Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Exploring Mojave

Odometer 63746 miles


Mojave, CA

Sierra Trails RV Park in Mojave, CA
Sierra Trails RV Park

Rest, like we really need it huh?  Well we didn't say we needed it- we just want it.  We are staying an extra day in the Sierra Trails RV park in Mojave to do some exploring.  We want to check out California City, and the Red Rock Canyon State Park.

California City is a city that was incorporated back in 1965 by real estate developer Nat Mendelsohn.  Nat purchased 80,000 acres of land with the idea of  master-planning a showcase city, which he hoped would grow to eclipse the other great cities of California.

Satellite image of part of California City

Sierra Trails RV where we are, is represented by the blue dot on the lower left of the photo above.  You can see the banner that says "California City" and the development around it. but what you can't see is that the city has been platted to go from Hwy 14 near us all the way to highway 395 some 30 MILES to the east of hwy 14 !!  All in all it incorporates 186.5 square miles of desert

Aerial photo showing proposed roads and streets in California City
Future roads and streets in California City

Founder of California City, Nathan Mendelsohn
Nat Mendelsohn
All the roads above are graded out in perfect order of where they were to be, stretching out miles and miles from where the kernel of the city was started!  An incredible undertaking.  Today California City is ranked the 331st largest city, with a population of 14,000, however by size it is the 3rd largest city in California, and the 11 largest in the United States.

Nathan Mendelsohn was born in Czechoslovakia in 1915 and came to the US with his parents in 1920.  He became very well educated and taught at Columbia University, where he became fascinated with rural sociology, especially structures of towns and villages.  He left the university to go west and become a land developer.  He worked for, and with, several large developers as Los Angeles spilled northward.  Eventually he was able to purchase 80,000 acres from the M&R Ranch near Boron.  The ranch already had 11 water wells that seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of water. He hired a team of the best planners and city experts he could find and together they developed California City,  marketing the first properties in 1958.

California City Sign
Welcome Sign at California City
A flood of speculators lined up to buy lots at more than $3,000 per lot.  Some days sales totaled more than a $500,000 by noon.  Unfortunately the industry that Mendelsohn had expected, never materialized.  By 1990 only 6,500 purchasers had built in Cal City.  Today the population is listed at 13, 972, but since the industry,  bastions of higher education, shopping meccas, and indeed the skyscrapers, never came to be, the population has grown only slightly year to year.  In 1969 Mendelsohn sold the development to Great Western United Corp., a Denver based sugar and mining company, and he moved on to other developments.  He died in 1984 at a resort community he had founded in Texas.  Will California City someday become larger than LA- who can say...They're certainly ready.

From California City, Joan and I headed north up to Red Rock State Park, as we'd heard  reports on the beautiful rock formations.

Red Rock Canyon State Park- Mojave, CA
Parked at one of several trail heads in Red Rock Canyon

The reports were not an exaggeration, the formations are magnificent.  One can't help but be reminded of Grecian columns.  We walked the trail around this majestic cliff watching the colors change in the long rays of the afternoon sun.

One other thing of note about this area is that they have lots of solar and wind power up here.  Look carefully in the first aerial photo and you can see at least two extremely large solar arrays.  We are told there are at least 9 of these arrays and they provide more than 354 Mega Watts of power to the grid.

Tomorrow it's back to the trail again- on to Arizona!

Your traveling friends

Jeff and Joan

PS-  See that oval track in the first aerial photo above?  It belongs to Honda R&D -it's their test track!  Lots of really cool stuff going on up here.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Clear Lake to Patterson to Mojave

Odometer  63283 start
Odometer  63479 end
Miles this trip. 196 miles

Sunday November 18, 2018

I was stymied yesterday attempting to take California route 175 from Hopland over to Clear Lake.  First there were signs warning vehicles longer that 39 feet were not "recommended" on this route.  Our motorhome is only 36 feet, but we were towing a car behind that made us abut 16 feet longer, and nobody was explaining whether the articulation between bus and car made any difference.  We decided that it did, (in our favor) and resolved to go that route anyway. 

Our failed route on 175 stymied by road closure- back track to route 20
 But then, after driving several miles east to Sho-Ka-Wah Casino we encountered a flashing reader board that said "Road Closed 11-13 WY". What??  Does anyone know what that means?  This is a narrow twisty two lane road and we were going to have a terrible time finding anywhere to turn back if the road were actually closed ahead.  So I turned around at the casino and headed back to 101 and north back to Cal 20.  

I turns out that going back to Hopland and up through Ukiah and over to the town of Nice on Clear Lake is only a few minutes longer than taking hwy 175 anyway!

So- today I decided that I'd get my back roads a different way.

Today's route to I-5 and on to Patterson, CA

Instead of going over to I-5 on California Route 20, I talked Joan into going south on Cal 16 through Cache Creek Canyon where we would see the small towns of Rumsey, Guinda, Brooks and Esparto.  The combination of this beautiful drive and the chance to miss driving down I-5 was a clear winner!

Lunch stop at Yolo County regional part at Cache Creek
For some reason, the smoke in the atmosphere does not show up in the photo above, but we were struggling with a thick blanket of smoke from the Camp fire, and the Woolsey- Paradise fires.

Many of the roads we travel are not smooth blacktop, and today is no exception.  I am continually amazed at the pounding that this motorhome takes as we roll down the road.  Someone once explained it as having a home on wheels that goes through an non-stop earthquake as it goes down the road.  Kudos to the engineers and the testers at Freightliner and Winnebago.  That's part of the price for taking the roads less traveled, slower, twistyer, rougher, BUT more scenic and slower pace.  I like it!
Tucked in at Patterson, CA- It's smokier that it looks-really!

At about 3:30 in the afternoon we arrived at our destination for today- Kit Fox RV Park in Patterson, CA.  We got set up and had time for a short walk around the RV park and the adjacent strip mall before darkness descended.  My sister Phebe encouraged us to use her wifi to download several Prime movies while we were visiting and tonight we enjoyed watching the movie RIDE with Helen Hunt and an episode of Amazon's Grand Tour before turning in.

Starting mileage 63479
Ending mileage  63746
Mileage this trip 267

Patterson to Mojave, California

Today is going to be a slog down the freeway.

Today's route down 1-5

Our goal is to:
A.  Avoid big cities
B.  Get to clean air
C.  Get to Mojave for the night

We are very tired of the smoky air, and elect to get to some clear air before we stop for the night.  I don't like freeway driving, and I  have a secret weapon for this eventuality-

I let Joan do the driving and I sat and read the news!  She is a very good driver, so I can totally relax, and I've even been known to doze off while she is in the captain's chair.  I'm not always successful at getting her to drive, because she does not enjoy driving the bus. I feel that it's good to keep her skills sharp just in case.

I read out loud and we discussed the news- It made the time pass a lot more quickly

Parked near a truck stop for a quick lunch
 By noon we were on I-5 at Lost Hills, which is north and west of Bakersfield, so we pulled off the freeway for some lunch.  At first we weren't sure whether we'd buy lunch or make our own- but a quick survey on foot, had us convinced to make sandwiches and heat up some soup at home.
There were plenty of fast food places here- but we were not tempted by what we saw- so back to the bus

Traffic nearly stopped on I-5
After our lunch and back on the road, we hadn't gotten very far down the freeway when the traffic began to slow to a crawl.  Both our south-bound lanes were moving at the same 2-3 miles per hour leading me to believe that the wreck was in the northbound lane and we were in the lookie-loo lanes.

This went on for miles...

Over turned semi truck 
Sure enough, we finally came to the source of the slowdown- and it was an over turned semi- truck on the other side of the freeway, completely blocking both lanes!  

Undeterred, drivers on that side were taking to the shoulder of the road to get around the truck!

Hope the driver was okay.

We drove past the turnoff to Bakersfield and continued on to CA Route 223, which gave us a route around Bakersfield and a strait shot over to CA Route 58 which would take us up the 4,000 foot high Tehachapi summit.

Miracle of miracles, we finally drove out from under the smokey blanket that had lain over us for the past several days.

Stay tuned for our adventures in and around Mojave!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Flying South With The Geese

Starting Odometer 62920
Miles today 162

Thursday November 15, 2018

Port Orford to Blue Lake, CA

Today is our launch date, but it almost didn't happen.  Rewind back to Tuesday and Joan and I decide to change out the fuel filter on the bus (motorhome).  A quick call to my good friend Mike and he brings me one of his diesel fuel cans with a couple gallons of clean diesel, which will enable us to pre-fill the fuel filter before screwing it into place.  We have stocked up on fuel and oil filters, and carry one with us at all times.  With all this help and all the necessary supplies we still managed to botch this task.  Joan and I have done this 3 times in the past with little or no problems, so perhaps we were a bit over confident.  We did not get the filter completely filled and introduced an air embolism into our injector pump.

     Accessing the engine bay through the bed pedestal in our 2003 Itasca Horizon motorhome

On start-up, the engine ran strong for less than a minute, then stalled and would not restart.  We had to call in the resident expert on such things, our friend Paul.  This also required taking the bed apart and accessing the engine from the top- (a 20 minute task).  Paul made up a make-shift hand pump- as our coach has no lift, or auxiliary pump.  Paul identified the fuel line that leaves the fuel rail and hooked in his hand pump to pull air, and eventually fuel, through the filter and the injector pump.  With the air removed the engine started and ran perfectly.  Whew!  What would we do without our good friends?  Finally we could move on to the "list".  Joan and I make lists- clothing we want to take, food, tools, electronics...etc.  Then we methodically move everything to the bus and check it off the list.  Good friend and neighbor, Howard, comes over to see if he can help.  We immediately put him to work  sorting out the good wood from our stack of remodeling waste and helping us load all the junk wood and the old steel bath tub into the trailer for a trip to the tipping station.  It takes a village to get us on the road again!

We also had issues with setting up our new (to us) tow car, a 2002 Chevy Tracker.

       Field testing our "new" 2002 Chevy Tracker tow car

This is to be our "new" desert trekking machine, a capable, high clearance, 4WD, nimble and scratchable exploration platform.

In order to get it towable, we needed to switch the SMI (now Demco) Air Force One braking system from the CRV to the Tracker.

SMI's "black box" which uses our motorhomes air brake pressure to operate the Chevy's brakes

Add electrical socket and wiring for the umbilical from the motorhome which will operate the rear lights on the Tracker along with the coach's own rear lights.

Diodes which allow us to tap into the Chevy's lights

Hooked up and ready to go 

Thursday morning we finish the task of loading the bus and closing up the house at 11AM, and set out on our first leg of the journey which will take us to my sisters house in Blue Lake, CA 162 miles south on US Route 101, the Coast Highway.
We spend Thursday evening and Friday with Phebe and Rockey doing some projects, talking, laughing, and generally having a good time.  Friday afternoon while installing a replacement fence post I managed to whack myself soundly with a metal fence post that I was bending out of my way. 

Although the post sprung back and hit me on the side of the face, and although Joan got me ice for it right away, I somehow managed to get a real nice shiner!  It hurt momentarily, but now I'm not even aware of it until someone I meet asks me about it.  This is the month for messing up my face- first my Dermotologist blistered up my face with liquid nitrogen and left me with oozing sores, now I've go a nice black eye!

Saturday we say our goodbyes and embark on the second leg of this journey.

Because of the freezing nighttime temperatures they are experiencing in Nevada, and because our bus is so poorly insulated against the cold, we opt to head south through California and brave the smoke from wildfires and the high diesel prices to do so.  The trip down 101 is breathtakingly beautiful.  We have been this way before, but this year- this time- it is just gorgeous.  

The red and gold leaves on the trees in full sunshine, the low angle of the sun, the long shadows, all conspire to make this a spectacular show.

And of course the Redwood groves with their tall and majestic giants

We follow the Eel and the Russian Rivers which look like small streams in the aftermath of so many days of drought

Our destination is the Aurora RV Park in Nice, CA, right on the edge of Clear Lake

Aurora Park host, Debra, in the office greeted us enthusiastically, making us think for a moment that she had mistaken us for some important dignitaries.  She negotiated the overnight Passport rate for us even though park rules require that normally Passport guests must stay 2 nights to get the reduced rate.  Then she offered us a nice pull through spot with a (smokey) view of the lake.

After getting set up in our spot, we took a short walk along the lake shore.

We stumbled upon this cute little B&B that uses rail road cabooses for their guest rooms!  Looks like fun to us!

Tomorrow, we're thinking of continuing on to Patterson, CA, and the Kit Foxx RV Park.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan