Free, I like free!

We’re still (slowly) heading north on US-101 but California is pretty darn large. We’ve moved out of the warm CA areas and we’re now getting into the colder areas which is progress. While Mike and I prefer the warmer air, Opie and Max in their black fur coats are much more pleased with the recent temperature drops.

Our next stop is a little town called Willits, located at the entrance of Mendocino County’s redwood forests. Since we’re staying on Rt. 101 and avoiding Rt. 1 (some RVers take Rt 1, we’re just not that brave), folks recommended using Willits has a home base to visit Ft. Bragg.

Welcome to Willits.

Welcome to Willits.

We used one of our days to visit Mendocino County Museum located in Willits. It’s a small eclectic museum containing various artifacts, stories, and information about people and events from Mendocino County.  They had displays on the Pomo (Native Americans) who pre-dated the Europeans in CA, Seabiscuit, and the Willits Creamery, apparently a mainstay of Willits before it shut down. The nice thing is that entrance to the museum is free every first Wednesday of the month which happened to be exactly when we arrived in town!

Old carriages at the Mendocino County Museum

Old carriages at the Mendocino County Museum

We dragged Opie out with us to visit Fort Bragg while Max stayed home and dreamt about chasing groundhogs and squirrels. Fort Bragg is only about 40 miles from our campground but due to the narrow and very winding road, it takes an hour to get there. Poor Opie gets a bit carsick so the constant tight curves and speed changes made him whiney and unsettled. He was very happy when we finally made it to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

Mendocino Botanical Gardens

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens rate highly in TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, and it’s dog friendly so we had to visit. To our delight, admission was free for Nature Day. More good luck for our wallets! They have an amazing collection of rhododendrons, some are 20–30 feet high which were in bloom while we were there. I wanted to see their dahlia collection but those do not bloom until the summer. They had an unusual flower which I later learned were fuchsias, known to attract hummingbirds. They had ferns, roses, succulents, and a huge vegetable garden. There is a great trail that lets you walk right up to the coast and watch the waves crashing onto the rocks below. I know Opie was scoping for a way down into the ocean but no luck so, of course, he found a small stream to splash in later. It’s a beautiful garden with breathtaking colors and plants everywhere.

Sorry Opie, there's no way down to the water.

Sorry Opie, there’s no way down to the water.

After the gardens, we headed to Glass Beach. In the early 1900s, Fort Bragg established water dump sites where they could discard their trash (appliances, metal, glass, etc). When the first beach filled, they moved to Site 2, then Site 3.  The dump sites were closed by 1967 and clean-up efforts began to remove the metal and appliances. The glass and pottery shards were slowly eroded by waves and are now almost like pebbles.

Glass Beach

Glass Beach

There are actually three Glass Beach sites in Fort Bragg, with one of them almost picked clean. We were lucky to visit the one of the beaches still full with sea glass. The beach is completely covered with at least an inch of sea glass, we couldn’t even see any sand. When the waves hit the shore, it makes an odd crackling noise from the glass and water rubbing together. Most tourists collect some of the glass when they visit so this beach may be glass-free in a few years too. While we admired the sea glass, Opie was much happier romping through the ocean waves chasing after his ball. I think we’ll have a desolate Opie on our hands once we leave the coastline.

Opie's always thrilled when we find a beach where he can play fetch.

Opie’s always thrilled when we find a beach where he can play fetch.

Our campground neighbors Ridgewood Ranch, the final resting place of Seabiscuit. The ranch is close enough that Opie and I took a nice stroll to visit the Ranch and check out the Seabiscuit statue. Ridgewood Ranch does have bi-monthly tours but our timing didn’t work out for that one (oh well, can’t win them all).

Seabiscuit statue at Ridgewood Ranch

Seabiscuit statue at Ridgewood Ranch

We had the neatest coincidence at our campground. Roy, the gentleman in the fifth wheel next to us, came over to chat about various sites in the area. As we were talking to him, I had the strongest feeling we had met him before and asked if he had camped in CA recently (San Diego, LA, San Francisco, etc) or spent the winter in AZ. He responded in the negative which completely bemused me. After speaking with him, Mike agreed that he seemed awfully familiar. Mike then went through the business cards we had collected (when we meet other RVers, we often exchange personal information; most full-timers will have business cards to make it easier). Mike realized we had met Roy before, almost a year ago at a campground in Raleigh, North Carolina! I’m hoping as we do this longer, we’ll continue to run into other RVers we’ve met in the past so we can continue to renew friendships.

Willits is a nice little area with all the amenities (hardware store, supermarket, and most important, a good donut shop). Since our next stop is right in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park with almost no amenities (and no cell signal), it was a good place for us to visit and stock up on our essentials before moving forward.


  1. Julie Bennett   •  

    I hope you are planning to drive the Avenue of the Giants! We lived it so much we did it two days in a row- first in the mini convertible then with the coach!

    • Kat   •     Author

      Julie, we really loved Ave of the Giants. You’re pretty brave to drive it with the coach, we just did it with our toad for a couple of days and did some various hikes. It is very beautiful.

  2. Wheelingit   •  

    Very nice that the botanical gardens allow dogs! Fort Bragg is one of the places we have yet to visit. Would you consider staying in Fort Bragg with the rig, or is the road just too windy?


    • Kat   •     Author

      Hm, good question. So we are not as brave as some, on the road from Willetts to Ft Bragg, we did see some motorhomes, 5ers, and trailers on the road, but I don’t think we’d do it. Some of the turns are definitely tight, and it’s quite an incline. We did smell one trailer burning their brakes when we passed them. However it is almost an hour from Willetts to Ft Bragg so if you want to do things there for more than a day or two, it might be worth staying in Ft Bragg instead of driving into it.

  3. Tomi Newcombe   •  

    Great idea on the business cards. I take it you write the date and where you met on the reverse side? Smart, very smart!

    Kathie, quick question…you have the same unit as we do, 36 LA. What do you use for a bed cover if you don’t mind me asking? I didn’t care for the bedspread that came with the unit very much. Kinda stiff, not my favorite pattern. We had a Travasak from our previous MH so I have been using that. But the room around the bed was, well, roomier in the previous unit. I have grown tired of making it and changing the sheets after laundering is tiresome. Do you use a dust ruffle at all?

    • Kat   •     Author

      The best business cards are the ones with a photo on one side and information on the other, then we definitely remember them! Mike scans the business cards we get and keeps them on the computer with added information like when we met and any memorable moments.

      Yeah, we hated the bedspread too. It was scratchy, didn’t wash well, and was just kind of ugly. We got rid of it and bought a queen comforter set. Changing the sheets is a pain, isn’t it? We have the same problem, you have to just crab-walk around to make it work. We don’t use a dust ruffle since we use the under-bed storage a lot and it would just get in the way. The comforter is long enough to cover the mattress and side. You can see a photo of the comforter here:

      We put away the larger (white) comforter and use only the blue lighter comforter unless it gets really cold. We don’t make the bed every day though, we just kind of make sure the bed is covered up since I also got tired of trying to squeeze in and make the bed every morning.

  4. DebbieM   •  

    We missed that beautiful glass beach! Pretty cool though, huh? The coast of CA is magical. So different from the bottom to the top! We just arrived back in Placerville (our previous permanent home) to visit family for a couple of months. Then we head towards Glacier NP. Any chance you’ll be that direction in July/Aug?

  5. Kat   •     Author

    The beach was really neat! I’ve never seen that before. I definitely agree that the coastline of CA is very different, depending on where we are. Have a great time in Placerville, must be wonderful to visit family after being away for a while. We are headed to Glacier also, our current tentative plan is to hit it around mid-July. If our timing works out, that would be great! As we get closer, Mike updates the schedule on the sidebar of our blog. Let us know if you’re in the area at the same time.

  6. Julie Dahmer   •  

    Hi, Kat. We just met you and Mike–and Opie!–today at Crater Lake and got your card. I am looking at your blog with very slow WiFi but read your post on Glass Beach. I had never heard of it but it is now on my must-see list for the next 4 unplanned days of our trip between here and San Francisco. I look forward to reading more good suggestions for our eventual RV trip West. We are just traveling by rental car this time., central OR to SF. Enjoy the rest of your trip-with-Labs! Julie and Doug from Silver Spring, MD (and for the past 5 years, Maine).

  7. Kat   •     Author

    Julie, HI! Yes, we were talking about what a coincidence meeting others from the DC area! Glass Beach is definitely worth seeing, especially on a sunny day when the glass sparkles in the water. You can park on Elm St, and there’s a path from the lot to the coast. When the path splits, go left (right is the empty Glass Beach). The beach will be less than 1/4 mile with some steep stairs. It wasn’t labeled when we were there so we just guessed. Also if you were interested in our campground reviews, you can look on the sidebar about halfway down. There’s a link there that will take you to our reviews.

    Have a fantastic road trip! Hopefully see you on the road in the future! It was great to meet you and Doug.

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