Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Big Sur and another leveling story

Big Sur is a name that brings all sorts of things to mind, most notably the winding road famous for it's magnificent views of the Pacific and the wild and scary and nearly vertical drop-offs from that winding narrow road to foamy seas below.

Another word association: Big Sur - Hippies - the 60's. I had a friend who spent a few months doing the hippie thing in a van on a beach at Big Sur many years ago. I was too involved having children to take time out to be a hippie, but there is a vagabond in me that loved to imagine what it might have been like. In the late 60's, Mo visited the same beach in Kauai that we hiked to last month, and said it smelled awful from all the waste and dirt of the hippies who were squatting there. No pun intended. So maybe the imaginary vision of hippiedom from afar isn't quite the same as the reality was. But hippies were the ones who had a part in making Big Sur famous back then, and I remember hearing about it. The remnants are there as well, with young people wearing dreadlocks and tie-dye, still caring about things like sustainable living and healthy eating. Good things to care about. Esalen is there as well, another holdover from a different time, still operating and providing a place for meditation training among other self improvement kinds of things.

What I hadn't quite understood about Big Sur, however, is how inaccessible it actually is beyond the highway. There are few beaches that you can get to, and the one that is somewhat accessible is often cold and wild and incredibly windy, at least both times that I have been there. The waterfall is wondrous, a thin silvery ribbon dropping over a cliff to the rocky beach below, but again, inaccessible. Signs saying "no beach access" are all around that lovely falls. The trail to Julia Pfeiffer's old gardens is wonderful, part of the state park system, and leads to great views of the ocean and falls, but not a long trail at all, and it doesn't use up much of a day. While perusing a local book store, I found a book called, "Day Hikes Around Big Sur", and it made me wish that I had the time to stay there a bit longer and really explore. So many people talk about the magic of this place, and yet without taking time to immerse there, the magic is impenetrable, lovely, but somehow "out there".
The views are magnificent, no doubt some of the most incredible vistas in this country. The air was brilliant and fresh and chilly while we were there this weekend, but the skies were clear with no sign of the predicted clouds. Perfect sleeping weather, but not so cold that the furnace had to be on the whole time. We took the chill off with our little electric heater and it was just enough. But our travels were about camping with our friends, appreciating the delights of campfires and games and laughter, and there was plenty of that for all of us.
The Big Sur Campground and RV Park was one of just a few choices in the area that had both RV sites and camping cabins for Maryruth and Gerald. We chose a cabin directly on the Big Sur River for them, and the closest site for our MoHo for us. It was a bit disconcerting when we arrived to see just how close everything was in the park, with very little space for our rig, especially with the slide-out. We had mentioned the slide-out, but the young boys who seemed to be running the show at this park were somewhat oblivious. I made reservations several weeks in advance and it took them three tries to get a confirmation letter to me that had the right campsite numbers and prepaid fees. They have computer access, but didn't even use email to confirm reservations, and when we got there, they were still having trouble getting the numbers right.
The sites had water and electric, and big trees in between the rigs and the firepits. Mo and I managed to get backed in just close enough that we could open the steps and the side door without hitting the tree and still had enough room on the opposite side for our slide. We were fairly proud of ourselves, until we attempted to level. Nothing. Nada. No lights, no sound, no leveling. Since our last weekend we had so carefully stopped and practiced up and down more than a few times, this was a real disappointment. Neither one of us could figure it out. When Gerald arrived a bit later, he got into the guts of the rig, and actually found some loose connections that were certainly not a good thing, but none of them seemed to have any effect on the levelers. So, just like the old days, we found a couple of pieces of wood and carefully drove up onto them, trying to avoid the tree and the steps and just gave up on the levelers.
Supper was roasted in the new bbq I bought for our travels, just enough room for a nice meal for four, with an automatic lighting switch and a hood with a temperature gauge. I tried planked salmon for the first time and it was wonderful! Baked potatoes with all the trimmings, pineapple cole slaw, and fire pit warmed garlic sourdough bread made it all perfect. We all played cards into the evening, and with the very chilly winds were glad for the protection of the MoHo. The rig was big enough for all of us to sit comfortably with a real table, something we had missed in our 21 foot MoHo.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Mo woke up with an "ah ha". "I'll bet it has something to do with the steps!!!" Sure enough, first thing in the morning we pulled in the electric steps (which we had carefully taken off automatic so they wouldn't keep going in and out when we closed the door) and yes! red light on!! levelers working!!! So, in addition to the brake on, key to accessory, your steps have to be IN for the levelers to go down. Needless to say, we were both quite tickled to figure out this one last little glitch in such a simple way. The rest of the trip everything worked to perfection. Maybe we actually have it all figured out, at least for the time being.

Sunday we woke to clear sunny skies again, and a bit of a chill to the air, but nothing that wasn't easy to shake off with a light jacket. Mo cooked her classic campfire bacon and hash browns, and we kept it all warm on the little bbq and really loved that old fashioned hot breakfast. Spent the day exploring the roads, beaches, and waterfall, and found a magnificent restaurant for our celebratory dinner.

Nepenthe is just about 10 miles south of the RV park, with a restaurant that overlooks the ocean in both directions, high above the cliffs. The ambiance was wonderful, and even though it was a really nice place, we all felt perfectly comfortable in jeans, and a good thing because it was much too chilly for the light skirt that I brought to wear to dinner. Of course, the Big Sur prices were a bit shocking, but it was the view we were after, so everyone decided it was worth it. The food was excellent, and we had a wonderful celebration, at least it felt like a celebration, even though there wasn't any particular event to celebrate except the loveliness of the area and the enjoyment of friendships. That's enough, I guess.

I'm not sure when we will go back to Big Sur. It was expensive in every way. Our camp site was 43 per night, with the 5. charge for the dog, and the tiny canvas cabin for Maryruth and Gerald was 75 per night, even in the off season. It certainly isn't a place for retired rv'rs to hang out for any length of time. A big surprise was that a very large number of campers were in rented RV's, lots from El Monte RV, and most of them we talked to were from the Bay Area.

Seems like an expensive way to spend a weekend to me, especially with gasoline getting very close to 4. a gallon here in California. Most everyone was very friendly, and I think that's an especially good thing considering just how close together everyone was in this tight little park. A very good thing about the park was the lack of night lights. It was dark and starry and wonderful. The bathrooms were heated and nice as well, and I even opted for a shower there instead of waiting for water to heat in our rig.

There are a lot of places in this country to explore, so it might be the last time for Big Sur for us, for awhile at least.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sacramento Delta

We headed for the Sacramento Delta area last weekend, not so much because it was a chosen destination, but because there was an RV park there listed on our Coast to Coast resorts membership. Mo decided that we really didn't want to keep this particular membership going and we had some points to use up. That is the main reason for not keeping it actually, the reservation requirements and the point system. We are a bit more spontaneous than the membership supports, and would have a hard time keeping track of points and places and such. Not too many Coast to Coast parks in my part of the world here in California, either, so this one was the closest, a place to try for a short one- nighter on a weekend.

The best part of all of it however, was a chance to pull the MoHo out of her parking area, and get it all cleaned up and pretty again. She hasn't had any movement since we got back from our 24 hour run to Klamath when it was below zero. Next weekend we are planning a trip to Big Sur with friends, and didn't want to be embarrassed by what we may have forgotten about all our bells and whistles. Besides, she needed a good washing, anyway. Any reason for a trip will do.
The Delta Shores Resort is on the Mokelumne River, about 6 miles south of Isleton, CA. In spite of the fact that both of us have been in California off and on for more years than we can count, neither one of us had actually been to Isleton. The weather was perfect, with high 70's to lo 80's and clear sunny skies. Just about 90 miles from my home in Jamestown, so the trip didn't take long. After winding around over bridges and low lying fields and following the narrow dike roads along the Sacramento River, we came to Isleton, river town. The town was established by Chinese shortly after the gold rush, when the immigrants didn't get rich on gold and decided to remain to build the dikes and levees that turned this area from wet marshland and tules into productive farmland. Isleton itself was settled in 1875 when the wharf was built and the people had access to the outside world. It burned twice, and was finally rebuilt in 1926, with tin covering the wooden buildings to supposedly protect them from fire. The Chinese influence in the town is a big part of it's history, and then later the Japanese came to work the extensive farming industry that grew there as well.
It took us about an hour to walk the town, check out the buildings, and try to hear each other over the roar of the Harleys that dominated everything. Music poured out of the little bars and cafes lining the street, and bikes were lined up all along the road. Those delta dike roads seem to be as popular with bikers as some of the winding mountain roads near where I am living now.

As we left town, what I noticed most was the friendly feeling in the neighborhoods of small cottages. Lots of front porches and lots of people sitting on those porches on a Saturday mid afternoon in the sun. Friendly camaraderie was the order of the day. A few miles across the very flat farmland led to the rivers and dikes and to our park.

Now what. Hmmm. We didn't bring the car this time, because the whole purpose of the trip was to try out everything and be sure it all worked. The park itself was big and shady with nice large sites on grass. That was the catcher, that lovely green soft grass. After reading a few reviews about this place, we knew that it may be a problem, but things didn't seem that soft, the ground was dry, and so we started our first project, leveling. On the trip home from Texas after Mo bought the Isata Touring Sedan (Dynamax), we leveled a few times, but never really looked at the instructions. This time we thought it might be nice to try reading them, and so we followed them until the left rear leveler decided that it would be fun to bury itself into that soft grass. After a frustrating hour, with Mo digging the thing out in about 6 inches of clearance, we finally managed to get all four levelers back up and moved the MoHo to what seemed to be a place that was a bit drier. So much for the first hour of the afternoon.

What the heck. We came here to be sure everything worked, and by the time the weekend was over, most everything actually did. Almost everything that is, except the automatic electric steps. They worked fine all weekend until just before we left on Sunday. Then, no matter what we did, they wouldn't open. It's a big jump up without that step, and after all the other little things that we had to figure out, this one was just one too many for Mo, who just decided to wait until we got home to try and figure it out. After some reading and a phone call, the troubleshooting guide was right, check for fuses, and then check for loose wires. In this case it was just a loose wire under the chassis. The steps actually run on the chassis battery not the house battery, so the fuses are related to the chassis rather than the coach. So far, many of our little glitches have been associated with these kinds of relationships and knowing just what needs checking for each component. All's well that ends well, however, and the steps are working fine.
We laughed a lot, though, while trying to figure out the television and the fancy surround system, with 2 remotes and a gazillion buttons. No cable at this park, and the famous quote of the day was our host saying jauntily, oh you don't need cable, your satellite will work just fine here. Hmmm again. We don't have a satellite. And of course, there was the blank look at the microwave while trying to figure out how to heat up a cup of coffee. We hauled wood on the back of the MoHo as well, but we are learning that most of these RV parks don't have options for campfires. Another reason to dry camp in Forest Service or BLM campgrounds. I guess we still are operating under the concept that we are "going camping". Well, camping with a very very comfortable bed, at least.

There were a lot of big rigs in the park, one of them next to us. The sites are all back-in sites, so when you are set up, you could be looking right into your neighbor's sitting area, and our neighbors were having a delightful time watching us do our setup thing. We gave them the very best laugh of the day, however, when I decided it was time to try out the new chili pepper string lights on our awning. Lucky for us, the awning worked just fine, we hadn't opened it since Mo got the rig since most of the trip home was so windy. After watching me do the lighting thing, they asked how long we were staying. I thought they would burst when I said, "One night". I explained, it's a practice trip and we are making sure everything works!

It isn't really a place to be without transportation, though. For people like us who like to hike and kayak and bike and such there really wasn't much around there to do. The main recreation on the delta is related to boating, and mostly big boating and fishing, and I wouldn't have wanted to fight all the noisy big boats on the river for kayak space. We did walk up to the water and enjoy the evening light and watched the ducks and birds and fishermen. The park has a nice marina associated with it, but it's a few miles to anything that is of any interest unless you have a boat there.

I think the best part of the whole weekend was the smell of newly cut hay. New cut hay is something that I associate with first cutting hay in the 30 years or so that I lived in North Idaho, and it's usually around the 4th of July. Here it's only April, and I couldn't even be sure that this was the first cutting.
The soils all around us were organic deep delta soils that had a water table just below the surface, and produced some really lovely alfalfa. I slept to that wonderful fragrance all night and woke to the dewy, slightly foggy morning with that freshness full in my senses. Of course, we made sure the Fantastic Fan did it's in and out thing and that the air conditioner worked, and the heater worked, and checked out all the little things that we hadn't had the chance to check on the way home from Texas. It's amazing to me that these rigs are such tight closed systems, in a small space, that have all the complexity of a home, maybe more. It's important to be sure that everything works before the warranty runs out at least!
Instead of just going home at mid-day, we traveled a different route, up HWY 88 to Jackson where gas was only 3.69 a gallon instead of 3.73. geez. Then to town where there is a great parking area on the right side of HWY 49 where we had all the space we needed to park and walk downtown to the ice cream shop and the best kitchen shop in all the Mother Lode.
I drove home the rest of the way down HWY 49, famous for it's hills and curves, and the MoHo did just fine, as did I. It gave us another chance to try her out in different kinds of situations on hilly narrow roads.
All in all a good weekend, short and fast, and now we are ready to really head down HWY 1 to Big Sur for a real camping trip where we will have a campfire and cook outdoors!