Category Archives: California

A Great Find at the Mercado

We’ve settled in quickly here at Mission Bay RV Resort. We had a few San Diego favorites on our list to hit and we started in right away.

On Friday evening, Donna and I headed over to Offshore Tavern and Grill for happy hour. But our real reason for going there was to have their poke plate for dinner. Poke (poh-key) is diced sushi grade tuna over a cabbage salad served with fried won-ton chips. Donna had poke on her mind for a while and couldn’t wait to get it at Offshore where they make an excellent version of this Hawaiian dish.

Poke plate

On Saturday morning, we rode the Spyder downtown to the mercado (farmers’ market) on Cedar Street in Little Italy. This farmers’ market is a favorite of ours.

The mercado

The street market covers about four blocks and has a great selection of local produce, meats and crafts. Donna was on a mission and bought several items including a dry mole salami that wasn’t local – it came from Salumi Artisan Cured Meats – a Seattle market founded by Armandino Batali, father of famed chef Mario Batali. The mole salami is amazing. Sliced thin, it’s somewhat chewy and the flavors morph from chocolate to cinnamon to clove and other flavors that I can’t adequately describe.

After we returned from the market, I took the Spyder to Pacific Beach for a much-needed wash. There’s a self-serve car wash on Garnet Avenue that I like and the Spyder is shining once again. I also ordered air and oil filters so I can service the Spyder – it’s due. We both spent a lot of time online ordering things we’ve been wanting but haven’t had to opportunity to get. We haven’t been in one place long enough over the past few months to get deliveries – the shop in Albuquerque and the balloon fiesta don’t count – we couldn’t receive deliveries there.

Donna also spent a lot of time online searching for a strength training class to join while we’re here. Tomorrow I’ll get back on the pickleball courts – I plan to play four days a week while we’re here. Hopefully I’ll get my game back up to a level where I can play with the 3.5 group when we get to Mesa, Arizona in late December.

While I was walking through the RV park, a high-end coach caught my eye – they always do. It was a 2007 quad-slide Newell. I’ve described Newell coaches before. These are top-of-the-line motorhomes that are mostly made to order in Oklahoma. Newell builds the entire coach from the ground up. They make a few coaches on speculation every year for use at RV shows before they’re sold. Being mostly custom-made, the prices vary, but bought new you need to bring something in the neighborhood of 1.5 million dollars to get onboard.

I met the owners of this Newell. They sold a ranch in Arkansas and bought the Newell. They got on the road with the intention of spending a year or so traveling the country before deciding where to settle down and enjoy retirement. That was one and half years ago and they’re still enjoying the travel.

2007 quad-slide Newell

I saw a similar Newell online for sale listed at $550,000 – probably a third of what it cost new. That’s the reality of RVs – they depreciate.

Last night I had a seasonal special from Alesmith – a local San Diego brewery. It was a Halloween release called Evil Dead Red. It’s a malty red ale that was tasty with a creamy mouth feel. It was very easy to drink despite it’s 6.6% ABV.

Halloween ale

We had cool weather on Friday – the high was about 70 degrees and a few rain drops fell. Saturday was clear and warmer with the temperature reaching 75 degrees. The forecast calls for a hot spell beginning today. Santa Ana winds should develop. Santa Ana is a condition affecting southern California coastal areas when high pressure develops over the desert basin. This pushes hot, dry air through the coastal mountain ranges and offshore along the coast. We should see upper 80s today and into the 90s over the next couple of days. Time to hit the beach!

Fast Track Check-in

We went inside the Golden Acorn Casino for breakfast Thursday morning after a quiet night in their lot. The breakfast plates were very good – Donna had an omelette with Monterrey jack cheese, bacon, avocado and pico de gallo while I went for the eggs Benedict. The coffee was tasty and we had a leisurely start to the day. We were only traveling about 70 miles to get to Mission Bay, so there was no need to head out early.

I had completed a new check-in procedure for Mission Bay RV Resort they call fast track. Mission Bay RV Resort e-mailed me the check-in documents a few days ago. I printed them and signed where necessary, then scanned and e-mailed them back.

I fired up the Cummins ISL diesel engine around 11am and set it to high idle speed (~950rpm) while I did my usual walkaround checking basement doors, slides, tires, etc.  I wanted to allow the engine to warm up gently before we pulled out. When we accelerated onto I-8, I knew we would be immediately climbing up the grade to Crestwood Summit. I don’t like to put a high load on an engine before it’s up to operating temperature. Over Crestwood Summit we dropped down to Buckman Springs then climbed another grade to Laguna Summit. From there, it was mostly downhill and I toggled the Jake brake between the low and high settings to keep our speed in check.

While I was driving, my cell phone rang and Donna answered it. Mission Bay RV Resort was calling to confirm our arrival and payment method. They instructed us to proceed to the security hut at the entrance, receive our paperwork there and go directly to our site, bypassing the office. We stopped at the security hut and then went to the overflow lot to drop the trailer around 12:30pm. Then we were free to pull into site 112 without the usual wait at the office for the official check-in time of 2pm.

It felt good to get situated in our site knowing we would be here for the next two months. The last time we were on full hooks-ups was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a full month ago. We can relax our diligence over water usage, battery power levels and holding tanks. Donna is happy to be able to do laundry again though she has a lot of catching up to do!

Mission Bay site 112

I like this site – we only have a neighbor on one side. The passenger side has an open area next to the bathroom/shower building giving us plenty of room. It also has good satellite TV reception – some sites here have trees interfering with the reception. I had one concern though – the paperwork the security guy gave us only showed us here for one month. I unloaded the Spyder from the trailer and rode over to the office.

At the counter, Nancy recognized me. I reminded her of our conversation last April when I made the reservation. At that time, she worked to move a few reservations around so we could have site 112 for two months. She looked at her computer and confirmed we are booked in this site until December 20th. I’ll have to pay for the second month on November 19th – they only charged us for the first month at this point.

The rates here have gone up over the last couple of years.  If I remember correctly, we paid $875/month when we first came here in 2013. This was the winter “off season” rate. That worked out to about $28/day. Now we’re paying $1,085/month to stay here – about $35/day. The off season is from September 15th to May 14th and the regular daily rate is $70.

During the peak season – May 15th to September 14th – the regular daily rate is $90 and monthly rates aren’t offered. We find San Diego to be a great place to spend some of the winter months and are happy to pay the monthly rate which includes utilities. The park itself isn’t anything great. It’s basically a large paved lot with hook-ups. No amenities, but it’s secure, fairly quiet and the location can’t be beat. That’s what this park is all about – location.

On the way back from the office, I saw Thomas and we chatted. Thomas was the security supervisor when we first started coming here. Last spring, he changed positions and was working on special projects to upgrade the park. Now he’s the operations manager – the head honcho here. He’ll have plenty of projects as the De Anza Cove and Rose Creek areas of Mission Bay Park will be completely redesigned over the next few years.

The weather is cool and breezy today – the forecast calls for a high of 74 with partly cloudy skies and a slight chance of rain. The weekend will warm up with beach weather in the forecast for the coming week. Life is good!

Errands and Detours

We left the Casa Grande Elks Lodge early Wednesday morning – we pulled out around 8:30am which is an early start for us. Our first stop was at Speedco where I had the coach motor oil and filter changed and the chassis greased. They also checked the tires and coolant – I knew these were okay – I checked our tires that morning and the coolant was flushed and filled with Fleetguard ES Compleat coolant in Albuquerque. Rather than get on the interstate, I took a shortcut down Trekell Road and intended to hit Sunland Gin Road. However, I forgot that I needed to turn on Jimmy Kerr Road to get to Sunland Gin and ended up out in the desert. So much for shortcuts.

Speedco used to do the service on our coach for under $200. Last year they raised their prices considerably and it cost me nearly $300. This year they raised the price again and I paid $330 – this includes a used oil analysis report that I always pay for. By the way, the report looked good with no worries.

It was nearly 11am by the time we hooked the trailer back up and pulled out of the Speedco lot. Originally I thought we would go to Yuma and I would get fuel before we crossed into California. However, our fuel gauge is unreliable and I wasn’t sure how much fuel we’d burned crossing the mountains plus we had lots of generator run time. So, we backtracked up I-10 to the Pilot/Flying J travel center before we headed west on I-8. We ate lunch in the Flying J parking lot after fueling.

We planned a fairly short day and wanted to run a few errands in Yuma. We made a stop on the way at Dateland (exit 67) to take a break and get a date shake. The travel center at Dateland used to be a gas station and a separate small building with a gift shop and milkshakes. They’ve upgraded it considerably over the past few years and it’s a nice stopping point in I-8 for refreshments and touristy stuff. We saw several Border Patrol vehicles along this stretch of freeway and a few Border Patrol officers stopped for lunch at Dateland. They had one of their rigs with two ATVs on a trailer out front – a Polaris four-seater and a smaller ATV.

Polaris four-seat ATV with Homeland Security badges

Our next stop was at Al’s RV Service and Supply on Fortuna Road in Yuma. I wanted to stop there and buy a bottle of Tank Techs RX – the treatment I use in our holding tanks. Al’s is one of the few RV stores that I find it in and buying it at the store saves the cost of shipping when I buy online. I’d also planned to go to the RV Water Filter Store in Yuma, but I found the filter elements I wanted at Al’s. Then Donna said we should look for a new latch for my closet door. The old one broke and the mirrored door slides open and closed as we drive down the road. I was doubtful, but we found the right latch on a display rack! Then Donna found a rod for the kitchen window shade – it went missing earlier this year when were having work done at RV Renovators. Al’s has almost everything for an RV.

We drove across the overpass to the Pilot/Flying J and I topped up the tank with diesel fuel again. We’d been running the generator and roof air conditioners all afternoon and I wanted to avoid buying fuel in California. I also had our propane tank filled. The gauge showed less than 1/4 tank of propane remaining. It took 30 gallons so we had at least a quarter tank – it holds 42 gallons when filled to 80% of actual capacity.

We made one more stop in Yuma at Walmart to get a few things. It was after 4pm by the time we left Yuma. We decided to stop for the night at our usual stopping point on Ogilby Road where we dry camp on BLM land. Interstate 8 is being rebuilt along large sections between El Centro and Yuma. The exit from westbound I-8 was closed at Ogilby Road. We had to continue a few miles west to the Gray’s Well exit and come back east to get on Ogilby. As we crossed over the freeway I noticed the on-ramp to westbound I-8 from Ogilby was also closed so this would present another detour when we left.

We went to a familiar area where we’ve boondocked before. The area was empty – not an RV in sight. We set up a little closer to the road than usual and called it a day. After dark, another motorhome came past us. The driver was brave to drive deep into the desert at night!

Ogilby Road is usually quiet with few cars passing by. The road runs north where it merges with CA78 and continues all the way to Blythe. This morning, a gaggle of cars came south on Ogilby starting around 5am. I got out of bed at 5:30am and the traffic quit coming by shortly after that. I’m guessing the crew working on the interstate must be camped up the road and were heading out to start an early shift – I can’t think of any other reason for that much traffic on Ogilby Road.

Dawn in the desert

We knew the day would warm quickly and planned to hit the road before it became hot out. Tuesday was in the upper 90s and we expected the same today. To get on I-8 westbound, we had to go east to Sidewinder Road – about five miles, then cross over and head back west. Our plan was to cross the desert early and stop at the Golden Acorn Casino across the Tecate Divide. The Golden Acorn is near Campo at an elevation of about 4,100 feet above sea level and would be much cooler. Our reservation at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego starts tomorrow, so we needed a place to spend another night before we arrive there.

Desert sunrise on our coach

The traffic on westbound I-8 across the California desert was very light. Even with the construction zones we made good time. West of El Centro, we were at sea level. We started climbing before we reached Ocotillo, then quickly gained 3,000 feet of elevation. The coach handled the climb easily – we never went below 50mph and the coolant temperature topped out right at 200 degrees for just a short time.

We found the Golden Acorn Casino on the south side of I-8 at exit 61. The parking lot is large, but we were a little confused about where we should park the coach. We came in the truck entrance on the southeast side of the casino and saw what was clearly a truck lot. Then we saw a couple of RVs on the north end of the lot and another on the southwest side. We found a fairly level spot on the northwest end, well away from any parked cars. I think we’ll be fine here for the night. It’s always windy here by the divide. There are wind generators on the mountain tops around the casino and to the east. The temperature is over 80 degrees but the breeze makes it feel cooler.

Our spot at Golden Acorn Casino

Tomorrow we’ll have a short drive – less than 70 miles to Mission Bay. We’ll settle down there for the next two months.

June in Washington

Our plan for Donna to take advantage of the bicycling opportunity in Vancouver, Washington didn’t pan out. It rained off and on while we were there. That’s June west of the Cascades in Washington!

We pulled out of the Vancouver Elks lodge before 10 am and headed up I-5. We planned on a short drive of about 105 miles, stopping at Cabela’s in Lacey. I didn’t want to drive through Seattle on Friday afternoon. We thought it would be better to stay overnight in Lacey, then head up to my daughter Alana’s house on Saturday morning.

We’ve made overnight stops at this Cabela’s store in the past. They have a large lot and allow overnight parking in the west lot. They also have a dump station. Nally – our Rand McNally RVND 7720 GPS – directed us to exit at Martin Way and follow it west to Carpenter Road NE. This wasn’t a familiar route and I wondered how it would work out. It was a different way to Cabela’s because Britton Parkway had been extended to join Draham Street. In the past, we couldn’t get to Cabela’s from the west side, we had to continue east to the Marvin Road exit and backtrack west to find Cabela’s.

We found a few other RVs and a couple of 18-wheeler trucks in the west lot and claimed a space. Donna and I went into Cabela’s and had lunch in the restaurant there. We shopped for a bit then I headed back to the coach while Donna continued shopping. It was pouring rain when I went back to the coach.

When we stayed here before, later in the season, Donna picked blackberries in the woods to the west of the Cabela’s lot. Not this time – we were here too early for the blackberry crop. Saturday morning Donna went back to the Cabela’s store and bought sandals. Her receipt showing her purchase entitled us to a code for the use of their dump station. If you aren’t a Cabela’s credit card holder or haven’t made a purchase during your stay there, it costs five bucks to dump your holding tanks.

I dumped our tanks and we were out of Cabela’s lot before 10am. We had another 110 miles to go before we reached Alana’s place in Arlington. It was a good choice to avoid Friday afternoon traffic in Seattle. Saturday traffic was bad enough. On the south side of town where I-90 meets I-5, there’s always a traffic tie-up. It’s one of the most poorly designed stretches of interstate highway I’ve ever encountered. There are four lanes of northbound traffic plus a carpool lane. The carpool lane ends, forcing that traffic into the left lane of northbound traffic right where the left lane becomes an exit only lane to downtown Seattle. At the same point, the far right lane becomes and exit only as well, forcing all northbound through traffic into two lanes. This is followed by traffic exiting I-90 coming into I-5. What a nightmare.

There’s a similarly flawed design north of Everett where the trestle from US2 joins I-5. Left lane must exit followed by right lane must exit while traffic is merging from US2.

We pulled off I-5 at WA530 and I took a right turn at 59th Avenue. This is the back way into Alana’s neighborhood and I found it easier to navigate in our big rig than the usual way of coming in from 211th to Ronning Road. What I didn’t think about was the direction we would be facing when I backed our rig into her driveway. I had to get us turned around to get the trailer into the driveway. This isn’t easily done here as all of the side streets are dead ends. I was able to pull into a side street and make a three-point turn to get us oriented in the proper direction.

Alana’s driveway is long enough to accommodate our 64′ length. We were set up by 12:30pm.

Our moochdocking spot in Alana’s driveway

When we stayed here last year, I wired up a 50amp electric service plug to her panel in the garage, so we have electricity and don’t need to run the generator. The four nights of boondocking to get here resulted in about 20 hours of generator run-time.

We’ll be moochdocking here for a couple of weeks. Our granddaughter, Lainey, graduates from high school this Thursday. Alana has a graduation party planned for Saturday at her mother’s house which is only a couple of blocks away from here.

As soon as we were set up, Donna and I rode the Spyder over to the Boys and Girls Club where our other granddaughter, Gabi, had a softball game. We sat with Alana’s mother and step-dad, Luann and Jerry, and watched Gabi’s last game.

Gabi getting her game ball signed by the coaches

Alana is an ER nurse at Providence Hospital in Everett. She got off of work early and came home around 5pm. Donna made crispy tarragon bread crumb cod for dinner and served it with a side of black rice and sauteed spinach with lemon. We all sat outside and ate around a card table in lawn chairs.

Crispy tarragon bread crumb cod, spinach with lemon and black rice

It was cool outside – the high was only 62 degrees. Sunday was a warmer day – the high hit 70 degrees and we had sunshine. I watched the Moto GP race from Catalunya, Spain and the Formula One race from Montreal, Canada. Meanwhile Donna rode her bicycle up the Centennial Trail and got 25 miles in.

For dinner I grilled Argentina pink shrimp that Donna marinated in a jerk sauce for dinner and served with mango salsa, brown rice and broccoli for dinner.

I had a nice IPA from Pelican Brewery in Tillamook, Oregon. This IPA is made with a single hop type – Mosaic. It’s unusual to brew IPA with only one type of hops and I think they made a winner here.

Mosaic IPA

Donna had an American Blonde Ale, a farm-to-can ale brewed with local lemons that she bought in Corning, California when we stopped at The Olive Pit. It was Lemon Meringue Pie ale from Old Glory Brewing in Sacramento, California. She loved it.

Old Glory Lemon Meringue Pie ale

This morning we have a light misty rain falling. There’s rain likely in the forecast for the next week – it’s western Washington in June, right? My other two daughters, Jamie and Shauna, will be coming here in the next couple of days. It will be the first time we’ve all been together since Shauna’s graduation from law school in May of 2015.

 

The Road North

When we pulled out of Lake Shastina Tuesday morning, we vowed to return for longer stay in the future. It’s such a beautiful and quiet setting. Our route took us north on Big Springs Road to County Road A12 – also called the 97-99 Cutoff. This took us west to I-5. We were surprised at the number of large houses we passed along the way. I wondered aloud where the money was coming from and whether these were primary residences or vacation homes. It’s a pretty remote area.

We drove north through Yreka and crossed the border into Oregon. A few miles past the border, we reached the Siskiyou Mountain Summit – this is the highest point on I-5 at 4,310 feet. Once we were over the pass, we hit a seven-mile 7% downgrade. We dropped over 2,300 feet of elevation. I was thanking Jacobs Engineering for their marvelous engine compression brake – affectionately known as a Jake brake. The Jake brake on our Cummins ISL engine has two settings – low and high. By toggling back and forth between the two, I was able to control our downhill speed without using the regular service brakes – I only stabbed at the brake pedal a couple of times when we approached tight curves in the road.

We passed through Ashland and Medford. The interstate has a series of summits as it undulates through the mountains. We would quickly climb a thousand feet or so, then immediately drop back down only to repeat the process time and again. We crossed both the south and north Umqua River. North of Roseburg, we pulled off at Sutherlin – a small town on the North Umpqua River. Our destination was the SKP Timber Valley RV Park. As Escapees members, we were able to dry camp in the park for a five-dollar fee.

We found a site long enough to back into without dropping the trailer and set up.

Our site at SKP Timber Valley

Donna had a Skype call as a guest speaker for an online organizing course. She set up shop outside to take the call.

Donna’s office Tuesday afternoon

A park member served as the welcome wagon and stopped by to drop off gifts. She gave us a cat toy made by someone in the park and Ozark the cat loves it. The toy has a wild turkey feather sewn in. We saw a couple of turkeys as we entered the park.

We had a quiet night but after sunrise, I woke up several times to the sound of turkeys gobbling. After slumbering for a while longer, I got out of bed. I saw wild turkeys strutting in the street in front of our coach. I went outside as they were moving away from us and tried to get closer to them. Wild turkeys are usually very wary creatures and it’s not often that you can approach them. These turkeys were obviously used to people in the park and came out of the woods to forage around – they didn’t seem too afraid of people.

A couple of them were strutting with their tails fanned out and feathers puffed up. I managed to get close enough to take a couple of photos.

Wild turkeys struttin’ their stuff

 

Walking back to the coach, I saw a jackrabbit slinking through a site.

Jack rabbit slinking away

There’s no shortage of wildlife in the area!

We hit the road just before 10am and continued our journey northward. We were still in hilly country but the climbs were short followed by short descents until we reached Eugene and then the terrain was flatter through the Willamette Valley.

Cruising along on the flat terrain, I noticed our transmission temperature seemed abnormally high. It was running around 210 degrees. The engine coolant temperature stayed normal – ranging from 180 to 195 on climbs and staying around 182-184 on the flat stretch of road. I thought it was odd. After a while, the transmission temperature started to increase again. When it reach 220 degrees, I became concerned. There was a rest stop a few miles away. By the time we pulled off at the rest stop it was at 224 degrees – much higher than I’ve ever seen in the past.

With the engine idling and the transmission in neutral, the temperature quickly dropped to 184 degrees. I used the Allison transmission key pad to check the fluid level and interrogate the control unit for trouble codes. The fluid level was fine and no diagnostic trouble codes were recorded. I found my Allison manual and read through it. It said high temperature is worrisome when the sump temperature exceeds 250 degrees, so we were still in safe territory. However, it wasn’t making sense to me. Why was the transmission running that hot when the engine temperature remained normal and there wasn’t any reason for the drive train to be under more stress than normal?

We got back on I-5 and continued on our way. The transmission temperature remained normal for several miles, then started climbing again. When it reached 211 degrees, I shifted down from sixth gear to fifth gear. The temperature dropped to 204 degrees. I still can’t make sense of this. As we approached Portland, I shifted back into drive and the transmission temperature stayed in the 190s.

Driving through Portland, Oregon is one of my least favorite drives – it ranks right up there with Seattle. We hit I-84 on the south side of the Columbia River and followed it to I-205. This took us over the Columbia River and into Washington. We pulled into the Vancouver Washington Elks lodge around 2:30pm.

Our dry camping spot at the Vancouver Elks Lodge

We plan to boondock here for two nights. Our thinking was Donna could get some bicycle mileage in here – she bicycled when we stayed here last year. While we were driving, Donna had a beef stew in the crock pot. The aroma was wonderful! After we set up and paid for two nights, we took a walk to the Fred Meyer Supermarket about a half mile from here. The crock pot stew continued to simmer.

Then we went into the lodge for a cold one. When we came back to the coach, I was reading a book when I thought to check the battery condition. Oh no! The inverter was powering the crock pot from the house batteries and I had run them below 12 volts! I went to start the generator but it was dead. Hitting the start button did nothing.

I started our engine to put some juice back into the batteries from the alternator. I still couldn’t get anything from the generator start button. It didn’t make sense to me, we had run the generator that morning without any issues. I went out checked the connections at the battery bank. Sure enough, the cable that runs up to generator had corroded and pulled out of the connector.

I made a temporary fix by clamping the cable to the terminal with Vise-Grip pliers. Today I’ll have to clean the cable and connector, strip the insulation back and reconnect the cable.

MacGuyver temporary solution.

With the temporary fix in place, the generator fired up and recharged the batteries.

Meanwhile, Donna dished out the stew and it was excellent!

Crock pot beef stew

This morning we woke up to rain. I hope it clears up so Donna can get her ride in and I can work on the generator/battery cable.

Lake Shastina

Donna hit the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail Sunday for the fourth day in a row. She rode 24 miles, bringing her four-day total to 110 miles. She’ll continue to train and up her mileage. I don’t expect her to have any problems when she rides the RAGBRAI event across Iowa in July. The mileage on her bike earned her a Milk Stout from Bike Dog Brewing!

Bike Dog Milk Stout

We pulled out of Cal Expo RV Park just before 10am and hit the road Monday. It was an easy drive across the I-80 Business Loop to I-5 north. As we put Sacramento in our rear view mirrors, the traffic thinned out. The interstate narrows down to two lanes north of Woodland. It wasn’t an issue until we hit construction which restricted it to one lane. There were plenty of warning signs to merge left as the right lane was closed. However, drivers refused to move over and merge smoothly. Instead they stayed in the right lane as long as possible trying eke out an advantage which resulted in everyone coming to a stop when their lane closed and forced them left.

I fueled up at the Pilot/Flying J in Orland and then we traveled another 11 miles and stopped at the Olive Pit in Corning. We always make this stop when we pass through this area. The Olive Pit has every kind of olive you can imagine. I picked up a few jars of bleu cheese stuffed olives – my favorite martini garnish.

Back on I-5 north we could see Mount Shasta dead ahead. Also, to the northeast we could see the snow covered peak of Mount Lassen. When we traveled through here last year we didn’t see much snow on Lassen and lots of bare areas on Shasta. This year these mountains still have plenty of snow.

Shasta Lake also looked much different than the past few years. Instead of low lake levels and docks sitting on dry land, the lake was nearly at full capacity. Donna read that the lake was at 96% of its high level.

It was quite warm outside – we fired up the generator and had the front roof air conditioner running. We crossed the Black Butte Summit at 3,912 feet above sea level and continued down to Weed, California. We exited on CA97 at Weed and drove through town then went four miles up CA97. We turned off at Big Springs Road then took Jackson Ranch Road and went to the public access area of Lake Shastina, our destination for the day. We arrived around 3pm.

The public access area is BLM land and offers up to 14 nights of free dry camping. We set up right next to the lake.

Our boondocking spot at Lake Shastina

Windshield view of the lake

The lake level is very high – a few trees have their trunks under water. Donna hiked over to the boat launch north of our site before dinner. She made a salad for herself with leftover green chile turkey burger from the night before. I heated up leftover chicken and apple sausage with sauteed onions and apples and rosemary and enjoyed an IPA from Modern Times in San Diego with it. This IPA was called Orderville and had a pale color. It was light and refreshing in spite of its 7.2% ABV. They describe it as an aggressive, fragrant IPA that blends the fruit-forward character of Mosaic hops with the resinous stickiness of a variety of dank hops. I don’t know what dank hops are, but it was a very good IPA.

Modern Times Orderville

The lake was calm and glassy before sunset.

Glassy lake southwest of our site

Just before I stepped out to take a sunset shot, a fishing boat sped by and riled the surface. I took a shot of a fiery sunset. A few moments later, as the sun dropped behind the mountains, the clouds and lake took on a pink hue.

Sunset

Change of color a few moments later

This morning Donna went for a hike at 7am. She hiked up the mountain to the north of our site. There’s a trail that zig-zags through a few switchbacks up the mountain. She took a few photos on her hike.

View of Mount Shasta in the background

Looking down at Lake Shastina from the trail

Looking south from the trail – our site is at the base of the mountain

This is truly a beautiful spot that we may very well return to someday and stay for a longer visit. Today we’ll push on northward. Our destination for the day is the SKP park in Sutherlin, Oregon. We’ll probably stay one night there and continue north to Vancouver, Washington.

Fifty Years Later

While Donna was out bicycling on the Jedediah Smith Memorial trail on Friday, I took the Spyder over to my old neighborhood. My family lived here in Sacramento when I was a kid, from second grade through fifth grade. We moved into a newly constructed house in the second phase of a development called Glenbrook. My paternal grandparents lived nearby in North Highlands near McClelland Air Base.

When we first moved in, our street (Midfield Way) was more or less at the end of the development. To the east, behind our backyard, hop fields filled the landscape all the way to the American River. When I was in third grade, the developers acquired the farmland and the hops were taken out. A new elementary school, Hubert H. Bancroft Elementary, was built behind our house. Our back fence bordered the school ball field and playground. The school opened in time for my fourth grade year.

Our house fifty years later

Bancroft Elementary

When I was in fourth and fifth grades, I would walk home from school at lunch time and sit at the dining table where my mom had lunch ready for me. I’d watch the news on TV, then hop the backyard fence and join my pals on the playground. I don’t think kids in elementary school are allowed to leave the campus at lunch time anymore.

On the way back to the Cal Expo RV Park, I stopped at the Raley’s Supermarket on Folsom Boulevard. I wrote about entering and winning a pie eating contest at this store when I was a kid in an earlier post. The last time I was in this store was 1967 – wow, fifty years ago!

Donna’s bike ride took her on the trail toward downtown Sacramento on Thursday afternoon. Although it was scenic, she wasn’t too impressed by the number of homeless encampments in that direction. On Friday, she followed the trail upriver and liked it better. Later we took the Spyder down Howe Avenue to Fair Oaks Boulevard. I was looking for the Capitol Beer and Tap Room. I pulled into the strip mall lot where I thought it was, but couldn’t find it. There was a building surrounded by scaffolding and obvious construction work. Donna pointed out a sign that said Open During Construction and another smaller sign with an arrow pointing to the back of the building that said Capitol Beer. We found it!

Sudwerks Bourbonator

They had a large selection of beers on tap. I tried an IPA and then I had their special – Sudwerks Bourbonator. This is a bourbon barrel aged ale. It wasn’t bad, not too heavy although it was 9% ABV, but it was a little sweet for my taste. Donna had a a stout from Abnormal called Mocha Mostra. She liked it at first but it left a heavy aftertaste. So she followed up with a five-ounce pour of Bike Party Pils.

Donna headed out on her bicycle for a longer ride on Saturday. The previous two days she rode 20 miles each day. Her plan was to ride the trail all the way to Folsom – about 23 miles from here. She left at 9:40am. I hung around and watched the Moto GP qualifying from Misano, Italy. Around 10:40am, I hopped on the Spyder and headed out. My destination was the Sutter Street Grill in Folsom. With an hour head start, I figured my half hour ride would put me there about the time Donna would arrive.

Sutter Street is in an historic neighborhood. The area around Folsom was called Rancho Rios de los Americanos (American River Ranch) when it was settled by William Alexander Leidesdorff in 1844. Joeseph Libby Folsom purchased the land from Leidesdorff’s heirs when he died. Folsom laid out a town he called Granite City. It was during the California Gold Rush era and the town was mostly filled with miners and mining services. Joseph died in 1855 and the town was renamed Folsom in his honor.

Folsom is probably best known as the location of Folsom Prison. Folsom Dam was built in 1956 and created Folsom Lake.

Sutter Street, Folsom

Sutter Street Grill

Donna and I met up after a bit of confusion over where she was. I spoke to her on the phone and told her she was only two blocks away from the grill, but I sent her in the wrong direction. We hooked up soon enough and had large breakfast plates for lunch in the Sutter Street Grill. Donna had a home made corned beef hash and eggs while I had a Texas omelette – chili with beef and beans and cheddar cheese in a three-egg omelette. The plates were huge – we each brought home half of our food.

Across the street from the Sutter Street Grill, the Saturday farmers’ market was going on. We took a walk through it and Donna bought raspberries and garlic. She also bought tamales.

Farmers’ market

Donna got back on her bicycle to make the ride home while I stowed her purchases in the Spyder and headed out. She took a few photos along the way on the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. Jedediah Smith was a mountain man who led a party of fur trappers through the area in 1827.

Bridge on the trail over the American River

View in the other direction from the bridge about nine miles from here – people on the sandy beach on the right

Wild turkeys crossing the trail

Rafters floating the rapids

On Saturday evening, I grilled chicken and apple sausage and had a beer from American River Brewing called Hop Canyon IPA. The label says the brewer tips his hat to the hop growing heritage of the Sacramento area – remember when I said hop fields stretched from our back yard fence to the American River? I don’t think there are many, if any hop fields here now.

Today Donna will make a shorter bike ride – maybe 25 miles. I have a few chores to do before we hit the road again tomorrow. Donna has mapped out a few boondocking opportunities as we head to the northwest. The temperature should reach the upper 80s today with no rain in the forecast. Tomorrow will be warmer – we may be driving with the generator running to power our roof air conditioner.

 

 

The Land of Fruits and Nuts

It remained cloudy but the rain stopped falling Wednesday afternoon. Our friend and neighbor, Joe Milligan, lent me his golf cart so I could transport our grill, chairs and table down to the trailer which was parked near the clubhouse in the dry camping area. I straightened up the trailer and made it ready for travel. Meanwhile, Donna washed two loads of laundry in the Park of the Sierras laundry room.

They have a policy of no onboard laundry when you’re in the park. I’m told there is an issue with lint build-up in their septic system. I have a hard time believing this, but maybe their system is undersized for the number of hook-ups. I don’t know, but I’ve lived in three houses that were on septic systems and we did laundry daily. They have a separate waste water system for their laundry room and we abided by the rules.

For our final dinner in Coarsegold, Donna prepared fish with crispy tarragon bread crumbs, spinach and sweet onions with tilapia filets we had in the freezer.

I paired it with an IPA called Aurora Hoppyalis from Karl Strauss Brewery in San Diego.

As we prepared to leave Thursday morning, Ozark the cat did her disappearing act. She doesn’t like travel days and lately, when she knows we getting ready to hit the road, she hides. I don’t get too worried about it because pulling the bedroom slides in expands the space behind the slide if that’s where she’s hiding. If she’s behind the sofa, it moves with the slide so she’s okay there too. Once we stop and shut off the engine, she’ll come from her hiding place. She’s done this at fuel stops before and Donna puts her in her crate then. When we reach our destination, I won’t put the slides out until I know where Ozark the cat is. If she’s in the wrong place, she could be crushed by the movement of the powerful hydraulic slide.

We hooked up the trailer, loaded the Spyder and left around 10am. Our route took us back toward Fresno on CA41. About 14 miles down the road, we turned west on CA145 and followed it to Madera. This took us through large cattle ranches and pistachio groves. In Madera, we found CA99 and headed north through the San Joaquin Valley.

Most people think of California as the land of beaches and Hollywood or maybe the Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe. But the central valley is mostly agricultural. It’s roughly centered in the state and lies slightly diagonal from north-northwest to south-southeast. The southern portion is called the San Joaquin Valley and the northern end is the Sacramento Valley.

This is mostly flat land in a valley that’s approximately 60 miles wide – bordered on the east by the Sierra Nevada foothills and on the west by the Coastal Range. The valley is about 450 miles long. It’s prime farming land and California is the main source in the USA for crops such as lettuce, grapes, tomatoes, sugar beets, peaches, asparagus, artichokes and avocado. California is nearly the exclusive source in the USA for almonds, apricots, walnuts, prunes, broccoli, pistachios, kiwifruit, dates, figs, olives and nectarines.

North of Madera, the pistachio groves gave way to almonds and walnuts. We stopped at a rest area near Turlock. Rest areas are few and far between on CA99 – this was the only one we saw between Fresno and Sacramento. The scarcity of rest areas made this one a popular stop.

Busy rest area near Turlock

Traffic was stop and go from Atwater to Stockton due to road work. Once we reached Sacramento, we followed the I-80 Business Loop across the American River to Exposition Boulevard. After one false turn, we found the Cal Expo RV Park at the end of Ethan Way.

This park is nothing fancy – it’s basically a gravel lot with hook-ups and not much in the way of amenities. We have a 50 amp full hook-up site that accommodates our length without dropping the trailer. The draw here is the location. We are a couple hundred yards away from the American River and the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail runs right outside the park. This is a paved multi-use trail with no motorized traffic. At $40/night, it’s pricey for what it is, but we’ll spend four nights here giving Donna a chance to take some long bicycle rides in preparation for her ride across Iowa in late July and we’ll explore a bit. For comparison, in San Diego at Mission Bay, we paid a monthly rate of $925 – just under $30/day including utilities. In Coarsegold, our first week was $62 with a special discount for first-time visitors plus we paid $28 for electricity. After the first week, we paid a daily rate of $26 including electricity. Our total campground costs for May were $708 – just under $23/day.

Our site at Cal Expo

I lived a few miles from here when I was a kid – from second grade through fifth grade. Cal Expo is the site of the California State Fair and we always came here for the event. It might be fun to take a look at the old neighborhood.

Last night, Donna’s friend Lisa Montanaro drove down from Davis and they went out to dinner at Seasons 52. I stayed home and dialed in the satellite dish and had leftovers for dinner.

The weather forecast is calling for upper 80s and low 90s for the highs over the next five days with little chance of precipitation. The 50 amp service here will be useful – we’re sure to be running the air conditioners.

 

SKP Park Sierra

Tonight will be our 13th night at the SKP Park of the Sierras and I’m still not sure if I have the name right. The website for the park is titled Park of the Sierras but it has a photo of the entrance to the park which has a sign that reads “SKP Park Sierra.”  Most of the signage in the park says Park Sierra and there is at least one that says Park of the Sierra – not Sierras. Anyway, we’ve enjoyed our stay here. The weather has been nice – mostly warm to hot sunny days and cool nights.

We’ve had a chance to explore the area a bit and visit Yosemite National Park and Bass Lake. We’ve also spent a lot of time on the pickleball court. A new pickleball court will be built in the fall – the ground has been prepared but it needs time to settle before concrete is poured. The temporary court brings some challenges with uneven surfaces and a few tar patches, but it’s fun to play nonetheless.

Melinda Thomas and Joe Milligan are spearheading the pickleball project here. We had a great time playing pickleball with them and also with CJ Walker.

On the court with Melinda – photo courtesy of Joe Milligan

I hope this ball bounced before I hit it – my left foot is in the “no volley” zone. CJ and Donna on the opposing court – Joe Milligan photo

We met CJ and her husband Art when we were at Jojoba Hills a couple of years ago. They’re fellow Alpine Coach owners. On Monday evening, they hosted happy hour at their site – it was BYOB and everyone brought hors d’oeuvres to share. It was a good time – Melinda and her husband Mike and Joe were there. We also met another couple named Louanne and Gordy.

Sunset at CJ and Art’s site

Yesterday I rode the Spyder to Raley’s grocery store in Oakhurst. I picked up a few things, including large chicken breasts with rib bones and skin. Donna marinaded them with olive oil and lemon juice then seasoned them with fresh herbs and garlic. I grilled them.

Large chicken breasts

The package claimed the chicken was hormone free, but these had to be some big chickens! Donna served it with sauteed zucchini, asparagus, peppers and onions, sun dried tomatoes and fresh basil.

We played pickleball again this morning and got three games in before enough rain drops fell to wet the court surface. A light rain is falling as I type this. Later this afternoon we’ll prepare for travel. We plan to pull out tomorrow morning and head to Sacramento where we have reservations at the Cal Expo RV Park – about 180 miles from here.

We plan to stay in Sacramento for four nights. Donna is looking forward to bicycling along the American River on the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. From there, we’ll continue north and make our way to Arlington, Washington. We haven’t settled on our route – we’ll work it out as we go. Our destination is my daughter Alana’s driveway. We want to be there on the 10th of June. We’ll mooch-dock in her driveway and stay for our granddaughter Lainey’s graduation.

The rain should clear up later this afternoon. If the windshield cover dries, I’ll stow it today, otherwise it’ll have to wait until the morning. Likewise I’ll dump and flush our tanks this afternoon and get a head start on hitting the road in the morning. The weekend forecast for Sacramento calls for warm days with highs near 90 degrees and cool nights with the lows in the 50s. No rain is expected.

Bass Lake

We went to the social hour at the clubhouse here at Escapees Park of the Sierras Friday night. The social hour is a happy hour combined with heavy potluck appetizers – it’s enough to call it dinner. Everyone brings a dish of food to share and their own drink of choice. Donna brought a vodka and grapefruit juice cocktail while I brought a bomber bottle of  bourbon barrel aged ale.

559 Bourbon Barrel Aged

This ale from 559 was amazing. Instead of imparting sweetness from the bourbon barrel, it had a nice flavor with a tart finish. Even at 8% ABV it wasn’t heavy at all. I really liked it.

Saturday was Donna’s birthday. Traditionally we go out to dinner at the restaurant of her choice on her birthday. Donna chose Ducey’s on the Lake up at Bass Lake. We headed out on the Spyder around 3:45pm. We rode up CA41 through Oakhurst. A couple of miles north of Oakhurst we turned onto road 222. We followed 222 until it became 274 – it changed names a couple more times before we got to the village of Bass Lake. It was a 22-mile ride and we made good time.

It’s been at least thirty years since I last visited Bass Lake. The first time I came here was 1965 or ’66 – I can’t remember for sure. I was about 10 years old and came here with my family. We spent the weekend in a cabin belonging to a friend of my father and fished. I think we all caught fish, but I remember my mom caught the most.

Later, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, my step-dad had a time share in a cabin and we spent a few long weekends here. Of course today I don’t recognize the place. Instead of a few cabins in the woods around the lake, there are many full-size houses with boat docks. There are resorts in the village including a large one called The Pines Resort. Ducey’s restaurant dates back to the end of World War II if I remember correctly. It was originally a family-run operation in a small building. Now it’s owned by The Pines Resort and is located in a large log structure overlooking The Pines marina and Bass Lake.

Bass Lake is a reservoir that was created in 1896 when a dam was built. It was originally called Crane Valley Lake. It’s in the Sierra National Forest. The lake is about four and a half miles long and less than half a mile wide in most places. From the southern tip, it’s oriented to the northwest. Even though it’s on a tilted heading, most people refer to the long shorelines as the north shore or the south shore. Bass Lake Village and The Pines Resort are located on the north shore about halfway down the lake.

Donna and I strolled around the commercial area of the village. We popped in to Pines Bar for a cold one, but left before ordering. It was a dive bar with no view. We walked down to Ducey’s on the Lake and went to their upstairs bar. We had a commanding view of the lake from there and enjoyed a cold one. They had a good selection of beers on tap, including some local beer.

At 5pm we went downstairs to the restaurant for dinner. We had window side table and a nice view of the lake. There was a lot of activity at the marina and on the lake. This was obviously a popular destination for the long Memorial Day weekend. Before we ordered, we saw a number of people pointing and looking out the windows. There was a wedding reception in the resort’s banquet hall and the bride and groom were walking toward the marina.

The groom was a naval officer. The newlyweds were accompanied by an honor guard of four navy officers, three marine officers and a marine Gunnery Sergeant. The honor guard raised ceremonial swords over the couple as the wedding photographer shot pictures. They lowered their swords before I could snap a shot.

Wedding party – reception hall in the background

View of the marina and lake from our table

Donna ordered the 10-ounce prime rib plate with a sauteed mushrooms and a side of scalloped potatoes made with ham chunks, green chiles and cheddar cheese. I had the petite filet mignon. The food was very good.

Donna’s birthday dinner plate

On the way out of the village, we made a quick stop where Willow Creek empties into Bass Lake’s northern tip to take in the view.

Willow Creek

North end of Bass Lake from Willow Creek

Donna ready to saddle up

The weather warmed over the weekend. We had a high of 80 on Saturday and in the upper 80s on Sunday. We played pickleball both mornings here at the park. Sunday morning we played for a few hours with Melinda and Joe – it was just the four of us. It was really fun as we were able to work on strategies and tactics. Pickleball is in its fledgling stages here – Melinda and Joe are working hard to get it going. This makes it difficult to put together competitive games. Melinda and Joe are intermediate level players but oftentimes they are paired with beginners to make up doubles teams. This will sort out as more people play and the beginners gain experience.

Today is Memorial Day – we should take a moment to reflect on the meaning of it. It’s a day to honor the memory of those who sacrificed all for our country. I want to give thanks to them and their families.