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.

Shingle Springs to Nevada City, and Friends!

the beautiful American River near ColomaThere is nothing quite like a morning in the Mother Lode, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, on a warm spring day.  Waking to sunshine and temps in the mid 70’s with an expected high of 84 or so is just about perfect.  Light breezes and low humidity make it even better.  This time of year, the grasses are still somewhat green, and on a Tuesday morning the traffic was even minimal.

Day 3 395 Bishop_003DSC_0003Our site at the Elk’s Lodge in Shingle Springs is just a jump off Highway 50, and there are several ways to get north to Nevada City, but we wanted to take the most scenic route, following North Shingle Road to intersect with the famous gold road, Highway 49 near Coloma.  The destination was Nevada City and meeting our new and old friends, (well most of us aren’t exactly new), at Nickie and Jimmie’s home there. 

We hadn’t yet met in person, but I wasn’t the least bit concerned about it.  I am not sure why this is, but somehow the essence of people comes through in their blogs in ways that always seem to be just right.  Most of the time, I know if I will “click” with someone, and it amazes me that people turn out to be exactly as I thought they would.  Nickie and Jimmie were no exception, except I think they were even nicer than I imagined.  What truly lovely people! 

probably wouldn't enjoy driving the MoHo on 49 south of AuburnThe route north was wonderful, and winding through the hills on the curvy roads reminded me so much of the years I lived in Sonora and drove these roads for work.  I also marveled at how lovely the landscape looked when I didn’t have to imagine slogging up those hot, brushy slopes with a pack and shovels!  I could once again see the charm of the foothills and why people love it so. 

history in ColomaWe left early enough to take a short side trip to Coloma, but it was too early to visit the visitor center and once again my visit was just an overview.  This is the site of gold discovery on the American River, and there are interpretive signs everywhere and old buildings that have a story to tell.  We stopped long enough for a walk along the river with Abby, but returned to the road north fairly quickly so we wouldn’t miss our meet and greet time with Laurie and Odel at Nickie and Jimmie’s place.

working on a bridge on I-80, viewed from the America River south of AuburnThe American River is a story itself, and we saw lots of hikers and raft companies that ply the wild waters of that river.  It is a great place for recreation, with an old bridge walk that crosses the river in the canyon just below Auburn.  We thought we might walk it on our way back, but by late afternoon when we drove the return route, the parking area was packed and it was hot and there were way too many people for us to attempt it.  As beautiful as it is, there seems to be a lot of people pressure on the beautiful places around the Mother Lode.

Once we were through the old town portion of Auburn, Highway 49 is a 4 lane freeway all the way to Grass Valley and in no time we were exiting the road to Nevada City.  We were a bit early, so decided to amble through town before finding Nickie and Jimmie’s home up the hill.  I hadn’t been to Nevada City in years, but I was reminded on this sunny morning of just why it is such a popular place for so many.  My eldest daughter dreamed of living here, as I once did.  It is nestled into the pine covered hills, with steep winding streets filled with gorgeous restored Victorians and a Craftsman or two here and there, and lush spring flowers.  The dogwoods were in full bloom and magnificent!  We decided that after our little meeting we would come back and walk the town.  Of course, at that time we didn’t know we would have the perfect guides who provided ice cream!

Hi, Nickie!lovely welcome to their lovely homeUp the hill to their home was a beautiful drive as well, winding up through Sierran Mixed Conifer forest, thick and lush with Ponderosa Pine, Incense Cedar, and White Fir.  At over 3200 feet on deep old soils, the trees are growing beautifully, and the homes lining the road were quite lush as well.  It was beautiful.

Our welcome was as delightful as expected, but their home was even more lovely than I imagined, and Nickie’s warm and open southern California personality warmed  and mellowed even more by her time in the South and her sweet Southern husband combined to make a truly amazing combination.  I loved both of them almost instantly.  We laughed and talked as if we actually knew each other (which we did!!) and enjoyed seeing all their work on the yard, the new hot tub, and their beautiful home.  Laurie and Odel arrived just after we did, and since the four of them were already acquainted, the talking and laughter was ongoing.

Nickie and Jimmie ran lots of races and this quilt proves itA special treat was seeing a special quilt made from some of the great collection of runner’s tee shirts that Nickie and Jimmie had collected over the years of short runs and long ones, including marathons! Gorgeous! 

lovely lunch at Lefty's Grill in Nevada CityOf course we had to do the RV Blogger get together thing and go find someplace wonderful to eat.  Our Nevada City hosts recommended a great spot in town, Lefty’s Grill, and we dined on the sheltered patio to the sounds of the bubbling creek.  Wonderful food, and a sweet waiter who told me that definitely dogs were not allowed on the patio, but that if he didn’t know it, I could probably bring Abby.  This was the perfect solution, since it was warm and even in the shade, it would have been worrisome to leave Abby in the car.  Of course, the waiter smiled and said, “Please don ‘t bring your dog if you come back again, but she can stay for now”.  Abby helped by being her quiet sweet and calm self, lying under the table quietly while we ate.

Nickie and Jimmie will always be able to find each other in the darkblackberry cabernet sorbet for me.  Doesn't that look like a jewel?Laurie and Odel had lots of remodeling to continue, so declined to walk the town with us, but we were really happy to have Nickie and Jimmie lead us to good parking (.25 cents for two hours) and show us some of the finer spots in the lovely tiny historic city.  Nickie said later that we only saw a tiny bit of it, but after a couple of hours we didn’t mind leaving and saving the rest for later.  Something tells me we will return to this great little place again. 

There is so much to do around here, lots of parades, and art, and festivals, good weather, beautiful mountains, rivers, so much to do and all sorts of recreational activities in abundance.  It is a nice place.  However, as we drove home, we remembered again that nice places usually attract lots and lots of people.  Once again we drove the winding roads with lots of company.  Mo used to love her little sports cars, and as she pushed the Tracker up the steep hills she wished for a clutch and some gears! As fast as she was going, however, there were often many cars right behind her trying to push her up the hill.  A surprising number of turnouts along the route at least made it tolerable.  Most people waved when she pulled over.  Except for all the folks on cell phones, including one woman in a big SUV who almost obliterated us in Auburn, people in California are pretty good drivers.Day 2 Nevada City

It was such a great day!  Thanks to the internet, and blogging, and RV’ing, we discovered some new friends and explored a place we might not have done without that little extra push of having someone who lived there.