Forewarning: this is a long post that is not about camping, but it is all about forewarnings. So take heed.
Sometimes plans come together and sometimes they don’t, right? This post is not going to be about the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area because we only got to enjoy it in the post sunset fading light after a nine hour drive that was supposed to be four. But we’ve learned some important lessons and have found a spot that could actually be quite nice when plans do work out in the future.
First, we were slowly beginning to wonder if the painting and flooring of our bedroom was going to be completed in time for us to come home Friday when we hadn’t heard from our guy by Tuesday. Then we began to worry that it would be started, but totally unusable. We tossed around some alternate plans involving either staying out longer, or simply never coming home. In the end, we decided to put the painting on hold until our next trip and return Friday as planned. The next set of decisions centered around the slog through L.A. To 5 or not to 5? All navigation systems indicated a three and a half hour drive up I-5 with little traffic. There were some other side freeways we could have taken, but it helps to know that none of those alternate routes would have prevented where we ended up. So we just decided to slog it because, again, the cell service was reliable and this was not a trip about camping joy. Plus, we had a dinner engagement on the calendar for Friday, so I was motivated to not dawdle.
All was boring and full of freeway up to Carlsbad where we saw a sign for a state beach and thought we could have a nice lunch stop. We pulled off to find that most of Southern California also thought that would be nice. There was nowhere to park and I almost got myself into a cul de sac pinch when I pulled over for Richard to make a call. Luckily, we got turned around and just headed back on the freeway until we found a rest stop. Again, back heading north, nothing much to report and traffic not too bad, until we saw one of those big light up freeway signs warning of a crash and a delay. This was important, though we did not appreciate it at the time.
I saw no indication of traffic ahead on the Acura navigation system. I asked Richard to check Google, and though there was one little spot of red, there was an alternate route to go around it that was all clear. So we ignored the first sign.
Then there was a second light up sign, again alerting us to the crash and recommending using a REALLY alternate route that would have taken us quite far out of our way. We checked for reports, nothing. Huh. Can’t be right. That must be old information. That’s a crazy detour and someone must be overreacting. Second sign poo-poo’ed.
The third sign flat out said the delay would be two hours. You’ve got to be kidding me. No way. Look again. Check news reports. Google still showing green? Yep. Traffic was flowing oh so smoothly where we were and there were no signs of slow ups ahead. Ok, we’ll take the small detour suggested by Google and it will get us past the hang up. And that makes three highway light up traffic signs we brazenly drove past, thinking we had this covered.
When we finally got to the slow down, it was a pretty abrupt stop. But we were expecting it, so we inched along with everyone else until we eventually came to the exit recommended by Google. As soon as we’d pulled off the freeway though, we were stuck. It appeared that many, many other people were following Google’s advice onto a route that took us through small, residential neighborhoods. There was an endless line of cars, trucks, buses, and trailers, all trying to get through these tiny streets and you would only move a few feet every maybe fifteen minutes. Kind hearted residents, no kidding, started passing out popsicles to the stranded motorists. People just trying to get into their driveways had to wait for someone to creep forward long enough for them to cross the never-ending line.
That went on forever. And then we eventually got routed back to the highway where the situation had only gotten worse. There were now four lanes of traffic sitting at a dead stop for hours on a part of I-5 where there is nothing but roadway, a small shoulder, and a steep drop off to your right into a canyon. And now thousands of vehicles, running their engines constantly to keep the AC going, were filling up the atmosphere with carbon monoxide. Many trucks had pulled over and given up along the shoulder and I started having serious thoughts about joining them when I saw campers who had literally taken out their camping tables and chairs and were setting up right there on the side of the road. I think the only thing that held me back was the belief that somehow the car’s air filtration system was keeping us from just passing out on the spot. It occurred to me to tell Richard to quickly put the car in Park, should I expire first.
That went on for even more ever. We got to the start of it around three and we didn’t emerge after the accident until seven thirty. When we finally inched up to where we could see actual emergency vehicles, we could understand. A big rig truck was lying perpendicular in the road, only hanging onto the shoulder by about half. The rest of it was hanging off the end of the drop off and there must have been ten huge towing vehicles and a crew of people trying to figure out how to pull it back. We got there well after the incident had occurred, so we obviously saw the cleaned up, post tragedy, version. Sadly, I guess the truck driver was killed and at least one other car was involved. Very sad.
Once through, it was like entering a new world. Since cars were getting through so slowly, I-5 the whole rest of the way was practically deserted. I still had another hour of driving to go, and instead of getting to our destination with time to find dinner or shopping along the way, I was simply racing to get there before sunset because I was way too fried to deal with backing into a site in the darkness.
While we didn’t beat the setting sun, we did have enough dusk light to easily pull in and find ourselves next to a surprisingly beautiful body of water, out in the middle of nowhere, just off I-5 in Bakersfield. Who knew? I enjoyed the hell out of a glass of wine by the water while Richard scooted down the road to a Subway and brought back dinner.
Friday was an easy slog home given proper context. We have replayed all of our decisions and have come to two conclusions: 1) Google sucks. 2) Always do what the light up signs say to do. I still think if one of them has simply said, “NO, REALLY.” we would have listened. However, we did make it home safe, albeit still with a bedroom that could form the basis of an “unsafe environment” report. I don’t see any light up signs telling us not to sleep there though, so we will try this again in about a week. At least we know Richard can work in the car. Whether he wants to work in the car is a different question.
As for Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area, it was really nice and a total surprise. You’d never know there was water there from the freeway. There are two lakes, both geared toward water sports, and the larger one is huge. The premium sites are right next to the water, where you are in fact allowed to launch your own boats. I imagine it must get pretty hot there, but it was a glorious respite after a long, long, day.
Total miles from BVARA to home: 264.2, 15.7, 5 hours, 24 min. (from Santee to Buena Vista was 253 miles, but took 9 hours, 3 minutes on that particular day.) We were in site 19, which is waterfront with full hookups. Good LTE for both of us. The waterfront sites are the way to go here. Lots of space between sites and most of them seemed like you can launch right from the bank.