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Tom Blake

By Tom Blake

When the pandemic began in 2020, my partner, Greta, and I canceled a train trip to Seattle, which was the first COVID-19 “hot spot” in the United States.

Since then, we have not traveled except once last fall, to San Luis Obispo for two days.

A timeshare week Greta had earned was expiring on March 1. There was a cute resort available in mid-February in the City of Napa in wine country that we booked for a week’s stay.

Napa is about a 10-hour drive from our home in Dana Point. That’s too many hours of driving for us in one day, so we limited our daily driving to five hours. Our plan wasto visit as many old friends as possible.

We left on Friday, Feb. 11, and returned on Sunday, Feb. 20.

Our first night, we stayed at Harris Ranch, off the I-5 Freeway near Coalinga. It opened in 1937. It’s a large inn with a gas station and three restaurants. The inn is surrounded by acres of farmland, almond orchards, and a massive cattle-feeding lot nearby, which emits an odor that is particularly noticeable in the early morning.

One of the food places within the inn’s grounds has express barbecue carry-out. We enjoyed a tasty dinner from there in our comfortable room. The parking is free, and there is 24-hour security patrolling the grounds.

On Day 2, Feb. 12, we drove north, and then west on Highway 152, stopping at Casa de Fruta, a mini amusement park for kids with a well-stocked grocery store featuring locally grown produce and nuts. We bought a bag of pistachios.

Greta Cohn (left) and Tom Blake (right) make a stop for a bite at the Davenport Roadhouse, nine miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1. The restaurant is owned by Christian and Vanessa Chamberlain (center), the daughter of former Dana Point Chamber of Commerce Board President Russell Kerr. Photo: Tom Blake

Then, taking Highway 159, we did a quick visit to San Juan Bautista, a quaint town, home to one of the historic California missions.

From there, it was on to the small coastal City of Aptos, to visit with my Navy roommate from 1962, Charlie Canfield, and his wife, Betty. Charlie’s family has owned the Boardwalk Amusement Park in Santa Cruz since 1907.

Their earlier home was destroyed by a fire two years ago that damaged most properties on Swanton Road, which is north of Santa Cruz.

From Aptos, we headed to the Davenport Roadhouse, nine miles north of Santa Cruz off Highway 1, to spend the night. Why there?

Russell Kerr, my Stand-Up Paddleboarding buddy and former Dana Point Chamber of Commerce board president, recommended it. His daughter, Vanessa Chamberlain, and her husband, Christian, own the place. They bought it two years ago. Fun night. Wonderful seafood lasagna.

On the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, our route took us across the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge to the East Bay. Destination: Sunshine Saloon, Pleasanton, to drop off two cases of my Prime Rib & Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? books.

Bob Rossi, owner, opened the Saloon 41 years ago, after working with me at the Victoria Station Restaurant chain. Greta swears their brunch item Salmon Benedict is the best she’s ever tasted.

From Pleasanton, we drove to our Napa accommodations: the RiverPointe Napa Valley Resort, checking in two hours before the Super Bowl kickoff.

The Harris Ranch Inn, located off the I-5 Freeway near Coalinga, served as the first night’s stop for Tom Blake and his partner, Greta, during their road trip to Northern California this month. Photo: Tom Blake

On Feb. 15, Greta and I made a side trip to Mill Valley, in Marin County, to celebrate my sister’s birthday with her at the Rustic Bakery Magnolia Avenue, in Larkspur, a locals’ favorite.

After lunch, Greta and I drove north to Santa Rosa, for a quick stop at Oakmont, an age-55-plus community, where my mom had lived for 33 years. We drove past both homes she had occupied. Seeing those two homes gave me a tug on the heart strings.

For lunch on Feb. 16, we drove north from Napa about eight miles to Bistro Don Geovanni, where we were joined by two other of my former Victoria Station co-workers, who were celebrating their 42nd wedding anniversary. We dined outside, surrounded by vineyards.

Our last day in Napa was busy: lunch with Greta’s brother and sister-in-law at Bistro Napa Valley and dinner with one of the three original founders of Victoria Station, and his partner, at Q, a barbecue restaurant in Napa.

On the return trip, we stayed at Harris Ranch again. We enjoy that place. And in case you are wondering, yes, we did enjoy some nice Napa Valley wine.  

Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at To comment:

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