Summer Travel Map

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 25-31: Yreka, California, including a return visit to Mount Shasta

May 31, 2012
Yreka RV Park, Yreka, CA
Wow; staying in one place a whole week!  What a deal.  I selected Yreka and this specific RV park based on working backward on the calendar, then the map.  One of the few pre-planned dates on our schedule this summer is a stop at North Bend, Oregon, for a Rally starting June 19th.  Working backwards in time and along our route, this seemed like a good place to “drop anchor” for a week.  I was hoping to get far enough north and up in elevation to get some cooler weather, plus see if we could check out to Mount Shasta area.  It pretty much worked out as planned.

Yreka (rhymes with Eureka, with a “why” instead of “you”), like many towns in this part of the country, was founded on gold mining, built up quickly, and went bust just as fast.  How it managed to hang on is anyone’s guess, although proximity to “Historic Route 99” and now I-5 probably has a lot to do with it.  There’s not a lot to do and that fit our travel plan perfectly.  I used the time to catch up on a few maintenance projects, Geri did some laundry, and I caught up on finances.  We had good TV reception and, although the Park’s free Wi-Fi service was only operational some of the time, we were able to supplement it with our Verizon portable hotspot so all was good.

We did take a ride out to the south and east to get closer to Mount Shasta, and ended up finding a nice picnic spot along Lake Shastina (a community reservoir, similar to Brite Lake we’d found in Tehachapi a few weeks ago) as a bonus.  We’ve been through this area several times on I-5 over the past decade but haven’t stopped as we’ve always been on the way to somewhere else.  We did stop here years ago, on our second “RV Rental Vacation”, which I’m guessing was 1994.  We flew into Portland and picked up the rental, then traveled south before cutting inland near Mount Shasta, picking up US-97 back north to Crater Lake.  We both remember that, because the snow drifts were still taller than the rental RV even though it was some time in June.  But, I digress...

We picked a very nice day for a drive, heading east from Yreka and using back roads to  head down toward the mountain.  At 14,162 feet in elevation, it’s ranked 49th in the US, just behind Mount Rainier (which we’ll see later in June when we’re up in the Seattle area).  In addition to the mountain, we made a short stop at Grass Lake, which is essentially a very large marsh, before finding our lunch spot.  All in all, it was a nice side trip.

Although the weather was generally nice, we did have a couple of days that required use of the air conditioning but nothing severe.  It was also pretty breezy the whole week, which made awning use hit-or-miss and did cause some issues for the barbecue grill.  In spite of that, we were able to spend most afternoons outside; I put out the pens for the pups to join us.  We did use the grill several times, doing a nice “steak & bake” with grilled ears of corn, and making a marinated tri-tip roast that came out very tasty.  As always, we continue to eat well while on the road.

While we were in Yreka I was able to keep up my walking regimen, trekking down the hill from the RV park and walking along the “main drag” in town to get the right distance.  I was able to put in 3.5 to 5.5 mile walks, even using one jaunt to go to the Post Office to pick up our General Delivery mail.  Always on the lookout, I was able to spot one of “Albertville’s finest” along the historic downtown street.  I also made a quick stop at the Chinese Cemetery (it was right on my walking route)...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 23-24: Redding, California

May 23-24: Redding, California
May 24, 2012
Elks Lodge, Redding, CA
Another easy drive; another 2-night stop; more nice weather.  What’s not to like?
We started out Wednesday at our (new) standard departure time of 10:00 (+/-).  We easily cut across town in Chico and were soon back on CA-99 headed North.  It didn’t take us long to reach CA-36 which connected us with I-5 in Red Bluff.  Continuing North, we were soon exiting in Redding and made our way to the local Elks Lodge.
As with most Lodges, parking is first come-first served, so we selected a space, unhooked, backed in and hooked up.  I’d selected this Lodge over the one in Red Bluff since all their sites are 50 Amp (plus water and cable TV), and we’d need the extra power if it was warm enough to need the air conditioning.  We didn’t, but it was nice to have it just in case, as it gets pretty warm in Redding.
I checked in and then headed off for a walk.  Fortunately, the Lodge is located right on the Sacramento River and there’s a very good walking/biking trail along the river.  Actually, it goes for over 40 miles, way more than I needed on foot!  Heading west, I was able to cross the river (the trail uses both sides of the river) and make the walk into a loop as opposed to an out-and-back.  To the suspension bridge and back was just about 6 miles, a nice hike.  Later in the afternoon, we headed into the Lodge and had a glass of wine.  It’s another rather large facility, but not quite as active as Chico.

Today, I went for another walk along the Sacramento River, this time heading east to the Turtle Bay area.  I saw the turtles and the Sundial Bridge before retracing my route back.

In the afternoon, we did some shopping, since this will be the last “big city” we’ll see until we’re in Oregon in early-June.  We also did some preparations for tomorrow’s travel day, even though we don’t have far to go.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 21-22: North to Chico

May 22, 2012
Elks Lodge, Chico, CA

We had a nice two-night stop in Chico, CA, taking advantage of the hospitality at the local Elks Lodge. We have part of our strategy for this summer's travels working well, but not everything.

Specifically, we'd resolved to shorten our driving days and extend our stops this summer. We've definitely done the former; it's the duration we need to work on.

The drive from Sacramento to Chico was short and uneventful. We opted to use the freeway rather than cut across surface streets, and were soon looping south on the Capitol Freeway to US-50 and then to I-5 heading North. It wasn't too long before we made the switch to CA-70/99 and were listening to the GPS repeat "Off route; recalculating" because the mapping software hasn't kept up with road improvements (it always reminds me of the Allstate commercial where "Mischief" pretends to be a GPS). I'm getting pretty tired of upgrading the software and getting ripped off.

Anyway, we followed that route, doing the little in-town close-quarter driving in Marysville, and reconnecting with CA-99 via CA-149 just before getting to Chico. Having checked the map against Google Earth, we were able to get to the Elks Lodge with no trouble. It's a fairly large facility and an active Lodge with a lot going on. We were glad to find the RV parking almost empty; we'd delayed our arrival several days because they were full over the weekend. We were soon parked in one of the three 50 Amp sites, and we're even able to aim the TV dish through the trees.

Our visit was short but we'll be back if our travels take us this way in the future. We had drinks in the bar after arrival and dinner tonight, which they call "Tightwad Tuesday". The kitchen staff figures out a menu using various things left in the larder from weekend activities, and puts on a dinner for $7. How can you go wrong? Well, overeating, I suppose. I tried to walk off the calories, putting in 5+ mile walks each day, but still gained weight.

Today for lunch, we treated ourselves at the Sierra Nevada Taproom. Yes, this is the home of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and we each did a 4-beer sampler with lunch. I had a Turkey Melt (OK) and Geri had Steamed Clams with micro-fries (excellent). We stopped at the Gift Shop afterwards, but only bought beer.

Tonight, we've done our night-before-travel chores and we'll hit the road heading North in the morning.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 14-20: Staying (Stuck?) in Sacramento

May 21, 2012
CalExpo, Sacramento, CA

We had a nice stay in Sacramento, although it turned out to be longer than we'd planned.

We started this leg of the trip with a short drive from Lodi to Sacramento, about an hour away. Although we enjoyed the Lodi/Woodbridge area, we needed to keep moving north, and the forecast of warmer temperatures made a nice 50 Amp spot look inviting. Continuing to follow CA-99, we were soon leaving the agricultural area and entering an urban zone. Fortunately, we've been to CalExpo before and knew our way around. In no time, we were checked in and parked. There weren't too many other rigs, and we had plenty of space. Of course, it's just a big gravel lot, not exactly a resort setting.

Over the first couple of days, we did some catching up, laundry for Geri and finances/bills for me. We had a nice visit from our long-time (we don't use the term "old") friend, Jim, who has lived nearby in Folsom for a while now. We also did some shopping, and think we found the store where all those "People of Walmart" pictures come from! What a bunch of weirdos! We found the last Whole Foods we'll see until Seattle and made sure we're stocked up on specialty items.

Since we we parked out in the middle of a large gravel lot, our satellite TV reception was great. That's when we realized that it's "season finale" week for several of the shows we record. So, we decided to stay a little longer rather than risk losing the ability to record. Pitiful, right? At least we'll have things to watch later in the spring. It was just as well we stayed longer, since our next destination, the Elks Lodge in Chico, reported a full house due to a local college graduation. So, we decided to wait and leave Monday morning.

In spite of the warm days, I was able to keep up with my daily walking regimen. The CalExpo site borders the American River, which is fronted by a miles-long walking/biking trail. I was able to get in 3.5-6.0 mile walks with ease, and didn't get run over by the avid bikers in the process. Our friend Dave wouldn't have been impressed with the trail: too short and not enough elevation change, but there were definitely a lot of people out there, especially on the weekend.

Last night was supposed to have a partial solar eclipse, but we didn't see a thing. I know we were on the southern side of the best viewing track, and we tried to keep an eye on the sky, but it was a bust. Not a big deal, though, since we didn't have the protective eye gear on board anyway.

Overall, another nice stop on this year's West Coast adventure...

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 12-13: A Quick Stop in Lodi Wine Country

May 13, 2012
Woodbridge/Lodi, CA

We left Tehachapi right on schedule around 10:00 AM Saturday morning, making a quick stop at the "dump station" on the way out of the park. We enjoyed our stay and will likely return if we're passing through this way again.

Our travel route took us east on CA-58 to Bakersfield, then north (actually northwest) on CA-99 through the Central Valley, one of California's prime agricultural areas. This brings a lot of truck traffic, which unfortunately begets terrible roads. We had quite a bumpy ride.

Our destination was the little burg of Woodbridge, part of the town of Lodi. Ever seen Mondavi Woodbridge wines? Well, this is where they're made. We'd called ahead to make sure we'd find a space at the local Elks Lodge and had been told to arrive after 6:00 PM because they were hosting an antique car show in the afternoon. Even though it was past our usual "stop time", we were able to accommodate by spending a little extra time at a fuel stop near Stockton.

We arrived right at the designated time and were soon parked and checked in. It was a pretty good deal at $16/night for a 30 Amp water/electric site (dump on premises, even though we didn't need it since we were only staying two nights). We headed over to the lodge for a "quick one" before they closed, which turned into a "quick two" since they buy the visitors the second drink. We had a few laughs with the locals, and the ended
up buying us a bottle of, what else, Mondavi Woodbridge Cab to take "home". Overall, it was a fun but weird evening.

Sunday was a nice day, so we relaxed in the morning and visited a few local wineries in the afternoon. The wine scene is much more diverse than in the 80s and 90s, with many more varieties being cultivated than the old-school Zinfandels. Zin is still around, of course, and many vintners tout their old-vine versions (older vines tend to yield more concentrated fruit, leading to more powerful wines). We found several Rhone and Bordeaux varietals (Syrah, Malbec, Carignane) doing well. One winery, St. Jorge, specializes in Portugese varietals; we found their Souzao ("shoe-zow") to be quite interesting.

Most of the wineries in the area charge a nominal fee for tasting but waive the charge upon purchase. We limited ourselves to two bottle purchases at each of the three stops we made. Prices were reasonable for a non-mainstream wine region, generally in the $12-25 range with a maximum of about $35. We did find a bargain at Van Ruiten: a case of their Reserve Chardonnay discounted from $23/bottle to $60/case. Yes, we tasted it and it was fine, and yes, we bought the case. Since we're not huge white wine drinkers, that'll last us for quite a while.

Since it was Mother's Day and we'd just spent the afternoon tasting, it was out for dinner. The closest local restaurant was "Cactus", a Mexican place, so we walked over. The food was OK, the drinks were overpriced and the service was slow. Other than that it was fine for a spur-of-the-moment dinner. We didn't have to cook or clean up, and the leftovers will make a fine lunch next week.

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Location:Woodbridge, CA

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 7-11: Brite Lake

May 9, 2011
Brite Lake, Tehachapi, CA

I was going to call this post “We’ve never been up here before”, but we’ll probably be saying that numerous times over the course of this year’s travels.

Monday, we said “goodbye” to the Antelope Valley (no, we’ve never seen an antelope there) and left Lancaster.  Unlike the first portion of our trip, where we’ve visited places we’re familiar with, we started exploring new territory.  It was less than 60 miles of travel, but we were soon heading upwards in elevation to Tehachapi.  Our route took us north on CA-14 to the little town of Mojave, then east on CA-58.  All good roads and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

Brite Lake (their spelling, not mine) is a small man-made reservoir that’s part of the local water supply system.  It’s owned by the local water authority, which has seen fit to open it up for fishing (no swimming) and boating (electric motors only).  They’ve created a rustic campground with 18 RV spaces and 20+ tent spots.  We cheated a bit, having taken a ride up here last Sunday while we were parked in Lancaster to scope things out.  I wanted to make sure we’d be able to get in and out, as Google Earth can only tell us so much.

So far, so good, though.  We found a route that didn’t require us to go through Beautiful Downtown Tehachapi, and we were able to drive the 5 miles out of town to get here without any incidents.  Plus, a 50 Amp water/electric site is only $20 a night. Good deal!

We picked a site and realized that it wasn’t as level as it looked, so moved one site over.  After self-registering through Thursday, we deployed the dog pens and lawn chairs and settled in for a relaxing stay.  It didn’t take us too long to realize that we’d better stay another day because we have good satellite reception and most TV shows are nearing their season finales (isn’t that a crappy reason to arrange a travel schedule?).

We took a quick trip into town yesterday to hit the Albertson’s, but otherwise we’ve been relaxing.  I took a walk around the lake yesterday and was surprised to find it only 1.8 miles.  Today, I looped around and then back and got in my “normal” 3.5 miles.

There are quite a few birds here, from little starlings or wrens to ducks and geese to a pair of large hawks.  There’s even a crane that’s been hanging around for the past two days.  There are also quite a few ground squirrels living in dens all over the place.  We can tell that some of the campsites don’t get a huge amount of use by the way the vermin have taken over, with den entrances and exits strategically placed near the power pedestals and water spigots.

Yesterday, while I was walking, the crane flew up from the lake and landed in the grass near a squirrel den.  It was funny to see their standoff for a few minutes.  I’m not sure which one was more surprised.  I couldn’t get closer without disturbing them, so I just continued on.

Somewhere over the years, the facility had a woodcarver-in-residence.  There are wooden sculptures all over the property, ranging from totems by the entrance to the Park to pieces that match the names of each “street” (like “Coyote Run” and “Squirrel Lane”).  The “art” near the dump station is especially amusing.  We have some pictures but will get more at a better time of day before we leave.

Overall, we like it here.  Being about 4,500 feet in elevation, it’s been cooler than Lancaster/California City to the east or Bakersfield to the west.  We’ll continue to enjoy this area for the rest of the week, as we’re heading toward Sacramento on Saturday.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 4-6: Visiting Geri’s sister and nephew

May 6, 2012
Lancaster and California City, California

The next stop on our trip was to see Geri’s sister, Kathy, and nephew, Rick.  Last fall, Rick arranged to move Kathy from Lompoc to California City so she could be closer and he could oversee her care more effectively.  Kathy’s been in a care facility for several years due to Alzheimer’s, and she requires round-the-clock monitoring.  Suffice it to say that she continues to slowly deteriorate from this awful disease.

Having done some research, we knew that our options for a good RV Park in/near California City were limited.  OK; that’s being charitable.  There isn’t a good option.  Accordingly, we decided to stay a little farther away in Lancaster.  We’ve been to the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds before for rallies (actually, that’s where we met Wayne & Eva back in 2006), and we knew there was an on-site RV Park.

We left Indio mid-morning on Friday and were parked in Lancaster around 2:00 PM.  Since it was generally all uphill into a strong wind, we got awful fuel economy, but it was only a short leg of the journey.  We even had a chance to see the “super moon” rise over the campground.  I did have a small scare as we got ready to self-register: I couldn’t remember if I’d packed the checkbooks (no credit cards allowed here).  Fortunately, they were right where they were supposed to be.

Having passed both a Costco and a Super Wally on the way up CA-14, right before we got off for the Fairgrounds, we decided that it was a good time to clean up the grocery list.  We didn’t need a lot, but the Costco Rotisserie Chicken and Mashed Potatoes came in handy for dinner on Friday and Sunday.

We’ve been using an iOS/Android app called “GroceryIQ”, and it’s actually working out well.  Each of us can update the list from our PCs, iPads, or phones and the app uses cloud storage to make updates appear everywhere.  I use it on the phone to check things off as we shop.  It doesn’t keep us from buying things not on the list (neither did a paper list), but at least we’ve stopped forgetting to bring the list when we go to the store.

Saturday, we headed up to California City.  We found Kathy’s care facility and were a little surprised that it was a single-family house.  Yep; she’s the only “patient” cared for by a long-time nurse in her own home.  Kathy got really excited when we came in, and again when Rick arrived.  Unfortunately “excited” does not necessarily mean coherent, but it was great that she knows people.  We brought more old pictures on the iPad, and she was intrigued by those.

After a visit, I headed back to Lancaster to pick up the pups and Geri and Rick took Kathy to Rick’s house.  He put on a nice barbecue (chicken and tri-tip) and we had a good visit with his family (Loretta, Ricky and Crystal).  Kathy got agitated after a while, but they had calming medication on hand and it soon passed.  Rick took her back to the care facility at the same time we were heading out for the 45 minute drive back to Lancaster.

Near the Fairgrounds where we were parked in Lancaster, I found a “Musical Road”.  OK, I missed the turn toward the Park and saw the Musical Road before I could make a U-turn.  It’s an interesting little stretch of highway where one lane has hundreds of grooves cut across it.  Apparently, by adjusting the width, depth, or inter-groove spacing, different sounds can be created given a constant speed (55 MPH was the speed limit).  The length of each note is fashioned by the number of grooves in a “tone”.  It’s similar in concept to the “rumble strips” found along many highways these days to alert drivers that they’re out of their lane, except with a touch more creativity attached.  I remember seeing something like this in a car commercial once, but didn’t realize we’d find one so close to a stop-over.

We managed to drive over it a couple of times while we were in Lancaster, just for grins.  On Sunday, I took a walk over to it on one of my “exercise jaunts” (about 3.5 miles, round trip), and took a few pictures.  I tried getting a video of a car passing, but the sound was too muffled.  We did another pass in the Rover, but the sound is kind of faint there as well.

Since we’ve become the masters of travel flexibility, we decided to stay in Lancaster another night.  This gave us all day Sunday to catch up on bills and emails, and I started composing for the Blog.  I have an app on the iPad that should help with that, and it’ll be easier once I have an easy way to get pictures from the phone to the iPad (can you say iPhone 5 anyone?).  In the meantime, I’m regretting the purchase of the iMac back in November.  Not regretting having a Mac, mind you; just thinking I should have gotten the Macbook Pro that I’ll probably end up with once the next versions of those are released.  I love the iMac, but a 27” monitor/all-in-one is a bit of a stretch for the close quarters in the coach.  I rigged up a prototype of a desk-like setup that’s working OK so far, so all’s right with the world...

Friday, May 4, 2012

April 30-May 3: Great visit with friends in Indio

May 4, 2012
Indio, CA

We left Arizona on schedule Monday morning, right around 10:30 AM.  It was a beautiful day for a drive, other than being on the warm side in the mid-to-upper-90s.  We put the generator and roof air conditioners on well before we left, and we were quite comfortable all the way.

Since we’re headed to visit Geri’s sister up in California City, we made our first stop in Indio, California, to visit with friends there.  Wayne and Eva are always wonderful hosts and team up with their next-door neighbors, Will and Diane, to make us feel right at home.  We arrived around 4:00 PM and were soon parked and relaxing in style.

We teamed up to share the dinner duties: Eva made a great Beef Stew on Monday, we made Rack of Lamb with Mushroom Risotto on Tuesday, and Diane did Chicken Kabobs with Grilled Vegetables on Wednesday.  Wayne arranged for a special treat on Wednesday, getting some neat baked goods from a local purveyor for dessert.

Eva was under the weather on Tuesday and we needed a bit of extra time to plan our next moves, so we ended up staying an extra day through Thursday.  Since we were all cooked out, we simply went to the local “Burgers and Beer” sports bar for a quick dinner.
Wayne and Eva introduced Geri to the fruit smoothies they’ve been having for breakfast for a while now, and we’re now converts.  That’s one way to get me to eat bananas, I suppose (I can tolerate the flavor but not the texture).

All in all, it was another great visit.  Since our routes may cross later in the summer, we may have a chance to catch up when we cruise south along the Oregon Coast.