The Ultimate Road Trip: THE SILVER SNAIL : A solo woman's full-time RV adventure
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Napa, California

Almost five months had passed since I originally aimed for the California wine country and fled because of the smoke. The wildfires are long gone and though Brookings captured my heart in many ways, I felt the tug to continue what I had set out to see and do. The rain gave me added incentive to head south and the Napa and Sonoma valleys were first on my list of places to go.

These small fertile valleys, surrounded by oak-dotted hills and miles of vineyards made it seem like we should all be speaking Italian. It's beautiful. And if I had had more sense, I wouldn't have forgotten my camera on those days when the weather was nice and I was out driving. So I am sad to report that I have no pictures to illustrate the beauty of this region. But I will most certainly be back here - hopefully when everything is in bloom and joyously proclaiming the bounty of this region.

Bounty is the first word that comes to mind here: an abundance of the best food, wine, and landscape, all with the added benefit of nearby San Francisco and the Pacific coast too! Love it. For a place that doesn't really cater to RV's, Skyline Wilderness Park was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. Away from Napa's sprawling development, this park is tucked away in the southeast corner of Napa and is part of a large wilderness area, making it a nice quiet, peaceful place - when it's empty in the off-season.

I took a couple hours to drive through Napa Valley on Route 29 to see the sweet little towns of Calistoga and St. Helena, but did not do any of the typical wine tasting and winery visits (saving that for another visit). I did, however, happen to stop to use the bathroom at Castello Di Amorosa. I was admiring what I thought were "public spaces" of this real-life castle, when I accidentally found myself being shuffled along by a tour group into the cellar labyrinths, torture chamber, and grand barrel room. I was lost in the castle, in a tour group I didn't belong in (or pay for). What luck! This castle was built by hand in the same traditional fashion of medieval castles, but nobody lives there except for the bottles and barrels of wine. It's only been open for a year, and though it feels "new" for a castle that's made to feel "old", it's still a pretty neat place.

Since Riley hadn't been able to have much fun for a while and was technically still recovering from surgery, I wanted to give him something to be really happy about. So we visited Alston Park, a really awesome, beautiful dog park where he bounced and frolicked with west-coastie dogs, chased tennis balls and frisbees and ran to his heart's content. Riley's smiles are contagious and when he's a happy dog, all is well with the world.


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All images and words © Sharon Pieniak
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