Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mundane Tasks but some fun stuff too!

I didn’t travel far when I left the small community of Shelter Valley out near Anza Boreggo desert. Just under a couple of  hours of driving landed me in another small community named Winchester, CA at another of Riverside County’s fine parks – Lake Skinner. I was up early the first morning to head into Temecula for groceries, etc. and to visit the Ford dealership to schedule my truck for routine
service and to address a couple of issues that I had been noticing. It’s a fairly long drive from the actual rv park and the gated entry road and when I looked ahead, what a delightful early morning surprise there were little hot air balloon shapes off in the distance – about 8 to 10 of them.  I immediately wished that I had been up and out even earlier to enjoy seeing them up closer.  

As I continued my drive toward the town, I wached as many of these balloons out of sight as they made their way back down to their landing spots. Then, I noticed this one just about to settle down further up the road I was driving on so I pulled into the winery to grab a quick photo.
My truck was scheduled for the next day (a Friday). They did most of the work I wanted done – I opted to wait on the tapping noise (my exhaust manifold) until I am set up close to where my other daughter lives north of Napa. After leaving the dealership, I went straight to a car wash to have a good wash after being out in the desert area for over two weeks – especially since there had been a few very windy days out there! As I started to drive away from the car wash, I immediately felt there was something wrong with the steering. I pulled into a Walmart parking lot across the road from the car wash and, after breathing deeply a few times, I realized that the cleaning crew had inadvertently moved the dial on the dashboard to 4 wheel drive!! Hmnnn. . . what are the steps to put it back into 2 wheel drive again??! Dig around in the glove box and find the manual, follow the instructions and all is well once again. It wasn’t until the following Tuesday that I was able to move along because of a hesitation/stalling issue with the truck (fixed) but I missed my scheduled appointment up in San Bernardino to have the 5th wheel ‘spiffied up’!! We rescheduled for Wednesday but, wouldn’t you know it. . . . the weather turned nasty for the rest of the week so. . . . more pushing out and staying over longer at the regional parks.

Looking north to the hills outside Glendale CA
When the rig went in for it’s ‘spa treatment’ on Monday, I packed a bag and moved into my daughter’s hotel room with her (in Glendale). That part was an extra nice treat ‘cause we knew that I would be moving along after I picked up the rv. We enjoyed an early evening on the ‘roof’ of a neighboring hotel hoping for a grand sunset. The weather was warm and the view into the hillside and mountains beyond was very enjoyable. Looking west at the LA skyline though -- not the evening for a sunset worth remembering – the skyline was thick with a smog haze!! No clouds that evening to give off a nice afterglow either. We did enjoy our drinks, food and conversation though. When we first arrived to the roof deck, Diane introduced me to a co-worker.  He highly recommended a visit to Griffith Park so that’s where I drove to Tuesday morning.

I had previously heard and/or read about this park but, had no burning desire to drive in from the Riverside or Chino areas to check it out. Too bad!!  I really had a very enjoyable late morning/ early afternoon there hiking up one of the trails there - The Mt. Hollywood trail!  Once I saw what the Observatory offered for evening programs, I wished I had come earlier my stay in this area.
There are a nice variety of activities located in Griffith Park, including 
the Gene Autry Museum
-- I would have liked visiting that and to have taken a ride on the big Merry-go-round!

The next afternoon, I drove my daughter over to Burbank for her weekly allergy shot. It’s in a very congested area with a multi-level garage for 
parking. I don’t ‘DO’ parking garages with my truck – always feel like I’m going to scrape on the concrete beams inside those places. I drop her off at the front door pull thru area and then go off to a neighboring street to wait for her text letting me know that she’s done and is on her way out. 

Over the weeks that I’ve been doing this with her,
I’ve waited in a few different neighborhoods. I came
upon this sight on our most recent excursion. . . .

How’d you like to have bought a house on this street way back when only to learn that the major electrical lines would be built right in your backyard (literally). And this wasn’t the only street these lines ran through – yikes!  Click on the photo to enlarge it to get the full effect of these side and front yard giants! 

I picked up my rv on Wednesday afternoon. A bit too late to consider starting my drive north so I went back to the regional park in Riverside. Along the way, I noticed that the braking system was not functioning correctly. Looked down to find my controller completely blank – yikes! Fortunately it was an easy drive to the rv park so I wasn’t overly concerned right then. Thinking forward to the next morning, however, I realized that there was no way I could start out without resolving this new issue. I went out to ‘fiddle’ around with the controller and the electric connection to the 5th wheel and thought I could detect a dim background light on the tiny screen but it was such a bright day, it was difficult to tell. Then I did some research online to see if I could find any discussions about issues with brake controllers in general and my brand in particular (Tekonsha P3). I ended up calling a couple of the smaller rv repair facilities in the general area – ended up driving over for them to test it. The controller was working fine – they put me on their Monday morning schedule to have a look at the connection and the 5th wheel.

Grumble, grumble, grumble. . . . not much else I could do!!

Monday morning as I was finishing the hitching process, after plugging the connector to the back of my truck, I decided I would try re-connecting the brake controller in the cab.  Wahhhh-laaaah, it’s working – I’m smiling cautiously.    A quick call to the rv repair facility and a confirmation that there’s nothing more they would do at this point and I was off heading north.   This wasn’t without a large chunk of apprehension though as I was going to be driving up/down the dreaded ‘Grapevine’ section of I-5 and it was my first time ever on that section of I-5 to boot!!  I don’t think that driving up I-15 would have offered anything less trying (climbing/descending) though.  When I was driving out in the fall of 2009, I had a lovely stay in Desert Hot Springs prior to heading north to visit with my daughter up in the Napa area.   I had a great deal of ‘angst’ about driving on I-5 back then and actually did a ‘dry run’ one day about mid-way through my stay in the area.   The road surface was atrocious and just shook my whole truck around so I got off at some point and started looking over my map for alternative routes.  Finding none in the area I had dropped off in (Burbank?), I did a bit of sightseeing in the area and went back to the rv park.  

I decided to stick with secondary roads for my trek north of LA and mapped out a route which I know started on SR 62 heading NE then I think I took 247 N to 58 which brought me to the 99.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find the road surface on the 99 much better than the section of the I-5 I had driven. As I was moving along on the 247 I found myself driving a slow steady grade over the 247.  It was slow going and I, along with a b’jillion tractor trailers, were in a line chugging along up, up, up.  Looking off to the side back down at where we had started the grade, it was abit unsettling.  As we were about to ‘crest’ the climb and start the descent, all traffic came to an abrupt halt. I was still on the incline and, boy oh boy, that was another first for me. Those deep breathing exercises helped me remain calm.  Here’s a shot of I took while sitting there waiting for the road to clear up ahead -- looking back at where I started the climb up -- wish I knew the elevation and grade of that road.   I think they should add that feature to our car/truck dashboards!!

Back to the trek from Riverside to Bakersfield last Monday. I couldn’t remember where I read the infamous ‘Grapevine’ started/ended. There was a time or two as I drove that I thought I was approaching it but when I finally did get there, I knew it for sure. My biggest concern was cresting and starting down the other side. The brake controller did a great job. I did pull off shortly after leveling off on the other side to take a break and fill the gas tank for the remaining journey. I could smell the brakes on the 5th wheel so decided to pull over to an out of the way section for a bit of a longer break – not knowing what might lay ahead. And that gave me the opportunity to call the rv park that was to be my destination for this trip as they hadn’t yet gotten back to me to verify whether they had a site available for me (unfortunately, I’m a last minute or fly by the seat of my pants traveler these days!!)

When I got back on the highway, I realized that I was very close to Bakersfield so I just pulled nto my second choice destination park - Bear Mountain RV Park.  They offered me a special, 3 for 2, and I couldn’t pass that up! Tuesday I made the drive over to the coast without the rv to check out a few parks over that way – thinking I might spend some time between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. . . . if I could find an  rv site that would accommodate the size of my 5th wheel and the price wasn't beyond my pocketbook.  That little ‘trek’ cost me around $100 in gas so I decided I’d take another 3 for 2 to help offset that cost. 

The drive to the coast, over SR 166 toward Santa
Maria, was delightfully relaxing and enjoyable
once I passed through the small town of Maricopa. There were a couple of fairly steep grades to drive over but everything was so lush and green and the view of the cattle and horses grazing so peaceful!  I was so wishing I’d happen on an rv park or campground that I could haul the 5th wheel over to and stay for awhile! None to be found along the way though.

When I arrived at Santa Maria, I drove to the first rv park I wanted to stay at over that way only to find that, it backs up to a highway (the 101) and the site fees are more than I would want to spend so I rejected that idea and moved along to a second one located south in Buellton – same scenario! 
A drive along the coast highway was next on the list of things to do and that was neat. As I drove south from Buellton, I noticed three state beach facilities with camping. I pulled into the third one -- El Capitan. The guy on duty gave me a map and brochure and said I could drive through to have a look. I liked it a lot – especially the 6 or 8 sites in the uppermost section of the park; they  
have a wide open view of the ocean.

Unfortunately (for me), those sites are limited to self-contained rigs and this section is located in a parking lot setting actually. As I drove through the rest of the park, I found a few sites that I felt would accommodate my 34’ rig but I’d have little to no room left over and the access road into the park was too thick with low hanging tree braches for me to consider. If or when I find a smaller unit, I’d definitely go back to this or one of the other parks I passed on the way down -- Refugio or Gaviota (which have a
30’ length limit).

Not a whole of sightseeing or attractions in the Bakersfield area.  A visit to The Park at Riverwalk was a wonderful respite while staying in that area. I’ve enjoyed a couple of energetic walks and an extended bike ride on the Kern River Pathway bike path.

Since I started to write this post, I've decided to skip trying to stay over toward the coast and I moved along up the 99.  I stopped in a little town named Lemon Cove – just a few miles east of the entrance  to Sequoia NP and then up the road a few more paces in Chowchilla - about a 45 minute drive to the entrance of Kings Canyon NP.  I'm closing in on Sacramento and the Napa area! 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A welcome visit

I was out in the Anza Borrego Desert area about one week when my youngest daughter called to say that since she had some time available before starting her new job, she and Havana (her black lab mix dog) would come down for a visit. It was a 10 hour drive for her (coming from the Napa area) and she arrived at about 1:00 am on a Friday.  After sleeping in a little that morning, we got ready and set out to find a place to go for a hike where we would be able to bring Havana with us. Nancy had done some research and found that, while the state park system doesn’t allow dogs on their trails, the county park systems do. With that in mind, drove down the road to Agua Caliente County Park.  I was delighted about that because there is an rv park there also and I wanted to have a look at it.  We were stopped short when the ranger at the gatehouse told us that dogs were not allowed on the trails in/around their park because it was part of the Anza Borrego Desert.  We were sorely disappointed but did take a few minutes to walk around the rv park and read some of the info on the kiosk near the little amphitheater they have there. I like the park and would definitely stop there for a stay if I’m in that area again.  The ranger was nice enough to call over to a regional park in Julian and verified that we could take Havana with us on a hike over there.  We decided to do that hike but on the way back up the road, we diverted off onto one of the many pull offs because we noticed that there were dirt/sand roadways leading into various hiking trails. The ranger back at Agua Caliente did say that Havana could be walked (on leash) on those roads. It wasn’t as exciting as hiking into the hills but we got a good 4.5 to 5 mile walk in doing that.

The next day, my other daughter (the east coast gal working on an assignment in Glendale, CA), picked up a rental car and drove down to spend an overnight with us.   She arrived around 10:30 – 11:00 Sat. and we readied ourselves to head over to do a hike on the Oasis Loop in the Anza-Borrego Desert S.P.  Apparently, we parked the car in the back end of the lot – near the section of the hiking path that is more difficult?  It was labeled alternative path or loop.   I started back down the parking lot to ask the ranger at the booth where the start to the Oasis loop was but the girls kept calling me back saying we could just go the alternative path.  So-o-o-o off we went!! 

Up, up, up over rocks and in between boulders. I was very thankful for the many hikers coming down this path  
(he-e-ey.... wait a minute here; how
come everyone else is coming down this path?!?)   Never mind. . . . at least it’s giving me time to catch my breath and gulp down some water!  Of course, I had to stop to check out the few (very few) wildflowers that we found along the way.  It was disappointing that the
floral display was so dismal – I had hoped to see the desert in full bloom but that was not to be this year.  We made the climb up to the Oasis and while Dianne and I stayed on the east side of the running brook, Nancy took my camera and made her way up into the Oasis itself. It does look like a
 refreshing place to be and I could imagine that the folks living in this area all those years ago made good use of this respite from the summer heat. 
It was an  easier walk down --following a brook and the grade   was more of a slight slope. We were stopping along the way to enjoy the setting and still searching for any signs of spring wildflowers.

After snapping a few more photos (that's me peeking throught the palm leaves in the photo on the right), I was looking up into the hillside surrounding  this area to see if I could spot any  Borrego (Sheep) up on the rocks/cliffs.   Next thing I knew, my left foot tripped on a rock in the pathway and smash I’m flat out on the ground – took the wind right out of me!!   We took a minute to assess what if any damage I had done.  Bad scraping with a little bit of bleeding on the left leg/knee area; both elbows scraped; left wrist/hand bruised where I tried to break my fall.  The most uncomfortable area, however, was my left side breastbone/rib area.  I must have hit the heaviest on that area – it’s taking the longest to heal.   No visible signs of bruising in that area – it’s all inside!!

We finished off the walk with me repeating the mantra – keep your eyes on the pathway; don’t be looking up and around!! 
Back at the rv the girls got a campfire going while I made dinner for us to share out around fire. It was a mild evening and we stayed out there chatting until the fire died down and then went in to cleanup the kitchen, etc. 


We had a nice morning together and before we knew it, it was time for Dianne (on the right in this photo) to head back up to Glendale.   

Good thing I have a long snout!

Nancy, Havana and I decided to head back over to do one of the hikes that we noticed when we were on the dirt/sand roadways a couple of days ago up to some Pictographs. It was a relatively easy trek and we continued on past the Pictograph rock where we found  a lovely narrow little canyon-like setting. At the end of this, the walk ended with a very steep cliff and lovely panoramic view of the valley below.

After resting here for awhile and taking a few photos, we started our walk back to check out the Pictographs – pondered what story these drawings were telling and then followed the path back out to the truck. 

On our walk out, Nancy mentioned that she had the feeling she might be getting sick. She had noticed that, since arriving down in the area, she thought her mild allergies were starting up – thinking that it was something blooming down there. But, now she thought it was more than that. Sure enough, she woke up Monday with whatever it is that is going around – a bad cold or some sort of flu with a cough that just won’t go away. She was down for the count that day and Havana and I only stepped outside long enough to let her do her business because there was a really nasty windstorm blowing through. 
Thankfully, the wind blew itself out of the area at some pont durng the night. We spent a good part of the next day sitting out in the sun and throwing ball for Havana so that at least she’d get her exercise for the day! And, yes, Dianne came down with whatever it was that Nancy had within a few days. For each of them, the nagging cough has lingered on.  I escaped with just a mildly scratchy throat and feeling extra tired for a day or two!!

Nancy drove back up to her place toward the end of the day on Wednesday. She left here around 5:00 pm and stopped in Temecula at a couple of stores before getting on I 15 around 7:30. By that time of night, most of the commuter traffic was gone so she got through the LA area without any delays. The rest of the way she said she pretty much had the road to herself. The best part though, was that when darkness falls, Havana finally settles down and will be content to gnaw away on a big rawhide type bone before falling asleep. Much as we love Havae, she’s a terrible traveler – whining and howling and spinning around in the way-back of the SUV.

 When I arrived out in that more remote off the grid area, I had discovered that I could send a text message via my Yahoo email account – through the chat and im tool.  I had tested it the week before Nancy came down and she was able to reply with a text and it came right through to the im window on my email account!!   So, that was the communication tool we were using on her drive down and back. I woke up around 3:30 am Thurs. and checked to see if she had sent a text message. I didn’t find one so I sent one to her. While I was waiting for her to reply, I clicked the refresh button and found an email from her saying that she had gotten home around 2:30 and she was sending the email before heading to bed. She cut a few hours off her drive by leaving late in the day and driving at night. I was happy that she was at home and in her own bed, etc. It’s so hard to be sick and away from home!

All in all, I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere out in the Anza Borrego Desert area and it was a wonderful treat to have both of my daughters and my ‘gran-puppy’ come for a visit! After almost three weeks out in the Anza Borrego Desert area, it was time for me to move along . The truck needs a service visit and the rv is going in to V.I.P. in San Bernardino for a good exterior cleaning/waxing, etc.  (found thanks to Laurie and Odel's very positive recomendation last December).