Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bakersfield to Daggett

April 2017

After San Luis Obispo we spent two nights at the River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, California.  Bakersfield, whose outskirts are oil wells and farm fields, has kind of a bad rep.  But other than traffic congestion -- the city is just not set up to handle lots of cars, plus there was road construction everywhere -- it was a pleasant stop. The RV park had a nice walking path on the shore of the Kern River. And a great brew pub was nearby. So no complaints from us. 

Along the way to Bakersfield we passed the spot where 24-year-old James Dean was killed driving to a car racing competition. He crashed his new Porsche Spyder in 1955 at the junction of California State 46 and 41. We’d known James Dean died in a car crash but didn’t know the details, so seeing signs about the crash lead to reading up on the rebel without a cause. Dean's Porsche collided with a Ford Tudor driven by 23-year-old Cal Poly student with the interesting name of  Donald Turnupseed.  Mr. Turnupseed lived in nearby Tulare and was found not to be responsible for the accident, nor was Dean.  Mr Turnupseed went on to own a successful electrical contracting business until his death in 1995 at age 63. We read that he spoke of the accident to police and did one media interview -- then he never spoke publicly of the crash again.

After Bakersfield we spent one night at the Desert Springs RV park east of Barstow near Daggett, CA. There’s not much in the way of RV parks around Barstow, and Daggett is probably not a vacation destination for most people. But the park managers were nice and our spot was level.  That's about all we can ask in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t even unhook the tow car. We parked, ate, read/watched TV, and hit the bed.

I remember the walk along the Kern River in Bakersfield (and next to the RV park where we stayed) as being much prettier than my photography shows.  Bakersfield is the county seat of California's, Kern County, which Wikipedia says is the most productive oil producing county in the US, and the fourth most productive agricultural producing county by value in the US. 

Wind turbines as seen on the way to Daggett.
Our campground in the middle of sparsely populated Daggett, California.  Per Wikipedia, for two years the famous "20 mule teams" hauled borax from Death Valley to the railroad in Daggett.  Wiki also says that part of the 1940's movie "Grapes of Wrath" was filmed there and that part of the world's second largest solar thermal energy generating system is located nearby.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

San Luis Obispo

After another long interruption, I'm back to last spring’s trip.
Late March/early April 2017

Next stop was San Luis Obispo, where our son and his girlfriend, Kat, live. We had not seen Paul for a long time. And we’d never met Kat, so that was very special. We also met and enjoyed being with Kat’s gracious, kind parents, Joel and Arlene.

We parked our rig at Camp San Luis Obispo, the original home of the California Army National Guard and a five-mile straight shot from Kat and Paul’s home. Camp SLO was old and charming with lots of tall grass for the dogs to roam in, as the SLO area had a lot of rain this winter/spring and it was still too wet to mow. The campground only has 12 camping spaces so we felt fortunate to get one for nearly two weeks. We originally had a spot for just four days and then were going to wing it (ie, not make reservations elsewhere ahead of time.) No such luck if we wanted a place within 30 miles of SLO. But we were able to stay at the military base and liked it very much. 

We saw few guardsmen/women at the base, but did see members of the Grizzly Youth Academy marching from what seemed like sun up to sun down. Grizzlies are 16 to 18 year-old high-risk drop outs looking for a second chance and a diploma. 

San Luis Obispo is a pretty, bustling town near beaches and other pretty towns. We visited and walked around SLO with Paul and Kat, spent time with Kat’s parents who hosted us at their lovely home and took us and “the kids” to dinner, kayaked at Morro Bay, walked the beaches, explored SLO and nearby towns, got our dogs to a vet (where they were tested, put on antibiotics and finally got well), visited a great dog park practically across the street from Camp SLO at El Chorro Park, and visited ten brew pubs/taverns. I’m a little embarrassed about that brew pub number (Jim says he is proud), but when we're on the road it’s pretty much dogs, explore, and brew pubs. And SLO has a plethora of places to see and brews to sample. 

I took very few photos while in San Luis Obispo, so I stole this one of Kat and Paul from Kat's Facebook page.

Paul looking debonair at a restaurant near his and Kat's place.
An IPA and a stout at the SLO Brewery.
The actual NCO Club at Camp San Luis Obispo?  I'm thinking not, but this was typical of the "weathered farmhouse" look of a lot of the buildings on base. 
Jim and Arlo walking with Morro Rock in the background.  The huge volcanic rock is in the water at the entrance to Morro Bay harbor. We kayaked not far from here.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Point Mugu, California

March 25, 26, 27 and 28, 2017

We weren’t looking forward to driving near Los Angeles.  But our next destination was on the Pacific coast near Oxnard.  And you can’t get there from Cherry Valley much any other way.  So on a Saturday morning we took off for a military RV park at Point Mugu Naval Air Station.

It wasn’t that bad. Yes, traffic sometimes crawled for what seemed like no reason. But we had few problems until we were just a mile or two from Point Mugu -- and what happened had nothing to do with vehicles or road signs.  Doggie Arlo -- whose much more vocal than Maddie if he wants out of his kennel -- started making noise.  Then more noise.  And more.  But there was no where to pull over.  Just after we could smell the reason Arlo wanted out of his kennel, Jim found a spot where Arlo made a quick exit and continue getting rid of what was upsetting his stomach. Obviously we still had a dog with GI problems. 

The RV park was just yards from sand. When I checked in, I was told we should not disturb the sea lion sleeping on the beach.  I said of course, thinking the sea lion was probably on a rock near the shore which is where we usually see them.  But it was literally sleeping in the sand in the middle of the beach in an area roped off with what looked like crime scene tape.  I thought the lion was there for the long haul and told myself to get a photo the next day.  But by then the big guy and any indication of a crime were gone.

We stayed at Point Mugu for four nights and it was a great place to walk along the ocean. At the recommendation of Kat, Paul’s SO, we also wanted to go to Santa Barbara.  But with wind gusts up to 60 mph, and kayaks on top of the car making us kite-like, we explored closer to “home.” We took a trip to Ventura and its famous wooden pier (first built in 1872 for $45,000 and rebuilt several times after being sliced by a ship, plus fire and storm damaged).  We hit the Ventura brew pubs. We bought the biggest and sweetest roadside-stand strawberries I’ve ever eaten.  We drove south to Malibu where we saw film crews in action. And then we walked the beaches some more.
Traffic -- complete with limos -- came to a near standstill several place on "the 210" north of Los Angeles. And this is Saturday morning traffic.
I took very few photos this trip, but this one features Jim's IPA at the  Made West Brewery in Ventura.  We also sampled at Ventura's Surf Brewing.
Jim and dogs somewhere near Point Mugu.  A lot of nearby beaches only allowed dogs during morning or evening hours when local would be walking them before and after work. But the military base beach was good with dogs at any time as long as they were leashed.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bogart Park in Cherry Valley, California

Friday, March 24, 2017

In 2010, we flew to California and purchased our motor home. We drove to the city of Banning where the owners lived, handed over a cashiers check, drove off in our new-to-us motor home, and spent two nights at nearby Bogart Park.  If you want to read about that adventure, click here

As we made our way across California this spring, we decided to take a trip down memory lane and return to Bogart Park. 

Bogart Park is 400 acres of horse corrals, hiking trails, a stream, and is in the foothills of Mt. Gorgonio, the highest peak in southern California.  The park seemed a less well-cared for than when we were there last time; we couldn’t even find the spot we camped in last time as it was hidden in tall grass.  Actually, we couldn’t even find the park at first -- although that had everything to do with our GPS and not the park. Finally we unhooked the tow car from the rig which is what we do when we’re not sure what’s up ahead, did some exploring, and got in the main gate.

Part of the Riverside County, California, park system, Bogart is in the small unincorporated community of Cherry Valley.  It’s only 80 miles due east of the sprawling city of Los Angeles, yet seems so rural.  The park is named after a physician who, at about the start of the Great Depression, recreated an authentic Japanese cherry blossom festival in the nearby town of Beaumont. The event was such a success (I read that 32,000 people came to Beaumont that day, back when the town only had a 1,000 residents) that Dr. Bogart convinced 25 local business people to donate $100 each to buy property that became the home to the festival.  It later became the Riverside County park that bears his name.
Our 2017 camping spot at Bogart Park in Cherry Valley, California. The first time we visited in 2010, we'd never before owned an RV, so along with hiking and exploring we did a lot of owners-manual reading. Even then, we had to call someone to ask where the sewer hose was.  Seven years later we are well acquainted with the location and use of the sewer hose.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Borrego Springs, California

March, 2017

I wanted to camp at the Salton Sea, 30 miles north of El Centro. But three El Centro locals said "no way.”  Icky, lots of dead fish, not scenic, don't go in the water, beach may be dangerous, they said. Based on those bad reviews, after El Centro we headed for Borrego Springs, CA. I’d still like to go to the Salton Sea sometime. It was formed when irrigation dams from the Colorado River broke in the early 1900s. Since then it’s been fed by a couple of small rivers and agricultural run off. But this time we headed a little further west.

The small town of Borrego Springs has about 3,500 people and is completely surrounded by Anza-Borrego State Park, the largest state park in California. 

It’s also a “dark sky” community, meaning it has no stop lights and little night-time lighting in order to protect views of the night sky. But the big attraction while we were there was a desert flower “super bloom.”

California deserts had an uncharacteristically rainy fall and winter -- so much so that the state’s drought has officially been declared over.  All that rain provided enough moisture for way-more-than-usual flowers to bloom from seeds that may have been dormant as many as ten years.

So we walked through and drove by many a desert flower. One of the best places was a huge field right next to the Palm Canyon RV Park, where we stayed for for three nights. The campground was in a good location, but our RV spot and those around us were very small.  Several people pulled in near us but left after backing to and fro and trying to hook up to water/electric/sewer.  Our rig is only 27 feet long so we fit, but it was tight.

One late afternoon after flower gazing, we stopped at Carlee’s Place, a down-home-looking diner.  We sat at the bar.  Pretty soon a woman named Mary--maybe our age--came in with a younger guy and sat next to us.  Turns out they both live in Slab City, which might offer the last free real estate in the USA.  Slab City is an abandoned Marine base owned by the state of California.  People can move there in an RV or whatever portable housing they have, make up an address, and live there at no cost.

They told us that the guy drives Mary around in exchange for her buying him dinner.  Said driver guy:  “It's like 'Driving Miss Daisy' if Miss Daisy was drunk and cranky."  Mary laughed.

 Locals told us many of the visitors inundating Borrego Springs asked  "Where can I go to see the flowers?"  Answer:  "Look out your car window."
The purple flowers in this photo belong to the prickly pear cactus.
One of the few desert flowers I can identify:  indigo.
I think this is yellow desert daisy.
Maddie enjoying the superbloom.  That's Arlo and Jim ahead of her, just barely visible in the upper left.
Palm Canyon RV Park had 7 "glampers" for rent--remodeled Airstream and other vintage trailers built in the 1950s through the 1980s.  The glampers looked totally occupied the weekend we were at Palm Canyon.  Our camping space was close to the glampers 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

El Centro, California

The plan was to finish our blog posts about our winter/spring trip to Arizona, California, Nevada and back to Utah.  But on the date of my last post -- May 1 -- my Mom fell and broke her hip.  May 3 I flew to Ohio where Mom lives and where I grew up.  The operation to fix Mom’s hip (actually her upper femur) went well, as did recovery and physical therapy.  

Last Friday Mom came home. I’m still in Ohio with her and my brothers are a godsend.  So is Jim, who for now is in Utah with the house and the dogs. Jim and are are figuring out how/when we can get the two of us back together. And in the meantime, and as things are a little calmer, I’m going to try to remember what we did after Dateland, Arizona, and get it in writing. 

Anyway:  March 2017

There's a military RV campground in El Centro, CA, that Jim wanted to stop. So from Dateland, AZ, we drove 130 miles west to El Centro and spent two nights.

The El Centro Naval Facility is the winter home of the Navy's flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels. El Centro is also where the singer Cher was born, which was news to me until I was so informed by the internet.

Once we got on base, our directions took us to a parking lot at a dead end street. The base police noticed us wandering around, stopped us, and lead us right to the camp host at the military RV park. No flashing lights, but very helpful. 

El Centro is the largest US city to be completely below sea level: 42 feet below.  It's about 100 miles east of San Diego and only about 10 miles north of Mexico, and in an agricultural area. We saw lots of hay, but the area also grows veggies (broccoli, asparagus, carrots, onions, beets,squash), melons, and citrus.

It was at El Centro that Maddie got violently ill again.  Poor baby.  She and I spent a lot of time one night walking outside and getting rid of what was ailing her.  Arlo was not far behind her in the sickness arena. We bought chicken and rice and for a couple of weeks that's all both dogs ate.

Other than cooking chicken and rice, we drove around El Centro. There are supposed to be some brew pubs nearby, but the ones we found were closed.  Both nearby museums -- Pioneers Museum in Imperial Ca. and the Imperial Valley Desert museum in Ocotillo were also closed.  Probably just as well, considering our doggie duties. We did find a chain brew pub called Burgers and Beer at the Imperial Valley Mall, and while we aren't normally fans of chains, the beer, food, and service were great.

Flags and retired Blue Angel planes as seen near the entrance of the El Centro Naval Facility.   The weekend before we arrived, the Blue Angels had put on a demonstration and we were told the RV park was packed. Not so when we got there. We had our pick of spots.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Picacho Peak and Dateland, AZ

March 2017

After we left Tucson, we spent two nights at Picacho Peak State Park, about halfway between Tucson and Phoenix. The park has 85 camping spots with electricity in three loops, several day use areas, hiking trails, and lots of saguaros -- all at the base of a distinctive peak that has been used as a landmark for travelers “since prehistoric times,” says the park brochure.  

We hiked with and without dogs and explored by car. The area is the site of the westernmost Civil War battle, and a reenactment was held the weekend we left. 

After the state park we spent one night at the Oasis RV Park in Dateland, Arizona, about 135 miles further west. A private RV park, it can't be seen from the highway. It’s clean, well-run, had a pool and -- more importantly for us -- lots of space to walk the dogs.

Our car and always-present-in-case-we-find-some-water kayaks nestled among the saguaro at Arizona's Picacho Peak State Park. People in this area of the country look at us and our boats like we are nuts.
Our camp site at Picacho Peak State Park near Eloy, Arizona. We got the last campsite available for the time frame we needed. It cost $30 a night.
Jim on his way to Picacho Peak. We didn't do the entire hike. It was way too hot for us, so we stuck to short walks. The actual hike to the peak has metal cables along the path  to help you get to the top -- and wearing gloves is advised. The day we arrived a rescue crew had to help a hiker make it back down.
Sun set as seen from our Picacho Peak camp site.
Waiting for the Civil War to start:  If you look closely -- or click on the photo to enlarge -- you can see Civil War reenactment on lookers. On April 15, 1862, a union cavalry patrol from California skirmished with Confederate troops from Texas and three men were killed including the Union leader, Lt.James Barrett. Not sure why the reenactment is done in March.  Too hot in April?  Conflicts with income taxes?  I should have asked.
Union reenactors getting ready for war.  During practice, they pointed their guns, the lieutenant said fire, and the soldiers said "boom." If only.
Brittlebush was in full bloom at the park and all along I-8 from Picacho Peak to Dateland. Brittle bush is a common shrub with silvery gray leaves found all over northern Mexico and the southwestern U.S.  The name comes from the brittleness of its stems.
Our rig at the Oasis Campground in Dateland, Arizona.  The manager met us at the entrance and lead us to this spot.  If you are ever in the middle of nowhere just east of Yuma, it's a great campground.
The Dateland RV park was $25 a night and had a swimming pool, hot tub and club house.  Instead, we walked the dogs. 
There were several pioneer-era buildings at our Dateland RV campground. The one on the right had to be a water tank.  Guessing the other was a home.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Yuma. Then Tucson.

November, 2016 - early March, 2017

From Cattail Cove State Park we drove 125 miles to the Yuma Proving Ground's Desert Breeze Military Campground, where we've spent a few weeks or months for four years. The campground is 25 miles north of downtown Yuma. We got arrived a few days before Thanksgiving. 

After only a week -- and because Bev wanted to spend more time at home for the holidays -- we left our motorhome hooked up to electricity and in our camping spot, and drove back to Salt Lake City in our Honda (our tow car).  

In mid January we headed south again. We spent one night at the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino in Henderson, NV.  Not a bad hotel and it's right on our route, but the dogs whined or barked every time someone walked by our room, which was often. Not a restful night for us, the dogs, and probably anyone in adjoining rooms. There is a great hike nearby, on an old elevated railway bed -- the Historic Railroad Trail -- which we hiked a few years ago. Didn't do it this time because we were making a beeline for Yuma and the rig.

Then, after just a week in Yuma, we left for Tucson.

With the new dogs, we try to keep our drives in the RV short. Under 150 miles is perfect. With one stop along the way, everyone is happy.

But we just wanted to get to Tucson, which is about 250 miles from Yuma. So we planned a couple of rest stops for us and the dogs, made another stop at a Border Control check point where we were waved through, and arrived at  Agave Gulch RV Park at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. 

We love Tucson. The base is close to town. Tucson has museums, great shopping, lots of breweries, wonderful hiking, is an easy place to drive and is just generally a great place.  

But other than hitting a few brew pubs, this year we didn't take full advantage of what Tucson has to to offer. We did our usual routine of hitting the base gym almost every day. Then we went to dog parks. We took the dogs for walks. We looked for restaurants that allowed dogs on the patio (thank you, Barrio Brewing). 

For three weeks, Bev visited her Mom in Ohio -- where one of the days it was 70 degrees outside. In February. In northern Ohio. Being in the Buckeye State was great for Bev but not so good for Jim who stayed behind in Tucson and took care of both dogs who got sick. 

If you are interested in Tucson, look at any of our January and February posts from 2011 through 2015. It's a great city and we'll be back. With older and better trained dogs. 
We rarely go out to breakfast when on the road. But I'd read some good things about Brownie's, a diner/dive on Yuma's industrial Fourth Avenue that opened in 1946, so we made the trip.  Jim said the restaurant (and street) reminded him of places his family frequented when he was a kid and his family drove to construction sites for his dad's job. I had an omelet; Jim had pancakes. The food was  not as good as Mom's.  But it was decent and inexpensive, and fun to go to a diner that felt like it was in a 1960s time warp.
Christmas Eve in SLC with Ashley, Shad, and their kids -- all wearing our annual semi-matching pajamas.
We had huge snowstorms Christmas Eve night and most of Christmas Day. Here Jim heads toward a ladder to our roof so he can knock the snow of our TV satellite dish.    
Back in Yuma and enjoying warmer weather: Jim with the dogs at a Yuma off leash dog park called the Bark Park. 
The only photo we took while in Tucson this time:  Bev at the Arizona Beer House on Kolb Road.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Cattail Cove State Park, Arizona

November, 2016

On our way to Yuma: Stop Five.

We've camped at Lake Havasu State Park twice before and liked it. It's practically downtown, has sites close to the water, and is just a short kayak paddle from the London Bridge. But the weekend we arrived this time, a big RV/boat show was being held there.

So after Willow Beach Marina, we booked a few days at another Lake Havasu-area state park 20 miles south of town called Cattail Cove. Loved it. That's two stops in a row worth repeating.

Our camping spot was a short walk to the water. Jim did some kayaking, we both did some hiking, and the dogs took advantage of the only dedicated dog beach we've ever seen at a campground. 

The human beach at Cattail Cove.  Jim left his kayak here overnight after a paddle and took off again the next day.
Arlo and Maddie during one of many visits to Cattail Cove's dog beach.  Maddie's not much for playing fetch on land, but she's tenacious if the stick gets thrown in the water.
Jim and Arlo hiking at Cattail Cove.  Three more photos of that hike are below.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Lake Mead RV Village and Willow Beach Marina

November, 2016

On the way to Yuma:  Stops Three and Four

After southern Utah, we wanted to spend a few days at Valley of Fire State Park north of Las Vegas.  But it's first-come-first-served and a phone call to the park revealed it was already full -- so we called Lake Mead RV Village about 50 miles south of Vegas and got reservations for three days.

Turned out it was not our kind of place. Especially for three days. It's a big gravel parking lot far from the water, although it was much closer to H2O when Lake Mead was not so low. It did have full hook ups. But if we stop in the area again, next time we'll try Boulder Beach, a campground without hook ups that's right next door. Boulder Beach is also first-come-first served, but had available spots, trees, pretty campsites, and looked much more inviting.  

After Lake Mead RV Village we drove a mere 25 miles south to Willow Beach. Also part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, it's between Lake Mead and Lake Mohave and was an amazing find: small, clean, and nestled in a valley with a view of the Colorado River. Beautiful. We kayaked, we hiked, and we loved the view and the modern campground. If we can get a spot we'll definitely go back there again when driving south from Salt Lake. Since it's part of a National Recreation Area -- and not run by a contractor -- we camped for half price with our America the Beautiful Senior Pass.
It must have been a mile walk from Lake Mead RV Village to the actual lake.  Here you can see an anchor with a long, long cable that at one time had enough water above it to secure a boat.
We did see some great views of Lake Mead while exploring by car. Lake Mead is the  largest reservoir in the US and was created by the Hoover Dam. Per Wikipedia (and our own eyes), however, drought and water usage has caused the water level to dip. It's now the number two reservoir in the country as far as water in reserve. Number 1 (again per Wiki) is Lake Sakakawea, in North Dakota (which we've also visited.)
Willow Beach:  Click on the photo to get a better view of the Willow Beach Campground at the lower left of the photo. That's Lake Mohave on the Colorado River to the right.
Jim looking at the sheer canyon walls near Willow Beach. There is a national fish hatchery nearby that stocks the river with rainbow trout.
Jim and Arlo on hike between the Willow Beach campground and the marina.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

On our way to Yuma: Fillmore, UT and Sand Hollow State Park

November, 2016

Stop One: Fillmore, Utah

We haves places we like to stop on our way to locations north or south. Our northern stop is Snowville, Utah, a two hour drive north of Salt Lake City.  Our probably-from-now-on stop going south is Fillmore, Utah, 142 miles south of our home.

If I'd been paying attention I would have realized Fillmore's Wagons West RV park honors Passport America, a discount RV club we belong to and we would have paid just $18 for a night's stay with full hook ups. Instead we paid twice that. But Wagons West is a convenient one nighter if we leave home later in the day and don't want to pull in to a park after dark. And arriving after nightfall is never in our plans. 

Fillmore, Utah: You know you are in a small town when Main Street is part of the all-terrain-vehicle route.  The town of about 2,250 people was named for Millard Fillmore and was the capital of the Utah Territory from 1851-1856.
Our camping spot in Fillmore. It's a nice RV park with level sites, plenty of nearby places to walk the dogs, and the manager is super helpful.  The only downside is the run-down restroom. Not to get all TMI on you, but I'm only 5'3" and my knees about hit the stall door.
Stop Two:  162 miles to Sand Hollow State Park, near Hurricane, Utah

Sand Hollow is Utah's newest state park and opened in 2003. It has 100 campsites in two campgrounds, including one where you can drive your off-road vehicle out to the sand dunes right from your rig. Not being off-roading fans, we stayed in the non-ATV campground.

We were more interested in the 1,000 plus acre reservoir. So we kayaked, hiked, and since we stayed there November 8, 9, and 10, tried to recover from election day. Full recovery has not yet taken place.

Beautiful campground, with lots of space between sites and beautiful views of mountains and the desert.

That's not our rig -- but it is a great view of the mountains as seen from the Sand Hollow State Park Campground.

Like lots of southern Utah, the park has beautiful red rocks on land...
...and popping out in the middle and the edges of the Sand Hollow Reservoir. That's Jim enjoying the red rocks from his boat.