Walter and Sara On the road to who knows where
Monday November 21st, it was partly cloudy as we left Valley of the Rogue State Park in southern Oregon. We had a little rain going south on I-5 but the sun broke through as we topped Siskiyou Pass and entered California. The night before we had checked driving distances and realized that it was a bit farther than we thought to Oroville so instead we planned to stay the night in Corning just south of Red Bluff. There is an RV Park associated with the Rolling Hills Casino that offers full hook ups for only $28 a night which is a deal in this part of the world where most places (including the state parks) are asking $45 a night for the same thing.

We rolled in at about 3 pm and got a space way back in the back end of the park where there was nobody and we had a view of open fields and part of the rather flat golf course they have there. We were well away from the freeway so there was no noise though if you sat on the bed you could watch the semis roll on down I-5 in the distance.

In Eugene, we had heard a bit of a dragging noise when we drove slowly through the park but it would go away when we got up to speed so Walter had decided that it wasn’t something we needed to have looked at right way. We’d recently gotten a notice about a recall on the Ford F150’s brakes and thought the noise might be related to that. Walter tried to get an appointment with a Ford dealer on Monday morning and they didn’t have the part and couldn’t give us an appointment for days anyway. So we’d driven on. By the time we got to Corning, the noise did not sound good.

The Ford dealer in Corning informed us that the part that was needed for the recall repair was on backorder and it could be several weeks before they could get one. Sigh. Time to punt. So Walter called the local Les Schwab Tire place and asked if they could look at the brakes. By this point it was too late to take it in but they said to bring it in first thing the next morning.

With nothing more to do, we settled in to enjoy our evening. We had mostly clear skies with just the right number of clouds around the edges to give an interesting sunset. First the sun lit up the clouds above the horizon.

Sunset Rolling Hills Casino Corning CA

And then about 15 minutes later things turned peach to the west as the sun set.

Sunset Rolling Hills Casino Corning CA

And then pink to the east.

Sunset Rolling Hills Casino Corning CA

Tuesday morning, Walter got up early and took the truck in to Les Schwab. By 9:15 we had the bad news. When we had gotten new front brakes back in July (yes just 4 months and 5,000 miles ago) the folks in Monroe WA (the Goodyear Tire store) hadn’t replaced the calipers and had somehow messed the old ones up putting them back on. The calipers were now failing. As a result one of the rotors needed to be replaced and the other needed to be turned and we needed new brake pads—and new calipers. The hitch (besides the money of course) was that they were having trouble getting the calipers (which might be why the folks in Monroe hadn’t replaced them) so it might not get done until Wednesday afternoon. Oh goodie, another day at the RV Park at Rolling Hills and with no way to go on an outing.

To fend off restlessness, I walked up to the office to register for another night and then took a stroll through the grounds, the casino and part of the golf course.

The RV park is nicely landscaped and has huge mounds of yellow margarite daisies.

yellow margarite daisies

Across the way from our trailer there was a snowy egret who visited us on Monday afternoon and again on Tuesday morning. The fact that there were actual green patches in the fields here is really good news. They’ve had a number of soaking rains already and they need it big time.

Egret in brown hills

The plantings in the main parking area around the casino were full of red floribunda roses still blooming up a storm.

Red floribunda rose

Including buds just opening. I do so love the fact that one can have flowers in the winter in California. It is why my Schurr grandparents moved to California from Kansas back in the 1910’s. I can certainly understand why.

Red floribunda rose

I wandered through the casino—it was full of machines flashing and boinging and even at 10:30 in the morning there were lots of folks playing and the rest were standing in line at the restaurant—they have a big buffet there and it turned out the Tuesday was Senior Discount Day. Needless to say neither Walter or I are into gambling so the casino had no draw for us. As far as I’m concerned casinos just boing and flash way too much—and this one smelt like stale cigarette smoke too.

I went on out the far side of the casino and to the farthest reaches of the parking lot before following the signs towards the golf course. Not far from the putting greens I noticed a flower bed with not only roses in bloom but zinnias! For those of you who aren’t flower people, zinnias are a summer flower that likes lots of heat and sun. To have them still blooming in November was amazing.

Pink zinnia

This is olive growing country (there’s an olive tasting room in Corning) and along the boundary between the parking lot and the putting green there were several old, old olive trees with huge ripe olives on them.

Ripe olives

I wandered on past the driving range where there were new olive trees full of green olives.

Green Olives

I went on and came to a place where the path lead out onto the golf course which I didn’t think would be a great idea (small white balls flying about and all that) so I headed on back to the RV park. Earlier in the morning we’d seen a bird that I had thought might be a mocking bird. I saw another perched on a utility box and sure enough, he’s a Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

The rest of the day was spent hanging out hoping that the phone would ring with news on the truck and watching the clouds come in for the next storm. And of course the phone didn’t ring. We have spent a lot of time the last 2 months hanging out and waiting: first at Hughes House waiting to give folks tours, then in Olympia waiting for our crowns to come and now here at Rolling Hills waiting for our brakes. It’s not one of my most favorite things but we’ve both held up pretty well through it all and not driven each other crazy.

At least at Rolling Hills our hot spot worked and Walter managed to get some over the air TV. That way we stayed amused. We’re both readers but there are just so many hours a day I can spend reading before I begin to feel kind of bleary.

Wednesday morning November 23rd, we were up early hoping to hear from Les Schwab. Just about the time that we were beginning to get restless, the phone ran. The truck was ready and it was only 10 am! Yippee. They came and got Walter and took him back to the shop to pay and pick up the truck. Meanwhile, I battened the hatches and got the trailer ready to roll. In the end, we hit the road at 11 am—only a little later than we would have normally.

We headed south through Sacramento where the traffic wasn’t too bad and then out Hwy 50 to pick up Hwy 99 south to Stockton where we turned east again. We followed Hwy 4 to Copperopolis (don’t you just love the name?) and turned south past Lake Turlock to Moccasin Point in the Don Pedro Recreation Area where we had a reservation for Wednesday and Thursday nights. The campground was fairly empty when we arrived close to 4 pm and the sun had sunk behind the hills so it was pretty cool. It had been up over 60 on the drive down with big white fluffy clouds cruising across the sky. But with the sun gone it was down to 53 already at 4 pm.

We had reserved a full hook up site and were glad of it since the low that night was 35. Our hot spot had a marginal signal that would come and go from moment to moment even with our booster. I managed to pick up my email (it took half an hour) and check in on Facebook to let folks know we’d arrived but once it was dark it really got weak and we lost internet entirely. Walter’s phone had a signal but we didn’t figure that TV would make it into the canyon. Later in the evening, I tried it again and it worked fine as it did the next day. Ah well the mysteries of cell signals and hot spot devices.

While it was cold the next morning, it was clear and sunny. It slowly warmed up and we decided that we might as well hit the road for an outing while the weather was so pretty. The night before I’d figured out that we were only about 50 miles from Hetch Hetchy Valley/Reservoir in Yosemite. It is a place we’ve always wanted to visit but it is WAY out of the way from the rest of the park on the northwest end and we’ve never made the time to visit. But this time, here it was the closest part of Yosemite from where we were. So off we went.

The drive was winding but there was a gas station along the way (thank goodness) so we filled up our tank and breathed a sigh of relief at not having to watch the gas gauge. It took about an hour and half to complete the drive and we arrived in the early afternoon to blue skies and temps in the high 40’s.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Yosemite

Hetch Hetchy is another deep glacier-carved valley like Yosemite Valley. After the San Francisco earthquake, it was decided that the city needed a more reliable water supply (they hadn’t had the water to put out the fires after all). Someone got the bright idea that they should build a dam to store drinking water for the city and that this deep valley with the Toulumne River running through it would be perfect. After a long contentious battle, (the opposition led by John Muir) Congress decided that it was okay to build the reservoir even though it was within the National Park and appropriated the money for it.

The project took 20 years to built and provides water to 2.4 million people in the SF Bay Area—all through a gravity fed system with no pumps. It also provides power for municipal services in the city too.

Looking out across the reservoir from the O’Shaughnessy Dam you can see Wapama Falls in the distance along with the black streak up on the cliffs to the left where Tueeulala Falls makes its way to the lake in the spring.

Wapama Falls Yosemite

It’s about 2 1/2 miles out to Wapama Falls.

Wapama Falls Yosemite

Hetch Hetchy Valley has features similar to Yosemite Valley. There’s Hetch Hetchy Dome which is on the north side of the lake and Kolana Rock which pokes up on the south side of the lake and of course it has waterfalls too.

Hetch Hetchy panorama

There’s a penstock that takes water from the lake level down below the dam to a power generating station and then shoots the water back into the Toulumne River. You can hear it crashing away as you begin the walk across the top of the dam. And at first all you see is a lot of spray.

Penstock Plume Hetch Hetchy

But as you make your way across the dam you can begin to see the jet of water.

Penstock Plume Hetch Hetchy

Which only gets more impressive as you go along.

Penstock Plume Hetch Hetchy

And when you get all the way across the dam you can even see where it’s coming out below the power house.

Penstock Plume Hetch Hetchy

We headed through the tunnel (which was dark and wet with a big puddle we just barely could see our way around) and the hiked a ways up the north side of the lake. There was a bit of snow on the north facing side of the ridge across the lake.

Hetch Hetchy from trail

The lake is 8 miles long but the trail only goes about a 1/3 of the way along the lake before heading out into the wilderness of the High Sierra.

We got some gorgeous views along the way.

Hetch Hetchy

We turned around at about the point where Tueeulala Falls comes down the canyon wall and made our way back. At the mouth of the tunnel I stopped to take a photo of the mountainside reflected in the big puddle.

Puddle in Hetch Hetchy tunnel

Then I stopped along the north side of the dam to catch one more shot of Kolana Rock casting its shadow across the lake.

Hetchy Hetchy from dam

And then we headed back to our picnic lunch in the nice warm truck. With the warm sun, we were both very comfortable on this walk even with the temperature only in the high 40’s and low 50’s. And it was such a gorgeous day.

I know that Thanksgiving is supposed to be a family holiday but when you live on the road like we do, Thanksgiving becomes gratitude day. And I can think of nothing more perfect than an serendipitous trip to a place like Hetch Hetchy as a way of expressing and experiencing gratitude life in general and for our life on the road in particular. This is WHY we love it. We get to do things like this just on the spur of the moment.

Friday November 25th, we awoke to partly cloudy skies that continued to cloud up as the day wore on which made us even gladder that we’d taken the time the day before to go to Hetch Hetchy. In the morning we took a stroll over to the self registration area to add a day to our stay. On the way I noticed that the Manzanita was in bloom and had clearly been in bloom for a while since there were lots of spent flowers on the ground.

Manzanita flowers

There were also lots and lots of these shrubs with red berries on them. With a bit of on-line research I found that they are Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) also known as Christmas Berries!

 Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)

They hadn’t updated the reservations list so we couldn’t be sure if our spot was available for the night or not so we decided we’d check back later. We wandered back and took a path to see if we could get a view of Don Pedro Reservoir. No go. So while Walter headed back to the trailer I wandered on down to the boat ramp to see what I could see. On my way I passed this lovely display of fall color.

Fall Color Don Pedro Rec Area

Down at the boat ramp, I could see not only the lake but this marvelous HUGE houseboat that was moored just off shore.

Large houseboat Don Pedro SRA

And I got a great view of the lake and the surrounding hills.

Don Pedro SRA from Moccasin boat ramp

This shot gives you a better view of all the houseboats (about 50 of them) moored in this arm of the lake.

Don Pedro SRA from Moccasin boat ramp

Later in the day we actually saw a houseboat coming in so folks do take them out on the main portion of the lake even in November.

Check out time at Moccasin Point was 2 pm so we headed back up to the self registration area again at a little before 2. But the reservation list had still not been updated. So we gave up and paid figuring if someone came and claimed our spot there were lots of others to pick from—and of course no one did so we were all good for the night.

Meanwhile, Walter was listening to the Apple Cup (the football game between the University of Washington and Washington State) via the internet. But shortly after half time, the hot spot signal went bad again. An hour later it was back on, no problem. UW won 45-17, and since it wasn’t a close game it didn’t matter to him that he didn’t get to hear the second half. UW will play Colorado next week in the PAC-12 Championship game—which is a big deal and a long time coming.

Saturday morning, November 26th, it was sunny when we got up. This was odd since the weather forecast had said we’d have rain by 11 am. All to the good as far as we were concerned. The clouds started coming in again as we ate breakfast and hooked up the trailer to move on. We headed south on Hwy 49 to Hwy 41 and the SKP Park of the Sierra just south of the little town of Coarsegold—not that far north of Fresno. This is a nice Escapee Co-op where we stayed back in March of 2014. It turns out that they had been full over Thanksgiving but they had space for us now that the holiday was past—whew. We got set up and settled in before the rain started. It rained off and on all evening and through the night.

This is a great park. For $28 you get a nice large private space, free fast Wi-Fi and cable TV that includes ESPN, FoxSports and lots of other goodies. Walter settled in to watch college football—it was Saturday after all—and I got caught up on my internet tasks while we listened to the rain patter on the roof. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good free internet signal at a place we were staying so that was a treat.

Sunday morning it was still raining when we got up but it stopped by about 11 am. We had clouds and sun all through the rest of the day. Walter made waffles—yum. And then we collected up the laundry and went down to the club house to the laundry room. And it was FULL of people doing laundry. I managed to get two free washers (as they were emptied out) and once they were going we went and took showers in the nice bathrooms next door. I had to wait for dryers but we still managed to get it all done eventually. And there were some interesting people to talk to which made it fun.