Sunday, April 13, 2014

Medford, OR

Odometer 39402
Trip Meter 312 miles

Saturday April 12, 2014

Another early morning, up at 7:30 and packed up and on our way by 9 AM.  We fueled up at the 76 station just outside the RV park.  The diesel cost $4 a gallon, and we were hoping that the convenience of filling here was not going to come at too high a premium.

We decided that we would make a run into Medford, Oregon today, a distance of 312 miles, which is a little over our normal daily limit of 250.  In addition, some of the 312 miles would be on the same narrow winding two lane roads we have been traveling for the last 4 days  The off-set would be a run down the freeway once we got into Red Bluff.

We zoomed down I-80 to the west losing a lot of the elevation we gained last night when we climbed to 3000 feet from our turn off on Cal 49 to our RV park in Dutch Flat.  At Colfax we took a very confusing set of turns to get onto California Route 174, a little grey sketch of a line on our map, that would take us to Grass Valley- the end of California route 49, that we have been following since Oakhurst.  That little grey line was another huge challenge of tight switchbacks, steep up-hill/ down-hills and no shoulder, and steep drop-offs.   In other words - our kind of road!

On route 174, we passed by the Empire Mine State Historical Park, showcasing the richest hardrock mine in California.  Discovered in 1850 and worked over the next 106 years, the mine yielded 5.8 million ounces of gold.  We'll have to leave that for another time, today we are laying tracks.  The 300 plus miles to Medford will take us 7 hours if we don't take too long for lunch.

At Grass Valley, we took Cal highway 20 heading east and immediately hit a stretch of 4 lane road that was about 8 to 10 miles long before it reverted to a nice two lane road again.  We pretty much missed Yuba City heading instead north on route 149 to Oroville and eventually tying into highway 99 which took us into Chico.  On 99 north of Chico we stopped for a quick lunch at a weigh station turn out- then back on the road.  At Red Bluff we connected to I-5 and soldiered north to Anderson, Redding and Shasta Lake

Shasta Lake is very low on water- as are most reservoirs and lakes in the west, but the boaters seem to be happy enough.

The rest of the trip into Medford remained uneventful, the high summits at Dunsmuir, Anderson Grade and Siskiyou Pass were challenging, but I remembered Mike Cody's advice from our Freightliner schooling last April- keep the RPMs between 17-1900 and the engine will climb all day without overheating.  Yep- he's right.  On Anderson Grade, Cal Trans is resurfacing the southbound lanes, so all the southbound traffic is re-routed into one of the northbound lanes, making it one lane each direction with a K-rail concrete barrier between the lanes.  The traffic seems to flow well, and other than going as slow as the slowest truck no problems.  It was on the down-hill section of Anderson Grade, falling towards the Klamath River that we noticed a disturbance on the other side of the barrier. At first it looked like a semi-truck was belching black exhaust, but as the truck sped past, we noticed an older motorhome off to one side- with smoke and flames pouring out of the front left wheel-well.
We were unable to stop to help- leaping the K-rail into oncoming traffic did not seem a good thing to attempt- so we called 911 to get emergency help coming.  Our hearts going out to those poor fellow travelers.  Fire is a motorhomer's worst nightmare.

We rolled into Holiday RV Park in Phoenix, OR at 4:15 PM and luckily had called for a reservation, because the park was full.  We got a great stream-side pull through!

We are excited to see as many of our friends as we can in the next few days- then it's off to Port Orford and our summer place.

Home is where we park it!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dutch Flat, CA

Odometer 39090
Trip meter  127 miles

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dutch Flat RV Park 

We got on the road early (for us) heading on up Cal route 49, continuing to travel north still skirting along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Today's route will take us  through the town's of San Andreas, Mokelumne Hill, Jackson, Auburn, and Colfax, to mention just a few.  The stretch of 49 from San Andreas and Jackson was the most challenging road I have been on since we started RVing in motorhomes.

It was hard to capture in an image how steep and twisting this road was.  Suffice to say that we did not get out of 3rd gear, nor over 25 miles per hour for the whole 16 mile distance.  But we'll try-

Tight right hander- we actually bottomed out something in the front of the bus on this one!
As we made this corner I felt like we were standing the bus on end.

They weren't kidding on this sign- I could see the back of the Honda we were towing  as we went round this one!

Un-huh- not kidding here either- the corner is square just like the sign says!

We also had a little side excursion during this run when Jeff mistook the instructions on the GPS and turned into the small historic town of Mokelumne Hill- then we noticed the sign that said no vehicles over 30 feet in length- oops.  We did get back on 49 without hitting anything- whew!

It's good that Jeff is okay with driving in these very small downtowns- because this IS route 49 and it goes right through the town. 

We wanted to go all the way to the northern end of route 49 and spend the night there, but we couldn't find a Passport affiliate park (1/2 price) there, so we took a side trip up I-80 (and it turned out to really be be UP ) to Gold Run, elevation, 3000 ft.

The Dutch Flat RV park is just east of Colfax near the small town of Gold Run and is a very nice rural park.  We got in and set up with time to take a 2 mile walk before dinner.  The temperature was a very pleasant 77 degrees and the scent of the pines was awesome.  The Honda had gotten sap all over it from our stay at the Marble Quarry RV Park- so as Joan made dinner, Jeff took a bucket of rinse-less car wash to the front of the bus and the whole car.

This was a long day for only 127 miles of progress- but we spent hours going no faster than 25 to 35 miles per hour.  It was not about speed today- it was all about the sights and scenery- man was it worth it!

Tomorrow we make our run to Medford, where we'll stay put for a few days while we see friends and relax.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Columbia, CA

Odometer 38963.5
Trip Meter 1/2 mile

Thursday April 10, 2014

Joan and I rolled into Columbia, California yesterday late afternoon, and got set up in the Marble Quarry RV Park.  We only had time for a very short walk before dinner and turn-in for the night, so today we decided to stay another day and do some exploring.

Yesterday we saw some awesome large marble boulders and I put some pictures in our blog.  The RV Park map shows a trail to the Quarry which is located entirely on the RV Park property.  Today we took the trail, and saw a place where many large slabs had been quarried.

The Bell Marble Quarry is smaller than I had suspected, and I could not find any information on when the operation started or why it closed.  There may be more areas that were worked, but there was so much poison oak everywhere that I wasn't about to hike around to find them.

The reason this area has so many large exposed boulders is because the miners used high volume, high pressure water cannons to wash the soil (and gold deposits) down into their sluices, leaving only boulders.  

After our hike, we came back to the RV for some lunch, and while we were eating, we got a call from the front desk, telling us a customer was pitching a fit about not being sited next to their two friends in the park, and wanted to know if we would consider moving.  Well- we actually were considering moving, but were too lazy to actually do something about it.  We didn't care for this particular spot.  Too close to the screaming kids in the pool and it's on the only driveway out of the park which was too much traffic for us, and the sun beats down on this spot all afternoon.  So we jumped at the chance to move to a nice shady spot, on a dead-end road at the back of the park.

Quiet, cool and comfortable- our new home for the afternoon and night.

We took one of the trails out of the RV park that was supposed to take us down to the Columbia State Historic Park.  

The trail petered out on us and the poison oak started closing in, so we dodged over to a gravel road we saw in the distance, and happily that took us to the park.  Columbia State Park is a resurrection of old downtown Columbia back in the 1860's.

There is no admission to the park, so we walked the main streets and looked in on the shops that were open.  Some of the shops were set up as they might have been back in the day, others were actual stores, that sold goods like leather, groceries, ice cream, liquor, and the like, keeping as much to the period as they reasonably could.

The town had been completely razed by fires, once in 1854 and a second time in 1857, so a lot of the local buildings are resurrected from the "newer" brick structures put up after the 1857 fire.  At the second reconstruction of the downtown, seven 14,000 gallon water storage cisterns were excavated below the streets as a water source for their hand pump fire "truck".  

That fire system was in effect up until 1950 when a piped system with hydrants was finally installed.

Joan and I took a short drive into the nearby town of Sonora, and did some shopping at the local Wally World, and shared a large espresso drink from Starbucks, before returning to the RV and sitting in the shade to read our books.

The wifi at most RV parks is typically really bad- meaning that you can either just get enough bandwidth to check your e-mail or even so bad you lose your patience while tying to check your e-mail.  We are so very glad to have the ability to do most of our web-work on our cellular equipped i-Pad or to use the i-Pad for a hot spot.  This location is testing our internet capability in that we have extremely poor wifi in the park, and we are also so far up in the country that our cellular is sketchy.

Tomorrow we will get back on the trail north, heading up California route 49 which will take us north and west away from the foothills and back towards the I-5 corridor.  Maybe Cal 45 north out of Woodland will save us from taking  I-5 all the rest of the way.  By the time we get to Redding there is no other way (sigh!)

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

California Gold Country

Odometer 38963
Trip meter  243 miles

Monday April 7, 2014

We left Palm Springs and decided to take the back roads north- so we mapped out at route that would take us up California route 247 to Victorville and from there up 395 to Kramer Junction, then west on hwy 58 to Mojave.  In Mojave we found a Passport America RV park that cost us $15 for full hook ups- yeah!   In Mojave, we met our next door neighbors Tom and Marlys who are from the Portland Area.  We were instant friends and vowed to see each other down the road.  

Tuesday April 8, 2014

We left Mojave at 9:30 AM and had only one choice of routes to get us west and that was to head west on Cal 58 to Bakersfield.  At Bakersfield our options opened up and we took Cal 65 to parallel Hwy 99 north.  The roadway was actually very good and CalDOT was in the progrss of making it even better by adding another lane each direction.  Unfortunately for us that meant 16 miles of 45 mph and no passing- so we went as slow as the slowest person wanted to go- you know the drill.
We got into Kingsburg south of Fresno at about 4 PM- a little later than we'd have liked, and checked into the Viking RV Park- It's a Passport affiliate which means 1/2 price- AND they say go ahead and wash your RV!!  I've been RVing a long time and never, ever, heard that before.  Sometimes they'll let you wash for an additional fee- but mostly no-way-Jose.  These spaces are TIGHT, we were within 3 inches of the tree trunk and within 4 feet of the neighbor to the left.   I got out the bucket and the ladder and washed and waxed the fiberglass roof- first time since last November.  While on the roof I noticed there was a big Sun Maid sign off to the east of us.  I'm a rasin fan.  Joan and I got to chatting with our neighbor in the black and tan Avanti.  Gord and Leslie are from Vancover BC, and we had a great time talking about trips we've made, RV adventures (fixing broken parts and systems), and the RV lifestyle.

The day has been warm- the readout on the dash has been on 90 degrees most of the afternoon, and it stayed warm through the evening and night- we mostly just slept under the sheet on the bed. This place is also very noisy!  Hwy 99 which runs in front of the park was non-stop traffic all night, and we discovered to our delight that the train tracks run on the backside of the park.  I stuffed earplugs in my ears so I could stay asleep.

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Jeff has a wild hare idea about skirting along the west edge of the Sierras instead of going up I-5 or 99 to Oregon.  Joan says okay,- so today we are going to take Cal 41 to Oakhurst - a gateway to Yosemite National Park, and in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  

But first, I discovered last night that the Viking RV park in Kingsburg, Ca is right next to the Sun Maid Raisin Company- one of my all time favorite foods!  I didn't have to plead to long before Joan agreed to a quick visit to their company store.  Holy Cow!

We came away with Yogurt covered Cranberries, Chocolate Yogurt Raisins, Peppermint Yogurt Raisins, Cinnamon Almonds, and of course Raisins!  I was in heaven!

The map shows our route today- we were surprised that the road was really busy from Fresno to Coursegold, and we were pleased that traffic thinned out  as we headed north.

This is big citrus country and we saw lots of trees loaded with oranges.

Not surprisingly we saw lots of grapes too- gotta have grapes to make raisins.

I took a wrong turn on Hwy 41.  The sign said Hwy 41 and showed a left arrow at the intersection- too late to look it up on the map.  We don't know what the hell that was about but we didn't drive back to look at the sign again- so we'll never know.  Not only that- we can't turn around and get back to the real hwy 41.  The GPS tells us to take road 39 1/2 to the right- Huh?  (who numbers a road 39 and a half?)  Well- we're getting farther an farther from our intended track so I take road 39 1/2- mistake #2.  The road starts out at nice 2 lane blacktop road, but that doesn't last long- within a 1/8 of a mile it is a one-lane cobbled asphalt and dirt farm road.  Arrugh!   Two and a half miles later (25 mph is all I can manage and I hear dishes breaking back behind me) we finally  reconnect with hwy 41.  Wow, 55 mph seems really fast to me now.
It isn't long before we start leaving the flat valley behind and the road starts to undulate, with the hills getting longer and steeper.  The scenery is beautiful- first wild flowers and blooming shrubs, then later oaks and pines- eye candy.
Just outside of Oakhurst a CHP pulls me over to tell me I've got a brake light out on the driver's side. No ticket, as we have 4 others (center and right on bus, and two on the Honda behind us).   I decided that we'd stop in Oakhurst and check it out.  It's a bad bulb, but in the process of changing it out I discover 2 screws are stripped out and the gasket is deteriorating.  Off to the auto parts store. We had lunch and did some grocery shopping before heading out of town to the north on Hwy 49.

The hills are now getting thousands of feet tall and the curves are wrapped like spagetti.  Our top speed is 25 miles an hour in one very hairy 17 mile stretch north of Bear Valley- and Jeff is loving it!

The engine brake is saving our brake drums from overheating on the long downhill 7-9% grades and switchbacks are so tight I can see the back of the Honda in front of us on a few of the corners!  The picture above shows the road switchbacking down into the Merced river valley below us.

We soon pass by the Moccasin Powerhouse in Tuolumne County which gets it's water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, one of three powerhouses here,  owned and operated by the City of San Francisco 130 miles away.

We are getting close to our destination for the evening, but first we have to traverse the Main Street of Sonora.  Traffic is snarled, and several times we have to watch our mirrors as we pass another RV or commercial truck coming the other way.  Columbia, California, is just west of Sonora, and about the same parallel as San Francisco on the coast.  Our RV park is called the Marble Quarry and they aren't kidding about that.

There is a huge chunk of quarried marble lying next to our site.

Joan and I used what was left of the waning sunlight to explore a part of the old quarry.  The grey stone that rises above Joan in this picture looks grey but is pure white inside.
Here is a big chunk of solid marble rock that has been split open- so you can see what I mean.

Joan has developed a real bad case of get home itus, so I'm not sure how much longer she will indulge me on this exploration of the California Gold Country.  Tomorrow may see us bee-line for the freeway, but I hope not... This is beautiful country!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Palm Springs

Odometer  38455
Trip meter  64 miles

Saturday April 5, 2014

Another mega-move today (Friday) from our RV resort on the east coast of the Salton Sea, to Cathedral City near Palm Springs 62 miles up state route 111.  We want to visit Joan's aunt Claudette, and her husband Larry Ballard, and the timing is right.  We have reservations at the Palm Springs Oasis RV Resort in Cathedral City not far from Claudette and Larry's home.

We are surprised to learn that Claudette is staying at their home-away-from-home, which is their 5th wheel RV which is on a lot at a RV resort in town while their home is being remodeled!  A fellow RVer- and she totally "gets" what we like about the RV lifestyle!.

Saturday morning Joan and I were up early (for us) and we headed for the Palm Springs Aerial Tram which whisks you 6000 feet up to the top of San Jacinto mountain.   .

Climbing the stairs to the visitor's center and the tram, we are in awe of the steep granite slopes towering above us.  We caught the 9:30 tram to the top

The tram cars have a rotating floor that does two complete rotations on the way up, eliminating the  desire to push and shove for a better view.  This is the second steepest tram in the world and the steepest in the US.

The tram is a totally counter balanced system- so a one car goes up- the other car comes down.

In some cases the cars pass impossibly close to the granite walls- it's almost like being in an action movie.

The upper landing is  perched on the edge of the mountain at the 8,500 foot level.  The temperature has dropped from a warm 72 degrees in the valley to a chilly 40 degrees and snow at the top.  The video in the theater at the upper station says the climate change is the equivalent to traveling from Sonora, Mexico to the Canadian Yukon!

The upper tram station, flows into a gracious lodge setting with two dining areas, a couple of gift shops, and a bar.

Jeff catches his breath on one of the several outdoor decks that allows vistas of the valley below.

The town of Palm Springs spreads out in the valley below (note the snow on the ground)

A fellow passenger was kind enough to snap a photo of us on the tram ride back down to the valley.  This is an awesome experience.

After lunch, we drove over to Claudette and Larry's home in the hills of Rancho Mirage to see the renovations under way.

The house is very large and gracious.  Larry has contributed a lot to the remodel with some beautiful paintings, some faux finishes  in key areas, like the fireplace, entry way wall, and an armoire, and painting the kitchen walls and cabinets.  A contractor is reworking the master bathroom with all new fixtures and cabinetry.  The house has views of the valley and the mountains, and a very private and shady back yard.  Jeff was really fascinated with Larry's faux finishing- we really could not tell what was stone and wood, and what was painted on- Wow!

The Ballards took us to see a part of the Annenberg Estate called Sunnylands.   American publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg built a grand estate in the heart of the Coachella Valley where he and his wife Leonore entertained presidents and royalty.  Sunnylands covers 400 acres and includes a private golf course.

Claudette and Larry Ballard in the gardens of Sunnylands

We went to dinner at a little Persian/ Italian restaurant nearby and we had a fantastic pizza and salads that would make your mouth water!

We later joined them at their RV in the Outdoor Resorts RV Park where we caught up on a long time apart.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Friday, April 4, 2014

Salton Sea

Odometer  38391
Trip Meter  40 miles (car)

Thursday April 3, 2014

The Fountain of Youth RV Resort uses a hot water source that was first discovered in 1938 by construction workers looking for a water source to use for mixing concrete used in building the All American Canal.  The All American Canal is an 80 mile canal that conveys water from the Colorado River, here to the Imperial Valley.  Settling ponds allowed the water to cool and some of the minerals to settle out before using it for concrete.  When the canal was finished, the ponds were left behind.  The ponds were rediscovered in the 40's by construction workers building California Highway 111.  The workers spread the word about the soothing and healing qualities of the ponds.  By the 50's tourists from all over the country were coming to camp by the ponds.  One of the workers enjoying the ponds was Clyde Hays, a carpenter from Oregon.  .

Mr. Hays convinced a local contractor to build RV and mobile home parks in the area.  The contractor drilled a well that produced 250 gallons of water a minute at 137 degrees farenheight

This is the well that the Fountain of Youth developed around.

This area of California known as the Salton Sink has been recognized as an important agricultural area since the early Spanish explorerers passed through in 1771.  When the US- Mexico war ended in 1848 the border between the two countries became fixed at the Rio Grande river, and this area became part of the US.  As early as 1850 irrigation canals provided water for a booming agriculture, however the water for the canals originated in Mexico and supplies were uncertain.   By 1901 the dream of irrigating the Imperial Valley with water from dams on the Colorado River were being realized with the construction of the "All American" Canal.  It was during the construction of this and other canals that an engineering disaster created the Salton Sea.  In 1905 a combination of silted canals and spring floods on the Colorado caused a breech in the canal and for two years, nearly the whole volume of the Colorado River flowed into the Salton Sink

 The Salton Sea became the largest inland body of water in California with a surface area of 230 thousand acres.  Almost immediately this new fresh water lake became a recreational outlet, and whole communities sprang up to serve the influx of vacationers. .
Bombay Beach was one of these resort communities founded by a developer in 1929.

However the lake levels were anythng but stable, and without the benefit of flood control dams on the Colorado the communities along the lake shore were itermittantly flooded.   The building of the Hoover Dam in 1935  provided some stability and the flooding episodes mostly ended.
However this community was flooded in 1976 by Tropical Storm Kathleen and again in 1977  by Hurricane Doreen.  Soon a large dike was built between the community and the lake.

A large dike now keeps the community safe, but blocks any view the houses may have had of the water.   Bombay Beach is listed as a "ghost" town on some internet sites, and after driving through, we would agree with that assessment.  Real estate is listed by a local company, and the "houses" we looked up were going for about $10 grand.

The Salton Sea continued to be a very popular resort for boating, fishing and swimming, for many years. In it's hey-day the Salton was a bigger draw for tourists than Yosemite.   Gradually the runoff from agriculture, the natural salinity of the area and the fact that there is virtually no outflow from this lake that is 277 feet below sea level, turned the lake into a brine salt sink.
The New and the Alamo rivers still flow into this area from across the Mexican border, but despite the inflows of 1.3 million acre-feet of water, the rate of evaporation is nearly equal, keeping the level fairly stagnant unless there are significant storms in the area.  The salt content at present is greater than the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  Some have advocated several schemes to rejuvenate the Sea- most notable among those was the former Mayor turned congressman Sonny Bono, who was a strong supporter.  

The town of Niland was a major civic hub of activity on this side of the Imperial valley and was built at he junction of two main rail lines serving the southwest.  The only historically significant building Joan and I could find was the remnants of this graceful looking bank building

This stately columned building is made of concrete, but looks a lot like temples made of marble and granite.

The architecture and the craftsmanship appear to be first rate.  We felt sad to see this edifice being reduced to rubble by time and neglect.

The only occupants appear to be flocks and flocks of pigeons.
The State of California seems to recognize that rejuvenating the lake would be an economic boon, but the question of how to do it and who would pay for it are big sticking points.  Personally, I like the idea of a canal that would allow sea water (of lower salinity) to flow in from the Sea of Cortez.  Other plans abound, including one that would divide the lake into two parts with a dam across in the east-west direction.  We'll just have to wait and see...

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan