Napa, San Francisco, Monterey, and no wine!

By: Alexandria Riedinger

Aug 25 2010

Category: Life & Happenings


Focal Length:3.85mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:iPhone 3GS

“I always cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to my food.”
– W.C. Fields.

Yes, you read the headlines correctly. All that traveling and no wine. Not even a sip! But that’s not what the trip was about really. My monthly camping trip for July (yes, I’m finally posting last month’s trip) was about…camping. Or at least it turned into being about that. Which is funny in itself, because the camping didn’t involve most of the things you’d expect to find when you go camping…you know, the smell of the camp fire, the laughter of booze-induced campsites into the night, the actual tent.

No way, this camping trip was different. Let me set the stage…

It’s coming close to ten o’clock on a usual Monday night. No real plans for the evening, just some conversation and a bit of undecided anxiousness to do something. Then it happens. The words, “get dressed….we’re going out,” are released with the expected flood of indecision over what to wear. So then I’m dressed, ready for a night on the town, when here comes another sighting of unexpectedness (which I’ve grown accustomed to quickly, and have actually decided to like against my usual structured self). “You have three minutes, pack what you want, and we’re heading to the coast!” says the now excited Senor. I’m left fumbled for a bit…with thoughts of, again, what to wear?, followed by what to pack?, what’s the weather going to be like? and where are we going? I can tell you by now, I’ve become seasonably able to streamline and organize all this in my head and be ready in a second with answers for what ever the destination. Don’t worry, I will share the secrets later!

But back to the story. Three minutes are up, we’re in the truck and heading into a star soaked black night on a two lane country road, leading us to Highway 5 and on further to a camping trip of the unknown.

The destination became clear after some round about questions of where do you want to go?…and Napa it was. Now I’ve been there a few times, but never really explored the area past the rim of my wine glass, and had no idea if there was such a thing as camping in Napa. But thanks to the nifty iPhone and Google, we found the Skyline Wilderness Park located on 2201 Imola Avenue, right off the Napa Vallejo Hwy (also Hwy 221). Online, the ratings of this place were good, and consistently said the campground was inexpensive and close to the vineyards, with full RV hookups and tent camping. We found the same to be true. We pulled in somewhere after midnight but were able to still get through the gates and found a tent site to park next to. However, this was when we realized we had the sleeping bag, the blankets, the bags, food, guitar…but no tent. So we did what any savvy traveler knows how to do best, we adapted and improvised. It turned out to be an amazing experience sleeping with the stars as a blanket in the bed of the truck. And with a down, high quality sleeping bag, I was surprisingly neither cold nor uncomfortable (and now swear by down sleeping bags).

Come morning we took a drive around the rest of the park and discovered  it offers a lot more than just camping. There is ample room to play Disc Golf on their course, take a ride on your horse in their arena and on the trails, and the park is available for day uses for picnicking or hiking. If you are heading that way and in need of a basic camp site close to the heart of Napa, call for a reservation or try your luck and just stop by.

After we left the campground, we drove into downtown Napa, parked, and walked to find a quick breakfast. We ended up at Small World Restaurant, a quaint middle eastern restaurant, cluttered with things of the Old World and the New in a mix that is slightly muddled. All we had were the smoothies, which were awesome and actually fresh and healthy to my surprise. According to reviews the food sounds good too. I’ll definitely be trying them again when we go back. And for a treat, we stopped in at Sift, a delectable Cupcakery that was irresistible. And trust me, I tried to resist. But not hard of course. The pink cupcake had the name of Pinking of You and tasted like what I would imagine Heaven tasted like if it were made out of sugar.

When we left Napa, we had the intentions on heading down to Santa Cruz, but passing over the Bay Bridge with San Fransisco undeniably tempting us, we pulled off the highway and drove straight to Union Square for a visit. And oh, it was so nice in the city that day! We walked a few blocks before deciding lunch was in order, and stopped in to try Soup Freaks, an organic, healthy alternative to most canned soup type places. And needless to say, it was good….very good! We had the Roasted Tomato Basil soup and the Freaky Veggie sandwich. Both of which I highly recommend trying next time you’re in SF. With the food and a nap in the Yerba Buena Gardens to revitalize our traveling souls, we headed towards Highway 1 to cruise down the coast to Santa Cruz. And if you’re a Californian, or even if not, you know the beauty of the Highway 1 and the way it lazily curves around California’s beautiful coastline. I don’t even need to write about it, you just know.

Our curiosity usually gets the better of us, and unknowingly (at the time) persuaded us to pull off the highway to check out Pacifica. But we soon discovered, from a friendly woman at the tourism office that we were meant to stop there to try the infamous crab and tomato sandwich at Nick’s restaurant. I’m telling you, this thing was HUGE…and at $18 something I was skeptical, but in the end it was well worth it and easily split between two people. If you drive past this little town, please do me a favor and go to Nick’s and try it. Your crab loving taste buds will be greatly satisfied!

With all the campgrounds full by the time we reached Santa Cruz, we decided to head even further south on to Monterey, a familiar place for me having grown up in nearby Salinas. Monterey always brings back memories of feeding the ducks pieces of Wonder bread with my grandpa in the park, honking the car horn the whole way through the tunnel as tradition, and collecting shells with my grandma through the scattered tide pools. It is a place dear to my heart and always welcoming for a visit home. We climbed the winding Jefferson Street through the heart of Old Monterey up to the Veteren’s Memorial Park where a 40 site campground lies hidden among the coastal trees. This place was a hidden gem. The campsites circled a large, grassy park where families were picnicking and kids were playing among the jungle sets and swings. As if it couldn’t be more serene, a small group of deer quietly grazed through the park at dusk. I swear, it was almost a postcard. As for us, the bed of the truck provided enough comfort again for us and I sleepily woke to the sweet sounds of french coming from our traveling neighbors, which was undoubtedly a treat. It was a great place to stay for the night and relatively inexpensive, considering prices for hotels in Monterey are rarely under $100.

But Monterey wouldn’t be as special if it wasn’t for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so we were obliged to stop in for a visit. It had changed since I was there a few years ago and is now extremely interactive and even more educational, for kids and adults alike. There was a great Caring Communities section near the Hot Pink Flamingos Exhibit where stories, facts and suggestions covered the walls about how communities all over the world are working to better our environment and what we can do at home to help. It was really inspiring to see the Aquarium, a very well-known entity, take a stand to help our Earth and encourage others to do something as well. I encourage you to go check it out when your travels lead you there next.

So with over 400 miles traveled in 2 1/2 days…my monthly camping goal for July is complete. And now it’s finally on paper/computer. August is almost over, but I still have time to squeeze in a new campground. We’ll see where life takes me this time and I’ll be sure to bring the tent.


2 comments on “Napa, San Francisco, Monterey, and no wine!”

  1. […] MyAlexandriar’s Wisdom Napa, San Francisco, Monterey, and no wine! […]

  2. when it comes to sleeping bags, polyester sleeping bags with cotton padding are the best that you can buy .

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