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California

For the burgeoning oenophile, Melville Winery is a delight and education. While the winery boasts award winning Chardonnay, like most in this ideal appellation, it specializes in Pinot Noir.
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Feed ostriches & emus or buy an egg that can feed a family at the roadside attraction, OstrichLand USA in Solvang, California. I have a soft spot for tourist traps. Sure, they are silly little roadside attractions meant to separate you
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Kirk Creek is one of the most desirable campgrounds we have every visited. Amenities are limited: there are no hookups or running water and only pit toilets, a picnic table, and fire circle. Yet, the cliffside campsites with unobstructed ocean
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Nestled among the Red Wood Trees and bordering the Big Sur River is the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground. This highly desirable campground can book up six months in advance though flexible travelers looking for one night have reasonable odds
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Monterey Bay Aquarium is a delight of frolicking sea otters, delicate jellies, colorful choral fish, and awkward coastal birds. The Aquarium first opened its doors to the public on October 20, 1984 in the former 1916 Hovden Cannery.
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Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is one of the most remarkable natural destinations along the California shore line. It is host to one of only two naturally occurring stands of Monterey cypress trees. Sea lions, harbor seals, sea
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An upside of travel is the many beautiful places we can visit. Few compare to the cultivated grandeur of Napa Valley. Of course, the reason we were there was no so much to look at the sprawling vineyards
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So, we've been raving about Big Sur a bit. But here is the down side: rock slides. I'm sure you've heard plenty about them. The slide between Mud Creek and Salmon Creek Station is expected to close that portion of Highway 1 through 2018. That means no through-routes of Highway 1. For trailers and other large rigs, that means Highway 1 is an in-out trip starting in Northern California. But we have a truck camper and are taking the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.⠀

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When it comes the the Super Bowl, many Americans are faced with the question: who's part should I attend or will we host? Rarely is it a question of how. But for two nomads in a truck, we weren't sure how we could drink and watch the most expensive advertisements of the year without having to worry about finding a place to sleep. Last year, we got a hotel room, only to discover that the hotel did not have the channel showing the Super Bowl. We managed to stream it; but it was a hassle. This time, we wanted to find a location that we could watch the game and then roll into our truck for the night. The first, obvious thought was a sports bar. But many bars are not fans of vagrants sleeping in the parking lot. So, that is when we had to start getting creative. That is when we struck upon the casino.
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Sutro is a name that permeates San Francisco. Roads and civic works were named in commemoration of this mining engineer turned Mayor. But of all of these commemorative locations, there is a set that was our favorite place to take visitors when we lived in San Francisco and continues to be one of my go-to stops whenever I'm in town: Sutro Heights And Sutro Baths.

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While we were on the other side of the bay, another box on my "to do" list was to hike Mount Tamalpais. The mountain towers over the bay with breathtaking panoramic views. Tamalpais towers 2,576 ft from sea level. It's summit is part of Mount Tamalpais State Park.

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After wandering through the wilderness, we return to the city where we first launched this journey. This time, we are only visitors to San Francisco but that didn't mean we lacked plenty of old haunts and new destinations.
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The Avenue of the Giants is is one of so many breathtaking and unique features that make California such an amazing state. Less than an hour ago, we were relaxing on the coast, now we are in the middle of towering redwoods—hearing them creak ominously.

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While there isn't much left to see at Hobbiton, USA, there is more than just a defunct roadside attraction to access from the same parking lot. The Living Chimney Tree gained its titular characteristic in 1914 when a fire hollowed
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We are programmers. We've copped to that. So, I suppose it goes without saying that Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films were not our first exposure to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. When I discovered that there was the
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Once we had explored Glass Beach, it was time to head up the coast and inland to the redwoods. Yet, not far outside of Fort Bragg, we came across the Pacific Star Winery tasting room, perched atop the ocean bluffs. Along
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Last night, the temperatures plummeted but this morning we woke up hot. The sun beat down on our truck shell giving us the extra spur to get up and head out early. The tide tables indicated that low tide would be at 8am. I must have read them wrong because it was high tide when we arrived at the shore. All the same, we trotted out to glass beach, an accidental oddity on the California coast.

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With the fire behind us but on our mind, we were extra conscientious campers today. We headed due west for Mendocino. The drive spanned the temperature gamut: from 100 degree golden rolling hills, spotted with oak, to 56 degrees in the Redwoods, overlooking Fort Bragg. Our destination was Russian Gulch campground. Apparently, it was the destination of many, because the grounds were filled by the time we arrive. Fortunately, the ranger not only advised us on where to go instead but called ahead and arranged for the last spot to be held for us. We arrived in MacKerricher State Park campground 15 minutes later and happily paid for out camp site.

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Bodie is the gold standard of ghost towns. Where other ghost towns have ten or so old buildings in varying degrees of disrepair or renovation, Bodie may only have 10% of its original structures but that still accounts for 110 structures preserved in a state of arrested decay. There is a stamp mill with it's original machinery literally falling through the floor, off kilter structures, and occasional doorways that lead to...nowhere.

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It's hard to believe that just a few days ago we were sweating it out in Death Valley. Now, we are perched above June Lake, with a view that takes reservations to procure, and a smug sense of satisfaction. The only down side with the picturesque Oh! Ridge Campground, though, is the wind. It sweeps over the lake and hits us with a ferocity that I though was reserved for a response to the dozens. I haven't said anything mean about June Lake's mama, but the wind is certainly fierce.

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Deserts are often considered to be synonymous with desolation. They are seen as barren tracts of sand dunes to travers in flowing white robes astride a camel or stallion in Lawrence of Arabia style. Yet, deserts are incredibly diverse ecosystems
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Cerro Gordo is not easy to reach.  If anything, traveling there was a good reminder of the compromises we make with our living situation and the potential shift in mobility that comes with any change.  The route to Cerro Gordo is 7 miles of rough road snaking sharply to the summit of Cerro Gordo Peak.  Woe betide any unwitting driver that comes across a car in the opposite direction because most stretches of the road are a single lane with a mountain wall to one side and a cliff at the other.  It is a route we never would have attempted with Dodgy I or even if Dodgy II had a top heavy camper.  It is Dodgy II's light truck bed shell and 4 wheel drive that makes the road feasible.

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I can tell you that we experienced 120°F, but I don't think a numeric measurement could convey what such heat does to a human body. Each step away from a cool air conditioned car winnows away energy, drive, optimism, and curiosity. The cool car becomes a recharging station, where one regains the will and ability to strive.  The car is where a cool head can set priorities: how far I can safely travel and what pictures will I take. And when one comes to a point where cool air is no longer forthcoming, how willingly one will just give up.

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Flanked by the Saratoga Hills, Paramount Ranch is part of an ongoing history of filmmaking. The ranch includes a full western set with the requisite general store, saloon, and sheriff's office. Yet, the location has been used in leu of
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The Mar Vista Time Travel Mart stands apart from its neighboring stores along Venice Blvd. Perhaps it is the pacifist robot in the shop window. Perhaps it is the reassuring gold window dressing reminding you that "Whenever you are, we're already then." Perhaps it is the robot toupee and dinosaur eggs for sale. Regardless, it's the place to go to outfit your pre-adults with "future adult" t-shirts with the warm knowledge that profits from this time travel themed market go to support an educational program for local children.

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I remember visiting the Getty Center around 2004 and being blown away by the gardens. Certainly, the collection of art works inside the Getty represent noteworthy landmarks in art history. Yet, the garden was such a beautiful and deliberate journey that I couldn't help but be drawn outside.

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We are meticulously law abiding. When we come to communities that have banned overnight parking in Walmarts such as Galveston, TX or Glen Springs, CO, we don't throw up our hands and attempt to stealth camp. As tired as we may be, we accept that this community does not want our business and we move on. So when we got a ticket for overnight parking in Pasadena, CA, we thought it must be a mistake.

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Ode To A Grecian Urn by John Keats concludes:

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

If such may be argued to be the case, then one need not concern themselves whether the displays in the Museum of Jurassic Technology are factual—they may or may not be but none of the museum staff will tell you. Instead, it is a maze of twilight truths. Darkened, mysterious rooms hold strange oddities that might have been picked out of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford or have been designed by an artist inspired by history and the occult. Rooms delve into ancient medical traditions, a tragic actress, trailer parks, early space travel, and a monk's studies into magnetism to explain the divine's intangible but powerful influence in the world.

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After a delightful night in the Redwood Forest, we figured the rest of our return journey would be rather rote. It was time to dig in and get to our friend's house outside of Sacramento where we could take a break from traveling and get some work done. But little did we know what a truly beautiful remainder of a trip we had left. Well, we did rather know. I made a point to route us along the coast for a while before heading inland for a mountain pass. So I knew there would be beaches and sea side views. What I didn't expect was an elk crossing.

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In keeping with our tradition of shoehorning additional stops into an already busy schedule, we extended our trip by a day to camp in Redwood National and State Parks. Parts of it are national. Parts of it are state. As far as we can determine, there aren't any drive in camping spots in the National park, so we found an ideal spot at the State Park. The site is flanked by massive redwood trees, within hearing distance of a sonorous river, and a hop skip an a jump from bathrooms that don't stink. To me, the perfect spot.

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The Salton Sea is an interesting example of when humans take water away, give it back again, and then take it away, yet again. The sea was a long standing body of water until the Colorado River was redirected. When a levy failed, the redirected river returned to it's original path, replenishing the Sea for years while the levy was being rebuilt. It experienced a golden age as a recreational destination for Los Angelese's cramped denisens...until it started to sink. As more water evaporates per year than is replenished into the Sea, the Salton Sea retains little other than salt, farm runoff, and the resulting dead fish. Rent is pretty low.

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While we had already enjoyed a short hike with friends while staying in Palm Springs, we decided to circle back to for a night of camping after we bid the crew adieu. After an awesome hike, we settled in to a small camp site, set up our newly acquired inflatable glamping* chairs on the roof of the van to eat Bahn Mi and drink wine, and watched the sun set. Unfortunately, we, yet again, forgot to consider the elevation we were camping at and quickly retreated into the van as soon as the light show was over.

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Joshua Tree may be a National Park today, but, back in the day, cattle roamed the scrub brush and miners wandered in search of gold. This history remains in arrested decay along the Wall Street Mill trail in the
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Desert Christ Park is an early foray into biblically themed parks. It's not nearly to the state of gems you might find in Kentucky, but it has it's own charm as it attempts some earnest Greco-Roman styling in plaster and rebar. While it may not constitute very fine art, it's scale makes for some great group pictures.

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The Kabin may be part of the Kcymaerxthaere series of pieces by Eames Demetrios but it certainly stands on its own in drawing your attention into an alternate world. This dilapidated "Kabin" on the outskirts of a housing development in Joshua Tree, California feels as if we had crossed into an alternate timeline. The Krblin Jihn Kabin is a faux-historic preserve where religious dissidents were exiled. It is complete with explanatory panels and plaques outlining the historic context and traditions.

Did you know that California was split in two over the question of where Jesus walked: North California or South California? As plaques explain, how this was the homestead of the exiled Krblin Jihn, member of the Jihn Wranglikan sect. Inside are verses from Jihn's translations of the bible (ommitting the selatious "o" and "c", which the Jihn Wranglikan sect consider to be obscene) and mention of his work, Kmmentaries n Matthew.

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Robolights has been the continuing project of Kenny Irwin Jr. since 1986. What was intended as a dystopian Christmas display of robots and found objects has become a block spanning marvel for visitors any day of the year. We happened to come by in January and were not disappointed.

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Get ready to be jealous, because we are in Palm Springs. We are renting a house with a pool in the back. Thus, the first thing we attended to was cooling off in the water as the sun set. Along with the conventional walks through town, we spiced up out visit with attractions gathered from the Atlas Obscura. We visited a memorial structure preserved from the fictional civil war between north and south California. We trudged through a series of outdoor sculptures on the outskirts of a Joshua Tree suburb. And we enjoyed the crumbling remains of an early attempt at a biblical attraction with sculptures depicting religious scenes with heavy roman aesthetic.

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Dinosaurs mean a lot of different things to different people. To children, they are awesome monsters and rubber toys. To the movie buff, they mean Jurassic Park and apocalyptic fears of science. To Young Earth creationists, they are the embodiment
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Though we do live in an old van under a bridge, we do—on very rare occasion—take a shower and do something cultured. For our annual show, we decided to celebrate by visiting the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, CA.  It is
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Well, this is it, guys, the end of Route 66. Ignore that we only picked it up in Oklahoma City and missed everything to the north east. Ignore that we never attempted to spend more than the token amount of
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Finally, we make it to Southern California and weather befitting civilized society. We shrugged off our coats and scarfs to go shopping for sunglasses and eating sushi. Despite having spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, one place I
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We had to loop back to Grass Valley to pick up a few last items we had left with friends. With a few lessons learned, we laid out the back of the van in a more thoughtful way with rugs,
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I know some people might baulk if I were to say that we were "trapped" in Los Angeles. Maybe I'll say that we were detained? There was a small matter of a broken break light and air conditioner
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Ah, Santa Barbara! Sure, I could say we visited for the cute downtown but who would we be kidding? It was all for the pinot noir. Though our wine tasting travails were limited, they were quite fruitful.
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Next, we mozied down the 1 to Big Sur. Aside from almost getting bit by a rattlesnake, it was a laid back ride that was all about the scenery. Here, we had our first go at sleeping in
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For our first night on the road, we celebrated by not sleeping in the car. Instead, we indulged in a hotel by the sea. There were sea lions, arcade games, and mimosas. It was perfect.