During our meet up with Jennifer and Dees near Monterrey, they prompted us to get busy reserving something for the coming weekend; we had completely forgotten about Memorial Day! We were particularly constrained as our next stop was to be the San Francisco Bay Area in order to visit family, and we already had flight reservations out of SFO to return to South Florida for a couple of days to attend Rose’s dad’s 70th birthday party. It’s bad enough heading to the Bay Area as an RVer: quite expensive and limited site options, but doing so on a three day summer weekend makes it even tougher. A couple phone calls ruled out the few Passport-America options, and there are only two military facilities in the region, one of which has but six sites, and they were full.
The other, Travis Air Force Base, like many Air Force Family Campgrounds, does not allow reservations within thirty days of arrival. So it would be first come first serve in a park that was reportedly filling up fast. Nothing for it but to try, so we made loose dry camping back up plans and headed north on a Tuesday morning, hoping that an early weekday arrival would mean there was something still available.
Sure enough, a spot was opening up just as we got into town, the only catch: it was in the “no pets allowed” section of the park. Travis set aside roughly 1/3 of the campground as a pet-free area, and they included cats, not just dogs, in the ban. The good news was that they had an opening coming up the next day in the pet area that would get us all the way through the Memorial Day weekend, which we locked in. And so for on day we did not have a cat, and then suddenly we did.
Travis’ Family Camp is a full hook up place at a great $23 a night rate. After paying $35, $30, and $32 in Coronado, Point Mugu, and Monterrey respectively, it was nice to be back down in what we think of as the traditional military price range. Plus, being an Air Force Family Camp, we were able to use one of our Air Force Frequent Camper coupons for a free night. Given our loose travel plans for June, it might be a while before we would have access to another commissary, so we definitely stocked up here.
During our first few days at Travis we made the 40 minute drive down to sister Dolores’ place twice to visit with her, Josh, and niece Tamiry. Now four years old, Tamiry is a lot more communicative than during our last trip west, and we loved hanging out with her watching movies (as she gave away every upcoming plot point) and going to the local park pool to swim. Dolores, Josh and Tamiry flew to Florida several days in advance of our trip, so we were left with quite time in Fairfield awaiting our own trip. What to do?
The last three military campgrounds at which we stayed had the advantage of a fantastic seaside location, which goes a long way towards explaining their price. But what Travis has is proximity to the true heart of California wine country: the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Given the strained status of our budget following our Mexican dental visit, we decided to limit ourselves to one day of wine tasting, and to stick to the more affordable places.
Since the Suisun Valley was just a couple of miles from base, we started there, visiting six tasting rooms, and purchasing a flight in five of them (the first one was just too expensive for our blood.) They all had a pretty similar business plan: charge a nominal fee for a flight, the cost of which could be put towards the purchase of any bottle, and waived all together if you joined their members club. This all but guarantees you will buy at least one bottle, and we were not the exception.
We ended up with five bottles for the day, and can say that our favorite was the Viognere from Mangels Vineyard, unusual since we were unfamiliar with the varietal and usually prefer reds. In terms of bang for your buck, you can’t go wrong with the Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative, which currently has three vineyards offering tastings, with the entire line from all of them available to try for only $10. We also enjoyed the ambiance and offerings at Wooden Valley Winery.
Our impending trip to South Florida involved several moving pieces that were as yet unresolved upon our arrival a Travis earlier in the week: we still needed a place to store Serenity, off airport long term parking for Loki (SFO charges $25 a day!) and a cat sitter for Pad Kee Meow. The former was turning out to be tougher than I expected since the base storage was completely full. We eventually resolved this by moving to one of the six dry camping spots within the Family Camp since none of the hook up site were available for the full period of our trip. In order to do that, however, we needed to get a waiver to the “three day maximum stay in dry camp” policy at Travis. Fortunately we got approval, and then it was just down to the cat.
Walking around the camp I ran into Steve, a volunteer on site, and figured he would be about the best person to put the word out regarding our need. He immediately went to talk to his wife, Cindy, who is apparently a barely recovered cat addict, perhaps still in withdrawal and missing having such furballs around. We worked out a deal, and Pad Kee Meow had a personal feeder, walker, brusher, and human to shower her with attention during our absence. Thanks again, Cindy!
We moved into dry camp the day before our flight, set for an evening of final preparations and relaxation before the storm of a big family gathering in Florida. If only. We were jolted out of our peaceful state of mind by the loud smack of something hitting either the back or roof of our rig. Upon investigation, we found a softball next to our rear, and observed several more easily clearing the fence behind us and landing among the dry camped RVs and a few adjacent hook up sites. Let the drama commence!
Three players were having a go at batting practice, with one of them smacking every other ball over the fence. After a couple of minutes of yelling and waiving we managed to get one of them to come talk to us in an attempt to negotiate and end to the bombardment. They were having none of it: as far as they were concerned, if we parked in the (designated, assigned) RV spots near the fence then we took our chances. One of the other campers lost his cool in a fairly extravagant manner, while the rest of us continued the conversation, but it became clear that the batters either didn’t care, or even held us in utter contempt. I believe “look how these people live!” was one of his lines during talks with a resident officer. Apparently in his eyes we were dirty, homeless, trailer-bound scavengers wandering the planet. Eventually base security showed up and shut them down for that evening, but it was to be a short term solution.
I can sympathize: the field is one of the three officially designated base softball fields, but this was, we would learn, far from the first incident, with several of the campers having been led to believe that it would be closed until a permanent solution could be worked out. Oh well. Hopefully we would return from Florida to find an undamaged rig.