Archive for May, 2018

April 28-30   Driving and Oceano

We weren’t sure where we would spend the night but it was going to be a long drive regardless. It was pleasant though. We took I-15 for quite a way then regassed in Barstow and started the familiar leg on CA-58, through Blood Alley (a part of the highway that has a treacherous crossroads at Kramer Junction) and on  up to Tehachapi.  I was hoping to spend the night there because we never have never been to the town. (I visited Donna Vetromile there once in the 70’s.) But it was very windy and we would have had a cold, gusty evening. So we continued down to our go-to place in Bakersfield: the Desert Palms.

After that 250-mile drive, we drove another 150 miles on Sunday. CA-166 was astounding. We drove past more than 20 miles of what we guessed were orange trees. The “groves” also went miles to the north and south of the road. After that, miles of grape vines. We saw lots of ground prepared for planting as well. The amount of water needed for this is frightening to contemplate.

When we reached Carrizo Plains, a protected area, the terrain reverts to its natural state – mountains and grasses. Then, once past that, back to huge farms and finally to Oceano State Beach Campground. It’s very expensive ($42) per night but it does have water and electricity. There was construction going on so it was not the quiet, peaceful haven we had hoped for. But we did get a walk on the beach the next morning.

We tried a drive east to look for good stands of mustard, the only wildflower seen on most of the terrain. We saw many ranches and gated properties but little in the way of mustard.

Looking on the coast for a good coffee spot, we ended up driving on the beach for coffee. The wind was really strong and we saw about 8 windsurfers in the distance really scooting. Quite a few seagulls were huddled near us; it was too windy to fly.

May 1-2   Paso Robles

It was a short drive up to Paso Robles. Once again, we benefitted from the large parking area across from Tobin James Cellars. As wine club members, we can dry camp there, saving $50+ per night. So of course, we reciprocated by visiting the tasting room and buying 4 more bottles of their great wine. I want to say “Thank you!” to Mom, who ends up receiving our spring and fall shipments of Tobin wines because we always seem to be on the road at that time. Each shipment contains a gift of some kind and we have Tobin floor mats, a Tobin cheese boards, a Tobin clock, barbecue tools and more. It’s all been useful except a huge pepper grinder of the sort they use in restaurants.

There was time to visit one more winery and we headed for Graveyard Cellars at my insistance. They have a chocolate dessert wine that is mind blowing. They were closed and my mind wasn’t blown. We ended up at the Brochelle Tasting Room, recommended as having good Zins. We sat down on a comfy couch to taste and I found myself staring out at Paso Robles Ford, the place we had the RV towed to in 2016 when a tire almost fell off the rig. Not a happy memory. The wine was good but not mind bending. We purchased a couple of bottles and called it quits for the day.

I had written to friend Susan Miller to see if we could get together while we were in Paso. She and Fred tucked us into their busy schedule. We met for lunch at AJ’s Café (great omelet’s) and then and then went for a hike in the Three Bridges Oak Preserve in Atascadero. It is a wonderful trail, created and maintained by the Atascadero Land Preservation Society. The morning overcast had dissipated and it was a glorious afternoon. We saw more wildflowers there than we have anywhere else this trip and views just kept getting better as we went up 700 feet in elevation. The grasses were thick and green and dappled in sunlight. Susan and Fred spent quite a bit of time identifying birds and flowers, which left enough time for Dave and I to photograph to our hearts content. A great final hike with good company.

Thursday, we arose to a heavy fog but by the time we headed down to Joe’s Other Place in Templeton, it was already lightening up. We slurped up the coffee with hash browns and eggs.

After breakfast, we wandered our way back home, forcing the Garmin to take us on back roads and in one case, a road that disappeared, leaving us in someone’s front yard. But we always have fun doing this.

May 3-5    The last days on the road

We eventually returned to the LD and took off for Lake Nacimiento, a very large resort with lots of dry camping as well as hookups. We found a nice spot and were entertained by a Western Scrub Jay and a squirrel, both hoping we would throw them some food. We don’t do that.

We woke up to fog, but it broke up. After dumping, we started the 200 miles back to San Francisco. I was driving on a rural road leading back to CA-101 north, when a wild boar decided to run alongside the rig for a second and then ran under it Big mistake for the boar and I had killed one of God’s creatures. I felt bad but there was nothing we could do. Later, as we were slowly rounding the entrance onto 101, a bird thumped into the motorhome. Hopefully it didn’t get severely injured because we saw no sign of it.

The ride home was as easy as driving 200 miles can get. We reached home around 2 p.m., got a spot in front of the house and started to unload. We got most of the stuff out, called for a pizza and started reading the mail. Oh boy, I was up for jury duty in a week. What next?

Never a good thing, I had a notification from the DMV. Oh boy, my drivers license was going to expire on my birthday on Monday, 3 days away. To easily renew, the form told me, I could expedite the process by filling out the form and mailing it with $35. Of course, they would never receive it in 3 days. Then what? I’d be driving with an expired license.  I looked up the DMV info and found it was open on Saturday.

Saturday morning, I was out the door by 7:30 and made the short drive to the DMV. Funny, the gates to the parking lot were closed. I joined a line of about 20 people. Eight a.m. rolled around and the doors didn’t open. Then a woman walked by, talking on her phone, saying the door says the DMV was closed on Saturdays. I looked up the DMV website that confirmed it was closed. My mistake was looking at the first screen that comes up next to any business that I Google. It’s a Google screen and it was flat wrong. In the future, I will go to the actual business website.

Anyway, there’s a happy ending. I went online and managed to renew my license electronically. Better yet, we are going to see Rosanne Cash and Ry Cooder perform Johnny Cash songs tonight at the S.F. Jazz Center. Thank you, Mary and Rick, for getting us tickets. Tomorrow night, we celebrate Dave’s mom’s 91stbirthday. Now…..if I can just get off jury duty next week……..


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April 22-25    Lost!

I will update the blog on this section, including Sunset Crater, at some other time. Although I had been faithfully updating our old laptop often, it died on April 29 (RIP). Nothing Dave can do has brought it back to life. I had written my blog entry but hadn’t backed it up. So look at Dave’s blog for Sunset. (Most of our images are similar anyway.)

April 26-27   The Ivanpah Solar Project

We packed up and took off on a long, fairly pleasant drive from Flagstaff. As we drove west, hundreds of motorcycles were driving east. We later found out there is an annual Laughlin River Run for motorcycles. I certainly would not want to be in Laughlin while that was going on.

We wanted to camp near the Ivanpah Solar Array, the largest project of its kind in the world. Instead of lots of solar panels picking up sunlight and transmitting power individually, this project has lots of solar panels reflecting light to a central tower. Dave wanted to look at it for his Into the Anthropocene Project. I didn’t think much about it until we came over the hill from Searchlight, Nevada and saw three huge towers surrounded by a sea of solar panels. It reminded me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Entranced, we pulled into Nipton, California, ostensibly a town but really a collection of ragtag buildings and what looked like a rundown RV park. Nosing around, we found the office in the Trading Post, a funky wooden building full of munchies and marijuana paraphernalia. The overnight rentals were in a nicer space than the long term and we looked out on a plethora of tepees for rent. Peeking into one revealed a cot and a rough table on a dirt floor. Not for me.

After hooking up the blessed air conditioning, we waited a bit until 2:30 and then headed towards the installation, about 12 miles away. Dave drove and I stared; it was fascinating. Each tower looked like the tower in Lord of the Rings surrounded by thousands of minions facing it. Only it was blindingly white, casting a penumbra against the dark mountains behind. There was a road that went right into the solar array. And then, we ran into the 8-foot chain-link fence. Not literally, but photographically. We shot through the fence and climbed balustrades and the Rav to get above the fence. No good solutions.

The light was getting lower so we went to a hill a mile or so away and watched the towers as the sun set. I was curious to see how they would change as the light went off the solar panels reflecting to them. They went dark slowly, partially. No drama there. The mirrors still reflected bright white after the sun had set. It was a great visual experience.

We got back to camp late and decided to have dinner in the cafe. As the only customers at 7:30, the staff consisted of a waitress and a cook. The young waitress asked what we would like to drink. “What kinds of beer do you have?” She thought a moment. “I don’t know. I’ll have to check.”  “Do you have any wine?” I asked. “I’ll have to check.” Hmmm. Not been waitressing long, I thought. She returned and said we could buy drinks at the Trading Post and bring them back.

Then she asked us what we wanted for dinner. “Fish and Chips” I said, disregarding the likelihood of fresh fish in the Mojave Desert. “We’re out of that.” “Okay, a hamburger.” Dave ordered the High Desert Hamburger. When our dishes arrived, my hamburger was a good 6 inches high. I had to deconstruct it and use a knife and fork. Dave’s burger and accompaniments were wrapped envelope-style in a tortilla. Strange, but both tasted good. Later, we heard someone else asking for the soup. “We’re out of that” she said.

The next morning we rose at 5 am to catch sunrise on the array.

After that, we drove closer.

Dave wanted to drive around the entire project. I think we drove about 3 miles north before turning west where the road petered out. But Dave found the ideal hill from which to photograph. My hip was hurting pretty bad so I wasn’t willing to climb all the way up there. I stuck to the spaces in the fence.

I managed a lower hill that provided me with some good shots.

After finishing with the 3 towers, we decided to go into Primm, Nevada for breakfast. Primm is a town that consists of 3 casinos with adjoining hotels, a retail outlet, and very little else. Since I-15 runs between the casinos, there is a monorail that runs over the Interstate but it wasn’t open. We found a Denny’s inside one of the casinos and had a good breakfast, trying not to look at Trump news on the large-screen TV.

Coming out of the casino that was encircled by a yellow roller coaster, I marveled at the ugly, huge barn-like hotel looming above the parking lot. The entire effect was kind of horrifying.

We returned to Nipton and had a quiet day. We sat outside in the gathering dusk, watching all the activity going on in the compound. There was some type of yoga activity going on and we saw a line of people heading for a tepee. Some type of construction going on generated noise until late that night. Although very funky, I liked the vibe of the place.

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