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.

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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.

First RV Mod

I belong to an RV owners group called LOA or Lance Owners of America.  Once of the points of pride in ownership for Lance owners is the modifications or “mods” they have done to their RV.  I’ve completed my first mod.  The trailer comes with a large closet in the back with a single shelf near the top.  We plan to use the closet as a pantry and storage area.  To that end I installed two more shelves in the closet.  I also added a couple of Command brand broom hangers.  There was one little “oops” but I was able to conceal it fairly well.  Cristy is pleased with the result so I’m not going to point it out! 🙂

Normally they would be mounted so that the lip would be pointing down so that you can hang clothes from them.  I mounted them with the lip facing up to keep items from falling off the shelves during transit.  Here are a few photos of this first mod.

I’ve got a pretty good sized list of mods I want to make to the trailer but some of them are pricey so they will have to happen over time.  Here is a list of the mods I want to make:

  • Front Window Cover – To protect the front window from road debris
  • Oxygenics Shower Head – To replace the factory shower head which has very low water flow.
  • Upgraded bed lift struts – The bed lifts up to reveal more storage.  The factory struts are not strong enough to hold the bed up when opened.
  • Bedside closet organizers – The closets on each side of the bed can actually hold more if shelving is used rather than the hanger rod that is in the closet by default.
  • Receiver Hitch – To be installed on the back of the trailer.  This will allow for the mounting of accessories such as a bike rack.

Here is a list of the mods I have already done.  I’ll have to get some pictures of these and write more about them in a future post.

  • TPMS System – Tire Pressure Monitoring System.  Allows me to monitor trailer tire pressure and temperature.
  • Bug screens – Screens over heater and refrigerator exhaust openings prevent insects from entering these openings when not in use.

That’s it for now.  We are really enjoying this little trailer.

The RV Journey Begins

After 4 years of research and one year of actual shopping we have finally purchased our first RV; a Lance 1995 Travel Trailer.  We picked the trailer up on Saturday from Meeks RV in Acampo, California.  They gave us a walk through and demonstrated how everything works which took about an hour and a half.  We signed the paperwork and pulled out onto the highway for the first time.

I had to do some work at my job at 2am so we booked a spot at an RV park about 10 minutes away from where I work.  I got everything set up just in time for the rain to start.  I started going through some of the inspection items that I wasn’t able to complete at the dealer.  There were only two things that I could pick on.  I’ll start a list for when I visit the dealer again to have them take care of the repairs.

The RV park itself was pretty nice.  I’ve driven past it for years but this is the first time I’ve been to it.  I was assigned a pull thru site which made set up really easy.  It was really quiet which made resting before my late night work easy.  They gave me a key to the gate for a $10 refundable deposit so I could get in the gate after my work was done.

I rolled back into the RV park after doing my work at about 3:30am.  I turned the heater on and listened to the storm raging outside my warm little camper.  I actually had to turn the heat down at one point because it was too warm.  I slept in and completed a few more inspection items before joining my wife and son for some lunch.

My wife then rode back with me to spend the night in our new RV.  We had a really enjoyable time in the quiet RV park.  It rained and stormed most of the time we were there but there were but we still really enjoyed ourselves.  If our first shakedown cruise of the RV was this good then we have many more adventures to look forward to.   We plan to use this time to learn the ropes of living in an RV.  We’ll spend as much time in it as we can over the next 7 years and make sure that full time RV living is something we really want.  We can’t wait!