02-18-2022 Not Stuck in Lodi

These sandhill cranes are so close to Flag City RV Resort you can see the lights of the park

As I mentioned before, we have passed through Lodi repeatedly over the years. Most everyone, at least the older ones among us, remembers the old Credence Clearwater Revival song, Stuck in Lodi Again. I thought it might be fun to research what John Fogerty thought when he wrote the song. There are a couple of versions. The simplest is that he remembered Lodi from trips where his father took them camping at Lodi Lake, a place he hated. Another time he said he hoped his career wouldn’t get stuck in small nowhere towns like Lodi. Either way, Lodi was a nowhere place in central California, about 30 miles south of Sacramento. I even got stuck in Lodi once with a guy I was crazy about, on a first date, late at night when his car broke down, and we shared our first kiss on the winding road from Sutter Creek to Lodi. I have loved dancing to that song ever since.


Even though I lived in Sacramento for a time, I still didn’t know Lodi as an actual destination. Not until Mo and I read the fancy brochures in the main office at Flag City RV Resort did we realize just how famous Lodi is in the world of wine, and especially the Old Vine Zinfandels that we both like.


For this trip, Lodi was our southernmost extent in the excellent wine state of California. We planned three nights and two days, thinking that we could visit a few wineries. When Mo received the shiny brochure from the Lodi Visitor Information Center, we perused the glossy ads. Finally, we decided on two wineries that might give us a taste of some good wine without too much hassle or a required reservation.


Mo also decided that it would be good to do something other than drink wine and found a couple of local wildlife reserves to visit. When we mentioned our plans to friends Sue and Randy, they were full of superb suggestions for us.

Settling into our site at Flag City RV Resort on Wednesday evening, we were delighted to see fabulous weather predicted for the next several days. Sunshine and wine? What could be better?


One of Mo’s choices, before we left home, was to visit the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, also called the Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve. We had no clue that the timing of our arrival at the Reserve was crucial. Sue and Randy regaled us with tales of thousands of sandhill cranes flying in just at sunset to fill the ponds with the huge, noisy birds. They stressed that if we waited until after sunset, it would be too late, and if we were too early, there would be no birds to see.


After we got settled, we drove a few short miles north of the park to the Reserve. We saw a few parked cars near the sign north of the ponds. A few cranes were gathered, feeding and making garbled crane sounds. I love that sound! I walked toward an entrance gate where a sign notified people that the Reserve required a paid pass to enter. I asked a couple of people settling in at the benches if we needed an access pass to walk on the other side of the gate. Yup, sure enough.


I am sure that the view from outside the gate wasn’t much different from the view from those benches.

We waited about half an hour before seeing swoops of cranes flying in the distance, and they were wondrous against the darkening sunset skies. A few landed in the ponds nearby but many more traveled farther west toward distant ponds.

Mo and I decided to drive a bit west along the old farm road and found more cranes resting in ponds, with only a few flying in to land. Randy and Sue said they had seen thousands flying and landing in the ponds earlier in the season. We missed the big fly-in but still got to see Sandhill Cranes.

We slept in a bit the following day, took Mattie for a couple of walks, and had a tasty breakfast at home. Our goal for the day was to explore at least two wineries in Lodi, and the first choice was the most distant, the Bokish Vineyard and Winery, about 10 miles east of town.

The sun was shining, the outdoor tables were bright red, with umbrellas that could open for shade. We laughed when attempting to sit in the extremely low chairs. I wasn’t sure I would ever get up again! Mo waited outside with Mattie while I went inside the tasting room. Bokish Vineyard specializes in Spanish wines and as a lover of Verdujo wines. I was anxious to try them out. The Applegate Valley near where we live is famous for tempranillo grapes, and there were several blends and estate wines made with tempranillo grapes at Bokish.

I bought a single flight, but the steward was quite busy with wine club members buying many flights for six people at a table. After tasting a couple of wines in the flight, I said, “Never Mind. Just let me buy a glass of your Tempranillo blend for my friend and a bottle of the Verdujo for us to take with us.” I think I missed the last two choices of my flight, but it didn’t matter. It was more fun to go back outside and sit in the sun with Mo and the dog.

The Bokish Winery was close to the tiny town of Lockeford, the location of Lockeford Sausage.  Friends Sue and Randy told us about this historic meat market famous for wonderful sausages.  We took a little side trip on the way to the next winery to check out the store.  Mo parked along the busy road while I stood in line with several people in the tiny store.  The choices were amazing, and I left with some linguisa, some kielbasa, and their famous fair sausages.

When I mentioned to the Bokish steward that we were visiting Lodi to taste Old Vine Zinfandels, he told me about another nearby winery that we would not have chosen on our own. The Klinker Brick Winery was small and comfortable, an incredibly charming place to sit and order some of the best wines we tasted during our visit. I learned about estate wines made from a single variety of grape from a single vineyard.

Our purchase of choice was the Marissa, a beautiful wine made from 94-year-old vines. Our server was a delightful woman with a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. She served us al carte snacks of cheese, crackers, and salami to go with our wine. By the time we enjoyed these two wineries, it was time for us to return home.

Traveling what we thought was the main street into Lodi, we attempted to find the lovely Lodi mission arch. Mo was driving, and I was navigating but to no avail. Finally, we stopped a young woman crossing a downtown street, asking the location of the arch. Oops. She looked at me as if I were foolish and pointed to her left. The arch was less than 500 feet from where we sat at the stoplight. The history of the old arch is fun to read about if you care to take the time.

We did not need dinner after our wine and afternoon snacks and settled in with one of the best inventions we have found for traveling. We don’t carry a satellite for tv. The parks sometimes have cable, but we are so spoiled with recording most of what we watch that the interminable ads drive us nuts. The choices aren’t that great either. We have a smart TV and could link up our phone hotspot to the TV to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, but that uses up data even with our unlimited plan. Instead, I fire up Amazon on my phone, turn on the screen sharing on the phone and the TV, and Wa La~~good shows to watch without using up data. For some reason, Verizon will let us use as much data as we wish as long as it isn’t through the hotspot.

We planned the next day to explore wildlife reserves. Rising with the sun, I made coffee for the road, and we drove 11 miles north to the Consumnes River Preserve to find birds. The Preserve is very close to I-5, and as many times as we have traveled south on that highway, I never realized how close we were to a great destination.

The gate was supposed to be open at eight AM on weekdays, but a handwritten sign said that time might be variable. We parked in an area north of the wetlands and walked the paved pathways toward the ponds. Wooden walks were interspersed along the wetlands to allow better access. There were many ducks of several varieties, but I am not a very good duck identifier without a bird book in hand.

We then parked outside the closed entry gate to the Visitor Center, where we found a QR code with maps and information for each stop along the trails. There were even fewer birds along the wetlands near the main river channel. However, it was a delightful walk, and a few other walkers were enjoying the trail by the time we left.

Back home for breakfast, we next headed toward town for another day of explorations. Lodi Lake was our first destination. We were somewhat disappointed when we found the lake, dry as a bone except for a tiny area where a few birds huddled near the puddle of water.

I am glad that we didn’t plan to kayak the lake! We walked around, a bit disconcerted when we saw the signs saying No Dogs On the Lawn. What good is a park where dogs can’t play? This was the part of the day that was designed specifically for Mattie!

We walked the roads a bit, checked out the campground, and marveled at the boat ramp to nothing. I couldn’t figure out what white bird species were huddled by the little bit of water until I zoomed in on the photo. They were American white pelicans, one of our favorites from the Klamath Basin where we once lived.

After our lake exploration, we traveled north of town to another winery we chose from the brochure. The ad for Viaggo Vineyards and Winery was particularly glossy. The entry gate was impressive, and once inside, the long stone pathway was lined with plants and sculptures.  

Mo settled into a table, and I entered the large, overly impressive tasting room. The room was opulent beyond description, and the person serving the wine wasn’t particularly welcoming. I ordered a single flight with plans to get another glass of something for Mo and buy a bottle of choice.

I have to say the wines were awful. I walked around and checked out the grounds, where the main house was a McMansion of grandiose proportions. I decided that this winery was a pet project of someone with way too much money and very little knowledge of wine.

I learned later that Viaggo Winery was considered a “venue” for weddings more than a place for excellent wine. While we were sitting at our table, a large group of chatty and giggly young women arrived, and the wine steward was all over welcoming them to the property. To him, I am pretty sure two old ladies ordering a single wine flight were chopped liver.

After a disappointing day visiting Lodi Lake and Viaggo Winery, we returned to the MoHo. I still wanted to see the Michael David Winery, (even if you haven’t bothered to click on the links, don’t miss this one ) just a few short blocks east of the RV Park. We discovered that visiting wineries could be very limited by timing. Most of the wineries we visited were open from noon to five on weekdays and often closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

We settled at the outdoor tasting bar at Michael David just 15 minutes before the last tasting. The wine steward offered us a menu, but I was disappointed that several wines were types we weren’t interested in tasting. I told him we were in Lodi to experience Old Vine Zins, and he said under his breath, “I am not supposed to do this, but what the heck.” He poured a glass of one of the zins for Mo and a glass of the best zin they had for me at the cost of two tastings. He was fun, the grounds were beautiful, and by the time we finished our wine, both of us were feeling quite content about the ending of the day.

Our exploratory visit to Lodi ended on a good note. Considering that we drank the equivalent of two glasses of wine each day, I don’t think we overdid. We bought three bottles of wine, not the least bit excessive. Maybe that last bottle of Old Vine Zin from an estate vineyard at Michael David was a bit extravagant, and we will save that one for a celebration of something fabulous.

02-16-2022 Sunshine and Friends

Most winters we make plans to travel south to the desert for some much needed sunshine.  Last year we stayed closer to home, traveling to the coast several times.  This year, with Covid still rearing its ugly head, we decided against driving 750 miles south to Desert Hot Springs as we have done almost every year since we got the MoHo.

I-5 between Yreka and Mt Shasta can get murky sometimes in winter

We didn’t feel much like dealing with all the complexities of dining, going to movies, hiking crowded trails, swimming in a crowded pool, and hanging out in a crowded spa.  After reading the comments from my last blog, where a few mentioned that I sounded melancholy, I realized that maybe the decision to stay home during foggy January wasn’t a great idea.

So many times when traveling south, we pass by side routes to friends, thinking maybe we can catch them next time. Or maybe we can catch them on the way home, forgetting that we are like horses to the barn after being on the road awhile.

Heading south and east over Highway 58 in 2020

We decided it was time to plan a different kind of trip.  This time, after heading south toward Redding as we usually do, instead of barreling down I-5 to get to the desert, we planned to take a few side routes.  We would visit friends living east of the interstate in the Sierra Foothills, friends in Davis, west of our main route, and take another side route to visit my sister in Vallejo.

We also decided that it was time to slow down and enjoy Lodi. In the past, whenever we parked overnight at Flag City RV Resort, we would read about the many wineries in the area that are especially known for their old vine zinfandels.  I reserved three days in Lodi, and Mo ordered the paper copy of the Lodi visitor brochure.  We read about the wineries, made some possible choices and added visits to a few wildlife reserves to fill out our three days with Lodi as our southernmost destination. 

Fun times with Jimmy and Nickie in Nevada City this year

I called our friends along the route, making sure they would be around, and planned accordingly.  The plans were probably the most detailed we have made so far.  It isn’t always possible to be completely spontaneous when including several other people in several locations!  Another minor glitch appeared as we attempted to make reservations near Auburn, California.  Every single RV Park within 50 miles was fully booked without even a waiting list available.  I tried pulling the ADA card as well, to no avail.  All those sites were filled up too. 

We had just signed up for Harvest Hosts to help with our cross country trip next August and I thought it might be worth seeing if there was anything available near Auburn.  Using the Harvest Host website was easy, and the reservation-notification process worked well.  We found two places near our friends where we could park overnight.  Harvest Host has a few minor requirements: one that you show up and two that you are considerate.  There are usually no hookups at these sites, but accommodations vary. The only other suggestion is that you buy $20.00 worth of merchandise from the hosts.  This way everyone benefits.

Somehow our plans all came together and worked perfectly.  The weather has cooperated as well, with brilliant sunshine, chilly nights and days in the high 60’s.  What could be better?!

Departing Grants Pass at 8 on Sunday morning, February 13th, we were delighted to travel on roads without ice or snow, something nearly unheard of in early February over the passes. A short stop in Yreka yielded a rare treat for us.  Not often are we interested in fast food, but those sausage McMuffins at McDonalds have been a travel treat for us for years when on the road.  Pretty sure we haven’t had one in at least two years. The adjacent parking lot was huge and the breakfast was a sinful delight.

One more stop at the Red Bluff rest area to change drivers, and let Mattie get a little walk about was all we needed on the six hour drive. Another stop at the Costco in Chico, where we filled the MoHo with fuel at $4.08 per gallon, saved us from paying the much higher prices we saw along our route on I-5. It only took us 8 hours to arrive at Nickie and Jimmy’s driveway in Nevada City.  We chose to unhook the Tracker at the local market rather than driving up their windy, narrow road.  With just a tiny bit of adjustment, we were parked and level in their driveway.

Nicki and Jimmy have been to visit us, but with a bit of searching memory banks, we realized that we hadn’t been to their home in almost 6 years!  I visited overnight in 2019, but Mo wasn’t with me on that trip.  Nickie fed us snacks and goodies before feeding us a great supper of chicken enchiladas and home grown blackberry cobbler for dessert. The Super Bowl was on in the background, but none of us paid much attention to it except when something exciting happened.  Visiting and talking and laughing definitely took priority. 

Mattie as usual was happy as can be to have two new people to pay attention to her.  So far, almost everyone enjoys Mattie and she reigns queen of the household most everywhere we go.  Nickie and Jimmy were no exception, spoiling her terribly with treats and hugs.

The next morning Nickie fed us another delightful breakfast with fresh fruit, yummy bacon, and homemade scones.  We had a couple of hours To enjoy the late winter plants in the yard, and enjoy our friends before we unhooked the MoHo and headed back down the road toward town.

Our next visit for the day was with a long time friend of Mo’s.  Mo and Jan both taught PE for more than 30 years at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, California.  Mo had a great photo of Jan, with Mo and another good friend who taught at Terra Nova.  Jan got a kick out of the photo.

Sadly, Jan’s husband had fallen just a few days prior to our visit, so was in rehab and unable to join us.  Jan picked us up down at the local market where we left the MoHo and Tracker.  This time we let Mattie wait for us safely in the MoHo so she wouldn’t have to wait in the car while we had lunch at Jan’s clubhouse.  Jan showed us her home and then took us for a tour of Lake of the Pines, an upscale housing development built 29 years ago in the foothills north of Auburn.

Named for the local lake, the development has an 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, many smaller parks and beaches around the lake, and pickle ball courts.  An avid pickle ball player, Jan’s husband fell playing pickle ball, hence his time in rehab. 

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in the Sports Club restaurant, with a great view of the lake.  Behind us on the wall is a photo where Jan is playing tennis.  It seems in the 29 years that she has lived there, she has been president of the tennis club a few times, in addition to president of the golf club.  She even taught swimming aerobics.  I guess if you have been a PE teacher for many years, folks know you will be good at everything physical and want to tap your talents.

It was after 3 when we left Lake of the Pines and traveled to our very first Harvest Host destination.  It was an easy drive from Auburn, just a few miles south of town near Newcastle. Our choice for the night was Martha’s Gardens, a small family farm that specializes in cut flowers, eggs, and produce.  What makes the place a delight are the several acres of gardens created by the owners. 

The garden has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Fresh Picked Flower program.  Flowers are selected from what is blooming that week on the farm.  I had heard of CSA’s for veggies, but hadn’t heard of fresh picked flowers showing up weekly.  Love that idea. 

When we arrived after 3 yesterday afternoon, both of us were worn out.  Not sure why, except that we have been isolated so much in the last two years that we are out of practice. Then driving the short distance from Nevada City to Auburn and then on south to the farm was a reminder of just how busy it can be on California highways.

We settled in for the evening with no need for any kind of supper thanks to our afternoon luncheon with Jan.  I decided to walk the gardens a bit, and after talking with Tom learned that Mattie was welcome, and after a bit of exploration I decided I needed to return for Mo so she and Mattie could enjoy the walk with me.  It was a very relaxing evening for all of us.

The next morning we had brunch planned at Awful Annie’s in Auburn with not only Jimmy and Nickie, but our long time friends, Laurie and Odel.  Long time readers already know that these two couples are friends that we discovered more than a decade ago through our mutual admiration of each other’s blogs.  I learned about blogging through Laurie, and the web page blogger version of my blog (not the simplified phone view) is a direct result of Laurie’s tutelage.  All of us were aghast to realize that it had been six years since we last shared breakfast and laughter together at Awful Annie’s. 

Breakfast was wonderful and after a bit of shuffling, we enjoyed the very same big table by the window where we ate together in 2016.  Have we all changed much?  Just me I think, with all that white hair.

Nickie and Jimmy and Laurie and Odel get together more often, with hiking a main activity that they share.  Since they often hike several miles on steep Sierra trails, when Nickie mentioned a hike after breakfast I said to please pick something short and flat.

Laurie did a bit of searching about and found a lovely trail for all of us to share that was easy enough for me and yet not entirely boring for them.  Laurie chose the BLM Dave Moore Nature Area just 16 miles or so from Auburn along the South Fork of the American River.  We caravanned in our three cars down the American River Canyon on Highway 49 and I was once again reminded of what it was like living in the Mother Lode, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Highway 49 has almost every road in the United States beat for intense curves.  It is a great ride for motorcycles, and sports cars.

The one mile loop trail “goes from the parking lot trailhead to the South Fork American River and back again, passing through several habitat types. Nestled in the heart of Gold Rush Country, the trail is lined with remnants from nearly 150 years ago when Chinese laborers channeled creek water by hand with pick and shovel for gold mining. Tailing piles from the Gold Rush period blanket the area which lend to the characteristic landscape that makes this area so unique.”

The trail was designed especially for people who are physically challenged with the portion going to the river being wheelchair accessible. After hiking down to the river, we chose to take the non-accessible portion of the trail back to the cars.  Easy and especially lovely as it meandered through a mature old blue oak/live oak forest that was just ready to burst with wildflowers.

Laurie downloaded the pdf brochure for the area and at special points in the walk she read to us.  We learned about the huge ring madrone where she took my photo.  She read about the mushroom rock created from weathered granite affected by erosion from the river.  She read to us about the beautifully crafted rock walls built by Chinese workmen more than 150 years ago.  The sun was shining, the walk was beautiful, and it was so much fun to share it all with our friends.  Mattie, of course, especially loved the walk when we reached the river and the sandy beach.

Nickie had a great time finding all the tiny dinosaurs and lizards hidden in various nooks and crannies along the trail.  They are not to be removed, but can be relocated to other hiding places.  Of course, Nickie was thinking of her sweet granddaughter and how she would have loved the dinosaurs. It was a bit sad when the hike was over and we returned to our cars.  Hugs all around and goodbyes for everyone, we all said that there was no way we were going to let six more years go by before we got together again.

Mo and I returned to Martha’s Gardens at 3 on the dot, and with no hookups to consider, were on the road by 3:20.  Our next stop was Bee Z Bees Farms, just past the town of Lincoln north of Sacramento.  It was a short drive, less than half an hour, with the only excitement being a bit of a kerfuffle with the Tracker.  After 15 years hauling a towed, we thought the Tracker was rolling.  The crazy noise on the curves alerted us otherwise.  Just goes to show that in spite of all our experience, it is still possible to make a momentary mistake.

We looked at the website for Bee Z Bees Farms before choosing to stay there, but didn’t bother reading the reviews.  There weren’t that many choices in the vicinity of where we wanted to be that night.  Mo and I were picturing a large family owned operation with large warehouses, plenty of space, and some kind of a nice little gift shop that showcased the cute stuff that they had for sale on their website.

We were a bit taken aback when we arrived at a somewhat rural looking place, with no house or shop, and an RV under a shelter.  The home was surrounded by kids toys, and there was a lot of “stuff” lying around.  The owners were not home when we arrived and the directions over the phone told us to pull in, make sure we weren’t in the middle of the road, and park toward the blue UTV.  I didn’t know what a UTV was but figured out it was the blue thing in front of us, between the RV, the chickens and goats and the very large barking German shepherd.  He was fenced, but we knew Mattie might get a bit disturbed by his barking.

So far, so good.  A bit later the husband showed up, was very nice, and gave us a few instructions about keeping the dog on a leash.  He told us they didn’t have a showroom and his wife would bring out the candles and honey a bit later.  We settled in, and after a bit she came outside with her candles in a box.  They were quite lovely, and I bought a small one for $20.  I have no idea if that was a reasonable price, but it didn’t matter because we fulfilled our obligation and were free for the rest of the night.

The place turned out to be fine for an overnight, and we learned to not have any expectations regarding what a Harvest Host location might be like.  Later, when I took the time to look at the reviews, the only complaints I found were about the dog barking all night.  He did quite a bit after midnight, but the MoHo is fairly sound proof and it didn’t bother us.  It was really a decent place to be, with no night light and no noise from the adjacent farm road.  Dark, quiet places are NOT easy to come by.

The next morning we took our time leaving.  Davis, California, is just an hour down the road from Lincoln and we had one more visit to look forward to.  Sue Southard is a work colleague from my days in California soil survey, and her husband Randy is a retired soils prof from UC Davis. 

They invited us to their beautiful home, one I had only seen in shared photos.  It was gorgeous, and filled with love and flowers.  The sun was shining brilliantly, and we wandered around the back yard in bare feet enjoying all the yard projects that have kept Sue and Randy busy since they retired.  Sue served some fresh local oranges and tasty cinnamon cake as we shared stories of families and travels.  Sue and I marveled that this time our conversation wasn’t dominated completely by soils talk.

We told them we were planning to stay in Lodi for a few nights, and they told us of some great places to visit.  One special treat in Lodi we might have missed if not for their great advice.  We left this part of our journey with good memories of good times with friends, and looking forward to what was to come next.

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.

03-22 to 24-2021 Off to the Smith with Deborah

Once again we decided that a shared camping trip with my daughter Deborah would be a great way to spend some time in a beautiful place.  Our plan was to camp near the Smith River in California so Deb could hone her fishing skills.

Mo and I had camped at Redwood Meadows RV Resort in Hiouchi back in November of 2010 in a nice little spot adjacent to a tiny bubbling creek.  Even though there is a bit of road noise from Highway 199, it isn’t terribly intrusive and the site we like is set a bit apart from some of the other sites.  We made reservations, and during the process discovered that Redwood Meadows is owned by the same people who own the Shoreline RV Park where we camped in Eureka.  When talking with Brenda at the office while making the reservation I mentioned Shoreline in passing and Brenda made sure I received a 15 percent discount since I had camped at one of their parks.  I never asked if the discount had an ending date, but was happy for the little bit of additional savings, more than the 10 percent we usually get for AARP, AAA, or military discounts.

After spending several days with Deb in the MoHo last month, we knew how to manage the small space and enjoy being together.  This time Deb was insistent that she provide one of our meals, and had a great pot of beef stroganoff with wide noodles all pre-cooked and ready to go.  We hoped for another supper of fresh caught fish, and maybe a third night of fish and chips at our favorite spot in Crescent City, not far west from our camping site in Houichi.

Deb purchased a 2 day fishing license for California, in addition to tags for both salmon and steelhead, and came prepared with pole, bait, and a tackle box of goodies.  She read up on local fishing stories, best bait to use, and where the good holes were located.

We left Grants Pass around 11, knowing that we couldn’t check in to Redwood Meadows until 1PM.  Since it was Sunday, no one was in the office, but I knew exactly where to find the envelope with our check-in information.  I have to say that Brenda was so helpful and considerate throughout this entire process.  She called a couple of times before we left home to double check how we were doing and make sure we knew that she had saved our requested spot.  I was truly impressed with how well everything was managed at this park.

We knew the weather might be a bit iffy for a day or two during our visit, but Deb was undaunted.  She had no qualms about fishing in the rain if need be.  That first afternoon after we set up the rig Mo settled in with Mattie while Deb and I got in the Tracker to scope out where the fishing holes were located, what Mo called, “A reconnaissance trip”.

Some of the maps that Deb had were hard to understand and it took awhile to get a good picture of where the various sections of the river began.  For fishing these waters it is imperative that you know exactly where you are on the river since the rules vary by section.  Deb also discovered that the entire section of the river required barbless hooks so she needed to pick up some of those on her way to our home before we left. 

Our RV park was just a short distance from the main entrance to Jedediah Smith State and National Park, right along Highway 199 where the Smith River flows west and north toward the ocean 7 miles distant.  With a bit of wandering about we found all the fishing holes Deb wanted to try, and even saw a few people fishing in the late afternoon.

Back home we settled in for supper, a truly grand meal thanks to Deborah, with plenty for leftovers.  By the time we returned, Mo had started a lovely campfire and after dinner we sat outside to enjoy the evening and roast a few marshmallows with the super roasting sticks that Deborah sent to us as a gift after our last camping trip.  My old sticks were short, and these new ones extend to a perfect length, with two prongs on the end to keep the marshmallows from dripping off as they get hot, and metal that stays cool to the touch, maybe titanium?

After a great night’s sleep, with no problems from the highway noise, we woke to a cloudy morning with rain predicted for much of the day.  After breakfast the three of us piled into the Tracker, Deb with her gear and Mo, Mattie, and I with coffee and phones and a book to read while Deborah fished.

The first site we explored was right near the bridge where Highway 199 crosses the Smith River.  Named Society Hole, we were tickled to see the fishing symbol on the sign at the entrance to a parking area that even had a small outhouse.

Deb headed down to the river, and in spite of the chilly and damp weather was thrilled to be fishing once again.  It has been awhile since she got out with her poles.  Her favorite fishing was during her years in Texas along the coast where she fished in the ocean with great success.  She also fished successfully for trout in Pelican Bay near our previous home in Rocky Point.

She walked the rocky bar adjacent to the river, casting into the deep pools as far as she could reach, but to no avail.  We noticed that with the incredibly clear water of the river we should have been able to see a fish or two.  Not a one appeared, either visually or on Deborah’s hook.  Still, it was a lovely morning for all three of us, especially when the sun peeked through now and then. 

I spent some time walking the gravel bar as well and was amazed at the gorgeous river worn rocks.  Most of the geology of the upper Smith is in serpentine and various types of metamorphic rocks, including jade and jadeite.  I have no clue which of these rocks were actually jade, but picked up one to take to daughter Melody, who informed me if I didn’t bring her one, I didn’t love her!

By early afternoon I received an expected text message from an old friend.  Ben Marshall, a soil scientist who worked for me in 2008 and 2009 in Sonora California was traveling from Coos Bay to his family home in the Mother Lode area in California.  Ben now lives with his wife Meghan and two young boys in Maryland, where he is an MLRA Leader for soil survey.  That is the position I was in just before retiring when Ben worked for me.  I remember long conversations with Ben about how he really wanted a wife and kids, to build a family.  Ben met Meghan at a Basic Soil Survey training class and they fell in love.  Meghan applied for a job in my office, and it was a bit of a difficult thing because my supervisor was adamant that having partners in the same office was not a good thing. I told my boss, “If we don’t hire Meghan, we will lose Ben”.  The rest is history.  Meghan came to work for me as well, she and Ben got married, moved to Maryland and now have two sweet little boys. 

Ben, traveling with his youngest boy, arrived in late afternoon.  Masked and careful, even his young son, we had a great visit, catching up on old times and laughing with the memories of soil survey in those years.  It was great to see him.  It is lovely when people from a past life care enough to make an effort to visit.

Without fish for the Monday evening menu we settled in with a meat loaf I had prepared, just in case.  It was also delicious and once again we enjoyed a nice campfire with marshmallows.  Mo and I put out our awning, a new one that we replaced a couple of years ago and haven’t used since.  Often the winds are too unpredictable to leave out the awning.  This time we were protected from the wind and had no problem.  However, Mo was careful to put the awning up at enough of an angle that the rainwater would run off without pooling and causing any problems.

Another good night’s sleep and we were ready for a day of exploring more holes along the river.  This time we traveled Walker Road, a dirt track that meanders through Jedediah Smith State Park toward the river.  On our last trip through this area we stopped at the visitor center where we learned about Walker Road, but chose to skip it since we were on the way farther south and didn’t want to have to unhook the Tracker to explore it. 

It was absolutely gorgeous!  Most people traveling through this area visit the main park road or the access road to Stout Grove farther north in the park.  It was the first time in all the years we have traveled this route that we had a real reason to explore Walker Road.

Once again, the fishing area was beautiful, the river gorgeous and incredibly clear.  The morning fog began to lift around 9, earlier than we expected, and the sunshine made everything sparkle.  After a few hours at this hole, once again Deborah decided that it might be time to try another spot.  We decided to go home for some lunch and a bit of relaxation before Deb and I drove back to another highly recommended spot.  Mo and Mattie stayed home in the Moho for some down time.

This time Deb and I decided to try another route, a dirt track that showed several access points that we had seen that morning from the west side of the river. The road wasn’t too bad, but we did have to drive through a few deep pools left from the recent rains.  We hoped to get all the way to the area across the river where we had been in the morning, but the last deep pool was too much for the Tracker.

I thought I might need to double check the depth, and it was a good thing I did because the water was 3/4 of the way up the tires, with a soft mushy bottom toward the end, and deep enough to bury the exhaust pipe of the car.  I was glad Deb had some waders with her.  She never used them, but they sure helped me as I crossed that deep pool.

We had Mattie with us on this sunny, gorgeous afternoon and she loved following Deb as she fished along the shoreline.  I managed to wrangle my walker out of the car to help a bit with walking the distance over the rough gravel bar, but I think I had to carry the walker more than I used it.  Still, it was nice to sit there in the sunshine and listen to the river and watch Deb fish.

Once again, incredibly clear water, but no fish.  Deb loved every minute, though, insisted that she didn’t care that much and was just happy to be out there fishing.  It was a magical afternoon.

When we got back to camp, Mo had been visiting with a camping neighbor who had fishing gear in his truck.  He told her that all the fish were gone for the time being, with the local river guides taking vacation time until the fish come back!  He managed to catch trout by traveling 20 miles upstream to his friend’s home right on the river bank and sitting there all day.  Ah well…who knew.  Deb and I thought that maybe next time she might like to go during the Christmas steelhead season and hire a guide to help her learn the river from a local.

With no fresh fish, our plan for Tuesday evening was to take the short drive to Crescent City to visit our favorite spot for fish and chips, the Chart Room.  I knew they were closed on Monday, so we saved that trip for Tuesday.  It was a lovely drive, and when we got there I discovered that my memory of the place being closed on Monday was wrong.  It is closed on Tuesdays!  Ah well.  Instead we rambled back through town along the highway and found another place, one I still only thing of as “restaurant” because that is what I saw on the sign.

The place was funky and charming in the way the coastal coffee shops often are with a laid back vibe and lots of souvenir racks in the middle of the room, fish murals on the walls, and friendly waitresses. We had excellent service, good decent ordinary food, and yes, we ate indoors!  Everyone was masked as they entered the restaurant, and tables were more than 6 feet apart.  Even though Mo and I have only had one vaccination, Deb has had her second, and with numbers going down we felt safe enough. I had forgotten how much fun it is to actually sit in a restaurant, sharing food and background noise with all sorts of people you don’t know.  Why is that fun?  I have no clue, but it was nice to be able to dine inside again.

We went home to enjoy our last campfire of the trip, laugh about the closed restaurant and the lack of fish in the river, and spend another night together in the MoHo.

It was a simple trip, a bit less than 2 hours from home, and yet it felt like another vacation from everyday life.  Deb kept worrying that we were making the entire trip about her desire to fish.  I told her that was great!  It is always nice to have a focus for a trip.  We learned a lot and saw parts of the Smith River that we wouldn’t have seen without Deborah along.  Mo and I love our own company, but having another compatible, easy person to share a trip with had been delightful.  Deb is now hooked of course, and wants her own camping rig. She might decide that a trailer is better for her than a small van, especially since vans are becoming so popular and so highly priced, even for used ones. She spent the entire last part of the trip looking up trailers and vans.

Our trip home was uneventful.  We are used to traveling Highway 199, high on a cliff above the Middle Fork of the Smith.  Such a gorgeous river. We left on Wednesday.  Once home, we discovered that just a day later on Thursday, right near the intersection of Highway 199 and Walker Road a huge redwood fell across the highway, killing two unsuspecting people traveling along in their car.

When Deb and I first explored Walker Road we saw a big tree that had fallen across the road that was being cleaned up. Still, it never really occurred to me that those huge old trees could fall without warning on a perfectly clear, non windy day.  Of course, if you spend any time walking the redwood forests, you will see huge trees everywhere that have fallen at one time or another.  As many times as we have driven through the redwoods on our way to the coast, I never gave it a moment of thought.  I might think differently next time, but it won’t keep me from driving the Redwood Highway.

02-17-2021 Camping Beside the Trinity River at Hayden Flat

The sun was shining on Wednesday morning when we left Eureka.  We knew that our weather on the route home from Eureka was going to be a bit of a challenge. The possibility of skipping the Trinity River and Highway 299 route east to Redding and instead driving back north on 101 was eliminated by the road closure due the the slide south of Crescent City.

With weather predictions for snow on I-5 on the way home, we accepted the possibility that we might have to stop in Redding before we hit snow at Dunsmuir and Mt Shasta.  The other option was that we might have to stop in Yreka.   We thought about simply driving fast and going directly home on Wednesday, skipping our planned night of camping at Hayden Flat.  The thought was so disappointing to all of us, especially Deborah, who said she had no problem returning a day or two late since she was still on work leave for the rest of the week.

When we left Ferndale and drove back north to Arcata the sun was shining brilliantly and the weather reports for the day ahead were close to perfect.  Traveling east on Highway 299 is a beautiful route and the best way to cross the coast range of California from the ocean to the Sacramento Valley.  There are other routes that Mo and I have taken and said “never again” in the MoHo.

The initial climb to Berry Pass isn’t particularly difficult, with a few steep hairpin curves.  The road is wide and well marked and we arrived at the Burney Point Vista just west of the pass in time for lunch.  The parking area wasn’t full but there were several Cal Trans work trucks lined up. 

Must be their lunch time too.  We parked with a view over the distant mountains, opened up the slide for comfort and settled in for a nice lunch.  The sun was warm inside the MoHo but it was brisk and breezy outdoors.

I brought out the frying pan and the olive oil and we managed to turn our cold limp french fries into something delightful for a yummy lunch.  Deb and I enjoyed a bit of the sandwich meat also heated up and much tastier than it had been the previous evening at the restaurant.

We switched drivers, so that I could drive and Deb could be in the front seat during the next section of highway which was much more curvy than the first part.  The route along the Trinity River is beautiful, climbing several hundred feet above the river far below and then dropping down again to river level. 

Mo and I had camped at Hayden Flat several years ago, and hoped to do so again.  There are two sections of the campground, with the lower section on the river side of the highway and the upper section across the road from the river.  As we approached the campground, we saw the road down to the river camp, but missed the turn. 

It seemed impossible to get down there in the Mo Ho from the vantage point of the road.  As we continued a few hundred feet toward the upper camp we were disappointed to see strong green gates announcing that the campground was closed.  Previously reading on the internet (when we still had a signal) we also discovered that the upper camp had been converted to a group site campground. We wouldn’t be able to camp there without reservations even it if had been open. An important side note; we had NO internet signal on any of our phones from Berry Pass on Highway 299 until the next day as we approached Weaverville)

A bit disappointed we slowly continued east along the highway, exploring the possibility of boondocking in one of the wide flat areas along the river.  There are many access points and even a spot with porta potties for the many people who kayak this river.

Continuing past an RV Park which looked a bit iffy and very crowded, we decided to turn around and keep looking for a pleasant roadside night spot along the highway.  Surprise surprise!  On the return trip we saw a wide spot for Hayden Flat Lower Campground, and pulled off to check out the access road.

It wasn’t as bad as we thought.  We unhooked the car to drive down and explore our options and decided getting into the empty campground was a piece of cake.  I drove down in the motorhome while Mo and Deb walked around to select our site. 

We finally settled on the perfect spot, with a fire ring overlooking the river and a nice level place for the MoHo.  As is often the case, an empty campground provides way too many choices to make it easy to decide where to be. The road was above us so there was a bit of road noise, but we didn’t imagine that would be a problem as evening progressed.  The sound of the river was loud as well, so that masked anything unpleasant that drifted down from the road.

Within minutes of getting settled in, Mo had unloaded the firewood and started a nice campfire.  She had packed enough wood for a possible fire on one night, and decided that it was time to get it going even though it was only 2:30 in the afternoon.  Mo does love her campfires.

We sat in our chairs in the warm sunshine, enjoying the fire, the river and a glass of wine letting the afternoon slide by peacefully.  Deb laughed and said she had wondered what we might have had planned for our time between parking and dinner.  She said we usually had some kinds of plans, but this time our only plan was to simply sit and enjoy.  She loved every minute of it. 

Our firewood was getting low and the fire was burning low as well when we all tried to find some kind of wood lying around camp.  Deb offered to drive off in the car to the RV Park we had seen earlier to get some firewood.  Sure enough she returned with a big bunch of wood for only 5 bucks.  In state parks it costs 5 bucks for about a quarter of what she got.  The extra wood extended our campfire long enough that we were able to heat the enchiladas over the fire and still have plenty of coals left for roasting marshmallows together.Dinner was delicious, with homemade enchiladas heated on the fire and another bit salad.

Deb and I both said we didn’t really like marshmallows, but roasting them was fun.  Somehow the marshmallows tasted delicious.  I can no longer say I don’t really like roasted marshmallows.  We talked about how our marshmallow sticks were just a bit short and Mo mentioned the telescoping sticks we had seen once in the past.

It doesn’t take much for Deb to notice small details.  This morning (a week later) a package arrived on the porch. It was a gift from Deborah thanking us for the trip and a nice little canvas case of telescoping marshmallow sticks!!  Yayyy!

The night was dark and cold and beautiful if not starry.  The clouds moved in shortly after sunset and we all slept well.  By morning, it was dark and dreary once again, and as we packed up to drive east the rain began.

I drove for a time, following the river and watching the rain get heavier and thicker until it turned to sleet and then to snow.  We were still 50 miles west of Redding as the snow started sticking to the road in earnest.  At a particularly snowy summit we decided it would be best to unhook the Tracker. 

Mo drove the MoHo and I followed in the Tracker.  As fate would have it, very soon after we passed the summit the snow once again turned to rain.

A few miles before we reached Redding we pulled over again to hook up the Tracker and continued toward town.  Stopping just outside of the city where 299 intercepts I-5, we once again checked the weather.  Although we thought we might stay in Redding for the night, the predictions for I-5 over Mt Shasta were encouraging.  Mixed rain and snow over Shasta was predicted, however the weather cams for Siskiyou Pass at the Oregon state line were daunting.  We decided to continue north toward Yreka with a plan to stay at an RV park there to wait out the storm.

Crossing Shasta was easy, with just a bit of snow, but nothing Mo and I haven’t managed in past years traveling to and from Grants Pass on I-5 over Mt Shasta.  Once down in the valley south of Yreka the snow let up and it began to rain.  We searched the internet and found the Waiika RV Park.  Near the Rain Rock Casino, it was an excellent choice.

We pulled in, signed in, and settled in for a night of waiting and watching the weather cams over the mountains on our route toward home.  The park was pleasant enough, with a level site with full hookups, and very nice, very clean bathrooms with great showers.  A quarter for 5 minutes of good hot water seemed like a real luxury.  I used three quarters and I think Deb said she used 4.  Another big salad and leftovers for supper were perfect.

I don’t think any of us slept very well, wondering what the next morning would bring.  We didn’t know for sure if we would be able to get home or not.  As soon as it was light, I started checking the web cams, Trip Advisor, ODOT Road Conditions, and any other resources I might find to let us know how the route ahead was being affect by the weather.

We were thrilled to see that the route looked do-able and packed up the MoHo and were on the road by 9.  With only a tiny bit of ice and fog at the Siskiyou Summit we were pulling into the driveway at home by 11:15.  It rained off and on along the way, but once again for the last time on this trip the travel angels kicked in and the rain stopped just long enough for all of us to unload the car and the rig as we settled back in here at home. 

From the beginning to the very end it was a perfect, delightful trip and a wonderful way to share our travels with my daughter.  I will treasure the memory always.