Thanks to a chatty Ace Hardware employee who talked me up after seeing my ND jacket, we learned about Russian Gulch and its striking waterfall just outside of Mendocino. As we began our trip south, we did a quick detour to take in the beautiful redwoods.
And for the piece de resistance, our budding naturalist Hen, aka Dr. Alias Fakename (“Elias Fah-ke-nah-may”) filmed “The Wild Maria” traipsing around her natural habitat, Sasquatch-style. Check out his report (sound on!).
Following our railbike outing, Hen & I met back up with the crew for Giant Burgers at Jenny’s (“next to Denny’s,” the locals helpfully noted—as apparently all directions are relative to Denny’s).
Margot & Finn were looking for a little downtime, so they peaced out to the campsite with Seamus. Maria had dropped by the local Sea Glass Museum, so armed with new knowledge & a little guide book, she took Hen & me out to Sea Glass Beach to hunt for treasure:
If you squint, you can just see the two of them hunting amongst the crags in this interactive drone panorama:
I swear, I almost had to crowbar the two of them off the beach as the sun set. 😌 It was worth it, though, as they collected quite the haul:
Some locals had recommend a funky local seafood joint called The Sea Pal Cove, where fishing boats pull right up to the pier to drop off their hauls. While Hen & Maria got us a table, I drove back to reclaim the rest of the crew & bring them to the fishy scene.
After a good night’s sleep, we again hit the beach. Talk about live & learn: Seamus grinding his face into a log full of barnacles left him smelling deeply gross for our four-hour ride home. 🙄
And Maria learned just how quickly the sea can turn on you & soak your feet 😅, necessitating some fireside steaming:
After having a terrific Thanksgiving at home with our visiting pal Maria, we packed up the Westy—complete with the spacious new “techno-yurt” Margot bought for my birthday & which finally arrived at the last possible minute.
First we zipped across the Golden Gate Bridge under picture-perfect skies:
Afterwards we made our way north to Hopland & Ukiah, where we visited an antique store & then an army surplus store, both recommended by our friend Marcos who grew up in the area. From glass insulators to fake teeth to all manner of MAGA madness, the selection & clientele were eclectic & memorable, to say the least.
From there we made the long and very winding path out to the coast, arriving in Fort Bragg to set up camp just outside of town, then score some pizza and supplies. The new tent went up like a champ & kept Finn and Maria cozy all night, with an assist from space heater Seamus.
The campsite was located just a short walk from the beach—which proved delightful to visit the next morning.
Having gone 💯 stir-crazy during quarantine, we decided last week to take advantage of Margot’s day off on Friday by loading up the Westy and getting the heck out of Dodge. Happily I was able to find a really neat-sounding listing for something called the “Hobbit Cobin“—a hand-built adobe structure up in Petaluma.
After making our way up through SF & over the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday, we arrived and set about chilling extra hard with Seamus and a good helping of wine, cheese, and books. Finn & I took the first night in the van with Seamy while Margot & Hen enjoyed the cozy one-bed cabin (er, cobin), and the next night we swapped. Saturday saw us exploring cute (if unnaturally quiet) downtown Petaluma, checking out giant Burning Man artwork, and trying our hands at ping pong and ladderball.
Feeling a bit stir crazy last weekend, we decided to get the heck out of Dodge & take the Westy off to Yosemite—and this time we didn’t even get stuck in snow! If you’re impatient, hop right to our photo gallery, or read on for an overview.
After tucking in Mr. Seamus at a friendly dog boarder, we cruised out on Friday afternoon. After arriving in the valley near sundown & pausing for some horseplay by Bridalveil Fall, we made our way to Camp Curry & cozy cabin 4A. The moon illuminated our spectacular little nighttime hikes as we watched Orion’s belt rise over the sheer mountain cliffs behind us. Even our cold & grousing tween had to acknowledge the grandeur. 😌
Saturday proved to be somewhat overcast, chilly, and eventually rainy—but undeterred we headed out for a guided Ansel Adams photo walk led by an accomplished nature photographer. Henry enjoyed seeing Ansel’s prints juxtaposed with the real subjects behind them, noting what’s changed (trees, bridges) and the eternal mountains that haven’t.
After warming up a bit at the visitor’s center, we hiked over to what we dubbed back in 2010 “The Dad-O Falls & Goonie Falls” (i.e. one big, one little). We pit stopped for lunch, reading, and recharging, then motored up to the spectacular Tunnel View before making our way back down to the beautiful Awahnee Lodge for dinner & drinks.
Finally, on Sunday morning (newly bright & crisp!), we headed off to a brief & easy hike to nearby Mirror Lake before packing up the Westy & heading back to civilization (and our wiggly friend!). As I say, please check out our gallery for the full picture.
PS—Just for fun, here’s a quick vid (and pics) of our tiny troopers enjoying the waterfalls almost exactly 10 (!!) years ago:
Sure, the dog park is great, but how about meeting some really big amigos—in the form of horses & cows?
A couple of weeks ago we took Mr. Seamus over to our friend Matthias’s farm for some R&R with the animals (livestock, goats, cats—you name it). Check out some photos & videos I captured while Henry tried his hand at driving the four-wheeler.
Then for Labor Day weekend, the whole gang loaded into the Westy and took off to camp near Morro Bay, not far from San Luis Obispo & Hearst Castle. There too our pal got to interact with some horses while eating his fill of their stash of carrots. The rest of us enjoyed exploring town, finding antiques at an art fair in the park, searching vainly for Pop Tarts, and trying to take down a truly intimidating burger. Check out a few shots of the adventure.
“Invest in experiences, not in things,” they say, and we’ve always regarded the Westy as a catalyst to making great memories (beating the heck out of staying at some random hotel!). Our trip to Legoland delivered on that promise in spades: the campsite Margot found (an out-of-the-way vineyard) happened to feature a young guy named Max who was delighted to show us the old cars he restores & even let Henry drive his ’52 lowrider Chevy!
Last weekend, after way too many months of drought in our Westy family adventures, we fired up the red gal and journeyed (with Seamus!) down the coast to camp in Big Sur. My friend Jim had booked a campsite just across Highway 1 from a rocky beach, and we had fun making a quick overnight outing of it.
Seamus in particular seems to have had a blast, roughhousing like mad with a fellow Goldendoodle pup (Parker), who outweighed him by a full 20 lbs. He came home a filthy burr-encrusted wreck, but after a thorough hose-down at home he was good as new.
Cabin fever, at least in the days post-Thanksgiving, has proven no match for us the past couple of years, seeing the fam head out to Yosemite, Hearst Castle, and Point Reyes. This year we fired up the Westy and headed down to San Luis Obispo & stayed right by the water & the famous dune of Oceano Beach (see 360º panorama from my drone, at bottom). During the days we checked out SLO’s mission, butterfly grove, and antique shops (you’re welcome, Hen 😉), and at night Finn & I enjoyed some epic long walk-and-chat sessions to the beach and back.
The highlight, though, had to be renting a squad of 4-wheel ATVs:
We tore around the beach amidst thousands of other folks riding dune buggies, motorcycles, trucks, and RVs. Although we experienced a few close calls, Henry does not remain at the bottom of the Return of the Jedi-style Sarlacc pit into which he & his machine plunged, and remained un-crushed by Finn’s stranded vehicle. At the end everyone emerged happy if sandy. (“My legs feel like jelly!” reported Hen.)
Check out this album showing the whole weekend’s worth of adventures, plus our videos from the beach & from the air:
The lads & I are just back from a quick “Guys’ Weekend” camping outing to Mount Diablo (about 60 miles from home) with my friend Justin, his 18-month-old son Jackson, his friend Danny, and Danny’s two little boys (ages 3 & 2). We rolled up in the Westy, popped the roof, and had some good fun hiking, roasting s’mores, and helping corral the younger guys. Little Jackson took a particular shine to Henry, and from his tent at bedtime he kept repeating “‘enRY! ‘enRY!” until I fetched our guy to help tuck him in. 😌 Here’s a gallery (in which I appear for once!—thanks, Justin) from the outing, plus a 360º drone shot (which you can click & drag to navigate) of the spectacular sunset.
During our recent getaway to Big Sur, the guys & I did a bit of droning over & through the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge. Check out the fruits of our labors—featuring brief cameos from me, Hen, & the Westy:
This Saturday saw the Sqrlpod hit the road for Brannan Island, which is in the Delta area to the northeast of Oakland. We departed on Saturday around lunchtime and stopped for tacos in Oakland, where John received what had to be the world’s largest burrito. That bad boy weighed (no joke) at least 5 lbs, and sustained John throughout the weekend – providing the equivalent of about 4-5 meals! The boys happily wolfed down their tacos, which they deemed Best Tacos Ever, then we continued our drive up to the island.
We camped at a little state recreation area, which was quite nice, with huge camp sites that were quite spread out along the grassy banks of the island. It can be incredibly windy there, and the currents are strong so swimming is not advisable unless you’re wearing a life vest AND are an Olympic-grade swimmer. We enjoyed the quietude and the views, and Henry and John set out for the drawbridge for some droning and land-based photos. After nighttime s’mores over the campfire, some games, and lots of reading, we hit the sack, then pulled out late Sunday morning. Here’s a little gallery from our adventure.
“The greatest meeting of land and sea in the world”—so the Big Sur coastline has been called, and so it is. With Mom-O out of town for the weekend, the dudes & loaded up the Westy with plenty of delicious, unhealthy crap, then trundled down to Bixby Creek Bridge (under which we spent a glorious day back in 2014). We buzzed around with the drone, took some epic selfies, and then headed down to Ventana campground for the night. (No, Dad, we didn’t take any head trips with Timothy Leary at nearby Napenthe. 😜) Here’s a little gallery from our adventure.
During last week’s Westy excursion, Hen & I explored the famous (and now sadly half-burnt) Point Reyes shipwreck while Mom-O & Finn read in the van. Hen was eager to keep hopping over the little creek & scrambling around (as you can see in last week’s gallery) and watching windsurfers, while I happily tried my hand at capturing him & the boat from above. Check out the resulting short vid:
We’ve just returned from our maiden voyage with our VW Westfalia camper van, and it was great! We decided to spend the last two days and nights of the boys’ spring break on the road, in the redwoods, and atop the bluffs. Thursday morning we set out for Samuel P. Taylor state park, which is just northwest of San Rafael in Marin County, and only a few miles away from the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
We had a blast tooling up north and then setting up the van for camping. We popped the top, turned on the party lights, cooked up a quick dinner, and then snuggled in for the night. In the morning, we pulled out and headed first for Pt. Reyes Station, a cute little town about 5 miles away. We grabbed some snacks, picked up some new books at the bookstore, and then drove over to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, which is at the veeeeeery far end of a small peninsula within the National Seashore.
It was a super-blustery but beautiful day. After a picnic lunch in the camper, we headed down all 300-odd steps to the lighthouse, learned about the history of the area and the lighthouse itself. Then back up all those steps and back into the van for a little more sightseeing, including kite surfers and wrecked ships, before heading back to the state park for night #2. We feasted on tacos and s’mores, snuggled up for some reading, then hit the hay before heading home via San Francisco on Saturday. Here’s a gallery of our adventure!
We absolutely love Westy – she’s perfect for our family. We already know there are countless more excursions in the offing, and more roadtrip adventures to come!