Current Location: Desert Hot Springs California at 54 F and clear
I can’t really claim the snowbird moniker, but somehow it seems that every year we manage to make our way south. I think to be a snowbird, you might have to stay for the full winter season and only meander back north when the light and warmth return. Still, it is an incredible delight to slip away from all that cold stuff, the snow plowing, the crashing ice dams, the skating rink parking lot, and land gently back in the desert, with simply a light shirt on in the evening, and feet once again in sandals. Ahhh.
We took our time this year, leaving later in January, and ambling southward slowly enough to spend some good time visiting friends. Mo and I met Laurie and Odel many years ago, when I was a brand new blogger and Laurie was one of the more well known bloggers in the newly minted rv bloggerland. Later, long after Laurie stopped blogging and they sold their beloved rig Scoopy, we stopped in for a visit to their digs and they took Mo and I to Nevada City and introduced us to their good friends Nickie and Jimmy. I love how these things work. As I am writing this, I am remembering just how we all met, and I had almost completely forgotten the details.
Sometimes these kinds of friendships come and go, but in this case, they are the kind that will last a lifetime. When we get together, in fours or in sixes, it is always so much fun. This time was no different. Nickie and Jimmy invited Mo and I to dinner at their place in Nevada City. The food was fabulous, what Nickie called “comfort food”, but oh my such deliciousness!
Even better than the food, however, was the laughter. Nickie has this wondrous inner child that comes out to play a lot, and makes me laugh till my sides hurt. Mattie thought she was a kick as well, and the two of them slid around on the gorgeous hardwood floors until tiny Mattie knocked Nickie down, or at least that is what Nickie claimed. So sorry, Nickie!! I hope your bruises have healed.
The “Big Plan” was for the six of us to meet the next day in Auburn for some yummy food, and then hike it all off with a great walk along the river and the waterfalls. The only waterfalls were coming out of the skies, with big dark rain keeping us all inside. Instead of hiking, the six of us sat together at a big round table at Awful Annie’s and ate and talked and ate some more. It was great fun being together again. We have hiked with Laurie and Odel, and with Jimmy and Nickie, but so far haven’t managed a hike with all of us. That is on the agenda for sure. What a fun bunch of people to know. I feel so lucky.
Mattie made friends all around, but especially with Odel. Did she ever love that guy! I wish I had taken a photo of her looking at him with adoring eyes as he scratched her ears. Mattie knows a good man when she sees one!
Our trip south this year was almost uneventful, with only a few tiny glitches. Once again we had to get the rig over the passes, the only way to escape to the south requires driving those passes. This time I was driving, so instead of documenting all the crazy stuff, I gripped the steering wheel as we rolled along on solid packed snow and glare ice with temps in the high 20’s and low 30’s. Once again, getting over the Siskiyous was scary, getting past Mt Shasta was even scarier, and once again the ice didn’t clear until we reached the Pit River Bridge just north of Redding. Sheesh~~ The only good thing is that at least this time it wasn’t actually snowing, but that ice was no fun at all.
Beale Air Force Base is just east of the I-5 corridor and Marysville, and only 34 miles west of Nevada City, the sweet little mountain town where Nickie and Jimmy live. We decided to give the FamCamp a try and it isn’t a bad stop. The campground is fairly isolated on the base, with long open views toward the east. I was surprised at how full they were, and we were glad to have made a reservation. $18.00 per night with full hookups isn’t bad, although the sites were muddy from all the recent El Nino rains. Still, the gravel pad was level enough we didn’t have to put down the levelers, the power was adequate, and there was WiFi available, but I didn’t try it. My Verizon worked fine on the iPad, and I had no time or need to set up the computers or the MiFi.
On the way to the campground, we saw an amazing airplane flying low and slow, circling above us. I love that about staying at an air force base, lots of cool airplanes. Found out later this was a U-2 plane, and that the woman pilot who flies them at Beale AFB is quite famous.
Once we arrived at the campground, we started our regular routine to unhook the Tracker, only to discover that the battery had gone dead. Mo is pretty careful about making sure the key is in the right position, but figured she must have turned it a notch too far. We managed to unhook, turned the MoHo around and jump started the Tracker, leaving it running while we got ready to drive up the mountain to Nevada City.
Everything was fine, and after dinner when we left to go back down the hill, she started right up. The next day she started up again, no problem, and we drove the back roads from Beale to Auburn and Awful Annie’s. There was no need to unhook the car. After our wonderful time with friends and food, we headed down I-80 through Sacramento all the way to Lodi on the 5, a whopping 70 miles.
Site M 7 at Beale AFB Family Camp
Didn’t bother unhooking the Tracker because we settled in comfortably to our cozy pull through spot in row E at Flag City RV Resort. It is a perfect one night stop, half price with the Passport America card, easy on and easy off, and cheap gas at the Love if we needed it. The next morning, Mo tried to start the Tracker and sure enough, once again it was dead. OK then. Where is WalMart?! As Judy probably knows from her extended stay here last year, it is right down the road about 4 miles. Within an hour, we had a new battery, installed in the misty rain, and all was running well again. No problems since. I guess it was time for a new battery.
We have been really lucky so far on this trip with gas prices being so low. I filled up in Grants Pass for $1.87. Mo filled at Beale for $2.21, and we filled yesterday at the Pilot on I-5 for just $1.99! Looks as though things might be a bit more here in the Coachella Valley with the Pilot running $2.69, but hopefully our time in Arizona will make up for that. I love GasBuddy! My favorite App!
Once the battery was replaced and we were traveling down the 5, everything seemed to settle into place. I think it takes a few hundred miles before it reallly feels like we are on the road, and that great feeling hit yesterday somewhere along the hills on the western side of the San Jouquin Valley. Evidence of the drought has lessened a bit, with recent rains turning everything green. Big signs are dotted among the fruit and nut orchards: “If water is used to grow food, is it really wasted?” I found myself wondering about this a lot. California is having huge water issues, with too many people wanting too little water. If that water is used to let people in the valley have drinking water, which many of them don’t right now, isn’t that better perhaps than it being used to grow nuts for export? Who benefits from that besides the farmer, certainly not the people who actually need food or water in California. Lots to think about as you roll down that lonely but crowded asphalt ribbon along the hills bordering the Great Valley that grows a huge percentage of our food.
We spent the night last night at the Orange Grove RV Resort just east of Bakersfield on Highway 58. I think most every RV heading toward the desert must stay here at one time or another. It was raining this morning when we got up, but the mist let up in time for us to get the MoHo washed at the free RV wash at the park. Of course, there are the free for the picking oranges, sweetest ever, and this year the crop is especially sweet. Add to that free coffee and free truly fresh and excellent donuts for the taking and staying there is a pretty good deal at $39.00 per night. A good wash of our two rigs usually costs us at least $15.00 in quarters if we do it at a car wash. And the oranges are priceless! I just hope I have enough to last until we return by way of Orange Grove RV Park. I need to stock up again before I get back to the land of grocery store oranges. Ick!
The rain started in earnest by the time we were actually on the road and it poured all the way to the summit at Tehachapi. On the down side, the rains let up, but the damage caused by the terrible flash floods that roared through Sand Canyon last fall was still visible. By the time we reached the other side and the desert stretched out before us, the skies were opened up and the sunlight was gorgeous and brilliant. Ahhh…..it is like the world opens up when the sun shines like this, and the desert vistas stretch out before me. I really really don’t want to live in the desert, but I need it like I need light. I guess that is why I love RVing so much. That inner need for varied landscapes, the desert, the ocean, the South,the Florida spring runs, the hardwood forests, the Red Rock Country, I wouldn’t want to have to choose to only be in any one of those places forever. I couldn’t begin to choose which one to give up, which one mattered most. No need! I can have it all!
We stopped for lunch somewhere along Highway 58 before Barstow, where Mattie got her first taste of desert air and we opened up the slide and let the sunshine pour in while we made a nice lunch and took a bit of a break. Mo drove the rest of the route, one of our favorites, from Barstow, down Highway 247, winding through the mountains down toward Yucca Valley and then down the big grade to Desert Hot Springs.
Every time we come here, I am reminded of the wild, craggy, rocky, mountainous land that makes up this part of Southern California. It is so incredibly rugged, twisted and tortured by all the tectonic activity, all the faults that folded and uplifted and shattered the landscape. The desert here is anything but flat and boring, it is a wild world and so beautiful.
With only four days here this year, we won’t be doing as much hiking as usual, but I will treasure every moment of my hot pool time before we continue east.