Current Location: Desert Hot Springs, CA at 55 degrees F at 5 in the morning
We left the day after New Years. I think we were both ready to leave earlier, but we did have a plan, and I wanted to watch the Rose Parade and Mo wanted to see the Rose Bowl Game so we decided to wait. The weather at home was icy, with just a skiff of snow left over from Christmas. There was nothing to plow or shovel, and the only real chores to be done were keeping the fire going.
Neither of us are likely to get bored, there is always something to do, but I did notice a bit of restive boredom building, as we made our plans to head south. Call it hitch-itch or whatever…it has been a month since we had the MoHo on the road and we were both ready to go.
Christmas with family and friends at home
As we watched the parade, we again talked of taking an RV trip, one of those group things, where you get grandstand seats, a nice place to park, and visits to the float barns before the parade. Might be the only way I’ll ever see the Rose Parade again, since neither of us really wants to mess with that whole traffic parking finding a place to stand thing. When I was a kid, we would camp overnight on Orange Grove Boulevard sometimes to get good viewing spots. Maybe next year.
This year we watched from the cozy comfort of our home living room, where I spent most of the day taking down more of the Christmas decorations and packing travel food. Now that the MoHo is stored in Grants Pass, we have to fit everything we take on our trips into the baby car for the trip over the mountain. We laughed this time, wondering where Abby and Jeremy would have fit in the heavily laden car.
A night with Deborah at the cottage and when morning dawned foggy and icy as usual for Grants Pass this time of year we were off, heading south on the 5 for what has become an annual migration to Desert Hot Springs. Sometimes we simply pass through on a trek more distant, sometimes like this time, we will stay in the southern deserts, but no matter how we do it, a stay at Catalina Spa and RV Resort always seems to be part of the plan.
We have no fancy memberships, other than Passport America. With our love of state parks, national parks, national forest and BLM camping and boondocking, it just isn’t worth the extra money. However the PPA card gets us some nice half price benefits for our days on the road. Unlike last year, when Catalina was changing its management policies and we were only allowed two discounted nights, this year the policy has returned to allowing a week at half price, for us $32.50 a night is what we expect to pay at full price and we don’t pay that often! Still, the thought of those hot spring pools always draws me back.
Siskiyou Summit, highest point on I-5 between Mexico and Canada.
If we were going to stay a month, I would imagine we would try out Sam’s Spa nearby, a place Nina and Paul enjoy. Of course, The Sands is big and lovely with a golf course and comes highly recommended by Rick and Paulette who spend extended time there every winter. For us, Catalina is perfect, with the lower camping area a bit older, sites not perfectly level made lumpy with sand, and older trees around, eucalyptus, tamarisk, and some kind of desert pine. It isn’t especially fancy, but it also isn’t crowded, with the trees and oleander hedges making the sites in the lower area feel much more private than those in the newer upper part of the park. Without the need for 50 amp hookups, we have the option to stay here.
Mt Shasta above the inversion caused murky air of the Scott Valley
We have traveled south many times, but often from our home in Rocky Point, going over highway 97 toward Weed, or from Brookings a few times where we stored the MoHo until we got the Grants Pass cottage. We haven’t traveled south on the 5 from Grants Pass directly very often, and it is always a surprise to remember just how long a pull it is to cross the pass over the Siskiyou’s south of Ashland at the Oregon/California border. On this crossing, it was icy at 31 degrees F, but Mo did just fine, and I never felt any slipping around at all.
As we dropped down into the valley near Yreka, the air quality began to deteriorate, due to the strong cold air inversions plaguing most of the Oregon and California valleys. The skies were dingy all the way south throughout the great state of California.
For people who like to travel around as much as we do, and who enjoy new experiences, it is surprising to me how comfortable we are with doing the same route and staying in the same places on this southward journey. We took a bit of time to stop in Red Bluff to visit my ex mom in law, a dear woman celebrating her 91st birthday this month.
The entire route is less than 900 miles, but we give ourselves time, spending two nights along the way. My trucker kids would do that trip in one day! The Flag City RV Park along the freeway in Lodi is our preferred first night stop. Half price here with the PPA card is $27 per night, and with cement level pull through sites, full hookups, free wifi and cable TV we like the stop. Easy and fast and we never bother with making a reservation. The nearby Flying J station has the lowest gas price around according to our GasBuddy app, so it is easy to fill up for the next day. This time we also filled up propane, and while it was a buck more per gallon than it would have been in Grants Pass, it was a quick and easy fill right in the driveway of the park.
Morning dawned sweetly with temps in the 50’s, but the air was still murky with the inversion. Interstate 5 south has been worked on repeatedly, and while last year I remember the road being fairly smooth, this year it seemed to have deteriorated more. Of course, Stockton is always bad, with construction going on constantly for all the years I have traveled through that area. With the MoHo jumping and bumping, I looked up the worst cities to live in the US and yes, Stockton is high on the list. Sad.
The traffic on I-5 all the way to the Highway 58 turnoff toward Bakersfield was steady and thick. I guess a lot of people were traveling back to Los Angeles after the holidays. Truck traffic wasn’t as heavy as usual, but the line of cars ahead of us and behind us was solid, and if Mo got behind a truck it often took a bit of effort to get back into the fast moving traffic to pass. I’m glad it was her day to drive! I took photos of the passing landscape, so beautiful in its own way, but missed having Jeremy on the dash. So many photos of him sleeping away in the sunshine as we traveled south on this highway.
We gassed up at the Bakersfield Costco at 2.25 per gallon, amazing for California, and continued east toward Orange Grove RV Park. I learned last year when we ended up in overflow, that reservations were a smart idea. Today proved to be so, and as we checked in with our reservation, rig after rig pulled into the big long driveways they have for that purpose. Taking advantage of the free RV wash area, we got most of the road grime off both vehicles before settling into our full hookup site.
As many southward bound RV’rs know, this campground in an old orange grove comes with free picking privileges. I know you can buy bags of oranges along the road for 5 bucks or so, but they never seem quite as sweet. Probably brought up green from Mexico or something. Nothing quite as sweet as ripe oranges directly from the tree. Hopefully my orange stash will last long enough. I always feel sad at the moment I slice and squeeze the last orange from Orange Grove RV.
Our favorite route into the Springs is not the one recommended by Google maps, but we ignore their suggestions and travel west into Barstow and take 247 south through the Lucerne Valley, Johnson Valley, and into Yucca Valley, where we then travel down 62 into the Coachella Valley. I am always amazed at the rugged landscape, the range after range of faulted and folded mountains formed in marine sediments that have smashed into the continent from far lands. I do have a love hate relationship with my birth state of California and I am always reminded of that when we come south.
The smell of the southern deserts, the sharp line of the mountains unimpeded by vegetation against the sunset, the twinkling lights of desert cities, all remind me of childhood years long gone. I am glad they are gone, but also glad that I have the chance to come back and enjoy the best parts of what I remember about living in Southern California.
Driving south on Corkhill Road toward the resort is almost like coming home. The familiarity feels nice. Back again to that dichotomy between something new and something familiar, I guess there are good parts to each. Within minutes we found a nice spot on 11th street, backed up by nothing but the dog park area, and with no one beside us on the south for two spaces, it feels fairly private.
I am just a small street and a few steps east of my favorite pool in the world, at least the warmest. My favorite might still be the infinity pool at the Dusit Resort in Chiang Rai Thailand. But it is a lot easier and cheaper to get to this one!
Within minutes of arriving, I checked Facebook and found a note from Betty, another RV blogger, all concerned that no one by the name of Sue Malone had checked in. Nope, it was Mo who checked in, and not with her nickname! I asked for an hour or so for us to get out the chairs, and sure enough Betty bopped right into our site right on cue. Bopped is a good description for Betty. She is a sweet, delightful, happy woman who chatters along so comfortably that it is easy to enjoy her company. We visited a bit, took some photos, heard some great stories, and then Betty bopped back to her place to prepare for their early morning departure for Arizona. Nice to meetcha, Betty!
We have a week here at the resort, before our travels will take us south toward Yuma. In the mean time, we hope to catch some of the hiking trails that we haven’t done in the past. Many trails around this area are not dog friendly. We miss Abby so much, but are not ready to get another dog, so this is the year to hike all the dog unfriendly trails that we can find. The weather is with us, the skies are clear and the temperatures are perfect, without the famous Desert Hot Springs winds anywhere in the predictions. It will be a good week.