Working our way down the California Coast: Petaluma and Concord

As we planned our movement south following our stay at Fort Bragg, we once again looked at our campground options in the greater San Francisco Bay area, particularly those locations close to Concord where Rosemarie’s sister Dolores and her family reside. We usually stay about 45 minutes away at Travis Air Force Base’s “FamCamp” in Fairfield. It’s fine: affordable, particularly given the pricey region, but otherwise forgettable and often with limited availability.

I love this candid picture of Rosemarie and niece Tamiry. The hair is magnifiscent.

We have explored other places, but the private resorts in the area are either quite expensive, too far away, or as we discovered after an exploratory reconnaissance run: “not suitable” (which is elitist code for “seemed pretty sketchy.”) Meanwhile, the county and state campgrounds are sporadically size-limited (tents only or 20′ max RV,) often fully booked (it turns out that fairgrounds often have fairs,) and surprisingly expensive ($40-$50 plus taxes and a reservation fee for a basic grass or gravel site at a county fairground.)

Nice, spacious, and secure site. PKM loved it, though she was a bit uncertain of the wild turkeys that occasionally wandered through.

Though vaguely aware of it from campground sites like All Stays, during our multiple past visits we have somehow overlooked a nearby military option, Petaluma Coast Guard Training Center. Admittedly, it is further from Concord, 60 miles in fact, but appears to be far less popular (and thus available) and costs the same $25 a night as Travis. For that you get electric and water connections with a dump station hidden in a different part of the base.

Tamiry and cousin Eva at the pumpkin patch.

The base feels far more “out in the middle of nowhere” than Travis, though it is quite convenient to Petaluma and wine country. Likewise, the campground is somewhat isolated in the back corner of a facility that is already rather low in population, further enhancing the sense of privacy and solitude. Deer freely roam the base; we counted 24 deer during one 1.5-mile drive from the front gate to our site.

Nice six, possibly eight-point buck and doe. One of many on the base.

While the distance from Concord is not ideal, when we visit this area Rosemarie will usually spend a few nights with Dolores, Josh and niece Tamiry, which means we only make the 120-mile trip a couple of times.

While there Rosemare joined Tamiry and various cousins on the fall pilgrimage to the pumpkin patch to select various gourds for the upcoming Halloween festivities. Rosemarie works hard to build and maintain a loving relationship with her niece, whether crafting, biking, or cooking they are like peas in a pod. Or is it peas and carrots? One of those.

The flip view of the hair picture.

Unfortunately, this visit also involved more repairs for Loki. A full rear brake job, and all the struts (probably the original 24-year-old shocks) needed replacement, and one of the front CV axle’s as well. Not gonna lie: this is getting quite tiresome, but maintenance and repairs are part of owning any vehicle out of warranty, I just wish we could have a bit of respite from them.

Dori took us to a fantastic Korean restaurant for lunch. Delicious and surprisingly affordable

Next up: we continue south along the coast, with visits to four more military campgrounds in Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, and Seal Beach.

New COVID strain just dropped. (Also note the mouse ears Rosemarie made.)

81 Months Full Time RVing: September 2021 Report

The Distance: A big travel month for us as we drove 1,890 miles from Spokane east to the Yellowstone area and then back nearly to the Pacific coast, visiting several fantastic places along the way. Total mileage for the year is 7,727.

As long as it’s not moving much, PKM is pretty relaxed around water, in this case the Salmon River in Idaho.

Incidentally, here is a fun (or tedious, depending on your nerd quotient) google maps limitation I stumbled upon while trying to make my usual monthly route picture. Google is quite good at keeping up with seasonal road closures and will automatically route you around them and will not allow you to “force” a route through them by any means I could discover. But what if you are planning a future trip, or recreating an old route, outside of those closure windows? Google has an option to set the date of your travel (via a “Leave now/Depart at/Arrive by” drop down menu) but only for a two-point solution, i.e., a starting point and a destination.

As soon as you add another point drop down menu for the trip date option goes away. I could not find a clean way around this limitation for this month’s route map other than simply breaking it into two, and even that solution took a lot more work for the first half as I forced the route through Yellowstone National Park while artificially including the stopping point along the way. You see what I go through for this blog? And the little nuggets of wisdom I pass on?

The Places: We started the month with our lengthy stay in Spokane, splitting time between the Fairchild Air Force Base Family Camp and the nearby military owned Clear Lake recreation area. From there we headed east to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks, two places that we had visited all too briefly in 2015. We stayed at Colter Bay and Gros Ventre campgrounds like we had during our previous call, but also discovered a free national forest area campground in the process.

Some of the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.

Working our way back west, we stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument before returning to the Salmon River and Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, one of our favorite destinations from 2015. From there we made a four-leg run almost all the way back to the Pacific Coast, ending with three nights at The Laughing Alpaca. We closed out the month in Northern California with a two day stay at Big Lagoon in Trinidad and four days at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

The Lava Flow Campground at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

During this month we spent 8 days at military campgrounds, 13 at public parks (10 national and 3 county) and 9 at private facilities. We had full hookups for 14 days, partial (electric and water) for 4, and dry camped for 12.

Sunset at Chickahominy National Recreation Area, a one night stop on our run back to the Pacific Coast.

The Money: 73% over budget. Yeah, a tough month, but that’s what happens when you have an $1,100 car repair (Loki’s fan belt assembly and a few other things) over $1,100 in gas from our nearly two thousand RV miles this month, and a nearly $250 tire for the motorhome, all with no markets at all to offset things.

Sea glass in one of the coves in Fort Bragg, aka “Glass Beach.”

The Drama & Improvements: As we mentioned in our San Juan Islands post, our Geo Tracker had a bit of a melt down when the harmonic balancer pulley dropped into the of the road while driving, and that repair along was a tough bill to swallow given how much we have already put into the vehicle. We also ended up finally replacing the tire that we had plugged back in June. Tires for our big rig seem to be a particular “thing” for us; our replacement rate seems a bit higher than normal, but then again we are on the road full time and putting in some serious miles. For those keeping track, we replaced three in 2021 (front two and left outside rear.)

PKM in the magnificent tree in our site at Big Lagoon County Park.