Into the Storm, Part 1: Bay Area Bound

The Gift Of Experience

Every year we forego Christmas gifts to each other, and instead opt for a January vacation. 2022 has been a bit stressful behind the scenes. It culminated in a grand finale of extended family stress (in the form of the airing of grievances!) and COVID, which after three years finally got us.

The month of December — known around these parts as DARCEmber — was kaput. Totally bogus!

Planning Ahead

Back in November, well before the grenades hit, we had hatched our vacation plans: drive up to the Bay Area where Andy’s family is. His cousin is offering a house in Martinez they keep for family visitors, conveniently three minutes up the street from her home.

The house is cute, the price is right, and Farnsworth is welcome!

We plan to do all things Andy’s Family, including a visit and video interview with his last-remaining Aunt for her 92nd birthday. Martinez will make a great home base to do a lot of exploring!

Both Andy and I lived in the Bay Area at different times, so we can share with each other old and new favorite things to do.

Darcy’s Request

While I was working on a post about Santa Barbara, I was secretly dying for a return trip! So I talked Andy into tacking on a few days in Santa Barbara on our way back down south. Yay!!! This will give us a total of 12 days away. (And boy, will we need it!)

As the days get closer to our departure, the COVID fog is clearing. But sunny California is bracing for an historic statewide series of rainstorms that will batter the state over a two week period.

  • Santa Barbara

Do we scrap our plans or do we roll forward? Well, we roll forward! For three weeks we have been housebound and quarantining in our jammies, staring at the walls and sad piles of what should have been Christmas glitter. Even my birthday had to be canceled! I can’t stand the idea of two more weeks trapped in the house. And how many more times is Andy’s Aunt going to turn 92?!

Lessons Learned

A lifetime supply of poop bags!

On a extended road trip, organized packing is essential. Pay attention both to how you pack bags for each stop, and also how you pack your car. You don’t want to end up like us on our Relocation Road Trip! (That was a sad, smelly heap by the end!)

The house where we’ll stay is much like staying at a VRBO, so we’ll be bringing our full kit. And a new addition to our VRBO box: Doggie Poopie bags! This will help Farnsworth be the best dog guest he can be. I found a box of 1080 doggie bags on Amazon. (They make great gifts too.)

Let’s Get This Show On The Road

We get the car packed, a quick lunch of crazy chicken (El Pollo Loco), and we’re finally on the road! The sunshine is giving us a false sense of security. And we make it all the way to the north side of LA before we encounter any rain.

But it gets heavier as we near the Grapevine. I have always considered people who drive the Grapevine in bad weather to be crazy, but here we are. It is getting dark, the rain is pouring down, and our hosts are texting us that they are having power outages.

Oh, and we pass several flashing signs urging us to not travel until Thursday night. It’s Wednesday night! So we scrap the idea of making a mad dash to our destination, still three hours away.

I have bottle of wine and lots of snacks including charcuterie and sandwiches in the picnic basket. Farnsworth has been a trouper, but he’s getting a little restless.

Fresno, Rest Yes

The Best Western Village Inn will be our shelter for the night. We book a double queen with breakfast included for $110, plus a $30 pet deposit. It’s Farnsworth’s first hotel!

Farnsworth’s first stay at a hotel!

Often times when traveling with a pet, corporate hotels will not give you the best rooms. That is certainly the case tonight. We’re assigned a ground floor kennel… er, room on the farthest part of the property.

The room was not as tidy as we have come to expect post-COVID. We find signs of some other dog’s kibble on the floor… and some other things too. Our window view is the pet potty area, and clearly not all furry guests are as polite as Farnsworth is about cleaning up after themselves.

But we are out of the storm and safe for the night. Unpacking the car in the rain for this unscheduled stop is a bit tricky. But finally, we settle in with some red wine and our homemade dinner. Farnsworth is chill on his dog bed.

We turn on the news and there’s Governor Gavin in a press conference declaring a State of Emergency, and advising all Californians to stay home. Apparently this will be the worst set of storms in several years! Fun! This will make a great story!

In the morning, between storms, we make a break for it. The breakfast included in our stay was not so great. (That said, BWVI is still better than our night at the Extended Stay.) So it’s Starbucks to the rescue! A friendly Barista, two Venti pistachio lattes, and a treat for Farnsworth.

Pit Stop!

Our night in Fresno has put us in the perfect position to head towards one of our vacation bucket list stops: Casa de Fruta in Hollister. We head west, and for most of the drive, no rain. All the rolling hills are nice and green.

But as soon as Highway 152 in the Pacheco Pass narrows and goes curvy, the downpour returns. We’re facing mud, rocks, a big wave of water splashing over our car and a hairpin turn. (I scream!)

We made it!

When we roll (row?) into Casa de Fruta, we’re about the only soggy shoppers in the parking lot. Farnsworth does not care to do “business” in the mud and rain. He chooses to wait in the car.

Casa de Fruta started in 1905 as a grove of fruit trees. Their first fruit stand opened selling cherries in the 1940s. It has since blossomed into a full destination, including camping accommodations, amusement rides, restaurant, wine, field trips, sweets, and naturally fruits and nuts.

As a budding foodie living in San Jose in the ’90s, I visited CdF on the regular. It’s been 25 years and their huge store filled with gourmet treats is dry and warm, so I’m making up for lost time. Andy’s in a bit of shock, but we’re also shopping for gifts for our hosts and LuLu too, who loved shopping with me back in the day. Let’s see: wine, chocolates, dried fruits, syrups, jams, and olive oil. I’m excited to incorporate this prickly pear syrup into my cooking!

As we leave Casa de Fruta, the rain lets up. The drive to connect with highway 101 is scenic as we wind our way past farms and fruit stands, getting a glimpse of farm animals… including an ostrich farm. There’s so much rain, we’re surprised they’re not pairing up and searching for an ark! Even though it’s muddy and the San Felipe Lake has over flowed it’s banks, it’s a relaxing drive.

Back on 101, we’re not far from our destination: Martinez, California.

Still to come on our trip: a Napa winery, Point Reyes Cheese, and a San Francisco Museum. Then, Santa Barbara, all in the midst of near-historic storming!

Check back for more on our stormy California road trip.