Category Archives: California

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.

 

 

Yosemite

Donna and I were up early on Thursday morning. We wanted to head up to Yosemite National Park and beat the crowd. We left Park of the Sierras at 6:40am and rode the Spyder up CA41 to the park’s south entrance – about 30 miles. From there it was another 35 miles to the Yosemite Valley. Even with the early start, we hit some traffic and there are no opportunities for passing slow vehicles most of the way. Yosemite National Park covers a huge area of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range – around 1,168 square miles – roughly three quarters of a million acres.

Map of the park lifted from Wikipedia

Our route took us up Wawona Road past Chinquapin. We went through a long tunnel through the granite mountainside on the south side of the Merced River. We made a quick stop in a parking area and got our first view of Yosemite Falls. Although we were all the way across the Merced River from the waterfall we could hear it roaring like a jet engine in the background.

Donna catching the upper falls

From there we continued to the Yosemite Valley Village on the north side of the Merced River where we had breakfast. We each has a banana and hard boiled eggs and coffee before we left, but we were ready to eat again. Donna had a breakfast sandwich – eggs, bacon and cheese on an English muffin. I had biscuits and gravy and somehow ended up with a double order – I managed to eat it all.

While I was in line to order our food, a European couple with a child of five or six years old was ahead of me. The guy asked for two breakfast sandwiches. The cashier taking the order asked, “Bacon, sausage or soy?” The guy looked puzzled and said he would also like a breakfast burrito. The cashier responded with another quick “bacon, sausage or soy?” Again, the guy was puzzled and said “two breakfast sandwiches.” This went back and forth a few times before the guy’s wife stepped in and said bacon. I’m sure the soy was creating the confusion – the poor guy didn’t understand the cashier’s question and the cashier wasn’t offering much in the way of help.

After breakfast, we parked the Spyder in the day use lot west of the Yosemite Valley Lodge. I had camped in Yosemite National Park a few times in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a much different place today. Of course most of the views aren’t different. But the crowds and the parking situation and campgrounds have changed greatly. Also, many of the trails are paved and wide today – back in the day the trails were – well, they were trails, you know, dirt paths. The lot was filling quickly even though it was only a little after 9am.

We got on a free shuttle bus which makes a loop west then crosses the Merced River and continues east up to Half Dome Village before circling back to Yosemite Valley Lodge. There are a number of free shuttle buses and they pick up at the bus stops every 10 or 15 minutes. The buses are crowded – we had standing room only on the shuttles we rode.

We got off at the second Half Dome stop.

Placard at Half Dome Village

I shot some photos, but it’s hard to capture the scale of the granite mountainsides all around.

If you look closely, you can see a waterfall cascading down the mountain.

Towering granite mountains

The elevation within the park varies from around 2,100 feet above sea level to over 13,100 feet above sea level. There are a number of waterfalls.  The most well known are Bridalveil Fall, Vernal Fall and Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls has the longest drop of any waterfall in the USA – it falls 2,425 feet through the upper fall, the middle cascade and the lower fall. The waterfalls are fed from snow melt at the top of the mountains – some of them are dry in the late summer/early fall.

From Half Dome, we took a shuttle to the Lower Falls trail and hiked up to the bottom of Yosemite Falls. It’s an easy hike on a paved surface.

Placard on the Lower Falls Trail

Yosemite Falls from the Lower Falls Trail

Yosemite Falls drains into the Yosemite Creek. The creek was running strong as much water was passing over the fall. With the large snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains this year, I expect the falls to be running strong well into the summer.

We hiked to the bridge over Yosemite Creek. Spray from the waterfall hung in the air and everything was wet. I took our selfie photo and you can see that there was a lot of water in the air around us.

Selfie where Yosemite Falls creates Yosemite Creek

Head of Yosemite Creek

Yosemite Creek running strong to the Merced River

We hiked back to our starting point at the day use parking lot west of the lodge. There were several cars driving the lot in search of a parking place. On average, four million people visit Yosemite every year. A record was set in 2016 when more than five million people visited the park. Like I said earlier, it’s no longer like the old days. Now there are crowds of people. The campground areas are filled with tents wall-to-wall. We headed out before noon.

When we came in to the park, I was surprised to find the kiosks at the entrance unmanned – there was no one there to collect the entrance fee. On our way out, the gate was manned and they were checking vehicles leaving the park for entry receipts. I had a National Parks Pass that Donna bought when she went to the Grand Canyon so we were good to go.

Mid-day traffic leaving the park was light and we made it back to Oakhurst in just over an hour. We stopped there at a fruit and vegetable stand Donna had noticed on the way out, then went over to Southgate Brewing Company for lunch. We enjoyed a couple of their brews and Donna ordered a beet and arugula salad with blood oranges, and fried goat cheese topped with chunks of chicken breast. She loved it.

Donna’s salad – that’s fried goat cheese in the upper right

I had their BLT with sriracha mayo – it was okay, but not too impressive.

Today we have much cooler weather – we expect a high in the upper 60s. We started the morning with pickleball. I don’t have much on my agenda. I’ll need to pay our electric bill for the week and then pay the daily rate – which includes electricity –  until next Tuesday or Wednesday. We haven’t decided yet when to leave here or where we are going for that matter!

 

Darkness, Darkness

We were invited to join fellow Alpine Coach owners Dessa and Frank Halasz at their coach for a small gathering Monday night. I wasn’t feeling up to par after suffering from dehydration in the afternoon, so Donna went without me. She rode the Spyder over to their site at the far end of the park before sundown, around 7pm.

She returned a little past 9pm and said she had a heck of a time riding home. It’s very dark in that section of the park so when she first started out, she thought maybe her eyes just needed to adjust to the darkness after being inside in bright light. She tried the high beams, hoping to shed more light, but that didn’t change anything. It took her awhile to navigate the unfamiliar park roads, but she eventually found her way home. She told me that she thought something must be wrong with the Spyder’s headlights. I went outside and checked it out. She was right – the tail lights and running lights worked, but no headlights. I needed to do something about that – I wouldn’t want us to be caught out in the dark. For some reason the Jesse Colin Young song Darkness, Darkness came to mind.

Tuesday morning we played pickleball here at the Escapees Park of the Sierras. We quit before noon and it was another hot day. After lunch, I looked at the headlight situation on the Spyder. First I checked out the 30amp headlight fuse. Looking at the manual, I saw tail lights and running lights were on a separate circuit from the headlights. The fuse was fine so I moved on to the next check.

I read the shop manual instructions for bulb removal and it seemed pretty straightforward. Simply remove the instrument panel, then take the cover off the rear of the bulb housing. Twist the bulb holder counter-clockwise and it should come out. Easy, right?

The instrument panel snaps in place with plastic tabs. You’re supposed to depress the tabs with a screwdriver and gently lift the panel out. Okay, except you need a screwdriver that’s less than an inch long or else it’ll hit the windshield! I took an old pocket screwdriver and modified it for this task.

Modified screwdriver for instrument panel removal

With the instrument panel out, I could reach into the body work to remove the headlight bulbs. However, the instrument panel opening is fairly small. My hands aren’t especially large, but they’re not small either. I wear an XL glove size.

Instrument panel out

Next I had to take the cover off the rear of the headlight housing. There wasn’t much room – the back of my hand was jammed against plastic mounting points for the dash body work.

Not much room in there

Once I had the rear cover off, I needed to twist the bulb holder and unplug the H7 halogen bulb. This took a lot of effort. The headlight housing is like a monkey paw trap. I could get my hand in there, but once I wrapped my fingers around the bulb holder my hand was trapped against the inside of the housing. Also my wrist was against the edge of the instrument panel opening – not too comfortable. I tried different approaches standing on either side of the Spyder. Eventually I managed to get the bulb out.

The bulb holder is free from the mount

The headlight bulb was burned out. I didn’t bother removing the left side bulb at this point, I assumed that both bulbs were bad. A while back, Sini told me she thought one of our headlights was out. I didn’t think so – I thought the headlights only used one bulb on low beam and both on high beam. Some motorcycles are set up this way. It turns out that both bulbs should be illuminated at all times. High beams are actuated by a solenoid that adjusts the reflector in the headlight assembly.

I rode the Spyder to Coarsegold and bought two new H7 Halogen bulbs.

Old H7 halogen bulb

When I returned, I went back to work. Accessing the left bulb was tighter than the right side! There’s a wiring harness behind the bulb housing that makes removing the rear cover and the bulb holder nearly impossible. I’m sure the factory assembles the headlights on a bench, then installs the body work and instrument panel on the vehicle. To do it the way the factory assembled it would mean removing the windshield, the instrument panel and all of the associated front end body work. It would be a large task.

So, I continued the monkey paw game in the 100-degree heat. I had to take care not to touch the glass bulb – halogen bulbs run hot and any oils from your fingers will cause them to fail. After a while persistence paid off and I had both bulbs changed. Getting the bulb holders back in place was another test of patience. Eventually I got it done. But I would like to have five minutes with the person that designed this set up. I’m guessing it was an engineer that got a mechanical engineering degree because of an aptitude for math. Obviously they had never serviced or repaired anything in their life!

I spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off inside with a book. Before dinner, Donna and I took a cruise around the park on the Spyder. This is a large property with several loops through five sections. We took a look at Coarsegold Creek where it crosses a golf cart path – the creek is running strong and with the large Sierra Nevada snow pack I imagine it’ll run strong through the summer months.

Coarsegold Creek

Donna made coriander crusted pork chops with a pineapple salsa for dinner. She served it with green beans and sweet potato mash – it was a hit in my book – very juicy and flavorful!

Coriander crusted pork chop with pineapple salsa

We played pickleball again this morning. We expect another hot afternoon with the temperature exceeding 90 degrees. Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler. We’ll head out early tomorrow to visit Yosemite National Park.

Pine Cone and a Sleepy Squirrel

Donna hiked and found Coarsegold Creek on Saturday morning. Coarsegold Creek runs along the west side of the Escapees Park of the Sierras property. In addition to the developed RV sites, they have an additional 40 acres undeveloped that is left in its natural state. When Donna was coming back to our site from her hike, she found what appeared to be an odd looking fruit that fell from a tree. After some research, we agreed that it was an immature Ponderosa pine cone.

Immature Ponderosa pine cone

Ponderosa pines are sometimes called yellow pine. The seeds are in the cones and take about 16 months to mature. The trees flower from April to June and the cones mature and fall from the tree in August or September of the following year. When they’re immature, they look like a solid mass. Once mature and ready to shed seeds, they have the familiar woody petal shape that’s somewhat prickly.

After lunch on Saturday, we took the Spyder for a ride up to Oakhurst. Oakhurst is a small town with around 13,000 residents about 13 miles from the RV park – it’s about halfway to the entrance to Yosemite National Park. We rode up a grade to an elevation of about 3,000 feet before we dropped a few hundred feet into the small valley where Oakhurst is located. This area was once known as Fresno Flats. The Fresno River runs through it.

We stopped at the Southgate Brewing Company for a cold one. Donna had a pecan brown ale that she thought was amazing – she said it tasted like a pecan pie! I tried a pale ale and it was quite good. We’ll go back and try out their menu sometime.

Saturday evening Donna prepared lemon-butter chicken for dinner. She pounded chicken breasts flat, then lined them with prosciutto and rolled them. She sautéed them in butter and they were very tasty.

Lemon-butter chicken

Sunday morning we went down to the temporary pickleball court here in the park. We met Joe and Melinda there and played several games. It was a fun time, but nothing here in the park is flat – including the pickleball court. The court is lined out on a parking area near the dry camping zone where we parked our trailer. It slopes from one end to the other and has a slight dip in the center. This made it interesting to say the least.

When we came back to our site, we found a squirrel on the deck railing eating the Ponderosa pine cone.

Who knew squirrels like immature Ponderosa pine cones?

Sunday evening I grilled a simple meal. I roasted two ears of corn in the husks and also grilled Aidell’s chicken-apple sausages. Donna sauteed apple slices and onions with fresh garlic and rosemary to serve over the sausage. Simple but delicious.

Chicken-apple sausage with corn-on-the-cob

Melinda told me about pickleball in Fresno. She was going with Joe Monday morning and sent me directions. I rode the Spyder there – about 30 miles and arrived around 8:45am. I played for a few hours. They had four pickleball courts set up on a couple tennis courts at Rotary East Park. Donna stayed home to work on a project.

Pickleball at Rotary East Park

By the time I left around noon, it was hot – in the 90s. I stopped for a plate of rolled tacos before I headed home. The ride back was hot and dry and I felt overheated. By the time I got home, I was a little shaky and nauseous – I think I was dehydrated. Sitting in the shade with a couple of bottles of water helped. Then we came inside and Donna fired up the air conditioners. I read for a while and took a short nap. I’m feeling better now.

The squirrel that ate the pine cone likes to hang out on our deck. He laid out spread eagle on the railing and napped for half an hour or so. It was comical. I couldn’t get a sharp photo – I had to shoot through a window so I wouldn’t scare him away.

Napping squirrel

I saw sad news on the internet today. Nicky Haden succumbed to injuries sustained when he was hit by a car while bicycling with a group near Rimini, Italy – I wrote about it in my last post. Nicky was 35 years old. I followed his motorcylce road racing career since he was in his teens. I unexpectedly ran into him once back in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain. He was known as the Kentucky Kid and always maintained a positive attitude and a quick smile. He will be missed. I extend my condolences to his family and fiance, Jackie.

Tomorrow we plan to play pickleball here in the morning. Wednesday we’ll leave here early and ride up to Yosemite National Park to see the sights. The weather will remain very warm this week – I’ll be sure to bring plenty of water.