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Up & Down the Coast, CA: And My Most Favorite Spot So Far…

Posted on Posted in Our Story

Long time, no speak :)

In August we finished our one month tour of the Oregon Coast, which was in every way epic.

We have set aside a full TWO months to explore California.  The big picture is this year is our West Coast Adventure.  Heading back to Florida to nest for the winter.  And then once the snows thaws, year two will be our journey up the East Coast.  Two full years.  And after that, who knows…

For now, we are so excited to begin our California adventure.  I have only been here a few times, 2 trips to LA and 1 quick trip to San Diego with Char.

First stop on our journey, Redding, California.  To visit none other than our favorite church on the planet, Bethel.  If you know Bethel at all, you also know people have a lot of “opinions”.  About Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton and the whole BSSM.

We didn’t just visit Bethel.  We didn’t just “stop by”.  We essentially became members for a full month.  We were there 2-3 days per week.  The worship is amazing.  The people are amazing.  The kid’s ministry is amazing.  The preaching is amazing.

Yes, so if you are wondering, Bethel really is amazing.

If you have heard otherwise, don’t listen to some oddballs who show up for one day or stop by for a conference.  Just go see for yourself.  Well worth it.

Redding itself is a pretty nice place as well.  We really loved Turtle Bay Exploration Park and the Kingdom Kids Park.

There was, however, the constant alert for wild fires.  Redding is a very, very dry area.  A little too dry for us East Coasters who are used to rain and green all year around.  Honestly, if Bethel were located anywhere on the East Coast, I’m pretty sure we’d stick a stake in the ground and call it home.

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It was hard to say goodbye to Redding & Bethel.  But we have the bug and after a full month it was time to move on…

Next stop is Napa!

It’s quite a drive and we needed a place to stop along the way.

Boy and boy are we in for a treat.

Char found this amazing 1,000 acre winery that lets travelers like us stay on their property free!

And ever better – we arrive the day before they are releasing a brand new wine and celebrating with a complete pig roast!

Yes, not only are we parking on a gorgeous, untouched vineyard, but we are eating complimentary pig roast complete with all the trimmings.  I even woke up at 1:30 AM the night before to meet Dennis, a 70-something year old Pitboss who showed up in the middle of the night to begin the roasting.  Unforgettable.

And our hosts at the winery are superbly kind and experts at hospitality.  We could not feel more welcome.  It is so gorgeous, so beautiful, we cannot bear to say goodbye.  Yet, it is time to move on…

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Next stop, Napa.

I didn’t know a whole lot about Napa going into it, other than it’s the home of fine wine and food.  Sounds good to me.

If you haven’t been to Napa, GO!  Go now.  Stop what you’re doing.  Don’t show up to work.  Blow off all those responsibilities and GO!

My buddy Joel put it well when we were talking about Napa and he said, “It’s like God spent a bunch more time on it.”

Every day the air smells like wine and herbs.  And directly outside our RV park we had a view of this vineyard…

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The beauty is there are so many little towns and areas to explore.

We start is St Helena.  We drive right by the Robert Mondavi Winery and the Sutter Home.  The girls played in a fountain outside of another winery.  And then we ate wood-fired pizza.

In Yountville, we are introduced to possibly the most “posh” place I have ever stepped foot upon.  Every house pristine.  The landscaping impeccable.  And just plain beautiful.

Best of all we pass by The French Laundry, 3-Michelin star restaurant of Thomas Keller.  I thought of going to lunch there.  But honestly I have yet to eat at a 1-Michelin star restaurant.  I am not sure my taste buds are equipped to taste this type of food.  So I decided to pass…

And the fact that lunch at the French Laundry costs around $300, and I would be eating lunch by myself since we have no sitters, I decided to pass.  However…

We are treated to something even better than eating at the French Laundry…

Across the street, we find Thomas Keller’s garden, the very garden he uses to cook the dishes at his 3-Michelin star restaurant.  Walking the rows of vegetables Char and I feel so inspired.  So alive.  There is something about a garden that brings us to life more than anything else these days.

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We continue to explore Napa, almost every day a new town or area.  Over to Sonoma where we visit Vella Cheese for some of the BEST local cheese we have tasted on our journey.  Downtown Napa and the Oxbow Market and fresh pear pie for dessert at Sweetie Pies.  Calistoga where we stroll the picturesque neighborhood streets.  All so perfect.

Next stop is San Francisco.  I actually have an annual work event this week.  So Char is here with the girls, enjoying Berkley and the neighboring areas.  The girls are thrilled to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, which they have seen in Inside Out so many times.  I do get a day to head into San Francisco before I head out of town.

This picture below is actually from a nearby town, Sausalito.  Overlooking San Francisco and… Alcatraz!

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Back from my work trip, we pick up and down to Brighton Beach.  Back in Washington I met an ex-fisherman at a gas station.  He told me as we travel we absolutely must visit the Monte Ray Bay Aquarium.  He said it’s one of the finest on the planet.

I don’t know about you, but I always trust an ex-fisherman I meet at a gas station especially when it comes to aquariums.  So off we go…

Guess what, Mr. Gas-Station-Fisherman was right!  There are just a couple snapshots.  Wow wow!

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While at Brighton Beach, we also take a drive to Carmel Beach.  Unbelievable.  I am running out of adjectives here.  Every home here is custom.  Perfectly crafted.  Overlooking exceptional beaches.  Just… um… double-plus good.  You know!?!

We continue down the coast.  Next stop, Morro Bay State Park.  Another wonderful spot.  And getting closer and closer to the end of our time in California.  We really enjoyed our sunset beach walks in Morro…

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Next stop, I have one of my closest friends of 25+ years, Dave, who lives outside of LA.  And invited us to stay with him.  What a blast!  Dave opens up his home in full fashion.

The girls love the pool.  I get introduced to the “Egg Gandola Pizza”.  I get to visit Salt & Straw again where their flavors of the month are all Thanksgiving themed!  Turkey caramel ice cream, buttered mash potato ice cream.  Kinda crazy, right!?!  They actually pull it off.

I mistime my ice cream eating so the ice cream partially melts, then re-freezes, then melts again.  Still, I stand up and clap for Salt & Straw for even attempting to pull off these unusually aggressive flavors.  And make it work.

Oh and Dave has his on KIT car.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, maybe this picture does…

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The girls are in all their glory meeting their first talking car.  And Dave goes the distance with a full KIT demo.  They absolutely love it.  And his two little dogs.

Maybe it’s like we’re travelers lost at sea touching land again, or maybe it’s seeing such a long-time friend who opens up his home so generously (and tends to make everything feel a bit like my hometown of Jersey), it’s hard saying goodbye.

But there is just one more crucial stop before we pack our 3 adventurers into their kiddie seats for a 20-hour tow across three states to make it in time for a very special Thanksgiving.  And that is…

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Yes, Disneyland!  What better way to utterly exhaust and over-stimulate our little trio before the long haul!

I will always remember the night before, when Char and I were strolling through downtown Disney on Election Day.  Watching Char’s i-phone like hawks.  Eyes popped open.  Jaws dropping.  As we watch one of the biggest election surprises of our lives.  On a foreign coast.  Surrounded by cartoon dogs.  Watching history take place.

Our day at Disneyland is everything we hoped for.  Not too crowded.  Tons of ride time.

Interesting though to compare it to Disney World back home.  I won’t get into it here.  But Disney World is superior.  The staff is kinder.  The streets are cleaner.  There is just a level of excellence that is unmatched.  I’m not taking anything away from Disneyland.  It is great!  Just made me realize how magical Disney World really is.

Kinda neat to note, one thing we really liked about Disneyland is the attractions are much closer together.  So you get more done in less time which everyone enjoyed.

And there you have it.

Our 2 glorious months in California.  Of everywhere we have been on this trip, I have to tell you, why I have loved it all and I am so glad to have seen the Arches and Glacier National Park, the Tetons and Olympic National Park, Portland and Kansas City and everywhere in between…

Every time we leave a spot I feel finished.  Or complete.  I can’t imagine going back, at least not any time soon.  Napa, California has been the one exception.  As we were leaving, both Char and I looked at each other and agree.  Napa is the one place we must and will see again.  If it were not so far away from the East Coast we love so much, and so unimaginably expensive, I think we’d be calling ourselves Napa residents some day soon.

Not this time around.  But we will be back.  And I will eat Thomas Keller’s veggies this time.

And now for the long haul.  We are so excited to spend some time with the girls Titi and our brother-in-law in San Antonio.

Between us and them and a Thanksgiving celebration is 20-hours of drive time.  Which when towing can become 40+ hours!

We will make a couple stops along the way.  And hopefully complete the trip in 5-10 days.  Will see.

Till then, California we thank you for having us.  And we will be back some day :)

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