Friday, December 24, 2021

Paicines Ranch, William Hill Rec Area to Ventura


Paicines Ranch, Paicines California

I had a wonderful time riding and visiting with friends in the bay area. The weather was great until the last couple of days and I did some fantastic rides all over San Francisco, Alameda, Fremont, Palo Alto, Los Gatos and the Sacramento Delta. I also had Thanksgiving dinner with lots of family I hadn't seen in 2 years. I really want to go back and do it all again.

Video of ride from Fremont to Palo Alto

Video of spectacular ride through San Francisco with BARC

Parked at Paicines Ranch
The temperatures had dropped reminding us it was December. I pulled up stakes getting hitched up, saying goodbye to Leslie and Paula, to start traveling south where I hoped temperatures would be warmer. From Dumbarton Quarry I went south east to Paicines where I had a reservation at a Harvest Hosts ranch. The pictures and reviews were stellar. The drive was very beautiful through soft rolling hills with lots of vineyards and oak groves. 
I pulled into Paicines Ranch early in the afternoon. The directions were excellent and I had no problem finding my way. In fact, there is a Thousand Trails campground next door to the ranch and I had a couple of campers ask me if I needed directions which was very nice. There was a code provided to get in the gate and then I made my way down the long tree-lined entrance. This is a working farm with lots of live stock. They have an online store where you can order frozen meats slaughtered on the farm. I order 2 packs of lamb chops that were waiting for me in a freezer on the porch to the office with a welcome packet. They have 4 Harvest Hosts spaces as well as lots of Air BnB cabins and small homes for rent. The area I parked in was large under big trees and perfectly level. Since I've started RVing, I really appreciate level ground and lots of room where I know I can easily turn around. I was only going to be parked one night and I didn't bother to unhitch and getting settled was simple. The farm is very big and picturesque. I thought they had an impressive and clearly thriving business going on. I could see renting a building for a big event and everyone invited would have comfortable rooms to stay in. The packet map showed a few hiking trails but it was a little too cold for me to venture out. As the sun set, the sky became bright with stars. I would stay here again without hesitation.

Harvest Hosts location

In the morning, it didn't take long for me to get ready to roll. I always use my laminated cheat sheet to go through everything. I'm sure the day I don't bring out this sheet I'll forget to do something important. Since I have solar power and can use my microwave without shore power, I've had to add checking the microwave to make sure nothing is left inside to the list. There had been lots of rain over night and the air smelled fresh. In fact, I had been awakened in the night by the sound of the rain on my trailer roof. This is a sound I really enjoy. 

Drive to Pinnacles National Park, the newest national park

The drive to William Hill Recreation Area and campground was terrific. After the night's rain, the roads were wet and the skies were clear. There were lots of vineyards on the way. I passed the newest national park for the US, Pinnacles, stopping in just to take a quick look around. The campground is 3 miles down a beautiful undulating twisting road lined with oak trees. The park has 30 miles of hiking trails for all levels as well as rock climbing. There are talus caves with large bat colonies and good birdwatching too. I would like to stay here sometime.

Beautiful view driving up to William Hill campground

Narrow dirt road

I found the campground at 2700 ft

From Pinnacles National Park, I took off on a road that quickly turned to dirt and started climbing. The road was quite narrow in spots and I wondered what would happen if I met another vehicle coming in the other direction. Luckily, this didn't happen. The William Hill campground is at 2700 ft in elevation. The campground is on Bureau of Land Management public lands. There are no fees and you are allowed to camp for 14 days at a time. I've camped in a few BLM sites and this was, by far, the nicest. The sites were big and well organized with lots of room between neighbors. All the sites had a covered picnic table and wonderful views of the area. There are no services for BLM campsites. You have be completely self-contained with everything you need. This campground had a well-maintained vault toilet but there is no water, electricity or sewer hook-ups. Surprisingly, there was great phone service. This campground is high up on a hill and there is nothing but nature as far as the eye can see. I had 3 bars of 5G ATT and 4 bars of Verizon LTE. What a lovely place. I stayed for 2 nights. 

Video of my time at Paicines Ranch and William Hill

The second night was very cold. I have lithium batteries that are charged from my solar panels. When I had the system installed, the solar guy really wanted to put the batteries in the storage area under the bed. I had him put them on the front hitch triangle behind the propane tanks. This is where the AGM batteries were and I thought it would be easier to just swap them out. They actually fit perfectly and I was quite happy with this decision - until this night. Lithium batteries don't like cold below freezing. My system has a battery safety cut off when the voltage gets below 10.5. The temperature over night got down to 28 degrees which was too cold for the batteries and I woke up to a system that was shut off. All I had to do was start up my generator to get the batteries charged up but who wants to hear a generator going 1st thing in the morning. Luckily, my generator is quieter than most and it is in a generator box that also muffles the sound. I asked my closest neighbor if it was a problem and they couldn't hear it. Pphheewww! I may look into having the batteries moved to the storage area under the bed like the installer originally suggested.

View from campground overlook

Views for days

This campground is popular for ATV

From William Hill I had a fairly long drive to Ventura where I would meet up with recumbent cycling friends. Again, I didn't unhitch and getting packed up to hit the road didn't take long. I've been wanting to try having my new Skydio drone follow the truck and trailer while I'm driving. This new drone doesn't require a screen to fly. I can hold a simple GPS beacon and, I think, this is legal. I also have a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom drone but that one needs a screen to fly which I doubt is legal to use while driving. The active track on the DJI drone is completely unreliable which means you are forced to fly manually. I know people do use DJI drones while driving but I think it's dangerous and illegal. The dirt road down the mountain would have been a perfect situation with no traffic or wires and a great view but I was a nervous I might have trouble going down especially since the unpaved road was wet from the overnight rains. I really need to try the drone on a quiet country road where I won't worry about problems meeting other vehicles. My imagination got the best of me as there was no need to be nervous. The road down is different than the road up and I wish I had known that earlier. 
The drive to Ventura was long but uneventful and lots of it was very beautiful. Just before coming into Santa Barbara I started to get gorgeous ocean views. The afternoon was quite blustery and I could feel the trailer getting pushed around a bit. Soon I was parking in front of my friends Alan and Anne's home. I have known these trikers for many, many years. We wanted to go for a ride but the wind was far too strong. Triking would have to wait until the morning.

Surfers at Ventura

Trailer and truck parked in front of Alan and Anne's house. Dawn on her trike talking to a neighbor.

Lawn sign for Alan and Anne

Christmas decorations. Dawn, Alan and Anne

Cheers to dear friends

Sunday, December 12, 2021

A Week Cycling in the Bay Area with Friends

My 2 night stay sleeping in my trailer parked in front of Zach and Michi's house came to an end after a couple of days of fabulous cycling. The weather in San Francisco had been outstanding especially considering we were riding the end of November. The bay area has terrific cycling and if you can get good weather the riding becomes glorious. I felt very lucky to know so many people in the area that wanted to ride and show me around. I had a blast. Most of the rides were with BARC (Bay Area Recumbent Cyclists) and we did regular club routes. Some of the rides had 12 people and some had as many as 19. It was really fun to meet so many people I've known only online and to also see so many old friends I've known for many, many years.

With Paula and Zach

Unpaved path on the bay with Zach and Paula

Drone shot on campground paths

Even though I was moving locations, the cycling wasn't ending. I went back to Dumbarton Quarry By the Sea campground in Fremont where I would be meeting more cycling friends. Leslie and Paula are also trikers who love to ride and ride fast, fast, fast. We all have the same trike with the same e-assist; HP Scorpion fs20 each equipped with the Shimano Steps E8000 e-assist retro-fit boom system and 2 batteries.  Leslie and Paula had lived in this area most of their adult lives where they had long careers.  Since they know the area well, there were lots of rides on the agenda. I checked into the campground for a week to take advantage of all the riding and being able to hang out with good friends. 

Dumbarton Quarry campsites

We got parked in sites at Dumbarton Quarry campground next to each other early in the afternoon on Sunday. And, not surprisingly, we also got our trikes out to go on a ride right away. The next day we would be meeting Russell and Zach at the Dumbarton Bridge and Paula wanted to make sure she knew how to bike there using the campground paths. This campground has a big network of paths where some are paved and some are unpaved. The scenery on the bay was fantastic. The unpaved paths were bumpy but our trikes didn't seem to mind.  

Sunset drone shot from the campground

We met up with Zach and Russell at a reasonable hour in a parking lot close to the Dumbarton Bridge. Russell drove and Zach rode from Alameda. Zach always rides. Not only does he always ride, he is always on time. He has an HP Scorpion fs 26 S-Pedelec with extra big batteries (651 wh!). I think he said it was 25 miles from his house to where we met.  Russell was on a Lightning P-38 without assist. 

Thumbs down at Facebook (Meta)

Heron in the wildlife area next to the Facebook campus

Russell, Leslie, Paula and Zach

In the Stanford plaza with the Catholic Church

We all had a delightful ride crossing the bay into Palo Alto to explore the Stanford University campus. The Dumbarton bridge has a separated bike path and the bridge doesn't go up or down steeply. Like most bridge rides, it is very loud with the car traffic. We made our way off the bridge to the Facebook campus which is enormous and sits next to a large wildlife refuge. We stopped to get photos next to the famous thumb up sign.

Trikes in front of the ‘Gates of Hell’

Zach and Rodin sculpture

Rodin replica of the top of the ‘Gates of Hell’

Leslie and Paula found a very interesting route to get us to Stanford University on lightly trafficked roads. The campus itself is huge and gorgeous. We stopped at the large Catholic church in an expansive Spanish inspired plaza. There is a big sculpture garden with lots of Rodin replicas. We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the art. The campus was very quiet even though classes are in session. Cycling was easy and smooth. There are lots of large green spaces. One green space was so large I thought it was a golf course in the middle of campus. We visited the Stanford family mausoleum where I learned the University is named for the son, Leland Jr. There is also a large cactus garden where we were especially careful not to ride the trikes too close to plants that may have dropped thorns. From there we made our way back to where we started across the Dumbarton Bridge. Afterward, we invited Zach and Russell to the campground for dinner. 

Furry cactus

Flowering cactus

‘Oy Yo’ outside the Stanford art museum

Pelicans in the water from the Dumbarton bridge

Paula and Leslie took me on rides all over the area. Some days we put in close to 50 miles. The weather was fantastic and it was fun riding in an area I am not familiar with. We rode out the Alameda Creek trail to Niles where Charlie Chaplin had a film studio. We had lunch at sweet Mission Coffee and enjoyed riding in the sunshine. There was lots of wildlife in the water of the creek.

Campground path drone shot

Wildlife refuge sunset

Trikes in the sunset

We did 2 more club rides with BARC. The 1st one was at the Sacramento Delta. For this, we drove our trucks to meet with just a few recumbents in Rio Vista on the Sacramento River. Many riders had canceled coming because the weather had turned foggy, misty and cold. The forecast flirted with sunshine after 10 am. The sun didn't come out until the ride was almost over at 3 pm. Even wearing gloves and ear covering, I was cold but, still, really loved riding in the Delta. There aren't any bike paths or even bike lanes but there was also almost no traffic. We took a free ferry not too far from the start. There is lots of agriculture and the riding was mostly on elevated levee roads that separate the river from farm land. Brayden, Timothy and Russell joined Leslie, Paula and me for the 38 miles. I was able to fly the drone towards the end of the ride just when the sun was breaking through. I got some amazing shots of huge flocks of birds taking off from marshland. Really a great day and I want to return and do more riding out in the Delta.

Birds in the marshland at the Sacramento Delta

Friendly owl

Campground trail ride

The next BARC club ride was in Los Gatos. We started with 14 riders and ended with 12 as a couple of riders had mechanicals severe enough they couldn't continue. This ride went along the Los Gatos Creek trail. There was a fair bit of road riding too. Luckily, Los Gatos has separated bike lanes and the riding feels very safe. On this ride, there were people who were new to recumbents and group riding. We took special care to make sure they felt comfortable and would want to come back for more rides. Even though it wasn't as cold as the Delta ride the cloudy skies and colder temps reminded us we were riding in December. 

Los Gatos club ride


Los Gatos Creek trail

This entire week I spent camped in Fremont was action packed. It felt great to put in so many miles and ride with good friends. But now it was time to put away the trike, get hitched up and head south where I'm hoping the weather will be warmer. I was missing the sunny skies we had just a few days earlier. I've got a tentative plan to slowly make my way down to Southern California where I have family and more recumbent friends. It seems the riding never stops.

Delta ride waiting for the ferry

Heron on a channel marker

Memorial to Humphrey the Humpback whale visit

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Thanksgiving in Berkeley and BARC San Francisco Rides

Zach Kaplan at his shop in Alameda

Zach Kaplan Cycles

Parked in front of Zach and Michi's

Camping at Dumbarton Quarry

RV camping in the San Francisco bay area requires careful planning. There are quite a few state parks and private RV parks but getting a site isn't easy. The private parks typically want more than $100/night and state parks are completely booked up months in advance. I was trying to find a place to camp closer to my cousin's house in Berkeley where the family Thanksgiving dinner would be held. What I found was a state park in Fremont that is so new RVers don't know about it yet and, miraculously, it had lots of sites available. 

Recumbents regrouping


Inspecting the velos
I put out word of my arrival with cycling friends. Zach and Michi, who I have known for many years, offered for me to park in front of their home for 3 nights. This is the longest time the neighborhood allows for RV parking. This stay would also correspond with a scheduled BARC (Bay Area Recumbent Cycling) ride and the 3 of us were able to ride to the start together. In fact, Zach and Michi rode a Rans tandem for the 10 miles to the meet up point in Emeryville. This was strictly urban riding. Zach and Michi don't have e-assist and I do. They are so strong that I really had to put in extra effort to keep up. We were riding 16-18 mph the whole way. It's good to get your heart rate up, right? Being fairly early on a Saturday morning the traffic wasn't too bad. The meet up point is a parking lot for the Emeryville police station that is right on San Francisco bay. The views of the Golden Gate bridge, the Oakland bay bridge and San Francisco city scape across the bay are incredible. The weather was fantastic and a big improvement from my time in Sacramento. 

There was a good group of bikers and trikers when we arrived. Some people I knew from Tater TOT or the Recumbent Retreat but more I only knew online and this was our 1st time meeting. I love doing group rides and it was terrific to meet so many friends. There were a few more trikers than bikers and most riders didn't have e-assist. 

I wish I had the courage

Zach and Michi's tandem recumbent

Orion, the star cat

Recumbent riders

Gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge all along the route

We spent a fantastic day riding the San Francisco Bay Trail from Emeryville through Berkeley and around the bay to Pt Richmond. At one point we stopped to meet up with even more riders. Here, 3 velomobiles, 2 upright riders and a triker joined the group. We ended up with 19 riders and 18 bikes with Zach and Michi on the tandem. There were a couple of places where we had strong winds but, mostly, there wasn't any wind. Almost the whole day we had a view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge. This area is incredibly beautiful and the path system for cycling is heavenly. I loved the whole ride.

Zach and I did another ride all around where he lives in Alameda. There was lots of beauty and historic neighborhoods. We rode out to an abandoned naval base which had terrific views of San Francisco. I also got up close to the USS Hornet which is an aircraft carrier that has history with NASA space missions. It is now a museum. Alameda is an island with lots of distinct character. I enjoyed the tour very much and, again, the weather was spectacular.

USS Hornet

After visiting with Zach and Michi, I moved to spend 3 nights at Dumbarton Quarry Campground on the Bay. No one was camped around me and the time there was very quiet. I took care of lots of errands working on videos too. For Thanksgiving night, I had permission to camp at a brewery in Oakland even though they would be closed. This is a Harvest Hosts location. (Check out: for more information.) With Harvest Hosts stays, there is an expectation that RVers will buy something to support the business in return for camping. Since they would be closed on Thanksgiving I stopped by the day before to scope out the situation and pick up some beer. This brewery is across the street from the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland and backs up to Amtrak/freight line tracks. There is a huge homeless camp just a block away that goes on for blocks with broken down RVs and lots of tents. Harvest Hosts locations are all reviewed and, after seeing the location, I was surprised that the reviews were so positive. I bought some beer and talked to one of the owners. Everyone at the brewery was very nice and helpful. The owner didn't fill me confidence when I asked about safety. He didn't think I should worry but did say vandalism is a real possibility. I left there not feeling great about camping on my own but hoped, because it would be Thanksgiving that, somehow, this would improve my safety concerns. I left there and went to my cousins to drop off the beer, say 'hi' and hang out with family. It was great to see everyone and they all seemed to like the craft beer.

The next morning I got hitched up, leaving Dumbarton Quarry, to take my trailer to the brewery location. There was plenty of room for the trailer and parking was easy. Most Harvest Hosts don't want you to unhitch and having permission to drive to my cousins without the trailer was the whole reason I was staying here. I didn't realize just how close I was to the Amtrak tracks until a train went by blasting it's horn as it passed my trailer. It was crazy loud. All I could hope for was traffic would lighten over night. I was pretty nervous about leaving my trailer here unattended. I put a lock around one of the wheels as well as another lock around the hitch. I drove away and got one exit down the freeway when I couldn't remember if I locked the outside storage compartments. I turned around to go back and, sure enough, I had not locked them. Before leaving again, I double checked everything and also took pictures. 

Thanksgiving turkey is ready

Table is set


Parked at Harvest Hosts brewery

Thanksgiving with my family was great. The table usually has about 30 people but with Covid concerns we had 21 this year. I missed seeing everyone but also enjoyed a calmer evening. We had great food and terrific wines. For next year, I might try parking in my cousin's neighborhood. I was worried that my rig would take up too many spots but there was lots of parking spaces unoccupied.  I left the party earlier than I would have otherwise because I was worried about my trailer. I got back to the brewery and everything was fine.
The night was sleepless because of the loud and constant train traffic. The train horns blew right outside my trailer all night long. The noise level was too much even with ear plugs. It was very nice of the brewery to let me camp but I don't think this is a good spot for RVers and left a more honest review with Harvest Hosts of my experience.
Ale Industries Brewery

Ale selection

Brew being brewed

From here, I went back to park at Zach and Michi's house for 2 nights. There was another BARC (Bay Area Recumbent Cyclists) ride scheduled and I followed Zach to the start. Zach and I met a bunch of recumbent riders at the Alameda ferry terminal to get to San Francisco. At the San Francisco wharf, we met up with more local riders. We rode through the Presidio and cemetery, Palace of Fine Arts, Legion of Honor,  Lincoln Park steps, Land's End, Golden Gate park, Sutro baths, Seal Rock to the ocean and passed the Dutch Windmill all before crossing the Golden Gate bridge. We spent so much time riding in San Francisco that only a few of us crossed the bridge and then rode up to the summit of the Marin Headlands. The weather was absolutely stunning and the views of the city and Golden Gate bridge in the late afternoon sun were gorgeous. I took a ton of photos and video. Many thanks to BARC and especially Russell for leading this very special ride. We crossed the Golden Gate bridge going back into the city at sunset and arrived back to the ferry after dark. Seeing the city scape lights on such a clear and warm night was impressive. Even after the sun went down the temperature remained warm. San Francisco is an incredibly beautiful city and I got to ride my trike through the heart of it.
Stunning San Francisco ride video

View from Marin Headlands

Getting on the Golden Gate Bridge

Starting from San Francisco Wharf

Ferry from Alameda

Panorama from Marin Headlands

Night time cityscape
Nice pic with Zach

Myrtle enjoys the ferry ride

Great ride with the guys