Thursday, June 14, 2012

A mini-adventure in the Sierra foothills

June 10-13, Plymouth, California

Our travels north to the Redwoods and onward to Oregon took a northeast turn for a few days as we had another alluring opportunity to visit our Illinois friends Mike and BJ who had driven their motorhome across the country in less than a week to visit family east of the Sacramento area. On Sunday, the 10th, we left Vallejo where we attended the Woofstock Dog Show, and made about a three-hour trip to Plymouth, about 40 miles south of Folsom along what some refer to as Highway 49's Mother Lode Gold Country. Vic and I had been to the Sacramento area many times (mostly the airport) to visit family in the Bay area (and his parents even lived in Placerville area in the 80s), but we were unprepared for the beauty and fun attractions—namely kayaking and wine-tasting that are a well-known part of this historic region.

Mike and BJ have scouted out this area several times in their visits to Folsom to spend time with their daughter and family, so we were in good hands for this mini-adventure off the beaten path. They chose to stay at a lovely RV park in the middle of Amador County wine country:  Far Horizons 49er Village RV Resort, a 10/10/9.5 rated park with a nightly Good Sam rate of $50. (We like to keep our average nightly cost under $30 so we will make up for this little splurge with some boondocking and state campgrounds in the weeks ahead.) We were able to get a back-in blacktop site with full hook-ups including cable right next to Mike and BJ. The park is built around a small lake with a fountain which was full of ducks and brand new ducklings—cute.  There were plenty of other amenities including pool, hot tub, cafĂ©, and dog area and the sites were nicely shaded and quiet.  But, truthfully, we didn’t spend much time at the park!  Mike and BJ kept us busy with a full agenda.

Our first night at the park we drove back into Folsom for a terrific meal at their daughter Keri’s home where we also met their son-in-law, granddaughters, and visiting cousin from Longview, Washington. We also did a pretty good job sampling some of the local Syrah and Zinfandel while we got to know this other half of their family (as we met their son and other grandchildren when we visited them in Illinois.) BJ’s daughter is a middle school math teacher so it was interesting to learn about the school climate and challenges in the local area. Of course, school had just let out and Keri and her girls were getting ready for a cross-country trek in her parents' motorhome to visit Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and the Badlands en route back to Illinois, so talk of pay cuts, furlough days, and overworked teachers seemed untimely. I also enjoyed talking with BJ’s cousin, Virginia Lee, who is a painter. I shared with her my secret to desire to take up painting and she gave me hope that I could learn as she has taught art classes for almost fifty years. (Anyone who knows me realizes my style would have to be abstract and highly impressionistic.J) Like this:
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Internet photo of Lynne French oil painting
Day two in the Plymouth area took us north again to Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, about an hour’s drive. Keri had planned to spend the day there with three girlfriends, also teachers enjoying their first days of summer, and their children, and we were invited to join them with BJ, Mike, and Virginia Lee. The temperature was forecast to be in the high 90s, so being on the water was a good choice.  A major bonus was the park’s easy access for kayaking with no restrictions on licensing or quarantines due to the threat of Quagga and Zebra Mussels, invasive, non-native mollusks that have been discovered in some California waters recently. I was surprised by the beauty of the lake (actually a reservoir) with the snow-capped Sierras to the east and pastoral foothills below. Of course, somewhere out past the dam lies the infamous state prison made famous by Johnny Cash in his song “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Folsom Lake--State Recreation Area

We were here on a Monday, so the park was not too crowded but probably could get that way on the weekend. The park has several different areas for picnicking, sand volleyball, badminton, camping, along with rentals of kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and inner tubes.  I was also pleasantly surprised that dogs on leashes were allowed and that this rule was lax enough in the areas away from the main beach that many dog owners let their dogs swim and play fetch off-leash. (We opted to leave our dogs in their crates back at the motorhome, but would definitely reconsider given another opportunity to visit this inviting recreation area.)  

Vic and Mike unloaded our kayaks right near a sandy opening along the water, launched them onto the lake quite easily, then pedaled them to where the larger group was lounging on the beach, so everyone who wanted to try them had the opportunity. (We were especially pleased that Keri pressured her mother into getting out in a kayak.) There wasn’t much wildlife to see besides lots of geese in the water and squirrels on shore, but it just felt good to be out on the water which was surprisingly clear and temperate enough for me to take a good swim in it. (Vic usually requires water about 10 degrees warmer than me. . . .)  We spent most of the day having fun in the sun with lots of good sunblock on as the temps reached 99--but it didn't seem like it along the shore with a light breeze, low humidity, and ample shade trees.

Back to the campground for a casual meal together using John and Sharon's (of Heyduke blog) quick pizza dough recipe (with pesto, American bacon, red peppers, and spinach), a local bottle of Barbera, and a long game of cards called Phase Ten. BJ was the big winner just before we might have all turned into pumpkins at midnight.

We had originally thought we would only stay one night, then extended it to two, but we still hadn’t taken advantage of the local wine tasting opportunities. Spending a third day seemed like a perfect way to round out the experience. Our plan was to start the day with a late morning hearty breakfast at the Dead Fly Diner before making our way through the local wine country. There are 36 wineries in about a ten mile radius and we visited twelve of them in a five hour period. The area is best known for its old vine Zinfandel, and more recently, Barbera, Syrah, and Sangiovese varietals as well as some Viogniers and Chenin Blancs. We found something we really liked at about one-third of the wineries, but other stops often made up for it with incredible views and flowers, or gift shops with interesting chotskies.

When we returned to the motorhome, I took our cooped up dogs for a walk in the campground and ended up visiting with two couples who shared some surprising commonalities with us. One couple had a nine-month-old, black curly Portuguese Water Dog puppy (Gucci) which they intend to show and train for water trials, and the other couple (sister and brother-in-law of the Porty couple) actually bought what I would call our big sister motorhome. There were two 2010 Phaetons on the lot at Sierra RV (in Reno) when we bought ours last April; one was 36’ and the other 40’. The salesman tried to talk us into buying the 40’ Phaeton which was identical in exterior paint color and interior style, but we stayed with our choice of the shorter motorhome. Well, apparently a few months later in July, this couple got a great deal on the 40’ and there it was in the same park. As we tend to do with other Phaeton owners, there was much to share about service, maintenance, and issues related to the ongoing problems Tiffin owners have had with the driver’s side slide floor, wet bay floor, and cap rail fissures. (See my previous blog entries from April of this year.) In spite of what seems to be an endless list of problems, we are still very happy with Tiffin Motorhomes.  Someone once told me a motorhome going down the road is like an earthquake on wheels, not to mention the intense exposure to intense sun, dust, salt air, and squished bugs—things happen and it is pretty great that Bob Tiffin will back his product with free replacement parts and service even when they are often out of warranty.

With our three days complete, we reluctantly said our goodbyes to Mike and BJ as they headed out on their northern tour of National Parks with daughter and granddaughters aboard.  With plans for only a three-hour drive to Hopland, about ten miles south of Ukiah in Mendocino County, we were able to enjoy a leisurely morning before starting our next leg of the journey north and westward.
Wild Turkey at one of the wineries

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! Sounds like you had a blast w/BJ and Mike. So happy you liked the pizza dough :))))


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