Summer Travel Map

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 30-31: Travel Recap

October 31. 2012
Cederholm Compound, Peoria, AZ

Well, we’ve made it “home” once again from our “Summer” travels. I put these things in quotes, of course, since they’re euphemisms.  Arizona is our “winter home”, and the scope of our absence extends well beyond the summer season.  But, it sounds right for some reason…

Since I tend to keep a lot of information on our travels, let’s put some of that to good use with some interesting (to me, anyway) tidbits.

We traveled about 4,808 miles this year.  This was a huge change for us, as we’ve generally done 10,000-12,000 miles a year in the motorhome. Our decision to not head East this year was a difficult one, driven mostly by the high cost of fuel in the spring.  We missed seeing many family members and friends.

Our reduced travel schedule obviously resulted in a significant savings on fuel.  We “only” used 847 gallons of diesel in our travels, well under the 2,000+ consumed over the past few years.

Since we didn’t spend as much time staying with family and friends, we did visit campgrounds and RV parks more often.  Of the 38 different places we stayed, 17 were commercial RV parks and 17 were Elks Lodges, with the remaining four being “freebies”.  We did reasonably well on managing the expense, though, averaging $27.57 per night all in.


 So, now we’re generally all unpacked and unloaded.  The house is a mess, of course, but we’ll work through that over the next few days/weeks.  We made our annual trek to Grimaldi’s Pizza last night, a “first night back” tradition when nobody feels like cooking.  The house appears none the worse for wear, and the utilities are back on without much trouble, so we’re back in business.

The next few weeks will be busy, with many appointments scheduled.  More on that in our next post…

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 25-29: Cottonwood-Sedona-Flagstaff

October 29, 2012
Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ

Every year when we get back to our place in Arizona, I say I want to use the winter months to explore closer to home.  Too often, when we get back, we’re basically parked until spring.  There’s so much to see in Arizona that we’re missing an opportunity, primarily because waiting until our normal April departure makes much of the state too hot to enjoy.

So, this year, we decided to make a stop in Arizona before getting back to the Phoenix area.  And, what brought this on?  We bought a Groupon for a wine tasting deal.  Hey; whatever it takes!

Our travel began on Wednesday.  We left Malibu relatively early, circling back up the PCH to Camarillo and cutting across to US-101 heading towards Los Angeles.  Near Burbank we shifted east onto CA-134 to Pasadena then I-210/CA-210 along the Foothills.  We picked up I-15 to Barstow then I-40 heading east to Needles.  Just over the CA-AZ border, we pulled into the first rest area and called it a day.

Up early on Thursday morning, we were back on I-40, stopping in Kingman for fuel, and continuing on to Flagstaff where we turned south on I-17.  We exited near Cottonwood and were soon parked at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.  

We don’t often stay at state parks because of the perception that they aren’t set up to handle rigs of our size.  Well, with a little research, parks we can use are out there and are often a good deal.  With a 50 Amp Water-Electric site for $25/night, this is a good deal.

Friday, we took a ride back up to Flagstaff, then back via the “scenic route” on AZ-89A through Oak Creek Canyon through Sedona to Cottonwood.  Very scenic.  

Saturday, we did our wine tasting, after being fortified by one of Geri’s famous brunches.  We made the short drive over to Cornville and visited Oak Creek Vineyards and Page Springs Winery.  The former focuses on Arizona-grown grapes and the latter uses a mixture of Arizona and California fruit.  I say “Arizona” instead of “local”, since there are two different areas where wine grapes are cultivated: here in the Verde Valley about 100 miles north of Phoenix and down near Patagonia and Sonoita south of Tucson.  Another place we’ll have to visit!

Yesterday, we relaxed, had a walk around the Park, did a little local grocery shopping, and took the pups to the local Dog Park.  They really enjoyed meeting all the “locals” and Merlin even let one of the other dog owners pet him.

Today, I caught up on bills and this travel Blog, even though posting has been a bit of a struggle since we’re on the fringe of cellular data coverage.  Tonight, we’ll do our standard travel preparation so we can get a nice start in the morning.  It’s only a couple of hours of driving to get back to Peoria, and then the process of unloading can begin.  I called a week ago to have the water and cable turned back on.  I’ll turn the gas on and get the appliances started and we’ll be all set.  The next two weeks will be pretty busy with all the various appointments we have set up.  I’ll probably post a travel summary next weekend, and we’ll come up for air from all the “welcome home” activities by the 15th.  Then we’ll be able to relax!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 18-23: Back to Malibu

October 23, 2012
Malibu Beach RV Park, Malibu, CA

Continuing our trek south, we made one last stop along the coast before we turned inland on our way back to our winter place in Arizona.  Today was a slightly longer driving day but that’s relative to the very short hops we’ve been making lately.  At about 140 miles, we definitely weren’t worn out!  Our route was fairly simple:  back on US-101, south to Oxnard, cut across local streets (Rice Road) to CA-1, then continue south to Malibu.

We’ve been to this park before, with our first RV, The LearningMobile.  Right after we got it, in the fall of 2003, I was able to cobble together two weeks of vacation with holidays falling the right way, and we had about three weeks to travel.  We went to Alabama, then decided to head for Las Vegas.  Once there, we felt that we needed to see the Pacific, so we came here.  I can’t believe that was almost 10 years ago.

We got a nice pull-through site, not completely level but we managed to get parked OK.  We didn’t realize how closely spaced the sites were until other coaches started pulling in beside us!  Of course, it’s all location-location-location in these high-rent district parks, so you take what you get.  The power is good and it’s a full hook-up site, so we are good for a few days.

We’ve basically relaxed for the past few days.  I took several walks along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in both directions, 3-4 miles each.  We took a ride up through Malibu Canyon toward Calabasas and Thousand Oaks to do some shopping, and back north on the PCH to Camarillo and Oxnard for the same.  I though about heading down to Santa Monica to the big Apple store there to see about an iPhone upgrade, but that appears to be economically impractical until we meet some “magic date” with Verizon.  Patience, George; patience...

We’ve pretty much completed our “night before” travel preparations, since we’ve got the longest segments in quite a while coming up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 11-17: Santa Maria - Another Set of Firsts

October 17, 2012
Elks Lodge, Santa Maria, California

As always, please feel free to click on any picture to enlarge it.

Continuing our way south, we stopped in Santa Maria, about 30 miles from SLO.  No sense rushing!

Like SLO, this was really the first time we’ve stayed in Santa Maria.  We’ve been here for shopping before when staying in Buellton or Lompoc, because Santa Maria has the nearest Costco, Trader Joe’s and Best Buy locations.

The Elks Lodge here is on a fairly large property, located (unfortunately) right off US-101.  It wasn’t as noisy as SLO, but we did get some traffic sounds.  They have two separate RV parking areas, each about a dozen spaces.  The “North” side sites have electric and water hookups and the “South” has full hook-ups.  Both have 50 Amp power, which is a good thing when the weather gets hot.  We definitely needed the air conditioning this time.

We decided to stay a week and this helped us choose to get a full hook-up site.  We settled in and made a plan for what we wanted to accomplish during our stay.  Although we didn’t cross everything off the list, we did make a dent and saved a few things for next time!

The first order of business was to take advantage of the Lodge’s cook-your-own night.  Several Lodges have a “steak night” where you can cook your own.  Santa Maria goes further, offering chicken, ribs, and fish in addition to the standard rib-eyes.  They have a really nice indoor pit, and our steaks were done in short order.

Our friends Wayne and Eva caught up with us for a couple of days as they’re heading south as well.  We took advantage of this to head out for wine tasting and dinner.  We went to one of Geri’s favorites, Foley, and arranged for a wine and cheese sit-down tasting.  We find these to be much more pleasant and relaxing than stand-up tasting bars.

We also made reservations at Jocko’s in Nipomo for another nice steak dinner.  We were a little early for our scheduled time and were seated quickly, which apparently is unusual as waiting is the norm.  We watched the Pitmaster through the window, and had great steaks, even if they were a tad overcooked.  We’ll know to order differently next time.

I also got out for a couple of nice walks, even though temperatures were a little on the high side.  On one walk, I seriously underestimated the distance and ended up with about an eight-mile ramble to the Walmart and back, where I had to pick up a prescription.  Telling yourself “It’s only a few more blocks” gets old pretty quickly!  But, I survived with no ill effects and can certainly say I need the exercise.

Tonight, we did our travel preparations as we’ll have a longer-than-average drive tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 4-10: SLO For A Change

October 10, 2012
Elks Lodge, San Luis Obispo, California

In this case, “SLO” is San Luis Obispo.  It’s an interesting little college town roughly halfway between LA and San Francisco right on US-101.  We’ve driven through here numerous times from the late-70s on, but never stopped.  Well, we corrected that on this visit.

It wasn’t a stop involving a lot of activities, just a nice layover on the way south.  We spent a week at the SLO Elks Lodge, a nice enough place and a pretty active Lodge (having a large swimming pool will attract a younger crowd, good for membership), with the only downside being that the designated RV parking spots backed up too close to the US-101.  It was like being parked in a highway Rest Area to an extent, with noisy traffic 24x7.  But, it was convenient and we managed.

So, what did we do?  Well, the first order of business was to check out the Lodge, where we had lunch and a brew.  Thursday evening, we headed to the “famous” SLO Farmer’s Market.  I’ll say this, it’s one of the largest we’ve visited.  Of course, like most “Farmer’s Markets” these days, there are a lot of vendors selling all sorts of “non-farm” things.  There were even several interesting musical acts performing.  But, there was also an abundance of harvest goodies and we managed to pick up a few items.

One interesting aspect of the SLO event is that it’s downtown, right on Higuera Street, one of the main upscale shopping thoroughfares.  They close off a section about 6 blocks long and the vendors set up on both sides of the street.  An advantage of this is that businesses in this area can set up right outside their front door, which a lot of restaurants do to their advantage.  Unfortunately for us, we’d had a big, late lunch at the Lodge, so we weren’t particularly hungry.  Next time, we’ll pass on lunch and graze the Market.

Beyond that, our time here was pleasantly uneventful.  We did some shopping, finding a new-to-us store, New Frontiers Natural Marketplace, kind of like Market of Choice up in Oregon.  We took the pups to the beach near Morro Bay.  Geri got her hair done.  And, I was able to get out for several good walks in the 3.5-5.5 mile range.

All in all, it was a good visit and we’ll definitely stop here again...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October 2-3: Laundry Day in Atascadero

October 3, 2012
Elks Lodge, Atascadero, California

Yesterday, we continued our slow journey southbound, hopping on US-101 in Salinas and exiting about a hundred miles later in Atascadero.  Like Salinas, we’ve stopped at this Lodge before.  There’s never a lot going on, but they do have 50 Amp full hook-up sites.  Our objective this time was simply to have a place to catch up on laundry, so that’s what we did.  Geri found listings for local laundromats and we did a drive-by late yesterday.  Today, we packed the Rover full of all the laundry we had stored up and she ran a series of oversized machines through their paces.  While we were making change and spending quarters, I took the Rover to a car wash while Geri was busy at the laundromat.  Back home, we made the bed and celebrated our industrious natures with a glass of wine.

Exciting, huh?

Monday, October 1, 2012

September 29-October 1: Salinas - One-for-Two

October 1, 2012
Elks Lodge, Salinas, California

After finishing a good night’s sleep on Saturday morning, we were up late and got a late start.  No sense calling it any other way.  But, this wasn’t an issue since we were only heading a couple of hours south to Salinas.  From Pacifica, we headed north for a couple of miles on CA-1, then south on I-280 all the way to San Jose.  I wish we could have “seen the way”, since we had a GPS brain fart there when we found out that vehicles over 4 tons aren’t allowed on CA-85 between CA-87 and US-101.  Oops; we’re about 25 tons total, so a U-Turn was needed.  Back to I-280, we completed the route to US-101 southbound with only about 6 miles of diversion.  The restriction seems to be related to truck noise as opposed to a physical limitation, but I decided not to tempt the traffic enforcement gods.

Anyway, no harm; no foul.  We were parked at the Salinas Elks Lodge by early afternoon, not that there was anything going on there.  As we travel, we find that each Lodge seems to have a different “personality”.  Some are active for lunch during the week, others for dinners, still others focussed on weekend activities.  It all depends on the makeup of the membership at that location.

We had two objectives in stopping this time.  Geri wanted to check out the Outlet Malls in Gilroy, plus maybe some “Garlic Capitol of the World” tourist traps.  I wanted to make a day trip out to Monterey.  We were one-for-two, with the short drive up to Gilroy accomplished on Sunday.

Unfortunately, we had another “weather event” creep up on us, this one in the opposite direction from the sweaters-and-rain-gear of San Francisco.  This time, a high pressure system set up north of us and created an off-shore wind flow.  Since the ocean is the temperature moderator, this pattern brings a heat spike and before we knew it, temperatures hit 103°F in Gilroy according to the Rover.  Hey, we’re not in Phoenix!

Fortunately, the heat didn’t spike as high in Salinas, but Monday’s forecast for continued extreme heat changed our plans for a day trip into a day of air conditioning with a quick trip to Costco (where they already had the Christmas displays out!) and a few other stores.  No matter; we’ll have other opportunities to visit Monterey.  Tomorrow, we continue south, and it’s supposed to cool off.