time. I am glad they have been preserved for all to explore, and that they inspire the human race of their importance; that they will continue to endure for centuries to come.
We can only hope.
The next day, we left the Widow White RV Park and headed for the coast. I wouldn’t recommend this park, it is a bit rundown and you only pay in cash, but it sufficed for a quick overnight, and heck, it seems like we’ve run the gamut on this journey!
We journeyed through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, it was rainy and misty which only added to the atmosphere. The weather finally broke, revealing stellar blue skies along Northern California and Southern Oregon Coast. The wind wasn’t as fierce as it was in the spring and the temperature was certainly manageable.
We hooked up at the Turtle Bay RV Resort at Gold Beach in the same spot we had in the spring. We took a leisurely walk along the beach with its thundering surf, a stark contrast to what was hitting Florida. We felt so fortunate that the weather cooperated during our trip; we were concerned about hurricanes as we headed south, but August was void of any activity which was pretty unprecedented.
We watched in horror as Ian decimated south western Florida where some of my relatives live (who are now safe), but I can’t imagine what people will have to deal with in the aftermath as they pick up the pieces. If we saw that sucker coming across our path, we would have aborted and avoided the Gulf Coast altogether on our way back to New Mexico.
While we ogle at the treasures Mother Nature has blessed us with, she will equally remind us of her wrath – striking a balance we humans continue to disrupt.
I slept hard, I suppose from the beach walk and ocean air.
We took a morning stroll on the beach, it was calm and devoid of any people; only our tracks were apparent in the sand.
When I looked back, I thought about our adventures, even with so much planning, we didn’t know what to expect, grateful that it turned out so well.
We packed up and headed for Waldport; our last night in the rig🥲😘. Yeah, it’s an inanimate object, but she has taken us through such an incomparable epic adventure it will be hard saying goodbye.
We then headed up the coast via the 101 – one of my favorite haunts; the mist was thick and the coastal pines emerged like crooked wizards, bent and twisted, savaged by the merciless coastal winds. The oceanic fog created a cataract over the mind’s eye, causing one to take the winding curves with caution.
Then we approached Cape Perpetua – even the name evokes a sense of romanticism. The immensity of this place isn’t truly captured with names such as “Devil’s Churn,” or “Cook’s Chasm.” These conventions are an attempt to classify something that needs to be experienced first-hand; and one must get soaked to truly experience its wrath. If Poseidon could spit fire he would have done so, content to have unburdened himself in the process of creation, then soaking his masterpiece with a thundering tidal wave.
When not smothered by the approaching tide, Thors Well sits in obscurity until such a time as the tide breaches its edges before sliding into oblivion. Get too close and you could become one with Davy Jones’ Locker. The Well is an anomaly that requires a fair amount of patience and photographic skill to capture. I have, back when I was a more serious photographer, spent time wrestling this beast through my lens; I did not come away particularly dry, but was victorious all the same.
We passed through Florence where I spent many summers with my extended family at nearby Mercer Lake. I wanted one last A&W fix at the classic drive-in on the main drag and I was not disappointed. After gorging ourselves one last time, we landed in Waldport at the KOA with a nice view of the bridge.
The fog came and went, but at least the rain dissipated and allowed us to get out for a walk. Then we settled in for our final night in BigB.
We woke to an elixir of coastal perfume mixed with dense forest; you breathe it in but you can’t get enough – if it was a drug I would be an addict! This sensory combination I have not yet experienced anywhere else and will be missed.
We had traveled 27,318 miles since February 20th, through snow, heat, frost heaves and flooding to witness some of the most stunning landscapes in North America.
It’s been a helluva ride!