Road Trips: Mammoth Lakes To Hope Valley

I am finishing my three-part road trip blog, inspired by the destinations suggested in 7×7, about hidden Northern California gems. Here is the first one, about Mariposa to Placerville. Here is the second, about Leggett to Ferndale. And, today, we discover a route from Mammoth Lakes to Hope Valley. Enjoy!

This is a road trip that takes you along the spine of the Sierras, beginning at Mammoth Lakes. If you’ve visited Mammoth, you are familiar with its outdoor opportunities, ghost towns, hot springs, and amazing mountain passes. This route also has comfort, like the Sierra Nevada Resort, and highly rated restaurants like Vulcania.

On the way, don’t miss these turn-offs:

Bodie,a ghost town off US-395. Credit: 7×7

Devil’s Postpile National Monument: Devil’s Postpile is a natural wonder and the monument also boasts breathtaking views and hikes. I have hiked this area a long time ago and staying in Mammoth Lakes in the summer and doing the Devils Postpile was a highlight!

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve: An ancient lake with unique natural structures protruding from the water (the “tufa”).

Bodie State Historic Park: This eerie Gold Rush-era attraction still shows the ghost town of Bodie’s deserted streets and abandoned homes.

Travertine Hot Springs: Treat yourself after a long drive! Travertine is composed of three natural pools just south of Bridgeport.

If you want to further understand this area a great book is Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework. She lived in the Owens Valley of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, where annual rainfall averages five inches and in drought years measures closer to zero. It also talks about how Mulholland and his engineering feat to get water to Los Angeles and took it from the Eastern Sierras which had a big impact on Owens Valley and the future of fires.

Road Trips: Leggett To Ferndale

About a month ago, I wrote a blog recapping one of three California road trips that 7×7 calls “less traveled.” You can see that blog about Placerville to Mariposa, here. This is another option from the 7×7 article!

Take the 101 from Leggett to Ferndale! It’s okay if you haven’t heard about those places. Let 7×7 and my notes guide you through this historic trip along the Redwood Highway. Start in Ukiah, where you can dip into mineral hot springs at the state’s oldest continuing operating resort.

Credit: 7×7 and @autokennel

You’ll make your way north through the redwoods along Highway 101, before turning off towards Ferndale. Not to miss on this route:

  1. Skunk Train/Wolf Tree Turn: Ride the Wolf Tree Turn through the Noyo River Canyon on the Skunk Train, a historic steam engine that’s been rolling through the Mendocino redwoods since 1885.
  2. Leggett: This town is the state’s king of old-school roadside attractions, like the Chandelier Tree (you can drive your car through it!) and Confusion Hill.
  3. Avenue of the Giants: This is known as “the finest forest drive in the world” for good reason.
  4. Ferndale: Not only your final destination but part of the journey. Take some extra time to explore the town at the end of your trip, especially the shops in its Victorian Village and the eerie hillside cemetery.

If you have some recommendations for roads less traveled and would like to share them, let me know. Happy Fall.

Road Trips: Mariposa To Placerville

This will begin a three-blog series on road trips, based on this 7×7 article about “road trips less traveled” in California. First up, taking US-49 from Mariposa to Placerville!

As many people from Northern California know, US-49 takes you through gold country. You wind through Sierra foothills from Mariposa, passing several of the small towns that make up that region and give the drive some of its charm. You’ll get to Auburn, which is a wonderful little historic town, and eventually to the gates of Placer County – with some of the most underrated wine country in California.

Credit: @visitsuttercreek and 7×7

Here are a few side trips on this route that 7×7 recommends:

  1. Kennedy Gold Mine: Tour the remains of one of the world’s deepest gold mines or wander the ruins on your own.
  2. Sutter Creek & Amador City: Historic small towns in NorCal with great food and shopping.
  3. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park: You can visit the spot where California miner James W. Marshall first discovered gold (and can even pan the river yourself!).
  4. Placer Wine Trail: A personal favorite, jump on the Placer Wine Trail at the end of your trek. It takes you to more than 20 small wineries in and around Auburn.

For those of you who had kids go through the local school system many know about the 4th grade trip to Colombia, it was an over night stay and they got to experience what is was like during the gold rush. I think the parents enjoyed it too. There are so many off the beaten path places to explore in California. Hopefully one of these blogs might inspire you to get your adventure on and explore some of these hidden gems. Shot me a text, email and comment if you have been with any recommendations and your overall experience.

A quick trip to the beach

I recently took a day trip to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz with my son, Jackson, who was visiting from Reno. It was a beautiful day and we explored some excellent tide pools at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz – it was nice to get out and get some fresh air for a day after being cooped up for so many months.

I had never been there before so I was excited to explore a new area. I loved the natural bridge and tide pools. And in November, this is where the monarch butterflies come and nest. We packed a picnic with my homemade sourdough bread, and, of course, Jackson (who just turned 25) was enjoying his beer…I drove!

There was a side cove on the other side of the bridge that we had to walk through the tide to get to. High tide was coming in quickly so the beach was getting smaller and smaller, but it had some cool rock formations (pictured below). I would have preferred to hang out there, but Jackson was fine on the crowded beach.

At the end of the day, we chose to take a leisurely drive up Highway 1 back through San Francisco. We stopped and got some vegan soup and strawberry shortcake, at Swanton Berry Stand – there was even an honor till system. I just loved the drive as the fog started to roll in off the ocean. There were so many cars parked along the side of the road to explore the various beaches and a large number of kite surfers at Waddle Beach – a sight to be seen. As road trips are becoming the norm for vacations in this year, you might consider exploring our own backyard.

Road Trips: Truckee!

A couple of weekends ago, I celebrated my birthday with a ski trip to Squaw and stayed at the Welk Resorts at Northstar. I went up a day early with a friend and on the drive up spent the afternoon in Truckee! Anytime you head up to ski or go to Tahoe it should be on your list to stop and have lunch and meander into all the cute stores. I had such a great time, I wonder why I don’t make the time more often. We had lunch at 50-50 Brewery (which I’ve written about before) and watched a playoff game and drank a beer.

We also browsed many of the local stores, which included my favorite shop (Riverside Studios). Truckee just has some really cool, fun places to shop and we took full advantage of it!

I ended up buying a few items on sale at Dressed and loved all the home items especially focused on dogs at Mountain Home Collection. There is even some cool artwork. One of the big surprises was, when looking for a bathing suit forgotten at home, everyone re-directed to Ace Hardware. This is not in the Old Town part of Truckee, but only a few miles away by a Hwy 89 off-ramp. Ace also had tons of home decor, artwork, and Tahoe/cabin stuff all at a very reasonable price. I will be stopping there next fall for Christmas gift ideas!

Road Trips: MoMa

I love going to the museums in San Francisco, and recently I went to the Museum of Modern Art (better known as the MoMa) for a new exhibit with a couple of girlfriends. It was the opening event for members only and they allow you to invite a couple of friends. Entrance was free, but the food and cocktails were not – average price for each was about $12, but they also had a DJ, and of course a cool place to explore.

The nice thing about the member-only events is that you can browse the entire museum while also taking part in the festivities. I didn’t really like the featured exhibit, “Soft Power.” It didn’t leave a very big impression on me and I thought the art was too “out there.” There were a few pieces that I liked – primarily the ones I took pictures of and that are shown here was what I liked. Overall, it was dark and not really my thing.

There is an ongoing exhibit called “The Chronicles of SF,” which had me mesmerized as we watched it move in their big hall with seating. I also like the Yves Klein painting of a blue color he created. It was great to hang out with some friends and what seeing what MoMa does with all their opening exhibits makes me want to become a member.

Road Trips: Sonoma

I recently went to Sonoma to meet up with my old accountability group. It is always great to see everyone with whom I spent six years coaching. Mara from our group lives in Sonoma and organized the outing in a big and fabulous way!

We started out tasting wine at Jeff Cohn Cellars and got the red carpet treatment by Peter Griffith, who is the husband of Franci (one of our group members). I got a great price on a Magnum Pinot called Smoke & Mirrors (reminds me of an Imagine Dragons song), signed by Jeff Cohn which will be enjoyed at Thanksgiving! Lots to be thankful for! I also learned about an unfortunate reality from those devastating fires in the area over the past couple of years. Read on for more!

We then walked 10 feet and went into the Red Grape for a salad and pizza lunch and continued to reconnect. After lunch, we walked a block to a bubble bar called Sigh.

The owner of Sigh was full of information about champagne and its history. The lounge is designed with mirrors full of quotes about champagne. Rumor has it that French people don’t pop corks because it’s rude, so they let it out very slowly which sounds like a sigh, hence the name!

One thing I learned from Mara is that Sonoma local businesses are hurting right now because everyone thinks they are closed down due to the fire damage from the past couple of fire seasons. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Sonoma was spared, and the businesses are operating regularly.

What is so cool about Sonoma is the big square and all the businesses that surround it, so please go up and visit and enjoy a weekend in wine country! It’s always a worthwhile road trip from Walnut Creek.

Road Trips: Aspen

Well, this would be a bit of a haul in a car. But luckily, flights to Colorado aren’t terribly expensive from the Bay Area, and visiting Aspen is well worth the price of admission! I visited recently for BHG’s Top Producer conference and met some agents from all over the United States and got to share in Aspen’s natural beauty!

The conference was at the St. Regis and it was one of the best hotel stays I have had. They left me a handwritten note asking if I would like coffee, tea or hot chocolate delivered to my room. I chose hot chocolate and then they asked if I wanted marshmallows – of course!

The conference held a nice dinner, with music at the T-Lazy-7 Ranch one night and then another was at the hotel with an oxygen bar, and raptor birds. The St. Regis offered free rides in and around town. Not that Aspen is that big, but it was nice to have a ride back from dinner. On Friday, at the end of the conference, it snowed and I was hoping to see the Maroon Bells. The next day was forecasted sun, so I wandered around Aspen and met up with Nina and Chris from Boise and we walked around the John Denver Sanctuary, which was serene and beautiful. Then we had dinner at Matsuhisa, a fabulous sushi restaurant.

On the ride back to the hotel, the driver asked what I was going to do tomorrow. I chimed in with the Maroon Bells, he asked how I was getting there, and I said Uber or Lyft. He looked at me and said he doesn’t think there would be one available so early (7:30 am) nor would there be reception for me to call one to pick me up (welcome to Aspen). He then suggested that the hotel has a partnership with Lexus and they have two vehicles for guests to test drive in 4-hour segments. That was perfect for a trip to the Maroon Bells to get me back in time for my 12:20 flight. I texted Nina if she and Chris wanted a ride and she asked if Sam and Q from Minnesota could come and, thus, our pictures!

BTW, the St. Regis has Kitty the Bernese as their mascot and his Instagram is a hoot! The handler is called a “fur butler.” I want that job for my retirement. Kitty was only there for a day, as the St. Regis was closing for three weeks and Kitty was on a road trip to San Francisco.

Road Trips: Beach Blanket Babylon

I’m very sad to report that, if you haven’t already heard, the world-famous Beach Blanket Babylon will officially close it doors on December 31st in San Francisco. Beach Blanket Babylon is a musical revue that’s been playing shows in North Beach for 45 years.

The pop culture and political satire song-and-dance show has been treating audiences to hilarious routines since 1974, but they will play their final show on New Year’s Eve this year. I was able to squeeze one more show in this year before it shuts down, and I’m so glad I did!

We went and enjoyed drinks while watching the hilarious performances on stage, complete with all the famous custom-made hats that are larger than life! It will be really sad to lose this outrageous aspect of San Francisco’s soul, and hopefully, they will find a way to keep the tradition and spirit of the show going long after, or create something new!

I had a friend in town on business who had never seen the show, so we met up before and had dinner at Soto Mare which is famous for “The Best Damn Crab Cioppino,” and it is damn good! We ordered it and each had a cup of their clam chowder because the people sitting next to us ordered it and we could smell its delicious goodness and our mouths began to water. There is a long history of this venue and the restaurant – a great way to spend an evening in SF, or make a date of it and grab a hotel for the night. We then walked a couple of blocks to the Beach Blanket Babylon venue. Tickets are going fast, so book now or forever miss out on this iconic SF show!

You can learn more about the performances and buy tickets on the website here.

Road Trips: Sausalito Art Festival

I have a confession. I haven’t actually done this road trip myself. But I’m planning on going, either this year or in the near future! So this blog is just letting you know about the Sausalito Art Festival.

Image result for sausalito music festival

Here’s what you need to know: the festival brings art, music, and wine together on the Sausalito Waterfront. They have more than 250 artists from around the world, and three days of live music on two stages. The beverages come from some of the best wineries in the country.

The festival takes place starting Aug. 31 and goes through Labor Day Weekend. There are VIP options, and it is family-friendly to boot. Kids aged 12 and under can even come for free.

Image result for zz ward

The music features Blood Sweat and Tears, Blues Traveler, and ZZ Ward. You can get one-day GA tickets for about $30 online still. We’re talking about good drinks, great music, and an incredible location in beautiful Sausalito, for a totally reasonable price!

I think I might check it out! Will you? More info here.