Category Archives: California

Bellingham to SFO

September 15, 2007

Time travel back to August 23rd. I am writing this report from the comfort of my NYC apartment. I spent the afternoon looking at some of my photos from Washington, Oregon and California to refresh my memory. It was nice to reminisce a little. This trip will stay with me for a very long time. I have the feeling that I will remember little details out of the blue in the middle of the day which will put me right back on the highway.

Auto and train tunnel along the Columbia River

Auto and train tunnel along the Columbia River

Let’s get back to the trip from Bellingham to San Francisco. The weather was not the friendliest during my time in Bellingham and on my departure day. I chose to take highway 9/203/162 south instead of the horrible I-5 towards Mt. Rainier. This should be much less stressful and only a bit slower. The roads took me once again thru tiny towns along green fields with mountains not far. The roads were narrow and traffic was close to none existing. At least until I reached the outskirts of larger towns. I had to climb a couple of mountains which also meant a fast trip downhill. I did see the cop car on the bottom of the hill, waiting for all those speeders, but not in time to get to the proper speed. I believe I must have been going 75 mph in a 65 zone, luckily I did not get pulled over and there has been no ticket in the mail. It seems almost impossible to stick to the speed limit at those steep declines.

Historic train station

Historic train station

Around Eatonville, don’t ask how I remember, it was very woodsy and a creek was running along the left side of the road, really pretty. The weather had been quite good so far, little overcast but not gray. That, however changed when I got closer to Mt. Rainier. The mountain was none existing,

Dead trees on hillside along Forest Service Road 99 surrounding Mount St. Helens.  The trees died during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Dead trees on hillside along Forest Service Road 99 surrounding Mount St. Helens. The trees died during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

completely hidden behind a thick cloud cover. I didn’t even bother to drive all the way to the base. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see Mt. Rainier. Would I have been better of to drive thru the Olympic National Park over at the Pacific coast instead of traveling inland? I guess I will never find out. I decided to continue south to Mt. Saint Helens, hoping that the cloud cover would break. A woman at the visitor center near Mt. Rainier told me that it would be possible to get Cascade Locks, my destination for the day, on the Columbia River before dark. However, I should add at least an hour, each way, if I wanted to go to the viewing area along the eastern side of Mt. Saint Helens.

The drive on highway 25 towards the mountain was winding its way thru the forest, a very slow process. There was a dash of sunlight coming thru the clouds and I turned right at the turn-off to the viewing area, a full hour away. It was a race against the disappearing sun. I was so close I at least wanted to get a glimpse of the mountain. What I first saw were all the dead trees on the side of the mountains surrounding Mt. Saint Helens. They had been “killed” when St. Helens exploded back in the 1980s. It reminded me of all the dead trees in Yellowstone. Well, by the time I reached the viewing area the clouds had increased and I couldn’t see much of anything. At least I tried. Now the race with darkness began. The last thing I wanted to do was driving in the pitch black dark through the forest. I did not have many choices, there were no motels anywhere, and the closest campground put me quite a bit out of my way. Since I am somewhat stubborn, I headed towards Cascade Locks on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. Darkness once again came faster than expected.

Driving down a lonely forest road in the dark with tall trees to the left and right is not my idea of fun. There are no towns, not even tiny once, along the way for about 60 miles. The knowledge of the campground at the end of the road kept me going, a healthy dose of adrenalin helped as well. There were no lights, no houses and the small campground in the woods was dark as well. Not particularly inviting, and did I mention that I am stubborn? The only thing giving me a little light was the moon shining above. The dark creature on the side of the road turned out to be a big deer;

Driftwood along the Columbia River.

Driftwood along the Columbia River.

luckily he was walking away from the road. It took me two hours to drive the 60 miles. At that point I was too tired to set up camp and I opted for a motel. Not that easy either to find a place in the dark. I have a nose for wired places.   I am just glad that I didn’t see the big pile of old mattresses and furniture next to the motel

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge along the Historic Columbia River Highway

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge along the Historic Columbia River Highway

when I checked in. The bathroom was pretty unique, no shower walls only a curtain which separated the shower from the toilet, one continues floor. The mattress was about 30” of the ground; a step-stool would have been helpful. At least the room was quiet and didn’t smell.

The next day I explored the Columbia Gorge. A beautiful stretch of the Columbia River between Portland and Mt. Hood. Reminded my of the Hudson valley, except the mountains were a little higher. There are seven waterfalls along the route. All very skinny and after having seen two or three of them I did not stop anymore. Remember, I saw the big waterfall in Twin Falls. Off I went towards the Pacific Ocean, Cannon Beach. I was looking forward to driving down the coast and spending a little time at the beach. Not necessarily swimming, but just sitting at the beach enjoying the ocean. Cannon Beach is very nice, small, not too touristy, little artist community. Made it to the beach just before sunset. It was very windy and foggy. Looked neat, the fog was moving around the big boulders in the water.

Girls playing in the Pacific Ocean

Girls playing in the Pacific Ocean

Got up really early the next morning and headed for the beach (I camped). Damn, totally cloudy, not nice fog, just gray clouds. Took me forever to find a place that was open for breakfast, it was before 8 AM!

The drive down the coast was not as great as I had hoped. The weather was the biggest problem, gray, very windy and cold. No way that I would be able to hang out at the beach, not even in a warm sweater. Traffic was bad as well. Too many really slow drivers on a two lane highway can be extremely aggravating. I stopped in Tillamook, a big cheese town. I visited the cheese factory. I have a whole new respect for packaged cheese bricks. There is a lot of repetitive handwork involved until those little cheese bricks end up in the plastic bag. I talked to one worker and she told me that everyone has at least one of their wrist tendons fixed.

Oregon coast looking north

Oregon coast looking north

By mid-day the skies had cleared. There were a handful of overviews along highway 101 with amazing views up and down the Pacific Coast. Long stretches of the highway were a little inland with no view of the ocean. Towards evening fog started to move in from the ocean. Within seconds the road was swallowed up by fog and it cleared almost as quickly.

Samuel H. Boardman State Park - Fog covers the Oregon coast at sunset.

Samuel H. Boardman State Park – Fog covers the Oregon coast at sunset.

I camped in the redwoods in Crescent City just south of the Oregon border in California. Thanks to my warm sleeping bag I didn’t notice that the temperature had dropped. The campground lay in fog and it was only 54F / 12C. Not really that cold, but with the moisture in the air it was finger biting cold. After a hardy breakfast I felt much better and headed to the Redwood National Park. You don’t realize how big those trees are until you see a skinny, little pine tree next to them.

Continuing on hwy 101 the highway turned away from the coast further inland, no more water only trees which obstructed the view to the left and right. The highway eventually split into 101 and 1. I stayed on 101, a faster route, I know this was not a race, but I really wanted to get to SFO, people to meet, things to do. The inland temperatures were much higher and the sky was blue. I past thru Sonoma wine country. The trees gave way to vineyards. A quick stop

Wine grapes in Sonoma County

Wine grapes in Sonoma County

in Santa Rosa. I was looking for some local honey. Unfortunately, it was 6 PM on a Saturday and the stores were closed, how dare they. Cute place, especially the old downtown.

I could not have asked for a better welcome arriving in San Francisco. Late afternoon sunlight giving the city a reddish glow, blue sky, light on the Golden Gate Bridge. All toped of by the moon above the city, wow. As it always goes no place to pull over. I got a crappy shot through the open window in stop and go traffic.

After 1 ½ days in SFO off I went to Lake Tahoe, what a beautiful place. Kayaking on the lake, resting, spending time with friends. What a great way of life.

This is the last trip report. Thank you very much for reading. I will send one more short e-mail with a trip recap, stay tuned. Would I do this again, definitely!

See ya.


August 26, 2007

I don’t know where to start. As you might have noticed, my e-mails have become fewer and fewer. That’s not because I don’t want to write, but because my energy level has hit a low point. Also, I get to the campsite/motel too late to still pull out the computer and write. I am three weeks behind in my personal journal entries! Right now I just want to get home. It’s been almost five weeks on the road and in a different place almost every night. When I have stayed with friends, I have woken up and had no idea where I was. Sometimes I thought I was lying in the cab, not the bed, of the truck and I was surprised that the seats folded all the way back until I realized that I was sleeping in a very comfortable bed.

The beautiful scenery that I have been driving through for the last couple of days does not quite register the same way it did in the beginning, it’s just another tree.

Anyway, just a couple of additions to my last report:

Yellowstone National Park - Gibbon Falls

Yellowstone National Park – Gibbon Falls

Yellowstone: the nights were freezing cold, only 43F/6C. I was very happy that my sleeping bag was rated up to 35F/3C and the only thing that got cold was my nose. It was not too pleasant to crawl out of the warm sleeping bag into the cold morning air and into the bathroom which only had cold running water. I know it was not as cold as my dad always tells us it was when he was a kid and he had to break the ice on his wash bowl in the morning.

Highway 26 looking west

Highway 26 looking west

Idaho: Even though I didn’t spent much time there the one thing that sticks to my mind is the very sweet smell of the wet wheat after a rain shower. You know the smell of fresh cut grass, multiple that by 10 and add a little more intensity and you get close to the smell of wet wheat, just wonderful.

In my last e-mail I promised to tell you about my trip from eastern Oregon to Bellingham. Bellingham is located about 60 miles south of the Canadian border along the coast of Washington State.

I started out in Ontario, OR driving west on route 26. This was probably the most isolated stretch of road I have traveled on so far. For miles and miles not a single car, never mind anything more than a farm or two. Just field after field and a lot of sagebrush. I turned onto a dirt road for about 12 miles and all I would see was some cattle and rolling hills as far as the eye could see. Unfortunately, I could also see the smoke from some wild fires. I drove thru a handful of almost

Old general store and phone booth

Old general store and phone booth

ghost towns. One of them was Unity, 50 miles away from any slightly larger town in any direction. Unity was never very large, used to be a logging town with 250+ people, now there are only 80 left and the mills closed down a couple of years ago. Throughout this trip I have seen many dilapidated buildings, abandoned years ago and left to rot. And sometimes it is not clear if someone is still living in the falling apart trailer home with the junk cars in front or not.

Old tiller off Willow Creek Road

Old tiller off Willow Creek Road

I was heading towards Sisters, a town named after the mountains just to the west of it. The peaks of those mountains were impressive. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of them since the weather turned on me and clouds and rain rolled in. It was raining the next morning when I was leaving Sisters.

Due to the weather and a road closure I had to change my route to Bellingham. Instead of heading north from Sisters to Mt. Hood and than into Washington State passing Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainer before getting up to Bellingham, I drove west to Eugene. What a funky town. I haven’t seen so many grunch kids in a very long time, never mind so many homeless / drunk/drugged out people. Eugene is about two hours south of the Washington border and it is a pretty straight shot up on I-5 to Bellingham.

Figured I’ll be there by 8 PM, wrong it was 10 PM before I got there. It was the longest day up to then with the fewest stops and over 500 miles of driving. I am so glad that I had been avoiding the interstates.

I-5 is just awful. People don’t know how to drive; everyone drives in the left lane no matter what speed they go. It was so bad I was screaming at the drivers and eventually left the interstate and opted for a small detour with much better views, fewer drivers and no stress. I went back on I-5 north of Seattle; otherwise I would have never gotten to Bellingham.

I had two full days at my friend’s place which was great. I got to see the sites of the area and just had a nice relaxing time. However, the weather was not too kind to us, that is until I left, figures.

I spent this Sunday in San Francisco. Half the day with a friend, walking around the Castro and Mission areas which are quite beautiful with their very colorful vegetation and I am not talking about the people. The second half of the day I did something I hadn’t done on the entire trip. I did nothing! Didn’t want to go out, didn’t have to be anywhere, could just sit on the balcony and enjoy the little bit of sun that shines around here.

Tomorrow I am driving to Lake Tahoe where I’ll stay again with friends and in a couple of days I am heading home!

You have to wait until the next report to find out how I got from Bellingham down to SFO and how the moon showed me the way in the dark forests around Mt. St. Helens.

 Thanks for reading all my reports and for your feedback. I enjoy getting that as much as you seem to like my e-mails.

Good night and see you soon.

Driving east

Well, it had to happen sooner than later, I am driving east.
I left Palm Springs on Sunday (4/3) after spending Saturday at a pool party which was not anywhere as much fun as I had hoped. Hobbling around a pool party is never fun. Even the dinner at a nice restaurant was only half good. Why can’t restaurants prepare tuna correctly? If you order medium rare there should be red or at least pink in the middle of the piece and not brown. Never mind that it should not taste fishy. At least the restaurant didn’t charge me for the dinner.

Palm Springs street "camping"

I had been in the Palm Springs area around Thanksgiving and lots of places looked familiar, except the gas prices. Regular had gone up $1.04 per gallon in just over four months. California is just too expensive; $4.15 for regular was not even the highest. Glad I filled up for a mere $3.95.
Since I had been here before I chose to drive along the western instead the eastern side of the Salton Sea. Unfortunately, the sea and communities along its shores don’t look much better on this side either.

Salton City - dead palm trees

If you read my previous post about the Salton Sea you might remember all the dead fish on the beach. I didn’t see any dead fish this time, but lots of destroyed communities right at the edge of the sea. A little further inland you could find homes with nice front yards, but the whole area felt very depressing. Even the desert to the west of hwy 86 seemed not as alive as in other places.

Salton Sea Beach - remains of a home

As so many times before, things can change very quickly. Just a bit south around Westmorland, the desert was replaced by huge fields of green; wheat, lettuce and other produce. Along the northern parts of Alt-86 orange trees were full with oranges ready to be picked.
I stayed at the Wiest Lake campground. The smallest lake I have ever seen, but people still rode their big motorboats in tiny circles. What I hadn’t expected were the feeding lodges across the street. Between the aroma of cow manure and the flies, this was not the best camp spot, but it was quiet. It was a state park, there was no ranger, no pay box and no rates posted. Got to love these places. Office closed for the weekend. I hoped to see someone in the morning, no such luck. I left a note and money; I had only used water, no electric.

ATV at the Imperial Sand Dunes

In the morning I headed east on hwy 78. Passing the great Imperial Sand Dunes and than thru the desert, where some of the cacti have started to bloom, to the oh so wonderful interstate to Yuma, Arizona. I didn’t spent much time in Yuma, just gassing up and getting some groceries.
Since my leg is hurting too much when I walk, I can’t explore any of the places I pass through, which really stinks.

Blooming ocotillo and saguaro cacti

I dry camped near the town of Wellton between some fields. They are a little strict about parking campers on the street around Southern Arizona. There are too many snowbirds in the winter time and the place is just overrun with RVs.
I always try to avoid the interstates as much as possible and sometimes that leads me to some interesting dirt roads. Driving along cultivated fields, followed by desert, followed by areas covered in volcanic rock (my favorite 🙁 ) sprinkled with great saguaro cacti. You just never know what you might see.

I just found out that my tenant will stay until August, which means I’ll be on the road for an additional two months, yeah!

Hole in the Wall – my last hike

Desert tortoise

I had two choices how to drive through the Mojave; either, via the Kelso Depot, the straight line south or a slight detour to the east to the Hole-in-the-Wall. I had the feeling I would regret not going to the Hole-in-the-Wall since I was already so close.

Barrel and prickly pear cacti

Off I went down the dirt road and through the mountains. The Hole-in-the-Wall didn’t look like much, a rugged mesa and a smallish canyon. There is a trail around the mesa, but I decided it would be more fun and more interesting to climb over the mesa and take a look from up above at the canyon. It was great fun to climb over volcanic rock; I even saw a desert tortoise.

Banshee Canyon and Gold Valley

I had finished my little “cross country” hike when I ran into an older couple at the base of the mesa. They had just finished the trail and told me about the “Rings trail” at the end of the trail. Said that I should check it out and since I do listen when people make these suggestions, I went.

Jicky atop the Banshee Canyon (before)

I would like to start this part by saying that I am OK, of cause otherwise I wouldn’t be writing.
I followed the signs to the trail and made my way down on my butt from one rock to another. Unfortunately, my left foot did not land properly on the rock below and I slipped. I only remember a sinking feeling in my head or stomach. The rock below was just two feet away, no distance really. I envisioned myself falling on my head, an image I still can’t get out of my head. Fortunately, I only cut my left shin in the center, just to the right of the bone. The cut went through to the bone, almost two inches long. I managed to climb back up the rock and made my way to the ranger station several hundred feet away. At the station Julia, who was just restocking books in the visitor’s center, administered first aid. After scrambling for some first aid supplies, she cleaned the wound and with me holding the gash together put some band aids over the cut to keep the gash closed. Being in the desert, you are far away from anything. Miriam, the volunteer at the station, called the EMTs, but it would take 30 to 45 minutes for them to arrive. These were not EMTs from a hospital, but park rangers with EMT training. When they arrived they took my vitals and re-cleaned and re-bandaged the wound. It was clear that I would need stitches. Unfortunately, neither of the rangers (Erin or John) could sew me up. The nearest hospital is in Needles, 60 + miles to the east and in the opposite direction I was headed. I wanted to drive myself. The pain was not that bad, I am not exaggerating, it really didn’t hurt that much. John very strongly advised against it and called an ambulance. It would take another hour for the ambulance to arrive. In the meantime I had to figure out how to get back from Needles to my truck. Erin and John said that there might be a possibility that they could get me in the morning, not sure though when. Even Julia offered to either get me herself or arrange to have someone get me. I packed an overnight bag.
When the ambulance with Coy, Steven and Jeannie arrived I was ready to roll. First, my wound was one more time cleaned and re-bandaged. It wasn’t bleeding much at all. Then Coy said that I had two options, one: they could take me to the hospital or two: I could drive myself. I was apprehensive to just jump at option two right away. How would I feel once I was driving? For me it would be almost a two hour drive. I had been on that stretch of I-40 just last summer and remembered the up hill climbs. Erin and John, the rangers, offered to follow me to the interstate. If I would not feel comfortable driving they would call the ambulance again. Once I released the ambulance they had to drive back to the hospital and could not follow me.
So I drove to Needles. I only had a minor emotional breakdown along the way. It was 5:30 PM by the time I arrived at the ER of the Colorado River Medical Center. Nobody was sitting in the waiting area, but an ambulance had just pulled in. There was a sign on the wall: Wait time can be between 10 minutes and 3 hours or longer. Well, my luck, my wait time was longer. By now the pain had increased and I was very uncomfortable sitting with my leg elevated. My thigh started to cramp. I was told a bed would be available in 15 minutes, that turned into 30 minutes and than into a total wait time of 3 ½ hours. At that point I was aggravated and in pain. The receptionist had no information, “I am just a clerk they don’t tell me anything”, her answer to my question why is it taking so long. Another ambulance had arrived, but she didn’t share that with me.
Finally, I was called into the ER. Nurse Phil took my vitals and explained to me what would happen next. The doctor would either glue or staple the wound. I would also need a tetanus shot.
When Dr. Kidd walked in he asked me how bad the pain was from a scale of 1 (none) to 10 (really bad). When John had asked that same question, the answer was 2 or 3, now it was more like 5 or 6. And it would only get worse. Dr. Kidd said he would staple the wound, but would not inject any Novocain to numb the area since it would hurt more to stick a needle into the wound than just to put the staples in. Hell, f…ing shit that hurt. Five staples right into the shin, don’t try that at home. I don’t remember having been in so much pain before (in recent memory). Now the pain level had reached 8.
Next the tetanus shot. Before they can administer the shot they had to give me a bunch of papers to read and sign. Who’s idea was that, who can read and comprehend anything when you are in pain. The shot itself was not bad at all, but the after effect has been bad. For five days now has my upper left arm been hurting, can’t lie on it, can’t lift or move it without feeling pain (level 4). At 10 PM I was finally done and could go to my home. I was very happy that I didn’t have to stay in a motel. I parked over night in the hospital parking lot. I don’t take pain medication or any kind of medication for that matter. Since I was feeling so much pain in the leg I asked for two percocets which should be enough to get me through the rough time. The doctor also gave me a sleeping pill for a good nights rest. Well, not knowing what any of that stuff would do to me, I took ¼ pill of the percocet and no sleeping pill. Since I hadn’t had much food since breakfast, I made a big bowl of pasta with pesto sauce before going to sleep. I did manage to sleep and I left the parking lot the next morning before 10 AM heading to Palm Springs.
I haven’t been able to put much wait on the left leg. Moving around even in my small home is exhausting; there is a step into the bathroom and a step onto the bed. I am now sleeping fine and the pain in the leg has gone down a lot, at least at night. As soon as the leg moves from elevated to the walking position the skin just tightens and it hurts. I have taken of the bandage the hospital put on and so far the wound looks good, no infection. By April 10 the staples come out. How you ask, well nurse Phil gave me special pliers so that I can pull them out myself. Oh, how I am looking forward to that. I’ll save every darn staple as a souvenir from Southern California.
Thank you to all who helped me to get back on the road!
All this happened one week ago. I had to delay the post since I didn’t want my parents to read about it before I could talk to them.
A photo of the already stapled cut is only available by request. 🙂

Birds and coyotes

When one doors closes another one opens.

After almost three months in the same place I am finally back on the road. It was a bitter sweet good bye. I got a nice send off from my friends, including a very sweet care package from Sandy consisting of bananas, apples, some tuna and bread and most importantly my Milano Orange cookies. What would a road trip be without those? Henry and Tyann provided me with some yummy, yummy muffins. Thank you!!
The drive to the Mojave National Preserve took longer than anticipated, but somehow it didn’t surprise me, it always takes longer.
After having spent so much time hooked-up to water and electric it was time for some drying camping. My friend Brighid, a desert rat, told me about drying camping in the Mojave Preserve. It took me a little time to find the right spot, but I ended up with a beautiful spot in the middle of a whole bunch of Joshua trees; far, far away from pretty much anything. The desert here is very different from the one up in Nevada. The vegetation is richer, Joshua trees and yucca plants are the most visible ones. There were not many trees in the desert back in Overton, mainly sagebrush and creosote bushes. Also the soil is much softer and deeper covered by low growing plants.
When the sun started to set the mountains in the distance turned into a blue silhouette and the only sounds were the last songs from the birds and the hauling from the coyotes. I was treated to a beautiful sunset and I can’t wait to see the Milky Way later on. Waking up to the sun rising above the mountains should be spectacular as well; and all I have to do is turn my head on my pillow and look out the window.

OK, I missed the sunrise, but I was awake by the time the sun climbed over the mountains. It is just wonderful to see the desert come to life.
The night sky was filled with stars and some awful bright light to the north from Sin City (Las Vegas) some eighty miles north. You just can’t escape the big city. Still it was a beautiful night.

A year in review

The past twelve months have flown by faster than any other that I can remember. It is hard to believe, but it has been a year since I left New York City that cool rainy day in March. And now I am here in Nevada basking in the sun. I once again drove out onto the Mormon Mesa to find a tranquil spot to soak up the sun and to read. Unfortunately, I left my book at home (check out by my friend J.D. Fox. A legal thriller for a good cause). Fortunately, I brought pen and paper.
Overton is a very quiet place; however, up on the mesa it is even quieter. I am looking over this big flat covered by sage brush, creosote and other desert shrubs, no humans. The desert is starting to turn green with lots of new growth. I am surrounded by mountains, the Virgins, Muddy and Mormon Mountains are the large ranges.
Last February I was in the final stages of getting everything organized for this journey. I was going crazy. Overwhelmed by everything I felt I needed to know about the camper. Dealing with insurance companies was another big headache. One company for the truck and my apartment, another one for the camper. Who would insure what? The homeowner’s insurance or the camper policy? I got as many different answers to the same question as people I talked to. It was a nightmare. That on top of figuring out how many watts my inverter would need to run my computer on the camper’s DC power. Watts, volts, amps, AC or DC power, all very confusing. If you are drawing a blank here, then you know how I felt.
I drove a little over 25,000 miles in the past twelve months. I haven’t done much driving since I returned to Overton from my southern Nevada excursion in January. 25,000 miles of very different terrain. I don’t remember every road I took, but when I look at my maps and especially my photos (11,000+) I do remember little details, the smell of the Juniper trees up in the Dalamar Mountains or the smell of celery near Oxnard. There are not too many countries where you can drive that many miles and never really see the same thing twice.

Bryce Amphitheater

I haven’t written anything in detail about what I did or where I was in October. Most of the time was spent in southern Utah. It is one of the most amazing places I have seen so far. The area is “littered” with National Parks: Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce and Zion in addition to magnificent landscapes in between. I hiked almost fifty! miles throughout October. It gave me a very different perspective from just driving through. None of the parks were crowed at that time of the year, especially on the trails that were more than one mile long.

Zion - so much beauty

Every time I left one park I asked myself how could the next place possibly get any better. Amazingly they always did. The geology in this part of the country is fascinating. Parts of Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado were covered by water millions of years ago, that combined with volcanic eruptions has made for an incredible landscape.
What is my favorite place?


I have seen the beautiful beaches of Alabama, the pancake flats of Texas, the Pacific Ocean coastline, the mountains of northern California, the

Bryce - rainbow colors

rainforests and desert of Washington State, the spires and hoodoos of southern Utah and Arizona and much much more. It is very difficult to name one place. I did like Etna in northern California a lot.

Scott Valley

Scott River

Etna is situated in the Scott Valley and has a population of less than 800. Surrounded by mountains and golden fields. When I visited the fields were harvested and the colors were stunning. To me the town just had a very nice feel to it.


But if you ask me what will I remember the most, it will be the kindness of complete strangers; like Kate in Texas who runs a Bed & Breakfast. She prepared lunch for me despite the fact that she does not serve lunch and that she is not allowed to sell food to people who are not guests. We spent almost two hours talking and eating. I made a donation. Or Kinsey, a fellow traveler in Montana, one of only two solo women travelers I have encountered, who left fresh tomatoes and some potatoes at my door before she headed out. The campground manager who gave me scallop squash and cherry tomatoes because I couldn’t find any veggies at the small supermarket. The store keeper in Augusta, MT, who made me a cup of hot chocolate (with milk) on a cold and rainy day.
The RVers in Oregon who first watched me put my camper back on the truck and then invited me to dinner. My neighbors here at the campground who invite me over and always make sure that there is at least one non-meat dish for me.
The couple who invited me to Christmas dinner, Henry and Tyann, who have become friends and had me over for dinner several times since. They have made sure I don’t run out of my special dark rye bread which they bring back from Mesquite. They even have given me a ride to Whole Foods in Vegas so that I could stock-up on some good cheese. My hiking buddy Ron makes sure I have enough fresh coffee in the house. You have to know there is only one supermarket in Overton. Which is fine for all the basics, but they don’t carry things like good cheese or a wide variety of produce. Vegas is sixty plus miles away and Mesquite forty miles, ONE way.
Never mind all the friends and friends of friends who let me stay with them. Some I hadn’t seen in decades.
It is these and many more encounters that I will cherish the most.
Thank you all!!
As much as I was frantic and crazed before I left New York, I am now panicked that I have to be back in New York City by June. It is not so much that I will be back in the big city, I do love NYC, it is more that I have to sell my truck. As mentioned in a previous post, NYC rent plus truck payments on a minimal part-time job are just not feasible. I am still hoping for a miracle.
Maybe now you understand why I want to continue traveling. There are so many more people to meet and places to discover. I have only been to twenty three of the lower forty eight states and some I only quickly drove through.

self portrait at sunset

Last trip to the coast

Wow, let’s go down memory lane. I started writing this post way back in September and never got around to finishing it. Now I have to take a break from photo editing and what better to do than to catch up on my writing.
OK, I don’t want to bore you with my coastal explorations. This last trip is short.
Having spent two nights in San Francisco without water, electric and sewer hook-ups made me more agreeable to staying at a campground without any hook-ups. In San Francisco I actually ran out of water. Fortunately, Priscilla had a garden hose at the front of her house and I could fill my tank.
This would be the first and only trip along the coast with the camper on “my back”. I was hoping for overcast weather so that I would not regret it when I couldn’t stop to take a picture. I didn’t intend to make it too far that day, only up to Westport, north of Fort Bragg and only 100 miles from my current spot in Cloverdale. Highway 128 out of Cloverdale was very windy in the beginning, some mean hairpin turns. You just have to go really slowly, keep your fingers crossed and close your eyes. I am just kidding about closing your eyes.


The weather stayed nice until I got closer to the ocean and then the fog just started to appear. I had my overcast day as wished.
First stop, Mendocino. Cute little place shrouded in fog. After walking around for a while I found a local place for lunch, a decent tuna melt, and off I went again. But not before I bought some of my hard to find cereal at the local market. Wish I had bought more since I could not find any ‘til I got up to Washington State where I still had to search for it.
As I hinted in my last post (back in September Jicky’s trip to the coast, part 2 – The Sea Ranch to Bodega Bay), driving with a camper along highway one is not really fun. I found myself pulling over more often than I liked to, to let others pass. I hate to see a line of cars behind me. Unfortunately, pull outs are not always there when you need them. The road is just too narrow, windy, and for my taste sometimes a little steep to get up to speed. You have to understand that it can take me several minutes just to get back to the speed limit after I pull over and then there usually is a red light and I have to stop again. I just can’t win.
The only other stop I made was in Fort Bragg to get some gas. Compared to the other coastal towns I had seen this was more of a working class neighborhood. No fancy condos near the water.

Westport-Union Landing State Beach - view from my camper

In any case I made it to the Westport-Union Landing State Park in the early afternoon. The campsite was just fifty yards from highway one. Fortunately, nobody travels on that highway after dark and it was super quiet. The really cool thing was that I also was just fifty yards from the Pacific Ocean. So my night music was the sound of waves crushing against the rocks and cliffs.
There were not too many people in my section of the campground, only some families with their kids. I couldn’t believe the kids were running around in the swimsuits; it was freezing cold only about 50 F. I was told they came from inland California to cool off. Remember this was early August and it was hot about ten miles east from the coast.

Photo op

The sun was still out and the fog almost gone when I arrived. I made my way down to the water walking along the beach and climbing over rocks. It was just beautiful. That was the last time I saw the sun. The next day the fog was back, I think I saw the sun for maybe five minutes during the entire day. Despite the lack of sun I went on another excursion along the beach. I stumbled across a road that had partially fallen into the ocean; might have been a scenic byway. Nope, I asked the ranger later and she told me that that used to be highway one just a couple of years back.

This used to be highway 1, until 8 years ago

A big storm had eroded the cliffs and washed the highway into the ocean. Now the road is a several hundred feet further inland, for now. She also mentioned that this had been a miserable, cold summer with very little sunshine. Good thing that I didn’t have to stick around. After another night I moved on. My next destination was Del Loma in the Trinity Alps. About seventy miles east of Eureka on the Trinity River.
I remember listening to NPR on my drive up to Eureka. They were talking about the heat wave that had hit the east and center of the country. People called-in making suggestions how to stay cool. In the mean time I was sitting in my truck wearing a wool sweater and asking myself “What heat wave, it’s freezing out here.” It’s a big country with all sorts of weather. I was just happy when I turned away from the coast and finally got to see the sun again.

Twin redwoods

Redwoods, my rig is almost 12' high

I drove through some impressive redwood forests. You don’t realize how huge these trees are until you see a stick of a pine tree standing next to one of the giants.
I arrived at my campground in the woods early enough to pull out my shorts and defrost.
The location was stunning. As I said, right by the river, surrounded by mountains. The river was not very deep but had a pretty good current.

Trinity River, the wilder part

It was just great to go for a swim to cool off and be not disturbed by anyone. You just had to keep an eye out for bears. The day I arrived I was sitting by the river with a couple and their dog when all of the sudden the dog perked up. We followed his gaze and saw a bear just up on the mountain on the other side of the river; time to go back to the campground. We got binoculars and watched from the safety of the campground. Two more young bears appeared on the mountainside, but they didn’t cross the river; at least not while we were watching. The next morning I found bear poop on our side. Just have to remember who was here first. Blackberries were in season and they were in abundance on our river side. I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed picking and eating them. The bear poop was evidence.
Even though there are other towns marked on the map near Del Loma, there really are no other towns, just a couple of buildings. The campground has a small store with some basics, but the nearest supermarket is thirty miles east in Wheaverville.

The Straw House

Fortunately, there is a small café/restaurant less than ten miles to the east; one of those unexpected gems in the middle of seemingly nowhere. “The Strawhouse” not only has it the nicest owners, Julia and Don, but also a great menu. Grilled veggie sandwiches and other non meat items to die for.

View of the Trinity River from the Straw House

From their terrace you have a wonderful view onto the river, it is just so peaceful. So, if you should ever find yourself on route 299 in northern California between Eureka and Weaverville, stop at the Strawhouse for a cup of coffee or stay over night. FYI, the building is build out of straw. This is a great area for white water rafting. In case you wonder what you could do out there.
OK, let’s go back to photo editing. Enjoy the cool weather now, you might be complaining about the next heat wave soon.

It never rains in Southern California…

No it pours. It has rained since Friday afternoon non-stop. I know that some areas need the rain, but three and a half days non-stop is just too much.
I spent the weekend in Santa Barbara with Wayne and his wife Jeanine. It would have been nice if we could have walked around town without the rain.
It has not just rained outside, but unfortunately inside my camper. I had been very happy to be back in my home after spending nine nights in hotels. Giant RV in Corona did a great job fixing the hole from my little accident. The camper looks like new, thanks to Dave and his crew.
Anyway, somehow a crack or two developed in the caulking around my bathroom skylight and water has seeped through into my bathroom and living room ceiling. I was able to cover up the area, but even duct tape does not stick well to wet surfaces. With this damn rain nothing dries. Now I am paranoid, every time I see a water drop in the camper I think there might be another leak. So far that has not been the case. Keep your fingers crossed that it stays that way. Hopefully, I’ll be able to buy roof caulking tomorrow.
The drive from Santa Barbara to Boron, yes, I am stopping again at the Arabian Oasis campground, just as I did way back in July on my way to the coast, was not particularly pleasant. The rain had flooded roads which caused road closures and detours. Mud rivers were running along side and across the roads. Visibility was poor and I am just glad I am now hooked-up to water and electric at the campground.
I am heading to Nevada, near Las Vegas, in the hopes of warmer temperatures and dryer weather. I should not complain too much about the temperatures. The weekend before last I was lying at the beach in Laguna Niguel sunbathing; not bad for December. Let me know if any of you plan on spending New Years in Las Vegas.
I cannot believe that Christmas is already this Friday. Somehow I am not in the mood yet. Christmas lights on palm trees just don’t do it for me.
If I should not post anything else before Christmas (given my lack of posts recently that is a good possibility) I wish you a very Merry Christmas and thank you for reading my blog.

Will I turn into a beach bum?

Borrego Badlands

From the Anza-Borrego desert to the beach.

Borrego Badlands - cool place

When I had my camper accident I asked myself why. Things always happen for a reason. I now know why. Without the accident I would have left Southern California a long time ago and I would have missed out on the great beaches and small towns between Oceanside and Del Mar.

Untrimmed fan palm trees

Surfing at sunset, long walks along the empty beach. I am not doing the surfing, but I do the walking. There is something neat about seeing kids riding skateboards and holding a surfboard under the arm. It is also nice to walk on the beach in December without being wrapped in a warm coat and scarf. I could get used to this kind of life, but I have the feeling I won’t.

Del Mar beach

My camper is supposed to be ready no later than Tuesday and I’ll be heading, I don’t know where. California is too expensive; state parks charge $35 and up for one night of camping without electricity or water. They have to somehow fill there huge budget hole. I am looking forward to being back in my home. Living out of a suitcase is not my thing. A home cooked meal wouldn’t be bad either.

Beach life

First day without home


OK, I dropped off my camper for repair on Monday. The folks at Giant RV are doing their best to get me back on the road by this weekend. In the meantime, I am staying at a little inn in Julian – Julian Country Inn. I spent the afternoon exploring the town. It reminded me of a small New England town

Main Street Julian

in early fall. Lot’s of small stores with cute stuff mostly tourists would buy. They also have a handful of bakeries / pastry shops. I had a great piece of apple cherry pie with hot chocolate at Mom’s Pie. Yes, hot chocolate.

Highway 101

Despite this being southern California temperatures are only in the 50s; at least here in the mountains. I have to confess that I was wearing shorts yesterday on my drive down the coast.

Oceanside - ocean front homes

Oceanside - ocean front homes

I really liked the stretch of coast between Oceanside and Del Mar (just north of San Diego) much better than the drive south from Los Angeles to Laguna Niguel. The later had only little views of the Pacific at around Huntington Beach. Most parts of highway 1 lead through towns with narrow roads, and tons of traffic lights.

Joshua Tree Park - Queen Valley

In my last e-mail I mentioned that I spent a few days in the Palm Springs area. I forgot to mention that I made a little side trip to Joshua Tree National Park. It was nice to be away from all this brick and asphalt for a bit. I hadn’t planned on going to the park and by the time I got there it was already afternoon. Not too much time for exploring before it would get dark. I am not a fan of driving in the dark in unfamiliar territory. A ranger suggested a three mile round trip hike up Ryan Mountain. This would give me a 360 degree view of the area.

Joshua tree and the Pleasant Valley

According to the trail information the hike should take between two and three hours, there was a 900’ elevation change. The views were spectacular, piles of rock formations and just wide open space. Stupid me was only wearing shorts and a warm sweater. The only way to stay warm was to speed walk up the mountain and that’s what I did and I ran back down. I have no idea where all this energy came from. I was back in the truck in less than an hour! And back at the campground in time to make some Thanksgiving dinner, sweet mashed potatoes and string beans. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.