There are two Pioneer, Californias and one of them is significantly more North than the other. We almost ended up at the wrong one when going to visit Tracy, Dave and their son Ian! Tracy and I were emailing about where to meet up and she suggested the town over, Jackson, where she has a belly-dance studio. So it was the Jackson part that clued me in to the fact that we had a totally different Pioneer plotted out in our route! Oops.
We met up for dinner in Jackson at a cute local restaurant. The waitress saw us coming in from Amelia and exclaimed how much she loved our van and how much her son would love it because it looks just like the Scooby-doo van. He came in a little later and told us so himself 🙂 It’s not the first time that Amelia has been called the Scooby-doo van. We didn’t realize the similarity until some kids yelled it out while we were passing them by in Pensacola.
We all got to know each other over our delicious meals. Tracy’s day job is working for an organization that plans programs for the youth in the area. But she also has a side passion of belly-dancing and teaches classes throughout the week as well. She is a fellow wanderer, so we swapped travelling stories. Dave is a down-to-earth, working with his hands kind of guy and after leaving his day-job now works on a farm some days and explores the world of making things like light-weight hiking backpacks and leather shoes in his free time. Ian is a little sweetheart, 4-years-old going on 12, with striking red hair. He loved spending time in Amelia.
After dinner we headed over into another small town, on the way towards Pioneer, and gobbled up some delicious ice cream. Since we’d met them for dinner, Tracy had already waved or exchanged a few words with half the people we encountered – I love this about small towns. You can’t leave your house without someone giving you a smile or asking how you’re doing. Because these towns all used to be mining towns, they have funny names on things like the Mother Load Plaza and Gold Rush Realty.
Tracy and Dave’s house is up in the mountains of Pioneer. It is cozy and surrounded by nature – I loved it. They have three cats, so again, I was in heaven. Most of the people we have visited have dogs and I’ve been missing my cat-time. In the morning Tracy and Dave made us a feast of a breakfast of egg frittata with fruit salad – so very yummy! We felt quite spoiled.
Tracy had a girls belly-dancing class that morning, which she invited me to join and of course I said yes 🙂 What a hoot! The girls were all bubbly and excited and clearly loved Tracy and the class. They got to shimmy their hips, which were adorned with belly-dancing belts (I’m sure there’s a name for this) and tinkled and shimmered as they shook. We covered the 8 or so moves they’d already learned and then learned a few new ones. It was a lot of fun and I actually picked up the basics of the moves (I lacked the finesse and grace of practice 🙂 ).
It was time for us to move on after that. We had been planning on checking out Napa Valley and the wineries after our visit with Tracy, Dave and Ian, but they told us about the wineries in their area and we were sold on them instead. The Shenandoah Valley is full of quaint, small-town wineries set in the mountains and farmland of Amador County.
It is a beautiful place to have a winery. We suddenly developed the strong desire to own one ourselves! We went to three wineries that day, taking our time in between to take in the countryside.
Because it was during the week, they were not packed with people but just had a few or even no people in at the same time as us. It allowed us time to engage our sommeliers and learn more about the wines and the region. We tried some wines we’d never tried before, like Viognier and Barbera and some wines that we know and love (namely, Zinfandels). Despite knowing that we could only bring a bottle each of alcohol across the border, duty-free, we bought a couple bottles from each winery – we just couldn’t resist. Shh, don’t tell the border guards.
We ended up driving through the Napa Valley after that and got some more beautiful countryside views, but we didn’t stop at any of the wineries since it was evening and they’d be closed. We tried to find a campground in the area to stay the night but they were packed or locked up for the night, so instead we headed North in the direction of the coast and stayed in a State park in the woods. We were going back to the coast to continue our winding picturesque drive and also to finally check out the giant redwoods! More on that soon. We have made it back to Canada and are staying with my uncle on Salt Spring Island (British Columbia). A lot of the island doesn’t have cell phone or high-speed internet, including where my uncle lives, so at the moment we are camped out at my uncle’s inn, using the high-speed and having some lunch 🙂