04-02-2014 Home Run

In Rocky Point Oregon, sunny and 42F at 10AM

last days_056We are home, and “home run” can mean more than one thing.  First, the trip was a classical “Home Run”, meaning a great success.  Secondly, we “ran home” pretty darn fast once we were heading that way.  The weather was spring-like throughout the west, completely unpredictable.

I have been trying to keep up with fellow bloggers, many of them Canadians, who are also on the trek home.  Many of them are meandering, with a month or so to get north.  Others are bookin’!  I especially loved reading about Peter and Beatrix’s homecoming.  Sheesh.  Made me really appreciate coming home to Rocky Point with just gray skies, a skiff of snow here and there, but nothing to speak of on the ground.  Lucky us.

With high winds predicted all along our route from Edward’s AFB north, along highway 395, we hunkered down for a day, waiting for a break.  The morning we left, things were reasonably quiet, and we traveled north towards the back side of the Sierras without any difficulty.

last days_050We had seen several reader boards touting high wind advisories, and when I had access to the internet, I saw chain requirements on several stretches of 395.  Somehow we missed all the bad stuff, both before us near Mammoth when we got through without chains which were required later that night, and the next day when we waited long enough for the chain requirements to be lifted north of Susanville.

In spite of all the dire warnings, the trip home was a piece of cake!  Sometimes our luck is so incredible I have to trust that it is someone watching over us more than mere luck. We drove 350 miles or so the first day before spending the night at Silver City RV Resort in Minden, and completed the second leg of our route home with ease the next day. 

For me, coming home was a bit strange.  I felt completely loose, ungrounded, disconnected and weird.  I suppose that is to be expected after more than 3 months away, but it didn’t seem to bother Mo in the least.  We were both really happy to be home, but I was rather disoriented.  Today I am fine.  It took a day or so, and a hug from my daughter and granddaughter for me to come down to earth, but now everything feels normal again.

last days_052Recapping the trip, going over the numbers, helps me to put it in better perspective.  We traveled 9,179 miles/14,772 km in the MoHo, with an additional 2,500 miles of explorations in the Tracker.  Our total fuel cost was $4,179.55 an average of 46 cents per mile.  Fuel for regular gas ran the gamut from 2.99 at the lowest in New Mexico and 4.99 the highest on the California border.

We camped 84 nights (not counting our 8 days on a cruise ship) with an average cost per night of $17.39.  Our expensive campgrounds in Florida were offset by several nights boondocking and discounted National and Passport America parks.

last route homeNow it is time for doing taxes, starting on the winter yard cleanup, putting away the Christmas tree decorations, and getting ready for Easter with the family here at home.  Today I’ll fill the bird feeders for the birds that are returning.  The hot tub water is balancing nicely and tonight will be our fist soak under the stars in a long time. 

I have some amazing memories of the trip, images in my mind that stick and come to me when I am still.  I also have an untold number of images on the computer to go back to when I want to remember our travels.  There are a few days and some great experiences that I didn’t manage to write about during the trip, and those stories are waiting in the wings, but they will be backdated as catch-up posts.

Any fears we had about being gone for three months never materialized, but it was a long time to be away from home.  I am not sure we will do that again.  A month or two at a time might be enough for us in the future.  For me, the most noticeable feature about traveling for that length of time is the ability to live in the moment, not worrying much about anything except where the next stop might be, or the next hike.

entire trip mapLife does require a bit more than that when back in the “real world”.  Unlike full timers, we didn’t take much of our “real world” with us, leaving those concerns back home and putting most everything on hold.  Sure, we had the internet, and Quicken, and a printer when we needed it. 

last leg homeWe had telephones for communication, and yet when I talked to my closest friend Maryruth in California a couple of days ago, she exclaimed, “I am so glad you are home!  I missed you!”.  We both laughed about how different it felt to talk on the phone from home than it did from our “vacation” home.  Just different somehow.  My daughter said the same thing yesterday when we had lunch together in Klamath Falls.  I can’t explain it, but I am glad I am home, really home.


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. 

“Do you ever get tired of being on the road?”

December 29 2013: Lodi CA 49 degrees F and clear

Miles driven today: 373

map to lodiA friend asked that question of me this afternoon, after seeing a Facebook post about being on the road again and loving it.  And the answer is “yes, of course”.  That is why we aren’t full timer’s.  I love going home at the end of the trip.  I love being home.  In reality, the only time I really get tired of being on the road is toward the end of a trip, whether it is 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months.  Once we turn toward home, and it is getting close, I get antsy, and get tired of the doing and going of a trip.  I am ready to be on with it.  Much like when I am home and know that we are leaving, I am ready to get going!

DSC_0003In reality, Barb’s question was a surprise.  Reading RV blogs as I do, I know that we are on the road much less than many folks out there, even part timers often travel more than we do. In 2013 we only were on the road for a total of 102 days, a little more than 3 months, a quarter of a year.  Only.  I really thought that it was more than that.  Until I actually counted, I thought we were out between 1/3 and 1/2 of the year.  This year, however, it might actually get a bit closer to that 1/3 to 1/2 time.  We will see.

Looking back again, I saw that most of the summer, we were home as planned, enjoying Rocky Point.  Most of the fall I was home doing family things, quilting, knitting, cooking.  Last winter and spring I was still working.  So no.  I don’t come even close to getting tired of being on the road. Which is a good thing.  Like an unfinished “bucket list”, there is so much more to do, to see, more places to explore, more hikes, more rivers…and more evenings just sitting in the MoHo quietly typing away and thinking about what I am thinking. Ha!

IMG_0995This morning we managed to get up easily at 5:30.  I had been awake since 4 and couldn’t sleep. Deb had made coffee in the house for us and left the back door open so we could slip in for a last shared morning cup before we got going.  It was cold, maybe 30 degrees, and everything was shrouded in an icy fog.  Seems as though those foggy inversions are a very common winter occurrence in the Rogue Valley.

DSC_0017We left just at 6am, in the dark, with full tanks ready to go, and sleeping with the slide in and the car hooked up, we just pulled out and within minutes were on Interstate 5 heading south.  Oh I do love that feeling, knowing that there are miles and months ahead of me with expected and unexpected adventures.  Sometimes just a change of scenery outside the window from one place to the next is all I need to feel energized.

Especially energizing today was watching the temperature rise from a frosty 14 degrees F near Yreka just over the California border to a toasty 64 degrees all the way from Redding to Lodi south of Sacramento.  I have written about this stretch of road so many times, driven it more times than I care to count.  Just what can you say about it anyway?  The surface is a bit better in places than it was last April.  The skies were clear to the west with gorgeous views of the coast range and a bit murky to the east and the Sierras.  Nope, that isn’t anything new at all.  I quit trying to analyze it, and when I took over the wheel, and Mo napped, I just slid into the sound of the wind coming in the open window and the feel of the sun on my face….and in my eyes.  Dang, that California sun is BRIGHT!

IMG_1012Oh…a quickie story, another one about Michelin tires.  Remember how we got an entire set of Michelin tires for the MoHo before we left for Alaska?  Somehow after sitting in the Texas sunshine waiting to be sold, the sidewalls deteriorated and Michelin replaced them in full, minus balancing and mounting.

After 40K miles on the new second set, the tires were getting a little tired, so Mo decided to replace them before we embark on more than 8,000 miles of traveling.  She replaced 5 of them in late October.  Just a short time ago, she received a notice from Michelin saying those tires were being recalled.  Sheesh!  bad timing for sure.  Mo went to town to get the spare replaced on the recall and talked to the manager at Basin tire about what to do. Today we got an email  from Michelin saying that Mo was being reimbursed for all five tires that she bought.

DSC_0009These recalls aren’t such a bad thing I guess if Michelin keeps giving us free tires!

Tonight we are settled in to Flag City RV Resort in Lodi just off the interstate.  We arrived early enough to set up easily and get the TV going in time for the 49rs game, a close one, but they did win.  Then another re-heated dinner of yummy roast pork, apple compote and scalloped potatoes from Christmas was perfect.

Earlier in the afternoon, while Mo watched the game, I took Jeremy out into the sunshine for a walk and checked out the park.  This place is so generic, close to the freeway, row after row of cement pads and little grass yards, and yet it is completely perfect for us just as it is.  It is clean, predictable, 27 bucks for everything with the Passport America card, with great hookups, good TV, spotless restrooms and laundry, and a really nice lounging area in the office.  We don’t use any of these lovely facilities, since for us this is always just an overnighter on our first night out.

DSC_0011Still, as I was walking around the park I thought it might be fun to at least post some photos of it and as I walked about six big rigs pulled in at the same time.  Some kind of caravan thing had arrived.  We never make a reservation here, and even with the caravans choosing this park, we have never had a problem getting a site.

Yup, I love the unpredictability of a road trip, and then again, I love it when some things are predictable.  Such as a great place to stop for a good night’s sleep on a level pad with power, water, sewer, and cable.  Sadly, we are in Lodi, and if we were “stuck” we could explore the more than 100 wineries in the area that have the very best old vine zins in the world.  Instead, we will settle in for a good night’s sleep, grateful that the MoHo is fairly well insulated from the sounds of the interstate, and continue south in the morning. Generic freeways, generic RV parks, all have a bit of a purpose, they get us where we are going.  The desert is calling.


Afternoon in Titus Canyon

Titus Canyon RoadCurrent Location: Topaz Lake RV Park, Nevada on 395

Current Temperature: 45 degrees F Cloudy with thunderstorms. Lo tonight: 39F

(we drove through snow today)

Titus Canyon RoadAfter our amazing morning at the higher elevations on the road to Wildrose, the heat at sea level was breathtaking.  Literally. There is a swimming pool at Stovepipe Wells, but it was too hot to walk across the street to get into it.  Besides it was very full with all those lodge guests who also needed to be somewhere cool during the middle of the afternoon.

When Mo and I traveled to Death Valley in 2004 we rented a car in Las Vegas and stayed in Beatty, Nevada.  The upper end of Titus Canyon road isn’t far from Beatty and the old ghost town of Rhyolite, and we gave it a try.  Of course we weren’t supposed to have that little sedan on dirt roads, but we took our chances.  It was gorgeous and fun, and we decided that it might be worth a repeat trip.  I figured that the canyon would be shaded this late in the day.


Titus Canyon RoadIn early April of 2004, the valley was hot down at Badwater, but quite cool elsewhere.  The photos show us in shorts, long sleeves and warm vests.  No vests on this trip, no way no how.  Just a month later makes a big difference, but then again I don’t think much is predictable about visiting Death Valley, and missing out on the biggest crowds seems to be a nice benefit to coming a bit later and braving the heat.  According to the literature, don’t come on a holiday or in January and February if you want to find a parking spot at any of the popular sites.

Titus Canyon RoadIt is about 28 miles from Stovepipe Wells to Beatty, and the turnoff for the canyon road is just 3 miles west of that little town.  We remember something about ice cream at Beatty, but we were on a mission and ice cream wasn’t on this particular agenda.  The road starts at the bottom of a very long, very rough, alluvial fan, graded dirt and gravel with a LOT of rocks.  Nothing daunting, just a big pain in the patootie.  It seems to go on forever, and right into the western sun.  I was reconsidering my timing for this trip by the time we finally reached something that was at all interesting.

Titus Canyon RoadThe park brochure also says to allow at least three hours for this trip, and when we set out we couldn’t imagine it would take that long.  We left at 4 and it was after 7 when we dropped out of the canyon onto the paved highway.  The time in between, however, was timeless.  Once we maneuvered the narrow winding curves and drop-offs, and descended into the main part of the canyon, the afternoon light did all that I imagined it would.

Titus Canyon RoadWe saw a very few flowers growing from the canyon walls, and bits of vegetation here and there, but the heat was still pretty strong even in the shady canyon.  We stopped to let Abby walk and Mo moved ahead with the car so I could have a bit of alone walking time in the depths of this lovely place.  Abby was pretty concerned, though, and kept running ahead and sniffing the ground to try to figure out what I had done with Mo.  It wasn’t a long walk, but I treasured it.  There really aren’t many places to hike in Death Valley where there aren’t a lot of people around. Once again, we had the entire canyon trip to ourselves without one single car marring the magic.

Titus Canyon RoadThe wildly contorted geology of Death Valley is no more evident anywhere than it is in the depths of Titus Canyon.  Metamorphic rock is folded and bent, lifted and curved in ways not often seen.  Huge boulders brought down canyon are erratic, and cemented conglomerates filled with shiny smooth rounded stones are piled up under dolomite cliffs.  This canyon is definitely worth a repeat trip, even though at the beginning we were wondering about our decision to try it again.

Titus Canyon RoadThe return highway dropped into the valley below and we passed the Mesquite Dunes just after sunset, missing the “magic hour” of light that would have made photos memorable.  It was definitely too hot to think about wandering around in the dunes, especially when photos would have looked dull and flat.  Instead we decided to rise at dawn, as suggested in the park brochure, and walk the dunes when the air was reasonably cool and the morning light would be fun to photograph.

Home to the full blast air conditioner, gravel parking lot sites all filled up again with rental RV’s and a swimming pool too darn crowded to even attempt a swim.  After a very full day, we were perfectly happy to close up the shades and read ourselves to sleep.

Mesquite Dunes at sunset

April and Time to Get on the ROAD!

huge lilac bush by the old shed I know that life is either very good or very bad when I don’t have time to write.  This time it is very good.  Thank goodness.  It was the same way when I kept all those handwritten journals so many years.  When things were good there are very few entries, when things were bad there are pages and pages of them.  If my daughters ever find my journals after my death they would think I lived a horrible life if they didn’t know otherwise. That seems kind of sad to me in a way, but I suppose journaling is a form of self therapy and when things are good who needs therapy!
oaks leafing out at the cottage and potatoes in the dirt p8ileMore than a month has passed since I last wrote in this particular journal, but the one that is now getting filled up is the Google Calendar, with what the weather was doing, where we were, and all those dang dentist and doctor appointments.  I guess that is what life can be reduced to sometimes. I love going back to the blog to remember what we were doing, however, it is a lot more fun that looking appointments on a calendar, and I don’t want April to be a giant black hole. 
The calendar looks really good today, with reminders of what to do next.  “Pack for trip”  “Send in last timesheet” and other such exciting little things.  I have worked in town all week, so Mo has been taking care of home stuff, including setting up the complex sprinkler system and washing the cars.  We finally have spring weather here in Rocky Point and the grass might need some watering while we are off wandering around the desert. Friends are back to house sit, but they don’t have a clue how to work with Mo’s intricate battery timed watering system, so by the time we leave it will be all automated and running and hopefully no hard freeze will mess it all up again.  You never know in this part of the world.
Mo is mowingEaster was so dang early this year that I barely had time to put up decorations before it was over, so I decided that April was Easter month and the decorations only came down a couple of days ago.  Now all is quiet until Halloween and the only yard decorations will be whatever happens to be blooming. We had a simple Easter dinner and egg hunt here in Rocky Point, and then Mo and I spent a lot of time over in Grants Pass taking care of cottage chores.  April at the cottage-004 I even managed a bit of quilting here and there in between trips and chores and work and appointments.
I think I raked a total of twelve full days to get all those oak leaves up and burned.  We tore out the old wall between the kitchen and the bathroom and Mo got a new one framed and drywalled, and it is ready for taping.  The roof no longer leaks, the kitchen floor is now dry with no hidden wet surprises appearing, and the little cottage feels nice and cozy.  We like staying there, especially this time of year.  More than once this past month we left spitting snow and icy roads to drive over to Grants Pass and green grass and blooming spring flowers.  Ahhhhh.  Spring is one of my favorite times, so it is a kick to have spring extended this way as we drive back and forth between home and the cottage.  Daffodils over there have been gone for three weeks and they are just now coming into full bloom here at home.
This last week was our annual progress office review and I delighted in the role as a worker bee rather than the supervisor.  No stress!  I love that part of working as a retiree part time.  I am no longer in charge.  Another ahhh.
After a couple of trips to the cottage and a lot of work around home, we are both ready to make use of that great motorhome that is sitting over there waiting for us.  This time the decision is to head back down 395, the back side of the Sierras, the eastern slope of California.  Our destination: Death Valley.  We haven’t been there since 2004, although several times in our travels we have passed by it on both sides.  This time we will just explore the valley.  Our route home up 395 will bring the MoHo back to Rocky Point and her home berth, ready and waiting for summer camping trips.  No more snow to worry about.
two burn piles down and the field is mowed On the way south we have a couple of fun stops as we amble toward 395.  It is that blog friend thing that I treasure, we will visit old and new blog friends in Placerville and Nevada City.  More to come on that after I get photos and permission to post them!  Then it is over the mountain and into the desert.  Abby will be with us, but this time I decided to let our 17 year old kitty Jeremy spend the time at his cozy little home at the vet’s.  I’ll miss him, but desert heat can be daunting, and if we take Abby in the Tracker with air conditioning, it is worrisome to leave Jeremy in the rig, especially if we don’t get a spot with hookups.  Our route can have weather running the gamut of freezing nights to days over triple digits.
Jeremy loves being outside at the cottage Furnace Creek now has 21 sites with full hookups, but we can’t reserve any because the season officially ends on May 1, our arrival date, so we are taking our chances.  Worst case scenario can be that we will have to return to higher ground and lower temps.  Either way, it will be great.  We are planning a loose trip with options open to whatever fits and whatever works.  Just a trip with some time in the desert!  It is one of the reasons Mo and I like where we live.  We have ocean coast within a short drive, and desert just the other side of Klamath on the Nevada side.  The other delight for me will be heading east from the I-5 over the Sierras and not having to slog our way south through the San Joaquin Valley as we do every winter on our way to Desert Hot Springs.  ahhhh. 
On another note…reading blogs seems to be slipping away from my list of priorities.  Of course there are still a few that really matter to me a lot, and so I wade through the long list to check on those few, how many of you do that as well?  There are some writers that make me laugh out loud and I look forward to that.  Others who have photos that take my breath away and I am always waiting to see what is next.  Others I have come to care about, for whatever reason, and I want to know they are ok, or where they are, or what is happening for them.
I am not going to list them here, or link to them because somehow that just doesn’t seem fair.  Each writer spends time and energy putting themselves out here for whatever reason and that should be respected, I think. But as I do this, and read so many blogs of “stuff”, I totally recognize that my blog is also full of “stuff” that is only relevant to me, and trying to write for anyone but myself is a waste of time.  Someone is looking at my header on google reader or feedly and cruising right by whatever I have to say. 
dvandvegas 069 Some have the skill to write daily in ways that I don’t want to miss, but whether I have the skill or not, I certainly don’t have the desire.  I have no need or desire to put up ads, so what do I need to worry about readership for anyway?  It is so easy to get sucked in by the stats, who is reading, where are they from, what do they look at.  I HATE that, I hate it that I still look at the stats and that I think, “Gee, I should post something so people keep reading”.  Dumb, just dumb! I should post something just because I want to know what I did in April of 2013.  We all talk about this now and then, I know.  I see little blurbs of people saying they aren’t reading as much, and more blurbs of apologies about why they haven’t written.  I catch myself thinking that way as well, that I should say why I haven’t written, but nobody really cares, do they??  If they are friends, they know why I haven’t written, and we have probably been emailing all along.  If they aren’t friends, they don’t care why I haven’t written!
Ah well, enough of my little rant here….it is time to pack! Here is a little photo of us back in 2004, the first time we visited Death Valley together, pre-blog of course.