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.


12-29-2015 At Least It’s Never Boring

Current Location: Old Fort Road Klamath Falls OR at 22 Degrees F and Overcast

Horses in the yard (1 of 7)_thumb[1]

Horses from down the road escaped and decided our yard might be nice.

We woke up to a day with no new snow, nice for a change.  Mo plowed the drive six times in the last 7 days.  Melody and Axel have cars that aren’t exactly good on the steep and often slippery hill just outside the driveway on the short three mile drive to town.  Once up and down the hill, all is good, but for simplicity I have Melody use our pickup to drive Axel to work.  This morning, however, the road was blocked by 7 furry beings, all wandering around the driveway looking for something good to eat.Horses in the yard (2 of 7)_thumb[1]

Mattie thought the big critters in the yard looked really exciting.  See that little ridge on her back.  It is important to protect us from any possible evil, and she barked to be sure those horses knew they shouldn’t come in the house.

Horses in the yard (4 of 7)_thumb[1]The neighbor showed up fairly quickly as we were trying to decide what to do and blocked the road so they couldn’t escape.  After some apples and some conversation, they put a rope on the lead horse while other trucks blocked the road so they could lead the small herd back home.  All’s well that ends well.Horses in the yard (7 of 7)_thumb[1]

The snow has been here since Thanksgiving, and in the last week or so it just keeps getting deeper.  Icicles provide entertainment as well, like corn on a hot summer day, you can almost hear them growing. 

snow and icicles on Old Fort Road (14 of 16)_thumb[1]Many days begin with Mo plowing and me shoveling before we come back inside and settle in for coffee and breakfast. 

snow and icicles on Old Fort Road (1 of 16)_thumb[1]snow and icicles on Old Fort Road (10 of 16)_thumb[1]For the first time in a very long time, our calendar is almost empty, with nothing really big showing up until we leave for Southern California mid-month. 

I am cleaning up the card making clutter upstairs, and today will get back to my quilting project.  New Year’s Eve will be spent right here at home.  Mo and I have even returned to cards and dominoes in the late afternoons before supper.  After living life at an incredible pace for the past several months, even being a little bit bored is wonderful, and not the least bit boring!

Snowy December Days

Current Location: The Cottage in Grants Pass Raining and 45 degrees

At the moment, Mo is outside washing the MoHo.  Yes, washing it in the rain.  I am pretty sure she is thinking that she needed to get the salty residues removed that are left over from our last trip to the coast.  It was raining back then as well, and we put her away without our usual cleanup.  After 9 years on the road, the MoHo still looks shiny as new.  Good paint and good care make a difference.

The MoHo is ready to head for California

More than a week ago, the snows hit hard all over Southern Oregon, even here in the Rogue Valley.  When we arrived at the cottage yesterday, our neighbor told us that there was more than six inches of heavy wet snow dumped on Grants Pass, and he was without power for 48 hours after a big old oak fell on his power lines.  We were lucky.  Mo had the trees trimmed last month and we didn’t have a lot of debris down to contend with.  According to the neighbor, he watched our Christmas lights go on and off with the timer with considerable envy. Everything here was just fine and the house was nice and cozy since we left the gas heat on 55 degrees.  Just enough.

One day of snow on Old Fort Road

Since the first snow fell at the apartments, we enjoyed home time, cozied up with the fire and actually relaxing a bit.  I worked on homemade Christmas cards with daughter Melody up in Apartment B (my crafting and quilting apartment) and managed to get a decent number of Christmas lights up to make everything cheery.

Mo taught Jacob (one of the tenants rooming with grandchild Axel) how to run the plow, so that when we are away, the driveway and parking lot will stay clear.

The kids were excited about making a snowman.  (Kids are loosely defined ages from 16 to 46)

It was a very cold week, and quite delightful. We decided to return to Rocky Point to spend a few days working on painting touchups and other little chores before our planned quickie trip to California.  While we were there, the big snows hit, including the one that dumped on the Rogue Valley, and Mo and I shoveled the driveway by hand.  With the plow at the apartments, we relied on the 4 wheel drive in the pickup to get us up and down the road leading to our house.  It worked.  We didn’t get snowed in, and even managed to get the trailer hooked up for the trip to Grants Pass to pick up the motorhome.  Mo wanted her big compressor in the RV shed with the MoHo.  Gotta keep those tires up!

My favorite view between Klamath Falls and Rocky Point

Driving from the brilliant sunny skies of the east side of the Cascades to the gray, rainy skies of the Rogue Valley was a treat.  For the first time in a few years, crossing the High Lakes Pass was a bit of a challenge.  Not too much, just a bit. Seems as though the wet, heavy snows were too much for the big trees on the pass and one had fallen across the road.  Traffic backed up for awhile before some logger with a chain saw managed to clear the road.

High Lakes Pass lies between Rocky Point and Grants Pass/Medford

Tomorrow we are heading to California.  Friend Maryruth’s mother is celebrating her 90th birthday and Maryruth is putting on a very big party.  The MoHo is ready and waiting, and we are hoping that the weather continues to be only rain as we will be traveling south on I-5 over the Siskiyous in the morning.  We do NOT want to chain up the MoHo, in fact the main reason we bought property in Grants Pass was to be able to travel north or south in the wintertime without having to get out of the snowy Klamath Basin.  Of course it snows in this part of Oregon, but thank goodness, not nearly as often or as long, and hopefully not tomorrow.

Raking in the rain vs shoveling in the snow

Again, mid January, we will again travel south.  Desert Hot Springs is calling, as it does each winter.  I called to find out what kind of rules Catalina Spa and RV Resort might have this year.  It changes every year it seems, ranging from a maximum of 2 nights with our Passport America card, to no discount nights unless you sit through the long and boring sales pitch.  Imagine my surprise when they said, “No problem.  You can stay for 30 days and half price (22.50 per night) with your PA card, leave for two weeks and come back again if you like.”

Catalina spa_181
My favorite hot pool at Catalina Spa and RV Resort

What a treat?!  If I hadn’t already made reservations for Catalina State Park near Tucson I would have reserved more than the 4 nights we had time for on this round.  I love that pool.  Love it.  I am excited about three weeks in the south this winter and hoping that El Nino doesn’t send us any big southwest surprises, but we will be ready for whatever comes.

Today I raked leaves on green grass in the rain.  A far cry from shoveling snow in Rocky Point and Klamath Falls. 

On another note, I am letting this particular post be a test.  I am writing it with LiveWriter…planning to pop it over into the html tab of blogger after in insert the photos from SmugMug links and see how it does.  Erin sent me the instructions, so we will see how it goes.  Then, just for fun, I am going to try to build the same post from Blogger.  Just to see the difference, if any.  Then, at last, I will write the same post over on WordPress, using their fancy smancy editor, and see how the whole thing looks.l

This was a great plan when I started this day, and now it is after 5pm and I am nowhere near finished.  I am working on my laptop, the one I use for traveling.  I upgraded it to Windows 10 Pro, and decided to just wipe the thing clean and start fresh.  So far so good, but as I am beginning the blog, I realize that I have yet to install Lightroom and Picasa.  That done I start again, but ohoh…some of the photos are on my iphone and ipad…and what do you know, I haven’t downloaded and installed iTunes yet.  Ok…that done and now I can finally get around to finishing this post! 

Here we go.




09-29-2015 Killarney to Bunratty Castle to Galway

Ireland Day 9 Killarney to Galway

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1) whewwwwwww……..I was trying to sleep, and realized that there was no way I would manage it till I sat down and wrote a bit about the last couple of days.  Melody, Deborah, Deanna, you keep me encouraged to keep it written when I might just give up in exhaustion.  Thanks, really for that.

(Writing on the evening of the 30th). The last two days have been as different as day and night.  Yesterday seemed long and dull, with my love affair with Ireland sorely tested by AFC  oh…excuse me    ABC.  Another bloody castle.  In Eastern Europe, Melody and I learned that a castle wasn’t really a house, it was more like a community fortress.  Well, here in Ireland, I have learned that a castle is more likely to be a house, a fortress for one family.  Most often in the form of a tower, and they are everywhere!  Often in ruins, but also in full fledged Disney mode, with Medieval Banquets and tours of the winding steps and stories of the murder holes.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-60 The steps are narrow and the entry doors are tiny so that only one person can enter at a time.  They wind upwards in a corkscrew to the left so that right handed men who attempted to go up the stairs couldn’t manage to wield their swords.  They have dungeons, with stairs leading downward with the last step being a good 40 feet or so.  Your bones break with the drop and you lie there and die.  If you are attempting to raid the castle, and manage to get up the stairs, there is a place where the floor falls out from under you and you crash to the bottom, easy prey for boiling oil, or even worse, hot sand and rocks.  gee, sounds fun. 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-63

The first time we heard these stories at the Blarney Castle they were interesting, but the second time around at Bunratty Castle, it all seemed a bit tired.  Maybe it has something to do with me being more than a bit tired yesterday as we visited Bunratty Castle around midday and the Bunratty folk life village.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-2 Morning dawned in Killarney yesterday with dull clouds and a dreary feel to the day.  The high point of the day actually came early in the morning immediately after we left when the bus driver took us on an impossibly narrow road to a high point overlooking Killarney National Park that was once a Druid site, and then a Christian site, and now just a beautiful site overlooking Killarney Lake and the Killarney mountains across the valley.

Once we left the beautiful area of County Kerry and Killarney, we spent the rest of the day on the Irish version of a freeway, except for a dip into the little village of Adare. 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-21 One of the iconic images of Ireland has always been the charming little thatched cottages, but I had no idea what was actually involved in creating and maintaining a thatched roof.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-24 As Isabel said, only the well-to-do can afford such a luxury, with the maintenance requiring up to 60,000 Euros every five years or so from very specialized craftsmen, who are in short supply.  Walking the charming town was interesting, and while the thatched roof cottages only date from the recent early 1800’s, they were fascinating.  All through the town were lovely gardens and charming cottages. 

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-28 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-29 The story of the burning of some of these historic cottages just last summer was a sad one, with no real date as to when they can be replaced. An old pigeon cove was in back of the visitor center, another very old historic structure. 

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-45 We continued northwest toward Bunratty, which didn’t appear to be any kind of town anywhere near the castle attraction.  The “authentic” folk village was charming and interesting in some respects, with thatched roof cottages, but more importantly, for the first time we smelled burning peat.  Traditionally the major heating source for much of Ireland, the peat blocks were stacked like firewood  ready for winter.  01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-41

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-39We did enjoy the castle tour in spite of the Disney feeling.  It was nice seeing the local school kids who emerged from their tour just as we approached for ours.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-46Isabella had figured out by this time that I was into rocks and geology and she was careful to point out the fossils embedded in the 600 year old slate floors.  Once again, tucked away in a corner was another Sheela Na Gig bas relief.  The furnishings and tapestries reminded me of you Deborah, and all your love of fine tapestries.  It is amazing to me that these incredibly intricate thread paintings can last so long and still be so beautiful.01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-48 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-50 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-5101 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-64 01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-65 The thing about a tour that can get really tiresome is the timing.  The day before, when we wanted to spend a lot of time at some place or the other, we were allotted 20 minutes. Today, at Bunratty Castle, when our tour was completed, where there wasn’t a thing to look at except another huge WalMart of Ireland Blarney Woolen Mills, and an old bridge in the midst of reconstruction, we were allotted three very long hours.  01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-70 I did finally figure out that it might have something to do with check in time in Galway, and the city was just another hour or so north of the Bunratty stop.  Mo and I managed to while away the time with a Southwick Amber Ale, another quite tasty beer that was similar to my favorite Alaskan Amber.

The pub on the corner across the street from the castle was called Dirty Nellie’s, and it claimed to have been in existence since 1600 something.  It was a pub for the officers who guarded the castle, so seemed authentic enough, and the smoked salmon and brie panini I had for lunch was excellent.

01 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-7401 Killarney to Bunratty (1 of 1)-68 By the time we reached the busy city of Galway, with 77K residents and traffic, we were both so dang tired we couldn’t stand the thought of doing one more thing.  Isabella gave us all sorts of instructions for where to find a pub, which pubs were the good ones, where to shop, where to eat.  Really, Isabella??  Although I have to admit, there are a few travelers with us who are shopping wonders, coming back to the bus with bags and bags of stuff and always wanting to find more. 

Especially good at the shopping thing is this couple from who knows where, but the woman is Greek and has rocks on all her fingers that are blinding, a laugh you can hear anywhere, and a very fun and friendly and ohgodkeepmeawayfromher kind of personality.  Her husband is even louder, and he is the one that always has the Irish Whiskey in his water bottle all day, has made good friends with Isabella who ambles to the back of the bus for a nip now and then, and loves to pull out his wallet to indulge his wife. They spent a few thousand dollars at the Waterford Crystal shop.  Actually, before the tour was over, I found myself really appreciating this sweet couple who were celebrating 30 years of marriage with this tour of Ireland.P1040827

They have gathered an entourage of party folks who like to bask in their kind of light and drink and shop as much as they do.  I heard that at the medieval banquet last night (which we were grateful was an optional excursion so we could skip it), they were the ones chosen and crowned King and Queen for the evening.

IMG_5283harbour-hotel-galwayWhen we first arrived at the Harbour Hotel Yesterday afternoon, we looked at each other in dismay.  The hotel facade looked like some sort of industrial building, and the view to the east was of a giant stone wall.  Once inside, however, everything seemed quite pleasant, and the hotel was very nice.

harbour-hotel-galway-18-560x360I can’t believe that I didn’t even take a photo of our room, but with one bed instead of our three this photos is a pretty good rendition.

Mo and I were gratefully on the same page with each other, and at the same moment.  We needed down time! After checking into our room, with a nice window that opened, and another huge bathtub, we had jammies on within minutes and were settled in for the evening.  We were both perfectly willing to crash with no supper, but room service was available so we ordered a salad and a sandwich and a glass of wine.  No shopping, no pubbing, no walking, and finally some sleep in a comfortable bed with nice duvets and decent pillows.  The bed situation is funny.  We have had everything from one queen bed, to a queen and a twin, and this time three twin beds in a row.  Always nice to have a bed to throw stuff on.  Sleep was long and sweet, and neither of us felt the slightest twinge at missing explorations of City Galway.

More photos from this day are linked here

Next: Another high point of the trip, The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher.