09-18-2021 First Day on the Road

I woke at 4 am this morning, listening for the rain.  I thought I needed a good soak in the hot tub for achy legs. By the time I undressed and opened up the tub, the rain was pouring.  It wasn’t a light rain, it was a deluge.  Something we so desperately need here in the Rogue Valley, and all over Oregon and the West for that matter.

In spite of the big drops splashing my face and wetting my hair, the tub felt good.  I love traveling, but I will miss my early morning soaks, and evening  dips with Mo under the stars, watching for airplanes.

We were well prepared for our departure, loading up clothes and food over two days, making the process fairly easy.  I cooked several items for the freezer for the journey.  Mo and I much prefer eating at home in the rig rather than at restaurants, especially in these day of Covid.  Freezer meals make things nice and easy in the limited space of the MoHo.

We were on the road just after 8am, driving south on I-5 from Grants Pass in the pouring rain.  Traffic was light, and I didn’t have to worry much about the blinding spray thrown onto our windshield when traffic is heavy.  It poured all the way south, over Siskiyou Pass, next to invisible Mt Shasta, and for many miles after we turned east on Highway 89.  Since we have moved to Grants Pass, the route between I-5 and Susanville toward Highway 395 is most often our chosen way to cross the mountain ranges between us and the desert. 

I had been tracking road closures along Highway 89 and Highway 44 north of the huge Dixie fire, burning for almost  two months now and decimating almost a million acres of forest, homes, and small communities.  Just two days before our scheduled departure I saw on Caltrans that highway 44 was once again open, with delays and some areas of one way traffic due to the fire.  The alternative would be to travel north toward MacArthur, adding more than 90 minutes to our travel time as we headed toward Reno.

The smell of fire was strong as we drove through thick smoke toward Susanville.  Mt Lassen was shrouded and completely hidden from view.  In some areas the ground was still smoldering, but we made the crossing with only a short delay of 20 minutes. 

Once east of Susanville, as we approached Highway 395, highway signs were flashing and notifying us of reduced visibility due to smoke and dust from high winds.  An app I use called Ventusky showed we were traveling through winds of 46 mph with gusts to 59 mph.  The canyons on the east side of the mountains funnel winds downslope and make for some scary driving.  I had driven 4 hours or so almost to Susanville through all the rain, but I think I had it easy compared to Mo’s stint driving 395 in the high winds.  Nice part about the winds, however, is that they blew away the smoke.  However the dust and sand that we drove through battered the rig terribly in some places.

By the time we reached Fallon we were definitely ready to hunker down.  Once again we boondocked at the Texaco station on the east side of town that is owned by the local tribe.  As long as you go inside and enter your information in their book, the tribal police will leave you alone for the night.  When we arrived the winds were still very high, and yet it was warm enough we needed to open the windows a bit.  A fine coating of sandy dust quickly covered everything. Reminded me a bit of a book I read recently called the Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah.  Her descriptions of life during the dust storms of the 30’s were harrowing.  A little desert wind and dust is nothing compared to life back then.

We had a light supper of salad and a bunless hot dog and within minutes I was ready to hit the comfy bed.  I think it was only 6 or so when I went there to read while Mo stayed up and caught up with some of her internet business.  There is a great Verizon signal here so our phones work just fine.

We talked a bit with Brother Dan who was hunkered down in Winnemucca with Chere.  They decided to eat out, and were concerned that a huge accident east of Winnemucca that was closing the interstate for several hours might not be cleared by morning.  Hopefully all is well and we will meet them tonight in Baker, Nevada.  We will be camping once again at the Border Inn RV Park in Baker.  Tomorrow we will point both rigs toward the east, crossing Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America, toward  Capitol Reef NP.  Dan made reservations for 4 nights at an RV park in Torrey, so instead of boondocking at Fruita as we often do, we will have hookups for our time there.  I am looking forward to sharing some of my favorite spots in Southern Utah over the next ten days with Dan and Chere.  It is their first time to see the red rock canyons and a few of the big national parks in Utah.