Travelogues

Travelogue #5 – Napa

I was glad that the drive to Napa was under two hours from Isleton. Travel days are hard because Indiana Jones hates the car and the first thirty minutes are filled with him crying and bitching and climbing on top of everything. I forgot to give him his calming treats before we left so he was extra-hyper. Definitely need to remember them on the next travel day.

I made a decision to not go over the rough country road out of the Meadows of Isleton because they were terrifying on the way in – sloped and narrow, barely paved. However, because of that decision, I ended up on winding back roads almost all the way to Napa.

Let’s just get this out of the way – Napa is beautiful.

I’m staying at Skyline Regional Park in the camping area. When I arrived on Friday, it was packed with lots of RV’s, trailer and tents. Once again, I was the tiny trailer in the midst of the behemoths.

Found my spot and got settled. I’m staying between two very nice sets of campers. On one side, closest to me, is a family with mother, father (I think?) and three-year-old daughter. The daughter, Grey, keeps calling the man by his first name, so not sure if he’s the father or boyfriend of the mother. They have a friend, Kevin, staying with them as well. And a lovely dog named Han Solo. We joked about Han and Indy and how we’re having a Harrison Ford convention.

On the other side, a site or two over, is a young woman who’s just come out of a bad marriage. She’s been making her way around the country in her small trailer. It’s a bit more tricked out than mine and not handmade, but still tiny. We shared some stories of our tiny trailers that first night.

The park is really lovely. Clean bathrooms (yay!), clean showers that don’t cost anything (another yay!), port-a-potties scattered around because the central bathroom is a bit of a walk. Lots of trash and recycling bins so the park itself is very clean. Wifi is sketchy unless you’re by the restrooms, which are next to the social hall, which is closed due to COVID.

My trailer fits right under the trees in the shade, for which I am always grateful.

The temperature has been warm but not terribly hot, cooling down nicely in the evening.

I arrived early on Friday so had time to chat with the neighbors, walk around, see what’s going on. Indiana Jones came out for his walk that night and I almost couldn’t get him back in the trailer. It’s so funny how some places, he wants to be out all the time, and other places, I can’t get him out of the trailer.

I looked around at what there was to do in Napa – that I could afford. Holy crap, it’s expensive here! I knew it would be, so I had not spent as much in other places, knowing I’d need the money here. I got some groceries, found an In N Out for late lunch and just hung out that first day/night.

Saturday, I found the outlet shopping center. After a couple of weeks in the wild, I felt the need for some city. Besides, I realized I had no shorts and only one pair of capri-style jeans, which I had been wearing practically every day. Picked up some essentials at Old Navy, found a pair of sneakers at a nearby Ross. I even bought a really cute, really cuddly hoodie at Calvin Klein for $13 from $60! I always wanted to own something from Klein as he is my favorite designer, so I was very excited to get this little hoodie. It’s so warm and comfortable. Guess what’s my favorite thing to wear now?

From there, I went over to the Napa Valley Distillery for a tasting. I’m not a big wine drinker so the idea of a wine taste wasn’t high on my list. I figured if I couldn’t find anything else to do, I would do that. But I found the distillery, which offered tastings of spirits, and decided that was more up my alley.

       

It was listed as a tour and tasting, but really, it was just a tasting, which was fine. There were only three of us – myself and a mother with her son – so it was nice and intimate. We sat on a private porch that was away from the main area. The tables were spaced more than six feet apart, yet close enough that we could easily talk to each other.

This is the only distillery in Napa and they adhere to a lot of prohibition laws, which means they don’t have a vodka, they have a “neutral brandy.” Their gin is spelled “ginn.” As someone obsessed with branding, their branding was spot-on. Stubby little bottles for their spirits with old-fashioned fonts.

Our guide, Antoni, said it was his first time doing a tasting but no one would have known it. He was informative and entertaining. The woman with us was a member of their bar club so she was a regular and knew a lot already.

We were each given a flight of six small glasses.

Antoni poured a shot into each glass as he talked about each spirit. The first one was a “neutral brandy” aka vodka. I’m not a big vodka drinker so I was prepared to not like it. I was wrong. It had such an interesting taste, unlike any vodka I had ever had. He talked about the variety of flavors that were available and I was intrigued by the idea of the thai basil version. Might still go back and splurge on that one.

The next was the ginn. I do like gin and this one did not disappoint. Again, such a unique taste, though I usually don’t drink gin straight. Then came my favorite – the bourbon, called S.O.B., Son of a Bourbon. Smooth, caramel-y, smokey. Really, really good. I went home with a bottle of that one. Next came their rum, which was also delicious.

Then Antoni brought out some premixed cocktails they make. We were able to choose which one we wanted to try. I went for the mai tai, which was delicious. I forget what the last one was because he talked about so many variations and spirits that I lost track. But it was a well-paced tasting, with him encouraging us to drink water in between each tasting. I didn’t feel buzzed when I left, but felt satisfied. I’m gonna save the bourbon for something special.

Spent the evening hanging around with the people around me. We talked a lot, watched as Lyndsey, the young woman a few sites over, bonded with the little girl next to me.

I finally pulled out the pages for “Wraith of Love,” the second issue of my comic book. I haven’t touched it in probably a year. I took some time to reacquaint myself with it, happy with most of the work that’s been done. I made some changes to the final panel, realizing I needed a mechanical pencil to keep working on it. The faces and details are too small for my regular pencil.

Sunday wasn’t anything special. Woke up, did a little yoga outside, which was lovely. Taught my class, which went well. Though the wifi doesn’t quite reach me, I had a great cell signal so that made things easy.

I went to Michaels (you knew I’d end up at Michaels at some point) but was disappointed with the lack of options for mechanical pencils. I ended up at a local art store, which had so many tempting things! I focused on the pencils and leads, got a new kneaded eraser, and bought a pack of watercolor postcards, which I plan to use as a fundraising reward.

I came back and spent the day happily painting and drawing.

While it’s been nice having people around me because this can be such a lonely venture, sometimes it’s hard because I need to be able to focus. It’s hard to do with a three-year-old hanging out in the next site and everybody playing with her. Again, these are lovely people and the child certainly was not whining or crying or anything like that. I just really wanted some quiet. They were all so kind, offering to move elsewhere, etc. I didn’t want to be rude so I just put on my headphones and that helped.

Monday, I decided I would go for a walk/hike. I don’t know why I am adverse to calling it a hike, since that’s truly what it was. There are a ton of trails out of the park, with a variety of options. I chose one and set off.

Did I say Napa was beautiful? Napa is beautiful. While the landscape isn’t terribly exciting, once you get to a place with a view, the scenery is incredible. It’s a weird blend of California flora – golden grass with rich green trees mixed with rolling vineyards. I swear it even smells different here.

I obsessed over the dead trees on the walk. I won’t bore you with tons of those photos. I took a lot for painting reference.

At one point, I could see across the gully to another hill. There was a rock wall that started way off in one area and wound its way all the way around the hillside and down into the gully. On the walk back, I found vestiges of that same wall over on this side. I couldn’t see any structures or anything like that, so I have no idea what it was there for. Maybe an early boundary for the park?

I came back (2.5 mile hike!), a bit tired but feeling pretty good. I’m finally on the right dosage of my asthma medication (Advair/Wixela (generic) so my lungs aren’t as bad as they have been. I got out of breath on the hike, though that was mainly due to my lack of fitness, and I wasn’t wheezing and coughing when I got out of breath. Just normal, “crap, I’m out of shape” breathing.

I cleaned up, heading out to the Oxbow Public Market, which was supposed to be a collection of shops and restaurants, like the Grand Market in Los Angeles.

Big disappointment. I forget that Napa is a small town, not a big city, so the market was a reflection of that. A few over-priced restaurants and shops and that was about it. I did have a delicious pizza for lunch but it cost $25 with tip! I knew this part of the trip would be expensive, so I was prepared, but still. I wandered around a bit, but realized how tired I was from the walk. Came back to the park, crashed with the furry Buddha for a bit.

Indiana Jones apparently fell in love with this place.

I brought him out in the morning and he sniffed and smelled and dragged me everywhere. Then he settled on the picnic table, letting me moor his leash to one of the slats. He hung out for a long time, both in the morning and in the evening. Even the dogs all around us didn’t bother him at all, though he and Han did have a bit of a staring contest.

I cannot keep him in the trailer here.

This morning – our fourth day here – he was up at dawn, ready to go on Dawn Patrol, something he hasn’t really done for a while. I took him out finally just so he would settle down. He’s been doing this funny thing when I walk him where he’ll lay down for a minute, then jump to his feet and scamper a few steps. I thought he was startled by something or stepped on something sharp. Nope. This morning, he did the same thing – stopped, sort of settled, then jumped up and took off like a shot! I swear I could hear his little kitty brain screaming, “Wheeeeeee!” I barely caught his leash, struggling to keep up with him as he ran. He even got out of part of his harness, which scared the shit out of me. I finally caught him and got him safely secured. But holy cow! I had no idea my chonky little boy could run so fast! I’m going to need to order a more secure harness off of Amazon and see if I can find a drop-off in Portland or Medford because this one is not working as well anymore. Little bastard. He’s sleeping off Dawn Patrol right now.

Today has been uneventful. Went in search of a coffee shop other than Starbucks and stumbled on a farmer’s market. Bought some bread to have with dinner tonight. Had another expensive lunch as a lovely cafe. That’s it for my spending. Today, I’ll spend most of my time writing or drawing.

The past week or so, I’m finally feeling the muse awaken and stretch. Two years of scrambling for where to live and living in places that felt confining took a toll on my creativity, especially my drawing and painting. As much as I appreciate Colleen and David for the room for more than a year, it wasn’t conducive to doing much drawing or painting, though I did manage to do enough of both. But I needed more room, both physically and emotionally.

I guess this trip is giving me that room, though working on picnic tables is killing my back. I’ll have to figure something else out for that.

The hard part is fighting the “should” monster we all have. When I went for the hike, my brain was screaming about what I should be doing. I had to tell it that I was doing exactly what I should be doing – living my life.

I do find myself referring to this blog or some of the other things as my “job.” I do find if I don’t do that, then I let those things slide, feeling like they’re not important enough for my time. So I’m trying to make sure I carve out at least three to four hours a day doing “work” stuff, even if it’s just thinking about where the novel is going or what I’m going to paint next.

Today is our last day here and I do think I’m ready to move on. I’m glad I decided to spend three to four days at each location, if possible. It was difficult for the next leg finding a place I could spend that much time at. And as time goes on, I’m going to have to start finding free places or “boondocking,” as it’s called, because since the unemployment stipend has stopped, my money is suddenly very tight. We’ll see how long I can stay on the move. Trying to focus on other lines of income so that I can keep going. I should have some new stuff soon!

Next up, one night in Redding, where I think I’m crashing in a casino parking lot for the night. Then on to Medford, Oregon for a few days before heading to Portland. We’ll see you there!

If you’re enjoying the adventure, remember, you can buy me a “mile” for $3 and help support the tour!

https://ko-fi.com/embracethechaos

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