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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Rolling Condo Goes Home

Following our Halloween weekend with the family, we headed the motorhome along I-580, I-205, I-5 and I-80 for the 2.5 hour trip home to Cool, where our Summer/Fall Adventure would end on Nov. 1. 

THE DRIVE HOME

IMG_8179Winds were strong as we drove through the Central Valley. Check out the flag billowing atop the Sacramento Water Tower along I-5 in South Sacramento.

 

IMG_8188Interstate 80 through Auburn has been getting a facelift and there were patches of new pavement as we drove Highway 49 through the American River Canyon.  We have driven this road for 32 years and we treat it with respect. Because of our length, we no longer tow the car through the 6-mile, 8-10% switchback IMG_8191grades.  We stop at a large turn-out, unhook the toad and then complete the canyon driving separately.

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FALL COLORS – NOT

We have not gotten to experience the “fall colors” of New England (yet) so we smile when we get to see some colors when we reach home in early November.

IMAG0709Our trees along Auburn business streets and our neighbor’s tree across from our mailbox were about the only “colors” we got to experience this year.

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ARRIVING HOME

We have called our Itasca Horizon 40’ motorhome our “rolling condo” because it feels so much like a home.  We spend about 9 months a year (multiple 4-5 month trips) on the road and have everything we need with us.  Much of our “stuff” stays permanently in the motorhome, while other things must come back into our house while the RV sits in storage.

Admirals- 010Unfortunately, our home driveway angle and steepness does not allow us to park the motorhome AT the house to unload it. 

So, when we do get home to our “stick house” in Cool, it is always takes a good day or so to “unpack” all those things that have to go back into the house. 

 

 

IMAG0706We DO have an RV storage lot about a half-mile away, next to our community horse arena, where we can park and level the rig so we can safely open the slides to access the closets.  

 

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It then takes about four trips with the seats down in the Honda CR-V to move our clothes, foods, meds, golf clubs, dog stuff, computers, and traveling paperwork back to the house.

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Once unloaded, Luke must then navigate a tight squeeze into and through the RV lot to park the rig.

 

 

We are now back to the routines that we all do whether we are on the road or in the stick house.  We are completing the dentist and doctor appointments, paying bills, house cleaning, doing laundry, planning holiday meals, shopping, and etc.  We hope to hit the road again in early January which will mean reversing all the unloading we just finished. 

NEXT:  ??? 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

HALLOWEEN WEEKEND WITH FAMILY

Our last weekend on our Summer/Fall Adventure was spent over Halloween weekend with our daughter Robin and her family – Hubby Troy, and sons Taylor, 11, and Tanner, 9 -- in Pleasanton, CA.   We had reservations at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, our “home” site when visiting.  We got our usual spot where we are just a few blocks from their home.

Saturday morning we attended Grandson Tanner’s playoff football IMG_8017game.  Tanner, #64, plays middle defense so not many action shots.  They did look good in their pink socks in honor of Breast Cancer Month!  No, their game was not featured on ESPN, but the MetLife airship did spend a lot of time over the game.  Unfortunately they lost by one point.
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HALLOWEEN COOKING CLASS

Saturday afternoon Taylor attended a “Ghoulish Gourmet” cooking class at a local cookware store.  Menu:  Baked Rats in Blood (mini meatloafs with marinara sauce), Cheesy Spiders (decorated cream cheese and cheddar cheese balls with chow mein noodles for legs), Frankenstein Cake, Green Slime Punch, Apple Bites and Caramel Apples.  Family got tastes and left-overs. (Hmmm, turn your head or the screen to see the vertical photos that don’t want to rotate directly in my blogging software.)
 
ADULT COSTUME PARTY

Saturday evening it was kid-sitting time for me while Robin and Troy attended their annual adult-only costume party. Their group of friends really get into costumes and Halloween is a big deal. 

IMG_8084_thumb[5]IMG_8086_thumb[1]Troy was a tourist running from the bulls in Pamplona, Spain and Robin was a dancer from Black Swan











OFF TO THE PUMPKIN FARM

Dell'Osso Family Farm LogoSunday was Grandma’s day to take grandsons to the Dell’Osso Family Farm Pumpkin Patch along I-5 at I-205 in Lathrup.  Seven hours later we had done the NASA-inspired corn maze and the boys had done the mulit-story rope challenge, multiple trips along the zipline, shot mini-pumpkins from bazooka guns, panned for “gems” and sampled the fudge and hot dogs.


Grandma became a spectator and photographer while the boys took on the Rope Course Challenge.


Then it was on to the Zipline.  Taylor took three trips and Tanner zipped five times.



Tanner's Turn


PUMPKINS @ 100 MPH

Another challenge was to see how many mini-pumpkins you can blast at your target with an air-bazooka gun @ 100 mph.  Taylor aimed for the giant pumpkin while Tanner aimed for the front windshield of a distant car.

 
MINING FOR GEMS
 
The action-level dropped, but not the boys’ interest in mining for colorful “gems”.  They each had a bag of dirt, a screen box to use in the sluice box and they spent almost an hour picking out their gems and matching them to the colorful photos on their “cheat” sheets.

 
Final Stop – Pumpkin Picking

You can’t go to a pumpkin patch and not come home with a pumpkin or two or three!  Of course, Grandma gave in to getting a GIANT pumpkin and a couple of others.  They were actually a great bargain. The Giant pumpkin was $25 and you got another pumpkin free. Out the door for just $30 for all three.  Sorry, no photos of the two wheel-barrel antics of getting the pumpkins to the cashier and into the car.  Use your imagination and you can see the results of the FUN and memories this created.

 
Candy-Givers

We stayed at the family’s house to give out trick-or-treat candies while they attended neighborhood block parties.  THEE spot to hit is football giant personality John Madden’s house about a mile away.  He’s not normally there but his wife and others give out 1lb. candy bars to kids AND parents.  Tanner and Troy got there in time, but Robin and Taylor were late and they had closed up for the night.  Not that they didn’t all get their share of sugar!!!   I was a “good girl” and stayed away from the candy!


NEXT:  THE ROLLING CONDO GOES HOME

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

California – We Have Arrived Home

We left California on our “Summer/Fall Adventure” on May 24, 2011 and arrived home on November 1, 2011 – a total of 162 days on the road, ~13,000 motorhome miles, plus ~3,000 miles more touring in the CR-V.

Our last blog detailed our trip from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta to time around the Phoenix area.  This edition was going to be called, “California, Here We Come” and we thought it would be a pretty un-eventful last leg.  It wasn’t!  Somehow, travel stories (good and bad) are all part of the RV lifestyles.

INDIO ELKS 

We were not in a rush to get home so we gave ourselves a few stop-overs en route.  We have found the Elks Club in Indio, CA (near Palm Springs) is a nice day’s drive from Phoenix. When we were IMG_2841here last April, we actually had a scary moment when an older motorhome parked across from us caught fire.  We were at the right place, with the right fire extinguishers, and helped put out the fire.

When we arrived this time, we were greeted by SKP Boomer Joy Melton who we have seen many times this year in our travels (Puerta Penasca, MX; Quartzite, AZ, Indio, CA; Sturgis, SD; Gillette, WY, and Albuquerque, NM).  She was actually parked in our “favorite” spot (as seen below on our previous stay) so we pulled in next door.  Unfortunately for Joy, the adjacent plot of grass and fruit trees and been scraped and sent ants looking for food and water.  They invaded her rig and created a giant, dirty mess. (Fortunately for us, they did not make it to our site.) I was still in bronchitis recovery mode and temperatures were hot so we stayed indoors most of the time.  We did join Joy and a friend for the Sunday brunch at the Elks. 

Winds were forecast to get strong the next few days so we pulled in the slides and hit the road Monday morning.  The Palm Springs and Banning Pass area can be beautiful, but you don’t want to be around during strong winds.  The potential for windy conditions can be anticipated based on the wind farms surrounding the highways.

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We do NOT like driving the motorhome through the Los Angeles area when heading north, so we have found various routes to avoid IMG_7930the traffic.  We make the trip from the Palm Springs area north a multiple day trip so local friends have introduced us to Highway 247 that takes us the back roads from Yucca Valley, Lucerne Valley, Barstow, towards Bakersfield. 

Yucca trees (aka Joshua trees) and dessert horizons were interrupted by occasional piles of rocks. Zooming in on the rocks reveal this area is popular with local graffiti artists.

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BAKERSFIELD – WHERE TO STAY?

Normally we would stay overnight at the Wasco, CA Elks Club, but this trip we decided to try a different park as we passed through the Bakersfield Hwy. 58 area.  I had posted on Facebook about our travel route and received a nice note from Dennis Hill inviting us to stay at their place (with hook-ups) right off Hwy. 58 & Hwy. 99.  I knew that Dennis and Carol Hill were down on their lot in Livingston, Texas so thanked them and said we’d catch them sometime when they were home. 

What I didn’t know then was that there are TWO DENNIS HILLs!!!  The Dennis (and Carol) Hill I thought I was writing to have been the second owners of the RV Driving School.  The Dennis Hill I was writing back and forth with while on Hwy. 58 was Dennis (and MaryKay) Hill.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one confused, so when this became evident on Facebook among my RV Friends, we now have new labels for each Dennis.  Dennis from Bakersfield is now FB Dennis (on left) and the other Dennis (who just sold the Driving School) will now be labeled Orange Dennis based on his favorite wardrobe (shirts, shoes, hats and wig hair color).

FB Dennis Hill

Carol and Dennis Hill

          FB Dennis Hill               Orange Dennis Hill

The Bakersfield Palms RV Resort was listed in the Escapees Discount RV Park Directory with a 15% off offer so we gave it a shot.  RV Park Reviews had posted ratings mostly in the 7-9 range, on a scale of 1-10.  There was, however, a pesky “3” that maybe we should have given more credence to:

We intended to stay for 7 nights. By the second night gang members were camped near our location and we heard two large caliber gun shots at 7:00pm. The trains were constant and many of them blasted their horns even in the middle of the night. The dog run was the worst I have ever seen not to mention the long walk to get to it. The landscaping is located in two small areas away from the actual campsites. It may be nicer for the single-day campsite except that the gunshots sounded like they came from that area. I also noticed a lot of graffiti outside of the campsite along with a sign on the outside fence of this campsite that read, "subject to flooding." I recommend that my worst enemy and all others should not camp at this site. We camped here in a Fifth Wheel.

While the overnight sites were newly upgraded, it was awkward for our 40’ motorhome to pull into the site without unhooking the car. The dog run for this end of park was “out of service” while they tried to seed the grass.  The walk at night to the other end of the park was far, dark and had lots of permanent residents sitting around in groups at picnic tables.  The kicker, for us, however, came the next morning when Luke went out to hook-up the car and discovered the interior had been ransacked.  I was the guilty one for not locking a door, but we were lucky that we could not find anything actually missing.  The culprit(s) didn’t find anything of true value but they passed on older binoculars and a couple of 12v inverters and plugs.

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Nevertheless, when this happens you feel violated.  I did report the break-in to the office staff but there was no feedback nor even an apology!!!  FB Dennis did let me know that if he had known that was where we had planned to stay, he would have steered us away.  Next time, FB Dennis, we’ll listen to your recommendations.  Smile 

ESCAPEES’ PARK OF THE SIERRA

We obviously decided not to spend another night in Bakersfield and headed towards Fresno and then east along Hwy. 41 towards the Escapee’s Co-op “Park of the Sierra” (POS) RV Park in Coarsegold.  Unlike other Escapee affiliated parks, this park was not built on flat land in typical campground rows.  Instead, each site was uniquely carved into the rolling hillsides in the Sierra Foothills community.  The area is actually very much like the area we live in further north along the Western Slope of the Sierras. 

The members of this park have been aggressively marketing the park by offering free and discounted stays for first-timers.  Since we didn’t qualify, we didn’t think to call ahead for reservations – there has always been room for us.  NOT.  The park’s 254 spaces were either filled or reserved when we arrive and we had to settle in for a dry-camping site between the huge clubhouse and the dump station.

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We booked through Friday and decided to use this as a home-base while we visited nearby Yosemite National Park. 

This park has also been upgrading their canine facilities and I appreciated the lights that have been installed at the dog run.  I had to laugh, however, that the rocky terrain within the fenced area has been covered in 50+ carpet remnants.  It looked funny, but it did make it less slippery for dogs and humans.  I don’t think I want to spend much time there on a hot afternoon. Phew…

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First, we had dinner at the nearby Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino Market Buffet with SKP Boomers Barbara and Tom Westerfield and Barb’s “Mom”  who all home-base in the Fresno area.  Turns out “Mom” has been a reader of this blog throughout our travels to Alaska.  The casino restaurant was also special for the Westerfields whose son Jason had been an Executive Chef for the different venues here.  As with any RVers dinner, we found enough to talk about that kept us at the table for over three hours – and we had just seen Barb and Tom in September!  We’ll see them again in January, February and March when Barb and I partner to teach geocaching, smartphone apps, and whatever else comes up at upcoming rallies. 

During our time at POS we also enjoyed a Happy Hour visit with Mary and Rich Braughman, and {{{ SKP HUGS }}} from Kate Bright and Lynne Benjamin.  Thank you all.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

Living within a day’s drive of Yosemite we always surprise ourselves that we don’t spend more time at this wonderful, majestic national resource.  The trip to the South Entrance of Yosemite is just 26 miles from Coarsegold and the park rangers didn’t even bother asking for Luke’s Golden Age Pass, as they handed us the current park guide and brochure and wished us a nice day.

IMG_7949We opted to head for Glacier Point, 16 miles off Wawona Road. This area closes from November until May, but on this day the roads were clear and traffic was fairly light. (The only congestion was at the few open outhouses!) 

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Our first stop was Washburn Point that provided uninterrupted views across the top of Yosemite Valley and the tops of the various waterfalls.

Glacier Point brought us to the edge of the cliffs, looking down onto the Valley floor.  Breathtaking!

We drove the hour back to Valley floor in time to catch a late lunch and a drive back out of the park in search of fall colors.  We missed the peak of the colors, but did get to enjoy the yellows along the tree-lined roads and the views of Bridal Veil Falls, the rock climbers’ El Capitan, Half Dome and the Tunnel View area at the entrance to Yosemite Valley.

There was one more stop before we got home, but we’ll deal with it in our next blog.

NEXT:  HALLOWEEN WEEKEND WITH FAMILY