As part of our satisfying retirement Betty and I have been to California wine country before, at least the area most people think of when someone says wine and California: the Napa Valley and Sonoma. This is where the big boys play, wineries like Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Inglenook, and Chateau Montelena (Think the movie, Bottle Shock).
But, there is another California wine country that is very different in attitude and scale; the area around Paso Robles. With near 200 wineries within a thirty mile radius this is the home of the smaller operators, the smaller vineyards, and the less pretentious tasting rooms.
It is also home to stunning views and great wines at very reasonable prices. The rolling hills and the rural setting reminds me much more of the Tuscany area of Italy than the Napa Valley.
We stayed in the appropriately named Wine Country RV Park. Not surprisingly, there was one tasting room within a three minute walk of our parking spot, and another twenty within a 15 minute drive. While Betty and I are not big wine drinkers, it was fun to see the various types of tasting rooms, sample some of the local product, and check out the small gift stores that came attached to each.
Downtown Paso Robles is very attractive Around a large, grassy, town square are dozens of restaurants, antique stores and wine shops. Bailey found all sorts of new places to sniff and new people to greet. She may be making progress in this area. Instead of acting scared of people and barking whenever someone new came into sight she either ignored them, or allowed herself to be petted and have her big floppy ears scratched.
As has happened on all of our recent RV trips we had the chance to meet another person who has become a virtual blogging friend. Pam, a frequent commenter, lives in Paso Robles and suggested we meet. Over hot chocolate and a Danish Betty and I had a delightful time sharing life experiences.
Pam lives in a cohousing development in town and suggested a tour. I had written about this rather recent option for retirement living but now had the chance to see one in operation. It is a mix of single family homes and condos, walking paths, a common building for cooking, dining, meetings, and laundry.
The weather turned cool with rain showers for our last day in town but that didn't stop our having a tremendous time in the area. Then, we were off to Morro Bay and Bailey's first chance to experience the ocean.
At 575 feet, Morro Bay Rock dominates the view from almost any part of town, along with the three towering smokestacks of the largely unused power plant built near the rock.
With the summer crowds gone, Morro Bay was quiet. On a Friday afternoon the waterfront area looked almost deserted, a few tourists looking for an open place for lunch and some locals making deliveries and painting a wall.
Morro Strand RV Park is basically a parking lot, across the street from the city waste treatment plant and the power plant.
Pretty it is not but being only a block from the ocean made up for the obvious shortcomings. Bailey had plenty of places to sniff and roam and become friends with all the3 other dogs in the park.
Actually, we ended up with the best spot in the small park up against the back wall with shade and privacy. With most of the RVs in the park being much larger than ours we also benefited from plenty of shade when we wanted to use the chairs or picnic table.
There is a town bus pickup at the front entrance so we were able to "be local" and catch a ride to and from the downtown area.
Sunday morning we packed up and headed home. We have allowed ourselves five nights so we will take a leisurely route home, through Barstow and along the Colorado River near Parker, AZ before picking up the Interstate back to Scottsdale.
The highlights of the trip? Betty and I had the time and solitude to have some important conversations and sharing about our life together and how we wanted to enjoy our blessings to the fullest. And, Bailey gained new experiences and self confidence, making her less nervous around other people and situations.
For us RV travel is a chance to explore the country and deepen our love and relationship And that makes it priceless.