Travel Stage: After Sonoma County, before Big Sur
Date Range: November 28 – December 5, 2016
Summary:We explore the world of Tiny Houses with Alexis and Christian of Tiny House Expedition, visit the world famous wine growing region Napa Valley, and tour the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Factory, home of the little flavored candies Ronald Reagan loved.
After Thanksgiving we headed just a little ways down the road to Isleton, which is located in between San Francisco and Sacramento. The drive out here was terrible – most California roads are terrible to begin with, and then they built them on levies.
We were surprised to learn that almost all of the San Francisco Metro area, nearly all the way to Sacramento, is a weird system of levies and bridges over what once was all marshland. They have dammed up the place and engineered canals and levies around the ground that is now farmed or developed.
The campground we stayed at in Isleton would have been 30 feet underwater if it hadn’t been for the levy that the road was built on holding back the water. It reminds one of New Orleans, only bigger. And this area won’t get hit by a hurricane, but a tsunami.
The roads along the tops of the levies were nerve-racking to drive on as well. Either side of the road drops off to either water or a 30ft incline to a farm field. And the levies had moved since the roads had been built – so they dipped and slanted and heaved until you thought you’d either be sick or tip off the road!
Once we had made it to our campground, it was very nice. We stayed at Park Delta Bay which is right on the water. Nearby hundreds if not thousands of geese were using the area either as resting grounds in the southern migration, or maybe even as their winter home.
While at Park Delta Bay we met some wonderful people living in a Tiny House on wheels. Their names were Alexis and Christian, they were from North Carolina, and they go by the name of Tiny House Expedition. They had been traveling the country in their self-built tiny house on wheels to document the tiny house movement and make a documentary about it. We interviewed them as part of our Crossing Paths series that you can see here:
It was so much fun to meet them and talk about the Tiny House Movement, which when we really thought about it, has a lot of parallels with what we do in our RV. Most tiny-housers don’t move around as much as we do – or as much as Alexis and Christian do – but a lot of the emphasis on “more experiences, less stuff” is the same.
Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Factory Tour
I can’t remember how we learned about the Jelly Belly Factory, located in Fairfield not far from where we were staying in Isleton, but we thought it sounded like fun and had to go. The tour is free and so are samples, which is right up our alley!
We had to wear the silly Jelly Belly hats on the tour, but otherwise it was utterly fascinating to learn about the history and the process for making the perfect Jelly Belly Jelly Bean, complete with the Jelly Belly stamp on every single bean.
Watch the Vlog of the Tour:
After leaving Jelly Belly, we headed up to Napa. To be honest, we had done quite a bit of research on Napa and knew that we weren’t going to taste any wine in this area. We had also met up with an ex-Napa-winemaker in our travels and he had told us about the “real” Napa. It’s not like it used to be.
He said it has all become so commercialized and popularized that it’s ridiculous. Tasting fees and bottle prices have gone through the roof, and with that kind of money-making big investors have come to town and bought up/bought out a lot of the smaller winemakers. Nevertheless, we had to go see.
Traffic was terrible. There are two main roads you can take and we took the westernmost one. It was two lanes and it was a constant stream of cars both directions. We pulled into Opus One, drove around the parking lot gawking at the building. People were sipping wine on the balcony – wine that I knew from my research cost $45 per wine tasted.
Robert Mondavi Winery
Somehow we pulled back out into the stream of traffic and made our way down another couple miles. We swung into the drive of Robert Mondavi Winery. This place has a bit of significance to me – I had my Strategic Management exam in college about this winery. I also really like their wine on the rare occasions that I have it.
We parked and wandered into the beautiful winery building. The artwork was beautiful, the gardens were beautiful, the view was beautiful. We overhear the lady behind the tasting bar tell a couple that it would be $45 for 3 tastes.
We started to make our way toward the door before anyone asked us if we wanted to taste anything. I could buy a pretty darn nice bottle of wine at a store for $45 – a bottle of Robert Mondavi in fact!
We just didn’t understand and couldn’t fathom tasting anything at any of these wineries. We had read that Sutter Homes was probably the cheapest place to taste in Napa – but even then you could buy a bottle of theirs at a grocery store for less.
Regardless, we enjoyed our short visit. On our drive home we got stuck in San Francisco/Napa/Sacramento rush hour traffic and played a game of “guess which flavor jelly bean” with our free Jelly Belly sample box. It was a good day.
The Best Part
The best part of this leg of our trip was meeting up with an old college friend of ours named Alejandro. It had been probably 5 years since we had last seen him, and we also got to meet his wife and daughter. We love being able to visit friends who have dispersed across the country on their own life journeys and be able to reconnect!
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