Napa, California

Napa Valley Expo RV Park

January 28, 2021

We had originally planned on staying in Napa for just one evening as we were passing through the area. However, as we detailed in the previous post, things didn’t exactly go as planned, so we ended up arriving in Napa a few days earlier than expected.

The drive from Myers Flat to Napa was another (largely) straight shot down highway 101, a road we had become quite familiar with ever since our stay in Newport, Oregon. However, we were slightly hesitant to take this route since it was to take us higher into the mountains before dropping down into wine country, and, considering that this was the area worst impacted by the supposed “blizzard” a few days before, we worried that the roads would be hazardous. Well, after briefly considering a detour which would have added an hour and a half to our trip, we decided to risk it for the biscuit and take the rig over the mountains. Boy, are we glad we chose this shorter route – the roads were fine! That being said, while driving through the snow-impacted areas, we began to understand why the power outage was as widespread as it was. There were power lines down everywhere! Apparently, this region rarely receives any snow and because of this, the trees are not structurally capable of handling that kind of weight load all at once.

Downed tree limbs, snow drifts, and PG&E line crews eventually gave way to greener pastures and sprawling vineyards as we made our way further south. We were just so happy to get out of the rain and see the sun again! Even little Charlotte was getting in on the action. Here she is enjoying some of that California sunshine!

After finally arriving in the valley, we made our way to the Napa Valley Expo RV Park, a pleasant little publicly owned campground located just outside the small downtown area. In fact, this was the only RV park that we could find in the area, so if it wasn’t up to our standards than we would’ve been SOL. Thankfully, we found the park to be perfectly adequate. Although the park wasn’t the prettiest and we didn’t love the fact that it was adjacent to a concert venue/homeless shelter (oh, California), the campground made up for it on the functional side of things with long, paved pull-through sites with plenty of space between neighbors.

Speaking of neighbors, everyone that we interacted with in the park were quite friendly. However, there was one evening when a group of other campers, likely fresh off a winery tour, continued to party loudly well past sundown. Normally, this would have annoyed the hell out of us, but fortunately, this happened to coincide with our first night drinking in a month. Let’s just say that we were a bit looser than normal that night. As I’ve mentioned previously, Sam and I had decided to give “Dry January” a go as a way to ring in the new year on a healthy note. Now as you may have noticed, the date on this post is still in January, so we didn’t quite make it a full month. But, after the rough week, we decided that we had earned a drink (or two).

In the weeks leading up to our stay in Napa we began to grow increasingly worried that we wouldn’t be able to visit the wineries while we were there due to California’s heavy-handed “stay at home” order. Fortunately, the dictate was lifted mere days before we were scheduled to arrive in the valley. Praise Emperor Newsom, may he rule forever! Upon learning the good news, we promptly scheduled a wine tasting at the Robert Mondavi Winery (only place with a parking lot big enough to park the rig, which ultimately didn’t matter since we came a few days earlier than expected).

We had a lovely afternoon just sipping wine, devouring our charcuterie board, and taking in the fresh air. Although we don’t have anything to compare it to regarding other wineries in the area, we quite enjoyed time at Robert Mondavi. Get off you high horse, wine snobs!

We still wanted to take a little joy ride around the valley after the tasting, so we opted to cut ourselves off before getting too saucy – those pours were tiny, I promise! This scenic cruise around Napa Valley turned out to be fun and memorable yet underwhelming at the same time. Sure, the vine-covered hills were lovely, and the chateaus were impressive, however, the area was not without its warts. For one, the signs of previous wildfires were impossible to miss – from the charred remains of once-beautiful estates to entire acres of woodlands which were now reduced to blackened posts poking out of the ground. The area is also defined by a noticeable lack of life (other than the vines, of course), with very few birds, no deer, or any other critters to speak of. After more than a century of monocrop agriculture in the valley, it would appear that environmental decay has begun to set in.

In addition to environmental decay, societal decay is also evident among the people who call this area “home” (at least for a few weeks of the year, but probably not long enough to be subject to the area’s high taxes). Unless you were born into the aristocracy, or believe that you will one day join it, you probably don’t have the temperament (or credentials) to fit in around these parts. The air of exclusivity was impossible to miss. The area felt more like a playground for wealthy tourists than a “community” in any definition of the word. Let’s just say that we felt wildly out of place cruising around in our pick-up and blue jeans in comparison to the sport coat and sportscar crowd which dominated the scene.

Well, since we’re already bashing beloved California institutions, let’s talk about In-N-Out Burger for a second. But before I get into the negatives, let me first give them credit for where it is due. The service during our visit to In-N-Out was impeccable. Although the drive thru line was long, it moved quite quickly thanks to a well-thought-out ordering system carried out by efficient, friendly, and helpful employees. I don’t know about you, but in my book, if a place has great service, that goes a LONG way in making up for any culinary demerits.

Now let’s talk food. Their menu is actually quite limited (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), so we each ordered the standard burger, fries, and a shake. Let’s start with the fries. Sam was so excited because this is actually one of the few places where the fries are gluten free thanks to their dedicated frier (see, the limited menu has its perks). Unfortunately, when it came to actually eating the fries, I thought they were pretty bad, to the point that I almost didn’t eat them all. If you know me well at all, you’ll know just how damning that last sentence is. It was almost as if the fries were undercooked – floppy and greasy with very little crunch to them. Sam actually enjoyed the fries, but I discount her opinion on this one since she has very little to compare them to. Sadly, the burger wasn’t a whole lot better. I would probably take it over a Big Mac, but it is a tighter contest than you would think given In-N-Out’s stellar reputation. Sam got her burger without the bun and had to give up on it two thirds of the way though because it was simply too messy with all the grease and sauce which accumulated near the bottom. Overall, if I had to give it a rating, I would say In-N-Out gets three out of five stars – probably would have been two stars just based on the food, but the high-quality service brings it up a notch.

I better wrap this post up before I alienate too many of our friends out west! In summary, we didn’t completely dislike our stay in Napa, but at the same time, it didn’t exactly live up to our expectations given its prestigious reputation in popular culture. We probably won’t be going back anytime soon but compared to our disastrous stay in Myers Flat the week before, Napa was an absolute godsend for us at the time.

Tune in next time when we tear apart another highly esteemed region in California – this time the Bay Area and nearby Santa Cruz/Monterey!