Divine French food, amazing wildlife, and spending time with a great friend! An excellent two weeks in Monterey County.
We wanted to be a little closer to Monterey on this visit and still had plans in Santa Cruz, so we opted for a spot in between the two. It’s one of those Holiday KOAs where it’s more like a resort with huge play areas, outdoor movies, kiddie train rides, and more. We had a decent spot and it was an okay campground, but the Holiday KOAs are definitely more for families with younger kids and you pay for it. Good grief that was expensive! Plus we weren’t entirely thrilled with the earth-diggers and jack-hammering going on near us. Seriously? Suffice it to say, we won’t be staying there again unless we suddenly adopt a bunch of kids (not happening) and come into a lot of money. We’ve been much happier with the basic KOAs. That said, it was a good location for getting our tires replaced in Salinas and to be able to hit both Santa Cruz and Monterey easily.
An Excellent Friend and Fine Food
Our friend, Don, flew down for a few days shortly after we set up in Watsonville. We’d been looking forward to seeing him since he shares our love of music and food. We only got to spend a couple of evenings with him but had a lot of fun!
Our first night, we went to Discretion Brewing in Soquel for dinner and beers. Brian and I had tried to go there earlier, but there wasn’t a single seat available and no hope of getting one anytime soon; so we waited. Folks, if you like beer and cool eclectic food, make sure you stop by Discretion Brewing! There were lots of “oh man” and “mmm” sounds coming from our table. 😉 We each had a beer flight with a good mix. They have some really great beers and a wide variety for all tastes. My favorite, believe it or not, was the Bramble Ramble – a blackberry kettle-sour. Don and I snarfed the thyme, chili oil, and sea salt popcorn after tasting all our beers. For dinner, the guys had their special for the night – a duck pho that they said was incredible – and I had a pork loin with an awesome warm cabbage slaw and pomegranates.
Afterward, we went to The Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz for some jazz. I still laugh about this a month later! We showed up and found along line of 20-somethings. Don and I walked toward the back of the line and checked our phones to make sure it was the right night while Brian checked in at will-call for our tickets. Ah…two lines. One for our jazz band and one for Watsky (who I guess is some cool rapper/poet dude.) Our ‘line’ consisted of the three of us. Uh oh. We waited while they checked IDs and let all the Watsky-ites in. Once they let us into our space, we looked around: A stage, a bar with no one at it, and a couch in a dark corner. No tables or chairs and not one other person. Uh oh. Were we really going to be the only people watching this band – and having to stand the whole time? (Understand I was there with two men who don’t dance.) We shortly realized there’s an upstairs and headed that way. People! And bartenders! Even tables with chairs! Hooray! There was reggae playing on one side of the space. Music! Eventually, they had a live group start playing and we figured it was like an open mike reggae night. They weren’t awesome, but they seemed to warm up after a bit. 😉 During all this, the opening band for ours started their set. Umm…wow. Not really what you’d think of as going well with jazz/funk. There were about a dozen people there by then. Phew! We think most of them were friends or family members of the bands as they seemed to all know each other. We stayed upstairs, drank or drinks, and tried to talk over the background music from the reggae upstairs and whatever was playing downstairs. Finally, our guy showed up; so we went downstairs to stand (I sort of danced in place) and listen. They were very good – an old-style jazz/funk singer, Ural Thomas, and his band “The Pain”. You can listen to some of their music and read more about their story here. Ural Thomas apparently played with some of the greats including James Brown and Otis Redding before quitting the scene. Now 80 years old, Mr Thomas’s local (Portland) friends and fellow jazz musicians are helping him make records and tour. Pretty cool. I’m glad we supported the cause.
A couple of nights later, we went south to explore Carmel-by-The-Sea and Monterey. We ended by walking around Cannery Row a bit before dining at an amazing French restaurant called Bistro Moulin. C’est magnifique!! (Don, this was such a great choice! Thank you!) I can still taste the beautiful Parmesan sauce and delicate spinach gnocchi that was my entrée. Don and Brian had the braised pork cheeks (in a cider and honey demi-glace with caramelized onion whipped potatoes). Maybe they can comment to give you their own opinions, but I did hear a lot of remarks along the lines of ‘best ever’ and ‘this is amazing’. Of course, we did start with appetizers. Brian had the French onion soup and we all shared some pâté. We each decided on our own dessert. I had the chocolate mousse, Brian had the lemon tartlet, and Don had the tiramisu. All of it, from appetizers and wine to dessert and coffee, was fabulous! If we lived there, Bistro Moulin would be a regular stop. Thank goodness we don’t live there!
New Shoes for Raven’s Haven!
While in Watsonville, we also made an appointment for the RV to get new tires. For those of you considering a Class A motorhome, keep in mind that it cost us $5000 after the FMCA discount and you’ll also have two engines to maintain/repair (three if you have a generator.)
Anyway, we were nervous because it seems like repairs and maintenance on the RV take way longer than estimated, but we’d been told 90 minutes and that it’d be okay to leave the cats inside while they worked on it. We were crossing our fingers. We were happily surprised! They got us right in as soon as we arrived and were done in just under an hour. I got to stay in the RV with the cats while Brian took some pics of the tire changing. They were awesome, laughing and having fun while they removed and replaced our tires. And done early? Oh yeah. East Bay Tire Co in Salinas is the place to go if you’re in the area, or anywhere near it, and need new tires.
Oh! The FMCA discount worked just as smoothly! Brian called in and gave them his debit card info. The rest was all handled by the tire company and FMCA, and it happened fast. It took about a minute for our payment to be settled and have us on our way. That discount is amazing and well-worth the FMCA’s membership fees!
If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve already seen a lot of the photos I took at Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing. Get ready for more! 😉Elkhorn Slough was abundant with wildlife. It made for some interesting photos set against the backdrop of the local power plant, the little marina, and the smoky sky from the Camp Fire in Paradise. I cropped most of the man-made stuff out of the photos but left some in where it worked. We didn’t, but you can go on tour boats or kayaks to explore the slough right there on the water. We chose to walk along the dunes and jetty and loved every minute of it. The Elkhorn Slough area also contains several protected areas (merged into one large area) to help conserve the land and wildlife. (Update: We posted a short video of the otters on our YouTube channel. Check it out!)
Well, that wraps up our Monterey County visit! We’re heading farther south for the winter!
Be groovy, friends, and remember to live the journey…