01-18-2016 Traveling South

Current Location: Desert Hot Springs California at 54 F and clear

Dang.  Open Live Writer refusing to publish tonight, so I am publishing this baby on WordPress.  For all you readers who don’t like this one compared to the blogger version, at least here you get photos….

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-13I can’t really claim the snowbird moniker, but somehow it seems that every year we manage to make our way south.  I think to be a snowbird, you might have to stay for the full winter season and only meander back north when the light and warmth return. Still, it is an incredible delight to slip away from all that cold stuff, the snow plowing, the crashing ice dams, the skating rink parking lot, and land gently back in the desert, with simply a light shirt on in the evening, and feet once again in sandals.  Ahhh.

We took our time this year, leaving later in January, and ambling southward slowly enough to spend some good time visiting friends. visiting friends-26 Mo and I met Laurie and Odel many years ago, when I was a brand new blogger and Laurie was one of the more well known bloggers in the newly minted rv bloggerland.  Later, long after Laurie stopped blogging and they sold their beloved rig Scoopy, we stopped in for a visit to their digs and they took Mo and I to Nevada City and introduced us to their good friends Nickie and Jimmy.  I love how these things work.  As I am writing this, I am remembering just how we all met, and I had almost completely forgotten the details. 

Visiting friends-37Sometimes these kinds of friendships come and go, but in this case, they are the kind that will last a lifetime.  When we get together, in fours or in sixes, it is always so much fun.  This time was no different.  Nickie and Jimmy invited Mo and I to dinner at their place in Nevada City.  The food was fabulous, what Nickie called “comfort food”, but oh my such deliciousness!

visiting friends-19Even better than the food, however, was the laughter.  Nickie has this wondrous inner child that comes out to play a lot, and makes me laugh till my sides hurt.  Mattie thought she was a kick as well, and the two of them slid around on the gorgeous hardwood floors until tiny Mattie knocked Nickie down, or at least that is what Nickie claimed.  So sorry, Nickie!!  I hope your bruises have healed.

visiting friends-27The “Big Plan” was for the six of us to meet the next day in Auburn for some yummy food, and then hike it all off with a great walk along the river and the waterfalls.  The only waterfalls were coming out of the skies, with big dark rain keeping us all inside.  Instead of hiking, the six of us sat together at a big round table at Awful Annie’s and ate and talked and ate some more.  It was great fun being together again.  We have hiked with Laurie and Odel, and with Jimmy and Nickie, but so far haven’t managed a hike with all of us.  That is on the agenda for sure.  What a fun bunch of people to know.  I feel so lucky. 

visiting friends-28Mattie made friends all around, but especially with Odel.  Did she ever love that guy!  I wish I had taken a photo of her looking at him with adoring eyes as he scratched her ears.  Mattie knows a good man when she sees one!

Our trip south this year was almost uneventful, with only a few tiny glitches.  Once again we had to get the rig over the passes, the only way to escape to the south requires driving those passes.  This time I was driving, so instead of documenting all the crazy stuff, I gripped the steering wheel as we rolled along on solid packed snow and glare ice with temps in the high 20’s and low 30’s.  Once again, getting over the Siskiyous was scary, getting past Mt Shasta was even scarier, and once again the ice didn’t clear until we reached the Pit River Bridge just north of Redding.  Sheesh~~ The only good thing is that at least this time it wasn’t actually snowing, but that ice was no fun at all. 

visiting friends-3Beale Air Force Base is just east of the I-5 corridor and Marysville, and only 34 miles west of Nevada City, the sweet little mountain town where Nickie and Jimmy live.  We decided to give the FamCamp a try and it isn’t a bad stop.  The campground is fairly isolated on the base, with long open views toward the east.  I was surprised at how full they were, and we were glad to have made a reservation.  $18.00 per night with full hookups isn’t bad, although the sites were muddy from all the recent El Nino rains.  Still, the gravel pad was level enough we didn’t have to put down the levelers, the power was adequate, and there was WiFi available, but I didn’t try it. My Verizon worked fine on the iPad, and I had no time or need to set up the computers or the MiFi.

visiting friends-7On the way to the campground, we saw an amazing airplane flying low and slow, circling above us.  I love that about staying at an air force base, lots of cool airplanes.  Found out later this was a U-2 plane, and that the woman pilot who flies them at Beale AFB is quite famous.

Once we arrived at the campground, we started our regular routine to unhook the Tracker, only to discover that the battery had gone dead.  Mo is pretty careful about making sure the key is in the right position, but figured she must have turned it a notch too far.  We managed to unhook, turned the MoHo around and jump started the Tracker, leaving it running while we got ready to drive up the mountain to Nevada City.

Everything was fine, and after dinner when we left to go back down the hill, she started right up.  The next day she started up again, no problem, and we drove the back roads from Beale to Auburn and Awful Annie’s. There was no need to unhook the car.  After our wonderful time with friends and food, we headed down I-80 through Sacramento all the way to Lodi on the 5, a whopping 70 miles. 

Didn’t bother unhooking the Tracker because we settled in comfortably to our cozy pull through spot in row E at Flag City RV Resort.  It is a perfect one night stop, half price with the Passport America card, easy on and easy off, and cheap gas at the Love if we needed it.  The next morning, Mo tried to start the Tracker and sure enough, once again it was dead.  OK then.  Where is WalMart?!  As Judy probably knows from her extended stay here last year, it is right down the road about 4 miles.  Within an hour, we had a new battery, installed in the misty rain, and all was running well again.  No problems since.  I guess it was time for a new battery.

We have been really lucky so far on this trip with gas prices being so low.  I filled up in Grants Pass for $1.87. Mo filled at Beale for $2.21, and we filled yesterday at the Pilot on I-5 for just $1.99!  Looks as though things might be a bit more here in the Coachella Valley with the Pilot running $2.69, but hopefully our time in Arizona will make up for that.  I love GasBuddy!  My favorite App!

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-9Once the battery was replaced and we were traveling down the 5, everything seemed to settle into place.  I think it takes a few hundred miles before it reallly feels like we are on the road, and that great feeling hit yesterday somewhere along the hills on the western side of the San Jouquin Valley.  Evidence of the drought has lessened a bit, with recent rains turning everything green.  Big signs are dotted among the fruit and nut orchards: “If water is used to grow food, is it really wasted?”  I found myself wondering about this a lot.  California is having huge water issues, with too many people wanting too little water.  If that water is used to let people in the valley have drinking water, which many of them don’t right now, isn’t that better perhaps than it being used to grow nuts for export?  Who benefits from that besides the farmer, certainly not the people who actually need food or water in California.  Lots to think about as you roll down that lonely but crowded asphalt ribbon along the hills bordering the Great Valley that grows a huge percentage of our food.

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-7We spent the night last night at the Orange Grove RV Resort  just east of Bakersfield on Highway 58.  I think most every RV heading toward the desert must stay here at one time or another.  It was raining this morning when we got up, but the mist let up in time for us to get the MoHo washed at the free RV wash at the park.  Of course, there are the free for the picking oranges, sweetest ever, and this year the crop is especially sweet.  Add to that free coffee and free truly fresh and excellent donuts for the taking and staying there is a pretty good deal at $39.00 per night.  A good wash of our two rigs usually costs us at least $15.00 in quarters if we do it at a car wash.  And the oranges are priceless!  I just hope I have enough to last until we return by way of Orange Grove RV Park.  I need to stock up again before I get back to the land of grocery store oranges.  Ick!Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-2

The rain started in earnest by the time we were actually on the road and it poured all the way to the summit at Tehachapi.  On the down side, the rains let up, but the damage caused by the terrible flash floods that roared through Sand Canyon last fall was still visible.  By the time we reached the other side and the desert stretched out before us, the skies were opened up and the sunlight was gorgeous and brilliant.  Ahhh…..it is like the world opens up when the sun shines like this, and the desert vistas stretch out before me.  I really really don’t want to live in the desert, but I need it like I need light. I guess that is why I love RVing so much.  That inner need for varied landscapes, the desert, the ocean, the South,the Florida spring runs, the hardwood forests, the Red Rock Country, I wouldn’t want to have to choose to only be in any one of those places forever.  I couldn’t begin to choose which one to give up, which one mattered most.  No need!  I can have it all!

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-14We stopped for lunch somewhere along Highway 58 before Barstow, where Mattie got her first taste of desert air and we opened up the slide and let the sunshine pour in while we made a nice lunch and took a bit of a break.  Mo drove the rest of the route, one of our favorites, from Barstow, down Highway 247, winding through the mountains down toward Yucca Valley and then down the big grade to Desert Hot Springs.

Bakersfield to Desert Hot Springs-17Every time we come here, I am reminded of the wild, craggy, rocky, mountainous land that makes up this part of Southern California.  It is so incredibly rugged, twisted and tortured by all the tectonic activity, all the faults that folded and uplifted and shattered the landscape.  The desert here is anything but flat and boring, it is a wild world and so beautiful.IMG_5570

With only four days here this year, we won’t be doing as much hiking as usual, but I will treasure every moment of my hot pool time before we continue east.

A Wild Ride to California

Current Location: Back on Old Fort Road in Klamath Falls  and it is snowing

Last fall, when lifetime friend Maryruth asked Mo and I if we would come to Maryruth’s mother’s birthday party, I felt a bit of hesitation.  The party was scheduled for the 19th of December, way too close to Christmas.  But it was Elsie’s 90th birthday, and the celebration was drawing friends and relatives from far and wide.  I really couldn’t miss it.

IMG_5437_thumb3Traveling south on I-5 toward Ashland

Of course, at this time of year, in this part of Oregon, there is no telling what kind of weather we might encounter, so we took our chances and decided to skip making reservations at the Feather Falls Casino KOA.  We like the campground, just minutes from Maryruth’s home, with all the amenities we could want.  Somehow I wasn’t too worried about the park being filled up on the weekend before Christmas.

We now are living in Klamath Falls, 45 minutes east of our former home in Rocky Point, adding that time and mileage to the trip over the mountain to Grants Pass to the west.  The MoHo was waiting all cozy in her big shed, the baby Tracker is already over there, so we just needed to fit everything required for a couple of days in Rocky Point as we travel west, a couple of days in Grants Pass, to load up, do a few small chores, and get ready to go, and a couple of days in California.

I can’t begin to explain how crazy making it is for me to try to think of food for each stop on the way, for clothes appropriate for the various weather conditions we will be encountering, and deciding just what I want to wear to the big Saturday night party.  The truck was filled to the brim with sweats, jeans, some slinky dress up’s, way too many shoes, working clothes, snow boots and coats, lots of hats and gloves, and of course all the gear for the dog.

Mattie is a bit like having a kid.  We have her crate and bedding, her round bed for non sleeping comfort, another blankie since she gets cold so easily, and a bag of “doggie stuff”, which includes her shampoo, her favorite toys, treats, leash, a sweater, and a raincoat.  As I read this, I am beginning to think we are really eccentric parents.  That is a lot of stuff for a very small dog!

Snow-at-Rocky-Point-7-of-17_thumb2When we arrived in Rocky Point, all was well.  When I found out that the power was off for many hours, I was really glad that Mo and I had returned home to the apartments for a couple of days in between trips.  This time the power was on and all was well. 

The next morning we headed for Grants Pass, driving over High Lakes Pass in some snowy conditions, but nothing unmanageable.  The weather predictions were not encouraging, however.  Winter weather warnings were going off every hour for extreme weather impacting most of Southern Oregon and especially the passes, including the route south on I-5 over the Siskiyous.

IMG_5436_thumb2Leaving Grants Pass south on I-5

We waited till Friday morning to make the actual decision, waking up to heavy pouring rain, and reports of temperatures above freezing at Siskiyou Summit.  We hoped we could get over the mountain before the snow levels dropped.  Neither of us have any desire to chain up the MoHo.

IMG_5440_thumb1Siskiyou Summit south on I-5

Sure enough, the snow at the first summit was just flurries and the temps were above freezing, so no black ice.  Whew.  A nice long stretch to Weed and then once again the snow started blowing.  As we passed the turnoff to Mt Shasta City and McCloud, we breathed a sigh of relief. 

IMG_5457_thumb1Slush and snow coming at us near Mt Shasta City

That sigh was a bit premature I guess.  It snowed all the way to the Pit River Bridge just north of Redding and much below the 3,000 foot elevation snow prediction.  It was wet slushy snow, but not so much that it made driving impossible, and no chains were required.  Thank goodness.

Once past Redding, the snow turned to hard pourning rain, not much easier than snow for driving, and there wasn’t a bit of letup till we got to Oroville. 

IMG_5460_thumb1Feather Falls Casino KOA Site 38

Finally settled into our campsite at the only KOA we have ever really liked, we relaxed, knowing that we didn’t really have to think about the drive home for a couple of days.  We could just relax and enjoy the party.

01-party-preparations-6-of-14_thumb1Decorating the winery for the party

Maryruth and her sisters held the party at a lovely small local winery in Oroville, Purple LIne Winery.  The owners are good friends of another of Elsie’s daughters and were happy to share their lovely venue with the 100 or so guests who arrived on Saturday afternoon to celebrate.

02-Elsies-party-7-of-29_thumb1Elsie and Maryruth

I have known Maryruth for 53 years, and of course have known her mother for that long as well.  Elsie was a part of my extended family and I am so glad that Mo and I were able to be there to honor her.  She was genuninely happy with all the attention, something that Maryruth had been a bit worried about.  Today when I talked to Maryruth, she said the party was wonderful for her mom, that it elevated her mood and lifted the bit of depression she had been dealing with because of ongoing tiresome health issues.  Elsie is a trooper, has always been a strong and incredible woman, and some of the issues of aging are extremely frustrating for her, as they would be for anyone.01-party-preparations-7-of-14_thumb1

Gerald built the big block numbers for all the photos

Mo and I managed to get a bit of time to enjoy the casino, which is really quite nice.  I even won enough money to pay for breakfast the next morning and our wine at the party.  We don’t play the slots all the often, but it seems lately that I have been pretty lucky when we do.  Lucky as in tens of dollars, not thousands of dollars.  LOL  I never play big enough to win that big.

After the casino Sunday Brunch with Maryruth and Gerald, we once again tackled the long drive home over the passes.  By the time we left, the rains had started up once again and after getting gas in Chico for 2.15 per gallon at Costco, we drove 99 to the interstate and watched the road cams, the weather warning signs, and listened to 1610 AM radio for chain updates.

IMG_1344_thumb1Radar image for our route to Grants Pass and then home to Klamath Falls.

The predictions were rather scary, and chains were required earlier in the day over the Siskiyous.  We pressed on, hoping that the warm temperatures and rising elevation of the snows would stay with us till we reached Grants Pass. 

IMG_1352_thumb1Again, the snow was wet and slushy, the chain requirement for the Siskiyou Summit was lifted just before we reached that point and by the time we landed in Grants Pass it was just raining.

Neither one of us was really concerned about the drive from Grants Pass back home to Klamath Falls via Rocky Point.  We have driven High Lakes Pass for dozens of years, and the Dakota has 4 wheel drive.  We packed all our stuff back into the pickup once again, put the MoHo to bed, and headed back up the mountain.

UhOh!  That drive took us both by surprise!  There was a LOT of snow on the side of the road from the previous storms, and yet yesterday the temperatures were rising.  We had deep slush and ice on packed snow at the top of the pass, and neither of us could remember a transit as hairy as this one for a long time. 

anitas-van-in-our-road_thumb1Easy Street doesn’t look so easy with Mo’s plow in Klamath Falls

In Rocky Point, the road that Mo usually plows, was unplowed.  The neighbors who live farther up the road than we do don’t have a plow and evidently couldn’t get anyone out there.  We drove up as far as we could and then walked through the deep snow to get to the house.  Don’t laugh.  I have three houses and two vacuum cleaners.  I refuse to buy a third vacuum, and I had taken the main vacuum from Old Fort Road to Rocky Point.  I needed that vacuum.  I refuse to live through Christmas at home without a vacuum!  Ha! 

Back on the road to Klamath Falls, the snows were deeper than we have seen in years.  And that snow just keeps coming.  Sometimes it gets a bit warmer and rains on the snow, and then it dumps some more of the white stuff.  Mo has a lot less to plow here at the apartments, but this thick wet stuff is keeping her busy.

Daytime-Christmas-on-Old-Fort-Road-2Snug and cozy in the apartment on Old Fort Road.

I am glad to be home, glad to have a few days at least to make cookies and fudge, get ready for Christmas dinner with the family members that are close, and play in my craft apartment making cards.  Christmas will come so quickly, and it seems that we didn’t have a lot of time to do some of the small town Christmas things that I like to do, but with the really yukky weather, I really have no desire to brave the storms to try to go look at Christmas lights.  I think I’ll just enjoy my own.

The Solstice has come, the days are getting longer, Christmas is here!!

Day 39 August 13 Back in the USA Cranbrook BC to Bonners Ferry Idaho

morning at WalMartWe woke to beautiful sunny skies in our filled WalMart parking lot.  Out behind the rig a dad was tossing a baseball to his two kids and they were yelling at each other like it was mid-afternoon in a park rather than 7am in a parking lot.  It was nice to have shopping a few steps away, and a cheap RV dump just down the street at the Husky station. We even had fast WiFi right in the parking lot from the McDonalds located WalMart.

We sent and received emails from our friends in Bonners Ferry, confirming an afternoon arrival when Georgette would be back from Spokane.  Since there was time to spare, we decided it would be great to backtrack ten miles for the 10:00 AM opening of the Fort Steele Heritage Town.

Fort Steele such a beautiful locationThe site contains restored buildings from the original town, as well as re-constructed buildings that would have been typical to the area during the period between 1890 and 1905, complete with costumed actors discussing the daily (1895) news as they walk the streets. It turned out to be a great experience and a truly lovely little town.  I found myself often slipping back to a time when the streets were quiet except for the clip clop of horses pulling wagons. There was a working blacksmith, and a wonderful bakery where I bought heavy loaves of great sourdough bread for us and for our Bonners Ferry friends.

the Kootenay River from the water tower at Fort SteeleThe glacial lake terrace nestled at the base of the Kootenay Mountains above the Kootenay River is soft and lush.  I can see how it would have been a perfect place for a settlement of any kind. The buildings have been restored and furnished with loving care and the setting is beautiful.  We ambled along the streets for more than two hours, finishing our wanderings with a cone of home made fabulous ice cream for Mo and I had a root beer float.  It was hot, and I do love root beer floats, especially when made with vintage root beer.

but everyone loves AbbyNina and Paul (the folks over at one of my favorite blogs “Wheelin’It” would appreciate the dog friendly atmosphere, with Abby welcomed into the site and bowls of doggie water conveniently placed around for the hot day. It was a great deal for only 5 bucks per person, with a two day pass including all the wagon rides and the vaudeville show available for only $20 per person.

wagon rides are part of the $20. two day admission fee.  We just paid 5 bucks each no extras.By noon it was about time to amble down the road a few miles to the US border and once again cross into our home country.  We were ready with all our papers and passports, having become old hands at this border crossing thing after so many times coming and going on this trip. At the crossing, we stayed well back of the big white line and the stop sign while a few cars ahead of us seemed to be crossing without incident.  When it was our turn, we could see at least a dozen cameras aimed at all the strategic points of our rig recording every possible angle.  We also know about the scanners that can see the hidden lines in US paper money and let the guards know exactly how much money you are carrying if it is in bigger bills.

The questions were simple, and our border crossing guard was an amiable guy.  He didn’t even ask how long we had been away, what dates we left the USA, when we left Alaska, etc, all questions that we had memorized with careful checks of the calendar.  He simply looked at us and asked Mo what the license number of the rig was.  Now come on!  How many of us know our license numbers by heart!  Luckily I could answer quickly because I am the one that usually goes inside when we register for campgrounds and after this trip I had it down! He waved away my offering of the animal papers with a friendly smile, and said “Welcome home”.  That was just so easy.

all the logs hand finished interiorit is dog heaven at Georgette's houseIn just 30 more miles we were driving up the narrow dirt road to Georgette and Chet’s beautiful spacious log home overlooking the Kootenay Valley at Bonners Ferry.  We visited last year on our way out for our trip to the northeast, and now this year on our way back home from Alaska. 

Georgette trains Australian Cattle Dogs for herding and is now working on herding ducks, in addition to sheep and cows. Her dog is a great champion, and he thought Abby was just the cutest thing around. We found out that the racoon tail that looks like it was grafted on an Australian Cattle Dog is a sign of their pedigree, and the “lesser” blue heelers (which Abby has a bit of in her genes) have docked tails.

Georgette is a great cook and an even greater talker and we always have a wonderful time when we get together over wine and good food.  They have a nice level site for the MoHo with water and electric, and enough power that the AC ran just fine to keep Jeremy nice and cool during the exceptionally warm evening. It’s always nice to spend time with good friends and we laughed long into the dark night before going back to the MoHo to greet a very lonely and vocal cat. 

Capture 85 milesMiles traveled today: 85

A few photos from this day are linked here

Photos of the Fort Steele Heritage Town are linked here