Monday, May 17, 2021

Two night getaway to the North Coast.

We wanted to get out of town for a couple of nights and the weather was looking good on the north coast. We left on Monday, May 27, 2021. We only make short trips on weekdays and stay home on the weekends to avoid the crowds. Our plan was a quick trip up Hwy 101 to Humbolt Redwoods State Park. We had a reservation and had stayed here before. On our second day, we were going to explore an area we had not been to, The Lost Coast of California. This will be a picture-heavy trip report, remember you can click on any picture to see a full-size view. 

Our home for the first night. Burlington Campground is located on the Avenue of the Giants. We will be driving it to the northern end tomorrow.

Our campsite for the night. The spot was level so an easy setup for the night. We arrived late in the afternoon so we walked to the visitors center to see what was there. They were almost ready to close so we did a walk around the campground. So many people still tent camping. Guess that was us many years ago. We have moved from tent camping to a small camp trailer then to Four Wheel pop-up truck campers. Now we are enjoying the comforts of our Class B van. 

When we got back to our campsite it was time for wine, cheese, and fruit.  Veronica made a great spread and I enjoyed a California red. 

Only takes about 5 minutes to change our coach into a queen-size bed for the night. The bed is so much larger and comfy than the cabover bed in the Four Wheel Camper.

The next morning we were up early and took a walk to the Eel River through the redwood grove across from our campground. 

You really need to walk through the Redwoods to appreciate their size.

We did this hike many years ago when we were young. We have a picture of us on a seasonal footbridge over the river. We walked up and down the river but could not find the bridge. 

The new normal for me, hiking poles. 

We packed up and headed up the Avenue of the Giants. Years ago this road was the main road before Hwy 101 was improved to the 4 lane freeway it is now. If you are in the area take the time to get off the freeway and drive this great road.

The trees make the road and everything look small. 

There are many places to stop and walk through the Redwood Groves along the Avenue of the Giants. 

When we reach the end of the Avenue of the Giants we head up Hwy 101 until we exit to Ferndale CA. Another town we have not visited. Flowers and restored victorian houses make this a must-stop and visit the town. The rhododendrons are the largest I have seen. Here we started our drive on Mattole Road. 80 miles but almost 3 hours to drive. 

After leaving Ferndale and driving a few miles we hit a construction site. We waited 20 minutes and enjoyed the moss-covered forest. We did have to follow the logging truck for several miles until he turned off. 

We continued to climb up to the top of the coastal mountains before descending to the King Range on the Lost Coast. 

We leave the forest and emerge into open-range land high above the Pacific Ocean. The road in this area reminded me of the Fruka Pass in Switzerland. Tight steep turns and great views with cattle on the side of the road. Here the views are of the Pacific Ocean and not the Swiss Alps. The cattle in Switzerland are behind an electric fence, here they are free-roaming. The road is not as smooth as in Switzerland but the views are as good.

At the bottom of the descent, we find a dairy farm for all the cows on the hills. 
We continue south on the coast until we get to Black Sand Beach on the Lost Coast. This was a good spot to stop for lunch. So little traffic here we only heard the wind and the surf. 

A small stream flowed off the coast range and into the Pacific where we stopped for lunch. The wildflowers were in full bloom.

Several more miles south on the coast and we turned inland and began the climb up the coast range. This would take us through the towns of Petrolia and Honeydew. You need to want isolation to live here. 

Here are some isolated and well-guarded greenhouses. The greenhouses are located in the town of Honey Dew. Honeydew Farms is Humboldt County’s first permitted Cannabis Farm. 

From Honeydew Farms' website:
"Located in the highly coveted Mattole Valley, the 600 acre, California licensed, Agricultural preserve lies in the foothills of the Lost Coast’s Kings Range. The Mattole’s unique microclimate, with its hot days and cool nights, creates the perfect environment, and combined with over 25 years of cultivation experience, we produce some of the world’s finest medical Cannabis."

Leaving behind the pungent smell of Honeydew's agriculture we continue on Mattole Road to the backside of Humbolt Redwoods State Park. Moving from the lower dry coastal area to pine forest and then to the cool and dark redwood forest.  The dark windows of our van act as a mirror for the tall trees. 

After leaving Humbolt Redwoods State Park we go south on Hwy 101 to Hwy 1 and the coast. Our destination is Westport/Union campground. A new campground for us but highly recommend. Located at the top of a bluff right on the beach, we had a great view of the sunset. 

The view from our campsite.

What you see is what you get. A place to park, a picnic table, and a fire ring. $35 to the State of California. This is why boondocking has become so popular. 

But what was to come makes up for the lack of facilities.  One of the top 5 sunsets I have seen on the coast. 

We had a great night's sleep listing to the waves crash onto the shore. Today we head for home, but first a stop at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg CA. One of the best days we have had a Glass Beach, glass was everywhere. 

Yes, there was some wind on the beach but we had a great day. Sunny, warm, and lots of glass. This was a perfect end to a two-night get away from the valley. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

First long trip in the van. CA to TX.

 This trip is one of the reasons we sold the FWC and purchased a Class B van. Our daughter lives in Schertz Texas and the van just makes the long trip more enjoyable. We have creature comforts that just can not be had in the truck camper. We got out of town on March 29, 2021. Our first stop was a San Bernadino County Park. Yucaipa Regional Park, we have stayed here before and it is a great park in the middle of the city. 

We use our awning for the first time.

The park is surrounded by homes, but can not be seen from where we were camped.

This is our dining area.  Veronica is a great cook.

The next day we head south toward Indio, a must stop for a date shake. From Indio, we turn south and drive by the Salton Sea.  We decided to travel across I-8 for a change from I-10 our normal drive to Texas. 

Miles of Date Palms line the road to the Salton Sea. 

We head east when we get to I-8. Running just along the US/Mexico border we spot the border wall to the south. A long brown line for miles and miles.

Our stop for the day is a new National Park for us. Organ Pipe Cactus National Park. We had no idea what we would find here, and we found flowering cactus and the unique Organ Pipe Cactus. The campground had every other site blocked off for Covid. 

Our campsite in Organ Pipe Cactus  NP.

A sign of the times greeted us as we headed for our campsite. The Border Patrol was everywhere.

Another fine dinner by Veronica. Food always tastes better outside.

We did see another Beyond van in the campground. No one around so we did not get to meet them. I am sure they are on the Beyond FB page. Their awning was strapped and I have seen a picture of an awning on the FB page strapped like their's.  

When I tried to start our generator from the Firefly control panel it would not start.  I crawled under the van and checked the breaker on the generator, it was not tripped. But there is a start switch on the generator and it did start from there. Had to crawl under to shut it off. I put a post on the FB Beyond site and found by shutting the power off to the coach part of the van it would reset the Firefly control. Tried and this worked. 

Next are pictures of some of the flowers we saw at Organ Pipe NP

Sunset at Organ Pipe Catus N.P. We will stop here again. 

We enjoyed our stay at Organ Pipe Cactus NP but it was time to hit the road to more new locations for us. Tombstone and Bisbee Arizona. Tombstone we found to be a tourist attraction and did not spend a lot of time there. Bisbee was an interesting little town with a unique history. Once a large copper mining town, it all but shut down when the mines closed. The hippies and the artists moved in and changed the feel of the town. We were surprised to find over 1/2 of the shops closed. Not sure if it was Covid or the day of the week we got there. We use several camping apps to find where we spend our nights. From years of camping in the truck camper, we enjoy boondocking and camping on BLM land. And we found a great place at the top of Juniper Flats Road. 

Historic Bisbee was a nice town to walk around. I would like to come back after Covid and visit the shops and restaurants. 

The road to our campsite up the mountain. 11 miles of slow going, the road was really not that bad but steep in some areas. 
We had a great view from our campsite

Our chairs set up to enjoy the view.

The sunset was great from where we camped. But the wind was starting to blow. We would have more wind tomorrow. 
The location of our campsite at 6,850 feet. It did cool off at night. 

We got up and started our stinky Truma heater. We were told the smell would burn off but we still have it. So bad we do not run the heater at night. Later on the trip, I would find the reason for the smell. We have been impressed with the Ford Transit. Dropping down the mountain I used first and second gear and we had a smooth descent without getting the brakes hot. We now used smaller highways staying off of I-10 until we got to El Paso Texas. Slow going because of the wind, we were headed into the wind, and our gas milage dropped to around 12 MPG.  Because of the wind, we decided to drive a little longer rather than stop in the wind for the night. We drove as far as Van Horn Texas. We had stayed at the Mt View RV park and knew it would work for us tonight. Full hook up for the night to dump tanks and refill our water. Sorry, no pictures were taken in Van Horn. 

We try to be flexible when we travel and today was a day to be flexible. We had planned to visit Marfa Texas today, but the wind was bad again. So we decided to head to our daughters home in Schertz Texas and maybe visit Marfa on the way home. Along the way Veronica hid a speed bump (unmarked) just a little to fast. Things were flying inside the van but no damage done. When we stopped for lunch I noticed an item in the second drawer that I know was kept in the top drawer. I pulled the bottom drawer to see if any items fell all the way out of the drawers. I found a few wooden spoons and one small brass screw with an O-ring on it. ???

This little screw was the cause of the stinky Truma. I sent an email and the picture to Truma Corp and got an answer back that the screw is for the inspection port on the Truma. Also that I should not run the Truma without the screw. I reinstalled the screw and all the smell from the Truma is gone. Yes I am more than a little upset with the work done my dealer when they worked on the Truma the day we took delivery. But that is for another story. 

We arrived at our daughters mid afternoon to big hugs from our granddaughter Remie and smiles from our 4 month old grandson Max. We did have a great 10 day visit. Family walks and dinners, drives to the sunken neighborhood and the search for bluebonnets. 

Following are a few pictures from our visit. Click any picture for a full size view.

Veronica and I did get away by ourselves for one day to do the bluebonnet loop in hill country. Most bluebonnets were along side the road and looked to be seeded. May have been a bad year for the flowers. The San Antiono Botanical Garden had a great wildflower area and it was the best we saw on our trip.

Texas Wildflowers:

On a gravel road in hill country we found Daniel Tiger's trolly.

After 10 days it was time to let our Daughter and Son in Law get back to normal. The goal for today was a long drive to just outside of Big Bend National Park. All the campgrounds inside the park were full so we had reservation at a Stillwater Store and RV Park. We traveled on Highway 90 across southern Texas trough many small towns. You do get to see more of America if you get off the Interstates. 

We say our goodbyes. 
Family visits are one of the best reasons to travel. We will be making this trip again, the grandchildren grow so fast. 

Lunch in a van by the river. Amistad Reservoir on the Rio Grande, part in the US and part in Mexico.

The long straight road to our campsite for the night.
This was a warm night and we were looking forward to full hook ups. Running the AC at the night was going to be a first for us. However we found the AC fans ran but no cool air came out. We have an appointment to fit the AC when we return to California. Opened the windows and ran the MaxiFan on low, we got a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we head to Big Bend National Park, another new NP for us. 

Big Bend is a big park, you drive 27 miles from the Big Bend sign to the visitors center at Panther Junction. As with the other National Parks the visitors center is closed but the Rangers have an information table outside. We stopped, looked over the information, and made a quick stop for gas. The row boat ferry to Mexico at the Rio Grande Village was closed. We decided to pass on the long trip to the Village and headed to Chisos Basin up in the hills. We get to the turn off for Chisos and run into road closed signs! The ranger at the turn off tell us the road is closed because of a fire and will be closed for weeks. Time to be flexible again, we now head to Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. The drive takes us to several over looks, Cottonwood campground and Santa Elena Canyon. 

The clouds and mountains along the Ross Maxwell Drive.

The cactus was blooming when we stopped to check out the overlooks.

Our van as we walk back from the overlook. The noch in the mountain is the Santa Elena Canyon. Mexico on the left and the US on the right.

Veronica pointing out the trail that runs along Santa Elena Canyon. We walked to the mouth of the canyon but not up the hill into the canyon. Yes the Rio Grande was low enough to walk into Mexico, and we did see people doing so. But we had read the fine was up to $5,000 if you did. 

More blooming cactus. We may have seen more cactus blooms than we saw Texas bluebonnets. 

View of the old cotton farm from the over look. The green vegetation is from the Rio Grande River. 

These Ocotillo catus looked like they were dead except for the red flowers on the tips. Later we saw these Ocotillo catus planted by homes in Arizona and they had green leaves along the stems that looked dead out in the wild. Water changes everything.
We drive back Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, a different direction so a new view. Turning left on Panther Junction road we new head out of the park. On our way to Big Bend Ranch State Park we drive through Terlinglua. A ghost town that still had a small population. One of those towns that make you ask. Why would anyone live here? We had a campsite reserved at the State Park and thought the site would be by the visitors center. The Big Bend Ranch State Park does not assign campsites until you arrive. The big attraction of the State Park is the road running along the Rio Grande. We were given a campsite at La Cuesta, 1/2 way through the park.

The drive along the Rio Grande did have some great views. But we had planned to do this drive in the morning and not in the heat of the day.


The Big Bend Ranch State Park did have unique roadside rest areas.

With the temperatures in the mid 90's we arrived at La Cuesta campground. We were told to pick anysite we like. What you see is what we got. Gravel lot with campsites separated by armaco barriers. The main road was also just a few feet away. Maybe the worst State Park campground we have ever seen. Having read good things on Texas State Parks this was a disappointment. After thinking what we could do here for the afternoon we decided to leave our paid for campsite. 

We did drive down to the river and found no camping signs and a reminder not to go to Mexico. We will not be back to this Texas State Park.

We drove into Presidio Texas and decided on a plan for the afternoon and evening. We did have have a reservation at the Fort Davis State Park for the next night. We had planned to stay there and visit the McDonnald Observatory. We called Fort Davis State Park and found there were no campsites for tonight. And we could only get a part refund for our next nights stay. Well we did not see Marfa Texas on the way out so we headed to Marfa Texas to see if we could see the Marfa Lights. 

The Marfa Lights visitors center allows RVs to spend the night. There were several other RVs set up for the night when we arrived. We we walked around and read all the information on the lights. By the time the sun set there were at least 12 or more RVs set up to spend the night. This center was 9 miles east of Marfa.

They had binoculars set up to watch the lights. We passed on that because our old friend the wind was making a return after the sun went down.

Do you see the lights out there? Neither did we. But we enjoyed our stay here. 

After we got up and had our breakfast we headed into Marfa. Covid had most of the Art Galleries closed, but the town was still interesting to drive around. Hope to return sometime after Covid. 

Bottles used as decoration on a fence.

One of the many restored buildings.

Looking toward the old court house.

A little disappointed so many things closed by Covid, this would have been a town you could spend more that a day at visiting shops. 

30 miles from Marfa Texas we ran into one of Marfa's most famous art installations. The Prada store.

This "store" is along way from anywhere.

Veronica was going to go shopping but this store is always closed. We were told someone does come buy to dust and vacuum the carpet. 

To discourage anyone from breaking in they carry only the left shoe. And the bottoms of the handbags have the bottoms cut out. 

The fence around the Prada stove is covered with locks. 

So many questions as to why someone took the effort to build this art installation. 

Our next stop was Indian Bread Rocks a BLM camping area.  Another free camping area located 8 miles south of the town of Bowie Arizona. Before Covid and the explosion in RVs BLM campgrounds were little know or used. Now there is a chance of not finding a place to camp, but not at Indian Bread Rocks. This was also going to be a 7 hour drive from Marfa Texas. But if you have driven I-10 from Texas to Arizona there is not a lot to see. High desert with scrub brush looks the same in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or the California desert. I know many people love the desert, but on a long trip it does get old.

We were surprised to drive through miles of Pistachio trees between Bowie and Indian Bread Rocks. And these were large old trees. Almost the size of walnut trees, not like the small Pistachio trees along I-5 in California. 

We found a great spot for the night. And we got level with just a small movement of the van. 

Anoither fine dinner in the van. So nice to have comfort when the wind is blowing out side. 

The next morning we got up and having breakfast we heard a strange noise. Range Cattle, we did cross several cattle guards driving into our campsite.

There was other wildlife here. Small jack rabbits were everywhere. Unfortuntly they did not want their picture taken. They do move fast when they see you and I did not have a telephoto lens.

Today's drive would be in two parts. First a couple hour to our good friends in Oracle Arizona. Then a longer 4 hour drive to Quartzsite Arizona, almost to the California Border.  

After two weeks and several dirt and gravel roads our white van was not looking so white. We saw a quarter car wash and for $5.00 the van almost looked like new. 

Glenna gave us a tour of their new home, prepared a great lunch for us. Her husband Jim was in Indiana being a farmer for the week. Glenna also took us on a golf cart tour their community,  with a stop to visit her sister Jacquelyn and her husband Jim. Along the tour we did see some wildlife, a roadrunner. That little bird moved fast.

We said our goodbyes to Glenna and headed for Quartzsite Arizona. Quartzsite is surrounded with BLM land and there are many areas to dry camp. We have stayed off of Dome Rock Road before and found us a level spot for the night. 

Dinner was Texas smoked brisket. Made by our son in law Ryan Peterson. We have a large freezer and it has improved our meals when camping.

The sunset on Quartzsite was fantastic and made for a beautiful reflection on our van.

Almost home just one more night on the road. We wanted to drive up Highway 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas. We have done the drive many times in the summer and fall, but in the early spring. Checking weather and road conditions all looked good and Monitor Pass had just opened that would save us 30 minutes driving home. The goal for today was BLM's Tuttle Creek Campground, at $8.00 per night or $4.00 with our Senior Pass it is a bargain. Highway 10 to Highway 395 does take you through San Bernadino and the southern California traffic. Did several miles of stop and go traffic. Soon we were in the Mojave desert with no traffic. Lone Pine CA is the start of the Sierra's and views of the mountains from here on are something you must see. 

Driving into to Tuttle Creak Campground. The Sierras are magnificent  as they rise from the high desert. 
Driving out of Tuttle Creak Campground after finding all campsites full. We have never seen this campground full. Our backup plan was Alabama Hills an open BLM area. The Lone Pine area is popular in the spring and fall because it is lower that Bishop CA just up the road. Bishop will be 20 degrees cooler than Lone Pine. 

Alabama Hill was just a short drive and we found campers everywhere we looked. After a few miles of dirt roads we found a spot that would work from us. We parked and did not have to level the van, this is the first trip we have taken and never had to use the levelers. I framed this picture to look like we were alone but there are other campers behind the van. While we were eating dinner there was a knock on our window. A campers asking if they could share our site. They have been looking and could not find a spot to park their trailer. They had children and we said children do not bother us. I did say we may be up early and would need to start a generator to make breakfast. They said that would not be a problem.  Soon the kids were out climbing rocks and riding mountain bikes. The parents were so happy to find a spot they brought adult beverages over later. Still not sure why it was so busy the Friday we were there.

Following are some pictures of why Alabama Hill attracts so many people. Click any picture to enlarge.

We got up knowing we would be home tonight. Left the Alabama Hills and found even more campers had come in later after we had parked. The temperature did drop as we went up the hill to Mammoth Mountain and the Bishop area. We were surprised to find no snow along Highway 395, we had expected some to be there. I just a week later as I am typing this report the Sierras received over 12 inches of snow. We did carry chains just in case they were needed.  If you have never traveled the east side of the Sierras you need to add it to your list of things to do. Fall is our favorite time to visit the area. 

We turned west on Highway 89 over Monitor Pass. Just a little snow on top as we stopped for our last pictures of the trip.

Our trip meter. 4,507 miles and 102 hours and 36 minutes of driving.