Hailey (the cat)and I head south in the winter to explore the back roads, deserts, coasts, forests, beaches, of the southern US! I 'graduated' from full time work, and have been enjoying the complete freedom ever since. I expect to be in southern climes during the winter times and all over Alberta and Canada during the summer. Come along for the ride. (Photo is of former co-pilot Harley).
Monday, November 19, 2018
Death Valley and the Jedi Transition
Staying in the hot water till the sun came up was the key. Once the sun appeared, the temperatures warmed up very quickly, and a towel was not even needed to dry off! That strategy was working well till the truck refused to start a couple mornings I was actually surprised that the batteries had lasted as long as they did, having killed them completely a couple of times over the past couple of years. In one case, an outside light on the camper had come on while parked at a fire camp while I was working at a remote fire lookout for 2-3 weeks. So with batteries in mind, I left Hailey to guard the rig, and I backtracked northward up 395 to Gardnerville and Carson City, Nv. Got the new batteries installed, then decided the time was right for a radiator flush, after nearly 400,000km. I’d noticed that the truck had begun to run a bit warm on any sustained climb while towing the 5th wheel – and it never used to. Luckily the guy at Jiffy Lube suggested getting the work done at a radiator shop – and it turns out that was good advice as a simple radiator flush would have done nothing for the problem. At Douglas radiator, the entire radiator and inter-cooler were removed from the truck. Then the cause of the problem became very evident. Although it was not visible from either the front of the rear of the rad, it was jam packed full of desert dust, bugs, feathers, moose parts, and I think there was even an elephant tusk in there. The guys at the shop had to steam clean the rad from the front and the back before finally getting it clean and shiny and like new again! Bring on the hills again.
Seems like Hailey had some company one night, as captured on my trail camera.
I think we had been at Bridgeport for about a week and it was getting close to the time to head out. The final morning it was more than a little chilly as I headed to the pools. My truck thermometer read –14C (7F), but the weather app said it was –17C (1.4F), and the water ceased to come from the taps! Definitely time to head for some lower elevations!
Around noon we headed south, briefly stopping in Bishop to fill a propane bottle, then carrying on down to Lone Pine, and the Alabama Hills! My spot from last spring was available, but what’s this? Some sort of sign at the entrance road! It had the familiar circle with a line through it for cars, trailers, etc. Hmmpfh! Luckily, I got out and took a closer look at this new sign. Aha! It only said ‘not recommended’ for the above types of vehicles. It makes sense because just past my site in both directions there were nasty little dips through washes, only suitable for jeeps or horses! But since I was there in the spring, I knew there was enough room for me (to turn around), but not enough space to allow for noisy or unwelcome neighbours!
Could have used the extra space, as a friend from back home showed up with his 5th wheel after attending a trade show in Vegas. Found him a spot a half mile away. Took him one day over to the Jedi Transition (google it), but no planes were seen. Nice day though.
I had been monitoring the progress of Kevin & Ruth as they seemed to be following the same route as me – from the California coast across to the Reno, Nv area, then their first trip down the 395. They stopped by the Alabama Hills for a quick overnight and a hike before resuming their trip towards Mexico, eventually.
With my truck no longer concerned about the hills in Death Valley, that was the way we headed out. Surprisingly, we caught up to them at the Jedi Transition. This time however, there were a number of aircraft blasting through the narrow canyon below the viewpoint!
After the impromptu air show we took the steep winding downhill into Death Valley, followed by a couple of extended climbs, all of which were handled with ease by the big GMC.
Price of diesel in Panamint Springs in Death Valley - $5.79/g We didn't even slow down! Compare that with $3.23/g in Pahrump, Nv!
Departing the park, we found a very nice abandoned RV park thanks to Don & Donna for an overnight stop. It is known as the ‘Pads’, and it looks like an extensive RV park with concrete slabs to park on, widely separated, and good scenery all around.
It’s right close to the highway, but far enough away that noise is not a factor. The roads are paved, and the sites are concrete! It appears to be a cellular-free zone, so I set up my satellite internet system to stay connected.Kevin & Ruth pulled in just after us and were back on the road early in the morning.
Like them we crossed over into Nevada in the morning for some cheaper fuel and propane in Pahrump. While they continued to towards Vegas, we doubled back into California at Shosone, and then on down south to Baker. South of the I-15 at Baker is the Mojave National preserve. We have found some pretty ideal spots (for us) not too far into the preserve.
There is a nice rock pile for hunting opportunities!
Nothing to do with Hailey, but I found a dead kangaroo rat just laying in a wash while on a hike in the area.
I think this must be a tortoise burrow/den, but in spite of a flashing warning sign on the highway, none were spotted.
I found a few of these round balls laying in a wash. The first one, I thought it might be a plastic ball someone had lost, but I finally found the source bush!
One of Hailey’s playmates.
McDonalds appears to be bribing customers for good reviews …
Walmart, on the other hand, appears to have shoplifting warnings (?) in Spanish only in the washroom. Looked all over, but didn’t find one in English!
Saturday, November 10, 2018
California Coast to Nevada
Here’s what’s new! We left off around Eureka, Ca traveling down the west coast.
We did a dump and diesel fill at the Shell station in Fortuna, then headed on south on the 101. Since the weather on the Oregon coast had prevented much enjoyment of coastal scenery, we headed back out to the California coast at Westport, leaving the 101 at Leggett. It’s a very narrow winding road, but good pavement and we were in no hurry. Meeting loaded logging trucks on blind corners keeps your attention focussed on driving.
A homeless-looking van was parked in my preferred ocean view spot, but snugged up against a guardrail nearby proved to be an adequate alternate.
The view out the door wasn’t too shabby!There’s nothing like sleeping to the sounds of pounding surf!
It was such a nice spot, we spent two nights here before deciding to move on.
Had a bit of an issue getting going as the worn-out truck batteries wouldn’t start the truck. Conveniently, my heavy duty 40 amp battery charger also refused to work. I knew I should never have left home without at least two battery chargers! So the generator charged up the house batteries, which eventually charged the truck enough to start as well. We certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck in such a gorgeous spot now would we!
After passing through Fort Bragg, a turn inland brought us out to the 101 at Willits. Continuing on southward we filled up with diesel ($3.81) and propane ($2.19) at the Coyote Valley Casino and station before continuing eastward on Hwy 20 into central California. After a bite to eat in Williams we continued on to Colusa for the night. We found a decent quiet spot right along the Sacramento river to spend the night. Unconventional, but better than Walmart! Haven’t had to resort to Wally world for a year or so now!
We stayed on 20 through Yuba City, Grass Valley, Nevada City, and picked up I-80 for it’s run eastbound over Donner pass.
At Truckee we got off the interstate again. Adding our 10 gallons of spare fuel, we had enough range to make it to the cheaper fuel in Nevada! I didn’t recall ever traveling on the east side of Lake Tahoe, so that’s the way we headed, eventually coming out into Nevada at Carson City. There were some minor construction delays on that route, but I kind of like that .
After going through a single lane pilot car section, I let everyone else go past, and then I can mosey along as slow as I like with no traffic behind. That gave us a chance to stop along the side of Tahoe for some photos.
Joining the 395 in Carson City, Nv, we went southbound, and filled up the tank and spare cans in Gardnerville ($3.29/g diesel), the last chance before returning to higher California prices.
There was evidence of recent wildfires in the area, and I thought it odd to see the red patches beside each burnt area. Then I realized that the red stripes were all fire retardant drops from the aircraft fighting the fires.
The next stop was in Bridgeport to enjoy the Travertine and Buckeye hot springs for a few days. Check out the fuel prices in Bridgeport! That’s why I filled up in Nevada!
Next we spent a few days camped on some BLM or NF land, about a half mile from the springs.