Weekend Getaway to Vista Ranch and Cellars

I took this past Friday off as my birthday holiday and Cristy and I hitched up the trailer and headed down to Vista Ranch.  Turns out Friday was a good day to head down there as they were set to have live music and food from 6pm to 9pm at Vista Ranch.  I ordered a veggie pizza and Cristy got a farmer’s market salad.  The pizza was delicious.  It was cooked in a woodfire pizza oven onsite.  The salad was made from greens bought at a farmer’s market and was really fresh.  We ate our dinner and then enjoyed the jazz trio for another hour or so.

On Saturday we drove up to Mariposa and let Cristy do a little window shopping in their small downtown.  Then we had lunch at High Country Health Foods & Cafe.  Also great food.  This is a hidden gem in Marioposa right off Highway 140 on the way up to Yosemite.  After lunch it started getting hot so we headed back to the trailer to watch some videos I had downloaded onto the iPad and take a nap.  After dinner we sat outside and watched the sunset.

Sunday morning we had breakfast, watched our church’s live stream and sat out side and just chilled.  We did nothing because we wanted to do nothing.

This was probably the most relaxing outing we’ve had in the trailer yet.  It wasn’t cold, it wasn’t raining, the air conditioner worked perfectly, and the nights cooled down enough to where we didn’t need it.  No allergies, no noise, no worries.  We can’t wait to go out again.

 

Garmin RV 780 GPS

Get Custom RoutesI recently picked up a Garmin RV 780 GPS to replace my aging Garmin Nuvi.  A lot of people use their smartphones and I get that.  I largely use mine for quick navigation.  But Google maps will not tell you if you have bridge up ahead that is too low for the travel trailer you’re towing!  So I bought a GPS that is geared towards RV’s and camping.

Know What’s Ahead

I pulled it out of the box and found it very easy and intuitive to set up and use.  I still haven’t looked at the manual or online documentation yet.  Haven’t needed to.  It goes through a start up wizard where it connects to a WiFi network, and then tries to pair to your phone via Bluetooth.  Both worked well.  After connecting to my home WiFi network I did a system and database update.  This took about 30 minutes to download and install but it did everything itself.  I didn’t need to intervene other than to restart the download one time.  (We were watching Netflix at the time so that could have something to do with it).  Part of the setup suggests that you install their Garmin mobile app on your smartphone which will allow you to get real-time traffic and weather updates as well a do hands-free calling on your phone (if your car doesn’t already do that).  Incoming emails and texts can also be displayed.

Outsmart the TrafficThe features in this unit and the speed FAR surpass my old GPS unit.  Screen updates are really fast and it’s very responsive to touch input.  Inputting a route is very easy as it autocompletes what you are typing and brings up suggestions you can select rather than type out the entire place name.   You can also use the Garmin Drive App to find the place you are going to and send it to the RV 780 so you never even need to touch the GPS.  I love the real-time traffic updates.  It will tell you what’s been reported up ahead on your route and how much time it will add.  It also has the capability to display images from traffic cameras up ahead on your route too though I haven’t found a way to make it do that automatically like it does with traffic.  Also the traffic camera images don’t refresh, they are just snapshots. One of the dislikes I have is the voice that they have chosen to use in this GPS.  It’s a slightly abrasive female voice.  I prefer the female voice in my older Garmin unit.

I’ve still yet to use this on an actual trip with my travel trailer.  I’ve only used it a couple of days on my commute to work.  But on those drives it’s worked really well.  After I get a few more miles under my belt I’ll report back on how it’s doing.

Twisted Oak Winery

Well, after a week of doctor appointments for both ourselves and our conserved son Cristy and I felt a need to get away for a few days to relax and unwind.  We took this opportunity to get our Lance 1995 out of storage for the weekend and take it up to Twisted Oak Winery  which is in the heart of Gold Rush Country near Angels Camp, California.

Twisted Oak Winery participates in Harvest Hosts which allows members to stay for a night or two for free at participating wineries, farms, museums, and golf courses.  Twisted Oak even takes the extra step of offering one free wine tasting for their Harvest Hosts guests.  The hope is that you will like what you taste and make a purchase.

I called the week before and was told that they didn’t have anything happening the weekend that I wanted to stay but I should probably call back the day before to be sure.  I did and they didn’t… have anything happening that is so everything was all set.  We hitched up the Lance the night before and loaded it up with our clothes and groceries for the weekend.  The next day, after seeing Avenger’s Endgame, we hopped into my trusty (if not gutless) RAM 1500 and hauled our little wagon up to Twisted Oak.

When I had spoken to them they said there were two entrances to the winery.  The first one I would come to goes up a dirt road and is a little, um, twisty.  They recommend that people with RVs take the second entrance which is paved.  We took that entrance and pulled into the parking lot.  We saw one Airstream trailer parked at the far side of the lot.  I went in to ask where we could park and was told I could park anywhere along the edges of the parking lot, on any side as long as I didn’t block a driveway or their gravel “party area”.

Looking at the Airstream I could see that they were parked in full sun, and had one of their wheels on blocks because the parking lot wasn’t level over there.  That’s not good because I’m lazy.  I elected to park on the west side of the parking lot, in the shade of the trees, where it was level.  It was a really good spot not only because it was level but also a stand of bushes and lavender blocked our view of the Airstream trailer across the parking lot.  We couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see us.  Wonderful!

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After setting up the trailer and unhitching we decided that the first item on the agenda was a nap.  Cristy read for a while but I guess my napping called to her because she soon laid down on the bed with me and we were both snoozing away.  After our naps we went into the tasting room and that was when we found out that Harvest Host guests get a complimentary tasting.  We tasted a few of their wines but honestly, we’re not wine drinkers, I don’t drink alcoholic drinks at all.  I’m sure their wines are very good but I’m not the best judge.  We thanked them and then headed back outside.

They are very family friendly here with games and toys for the kids outside.  Plenty for both adults and kids to do while there.  They have picnic tables so you can make an afternoon of it and have lunch.  And the views are wonderful!

It was getting late so we decided to drive up to Murphys to find some dinner.  We ended up at El Jardin.  It’s a local Mexican restaurant chain that we’ve eaten at before but this was our first time in their Murphys restaurant.  It’s smaller than most but they have a great outside patio to dine at.  A small creek runs right past the tables.  Dinner was great as usual and the staff were very friendly as you would expect in a small town like Murphys.  After dinner we headed back to Twisted Oak, enjoyed the sunset, watch a movie I had saved on my iPad and then went to sleep.

The next morning after a sniffley, sneezey night we awoke to a beautiful, peaceful morning.  After breakfast we took a walk down to the vineyards.  It was a warm Spring weekend and the air temperature was perfect at 65 degrees.  Since I didn’t buy any wine I paid them back by putting the chickens back up in the trees in their Rubber Chicken National Forest.  We enjoyed the quiet of the vineyard and grounds since they hadn’t opened yet.

Once back to the trailer I had to succumb to taking some Benadryl.  After about an hour it hit me and I had to take a quick nap.  Cristy took some soon afterwards and was conked out next to me on the bed.  After we woke up we decided to head back in to Murphys for lunch and some shopping.  That’s Cristy’s favorite form of relaxation! We had lunch at Alchemy Cafe.  Always delicious and then walked the main street poking our noses into the shops and boutiques.  Cristy bought some of her favorite spices at The Spice Tin and then we decided to head back to our trailer to nurse our allergies some more.  Back at the trailer we watched another movie, took another nap, and then watched the sun set.  It was probably the most awesome day we’ve had in a while. 🙂

I need to insert something here about the roads leading to Twisted Oak.  The first entrance is a twisting dirt road that takes you up to the winery, the second is a shorter paved road that also takes you to the winery.  If at all possible take the dirt road, the first driveway.  It’s easily passable by any car, just don’t try it if you’re towing a trailer.  You’ll be rewarded with some of the most entertaining signs you’ll ever see.

The next morning we hung out, had some breakfast, and after watching our church service on our smartphone we hitched up the trailer and headed back down the hill to home.

Even though it was such a short outing, and we were sneezing almost the whole time (we went through 3 boxes of Kleenex) we still felt really relaxed and refreshed.  I’m already trying to plan our next outing and more than likely, it will involve Harvest Hosts.

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Jackson Rancheria RV Park

We just got back from a two night stay at Jackson Rancheria RV Park.  Jackson Rancheria is a casino owned by a local tribe of Miwuk Indians.  I have to admit, we’re not casino people and we didn’t venture to the casino.  But the RV park is top notch and the owners should be proud of what they have created.  We were greeted warmly when we arrived and I did not have to ask a single question.  Christina, who checked me in, answered every question I had before I even asked!  The RV spots are spacious and there is ample room between spots.   We had a back in spot on the east edge of the park.  The wide concrete pad was level and was surrounded by grass.  We were also given a garbage bag when we checked in just in case we didn’t have any.

As I was setting up a familiar face walked into my campsite.  It was my old buddy Bob!  Bob and I were aviation buddies back in the day.  We even owned an aircraft together for a brief time until my OCD couldn’t handle it any longer.  We chatted for a bit and thin I finished setting up.  After getting set up we took a walk around the park on their nature trail, after visiting with Bob and his wife some more.  The trail loops around the perimeter of their park.  We stopped in the office and helped ourselves to free popcorn.  Then we headed back to make dinner and catch up on some movies.

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The next morning after breakfast we drove down in to Jackson and walked around their downtown district.  It was nice but not much was open on Monday morning.  Seems the weekends are their big days.  Afterwards we drove to Sutter Creek which had a larger historic district and more stores were open.  We had lunch, shopped a little, then drove to Lake Tabeaud Day Use Area for a little hike.  It was overcast but still kind of warm and balmy.  The landscape was rich and green with all the recent rains.  We drove home for more dinner and movies.

The following morning was “go-home” day.  We slept in, had a late breakfast then packed up and drove home.  We really enjoyed Jackson Ranceria’s RV Park and since it’s so close to home we’ll definitely be back many more times!

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Our Second Harvest Host Stay

img_20190223_165745Well, a mere one week after our first Harvest Host stay at Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi we stayed at another winery.  This time we stay in Merced at Vista Ranch and Cellars.  My brother was going to be staying the night after we did.  I would have liked to have stayed the same night but I had work the next day.  So we spent a nice afternoon walking around the vineyard and orchards, dodging the bees who where busy doing their jobs, and just enjoying the break from the rain.  We stopped by the tasting room but since I don’t drink, I had a bowl of lobster bisque.  It was delicious!  Cristy tasted some sparkling wine and bought something in the gift shop as a thank you for being able to stay in such a beautiful location.

Most Harvest Host locations are boondocking only, meaning, there are no facilities available.  You bring your own power and plumbing.  This winery is different in that they provide three spaces that have water and 50 amp electric service.  No sewer service or dump station is available.  However, having electricity is AWESOME!  And if I’d known they have water, I’d never have filled up my fresh water tank to save some weight.

We spent the evening reading and catching up on some TV shows I downloaded to our iPad.  We heated up the soup she had brought and enjoyed a nice quiet dinner.  Even though there was a high school dance going on at the event center also located on the winery grounds, it was still very peaceful

That is, until a train went by.  And they go by very often.  There is a very busy stretch of railroad right on the other side of the street.  At times during the night it sounded like some of the trains were going to come right through our trailer!  But I fell right back asleep each time.

The next day we slept in.  I cooked some eggs for breakfast, and then we watched our church live on their website.  Just as church was ending my brother and his wife showed up.  We caught up a little, gave them the grand tour of our little Lance, and then headed back up to the visitor center to have some lunch together.  After some great conversation I had to start packing up.  Amazed that three hours could pass so quickly.

Vista-Ranch

It was really nice catching up with my brother and just enjoying a quiet getaway to Vista Ranch.  We will definitely be back soon!

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Our First Harvest Host Stay

Many RV’ers take advantage of a website called Harvest Hosts.  It is a searchable map of wineries, farms, museums, golf courses, and assorted other attractions that allow RV’ers to stay overnight for free.  The assumption is that you will patronize their facility.  Cristy and I found Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi, CA through Havest Hosts and stayed there this past weekend.

They have a great facility with LOTS of RV parking behind the winery right next to their  vineyards.  It’s a beautiful view!  The only problem we ran into was that it had rained heavily off and on for the past two weeks.  This made for some very large puddles and some very soft ground.

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I did my best to find a high spot to park the trailer but we were tip toeing around puddles all weekend.  Still the folks at the winery tasting room were really friendly and understanding.  They offered to pull out their tractor if I got stuck in the mud. And the view during breakfast was outstanding!

After breakfast we took a walk before heading over to the tasting room.  I don’t drink wine and Cristy can’t drink wine so it was a short visit.  However, since we wanted to support them Cristy bought a T shirt.

We really enjoyed our stay at Klinker Brick and can’t wait to try another Harvest Host location.  Which, incidentally, will be next weekend when we stay at Vista Ranch and Cellars in Merced, CA.  We’ll let you know how that went.

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Beautiful walk!  But COLD!

Securing The Bug Screens

One of the modifications I made to our Lance trailer was to add insect screens to keep muddaubermud daubers out of the furnace exhaust and water heater vents while the trailer is being stored.  The little buggers are everywhere out here and while they are not aggressive and don’t sting (at least I’ve never been stung by one) they build their mud nests in small holes and clog things up.

So I bought and installed some screens to prevent this.  However, the screens were meant to be mounted with really weak springs.  Other Lance owners have complained about brushing up against the screens and knocking them off the trailer.  Mine barely made it home from the RV storage lot after I installed it.  To rectify this I used some safety wire left over from my airplane builds and fastened the screens on securely.  They feel very solid now.

I did have to drill a couple of holes in the water heater access door to attach the screen.  The grate that is built into the door comes out too easily.

Both screens feel really solid now and won’t easily be knocked off either by my clumsiness or while driving down the road.