Steep Ravine, CA: Tired of comfy hotels with electricity, heat, and indoor plumbing?

Photo of Steep Ravine, Marin County, California

Do you long for the good old days when men were men, times were tough, and building codes were a pipe dream? Then let me tell you about Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County, California. More specifically, the Steep Ravine Campground.

Guerneville: Get away from everything (including cell coverage).

Not every vacation destination we choose is some exotic location in a far-flung corner of the globe. Sometimes, we’re just too lazy to make proper travel plans and, instead, just look for a decent place within a couple hours drive from the Bay Area that we haven’t been to yet (or, at least, recently). And Guerneville, California is one such place. It has everything you could want in a small town except the ability to use your mobile phone.

Napa Valley: Where classy people overpay to get plastered.

Photo of vineyards in Napa Valley, California

California is full of amazing, beautiful places, and few have the air of class and sophistication for which the Napa Valley is known. But is there any truth to that perception, or is it all just marketing and puffery? Find out if Napa Valley is really worth burning a week of vacation time as well as your life savings.

Santa Cruz, California: It’s as close as NorCal comes to having a real beach.

Santa Cruz, CA

If someone kidnapped you, drugged you and dropped you in Santa Cruz, California — naked and penniless — it’d be months before you’d look out of place (if ever). Not that Santa Cruz has a drug, homeless or naked person problem. It’s just that Santa Cruzians seem to hate shaving, haircuts and pants.

Yosemite National Park, California: Nature at its most naturiest.

When the great black and white, nature photographer Ansel Adams first gazed upon Yosemite, California, he must have stared dumbfounded at the breath-taking splendor and thought, “We’re gonna need a bigger camera.” (a line that would years later be co-opted by Peter Benchley for the “Jaws” screenplay).

Redding, California: It’s close to a lot of other, better places to visit.

Lake Shasta, CA

Having read that a famous architect had designed an interesting bridge in Reading, I suggested to my wife that we drive there for our anniversary. Now, my wife generally loves to travel, but the thought of spending five hours traversing the “picturesque” scenery along I-505 to visit some bridge struck her as the romantic equivalent of a vacuum cleaner. Luckily, her expectations of me were even more modest, so she took what she could get.

The Playboy Mansion, LA: I’ve finally found my dream house.

After easily twenty years of looking, I finally saw the house of my dreams. It’s a huge mansion in Beverly Hills, California. It’s actually a copy of one in London. The mansion was the brainchild of a rich tycoon from the ’20s who liked the design so much he built one just like it here in California where he lived until he stopped living. The second owner bought it in the ’60s and installed all the modern conveniences of life like central air. But the most outstanding feature he added was The Bunnies.


Calistoga, CA: How we spent our 6th anniversary. And I do mean “spent.”

Commemorating our mutual reticence to belly-flop back into the dating pool, my wife and I spent our 6th wedding anniversary at a quaint, NorCal B&B for a few days of well-deserved R&R. Instead, we got the motivation to get back to work and make enough money to pay off the whole damn adventure.

Located in the sun-bleached Collayomi Valley north of Calistoga, the Backyard Garden Oasis promised three newly constructed cottages with king-sized...

Mendocino, California: Artist colony or ineffective tourist trap?

Mendocino, California

About three hours north of San Francisco on U.S. Route 101 and West of the Sierra-Nevada mountain range, you come upon a quaint seaside California town reminiscent of “Ye Olde” New England fishing villages. It’s the unincorporated community of aging white hippies known as Mendocino.