I suffered weeks with no internet because of changes in the service to my Mifi. Now it’s already mid-April and I’m worn out! But the knee is slowly improving and I have a new internet device, so things are looking up.
Here’s a summary of March travels — leaving my boondock site at Jojoba Hills SKP Co-op –
From Jojoba Hills I drove to Morro Bay for the annual gathering of the Lazy Daze forum, mostly traveling around Los Angeles to avoid much of the urban traffic and stopping overnight at the Santa Barbara Elks Lodge. (They had a fantastic salad bar, the best I’ve ever seen.)
Parking at the Santa Barbara Elks –
It was a long, tiring drive, but I was delighted to see old and new friends and to learn more about my motor home from the many experts in our group. There were more than 40 Lazy Daze motor homes at this annual get-together. I had not been to Morro Bay since sailing into the harbor in October of 1992 when the fog limited all visibility, and I managed to use the newly developed GPS to navigate directly to the harbor entry buoys. The fog was so thick that it wasn’t possible to even see the huge rock beside the bay, the most distinctive landmark in this coastal area. My friend Andrea was living at a Grover Beach RV park, and she drove up every day to visit me and the rest of the forum members. We have stayed in touch by email for two years and it was great to see her again. The last day I drove down to see her campsite and we visited the beach nearby.
I enjoyed some long walks in the area with Cheyenne, and attended several group potluck dinners and happy hours. The four days at Morro Bay in the State Park cost more than any other place I stayed all winter. Fortunately I had pre-paid the reservation months earlier, but given the cost of gas and RV travel while towing a car, I probably won’t be attending this gathering again anytime soon. Gas was dearly expensive in Mexico, since they produce all their own fuel and do not participate in international markets that were driving US prices down. But I was surprised that California gas wasn’t much cheaper. Later when I crossed over to Nevada, I was happy to finally see lower fuel prices.
As always, I prefer taking different routes when I travel, so I rarely turn around and go back the same way. This time I drove across California by heading over the hills toward Bakersfield, and crossed Interstate 5 to continue toward Barstow. There wasn’t much traffic over the mountains, except for big trucks and a few other RVs. When I got tired, I stopped at Peggy Sue’s 50s diner and stayed overnight in their huge parking lot. It was surprisingly comfortable and relatively quiet. The next day was a short drive to Pahrump where I joined some WIN members at the Moose Lodge. WIN is “wandering individuals network”, another RV group for solos. I keep being surprised that I rather like Pahrump, but was disappointed with the Elks Lodge there and was happy that the downtown Moose Lodge where I am a member was welcoming and centrally located. Most places it’s the other way around, but the Elks do have a nice RV dump so I used it before I left town.
After a couple days of resting up, I drove an hour around to Hwy 95 to spend a long weekend with my son Grey at Indian Springs 30 miles north of Las Vegas. It is a very small town but has a good school. We had a nice visit, and I was impressed with his huge new shop. His daughter, my granddaughter Lorin, now lives in Las Vegas with her mother, but still commutes to attend high school. She also stayed with us the first night, and played in some softball games the next day as catcher. Her mom and grandma also came with Lorin’s boyfriend to see the game. I arrived on Thursday afternoon so that I could be there for my son’s long weekend. He works four-tens, so Friday is his Saturday, and he took Monday off to work on building dugouts for the girls’ baseball field. We took some drives in the old jeep he’s been rebuilding — I love it! He had many friends bring their vehicles for him to work on over the weekend, and they were happily talking cars, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes every day. I think his life suits him and he’ll probably stay there and hopefully keep healthy for a very long time, especially with the new shop building to keep him busy. (Maybe drinking less beer and giving up smoking… I can’t stop being a Mom!)
Heading down to Arizona again, I wanted to see some new country, so decided to take the road through Lake Havasu down to Gila Bend. What a disappointment that was! The last time I was at Bullhead City, it was a small place across the Colorado River from Laughlin, and although the river and casinos look the same, the Arizona side is completely urbanized. In fact there is no break in city driving all the way, with stop lights and shopping centers and constant traffic. I will never willingly drive it again. I stopped at the BLM offices and got information about places to boondock past the lake. At Mile 174 I turned off the highway to park in a desert area with some other RVs who were obviously staying there a while. Since I knew I would be leaving I didn’t even unhitch the car. Unfortunately as I climbed out of the RV without opening the step, I badly twisted my left knee and smashed my poor left big toe, and the resulting pain and damage would haunt me for a long time to come. Thankfully I had an automatic transmission so could only use the driving leg, since I could barely walk.
Here is the view from the free BLM site near Lake Havasu –
It almost felt like home to pull in to the Casa Grande SKP park and be greeted by my old friends Toni and Charlie. They are the dearest people and I love them! We enjoyed meals together, visiting and sharing travel tales, with long talks about books and life. Toni loves the ebooks I put on her little nook reader, and Charlie says I “saved his marriage” by giving her something to read each night. Toni and I have a sort of book group consisting of just us two, sharing our ideas about the books we read. He’s in his 90s and she’s in her 80s, but they still travel in their motor home and love to see new places. They’ve lived all over the world, always daring to have new adventures and collect memories. Both are as sharp as tacks, smart and funny and wise. Their budget is very tight, since they spent nearly eveything they had educating and helping their grown children. I always want to share time with them whenever possible.
While I was there, one evening the glass cover on my oven door shattered into a thousand pieces! I was shocked, but soon learned that the oven still works just fine. A replacement oven costs $1000, so this will still do for a while.
I loved the desert flowers that were blooming all around, and enjoyed slowly limping around the to get pictures of them.
I spent a week dry camping as the daily temperatures continued to climb, trying to rest and let my knee heal. Finally the last night I moved to a site with electricity so I could have air conditioning, vacuum some of the dog hair from the carpets, and flush out the holding tanks in preparation for my return to Alaska. When I left the forecast was for a week of mid-90 degree sunny days. The last day I moved to my storage yard where I could get a little sleep before my airport shuttle arrived at 2 a.m. All my fretting about the awful travel schedule was for nothing because my driver was prompt and helpful and everything went fine. This time the van driver was British Mike, who provides rides all around southern Arizona with his nice minivan and prompt, courteous 24-hour service. phone 602-760-6999. Highly recommended.
Just as the taxi brought me to my house in Soldotna, my friend-housesitter-snowplower-helper Guy drove up! He was going to replace some batteries in smoke and CO detector alarms that had been chirping in my house. It was great to see him, and to know my house is still fine. I had been disappointed flying in to the Anchorage airport to see lots of frozen ground and some snow piles around the runway. So I wasn’t surprised that my lake was still frozen and I had snow around the edges of my lawn. I was very surprised when it started snowing a few days later, though. Breakup is always unpredictable in Alaska, but April is guaranteed to be mostly nasty and I always wonder why I am here to see it. So much for spring flowers or nice sunny weather. There’s really no spring, it just turns green almost overnight in May! After being home for three weeks, I experienced only two days with sunshine. Mostly I was delighted that my Subaru started right up and so did my Dodge 4WD pickup. I’ve taken my old friend Irene around to run errands and go to lunch at the local senior centers and other places. My left knee still hurts, and the right one often does too. It couldn’t be old age! I’m not even 70 years old yet, although some days it sure feels like it. Mostly I seem to be about mid-40s, so am surprised when I look in the mirror and see my grandmother Elsie.
I have renewed the MLS listing for the house, plugged the refrigerator back in and bought groceries, fought with the internet company, and am trying to take on the huge task of transcribing decades worth of old journals. So many people have asked for stories of homesteading days, raising kids in the “woods” off the grid, sailing the blue seas, and sharing what I’ve learned from those varied stages of my life that I think I should try to “find my old self” somewhere in there and see if I can do some writing to pull it all together. I was shocked to see that I had packed up so much stuff that I have to search to find things to cook with or clothes to wear. The house is very quiet and almost empty, the only “project” equipment I have left are my sewing machine and laptop computer. Fortunately I still have a desk and a chair so I can work. Heaven knows, the weather isn’t conducive to long walks, and besides my knees hurt, both of them!
I’m grateful that my grown children are busy and all the grandkids seem to be healthy, and although their lives are very complicated, they sure don’t need me to do anything for them. I’m glad my son Peter has been calling often from Munich, and I can talk with my German grandchildren to feel like I have family. But the empty house almost echoes and I feel like my mind is already far away. .
Here we go! April in Alaska –
I had not been to Bahia de Los Angeles since 1993 when I sailed there, and I knew it was a lovely scenic bay where I’d like to return someday. I didn’t bring much money with me, and there is no bank or ATM in town, and no use of credit cards, so everything is strictly cash. I didn’t need to buy anything, but I had to use all my money to pay for gas where even the gas station periodically ran out of fuel. The electricity that they just got in town last year often went out too and there are only a few satellite phones. Actually I had thought I would love the town more, from what I saw of it years ago. I could drive a few miles to a restaurant to get WIFI by satellite, when it worked, but it was a hassle.
I don’t generally like being in an RV park, but when I arrived there weren’t too many campers on the beachfront sites and it seemed pretty quiet. The next day a caravan of RVs arrived with kayaks and bicycles, the “Vagabundos”, who already knew several of the long-term residents, so it got much busier. I dislike being in RV parks at the best of times, and I wasn’t interested in being too sociable.
Since the parking area on the beach seemed to be getting too crowded for me, and with the lack of cellphone or internet access, I decided to leave on the third morning and headed north toward San Quintin and the Pacific Ocean. I had been asking campers for tips on a place to spend the night, but all the information was about RV parks in the desert. I’m learning to trust my own intuition and not pay much attention to the experiences of others. I drove through Rosarita, and kept going until I could see the ocean again. I started looking for any likely place to camp, and when I saw a nice-looking development on the beach, I just turned in and drove down the long palm tree-lined road. I found that the lots marked out were all for sale, but the agent at the gate said I was welcome to camp right on the beach at the end of the lots. It was wonderful to hear the crashing waves and be surrounded by plenty of open walking areas. I had great internet and used up the last of my data from Telcel, so we moved out the next morning and headed to Tecate to cross the border.
It was strangely familiar to maneuver through Ensenada, through those narrow streets along the waterfront where I drove a couple years ago with my friend Gloria, by those big head statues near the fish market, with another Carnival cruise ship in the harbor. I remembered the roads to get out of the city, but this time as I went up the hill I immediately turned right to take the road to Tecate. Along that road are dozens of wineries, it’s like Napa Valley and there were many caravans of cars along the road, probably Californians taking winery tours. Since it’s only a couple of hours south, it’s undoubtedly a nice day trip. By then I was tired after driving several hours, and didn’t even stop to take pictures. It was a steep mountain drive from that area north to the border.
As usual lots of road construction was underway in the city, so it was confusing to find the approach to the border crossing which meant several turnarounds on narrow streets but finally I got into the slow lane. Whichever lane I choose, it’s always the slow lane. The border inspector took my eggs and apples, but I figure they’ll always take something. I learned that even cooking eggs no longer makes them allowable to bring into the U.S. But he was really sweet and drew me a map of how to get to the highway north toward instead of the usual road to San Diego. Since it was getting dark and I was low on gas I tried stopping at a state park along the way, but couldn’t see paying nearly $30 just to sleep for the night. I pushed on to the main highway rest stop and then had a nice evening with just one other big semi spending the night.
The next morning I drove into the mountains up to Julian where I bought one of their famous apple pies. I had heard a lot about camping in the Anza-Borrego Desert Park area and I didn’t know whether to go there or return to the Jojoba Escapee park outside Temecula, but when I passed a second turnoff to Borrego Springs, I took it. This was another steep mountain drive and I again questioned my sanity to take these difficult roads. I stopped at the visitor’s center for a map and advice, which both turned out to be terrible. After getting some gas, eggs and a few groceries, I spent more than an hour and $50 worth of fuel wandering around trying to follow the ranger’s directions and the map, with no street names, no distance markers, and even fewer signs than in Mexico. After miles of mountain roads and many wrong turns, swearing and frustrated, I finally found the Blair Valley free camping area. By then I was exhausted and was glad to stop.
Thankfully I had used the last of my Mexican internet to turn my Verizon Mifi back on to work in the USA, because surprisingly in this rather remote place, there is cellphone service and decent internet. It was cloudy, windy and cold, and during the night it started raining, but the forecast predicted improved conditions and then a few days of sunshine, so I decided to stay for a while and recuperate. From where I parked I could see one other camper and in the distance one more, so I wasn’t totally alone. I was stiff and sore, probably from three days of solid driving, and needed to take a break. All around us there were lots of hiking trails to wander.
A couple days later it was good to turn in to the SKP park and to see some old friends. Although the weather was nice when we arrived, the forecast for the weekend looked dismal. I was low on propane, but deliveries would be made Tuesday morning so I hoped I could make it until then. It’s nice not to worry about electricity since my solar panels are wonderful and charge to 100% most days, even when it’s cloudy. Besides, I had finally “exercised” my generator so figured I could use it if necessary. Over the next days I enjoyed a couple social events and loved taking a free drawing class, but when the rains started and nights were chilly, I began to wonder if my propane would finally run out for the first time ever. I considered driving all the way to Temecula to get propane but decided not to make the 30 mile round trip, just be conservative and try to get by. I put on warm clothes instead of starting the furnace for a few minutes in the mornings, avoided cooking anything but morning coffee, and watched the refrigerator like a hawk to be sure it was still working on gas. I carry a portable butane stove so can always cook with that, was mostly worrying about the refrigerator-freezer with its full load of food.
Finally I decided to see if my generator would run my electric heaters to take the chill off. I had never tried it, although I long ago stored new heaters in the rig. The generator started right up, the refrigerator switched to electric, and when I plugged in a heater it worked just fine. Yes! Then I plugged in the other one and turned it on — the generator did keep running but the outlets quit working and the refrigerator went back to gas! It took some long cold minutes of frantically checking the breakers and switching things on and off before I figured out how to get everything working again. Why do I have to learn everything the hard way, with cold fingers and with pouring rain outdoors? I knew I could find someone to help, but it was very satisfying to manage everything by myself. Now, before I leave on Wednesday, I need to do laundry, air up low tires, put distilled water in the coach batteries, check oil and transmission fluid in the engines, and arrange an overnight stay, probably at an Elks Lodge along the way. I’m really looking forward to the get-together with other Lazy Daze owners at Morro Bay. That’s another place I haven’t visited since sailing in to the bay more than 20 years ago (in dense fog and zero visibility, my first great navigation success with the newly invented portable GPS).
Meanwhile only the refrigerator still uses a small trickle of propane. I could move to a site with electric for the heaters, but I would actually like to find out when the propane really runs out. I have always wanted to really run each car out of gas at least once, so I know how to stretch the gauge reading. Well, maybe I’ll put on some gloves and a warm coat and read my book for a while.
Well, I never actually ran out of propane, since I saw the delivery truck and managed to get him to fill my tank the afternoon before the scheduled delivery day. Good thing too, because it was just above 40 degrees the next morning and I could finally turn on my furnace to warm up my “home”.
There was an evening gathering of other Lazy Daze owners at the Jojoba park ranch house. There were about 25 people and we had lots of wonderful food to share, and tales to tell about our adventures with our beloved motor homes. They say that Laze Daze has a cult following, and there is some truth to that because we know we have the best built and most durable motor homes on the market. There are many owners at this SKP park, although for some the LDs are their small “travel” rigs, and are often kept in the storage yard while the residents live in bigger 5th wheels that stay parked on their lots. I’m pretty sure that I’ll someday join them and become a member here. It’s always surprising the variety of careers these people in the RVing life have had, most often professionals who downsized from big houses and busy lives to this blessed retirement. They love this park so much that it’s infectious, everyone volunteering to make this community even better, and they really enjoy and appreciate each other. The park is beautiful, the climate is lovely, and it’s only a short drive to the nice city of Temecula. From here, I can drive to visit family and friends, and it’s just a day’s drive down to Mexico. Of course, I’ll always be an Alaskan and will be there often, but I’ll probably never spend another l-o-n-g winter. As long as I am healthy and able, I want to enjoy being outdoors and walking as much as possible.