We left Colorado two weeks ago today. We had blue sky weather the whole time. We're now socked in with heavy rain and gusts of wind are rocking us as we sit still parked from last night. Wet weather is predicted for a week or longer all the way up the coast of Oregon. We're less than an hour from the Oregon border on the California side.
My mother recalls motels being called Tourist Cabins when she was young. This would have been in the late 30's or maybe 1940. She said the traveler's vehicle could be parked under what we think of as a carport right next to the cabin. She told of a time her family took a vacation from West Virginia to Florida where they rented a house on the beach. Along the way, they stayed in Tourist Cabins.
There was a music box left at their rental house that played Brahms Lullaby and the owner's of the house let my grandmother take it with her. A year or so later, when my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, my mother recalls the joy her mother got from that box and the memories it elicited from their trip. She died almost within a year of her diagnosis.
We camped for three nights at a gorgeous boondocking location high above the sea north of Fort Bragg. As we left yesterday morning, there were eagles, pelicans and cormorants on the rocks below. It was the last pull off right before the road turned away from the rugged shore and began winding through the thick forest. It was over twenty miles of hairpin turns with top speeds of 20 mph posted throughout.
After the "road of many turns" ended, PCH 1 met Highway 101. I pulled into the tiny town of Leggett at this merging point and bought a few high priced groceries at a tiny market. Leggett is the town known for the drive through tree. We were down to the last of our food and I wanted to be sure we had something in case I found a stellar place to spend the night before shopping at a proper grocery store. We also needed ice for our non working fridge. I splurged and bought a can opener too. I'd torn open a can of beans with an army knife a few days back, but didn't want that experience again.
The weather was starting to change yesterday with signs of rolling fog near the water. I walked on some of the most incredible sections of beach I've ever been on, but dogs weren't allowed. Signs prohibiting camping, fires, RV's and dogs were often posted. It was frustrating to know we have rolled back environmental standards across this country for corporations, but the control by State lands are so strict that a person can barely access Mother Nature. Some parks prohibit taking photographs without paying fees if you're a professional. I don't get that.
When we turned off highway 101 to a State Park ocean viewing area, I didn't see the No RV sign until it was too late. The road was too small to turn around on or to back up. I had to go down the short stretch of road to the beach parking area just so I could turn around. I chose to get out and breathe the salt air and take some photos (plus a short video) of the ocean since I was there. It was truly spectacular. Not one human was walking along the beach. I could have spent hours there, but for the restrictions.
I was able to drive back out the single lane road without another vehicle needing to pass. Whew. It was well worth the mistake though. That stretch of beach will long be etched in my memory.
I saw road signs that told of a radio station to tune into for elk information. As I was pondering what that meant, I saw elk crossing signs followed not long after by signs for elk viewing. I followed the arrows to a meadow filled with elk. What an unexpected treat.
I had an ocean view last night and could see the little town below, but this is what I see now.
After two weeks of finger combing our hair and only sink bathing because our hot water shower faucet doesn't work, we'll be staying in a cheap, small motel on the shore in this small town near Oregon for a couple of days. Tomorrow's wind is to be more fierce than today. I'll get clothes and blankets washed while we're there since self serve laundry is also available.
Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway, aka Highway 1
On day 9, we stayed the night along the Pacific Coast Highway on a wide pull out where there was no cell signal, which also meant no internet. We were the only ones parked there. Pull outs like this one are rare because they allow overnight parking. However, we didn't have phone service or internet from early evening until late morning the next day. From where we "camped" I could see the ocean and watched the sunset and sunrise out my back window.
The beautiful views are the pay off for the many struggles and snafus. One thing I am dealing with is finding out that my beloved camera, that has been at the repair shop for over 12 weeks, is now going to cost $2,275 to repair. The estimate that already blew me away was $700 and that was over a month ago. It was twice what I was expecting, but I accepted it and hoped to receive my camera back any day now. This news a few days ago that it also needed a new sensor bringing the total due almost another $1600 on top of the seven hundred, was quite a blow. I'm having to forgo getting my camera fixed. I'm using a +14 year old second hand camera that is getting me by, but I was so looking forward to the clarity of my good camera that was only 4 years old. C'est la vie. What else is there to do? It will be what it will be.
But another blow was a stupid accident. I hooked my camera's long strap on the back of the couch while walking to my bed and the camera flung out of my hands and crashed to the floor. I haven't tried to use it yet. That happened after dark last night.
Below are views we woke up to and views along the coastal highway. Nature is keeping me going.
The following morning, I strolled down a dirt path through dry, long grass. I was frustrated by posted signs with an "x" through a drawing of a dog. The path wound around to a high cliff area overlooking the ocean. It was spectacular. No one was around. It was probably empty because there was no cell signal and people don't like being that cut off. My first sight was a seal! After spotting him on a rock, I watched the dot of him swimming around.
When we got back into cell range, hours into the next day, I had an urgent message to call my daughter. It's the sort of thing that brings dread and draws the blood in ways that leave the body woozy. She'd sent a text telling me not to worry, that everyone was fine, but there was an issue to discuss. I missed that text. The urgency is all I saw. When we made phone contact, I was immeasurably relieved that loved ones were fine. However, my car has been stolen. Reception was spotty and the call dropped out before we honed in a plan. I pulled over when the signal came back and phoned the police in Colorado. The call dropped out before making the official report. I was waiting for a call back between cell coverage zones along the gorgeous coastal highway. There was nothing I could do but simply wait, so I didn't let it spoil appreciating the views. I've been through a house fire, house burglaries, foreclosure, cancer and much worse. A stolen car is awful, and a financial blow, because insurance won't cover what it's worth, but things could be worse.
As I was just pulling up to drain the black and gray tanks for my first time, the phone rang. We were at a State Park along the coastal highway, which we'll be on through Washington state. That day, the park was allowing people to enter for free daytime use. The sewer dump and fresh water fill up was $10. Seemed very reasonable. When I got the propane tank filled in a tiny town just before this, I was told about the State Parks having facilities to drain our tanks. That was news -- and good news -- to me. We had been looking for a place with no luck.
There I was hooking up hoses and trying to figure out how things worked at this dumping spot while simultaneously talking to the police to officially file my stolen car report. One hand on the phone and the other working the hose and credit card thing, while reading directions and answering questions on the phone.
When you Google California's Pacific Coast Highway you'll find this statement, "Even in great weather highway 1 is one of the most dangerous highways." It is a small highway with many hairpins and tight turns and often no shoulder and very narrow. I've been on it once before and that was forty some years ago. It has some of the most gorgeous ocean views in the world. Well worth the attention it takes to drive safely. It runs the length of the entire California coast in to the Redwood forest and Oregon border.
The lone elk among cattle high above the ocean off of Highway 1.
We're going to stay a second night at our beach area off the coastal highway. One RV is camped long term and only one or two were overnight in addition to us. We drove by a State Park yesterday where they have been booked months in advance. Ugh. They were packed in like sardines.
I used my cell booster rod that attaches to the outside of the motor home and it brought the cell signal from one bar to almost full bars. It's my first time using it and I am 5 star happy with it.
My phone can be tethered to my computer so I can access the internet. I'm working on one private investigation case at the moment.
I can hear the waves crashing in the background. Boondocking (free camping) has a lot of pluses over the negatives. Campgrounds charge for dry camping spots (not hooking into utilities/services) an average of $30 to $40 a night. Some places, with views like we have, can cost over a $100 a night to park overnight.
Our views at our free camping spot yesterday and today.
Little glitches include the hot water doesn't turn on in the shower, our fridge doesn't work so we're using ice, and the microwave just burned a filter thing on the inside (started on fire) when we tried cooking some popcorn. Shaking my head, but breathing.
On my next post, I'll catch you up on the RV repair fiasco going on. It's sort of a big deal.
Window view out the back at our overnight parking spot along the coast November 9th.
Heading into Sausalito, California.
Heading north from Sausalito toward Napa, CA
After getting a few groceries at a small neighborhood market in Sausalito and more items in a town called Strawberry, I headed for Tiburon Ridge Open Space Preserve, but not before my driver side mirror clipped the mirror of a parked van. The parking lot was small, crowded and designed only for cars. Both of our mirrors did what they're supposed to do, which was collapse a little. The driver of the van wasn't there when it happened. When he returned, I went over to talk to him. He saw no damage and neither did I. He smiled and thanked me for telling him and we both continued on our way.
The Preserve I was searching for didn't work out. Getting there was once again through small, winding roads full of backed up traffic due to construction. When the phone ap said, "You've arrived," there was no where to turn and it did not look like we arrived where we wanted to be. The best thing was seeing three wild turkeys cross the road. I stopped traffic to photograph with my cell phone and no one got upset.
I asked Google Maps to guide me to a rest area and I was taken to a large parking lot at a Target store where RVs could park. Sometimes listening to directions without knowing at all where we are or where we're landing is unnerving especially when the voice says 'you've arrived' only to renege and keep giving directions. That's happened more than a handful of times already. There will be last minute right or left or u-turn instructions that have me looping around before landing me where I want to go. You don't give last minute directions to a motor home driver!
One time in Seattle, the Google Maps wound us all over a hillside overlooking the water and told me "we'd arrived" when we were at a park bench high on a hill. What we wanted was the ferry boat to Bainbridge Island where we were headed for my mother's hand surgery for skin cancer.
The views from Target were outstanding with walking paths along the water. We stayed until dark.
After leaving our lovely day spot, I found overnight parking at a hotel parking lot. It's a bit like a winning lottery ticket to find a place that works out. We had no neighbors and it was quiet - two huge pluses when boondocking - until the sound of early morning garbage pick up.
After 7 days and 7 nights of driving and moving from spot to spot each day, we spent the entire next day and night at that location. It was a windy morning (the news had wind warnings for high profile vehicles like ours) with the threat of rain, but by early afternoon, the skies had cleared. The feel of cool wind blowing through our open windows felt good.
We visited my mother's first cousin and his wife in Napa, California. They moved to California from West Virginia in the 1960's. They are mask wearing anti-Trumpers like us. We sat outside in their back yard very mindful of social distancing. We left with homemade apricot and strawberry jam that they made, and fresh cut roses from Richard's garden.
In the span of sixty years California's population more than doubled from 15.87 million 39.78 million.
I remember meeting Uncle Stanton, (dad to the cousin pictured here) when I was a very young girl. He told a story that stuck with me about losing his son, Robert. His son promised his dad as he left to fight in WWII that he'd be home. My mother and I don't recall how he died, but it was some sort of military training accident in the states. On the night his body was shipped home, my uncle heard/saw his son at his bedroom window telling him he was home.
I tried to book a cut-n-wash for my mom at a nearby hair salon, but was told they aren't allowed to wash hair -- a COVID restriction. They also aren't allowed to blow dry or style. My mom just air dried hers after the cut. Not sure what the regulations are, but pandemics demand we be flexible, adaptable and learn to go with the flow. I get it, but it sure takes a bite out of fun and easy.
My mom came out of the salon telling me all about the young woman -- twenty something -- who cut her hair. Her background was German and her grandfather fought for the Germans in WWI, and her father, who came to America when he was two, grew up to fight for the U.S. in WWII. Much of her family back in Germany died in a concentration camp. Mom ran out of time finding out more details. She would loved to have talked with her longer. The young women said she didn't understand what was going on in our country under Trump and that she was raised to treat people the way you wanted to be treated. She was disgusted with Trump and his supporters. Biden hadn't officially won yet, but the counting was under way. They both discussed their hopes that Trump would be voted out of office.
My mother turned 96 in August. Two months before her birthday she broke her hip and had surgery. My angel of a daughter has lovingly nursed her back to health. I cannot begin to describe how much compassion and love she shows every single day as a caretaker with oodles of patience. Now it's time I gave her a break and gave my mother an adventure!
My daughter helped with getting my mother into the motorhome last Friday. I don't know what I'd do without her. She got a month's worth of her meds organized in a dispenser for me. We have the walker, the portapotty (for night), the shower chair, extra boxes of tissues, diapers, tp, and various wipes. We each have a small closet with a few clothes. We have a couple pots/pans and some plastic bowls. I already broke one of the only two coffee cups we had. I'll be looking for a thrift shop soon.
My daughter was multitasking as she walked beside my mother, because just as she was saying goodbye to us, her phone rang and it was the delivery of her new refrigerator. She had the delivery guys wait at her house while she finished "spot" walking my mother to the motorhome. (That's what the black belt around her waist is.)
That same week, my son and a co-worker, got all six of my solar panels attached to the top of the motorhome, and my son wired in the system. I'm so grateful my son is ever ready and lovingly helps me with these big projects.
I finished taping down the last of the cords to the solar panels. Pictured is the last piece of special bond tape to get sealed. My system has 3 deep cell batteries. I rarely need to use the generator.
Most of the first week was spent traveling through half of western Colorado, all of Utah and through Nevada into California where we reached the ocean yesterday. A phone ap led me to what was to be an overnight parking spot on the beach yesterday, but we were quickly ushered away by the San Francisco Zoo who own the land. It was not posted. Luckily, the parking patrol person gave us a suggestion for a good day parking spot nearby. It worked well. We then found an overnight spot at a rest area overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and bay. It had spectacular views. What a great find that was!
Other "free" parking spots included truck stops in small towns where no one else was parked near us and via a phone ap that led us to a residential street off of a street called 37 & 3/10 road. One night we had to pay a $15 fee to park at a very busy truck stop. Campgrounds are booked, so they aren't an option. In California, campgrounds are booked for months in advance or they're closed due to COVID.
The travels through Nevada and Utah looked a lot like this for hours on end. We took Highway 50 known as the Loneliest Highway in America. It was great. I would take it again in a heartbeat. It had very little traffic and it was easy to pull off and on the highway on a whim. I highly recommend this route versus the Interstate.
In a little, off beat area called Thompson Springs, in Utah, I stopped to see my first petroglyphs. The "art" is found at Sego Canyon down a dirt road about 3 miles past the boarded up town. Sego was once a thriving coal mining camp. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of graffiti and damage to the art. I found the experience disappointing.
The front seat the motorhome doesn't rotate and it's hard for my mother to get comfortably in and out of the seat, but she loves the seat behind it and we found a footstool where she can comfortably keep up her feet.
Coop is my reluctant co-captain. It's taking time for him to adjust to all the new sounds that motorhomes make. Sometimes I think earplugs would do us both some good. My mother listens to her books on audio between our chats.
Much of small town America has a lot of old buildings either shut down or shuttered. The roads are in great need of repair across this country.
I was hoping to see some caves in the Great River Basin in Nevada, but the day we arrived the caves were closed due to COVID with no schedule to reopen. I happened upon a sign that pointed to an archaeological site. Not much to see, but it sounded interesting.
"After the excavations, the site was backfilled (reburied with the dirt that was removed during excavation), a necessary step in protecting the cultural features that remain. As a result, the foundations of the village can no longer be seen on the surface. The walls visible today are modern walls, built in 2002. Artifacts found on the ground may be observed, but not removed, from the site."
Below is from the rest stop in Sausalito where we stayed the night of November 4th.
Morning view November 5th from the H Dana Bower Rest Area overlooking San Francisco.
More views from the rest stop in Sausalito. It feels wonderful to be near water again.
How I've missed it. And how I love the extra bit of humidity.
The first beach stop November 4, 2020.
As soon as we got to sea level, my mother's oxygen level sored into the 90's without needing supplemental oxygen. That was one of my number one goals!
The first week has been many things. Exhausting is number one. There is no auto pilot while driving a motorhome. It takes constant focus to keep it between the lines and navigate busy roads, roads undergoing construction, making tight turns, and switching lanes with big blind spots, and getting down narrow roads without scraping someone or knocking off my mirrors.
I already clipped the long bar of my awning on a light post at a grocery parking lot and broke it off the base by pulling out from a curb too quickly. I used the special bond tape (like duct tape to the 100th power) to reattach it, and fortunately it's holding.
I changed the route on my directions to what I thought was a more scenic route this morning after leaving the rest stop to get to a small grocery market in Sausalito. Big mistake. Turned out to be a very tiny road. There wasn't room for two normal size vehicles to pass each other, much less a motorhome. The road wound up and down through quiet neighborhoods with sharp turns and switchbacks.
Last night's drive through San Francisco to Sausalito took me through the most bizarre construction area with narrow lanes and abrupt closures. Hard to describe, but it was nightmarish. I kept missing my turns and needed to be rerouted.
Quite the steep learning curve going on here. More on that another time. And finding places to park for the day or night is a constant challenge. COVID has really complicated things. But I could be stuck in a house in the city with snow coming while doing and seeing very little. So there's that. I'll take these experiences even if they come with exhaustion. For now. More pics to come and more stuff to tell, but it'll keep for another post.
On my to do list: wash the back window.
Travels With Mom
I'm traveling in a 24' RV with my 96-year old mother who is six months into recovering from a broken hip. And, of course, Cooper is with us. He's my 9+ year old rescue dog. We're mostly boondocking across the west coast of the United States.