Posts Tagged ‘California’

Houseboating Shasta Lake, CA: What to Expect

Friday August 15, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 2 Comments

A three hour drive from the San Francisco bay area to Lake Shasta, we arrived at our destination, Shasta Marina Resort, in the early afternoon. The summer sun was already beating down on us; we were happy to be greeted at Shasta Marina with misters spraying fine curtains of water overhead. Our hosts and owners of Shasta Marina Resort, Anna & John Harkrader, had fled the bay area in 1999, after successful careers and raising a family, to begin a new life on Lake Shasta. Today, their job was to teach a family of two baby boomers with two young adults, along with a yellow Labrador retriever, how to survive and thrive houseboating on Shasta Lake for three days and three nights.

"Shasta Lake" sunset

Shasta Lake Sunset

Our floating paradise

As this was our first attempt houseboating Shasta Lake, we decided on the luxurious 16 Sleeper Thoroughbred houseboat – our motto for this family vacation ‘go big or go home’. Additionally, Shasta Marina Resort offers the 16 or 14 Sleeper Mirage. Manufactured in Kentucky, the Thoroughbred is a 15 x 56 foot, full-wide cabin houseboat with a hull design, offering state rooms below deck. Two private sleeping areas with 2 queen beds, a mirror and sink, are below deck. On the main deck there were 3 state rooms, two with double beds and one with bunk beds. Naturally, “the kids” claimed the double bed rooms and we bunked in the queen stateroom below. The dining table and sofa both convert to double beds if you need the extra space.

The kitchen came equipped with stainless steel appliances, including a 28 cubic foot refrigerator with freezer and ice maker, as well as a kitchen island with bar stools, dishwasher and trash compactor. Our kitchen was stocked with Pottery Barn dishes, silverware, pots, pans, utensils and the ever important coffee maker and wine opener. The dinner plates were huge – large enough to serve Big Foot.

Failed houseboat mooring attempt

After motoring down the Sacramento River arm, we had a failed mooring attempt between Slaughterhouse Island and Thunderbolt Island on day one. “Don’t you remember the fellow saying to ‘stay away from the red clay?’” our 18-year-old questioned the patriarch and newbie houseboater who had selected what looked to be a prime spot surrounded by ankle sucking, muddy, red clay soils. The two men sunk 3 foot, wrought iron stakes into the ground, along with rope attached, to moor our houseboat for the night, only to watch them slide down the hillside like a slow moving lava flow. Sweating and cursing, my husband admitted defeat and we abandoned ship in search of solid ground.

"Shasta Marina Resort" houseboat

Our houseboat from Shasta Marina Resort

Houseboat home in Dolly Cove

With our ski boat bobbing merrily behind us like a baby duckling following mama, we found success at Dolly Cove. After high fives all around, we celebrated our mooring victory with a round of wake boarding with Shasta Dam looming in the distance. Shasta Lake was as smooth as glass that evening and offered a gorgeous mountain sunset as we grilled fresh wild Alaskan Sockeye salmon and munched on Brentwood, California sugar sweet corn on the cob, followed by a relaxing soak in the rooftop hot tub. Eureka, we had discovered California gold on Lake Shasta!

wake boarding "Shasta Lake"

Wake boarding on Shasta Lake

Lake Shasta electronic free zone

The kids liked the large flat screen tv, but quickly learned that this trip would be an electronic free zone. As we left Shasta Marina behind us, we cut loose our ties to our smartphones and television, instead turning to books, card games and remembering how to kick back and go with the flow of the lake. The entertainment center offered DVD and stereo with iPod hookup, enabling us to blast tunes while we splashed into the lake via the water slide on the top deck. Thankfully, music could be piped directly into each deck, so both the baby boomers and young adults could enjoy their own music selections.

"Shasta Lake" vacation

Shasta Lake vacation

Shasta Lake recreation

I quickly learned the boating concept of Shasta Lake. Whoever has the most water toys wins! We had our bases covered at Shasta Marina Resort as we rented a ski boat loaded with water skis, wake board and tube for towing behind the boat, in addition to our Thoroughbred houseboat. Our kids loved wake boarding and water skiing, followed with a soak in the hot tub – good for restoring tired muscles. Everyone loved splashing into Lake Shasta from the upper deck slide! Shasta Marina Resort also rents jet skis – customers must rent accompanying ski boats or jet skis for the same amount of time as the houseboat rental.

Rates vary depending on off season, mid season and high season – check the website for current pricing. High season pricing for 3 nights on the 16 Sleeper Thoroughbred was $4,620, 3 night ski boat rental was $900 for a V6 19 foot boat.

"Shasta Marina Resort" houseboat

Shasta Lake Houseboat Vacation

Houseboating insider tips

Don’t forget your sunscreen! The houseboat roofs are mostly covered, but floating in the 80+ degree lake water was how we spent much of our time.

Plan on packing all necessary food. There is a large cooler on the deck of the houseboat. The marina store sells items such as ice and basic foods, but not produce.

Bring your own bedding & towels – bed sets are available for an additional fee. Check the Shasta Marina Resort website for a complete houseboat inventory list.

Make time for star-gazing – Lake Shasta by moon light will not disappoint!

Pets are allowed for an additional fee.

Expect to pay about $400-$500 to gas the houseboat and $100-$200 for the ski boat gas; depending on usage – ours was a three day trip.

Bring several good books and plenty of bottled water. While the houseboat has clearly marked spigots – lake water and drinking water – I prefer byob (bring your own beverages.)

Keep all windows and hatch to upper deck closed when running air conditioning. In our experience, the air conditioner couldn’t keep up with the demands when cruising the lake. We found it best to moor the houseboat and explore Lake Shasta by ski boat for better fuel economy and maintaining the air conditioning inside the houseboat.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and follow @ShastaMR on Twitter.

"Shasta Marina Resort"Check-In Time: 3:00pm

Check-Out Time: 9:00am

If You Go:

Shasta Marina Resort – Shasta Lake Houseboat Rentals
(530) 238-2284 or (800) 959-3359
18390 O’Brien Inlet Rd.

Lakehead, California 96051

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Shasta Marina Resort. All opinions are my own.

Monterey, California Restaurants

Friday August 1, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 4 Comments

"Joyce Vineyards" carmel, california

Enjoying Joyce Vineyards wine at Carmel Beach, California

Monterey County restaurants may come and go, but wining and dining in this California coastal community never goes out of style. I know this from first-hand experience, as my parents retired to the fairytale Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County and made a hobby out of dining out. There are endless amounts of things to see and do in Monterey, with new wineries and restaurants opening as fast as sardines swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

I like nothing better than to pour a glass of Pinot Noir and kick back on the deck, looking out to the ocean. My husband prefers beer and with names like “Belly Up Blonde Ale” and “Stout Resistance” who could resist trying a growler (that’s a hefty sized beer) from Peter B’s Brewpub inside Monterey’s Portola Hotel & Spa?

 
 
 
 

"Peter B's Brewpub" sausages

House made sausages at Peter B’s Brewpub, Monterey


 
Monterey Brewpub

Start dinner or happy hour with a jumbo Bavarian pretzel, Monterey Bay Calamari and a beer flight sampler, then move on to house made sausages, served alongside warm German style potato salad, slaw and stout mustard from Peter B’s Brewpub in Monterey.
 

"C restaurant" seafood

Fresh seafood The C Restaurant & Bar


 
Fresh seafood in Monterey

Seafood lovers will find happiness at the C restaurant & bar, housed inside the Intercontinental Clement Monterey on Cannery Row. This luxury hotel offers Monterey Bay views from hotel rooms, the restaurant and bar. Try the lobster bolognaise, grilled arctic char or a grilled vegetable sandwich utilizing local produce. I would be happy sipping a glass of wine by the outdoor firepit, watching the sea otters glide by.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Steps from the Intercontinental Clement is the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Children and adults will find entertaining and educational exhibits on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

While it may seem strange to aquarium guests, fresh fish (and other items like pizza and salad) are served inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium at Cindy’s Waterfront restaurant. This is where I learned about the importance of seafood sustainability, through the Seafood Watch program, a continually evolving guide to sustainable fish. Every respectable restaurant and fish monger should adhere to the Seafood Watch guidelines; our world and certainly our oceans would be better for it.
 

"Bay of Pines" restaurant

Bread pudding at Monterey’s Bay of Pines


Monterey nightlife

The Bay of Pines serves American organic cuisine – think salad greens from Salinas valley, organic chicken pan seared with diced tomatoes, Kalamata olives and spring artichoke served with a new potato puree or sauteed shrimp splashed with a cucumber organic vodka cream sauce. Bay of Pines is also the go-to place for live music in Monterey.
 

"Passionfish" sea scallops

Passionfish in Pacific Grove, California for seafood

Pacific Grove dining

Passionfish is one of my favorite restaurants in Monterey County. A local favorite based in Pacific Grove, California, this is the place to dine for fresh, sustainable seafood, served with a passion.
 

"Beach House" Shrimp, "Pacific Grove"

Beach House Firecracker Shrimp, Pacific Grove


 
I had high hopes for Beach House restaurant in Pacific Grove, as the Ocean View Blvd. location, looking out to Lovers Point Park and the water is fabulous. I was tempted to order the salmon, but passed on the fish, marketed as “creative brand certified organic salmon,” as it was not listed on the Seafood Watch program as wild. Instead, I opted for Scampi Monterey served with fresh pasta in a light cream sauce. The crispy firecracker shrimp is a tasty appetizer for the light appetite or sharing with the table. I need to re-visit Beach House next time I’m in the area.
 
"Big Sur Roadhouse" California

Big Sur Roadhouse, serving California cuisine with a New Orleans twist


Big Sur dining

I can never get enough of Big Sur, so when I had the chance to dine at Big Sur Roadhouse, I was excited. Not only is the Big Sur location charming, the patio, with its unique outdoor fire pit table, is colorful and inviting. The personable New Orleans Chef Matt Glazer combines California cuisine with a New Orleans twist. Try the red beans and rice, Big Sur seafood gumbo, a muffaletta sandwich (pictured above) and save room for a Cajun-inspired dessert.

Overnight in Big Sur

If you plan to vacation in Monterey County for several days, be sure to make reservations with Glen Oaks, the owners of Big Sur Roadhouse, Adobe Motor Lodge and the adorable Oak Tree Cottages – no televisions, no pets, no smoking, no problem.
 

crabcake "Quail Lodge" Carmel Valley

Edgar’s crab cake Quail Lodge, Carmel Valley


Carmel Valley wine & dine

Finally, what’s a visit to Monterey Bay without a trip into Carmel Valley? As I mentioned, my parents retired to Carmel back in 1980. When they sold their Carmel Valley condo and bought a house with an ocean view, I lamented leaving the sunshine of Carmel Valley – first world problems, I know! I’m a wannabe Carmel resident living on a freelance travel writer’s salary – these two do not go hand in hand.

Insider Tip

Quail Lodge and Golf Club – where my husband and I held our wedding reception many moons ago – is one of the best value hotels on the Monterey Peninsula. Great rooms and a location that can’t be beat, guaranteed romance. They also serve really good crab cakes at Edgar’s Restaurant.

What are your favorite Monterey County, California restaurants? Article and all photos, except Passionfish scallops, by Food & Wine Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau for restaurant review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Steinbeck Center Educates in Salinas, California

Friday July 25, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 3 Comments

"John Steinbeck" "Charley" California

John Steinbeck with poodle Charley in Salinas, California

Hollywood actor Henry Fonda may have brought The Grapes of Wrath to life on the silver screen, but it was California author John Steinbeck who penned the American novel in 1939 about a poor Oklahoma family forced from their land and their struggles to keep their family together as they look for work in California. Any California school child has come across the works of John Steinbeck in their required reading list. A visit to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, brings history to life with engaging, interactive exhibits.
 


 
 

"John Steinbeck Center"

National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California

National Steinbeck Center

Located two hours south of San Francisco, the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California is where John Steinbeck grew up riding horses with his younger sister. The Steinbeck museum has a life-sized horse on display in the center representing The Red Pony exhibit. Teenage girls were taking selfies astride The Red Pony during my visit.
 

steinbeck's world
 
Travel through Steinbeck’s world

The National Steinbeck Center features the author’s work such as East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, all of his classics, as well as a focus on his Nobel prize winning speech.
 

"Travels with Charley" "Steinbeck Center"

Travels with Charley in search of America

 
Insider Tip:
Did you know that the National Steinbeck Center is home to the actual pickup truck/camper John Steinbeck named Rosinante and drove in his book Travels with Charley? For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter and the Steinbeck Center on Twitter @steinbeckcenter.
 

If You Go:

National Steinbeck Center (831) 796-3833

One Main Street

Salinas, California 93901
 

Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of National Steinbeck Center in conjunction with Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. All opinions are my own.