Interstate 5 north of Mt Shasta
We left home on Saturday morning, the 7th of January, in a rainstorm. We actually hesitated a bit, procrastinating our leaving time a bit more than half an hour trying to decide if we really wanted to tackle the storms that raged throughout California. It was a bit scary to contemplate just how difficult our trip might be, but it was even more difficult to contemplate unpacking all the food I had put away the previous day in the MoHo.
We had planned our trip for a couple of months, making reservations last October for a week at Catalina Spa and RV Resort at a time of year when we often enjoy temperatures in the 80s and brilliant sunny skies. In fairness, we have also experienced temps in the 50s and raging floods at the same time of year. No matter when you go, this time of year, anything can happen. I have to return to the blog records to actually come up with the number of times we have visited Catalina in the last 15 years or so since we started RVing. This is our ninth trip to this sweet little spot in the desert on the broad slope northeast of Palm Springs up against the mountains.
The morning we left Grants Pass the weather forecasts were scary. We knew that the snow had yet to close the pass over the nearby Siskiyous, but Mount Shasta, a bit more south and not even as high as Siskiyou Pass had a few inches of snow predicted for the time when we would be traveling through. Should we go? Should we wait? The weather predictors were all making the same noises, it was only going to get worse. Time to go.
Only a few more miles before this snow on Interstate 5 turns to rain
Flashing signs for high wind warnings greeted us at the California border as we approached Yreka. By the time we reached Weed where the winds were supposed to be dying down, the snow began, and the winds kept blowing. It was a bit of a tense drive, but as is often the case, once we passed the exit toward McCloud to the east on Highway 89 and started down the highest part of the pass toward Dunsmuir, the snow began to lessen. It was replaced with heavy rain. Anyone familiar with driving an interstate in the rain is also familiar with that slushy goop that gets thrown on the windshield with every passing truck, blinding everything for what seems like a very long few minutes. By the time we reached Redding, there was no more snow and very little rain, but the winds never let up.
Hard to get photos while driving along the interstate near the Consumnes River
We arrived safely in Lodi, settling into our site at Flag City RV Park just before the rains started up again. We had some lovely plans for Lodi, after discovering the great wine-tasting venues in the area last winter. We reserved two days at Flag City with a plan to relax a bit, take it easy, and spend the next day checking out a new winery and revisiting a favorite. Supper was easy, with bbq ribs brought from home and expectations of a relaxing evening.
By nine we were awakened by a howling raging noise. The winds in this part of Central California were blowing at a steady 40 plus mph and gusts in the 60s. We brought in the slide, hoping to spare any possible damage to our slide cover, and slipped into an uneasy sleep, wakened often by intense rocking and deafening noise. It literally felt like the rig was going to blow right over sitting in place in the RV park.
I woke at 4 or so, wondering why our little heater wasn’t working, and discovered that there was no power to the rig, and no power to the park. I turned on the furnace which works just fine on our house batteries and propane and turned on the computer to see what was going on. There were lots of weather warnings and notifications that hundreds of thousands of people in the area around Sacramento and the Bay Area were without power. Maybe staying in Lodi wasn’t such a good idea. I also read that while the winds toward the south on Interstate 5 were predicted to be strong on Sunday, at least the next huge round of storms wasn’t to come in until Monday. We decided to pack up and get outta there as quickly as we could.
The host at Flag City was sitting in a cold office with no lights and a phone rapidly losing power when I asked if we could cancel our reservation and get a refund. He said sure, but it would have to wait until there was some power to do the transaction. No problem, we packed up and headed into the strong winds coming from the south toward Bakersfield.
Flooding along Interstate 5 South of Patterson
I have very few photos of these first few days of our trip. I usually drive in the mornings, and that seemed to be when the worst of the winds buffeted us along the way. My arms were sore from trying to hold the wheel and by the time Mo took over for her shift, I had no interest in trying to take photos.
Northbound Traffic on I-5 near Lost Hills. We were happy to be traveling south
We called Orange Grove RV Park east of Bakersfield along Highway 58, and they did have a space for us so I made a reservation over the phone. I asked if they had power, and sure enough, they did. Oh goodie, we can pick some fresh ripe oranges. By the time we reached Highway 58 traveling east, the flashing signs over the highway were in large print with exclamation points. “High Winds, Dangerous Weather, Do Not Travel”. Once again I checked all my various weather apps and came to the conclusion that we needed to get over the pass on Highway 58 at Tehachapi before Tuesday. We couldn’t wait because it was going to get worse, with snow and ice in the forecast.
I managed to check the internet and found the one RV campground still open in Tehachapi had a space for us, so we made another reservation and I called Orange Grove and canceled the one I had made only a couple of hours earlier. They were great, and I had my refund within minutes.
Mountain Valley RV Park Tehachapi California
The rains held off just long enough for us to settle in at Mountain Valley RV Park before dark and take Mattie for a nice little walk. She is such a great travel dog, riding quietly all day without complaining. Once again we had an easy pre-cooked supper brought from home before settling in to wait out whatever the night might bring in the way of weather.
By the next morning, the skies were cloudy but there was no sign of rain or snow, and the winds were a very reasonable 13 mph. After fueling the previous day at Bakersfield Costco, we had enough fuel to get us all the way to our destination in Desert Hot Springs. Once again I was driving, and Mo took a few photos, but in a moving vehicle, it is impossible to capture the wild open beauty of Highway 247 between Barstow and the Lucerne Valley.
Highway 247 south from Barstow
Desert playas are fascinating landscapes near Lucerne Valley
It is all so very familiar and feels so welcoming as we approach Yucca Valley, rolling down the steep grade into town among the huge granite boulders. The suburban sprawl of Yucca Valley was a bit of a shock after our three-year absence, but the traffic was bearable, and we followed the familiar turns toward Indian Canyon Road, Dillon Road, and finally the home run into Catalina Spa.
It’s funny, the world is big, and we can go anywhere, but there is something also very comforting about returning like migrating creatures to a familiar spot. Birds return to the same locations year after year, so we can too. I like adventure, but familiarity after the basic adventure of traveling through historic Atmospheric Rivers, Bomb Cyclones, power outages, flooding, and record-breaking winds was enough for us.
Site 29 in the “lower park” for 30 amp rigs
We were grateful for an easy arrival, and an easy setup except for the problem that never seems to change at this park. The sites are most often NOT level. We backed into our spot without a bit of problem, but leveling the rig was a lot of work. Our levelers worked fine but even with the rear levelers fully extended, it wasn’t enough to get the back end of the rig up high enough. We moved around and juggled and with the help of some yellow blocks managed to get level enough to survive, but definitely not optimum.
When I talked to the park site manager, Christina, about this problem, she said that the biggest issue they are having at the park is getting adequate help. “No one wants to work” is the familiar refrain. My guess is, it isn’t that they don’t want to work, they just don’t want to do low-paying labor jobs. So after our three-year absence, the sites are still sandy and often uneven, although the roads have been freshly paved and the sites at the “upper park” for the 50 amp rigs have nice new asphalt walkways. But the area where one is to park a rig is still bumpy sand. Seemed quite strange to us.
“Are we there yet, Mom?”
We drove 845 miles and three days to gain 20 degrees in daily high temperatures and a gorgeous 95-degree swimming pool. An uneven site is a small price to pay for such delight.
We love getting into the pool early enough to watch the sunrise from the water