Expectation vs. Reality. Last time I saw this site at Clear Lake State Park, it was a few years ago and I noted it as being super nice and right by the water. Like kind of my dream site, with a private beachy area where I could leave my boat set up. Since that time, I’ve reserved it twice, only to have the reservation cancelled due to flooding. It’s difficult to snag, so I was super psyched to finally get to partake. And on Labor Day weekend no less!
When we pulled in, around sunset time on Friday, I noticed the park had done a significant amount of work on the grading of the sites by the water. This, no doubt was to address the flooding issues. Great idea, and they’d put in a retaining wall of rocks, creating little beaches down at the water line. What used to be a gentle slope from the paved pad down to the water was now a large flat area, bordered by the rock wall, and a nice big sandy beach down lower. It seemed way too good to be true. And indeed, it was.
But first, another glitch. As I was basking in the sunset view on the beach, following a 4 hour drive, Richard’s job was to make a quick pan dinner. It was already kind of late and we were both hungry, not a good time to break the dusky mood with the sound of sudden swearing.
Let’s back up. Richard’s project this past week was to replace the “pigtail hose” that connects the propane tank to Dory. He ordered the part, not the one he wanted because that was out of stock, but a supposedly equivalent model. It turned out to be not that big a deal to swap out. Did he test it to make sure propane would actually move through the new hose? No, because you see, that could have been dangerous to have fumes filling up the garage. Did he take the hose he removed in order to have a backup plan just in case the new one didn’t work? Nope. Because…
So now we’re swearing by the beach, as the light slowly disappears and we don’t really have any other plan for dinner. Options: drive back out to town and go to a restaurant, or…. I had the quick thinking idea of pulling out the grill and we had the fried rice pan dinner after all. I’m hoping you are imagining grilled fried rice and have questions. Answer: I used the grill pan we purchased for the summer and it worked fantastically well. In the background as I cooked, Richard was still doing desperation moves over by the propane tank and was now swearing because of being bitten by mosquitoes while he repeatedly screwed and unscrewed things. He also realized that the propane tank was reading empty. We’re still not sure if that was an oversight before departure, or the result of gas escaping during all the futzing. Didn’t matter much at the time since we were already on Plan B.
That night he took a fully cold shower. And the next morning, I had a cold latte. But we had a plan, and that was for him to go to Brown’s RV, the service place back in Lower Clearlake while I wrote a report to stall for time so that I would not have to take a cold shower. There he could get a new hose thingy and fill propane at the same time.
Really, this was all solved by around 10:30 when he got back with a new pigtail hose and everything then worked just fine. He was able to verify that it was the hose, not the near empty tank, that was the culprit. I’m no expert, but even I can see that the little hole on the new faulty hose is a lot smaller than the one on the original hose, and I could see that causing a problem. All told, it was a relatively easy fix and not that long a time to deal with a glitch. We had two very lucky things going for us: 1) it was pretty hot so there were no thoughts of needing the heater, and 2) we don’t have a propane fridge.
We regrouped and rebounded and he got ready to do a long bike ride in order to shake off the discombobulation. My plan was to take a non cold shower and get my boat out for a paddle. All morning I’d noticed people walking right next to, or even through, our site, and that was not a huge surprise. There is a little boardwalk path leading to a shared beach that I remembered from the last time we were there. Of course people were going to be coming and going along that boardwalk. What I didn’t realize until mid morning was that the little beach right in front of our site was now being used as an additional communal beach rather than a part of the site. The part of me that understands the importance of sharing recognized it would not be entirely fair for one site to have the only access to such a great launching area. The part of me that remembered the happy campers all spread out on their own personal beach the last time I was here needed to start adjusting her expectations. As it was Labor Day weekend, our site became the most popular location in the park for people to walk through. Nice people, happy people, saying hi and complimenting Dory. Many commented on what a great site we were in, as they were walking through it.
So as I mentally shifted, I got my boat ready and tried out my new set of kayak wheels. My hope is that these will make it easier to set up the boat somewhere in shade and then roll it to wherever I’m launching. In my research, I came across one (in blue) called the “Nemo Extremo,” and that was pretty much a done deal there. I do actually happen to like it, and it’s the only one I saw that comes apart small enough to store inside my kayak bag. So see? Not crazy. Just lucky. I will say this particular application was not the greatest, since now there’s a rock wall with only a narrow footpath down to the beach. I first crashed the wheels into the fire pit grate, before crashing it into the boardwalk fence, and then getting it snagged on the rocks. Product testing complete and guess what! It’s very sturdy.
The water on the lake is not cold at all, but still enough to be a refreshing break from the heat. It hit the low 90s every day and it was awesome to be able to cool off in the water. There were herons and pelicans and egrets all along the shore, so it was a fun paddle. That night it was Blue Apron for dinner and lots of talk about how things could be way way worse.
The next day was going to be another hot one, so I sagged Richard around the lake. It’s a pretty drive and there’s air conditioning and music in the car, so thumbs up there. In the afternoon, we semi napped in our Nemo Stargazer chairs (I can’t help it if everything of quality just happens to fit within my theme). For an early dinner, we went out to Park Place in Lakeport for pesto chicken pizza, Caesar salads, and blackberry bread pudding. Note to self: the bar is nice, but make a reservation next time. We had just enough time for another paddle, this time with me towing Richard around in his floatie.
We really did have a lovely time, although, this is not the dream site I had in my mind. I would reserve it again and I’ll bet it’s not quite as much of a thoroughfare when it’s not Labor Day weekend. The little beach still offers a perfect place to launch and watch the sunset. The solar was great and we didn’t even need to run the generator. I put up the Aluminet on the fridge side of Dory, and that does seem to help when it’s hot. Otherwise, we ran fans when we were inside, or just found ways to keep cool outdoors. It cooled off nicely at night.
And last: Bruce got his bumper all fixed up at the car wash for a fraction of what we were quoted by the local auto body shops. And Dory got a new tattoo, to replace the promotional “Finding Dory” sticker that fell off somewhere along the road. As we’ve just finished Season 4 of “Better Call Saul,” the phrase that comes to mind is, “s’all good, man.”
Total miles: 166.6, 16.1 mpg, 4 hours 2 min. Site 58, Kelsey Creek Campground. Great solar, great cell service for both. No hookups. Good dump on site. Nice bathrooms and showers.