Van Damme State Park

0657_VDshoreSunday, August 28
We find ourselves happily ensconced here in Van Damme State Park in Northern California. It wasn’t easy. As has seemingly become the norm for me, I ran into a problem with the Lazy Daze. This time, it was a burning smell coming from under the rig. I first noticed it during our last outing to eastern California last spring. It was very faint then, something like overheating brakes or too hot oil. I couldn’t narrow it down to any specific area, but in any scenario it is not a good thing to smell. It was still there each time I took it out for an exercise run, but I  just couldn’t figure where it was coming from.

When I took it out of storage and drove it home to prepare for the trip, it was now very noticeable – just 2 days before we’d planned on leaving. I struggled with what to do. Take off and hope for the best, or get it looked at pronto. Each day that passed, I got more anxious about what could happen if I ignored it. On Friday, I decided I had to address it even if it meant delaying our departure. So I called my new mechanic at Peninsula Truck Repair in Redwood City. Of course he was booked solid, but I must be living right because he took pity on my situation and worked me in right then. He said he’d allot 2 hours to diagnose and repair if possible. He thought it might be sticking brake calipers or possibly a bad hub.This of course is the wheel that we almost lost the tires off of.

An hour later, the rig had it’s drivers side rear duelies off. What he found was a slightly leaking wheel seal of some sort. It was leaking fluid onto the wheel and friction was causing it to heat and smell. It would eventually have developed into a bad situation when too much fluid leaked out. Not really a fire danger (my big fear), but it could have caused some major damage if not addressed. As it was, Gabe spent 4 hours on the job and charged me $760, and I felt lucky.

So we got out of San Francisco as planned, but still not without incident. Just a couple of miles from home, I glanced out my rearview mirror to see my battery tray hanging out the door. The door was locked, but the tray perhaps was not locked down properly, so it bounced out of it’s stops and banged against the door from the inside. After a few bangs, I guess it actually bent the little metal tab that locks the door down enough so that it disengaged. I pulled over immediately and secured it all again. I didn’t realize the locking tab had been bent though, and after getting over the GGB, I saw the door again flapping in the breeze. The tray was staying in place, but the door kept flapping. This time I saw the bent tab and straightened it out. Still too loose though because I had to stop a third time. This time I duct tapped the dam thing down until I could preform a more complete fix later.

For me it was not a relaxing drive. And each time I stopped, I still smelled the burning aroma of something. Eventually we stopped for gas in Santa Rosa, and I definately noticed the smell was much less. A huge sigh of relief. I guess whatever fluid remained on the wheel finally completely dissipated – all was well.
0653_bog1So we arrived at Van Damme and quickly got set up. The campground loops are all in a deep, narrow canyon which spills out right onto the coast. We have a fairly open site – enough to give us 6 or so hours of full sun a day. No cell reception in the campground, but on the coast I get a couple of bars. We took a loop trail walk around the local bog, but weren’t willing to bushwhack through the now crimson-turning poison oak all around, so had to turn back mid-way. It was nice and peaceful though, just what we needed. A little later, we walked out across Highway 1 to the little bay to watch the last of the abalone divers come in for the night. Turned out to be a pretty nice day. We are as cozy as a couple of banana slugs in a bog.
0659_VDslugOr perhaps skunk cabbage leaves.0656_bog2 Monday, August 29
0662_FernHike
Our first full day here we were raring to get out hiking. We picked the Fern Trail at Russian Gulch SP just a few miles north of us. Van Damme has one named Fern, there’s the Russian Gulch trail, and still another at Prairie Creek State Park. We gotten them confused over the years, and didn’t realize we’d done this one before. There was a nice waterfall at the end, and perfect hiking weather with cool overcast turning to filtered sun later. An easy 4.5 mile outing.2240_VanDamme1 2243_VanDamme2 2253_VanDamme3I do enjoy trying to make sense out of these jumbles of mossy greens. When the heavy canopy becomes too much to deal with, I look down to see what can be done.2258_VanDamme4 2267_VanDamme5 2282_VanDamme6 2291_VanDamme7 2298_VanDamme8Later we went out again to the headlands at Russian Gulch and found a nice spot for sunset. One doesn’t see a lot of sun along the coast this time of year, so we made a point of staying till it was down.2316_VanDamme9 2326_VanDamme11 2327_VanDamme12Tuesday, August 302338_MendoBotanical1Morning broke with full sun and stayed that way all day.  I haven’t seen 2 straight days of sun since May. Just the luck of the draw I guess. Today we went to the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. This is a wonderful spot to spend hours exploring the vastly different areas. The gardens range from formal to very rustic and we never know what will look good till we start exploring.2339_MendoBotanical2I usually prefer the even light of overcast skies for photographing here. Today is full sun and made the images I’d expected to make problematical. Instead, I found a covered begonia nursery that was nearing peak blooming. There were some really wonderful blooms to work with and we had the place to ourselves.2342_MendoBotanical3 2343_MendoBotanical4 2348_MendoBotanical5 2355_MendoBotanical6 2361_MendoBotanical7Later we moved down to the dahlia garden where the blooms were at prime. Full sun worked just fine for these flowers and the crazy shapes and blazing colors were a challenge to tame. Gotta keep it real looking.2368_MendoBotanical8 2382_MendoBotanical9 2391_MendoBotanical10 2363_MendoBotanical8Back in camp, we lazed about for the afternoon, then finished the day with a wonderful meal at Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino. We’ve eaten here on several visits and figure to blow the “food out” budget for the month in one night. It will be worth it.

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