Leaving home in the snow Anyone who has ever been robbed will understand the sick, sinking feeling that hit me when I realized that something wasn’t right as we opened the door to the RV storage shed in Redding. 

Our trip south this morning began right on time, even though we had a good six inches of snow dumped on us last night.  We were packed and ready and on the road by 8, making our way down our unplowed roads to the highway.  Traveling south toward Mt Shasta and Weed on  Highway 97 was a bit challenging, with long rows of trucks lined up putting on chains.  We saw a few California Highway Patrol enforcing the chain up, but with four wheel drive, we were waved on through. Chains required on HWY 97 to Weed For quite some time, I noticed that there wasn’t a single line of tracks through the snow coming toward us and we were the only ones on the road.  As we approached Weed, however, the traffic got a bit crazier, with some folks flying through and others crawling along.  We actually saw a few unchained trucks going very slowly, and wondered how they got past the CHP. After we stopped for the mandatory agricultural check at Dorris, I hit the button to roll the window back up and nada, nothing.  The window was not going up.  I had Mo put Jeremy back in his cage, we donned hats and gloves against the wild snowstorm coming in the driver’s window and continued south.  I wondered just what this trip was going to be like if we couldn’t close the window to the car, but the wondering only lasted an hour or so, because with some extra coaxing and a prayer on my part, the window finally went all the way back up.  Silly. 

McDonald's at South Weed Mo and I don’t do fast food a lot, but it’s a bit of a tradition to pull into South Weed for a McDonalds McMuffin breakfast.  This morning the trip took so long that we almost missed out, and once there, we were amazed at the deep, wet snow.  Inside the store we found dozens of Japanese families, with kids running and playing everywhere and long lines for the food.  What?  Weed?  It is never busy!?!  With coffee in hand, we asked a young woman next to us if she knew where everyone was going.  Seems they were all on some kind of tour bus from Vancouver, BC,which didn’t have chains,and they had been sitting around for over three hours waiting to get back on the road.

The drive over the pass was a bit harrowing, but not too bad, and it was with a sigh of relief that we pulled into the high locked security From Home to Lodi (7)gates at Redding RV Storage.  Mo unlocked the big doors and when we slid them up, I noticed that I smelled gasoline.  “That’s weird,” I thought.  Then I looked toward the back of the shed, and again thought, “Why is the door open back there?” “Wait, there isn’t a door back there!?”  But the light was streaming in, the gas cap was off and drooping, and as I looked more closely, I realized that I was looking through a gaping hole in the solid metal wall at the back of our shed.  We looked around in disbelief, trying to see what might have been taken, assuming that someone wanted the gasoline.  Then we realized that the back storage area was open, the side storage areas were open, and when Mo looked inside the cab, we saw all the maps and papers strewn all about.  With trepidation, we walked back to the main door, left ajar, and stepped inside to find the entire contents of the MoHo dumped and thrown all around the interior. 

there is another hole in the wall several units down from us.  No fence along this back wall It took awhile to figure out what was gone, what was destroyed, what was left.  The sick feeling and shaky knees didn’t go away for some time, for me at least.  I called the Redding police, who were not available “because we need to deal with life threatening situations and don’t have enough personnel at the moment to take a report”  Someone will call you later.  I then called the owner of the storage facility, and got an answering machine.  Within a few minutes, though, he called me back and they came right over to asses the damage.  He kept saying,”This has never happened before!”, and then of course had to mention right away that our contract stipulated that we were the ones responsible for insuring the contents of the units. 

He opened the back gate of the facility to check out the long wall where one set of units backed up to a long hill above the highway.  Sure enough, a second unit had a similar hole where the burglars had used some kind of sawzall to get through the metal.  In that case, however, there were boxes right up against the wall and they weren’t able to get in.

got a mess to clean up here After the owner left, we began cleaning up the mess and listing what was missing.  The more we looked around, the more amazed we were at what was taken and what wasn’t.  They unscrewed the face plate of the DVD/stereo, but didn’t take the unit.  They completely emptied our drawers and cupboards, but only stole my Leatherman tool.  They didn’t touch the two bottles of whiskey or any of the food, they left the binoculars lying on the sofa, but stole a ring Mo had left in the dash that belonged to her grandmother.  They stole the battery charge meter plugged into a socket by the door, the portable inverter, and all of Mo’s electrical volt meters along with our solar panel from the back storage area.  For some stupid reason, they stole our fold up picnic table, the kind that has the slats on top that roll into a nice bundle, but then they left the two hundred dollar telescoping ladder right in place.

took off the face plate but didn't take the dvd player? Much later this evening, the Redding police finally called for a report, and the officer wasn’t the least bit surprised at the erratic, completely unpredictable list of stuff taken and not taken.  He said it was obviously a meth burglary, and that Redding was the “meth capital” of California.  I wonder how so many different places can claim to be the “meth capital”.  They said that about Sonora when I moved there, and they say that about the rural county in Missouri where my son lives, and they say it about Klamath Falls sometimes as well. 

Jeremy has already settled inThe officer said that people on meth are usually looking for money, jewelry, drugs, anything small and light that they can sell.  What they take sometimes makes no sense at all because they are all drugged up and completely weird. That surely was the case here.  Once we finally got the place  cleaned up, it hit me hard that we were incredibly lucky.  Nothing had actually been vandalized, no real damage to anything.  They didn’t break things, tear doors off, put rocks through the windows, or scratch the paint.  Everything seems to work just fine.  They didn’t touch our house batteries, or take any of the engine parts, or bother the nice flat screen TV.  They took down our little pillow that says “Home is Where You Park It” that we had pinned up on the wall and left it on the couch. ???

From Home to Lodi (36) I am sooo grateful, and after we traveled south for a couple of hours, the heavy pall began to lift and we kept saying how incredibly lucky we had been.  We slipped through the huge California storm without any major problems, even with torrential rains south of Sacramento. For the first time, Mo got to see the Yolo Bypass north of Sacramento in full flood stage, an amazing feat of flood control doing just what it supposed to do.  By 7pm, the Technicolor lights of Flag City RV Resort showed up on the gray horizon signaling an end to this long, slightly crazy day. Everything again seems normal, and yet I still feel that moment of incredulous disbelief when I looked back at the gaping hole in the wall at our storage unit.  I sure am glad we are taking the MoHo all the way home this time.


The Best Laid Plans and all that

Fullscreen capture 3192011 82829 AM After posting yesterday about our departure plans, I continued to check the internet for road conditions and weather cams.  Our original plan included visiting some good friends in Tehachapi, traveling east along Highway 58.  After reading about 6 inches of snow accumulation and predicted winds on Sunday of 40 plus miles per hour with gusts to 85! yes that is 85 mph, we thought we should possibly reroute.  Next plan, instead of driving over 58 toward Laughlin, we could just stay south on 5, get through LA hooking up to the 210 and the 10 heading east and go straight to Borrego Springs, saving Laughlin for the latter part of the trip and skipping out on our visit to friends.  That’s a bit sad since we haven’t seen them since 2007.

So, once again to  and the web cams and the severe weather reports.  What??!! 85 mph gusts at Bakersfield, Frazier Park, and 6 inches of snow possible over the Grapevine on Sunday???  Big Sigh. 

Jeremy doesn’t care whether we are traveling or home, just as long as he can be warm and snooze.Jeremy doesn't care

So here I am this morning, in my jammies typing away on the computer instead of driving south to Redding as planned.  We wrote all our friends along the route saying, nope, not this time.  We are packed and mostly loaded, watching the weather.  At first we thought we might wait until Monday, but looking a bit more closely led us to deciding on a Sunday departure.  Yes, high winds and rain all the way to Sacramento tomorrow, but not 85 mph.  We will hole up tomorrow night near Lodi, amble south on 5 toward the Grapevine and hole up again at a truck stop and wait to see what the road is doing on Monday morning.  Sooner or later we are going to get to all that hot sun and warm temperatures that everyone is talking about, right?

One of the very best things about retirement and the RV life is the ability to re-route, re-plan, and stay flexible.  Today, instead of driving, I am going to cook up a bunch of stuff for our trip that I hadn’t the opportunity to do last week.  Today the house will be filled the the smell of pulled pork in the crock pot, some chocolate chip and some peanut butter cookies, a big pot of spaghetti sauce to freeze, and a luscious turkey pot pie with a biscuit topping made from some of our leftover freezer turkey.  I won’t have to cook for a week while we are on the road! 

It’s snowing and we are leaving tomorrow!!

March snow at home (9) Today winter returned to Rocky Point with a vengeance.  Just a few days ago, while   doing our bi-weekly wood haul to the back porch, I noticed stiff little green spikes poking up through the old leaf litter in my flower beds: rows and rows of miniature daffodils along a stone wall, and several large groups of naturalized bigger daffodils under the aspens down by Mo’s handmade water wheel. 

Yesterday Mo drove over the mountain to Medford to pick up a nice little greenhouse for us from Harbor Freight.  Super sale price for a 10×12 structure made with sturdy aluminum framing and some kind of semi-rigid plexiglass walls.  I am sooo tickled about this.  Last year we spent most of the summer trying to outsmart the deer and guess what, the deer won!  We also live in the mountains, where nights just don’t warm up enough to ripen things much.  Even the lavender that I planted at my old house back in Klamath Falls (where my daughter lives now) grew five times as big as what I can grow here.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………… Isn’t this just the picture of optimism?

March snow at home (3)March snow at home (8)This year we will put up the greenhouse in late spring and I will use it as the main garden, safe behind walls that will keep the deer out, and warmer at night so I might actually get some tomatoes and peppers, and yum! some fresh basil, and… and…and… Since we plan to be traveling in Alaska during June and July, I am curious to see just what kind of garden will greet me on my arrival back home August 1st.  I will optimistically plant goodies in raised beds filled with rich soil, make sure everything is ventilated well, and Mo will hook up an automatic watering system.  We will have someone caretaking the big house and mowing lawns, but I certainly wouldn’t expect them to handle the greenhouse garden. Even if it all goes to seed, or gets too hot, or if the rabbits and voles find their way inside, it will still be a great experiment, and I’ll know better what to do next time. 

March snow at home (12) Ah well, for now the snow is coming down in thick huge heavy flakes, piling up on the trees until the blustery winds dump big solid white cascades of cold wet stuff.  Better make sure you aren’t standing under any trees out there right now.  Mo brought up the bins for loading up clothes and food and all the other “stuff” we need for our 2 1/2 weeks on the road and I am making lists and checking off items as we load them up.  I think I do need to make a “real” list, something permanent somewhere, and then I can just check everything off as we load up, whether it is in the baby car or in the MoHo directly.  This time will be the last for awhile that we have to haul things back and forth, because after this trip we are bringing the MoHo home again.  Let’s pray that early April doesn’t send another snowstorm like this one.  If so, we might have to come up with another plan as we travel toward home on 395.

Tonight we will brush the snow off the hot tub for one more soothing soak before getting a good night’s rest in anticipation of an early morning departure. Tomorrow should be great fun, in spite of the predicted rain.  After picking up the MoHo in Redding, 160 miles south, we will continue south on I-5 to Sacramento, where we plan to stop in for a visit with Laurie and Odel at Cal Expo before we settle in for the night a bit farther on down the road toward the desert and sunshine!! 

Alaska planning and a BIG thank you!

Tentative route for our Alaskan Highway Trip in June.

Fullscreen capture 3122011 100248 AM  It’s been a while since I wrote, and I wanted to take a moment to say a big “Thank You” to everyone who posted helpful websites, blog addresses, and ideas about how we might begin planning our Alaska trip.  I am currently working three weeks in a row, so I can have a few extra work-free weeks for our next trip down south, commencing Saturday March 19th.  In between plugging away with numbers on the NASIS soils database, I have taken some evening time for playing with the Streets and Trips program and trying to get comfortable with the software and the planning process.

Mo traveled the highway in 1974, and I love looking at the old slides.

CrookedRiver CG_AlbertaI am pretty intuitive with computers and software, but still had to fiddle around a bit before I could get much done.  I’m getting better and better as I practice, and actually exported the GPS file for our planned Southern Desert route to my Nuvi Garmin yesterday.  Looks good!  I am excited to give the whole mobile navigation thing a try, especially with the option to navigate without cell phone reception or a computer connection.  I don’t have a wireless card, and in the Canadian part of the Alaska trip especially, it would be irrelevant.  I love Garmin Girl, but the better ability to control and review routes and maps while in motion with a full size computer screen seems like it will be a good thing.  Mo is just shaking her head, asking how I plan to watch the phone, the GPS, and the computer all at once while telling her which way to turn!  LOL

Ranchero CG_Yukon  I had the Alaska trip programmed for “fastest” and our driving speed as slower than average, and couldn’t figure out the route it kept trying to take me through British Columbia.  We definitely want to return via Jasper and Banff, since the weather might be warmer in Late July than mid June in that part of Alberta.  However, until now, I had never heard of the beautiful Highway 37 Stewart-Cassiar route through British Columbia.  After a bit of internet research, we decided to take that way north from Seattle, heading west from Prince George instead of due north to Dawson Creek and Mile 0.  We will see all that on the way back, and our Highway 37 route will intercept the Highway in the vicinity of Laird Springs somewhere.  There is a stretch with 249 miles between gas stations on 37, but just as the AlCan route, most of the road is paved.

The other big thing to think about is how to protect the baby car from rocks.  I saw many options for some kind of gravel protection devices, so that will give Mo something to think about and construct before we head north in mid-June. Even though the highway is almost completely paved, there are still long stretches of gravel, and 90 miles of gravel could do a lot of damage.  I am already looking at the shiny MoHo and thinking about all those dings and chips that will probably be a great reminder of our trip on the mighty Road.

In the mean time, I have actually managed to keep reading most of the blogs that I follow, enjoying everyone’s travels and trying to comment as much as I can.  Although sometimes I do take the option of reading directly from the Google reader and there are no comment options in there, but it sure goes a lot more quickly. 

 Tentative plan for the March Desert Southwest Trip

Fullscreen capture 3122011 100516 AMI am watching the Desert Southwest with particular interest as the temperatures begin to heat up.  Originally we planned to travel in late February, but Mo’s brother had a bit of a serious bout of illness and we wanted to be home if need be.  Brother is doing great, postponed trip is on the calendar for a next Saturday departure, and the desert is heating up fast.  Whew!  We originally thought we could do some great boondocking in the Borrego Springs area, but with our dog and cat, I would imaging that we will need to have electricity for air conditioning to keep the pets cool while we hike some of those great canyons I have been seeing on all the blogs.   We also plan to check out the casinos in Laughlin, and try out a couple of the Army Family Camps near Tucson and at Fort Huachuca where Mo was stationed for a few months while in the Army Reserves.  Of course, there are always family and friends who winter in the southwest that we want to meet along the way as well.

Our trip home will be up a road that is a favorite of ours, Highway 395, and we will boondock in the Alabama Hills where Al and Kelly have been recently.  After reading Al’s blog, I especially want to take the time this year to go to the visitor center at Manzanar and to the Movie Museum in Lone Pine.  We finally decided that we probably didn’t need to take the kayaks to the desert this time.  Sigh.  I thought maybe we could try out the Salton Sea, or Lake Havasu, or drop into Lake Mead for a bit.  But we also didn’t want them to blow off in the high winds I keep reading about, especially it we could only manage a few hours of kayaking, and that only a slim possibility anyway.  We will pop on the bikes, however, I am sure we can use them somewhere!

 Winter view from the hot tub

hot_tub_views (4)On  a final note for this wet, drippy, dirty-snow-piled-up Saturday, I am fiddling some more with the Alaska plans.  Linda and Bob, who traveled the highway and kept a wonderful blog about their travels, suggested we “take it slow” and we plan to do that.  Laurie, who shares fabulous information about camp grounds, and FOOD! among all sorts of other RV’r knowledge, suggested we opt for no reservations and stay spontaneous, so we are doing that as well, but still trying to plan with an idea for how far we can drive in a day and where we might want to stay.  I am looking forward a lot to a possible visit with Laurie and Odel on our way through Sacramento next week to say “Hi, and Goodbye” to Odel’s bad knee one last time before his big new knee adventure!

Streets and Trips does a great job of estimating times and gas costs, although who knows what that will be like in another three months when we actually commence on our journey.

I have read several blogs lately where folks are apologizing for not blogging daily and trying to determine just how important it is to do that.  I do love the daily bloggers, people like Al and Rick and several others who are so committed to great photos and stories and commentary.  I so appreciate gaining readers, but I also want to blog when something is happening, and not try to come up with something just because I blog, or to struggle to make each day “blog worthy”. So, I’ll be quiet at times, when I am working and not much is happening, and then when we are on the road, I’ll write as often as I need to in order to remember what I have been doing!  I’m really not sure how in the world I will begin to blog about our desert trip since half the Canadian population has already photographed and written extensively about most of the places we will be going.  Can I just say “ditto, ditto, and ditto” and link to everyone’s blog?

In the midst of all this lighthearted frivolity, I have to say I have watched the happenings in Japan with fear and awe and prayers for everyone there.  As an earth scientist, well versed in the Cascadia Subduction Zone here in our own Pacific Northwest, I breathe silent prayers for all of us as well.

Alaska. Planning begins. Oh My.

Milepost Just a short little post today.  I am hoping for some responses from some of the folks on blogland who have traveled the Alaska Highway in an RV.  I know I read a great blog last summer about someone’s trip, but somehow lost it and have no idea who it was.  If you are reading, forgive me!  We ordered the very BIG “Milepost” publication and it was delivered yesterday to our snowy driveway by a very determined UPS delivery truck.  Those big brown trucks have NO traction it seems, but he was laughing as he slid up the driveway.  I am getting to know him quite well, since just a few days ago he also delivered my shiny new DVD for “Streets and Trips”, which is a bit less intimidating than the “Milepost”. 

I got the software installed and immediately plugged in the first leg of our trip to get an idea of the possible route.  What a great program!  Once I entered the estimated price for gasoline and our estimated mpg, I had an idea of how many miles we had ahead of us and how much money I need to save up for the summer!  whew.  Who knows how things will be by then regarding gas prices, but there is still no better time than now.  Once those prices go up they don’t often go back down for long.

talking to Edna on her birthday Last night I sat down with the “Milepost” and after an hour or so looked at Mo in consternation and said, “Maybe we should just start driving and see what happens.  I have no idea how to plan this trip!”  She laughed with me, having done the road in the past, she thought that wasn’t a bad idea.  The trick is to have plenty of money, plenty of time, and to stay loose.  Lots of mosquito repellent helps, as well as good rain gear and a good attitude.  I did find one blog on the lonely planet, and the driver talked about the beauty, but also about the many miles and miles of flat nothing. 

So, if anyone out there reading this has traveled the Highway, could you please comment or send an email to me with your blog address?  I want all the information I can get from real people doing the real thing, rather than all the advertisements and tours and such that keeps showing up on searches for “Alaska Highway in an RV blog”.  I even went to RVForum and when I search “Alaska”, my own silly post about deciding to “go” to Alaska is the one that comes up first.  Geez.  HELP?!

It is Mo’s birthday today, and so far it’s been a good one.  She’s getting the birthday calls as I write.