Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I'd read that the Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel/Big Sur areas were among some of the most beautiful parts of California.  Well, thanks to a travel-centric few weeks, I can say with confidence that everything I read was spot-on.

I mean...really.  Just look at this coastline!

Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove

I was in love with the crooked, unique looking Monterey Pine trees.  Just beautiful and windswept all along the coastline.

The hubby was on leave over the holidays, so we took lots of day trips and a few quick overnights while he was off.  December was a very full month!

On one of our trips, we loaded up the Cricket for our first California camping expedition, and headed on down the road to Monterey for New Year's weekend.

We set up camp at a military campground called - appropriately - Monterey Pines.

Of course, the Puggy Boy got his own doggie sleeping bag mat for the occasion. Only the best for the spoiled pup, right?

We spent most of our time exploring the towns in the area, and my favorite was Pacific Grove.  It was such a beautiful coastal town with lots of dog-friendly beaches.  I couldn't get enough of that salty, sea air.

Carmel Beach

Can't you just smell the beach?  It was the perfect blend of breezy, salty, and misty.

We had some excellent meals both out at a few restaurants and a few at our campsite. Overall, it was a great trip!

Pup friendly dining in Carmel
New Year's Eve Dinner in the Cricket

I think we've packed quite a bit of travel in our short lived Sacramento tour.  I have a few more trips up my sleeve, but they'll have to be quick because when we blink, it'll be time to move again. 

Such is the nomad Coastie life.  But hey, nomad ain't so bad when we're calling California home.  For the moment, anyway.

Ta-ta for now.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Year of the...?

Birds.  Yay, nay, or indifferent?  I'm a resounding yay in that category.  Love 'em!  I've fancied myself an extremely novice birder for a while, but I can hold my own with lots of common bird id's.

I watch, think about, and attempt to identify birds more than I'd like to admit!  Especially when we hike and travel.

To the point where when I I see a bird and don't know what it is, I try to commit the main features to memory so I can look it up to hopefully id later.  You know, to add it to my slowly growing bird arsenal.

My latest newly identified bird was an Oak Titmouse in my neighborhood.  What a little cutie pie!

Oak Titmouse
Photo credit: By Ingrid Taylar from San Francisco Bay Area - California, USA (Oak Titmouse in the Shade), via Wikimedia Commons

Got that one now.  I won't wonder about what kind it is anymore! 

I can remember one time when we lived in Florida, I was driving past a small pond and saw a substantial flock of Wood Storks wading and chilling around the pond.  I got so excited about seeing almost a dozen Wood Storks all in one place that I almost drove off the road.

The mighty Wood Stork
Photo credit: by Charlesjsharp (Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography), via Wikimedia Commons

What?  It's a somewhat rare sighting!  And if you're lucky you'll only see 1 or 2, but not over a dozen all together!  It was super cool.  Not to worry, I didn't actually drive off the road.  It was close, though.

Yep, I'm a bird nerd through and through.  But, despite all my birding nonsense, I guess I wasn't really part of the club.


Well, because I was completely in the dark about a fun little little New Year's Day birder tradition that exists.  Now that I know about it, I guess I'm really legit.  Ha.

I can thank Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haupt for enlightening me.  The gist is this.

The very first bird you're able to identify on New Year's Day is your bird of the year.  So whatever you identify becomes your "year of the fill in the blank."

On New Year's Day this year, we were camping in Monterey, CA, so I knew I might have a unique opportunity to see a bird I possibly wouldn't normally see.

Or so I thought.

Turned out my bird of the year is one that I see every day in my backyard.  But, it's also a species I identified only after moving to California.  So, a common bird for this area, but still a new to me species.

Ready?  Drum roll, please.

2017 is my year of the Western Scrub Jay.  The name was just recently changed from Western Scrub Jay to California Scrub Jay.  Which begs the question, "Why does California feel the need to appropriate the name?"  But again, I digress.

They're actually super vibrant, beautiful birds.  Also on the irritating side because they're extremely screechy and loud.  There's no mistaking their squawk when you hear it. Straight up obnoxious!

Western/California Scrub Jay
Photo credit: by Jessica Merz (Flickr: Western Scrub-Jay), via Wikimedia Commons

I'm glad my bird of the year turned out to be the Scrub Jay.  No, not because I can fully unleash obnoxiousness in 2017.

Because it's a perfect geographic reflection of exactly where in the world we are in 2017 on our loony Coast Guard path.  Year of the Scrub Jay!  Bring it.

Ta-ta for now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Wining in Sonoma

Our time in Sacramento is rapidly become road trip-centric...and I'm more than okay with that!  After living in a place where a road trip meant driving about an hour until the road literally ended, it's a welcome change!

We added to our arsenal of roadies a few days before Christmas with a trip through Napa and Sonoma Counties to a tiny, winery-centric town called Healdsburg, CA.

First of all, the drive through Alexander Valley was gorgeous.  Granted, the vines are all dormant because it's winter, so we weren't driving through rolling, vibrantly green hills by any stretch.  They mostly looked dead if you didn't know any better.  Not too far off from this...

But despite that - what a beautiful, idyllic, winding road through the vineyards!  Truly a relaxing drive.  Especially as a passenger.  Ha.

We joked that the entire town is "stuff white people like."  Well, because it is.  (Do you know that satirical comedy book from 2008?  It's pretty damn funny.)

Healdsburg can only be described as a quaint, wine-happy town in Sonoma County.  Wine tasting rooms for area vineyards every 3 feet, top-notch restaurants, antique shops, and I counted at least 3 over-priced doggie boutiques.

You know, the kind of shops that sell personalized dog pop art, Houndstooth dog coats, and gluten-free dog treats. (kidding about the gluten-free - but you get my point) C'mon, the place was named Fideaux.  Need I say more?

Strolling downtown Healdsburg

But aside from the somewhat hoity-toity factor, Healdsburg was a fun little town.  We tasted some excellent wine, and I learned about a red I'd never heard of before that blew me away.

Portalupi Tasting Room
Ever heard of a Barbera? (pronounced BAR-bear-uh) Me neither.  But, oh my Lord was this a good wine.  So smooth.  So tasty.

We tried it at the Portalupi Tasting Room and brought a very pricey bottle home with us.  We'll have to pick our special occasion to crack that one!

Apparently in addition to northern Italy, the grapes grow well in Amador County, which isn't too far from Sacramento.  Might be another wine-fueled roadie in our future!

We ended up popping around to 4 different tasting rooms around the charming downtown, which was all decked out for Christmas.

Along the way, we learned from one of the sommeliers that each flight of wines generally adds up to equal about one glass of wine.

So, by the time we finished up at the 4th tasting room - we were ready for some food!

Nonsense with the toad outside Toad Hollow & in one of the tasting rooms

We had a delicious dinner at one of the zillions of restaurants there were to choose from, but were out of luck finding any live music to check out.

Such is the way of the off season. Still fun, though!

Our second day brought us to Simi, a vineyard we stopped in on our way out of town.  Classy with their fireplace, fountain courtyard, and balcony.

To be honest though, I was over-wined at this point!  We hit the road back to Sacramento after that for another beautiful drive through the valley.

Simi Winery

So Healdsburg gets a thumbs up from me.  But, of course it would.

A quaint, wine-centric town with a seemingly endless array of restaurants specializing in locally-sourced, farm-to-fork menus?

Umm, yes please.  I say bring on our next road trip to stuff white people like!

Ta-ta for now.