Our next main stops were in Oregon, but it was too much to drive there from Napa Valley in one go, so we had decided on Anderson to spend the night.

As the traffic northbound from Napa was one huge traffic jam, we had to return the same way as we came into Napa Valley and head back via the I-80, taking the I-505 at Vacaville before merging onto the I-5.

The 180-mile / 290-kilometer ride through California’s Central Valley, a very sparsely populated agricultural area, didn’t take very long. Tourists always say that The Netherlands is so “flat”, but this vast area had an almost alienating emptiness. The only changes were the crops: tomatoes, olives, grains and pistachios.

This alienation was enhanced by the fact that after El Rio Villa you enter The County of Yolo. They numbered county roads rather them give them “proper” names: the North-South roads increase west to east from 41 to 117 and the East-West roads increase north to south from 1 to 38A, and then from 151 to 161. Consequently, the exit signs just mention “Road 31”  without giving a clue where you’d actually be going. As soon as you hit the Yolo and Colusa County line near Hershey, you go back to normal with the Yolo County Line Road (no joke!).

Due to the blistering heat – well over 104℉ / 40℃ en route – it wasn’t really sensible to stay out of the car for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, not much was done except a short stroll along the main street of Red Bluff and to the bridge over the Sacramento River.

Lunch was enjoyed at the local outlet of the originally Redding-based From the Hearth Bakery & Café (638 Washington St). They had delicious panini: the Vegetarian (fresh grilled veggies, pesto, and gouda), the Caprese (tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar) as was the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich (sliced tri-tip with provolone, onions and bell peppers on a French roll).

We combined them with a couple of thirst-quenching beers from Eureka’s Lost Coast Brewery. We tried their Great White, a Belgian-style unfiltered white beer with a hint of citrus and coriander, as well as the crisp Tangerine Wheat beer that benefits from the unusual but very refreshing tangerine citrus kick. Too bad that we didn’t come across Lost Coast when we stayed in Eureka

After arrival at the Gaia Hotel & Spa in Anderson, we unpacked and the whole afternoon was spent hanging at the swimming pool and sitting on the patio of our room sipping our very nice Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, trying to avoid that it warmed up too soon 😉

Dinner was at Woodside Grill, the hotel’s very nice restaurant. We started off with some laughter as the kids were tricked into believing that the warm bread actually came with a scoop of ice cream (which of course, was whipped butter) 😃.

Chantal and I ordered the Mushroom Encrusted Brie (mushroom duxelles crusted brie drizzled with a balsamic reduction served over a toasted crostini with chipotle basil pesto) as a starter.

As the main course, Chantal opted for the Spinach Salad (Baby spinach, feta cheese, dried cranberries, grilled balsamic red onions, and a poppy-seed dressing). The kids had their staple choice of Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Cavatappi pasta in a three-cheese sauce topped with fresh diced tomatoes, green onions, and fried onion straws with a steak). Apparently, Napa wasn’t out of my system yet, as I chose their absolutely amazing Cabernet Burger (a ½ lb. Braveheart certified Black Angus hamburger, infused with a special Cabernet Sauvignon reduction, applewood smoked bacon, Point Reyes bleu cheese, and grilled balsamic onions on a sesame seed bun served with garlic fries. One of the most intensely flavored burgers I ever had!!

We paired with it a Cabernet, of course… During our road trip, we tried several wines from Michael David Winery hailing from Lodi in Central California.  We tried their Incognito Red, the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Red blend from their Freakshow range as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel from their Earthquake range. All enjoyable, full-bodied, and black fruit focussed wines that are great value for money (and quite fun to look at too).

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