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. 

January 2 to January 7 Traveling South

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.  Christmas Day 2014  (1 of 58)

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 Day 2014  (16 of 58)

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.

hooking up on a cold foggy morning at the cottageA 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.

map of the route to DHSWe 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. love the auto downshift in the MoHo

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.Even Mt Shasta is shrouded by the murky air

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. 

Traveling South_004For 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.Traveling South_005

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.

Traveling South_015We 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. 

Traveling South_012As 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.

Traveling South_028Driving 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.Traveling South_018

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!Traveling South_025

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!

Traveling South_021Traveling South_020We 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.Traveling South_031

California transit

12/30/2013 Orange Grove RV Park Bakersfield CA  65 degrees F as the sun sets

map lodi to bakersfieldTransiting California reminds me of all the reasons why I really don’t want to ever live here again.  Yes, I am a California girl, was born here, as were each of my children.  But I left for good reasons, all of which come to mind as we travel south on I-5.

California has so many areas that I love, that I wouldn’t want to have missed in my lifetime.  If you are from the east and haven’t seen Big Sur, or Yosemite, or the Mother Lode in springtime, or Lake Tahoe, or the Lost Coast, or Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, the Central Coast ……I could go on and on.  San Diego is rich with culture and has perfect weather. The Bay Area is vibrant and fabulous, with so much to see and do. Parts of California have wonderful places to live for lots of people who love it.  Mo lived happily on the coast north of Half Moon Bay for 35 years. 

uglyTrouble is, we have been to all those places many times, and now are just trying to get THROUGH California so we can get on to the southwest deserts.  This time of year 395 isn’t smart, and the coast highway 101 is waaay out of our way.  We are moving fast so that we have as much time as possible when we get to the Gulf Coast and Florida. That leaves us with the one choice in California that is the least lovely.

Down I-5 we go, passing what I consider one of the creepiest cities ever, Stockton.  The freeway through Stockton is like something in a third world country.  Once beyond the Highway 120 ramp toward Sonora, the traffic thinned a bit and the road got a bit smoother.  The foggy smog cleared enough that we could see a bit of the landscape around us.  Just a bit, although at this time of year it was brown and barren and not so pretty  Thought I would put in a pretty photo from our 2011 trip south to remind me of how beautifully seductive the state of California can be at times.

Lodi to Bakersfield (10)We did get through it.  Mo and I taking turns driving, and by the time we got to our exit toward Bakersfield, I was tired of all those cars, just so many cars, all going fast and trying to pass each other and the trucks.  I plunked along at  60mph, and decided to avoid the fray, but the lines of cars passing me in the fast lane were often bumper to bumper, moving fast, but rarely a car length between them. 

Turning off toward Bakersfield, we negotiated our way around some back side streets trying to find Costco.  Google Maps and the GPS don’t seem to understand fences and we ended up right by the gasoline bays, with a fence between us and them where the road ended.  Hmmm….did manage to wind around to another highway and found the entrance, but it sure did seem silly. No such thing as a simple off-ramp by the Costco.  According to my trusty Gas Buddy, it was the cheapest gas around at 3.37 per gallon, considerably less than on previous trips through this part of California

costcoIt really was a short easy day, driving only 275 miles or so to our afternoon destination at Orange Grove RV Park.  We ambled in to a nearly empty park, planning to relax after washing the rig, only to find that the park was booked solid and we were led into overflow. Water and electric only, no sewer no cable.  I didn’t have reservations, but tonight the park is completely booked.  The owner said that this is their busiest week of the year.  oops.  good thing they have an overflow! In fact, after the overflow fills up they have a big space for dry camping as well.  Nice that we didn’t have to do that.

Instead, tonight we are packed in like little sardines, lined up row by row with a lot of very friendly campers.  Most of them are from California with another big contingent from British Columbia.  A smattering of Washingtonians and Oregonians rounds out the mix.  Everyone wants to talk, everyone is just so nice.  We are out of practice.  We live out in the woods and like to boondock.  I love nice friendly people, but in small doses!  It is just a different way of camping, of enjoying the RV lifestyle, and I know lots of people really love it.  Others are famous for NOT loving it, and wouldn’t dream of staying in a crowded RV park

the desert 1_074DSC_0074We could have just continued on to Joshua Tree, but it would have been a long day and I wanted oranges.  We also will be boondocking a bit and we wanted to fill up with water and be sure the tanks were clean before we wander out into the desert.  I have no clue if the campgrounds (dry camps) in Joshua Tree will be full.  In years past we have traveled there this time of year and everything was empty, but with this park packed in and overflowing, I am a bit skeptical.  Whatever happens, we will be ready for it.  There are lots of boondocking sites nearby if things are filled up in the park.

In a few days we will be back with full hookups enjoying the pools at Catalina Spa in Desert Hot Springs. 

Driving the Five to visit Laurie and Odel

Mt Shasta from the 5Shingle Springs, CA low tonight 52, high tomorrow 90, 74 degrees at 9pm

On Saturday, Grants Pass Oregon was clear and sunny and warm.  Even though we had only been away for a week, the oaks were all leafed out, and the dogwoods were in their full rosy glory.  Lilacs are blooming everywhere and even the iris are starting to bud.  We arrived in early afternoon, in time to bring the MoHo out and pack up, and then do a few minor easy chores around the cottage property.  I carefully watered the fruit trees and the long line of shrubs, and with 2.5 gallons per minute, I had to be especially careful.  Testing a hose and a five gallon bucket showed that at full blast I could run 10 GPM and with no reservoir cistern, could run the well dry in no time. 

pear orchards in Medford along the 5It was a very warm evening, and we opened up all the windows to the cottage.  I sat in the twilight reading and catching up on computer stuff while Mo patiently mudded all the tape she put up on the kitchen drywall.  She was shocked when she finally sat down in the living room to relax with a glass of wine to discover that it was 9pm.  We were even more shocked when we both discovered we were wide awake at 4am.  With an expected leaving hour of 8, we didn’t know quite what to do.  What the heck, let’s just leave.  Can you tell we were ready to be on the road?!

south on the 5Thinking breakfast might be a nice way to kill some time, we decided to try Elmers’ but they didn’t open until 6 so we ended up at Shari’s while waiting for Freddy’s to open the gas islands.  Breakfast was OK, but not as great as our favorite Elmer’s place, and we had food in our tummy’s and gas in the rigs by 7am and were heading south on the 5 by ten after. 

Mo checking out the baloon from the vista siteSomehow the road seemed new today, and as many times as both of us have driven the five, together and apart, it was as fresh and interesting as if we had never done it.  Most anyone who has traveled out west has been on this road, it is the easiest and fastest way to get from anywhere north to anywhere south in Washington, Oregon, and California.  Everyone complains about how boring it can be, but the stretch between Grants Pass and Redding is as gorgeous as any interstate in the country.  Especially when the sun shines over Mt Shasta. 

over the bridge crossing Shasta lakeThere as a bit of smoke and haze in the spring air near the mountain today, but it only served to make it even more mystical. “The Mountain” dominates the skyline for a hundred miles in almost all directions, but the view comes and goes between the volcanic landscape surrounding Medford and Yreka.  Rounding a curve you get a glimpse here and there before she explodes in her full glory as the road passes through the Scott Valley.  Well, explodes maybe isn’t a good word, although she has been quiet for a few centuries now.

it is getting hot on the 5 near Red BluffWe took our time, stopping at the vista points, then again at a beautiful rest area near Red Bluff that neither of us remembered seeing before.  I think it was there, but has been reworked significantly.  The roses were in full bloom and the area was lovely and green with beautiful shade trees and a nice pet area.  By mid day the temperatures were in the mid 80’s and I felt myself open up and expand with the warmth just like those roses.

coast range in the west south of CorningWe drove as far as Costco in Woodland before stopping for fuel and then Mo drove through downtown Sacramento and around the complex ramps to get on the 50 going east to South Lake Tahoe.  I lived in Sacramento back in the 70’s, visited Maryruth there many times since when she lived there, and still that turn onto 50 east is disquieting.  Today it was a piece of cake, though, a great reason to travel on a Sunday through the cities.

Day 1_062DSC_0062Our destination this afternoon was Shingle Springs and the Elks Campground just about 5 miles away from where Laurie and Odel have settled in to homestead.  They met us at the campground with some instructions about where to dump if we needed (we did!) and maps of how to get to their house.  Mo keeps asking if Laurie was a teacher.  She gave me three maps, a distance google map, a close-up google map with bulleted pop-outs, and a page of written instructions.  It was all detailed, specific, and perfect.  We still managed to turn the wrong way for a moment before correcting.  This part of the California foothills is lovely, and full of narrow, winding roads that just wander off willy-nilly in almost any direction.  Beautiful.

Day 1_103DSC_0103We found their home, marveled at their incredibly good luck in finding such a perfect place to live, and then went for a walk around the pretty little lake that is the focal point of their extended home park.  As Laurie has said, it is a bit like living in a really nice RV Resort, only with more room in the kitchen.  The lake was charming, and filled with adorable goose families and one half of a pair of beautiful black swans.  The walk felt good after a day in the rig and by 6 we were all ready for dinner.

Day 1_077DSC_0077A short drive to a Taqueria nearby led us to a nice cool patio and some good Mexican food.  Laurie’s ceviche was fresh and delightful, Mo had a chimichanga that was spicy and flavorful, and my flautas were like cardboard filled with chicken leather.  ah well, most of it was really good! 

It is so great to have some time with friends we enjoy so much.  Laurie and Odel are both fun to be around, easy to talk with, and always entertaining.  One of the lucky finds of the RV life for us.  Tomorrow there is more socializing on the agenda with a great drive north on the famous Highway 49 to Nevada City. 

Day 1_109DSC_0109Right now the night is dark and quiet and the air is still warm and soft.  For a few minutes this afternoon things were less than lovely, with a bit of black tank dumping fiascos, but now it is all good.  Isn’t it amazing how that can happen?  While walking around with L and O we found ourselves talking about dog poop, cat boxes, black water tanks, and being sick on a ship.  Geez….Maybe we can find something better to talk about tomorrow!

Day 1_117DSC_0117