Mother/Daughter Road Trip with Gumby
Always in a Good Mood, Gumby Is a Great Traveling Companion
Planning our Mother/Daughter Road Trip
I love traveling with my daughter. In the past, we have gone on vacations together - London, Paris, getaways to Santa Barbara. But year before last, with money being tight, we didn't want to forfeit our time together, so we decided to take a Mother/Daughter Road Trip -- actually a car camping trip - up the coast in our Honda Element. We decided to travel light, taking the essentials: our sketchbooks and our pencils, the Coleman stove and the coffee pot, some wine, cheese, cereal and fruit -- and a trip mascot! But I digress.
A couple months before our trip, I started searching the map and coastal campsites. We live in Sunland, CA (a suburb of Los Angeles) . I have a 2003 Honda Element, a car that I love. We decided to camp in our car to save money on lodging. The idea was to travel up the coast. I have a brother that lives in San Francisco, so we would go visit family and continue our journey up to wine country to visit our favorite winery in the Alexander Valley - Coppola Vineyards in Geyserville.
So we made reservations through ReserveAmerica.com, the site that handles campground reservations. We figured it out this way: Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Healdsburg, Bodega Bay, Half Moon Bay, Pismo Beach and home. The mission of the trip: To have fun, make memories, and find the best clam chowder!
Our first stop Solvang!
The Quest to Find Our Mascot
We left Sunland and traveled up the 101 through Santa Barbara and then through the beautiful rolling hills toward Solvang, a quaint little Danish town in the Santa Ynez mountains. It's a beautiful drive. We decided to make our first stop there, have breakfast, walk around the shops, and find the perfect mascot for our trip. The perfect candidate would be portable, easy going, have a great personality, and like the same kinds of things we liked. And no grumbling!
After eating our Abelskeevers , we walked through shops selling clogs and wooden shoes, Danish bakeries and craft shops, and then we came upon a toy shop. I collect marbles, and there were some beautiful ones that I was picking out when Ani spotted him. We recognized his wedge-headed greenness right away! It was Gumby! A quick glance at one another and we knew that he was the one. We invited him to come along on our adventure and he accepted!
As soon as we got in the car, he hit it off with Hattie, the Hula Girl - showing off his muscles by doing push ups and cracking jokes. We were on our way to our first campsite in Santa Cruz.
We pulled up to the campsite by midafternoon. We were in a tent camping site with neighbors camping in their cars and tents. We set up our cabana. The Honda Element is a great car for camping because the front and back seats create a bed when the head rests are taken off. And we have a cabana that fits on the back of it to create some extra length. It creates a dressing room on the back of the car, and it allows for air to flow through while you're sleeping.
We have an air mattress which Ani (my daughter) would inflate using the auxilliary power outlet to power the pump. The mattress fits perfect over the two seats. I've sewn curtains that we attach to the window shades and the mirror and windows. We set up camp, and fixed dinner - a little soup, a little bread, a little wine. We had brought firewood, so we made a campfire and talked and sketched. Gumby made friends with the wildlife.
Come morning we packed it up and headed up Highway 1 to San Francisco. Our second night would be spent indoors at my brother's house. That would give us a chance to get in a long hot shower -- the campgrounds have hot showers too, but you need to feed quarters to keep the hot water going. The drive up Highway 1 was great, except for one minor fact: we didn't realize we wouldn't be seeing gas stations along the way. We were way past "E" when finally we found a single pump gas station with gas for $4something a gallon. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. We weren't too far from SF, so $15 in the tank and we were off.
San Francisco, Coppola Vineyard & Healdsburg
The road to loved ones is never far. We drove to my brother and sister-in-law's home in San Francisco. I have an adorable nephew who we were excited to see. Our visit with them was great. We asked to be taken to Boudin's for clam chowder (since we had a choice as to where to go for dinner). We had heard about the chowder in the sour dough bowl. It was very good! And that became the "bar" as far as how to judge the other chowders of our trip.
Our family wanted us to stay longer, forego our camping trip and just stay on the week in San Francisco, but we had places to go, chowder to try, wine to drink...and besides, Gumby was getting antsy. Plus Ani and I were excited about our next stop. This was day 2, our official Splurge day! We had decided that if were going to do all that camping (which was in the days to come) - that one of the days we were going to splurge, stay in a bed and breakfast in Healdsburg and get a massage. I had made reservations for us at the Camillia Inn a beautiful Victorian home in the heart of Healdsburg. We had a room beautifully furnished with antiques. After resting and showering, we made our way to our appointment.
Neither of us had EVER gotten a massage before. I had searched the net and found Simple Touch Day Spa and had set up our appointments with the owner. Beth was wonderful. Our massage was fantastic. And she was great at recommending a place to eat, and even where to find the best clam chowder. That night we ate at a restaurant in downtown Healdsburg called Charcuterie. Fantastic. We had been massaged and pummeled, rubbed with fragrant oils, and after a terrific meal, we headed back to the room to crash out. Gumby was nowhere to be found. I think he and Hattie had a date.
After this restful day of pampering, we were ready to get into our camping. But first a trip to Coppola Vineyards where we had become members of their wine family a couple years prior. This winery is so very friendly. We visit every time we come up this way. Arriving at coppola, the three of us took a walk through the vineyard (we actually have a vine tagged with our name that we like to visit) before we went to the tasting room. Gumby absolutely cannot pace himself and before long he had gone way beyond. The pictures are telling. With Gumby out of commission, we decided it was time to leave the Alexander Valley and head over to the coast. Our camping site for the night was Bodega Bay -- the town made popular by Alfred Hitchcock's film, "The Birds".
When we got to Bodega Bay, I found that the campsite that I had reserved as a little too remote for us. The sites were not near the water but rather were backed into wooded areas. I decided to forfeit this reservation for another one where we could feel a little safer. We had vacationed in Bodega Bay the year prior and knew of a private campground. We drove there, it was a Wednesday, and they had room. We thought ourselves so lucky to have this amazing site with a great view of the bay. That night, Gumby entertained us with his "fire walk". Such a daredevil.
Invasion of the birds
That night, we found out why there were vacant campsites with such amazing views. No one told us that we would be subject to terrible winds at our site. The winds started picking up right after dinner. We thought we'd get ready for bed early and read in the car. Our cabana was slapping terribly against the side of the car. The wind was carrying a lot of moisture with it as well. The cabana of the car is held up by the hatch window and kept down by the open tail gate. This configuration allowed us to bring our food in at night to keep the critters away. We decided we'd need to close up the car in order to stay warm, but that meant having to move the food out.
I put the food boxes under the car, then folded our plastic table cloth and covered the food with it, anchored it all down with our two folding chairs and the folded cabana tarpe. In the morning we woke up to the sound of scurrying feet on the car. We went out to find that the birds and raccoons had cut a hole i the plastic table cloth and had systematically removed all of our crackers, donuts, sunflower seeds, the boxes and wrappings of which were scattered all over our campsite. Hitchcock was right, the Birds were ferocious.
Half Moon Bay and Pismo Beach
On the way out of Bodega Bay we decided to go inland again. Even though our next night's stop was Half Moon Bay which is right on the coast, we had heard about a cheese factory in Petaluma. and so off we headed. It was a tiny place - The Petaluma Cheese Company. We called ahead to make sure they were open. They gave us directions to get off at highway D and take it about 20 minutes until we pass a fire station, and then they'd be right after that. True to their direction,we followed the highway out through Petaluma, through the rolling hills and out to the fire station...and there it was. A little oasis with a man made lake, and picnic area. We watched as they poured mini brie and camembert. We bought cheese, salami and grapes from the shop, and had our own little picnic. Once again, true to form, Gumby had too much wine. No control.
The campsite at Half Moon Bay was wonderful. Clean, right on the beach. We had a wonderful time around the campfire. A friend of mine drove up from Santa Cruz to visit us at the site that night. We went out to dinner in the town of HMB, (where we tried the clam chowder at the Fish Market in downtown) and ended up at Starbucks where Gumby got comfortable and decided to take a nap right there on the table.
Get your own Gumby!
And here's a Mr. Bill while you're at it!
A Really Cool Panorama of our Campsite at Pismo
Our last night was spent at Pismo Beach, by far the most beautiful beach. The tide is very low and there are sand dollars all along the shore. The water is calm and shallow, the campsites are nicely laid out. It was very scenic and we loved walking on the beach. That night we set up camp for the final time.
We recapped the week. We had made some great memories together, the three of us. Ones we will never forget. This trip was a way for my daughter and I to bond, to share and experience life together - life that slows down for a bit while we're out on the road together. It gave us a chance to talk together, to figure things out together, and to laugh together. And as far as Gumby was concerned, to create together.
I hope you enjoyed our adventure.
Oh, and we did set out to do what we intended. We found the best clam chowder. if you're ever in Bodega Bay, visit a little restaurant out on the docks called "The Sandpiper". They've got, hands down, the best clam chowder ever. Even Gumby thinks so!