It’s our last day at the Calistoga RV Park, so it’s time to check in. This has been one of our best experiences so far on our RV trip down the west coast of the USA. The Calistoga RV park is in the small city of Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley, California. It’s a perfect spot to stay while you enjoy the local wineries, spas, hot springs, and restaurants. This video shows the highlights, especially the wineries!
Getting to the Calistoga RV Park
We drove down from the Giant Redwoods RV Park in the Avenue of the Giants, a distance of 170 miles. This is a map of our route.
The trip down was mostly fine. Most of the way there was more than one lane, and mostly quite straight roads. We were just thinking that it was one of the nicest drives of our trip – until we got to the last 24 miles! Those last 24 miles from Geyserville to Calistoga along the California 128 were a shock. I had the bad luck to be driving, so Maggie got to make squeaking noises as we narrowly missed trees and hillsides. It was basically a narrow, single lane road, meandering via tight turns over a mountain pass. We were treated to constant signs advising us that there were sharp curves ahead and that we should travel at 25 miles per hour (which we did).
What made it even more fun is that the road seems to be mainly used by local farmers, all in large pickup trucks and apparently all running late for something extremely important. Oh, and a few truckers as well, also in a huge hurry. There were almost no places where there was a shoulder big enough for us to pull over and let faster vehicles pass us. So, at times we had a lineup of twenty or so angry drivers behind us. It all reached a crescendo when we got to the curviest part of the road, and suddenly encountered a very slow cyclist. We had to stay behind him until the road finally straightened out. Of course, all the drivers trapped behind us could not see the cyclist, so there was a lot of honking, and I imagine one or two people got their guns out of their glove compartments.
Route Advisory for Getting to the Calistoga RV Park
If you are coming in from the north, your GPS will lead you in via the California 128, which is really horrible if you are towing an RV. We managed with our 52 foot truck and fifth wheel, but I don’t know how bigger rigs would manage. If you are able to come in from the south, you will come in via the California 29, which is an infinitely better road for anyone towing a trailer.
Luckily, we survived the California 128, and made it to the tiny city of Calistoga, where there was more squeaking when signs announced that the road through the city center was going to get even narrower, thanks to extensive road works. This time it was my turn to squeak, as Maggie had taken over the driving so that I could collapse in a rattled heap. Anyway, we finally made it, unscathed, to the Calistoga RV park.
Our Trip so Far Down the West Coast of the USA
With this latest trip, we have now traveled a total of 979 miles (1,576 km). This is a map of our total journey so far, from just outside Vancouver, BC, to Calistoga, California. I like making these maps, because we move so often that it is hard to remember where we have been! This blog is going to serve as my external memory extension …
Why is Calistoga Called Calistoga?
In case you are wondering how a city got an odd name like Calistoga: apparently it was a mistake made by Sam Brannan, an early American settler. He had probably had a little too much to drink. He meant to name it “Saratoga of California”, but somehow slurred the words together and named it “Calistoga of Sarafornia.” It is very easy to believe that in a city that is literally surrounded by wine farms!
I have to admit I find the name almost impossible to remember, and keep calling it Castiloga. Combined with my accent, that gets me some very odd looks in Calistoga! I have a South African accent, which has persisted despite 20 years in Canada. Just today I called to ask about a part I needed for the RV. I told the man exactly what part I needed, explaining the problem with my RV. When I was all done, there was a pause, and then he said sadly, “I’m sorry, but I just cannot understand anything you are saying.”
This happens sometimes on the phone, not so much in person. Luckily Maggie speaks both Canadian and American, so I usually hand the phone to her at that point.
Having a Wonderful Time Wine Tasting in Calistoga
It is noticeably warmer and dryer in Calistoga than it was in Klamath, so we are slowly but surely achieving our aim of escaping to a better climate! Plus, Calistoga is just a lovely place to visit. From our RV Park we are within six miles of dozens of wineries. And we are just a ten-minute walk from the city center, which is full of fun things to do, such as tasting wine, going to great restaurants, or visiting one of the many spas, which feature hot springs and mud baths. The city is blessed with natural hot springs.
We have not gone to any of the spas, or taken any mud and mineral baths, but we have enjoyed the other attractions.
Calistoga Inn and Brewery
We celebrated Maggie’s birthday at the Calistoga Inn and Brewery, which is an upscale restaurant with absolutely delicious food – such as the grilled Pacific swordfish with mussels, clams, and shrimp that I enjoyed. Maggie loved her beef short ribs. Both meals were very rich, but we managed somehow to find room to share a delicious crème brûlée and a teeny bottle of port. We highly recommend this restaurant.
Apart from the Calistoga Inn, we also had a very tasty lunch at an up-market Mexican restaurant in Calistoga, Pacifico Restaurante.
Always Check Out the Visitors’ Center!
On our first day in Calistoga we went into the Visitors’ Center, where we were told about the Winter in the Wineries passport. It is not good for international travel, but it is very good for getting you into wine tastings! It cost just $60, and entitled us to free wine tastings at 17 different establishments. As well as various other discounts, such as free corkage at many restaurants. By the way, free corkage is not to be sniffed at – at one restaurant, the corkage fee was $35! The wine passport is only offered in the winter, and we had the good fortune to arrive in Calistoga just after it started.
The Calistoga Winter in the Wineries Passport is a Great Deal!
We were a bit hesitant about investing $120 in the wine passports, until after our first two winery visits. We realized that just those two visits would have cost us a total of $95 dollars each, so we were already saving money – and we were just getting started! We found out that we are really good at sustained, hard-working wine tasting, and managed to do three a day for several days in a row!
And it’s not just about the wine tasting – in a competitive field, many of the vineyards have set themselves up to offer spectacular experiences around the wine tasting, so we had a whirlwind of fun times!
Maggie has written all about our winery experiences in a separate post, which I will publish soon, so watch this space! If you haven’t subscribed yet, subscribe now, so you don’t miss it.
Shuttle Service in Calistoga
Of course, we prefer to drive our gas-guzzling truck as little as possible between travel days. So, we were very happy that the city of Calistoga was so close, and also delighted to hear about an on-demand shuttle service for $1.00 each way, which operates daily until 11 p.m. This shuttle will pick you up and drop you off from wherever you are in the city. You can phone them, or download the app to summon them. The only catch is that there can be long waiting times, so we ended up only using it once. After that, we simply walked everywhere.
The RV Life Style
We really lucked out with this stay at Calistoga RV park. We did not realize until we arrived how charming the city was, and how perfectly situated it is – especially for wine lovers!
Although it might not seem like it sometimes, we are not on vacation. We are experiencing a different lifestyle – that of being full-time RVers and bloggers. Like all lifestyles, it has its ups and downs. A lot of the time, we are simply working on our blogs and working on our trip. Both Maggie and I spend a lot of time researching and writing. I spend endless hours on the videos and the blogs.
And as we have discovered, there is a lot of physical work involved in RV living: hauling around propane tanks, draining the storage tanks, dealing with minor repairs, striking camp (two hours of hard, focused work) and setting up camp (another two hours), loading up the truck, hefting bikes in and out of the Fifth Wheel, and so on. We are not complaining, as we both enjoy the lifestyle, and are feeling stronger for it.
Also, we both find the towing a little intimidating – after all, we are 52 feet long and 23,000 pounds, and every road we travel is a brand new one! However, we feel empowered by the fact that we are rising to the challenge of it, and sometimes even manage to enjoy the travel days a little bit. However, we have realized that in future we are going to have to plan better, so that we can spend a minimum of a week in each place we stop. It is just too exhausting to be traveling more often than that.
Also, our dog Ripley, who is a highly opinionated Maltese/Shih Tzu, takes extreme exception to travel days. It is as if she bonds with each place we stop, and then is absolutely incensed when she realizes we are moving again. Then, at our new camp site, she spends a lot of time looking out of the windows, as if she is thinking, “Where on earth are we now?”
A Day from Hell
I should also mention that – like everyone – we have occasional days from hell. In fact, we just had one today, and I will be writing about it soon. Look out for a post called something like, “An RV Living Day from Hell!” The video below shows me groveling in the gravelly dirt, trying to dig out our rear stabilizer after we got stuck crossing a patch of grass that had high spots of dirt.
Yep, it’s not all wine tasting and gondolas! And not only was this not the only thing that went wrong today, but it was also NOT the worst thing that happened. Yep, something much WORSE than that also happened today. Read about it on this blog soon. If you haven’t yet subscribed, subscribe now so you don’t miss it! It will probably make you feel happy about how comparatively wonderful your day has been!
But on the plus side, gosh, are we ever having adventures! Finding a city like Calistoga, and enjoying a whirlwind week of wine tasting and exploring, are the kind of things that really do make it all worthwhile. Our plan was to have the most adventurous journey of our lives, and that is most certainly happening. We both feel very blessed and grateful to be able to do this.
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