01-30-2018 “Home” to Catalina Spa

Most years when we travel south, we slip into one of our favorite little spots, Catalina Spa and RV Resort.  Last year was a bit of a shock for us, since one of our favorite things about this particular park  was the hot spring fed swimming pool that was open all night.  I have watched moon rises and sun rises from this pool, watched stars at night and one time tracked the space station as it crossed the sky.  I love swimming in the dark without the sun in my eyes.

Last year the “adult” pool in the lower (older) part of the park was closed for renovation, and I had to either walk or drive in the middle of the cold night to get the the upper pool.  We knew that the lower pool renovations were complete and were excited and a bit nervous about the changes.

I discovered that I really am resistant to change.  It infuriates me.  Cracked me up when I realized how I was reacting to the shifts, just like an old person who can’t deal with change.  As time passed, I reminded myself, “change or die”, and I began to adjust to the shifts in our favorite place to camp in the Coachella Valley.

The new pool is quite modern looking.  The lovely old and somewhat amateur murals on the spa wall have been replaced with very spendy and lovely glass tiles.  The pool is spotlessly clean, with some kind of machine that runs during the night.  A very nice technician explained to me that California state law requires that all pools be treated with chlorine, and that not using it could result in the complete shutdown of the pool.  Sigh.  What I loved about that pool, in addition to the 24 hour open thing was the fact that it had no chlorine in it, and neither did the spa.  The hot springs at the resort completely replace the water in the pool every 3 days or so and in the spa more than twice a day.  Technician man said that even when he keeps the chlorine level up to state requirements, it is on the very low level of those requirements.  I only noticed it very faintly early in the morning, at 7am, when the pool now opens.  We also were told that the resort is now being billed as a “family resort destination”.  No such thing as an adult pool any more.  At least they still honor Passport America and our daily rate was a cool $22.50.  Not bad overall. Change or die.

The camping area has changed as well.  Half of the lower park (including the area we always chose to camp) has been closed off for repairs, and for eventual conversion to park models only. We were directed to our spot by a volunteer in a golf cart, unlike in the past where we were allowed to make our own choice.  It wasn’t a bad spot, actually quite level, and the sand had been freshly raked.  Instead of the tall tamarisk trees at the rear of our rig on 11th street as we always chose, we had campers directly behind us, and our patio was completely visible to them.  Not exactly private, but tolerable, since we were lucky enough to have nice, quiet campers in those spots.

The park seemed fairly full, but with half of it shut down, that would explain why.  We were given pages and pages of rules and activities, how to create a “safe bag” for exiting in an emergency and all sorts of other stuff.  TV thank goodness is still not digital, so we were able to get it via cable.  (We left our cable at home somehow and had to buy another one)  So much for knowing where everything is located after our move.

We were so lucky for our entire time in Desert Hot Springs with absolutely perfect weather.  It was especially lucky to be in a place with clear skies for the early morning spectacular show on January 31, the Supermoon and the Lunar Eclipse.  I didn’t even set an alarm, but woke up several times during the night to gaze at the moon, and was awake just after the eclipse started.  Didn’t pack a tripod on this trip, and thought that I really didn’t need to try that hard for a perfect photo.  So many good friends are really good at what they do, and they all have tripods.  I did want to at least try to capture the moment for my own memories, and the photos I got made me happy enough.  I was surprised at how many people around us in the park just slept through the entire display.  Of course, there were a few folks wandering about in bathrobes and slippers, smiling and laughing with me.

Once the sun was fully up the last morning of January, it was time to take Mattie walking in the big desert area just north.  The dog park is small and was muddy from the morning sprinklers, and the desert was much more inviting.  Within a few days, Mattie had made friends with several other dogs whose owners liked walking in the open, and several of us let the kids play off leash when everyone got along well.  As usual, Mattie likes the big dogs best, but there were a few little ones who were playful enough for her.  She can be a bit of a brat when she is on-leash, and gets all excited when she sees new dogs, wanting to play.  Her version of play can look kind of aggressive if you don’t know her, and I spent a lot of time saying, “No!!” 

I was glad for doggie play time for her since she will be going to visit a doggie care center while we are in Mexico next month, and the place requires her to be well behaved with other dogs.  Of course.  At least she had some practice during out three weeks out on this trip.

Time passed slowly for us at Catalina.  This year the weather was so great, with NO wind, an unheard of thing when visiting Desert Hot Springs at this time of year.  We had time to read in our chairs on the shady side of the rig, to swim mornings and evenings, to actually relax.  That is something we both really needed to do since we have been so much on the go for the last two years.  Real relaxation has been missing, and especially relaxation in warm sunshine!  Wonderful.

We had a few plans upcoming for the later part of our week, including some hikes, and some traditional treats like the Living Desert and Palm Springs Street Fair, but the quiet down time we enjoyed those first few days was extra special.

01-29-2018 The Oranges are Waiting!

I know I write about this almost every single year, but I just get so excited thinking about the oranges that are waiting for me at Orange Grove RV Park. I don’t even eat them, I juice them.  Crazy, I know, but with those big bags of juicy sweet oranges, I can have the luxury of making fresh orange juice every single day for at least a couple of weeks.  I can barely stand to drink OJ from a store any more.

We have traveled our winter escape south so many times, and several different ways.  In the years when we stored the MoHo in Brookings, before we bought the Grants Pass property, we traveled south along 101, through San Francisco and intercepting I-5 east of Paso Robles.

In the years when the MoHo was stored in Redding, we traveled south via I-5 all the way to Bakersfield before heading east on Highway 58 over the Tehachapi’s to the desert.  I-5 is in serious need of repairs, and each year it seems to get worse, in spite of the few spots that get repaired.

Mattie is a happy camper when we are rolling down the road.This year we decided to travel Highway 99, the old historic route through the Central Valley, Lodi, to Modesto, to Merced, to Fresno, to Bakersfield.  This freeway can be narrow and crowded, but traffic doesn’t seem to travel quite as fast as it does on I-5.  70’s instead of 80’s.  Also, except for the areas through the cities, the pavement was blessedly smooth.  No bumpety bump d bump for miles and miles and miles, and no 6 inch divots in the pavement.  We had a valve stem go out on one of those potholes, and it just doesn’t seem right that there should be big ugly potholes on an interstate freeway.

The route south to the desert isn’t that long.  Theoretically we could travel it in two days with ease, but it is more fun to take our time, stop after 300 miles or so, and arrive rested and ready to play

The trip was uneventful, leaving Lodi around 9 and pulling into Orange Grove RV Park around 3.  Perfect driving day.  We had fueled in Dunnigan the day prior to arriving at Lodi, and didn’t need gas again until we reached the Costco in Bakersfield. This time, with our travels down 99, the Costco was right off the exit.  Easy off, easy on, and cheapest fuel around.  Traffic was heavy, however, and the lines were long, as usual.  Ah yes, we are back in California again.  We have to pump our own gas.  Always a jokester around who asks us if we know how when they see our Oregon license plates.

Arriving at Orange Grove in the afternoon, we were once again glad that we took the effort to make a reservation.  This is such a popular park for Canadians on their way south and most of the license plates were from various Canadian provinces, including Ontario and Quebec. 

Sometimes they have signs saying “please only one bag per rig”, and that bag is a small plastic garbage bag.  This time, however, with most of the low hanging fruit gone from the trees between sites, they had no such restrictions.  Instead, the maintenance man came up to tell me about their additional grove that is just a bit west of the main campground, loaded with oranges all the way down to the ground, and free for the picking.  I, like many others I saw, filled a grocery bag or two, and they weren’t small plastic ones, they were big Trader Joe’s cloth bags.  I took enough to last as long as I thought they could stay fresh without refrigeration. 

Within minutes I had my first orange, sliced up and eaten from rind to get all the juice.  Then a bit later I did the old California trick of puncturing the stem end of the orange and drinking the juice, before I cut up a bunch of oranges and made a full glass of the sweet stuff.  Darn good thing I don’t have diabetes!

We didn’t pack our satellite this time.  It just has been entirely too much trouble the last few times we were out.  Our TV is not digital, so doesn’t work in all parks.  After all, our rig was built in 2006, before digital was the norm, and we aren’t in that much of a hurry to upgrade.  A break from TV is a nice thing.  We listen to the radio for the news, and thoroughly enjoy the different perspective of NPR in the morning.

Orange Grove does still have cable TV, however, and not the kind that requires a digital TV or a cable box.  Our problem with broadcast TV is that we are so used to watching at our own times and skipping the commercials, that regular TV is a pain in the neck, so it doesn’t stay on for long. 

Orange Grove also has LOTS of outside lights on at night.  It was quiet, with only a bit of road noise from the freeway that is 1/4 mile distant, but we were glad we had darkening shades that kept the light out.  Reminded me of our nights in Alaska, where it never got dark at all, and the shades worked great.  We still have day/night shades, the kind with cords, and the MCD shade upgrade is also something we aren’t all that much in a hurry to complete.  Mo has fixed the shades a couple of times, makes sure the strings are all working properly, and our shades are just fine after ten years.  I can hardly believe we have been traveling in this rig for that long.  She is still great, and we can’t find any other that we would choose to replace her.

Onward to Catalina Spa and RV Park, with our minds curious about what we will find with the new owners and remodel of the park.

01-28-2018 South at Last

On Sunday morning the skies over Grants Pass were gorgeous.  The often present winter fog was nowhere to be seen, blue was all around us, and a few puffy clouds toward the south were lined with gold from the early sunlight.  A perfect travel day! 

Our preparations for this trip were easy.  We were basically settled into the new house and had all the time in the world to get ready.  A day to wash the rig, a day to check fluids and tires on both the MoHo and the Tracker.  Two days to pack.

Packing was interesting.  For the first time in a long time, everything we have is in one house.  If I can’t find my swim suit, I don’t have to wonder in which house it might be hiding.  It is either here, or already in the MoHo.  Then of course, there is the ever present question of exactly what to take. 

It is chilly here, of course, it is still winter in Grants Pass.  A much warmer winter than what we are used to in Klamath Falls, but winter nonetheless. It is really hard to imagine that shorts and sleeveless shirts will be all that we need, in spite of the predicted 80 degree weather in the southland.  I packed some long pants, some capris, some shorts, and way too many long sleeved shirts.  Mo did the same, but she is better at this than I am, packing quite a bit less. 

Food supplies are always another question, but this time I had plenty of time to cook and freeze.  For a week prior to leaving, I cooked big meals, and froze the leftovers, and we had nice containers filled with chicken enchiladas, bean soup, turkey soup, carnitas, and spaghetti sauce among others.  The little MoHo freezer was packed to the gills for the three weeks ahead.

We left as planned within minutes of 9am, not a bit of traffic anywhere.  On Sunday morning the freeway was basically empty, the skies clear and lovely until…ooops….as we drove south toward Ashland and the Siskiyou Summit, the fog settled in.  It wasn’t really cold, and there was no snow.  We had planned carefully.  Only the day before chains were required over this pass and over Mt Shasta.  We actually changed our departure date to miss the snows.  Lucky us!  Many times as we have traveled south for a winter respite we have had to drive through snow and ice and fog.  This time it was only the fog, and it was a piece of cake.

In fact the entire drive was a piece of cake, all the way to Lodi, where we checked into our favorite little park at Flag City RV.  It is clean, quick, a Passport America park, with level cement sites and everything we need for a simple overnighter on our way to and from the southern part of the state.

Within minutes of landing, we were hooked up and I had Mattie on her leash ready to go play in the wonderful, expansive, grassy dog park.  UhOh.  The beautiful expanse was now completely ringed by huge solar panels, so much so that the only place to walk was on the bottom of the storm water catchment basin, in the wet stuff at the bottom.  Solar is great, but geez it is ugly, and it was claustrophobic walking in there.  The person at the desk told me that they spent “millions” on the panels, and their power bills dropped from between $20,000 to $30,000 a month, down to $20. per month.  All those panels power just the RV park, without any extra to sell back to the power company.  She said they would recoup their investment in 3 to 4 years.

It was our first night out in a long time, and it felt good to be camping in the MoHo somewhere other than our front yard.  California deserts, here we come!

If you click on a photo and discover you are in an album from another year, it is because I had to cheat.  I didn’t take one single photo on this first day out, and a blog post with no photos is pretty darn ugly.