We spent our fourth day boondocking in the same spot. No need to move, no reason to leave. We had read that the township allowed 72 hours of parking in that area and we were going to take full advantage of it. We spent the first half hour driving through town looking for place to throw out our trash. Sounds stupid right? That's because it is stupid. You'd never even consider that type of problem unless you've LIVED on the road. I swung into a gas station to fill up Shirley and eyeballed the trash can. Nope, bag is too big to fit in that hole. So there I stand minding my own business when another car pulls up. This dude in dreadlocks gets out of his car, grabs a full size trash bag, and SHOVES it into the container while chuckling a little bit to himself. I can only imagine it was from the weed he just smoked since that's all I could smell. He leaves and I'm looking at that trash can a little bit different. Yeah... it happened. Then we left.
Time to kill the rest of the afternoon. Off to the beach. It was just another day of wasting time and enjoying the small things in life.
That was it. That was the whole day. Tomorrow we say goodbye to our home and search for a new one. This was a hard spot to leave.
I'm a jack of all trades and master of none. Let me run you through a quick gamma of what I've done for work between the ages of 19-31 (shit I'm getting old)
Shirley's air filter is supposed to be red. Look up... not red. It's packed full of sand and gravel dust becasue I beat the snot out of this thing. The cold air intake on the jeep is the only non-stock part on the old girl. The whole reason I put it there was so I could clean it and re-use it on our journey.
I spent the next two hours going over our battle weary jeep making sure it checked out ok. It got a full chassis and suspension grease job in the process. The ball joints are a little sloppy... but good enough. It's also been having a problem with 0 oil pressure at start up after it's hot. No oil means metal on metal. That's how stuff goes boom in an engine. Turns out the oil pressure sending unit just needed to be pulled off and cleaned out. All is well. Yay.
Next on the list is the RV horn. I went to push it yesterday and got nothing. Huh? I pulled out an electric meter and went to work. The fuses checked out good and I could hear the solenoid ticking for the power supply. I popped open the front cowl and checked the leads. Nice clean 12 volt power was there. I ohmed out the air solenoid and it had a high resistance number. Guess I'll pull that off. You don't have to be a mechanical engineer to see that a swollen and cracked plastic thing isn't good. We'll have to get one ordered and re-installed. In the meantime I finally wired in the power mirror controls (the one that broke 2 months ago in Montana) and put my tools away. Enough of fix it McGyver for the day. We need to take poochy out for a stroll.
We capped off the night with a movie. Prior to our departure I went a little nuts at best buy on black Friday and bought a bunch of stuff we didn't need. One of those things was a projector that hooks up to damn near any USB cable. We strolled down the rows of vans and started inviting the neighbors over for a movie. (Did I mention tons of people sleep in cars and vans when they travel?) I'm kicking myself now for not taking a picture of it. It's 55° and there is a slight breeze. Us and our new found van friends were dressed up in jackets, hats, scarves, and blankets. Everybody showed up with their beverage of choice and we leaned back to watch the 1987 hit " The Untouchables" on the side of the RV. Life could be worse.
The day started out normal enough. Katie went to scoop the kitty litter from the side bay of Roo and her little monster Tibbs snuck out. He of course then dashed through a fence just out of arms reach. I grabbed a little folding latter from the storage bay and set it down next to the fence so I could jump it. What's this? A folded up $5 bill? Sweet. First time on the trip I've gotten lucky at the casino. I snatched fuzzball from the field and off we went towards our next stop.
An hour into the trip and I'm starting to stress out. You see, there was a sign when we first turned onto highway that said "Trucks and trailers longer than 30ft from kingpin to rear axle not advised". For those of you who aren't truck drivers it means this; not motorhome friendly. I'm able to find a spot to pull over and chill out for a second. There I meet a donkey.
The steam donkey above was built in 1903 and used up until the 30's. It's basically a portable power station for pulling logs off the mountain. Fire up the boiler and attach a belt to the piston driven wheel for whatever you want it to run. Some poor bastard was in charge of keeping the boiler full of steam without letting it turn into a shrapnel bomb. Back into roo and another hour down the road and we hit the coast again. It finally has cooled off and we can start looking for a place to call home for the night.
The dense fog off the ocean is hiding the town from view. Among other things Fort Bragg is home to Glass Beach. After years of dumping trash into the ocean the ocean had enough. It took all those busted bottles and turned them into smooth sea glass. Decades of tumbling and turning results in these spectacular little pebbles that cover the shoreline.
White, green, and brown are the typical colors of old glass.
Glass Beach is part of a state park. With that comes rules. You are not supposed to remove any of the glass from the beach. No more glass = no more tourists. Unfortunately nobody was paying attention to the rules, and nobody was there to enforce it. We saw half a dozen people out picking glass and filling their pockets. On one point of the beach there were three adults filling plastic bags with whatever they could find. Glass Beach currently averages about 1,200 tourist a day. Do the math on people taking some home and this is will quickly change their sign to "_____ Beach".
Now it's time to look for home. Katie pops open google maps and starts scrolling up and down the highway looking for places to park. This is where technology really pays off. We can see a spot in satellite view, then go to street view to read the signs. That search yielded a gravel pull off 10 miles up the road that apparently allows us to park overnight.
Yeah, this will do just fine.
It has happened again. It's hot outside and we need to pick our next location. In the California valley the temps have been rising to over 90° during the day. This requires us to either pony up the dough for an RV park or run the generator to stay cool during the hottest part of the day. Sure we could tough it out, but us and our animals would be miserable in a 94° RV that lasts for 8 hours. So the decision was made to pack up and roll out. Back across the mountains in order to take advantage of that cool coastal air.
The hour drive south through the valley was laden with orchards of varying fruits. Here you can see almond trees gracing the curbside. They span as far as the eye can see. Turning west towards the mountains changed the scenery once more. Olives were being grown and harvested throughout the region.
Now it starts to get interesting. It's hot. The sun was blistering at 92° and it was time for Roo to tackle the mountains. We've learned from our mistake in North Dakota about pushing the old girl too hard in the heat. The temp gauge starts to climb as we hit the first few grades. Nope. Not this time. Shirley gets unhooked and we take off for the hills again minus a 4,000 lb anchor.
You''ll notice the gauges don't have numbers on them. That's by design as Freightliner doesn't want people to freak from big numbers. Basically it goes like this: Usually at just over 1/4, 1/2 is OK, 3/4 means pull over or you will be paying a $1500 repair bill for a cracked exhaust manifold. After 30 tense miles of climbs and descents I call it quits. The heat hasn't backed off and it's already 3 o'clock. There is still 80 miles to cover to get to the ocean. We pull off at a Casino and call it a day. This will be boondocking night #1.
An unknown wilderness. Jagged rocks prod up through the soil from the earths core with little regard to the humans who wish to traverse it. At 8,000 ft in elevation the Bumpass Hell trail is not something to be toyed with. Altitude sickness can set in for those not acclimated rendering victims fraught with headaches, nausea, and sleeplessness. This is the elevation when symptoms start to appear and things only get worse from there.
Bumpass Hell trail takes you merely 3/4 of a mile from the road to introduce you to the roiling sulfuric mud on the volcano's crust. The name of the trail; lent from the man who first traversed it with hopes of commercialization. He perilously walked over the weak surface in search of a site to mine when his leg fell through the crust. Below him was a boiling pit of mud infused with acidic sulfur gas at a staggering temperature of 230°. His leg was severely burned, and eaten partially away by the acid. He survived with the amputation of his leg.
Steam wafting from "Big Boiler" has been recorded at a world record of 322°.
Bubbling pools of mud remind visitors today that the earth remains a powerful force. An active volcano lies in this range.... waiting to open up once more.
A drop in elevation on the way out yields one more surprise being held by the sleeping beast. Cold Boiling Lake is merely another 3/4 of a mile from the road. Here the water is normal temperature. However the bubbles of sulfur permeating their way to the surface gives way to the illusion of a pot on the boil. What will be next? When will nature decide to restructure the surface of the earth once more?
A day of monotony. All we did was pick up home and move it down the road. We spent an hour packing up at Whiskeytown and dumped the tanks. We cruised down the road to Redding CA and stopped at best buy to look at some laptops. I'm currently writing this blog on an HP with windows 10 and absolutely hate it. It's such a pain in the ass to pull pictures from my phone and get them on here. Unbeknownst to me this only came with a trial version of word, so I don't even have a typing program. Not even a notepad. That translates to me only being able to update this when it's hooked up to WIFI and I upload to the server distributing the site. I found a kid at best buy and told him I just wanted something simple to blog with. The dingbat couldn't answer my simple questions, referring to his iphone and google to look them up as I was standing there. Thanks Jerome, I can do that myself. He did try to up-sell me to a $1,600 Macbook because of how awesome they are. Did you not listen to me? I just wanted something super simple that can upload pictures and type a blog. That's it. I'll research it myself.
We dropped another 60 miles south and ended up at the Red Bluff Recreation area. This state park allows dry camping for $16 a night. The only hitch is that you have to reserve it online, which incurs another $10 transaction fee. So instead of paying $42 bucks to sleep with no hookups in a park we opted for an RV park in town. $72 dollars later and we spent two days with full hookups. That allowed us to go see some volcanoes. Sweet. I'll add those next in day 89.
Roused from our slumber in the parking lot at Whiskeytown recreation area we packed up for the days adventure. Down the road lay Shasta dam. This is the second largest dam in the US. Now I know what you're thinking, Hoover is #1. Well that would make you stupid. I'm stupid... I thought so too. It turns out that dam size is figured out by concrete volume. Look at the picture above and wrap your little bird brain around this. The dam is 602 feet tall and is 3,460 feet long, with a maximum thickness of 543 feet; altogether the dam contains 6,270,000 cubic yards of concrete. Built bewtween 1937 and 1945 this bad boy had people working around the clock to lay concrete to build it. Luckily for us this place offers free tours. That's awesome... because we are cheap.
The tour was exactly what we had hoped. They took us inside the dam to display the giant hydro electric generators that were spinning with a harmonious noise. Apparently still pictures are fine... but recording videos is a no-no. If you listen close to the end of the movie you'll hear the lady ask me to turn it off.
I love this stuff. The engineering and hard work that went into making these dreams reality is riveting. There are two, yes two, 125 ton cranes built into the walls. These generators were meant to run forever and they put the parts in place to make sure that happened.
The concrete here is still curing. They project that it will be fully hardened by 2045. After that the lifespan clock starts to tick. With this amazing tour out of the way it was time for us to move on. Back towards Redding we went and there was one more stop before getting back to the RV. Sometimes you see stuff you don't expect while you drive. Like a truck packed full of wood with no straps.
So back to our trip. There is a cantilever sundial bridge leaning over the Sacramento river that begs to be seen.
The sundial bridge was cool. However the price tag was not. Wait for it... 23.5 million dollars. There's a lot more things the city could have done with that money. I'd suggest get all the homeless bums off the streets.
With the day wrapped up we finally headed home. It was late in the afternoon and we still needed to get Eli out for a stretch. We found a quick 5 mile trail and took the old boy for a walk.
The walk turned out to be more than I bargained for. Katie got it in her head that she should dig the seeds out of a pine cone and grow some trees. This is my life. This is what I deal with.
Day 86 was the type of thing that I have been looking forward to for a very long time. I had picked a point on our local map of Whiskeytown and convinced Katie it would be a good idea to drive there. Little did she know that meant driving the Jeep up to an elevation of 6,200 ft via a 4wd only access route. A twisted hard packed dirt road covered in either loose sand or stones. It's the type of road that you wouldn't want to traverse if you have never played around on some backroads. For those of you out there who ever slung their car sideways through the gravel 4 way stops, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. The pictures and videos don't do the hill justice. It was a legitimately steep climb that I would of have been nervous of doing in a full size truck.
The climb to the top yielded a fantastic view of the valley. California's most fertile land producing food for all of america lays between the mountain ranges.
The declining 6 miles back to gravel roads took an hour. Shirley clawed her way down in 4wd with the tranny set in first. The brakes still needed to be used quite a bit in order to prevent us from careening off the mountainside. Following the road trip we decided to cap it off with a kayak ride through around the shore line of the lake.
Not a bad way to wind up the anxiety of the afternoon. Water is a calming body that always relaxes down your soul when th need calls for it.
Let's go full fledged PG-13 today. I'll keep it short of R, but it's gonna be close. Today we rolled out of Bear River casino and headed east through the cavernous hills of Northern California. Up and down, up and down. That was the mantra of the day. Roo was working her ass off pulling all 15 tons up an 8% grade for 4 miles at a time. The little 5.9 cummins that could pulled us up in third gear. The tach stayed right at 2,500 rpm and we were rolling full boost at 40 mph. The hills were pushing us and our convoy to the max. Semi drivers were getting pissed at us holding up the line through 299 westbound. I gratuitously flipped them the bird as their horns blared during brief periods of passing lanes.
The miles clicked by until we came to a standstill. Traffic relented to show us a wildfire that had just ravished the area. Burnt cars and cabins abound revealed the devastating forces of nature that humans are constantly in battle with. Remember this my friends, nature is the all powerful force that controls all. Recent demonstrations of hurricanes and earthquakes have showed this relevant to other parts of the world. Take heed... we may be next.
After five hours of white knuckle driving we ended up at Whiskey Town Recreation area just outside of Redding CA. This giant park was gracious enough to let us park in the boat launch parking area for a mere $23 a night. What a steal. I love paying to park in a parking lot with no amenities. The upside however is a chance for us to bust out the kayaks and finally use them in the continental states once again. We haven't had them off Shirley since we came back from Alaska. In the meantime I secured a gold panning permit for $1 and headed into the hills in search of gold.
Nothing, nada, bupkiss, skunked, slyed, empty-handed, ok that's all I got. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime I'll remain happy I got to drive Shirley up and down the washboard gravel roads.
Here's a typical morning getting ready for the road. Where are we? Where do we want to go? What's the weather like when we get there? Today's decision was a big one. It was either follow the coast line all the way down to San Fransisco and miss the Lassen Volcanic National Park or head back east across the mountains. We opted for the latter. The next couple of weeks will be spent in the forests rather than on the coast. Before making that turn though we dropped south to Loleta, CA. Bear River casino gave us a free place to park. That meant Shirley could be unhooked and we dropped further south to tour the Avenue of the Giants.
The towering redwoods were 12ft across, 250ft high, and cresting 2,000 years old. It was an awe inspiring thing to see in person. Our drive down the avenue graced us with another surprise. Gravel sandbars off the highway open to vehicle use. A chance to drive in loose river gravel you say? Absolutely.
The video doesn't fully show the awesomeness of what is happening here. Our faithful TOAD (RV towed vehicle) is more than just a jeep to us. She's 19 years old and has 147k miles on the clock. We are 2,300 miles from home and at least 30 miles to the closest town. A breakdown here would be a nightmare. No friends, no tools, no tow strap. These are the things that run through my mind as it wades through 6 inches of loose gravel.
With the trip completed we end up back home for the night. What will we do tomorrow? Guess we'll see...
I'm just a guy, with a wife, a dog, and three cats. Watch us travel the country.
Months of travel
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