Coloma Resort (2)

img_2456Well this was the perfect do-over, I must say. Last time we came, we had to cut our visit short unexpectedly. So we reserved the very same site, and even got to cash in the rain check with a fabulous friend. All good!

Traffic all along Interstate 80 on Friday was slow going, so we ended up pulling in after dark. Score a point for the exterior port side light with the external switch. img_2432We even felt confident enough to use the CM and spin Dory for the nice river view we knew we’d get in the morning.

After getting set up, I got to bask in the darkness of my new and improved Sad Room. I have found that there are some weeks where the intensity of the world is just a little too much for me. Especially in the past two years. In those moments, what helps the most is being out in Dory, staring through the big glass windows, listening to music, and sipping a margarita or cold glass of wine. Richard always kindly offers to deal with dinner, but that requires light in order to see, and escaping the horrors of the universe is an activity best attempted in the dark. img_2408I tried pulling the privacy curtain to create a Sad Room for me, and a Happy Room for him. The problem was that the factory installed curtain only goes as far as the shower, so way too much light is able to creep in. My latest project has been to finish off the curtain, thus blocking the entry of all forms of happiness.

img_2410The hardest part of this project was finding exactly the right parts online. I admit this is a challenge I enjoy, and I was ultimately able to get precisely matching supplies. The aluminum curtain track needed to be cut down from 4′ and I simply attached it to the ceiling with strong double sided sticky tape. The fabric for the curtain is actually a blackout curtain liner (53″x58″) and comes with a strip of velcro pre sewn across the top. All I needed to do there was cut that part off and sew on a length of snap tape.img_2414 This section required 8 matching snap glides and fits nicely in that space. To close off the small gap around the corner, I decided to leave an extra flap of fabric with a small velcro square at the end. This then sticks to the shower curtain rail mount. And voila! I can now settle into total sadness while dinner cooks. What is kind of amazing is that creating two separate spaces has the effect of making Dory actually seem a lot bigger. I’m very happy with the results of this Sad project.

img_2445Saturday we walked around the historic part of Coloma. This is the site where gold was first discovered by James Marshall in 1848. The California Gold Rush followed and forever changed the history of the west. Many of the buildings and structures are restorations from originals that have long since perished. But some of the buildings are originals and most of the artifacts on display are either from the site, or from nearby historic collections that match what would have been used by the people in Coloma at the time.

img_2441The Visitor Center is new and very impressive. There are multimedia displays telling the story of the miners, the immigrants, and the Native Americans who had been living in the area before the vast migration. We spent a good hour there and then went and looked at the outside exhibits. They have a monument marking the original location of Sutter’s Mill, and a recreation of the mill farther away from the river’s edge.

img_2452Again, we enjoyed a meal at the Argonaut cafe/restaurant and chatted with our friendly server from before, who even remembered us as the “happy campers”! She is awesome, as was the turkey sandwich and side salad. For dessert, we got some gelato to go and headed to the blacksmith shop, where we got a nice history lesson from an actual blacksmith making actual things. One tidbit he shared was that the historic bridge we drive across to get to the RV park is listed somewhere as one of the “most dangerous bridges in CA.” This, because of its age, the lack of expertise of the people who built it in 1915, and the frequent river floods that threaten to wash it all away. We figured, as long as we’re not *on* the bridge when it collapses, we’d be ok if we have to just live by the river in the RV resort from now on.

img_2455After lunch, I got to enjoy a really wonderful afternoon talking with my long lost friend. She lives not too far from Coloma so I was super glad she was able to come over. She’s probably the nicest human I know, so of course she thought to bring snacks and wine. We talked and talked until we realized it was dinner time. Richard was out on a bike ride in the afternoon and returned with a nasty bee sting on his face. It looked red, but luckily he does not appear to be allergic. Ouch though!

img_2433Sunday we headed home and took Lotus Road to Shingle Springs rather than Highway 49. That is a good call and how we’d get there next time. I will note that the dump in the RV park is one of those annoying raised concrete pads with a high curb. For little trailers, this makes dumping unpleasant and you have to kind of snake everything through the hose to get it over the curb. Yuck. Besides that though, this is a great place to hang out. You’ve got river side sites with hookups, fun things to do that are walking distance, and a great restaurant. We’d return for sure. Next time, I’d really like to know if there’s a kayak put in spot up river. That would be fun.

Total miles (way off because of traffic rerouting and detours): 131.2, 4 hours 7 min, 16.0 mpg. Site 72. Electric and water, nice solar. No service for ATT, but pretty good free campground wifi. LTE for Verizon. Walking around the park, there is CA State Park wifi too.


Collins Lake (2)

img_2384I had a feeling this place was going to become one of my favorites. When we first checked it out last Spring, the lake was at its highest point, which was lovely, but it was also raining steadily when we were there. This weekend’s temperatures were perfect. And though the lake was much lower, we still were able to get a site where I could easily get my boat to the water for a paddle.

img_2386The drive there on Friday was on the long side, almost 3 1/2 hours, with traffic and all, but still not bad enough to rule out weekend trips. I’d noted the site we reserved as a good one, and it really was fantastic. It is meant for a large RV to pull forward into, so the hookups are on the lefthand side. We weren’t planning to drive anywhere, so we just pulled forward and did some CM maneuvering to get the right Dory view. There was lots of room and plenty of distance and privacy from other sites.

img_2385The campground was pretty full, and it’s an enormous campground. I think on the order of 500 sites, some with hookups, some not, many along the edge with water views. With the lake as low as it was, there really weren’t any sites better situated for kayak launching, but there were many where you could walk your boat down the slope to the water. There were lots of families and groups and gave the place a very festive feel. We liked it. If you’re looking for remote and away from people, this is not the place for you unless it’s in the very off season. We didn’t feel crowded or hemmed in by our neighbors, but again, we got a great site, so I’m sure that makes a difference.

After dinner, we walked over to the campground office/store/ice cream place where there is good wifi and, you know, ice cream. I got a multi-scoop waffle cone and was certain I would never be able to finish it. I asked for a cup so I could put the part I didn’t finish into the freezer. But then I had a snaccident and finished the whole thing. It was chocolate fudge brownie, by the way, and really good.img_2391

Saturday Richard went out for a ride and I did a report before getting in the water for a nice paddle. The weather was perfect and I bobbed around for several hours. Richard helped me carry the boat up to our site when I was done, and we went back over to the store to get our fix of internet. Oops, too much internet. Good thing I brought emergency supplies to counter bad news on the internet. img_2395Back to radio silence and a couple episodes of “The Crown.” Good show, that (said with just a hint of a British accent, because that’s my new goal in life).

img_2396Our drive home Sunday was also over three hours, and there wasn’t more than usual traffic (though there was a slow down passing by a huge brush fire), so I think that’s just what it will take. It’s a destination that is well worth it though and I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of it. With hookups by the water, this is one of my all time primo sites. And there is even shade (and AC) so summer visits would not be out of the question.

Total miles: 134.6, 15.5 mpg, 3 hours 24 min. Site 52. Love it. Shady site, so no solar. No cell service at the lake, didn’t try to boost. Good wifi at the office. 4 good dumps by the entrance. Electric and water hookups at the site. Vault toilet with water flush.

Mt. Madonna County Park

img_2375It’s always nice to find pleasant spots with hookups. This county park is a lovely surprise just west of Gilroy and would be worth return trips. There are loops for RVs and for tent campers, all located inside the shelter of a redwood forest, with a pretty easy drive from home. Definite score.

Taking Highway 101 to 152, we hit some typical Friday traffic, but still got to our site around 6:30. Soon, the clocks will change and I’ll bet we will appreciate that port side light we got installed. The campground was hopping with kids riding around on bikes and families hanging out together for dinner. The only thing interrupting the peaceful vibe was the intermittent thud of acorns or redwood cones hitting Dory’s roof. Some of them were loud!

img_2373Saturday we woke up super lazily late and decided to check out the park’s historic site. It was a woodsy, uphill hike from the campground to the location of Henry Miller’s House. He was a German immigrant who went from having 50 cents in his pocket in 1850, to controlling 14.5 million acres of land in CA, OR, and NV for his million head of cattle to graze. He built a summer home on Mt. Madonna and you can see what is left of the foundations and couple of remaining walls after the site was abandoned.

img_2367Also present in the park is a small group of White Fallow Deer, apparently gifted from the herd at Hearst Castle. What is perhaps most impressive about the animals on display is the hefty security around the enclosure. When you walk up, you expect either to see warning signs about the terrifyingly lethal nature of these deer, or witness one get eaten by a T-Rex. In actuality, the barbed wire and electrified fencing is there to prevent them from being eaten by the local Mountain Lions. Also, but not as much, exciting.

The trails were lovely and there was a beautiful wedding going on at the amphitheater. We remarked on how much Dory-ing feels like going on regular weekend honeymoons. We also noted that it would be fun to renew our vows in a park like this one, and rent a taco truck for guests, like this couple had done. We spent the hike back to Dory contemplating tacos.

img_2378For the afternoon, I churned out a report and tried out my other project: a magnetic screen door. This is a flagrant copy project, stolen from Jim Gauvreau, and it works great! It is just a pre-made screen ordered off Amazon, which has been trimmed down to size and mounted with velcro. This prevents bugs from getting in when you want as much breeze and airflow possible. Now that summer is receding and there is a distinct chill in the air, I question my timing on this project. Still, it will be nice next year.

This is a great county park. The sites have trees between them for some privacy, and hookups in the RV loop. Great dump and hiking trails to boot. For those who like campground showers, there are nice clean facilities. Thanks Mr. Police Officer who chatted with us at Anderson Lake for the recommendation!

Total miles: 88.8, 16.1 mpg, 2 hours 54 min. Site 115. Electric and water in RV loop, Valley View 1. Good dump, potable water. No cell service for either. Boosted, we both could get 1-2 bars of slow LTE.



Westside Regional Park

IMG_2361I think we’ve got Bodega Bay covered. This campground is part of the Sonoma County Regional Parks and sits right across the bay from Doran Beach. There is a row of sites right along the water, but we weren’t in any of those. This was an exploratory mission weekend to check the place out.

IMG_2340Besides spending part of Saturday writing a report, we didn’t do a whole lot. We walked down to the Spud Point Chowder Co. for lunch and I tested out the completed version of the Pahaque Visor. I bought this used off a friend and found there were some missing parts. As my little Dory “some day” projects have been mounting, I splurged and got a new heavy duty sewing machine. Making homemade pole pockets was one of the first items checked off the list.

IMG_2350It took some searching to find the coupler piece that holds the poles together, but they work nicely now. In fact, I’m quite pleased with the whole set up. With the poles in the pockets, you can put the visor up without any staking into the ground. This is handy when on pavement or hard packed dirt. This setup requires there be no more than moderate winds, but it can be adjusted for heavier wind by putting the pole ends on the ground and running guy lines out away from the Alto. It seems pretty secure and is fairly easy to put up. One piece of advice: the instructions say to insert the arc pole all the way into the sleeve before putting the visor in the keder track. I disagree. All that does is create a giant, awkward kite that inevitably rolls around in the dirt before you can get it in place. I found it to be much easier to put the material all the way in the track, letting the end with the pole opening go past the rail and hang down about a foot. Then insert the pole and create the arc shape in place. My little keder anchors work very well to keep things from scooting around and everything stayed nicely secure. Also: ice packs filled with water work well to keep rug corners from blowing around.

Dinner Saturday at La Bogedita. Not much else to report. Lovely lazy weekend.

Total miles: 85.6, 15.0 mpg, 2 hours 52 min. Site 3. Nice sites by the water: 35-47, all solar. 35* is on the end. Not much privacy. Flush bathrooms, nice dump, but you have to pay $7. Walking distance to boat launch. 2 bars LTE for both.


Porto Bodega RV

IMG_2310When your go-to state and county parks are booked, but you really really want to get to the coast, it’s good to start branching out. This was our “could be great, could be terrible” weekend at a private place we’d never heard of or noticed in Bodega Bay. It got fair reviews though, and we didn’t really care as long as we got to be by the coast.

IMG_2309On arrival we sort of recognized the place, based on its proximity to the Bodega Dunes campground. It is part marina, part RV campground, where the clear superior sites are the ones along the water. Ours was and we did a Caravan Mover spin to get the primo view. That caused a curious camper to come tell us we were “creating a spectacle” and yes, he would love to have a tour inside if it’s no bother.

IMG_2307Blue Apron was on the menu for both dinners and I made sure to select “Doryable” one-pan meals. Friday’s was salmon over kale, zucchini, capers, garlic, and sweet peppers. That one is a keeper and wouldn’t be too hard to replicate (i.e. no exotic, hard to find ingredients). Saturday’s included something called Cauliflower rice. And though it was also delicious, I would have no idea where to buy that.

IMG_2313Saturday, as Richard was doing his “Boho” ride, I was supposed to get something done for work and it was really really hard to concentrate with all the funny seals and birds hanging out in the harbor. I used to sit inside Dory to do writing tasks, but with our Nemo chairs, I find I am drawn outside much more. This created a cascade of problems. First, I needed to get some shade so I could see the laptop screen. So on went the Pahaque Visor, even though I’m not quite finished fixing things to bring the used package up to snuff. I did create some keder rail anchors during the week, to replace the window lock that never quite worked right. Those did a nice job keeping the visor from sliding out of the track.

IMG_2312Next, I got to try out the recently installed plastic keder rail I purchased to run along the bottom of the door-side wall. Let me just say, if I ever need to order keder track again, I’d better get a lot. I figured the 90″ “Flex-a-rail” would somehow flex and get shipped in a reasonably sized container. Not so. In fact, it shipped in a 95″ torpedo tube, constructed of impenetrable paper based material, so dense it required a handsaw to open. Both ends were sealed with some kind of canning lids, so I had to avoid metal parts whilst sawing through my package. Inside the huge, 4″ diameter tube, was one straight piece of 90″ flex-a-rail. No wonder shipping was so expensive.

IMG_2314Ultimately, the plan for the rail includes having a place to hang a bug netting skirt to go with the customized bug netting awning, but that project is for another day. In the meantime, I can use the outer edges to anchor the guy lines for the visor poles. The poles still do not have the connectors that are supposed to hold them together, so I’m still MacGyvering a solution using rubber bands. That part worked.

IMG_2319As soon as I had everything mounted and anchored and guy lined, I sat down to start typing. Except the sun was peeking under the rim of the visor enough to be annoying. So I lowered the angle of everything and re-secured. And that seemed better for about ten minutes. So then I had to go in search of something I could possibly hang as a shade panel. All I had that possessed the right qualifications was a California flag. Fiddling with tarp clips and bungee cords took a fairly long time, but I got it up! So I sat down to work for real and a huge gust of wind knocked the pole inward, right toward Dory. IMG_2317Lucky I wasn’t really concentrating on work yet because I caught it. And then I had to go in search of what I could use as extra guy lines to stake the poles down in the other direction. And then I was hungry and then there was this huge seal splashing around…. I did not get very much done is what I’m saying. But I did do a nice job creating a solid shade shelter by the time it got too cold and windy to want to sit outside anymore. Several orders were placed with Amazon, in clear violation of our newly self imposed spending freeze.

IMG_2333Sunday we stopped for lunch at the very popular Spud Point Crab Co. They have award winning chowder, and crab cakes that are only served Saturday and Sunday starting at 1pm. They only make a limited number and they run out quickly. We got there at 12:30 very excited, even though there was a long line. When we got to the front, at roughly 12:45, we tried to talk the cashier into pre-selling us crab cakes, even though they were still in the oven. She flat out refused, in a way that suggested she is very used to crab cake shenanigans. Our pouty lips only produced an adamantly pointed finger, indicating the big wooden sign that states there is a $5 charge for whining. So we sulked away with our delicious, award wining chowder, and timed our re-entry into the line. We were rewarded shortly after 1pm with 2 orders of piping hot crab cakes, served with a roasted pepper mayo and lemon wedges.

IMG_2331And then it was home again, home again, on a path that is now becoming quite familiar. Overall, we liked this place and would reserve there again, as long as we could snag a place by the water. There are premium sites with hookups and sunset views that would be quite the treat, though we’d be in a big rig sandwich for sure. The bathrooms are nice and clean, with showers. “Could be great” was, in fact, great. Too great to do much work. And that’s just fine.

Total miles: 84.2, 15.0 mpg, 2 hours 37 min. Site: 49. Sites with hookups and sunset view: 33-39, 17, 18. Non hookups all seemed to be by the water on the marina side. 2 bars of LTE for both, ok campground wifi, terrible dump with a big curb.

Hendy Woods

AE1E37A7-625E-4236-ADA0-F0428E85C2DBI say we all just move to three day weekends from now on. Sound ok? This was our first Dory trip to Hendy Woods, up in Mendocino County, and we enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. It helped that the weather was neither too hot, nor too cold, and that nothing was visibly on fire.

0DAB06FF-C13D-4642-9897-5490959BE00FI was prepared for it to be a bit of a long drive Friday, but it turned out to be just under four hours, so we got to the campground with plenty of daylight left. The drive itself was no problem, most of it being a straight shot up Highway 101. We hit some holiday traffic, nothing too bad, and then cut off onto Highway 128. It started with some serious twistiness, but nothing deathy and the road conditions were smooth and newly paved the whole way. And after maybe ten windy miles, it evened out and passed through a couple of cute Mendocino towns along the way.7AD0928B-0785-46B3-888E-8DBC2F29E3AF The campground is nestled deep in the redwoods, just past Philo, CA, and has a decidedly tenter or small camper feel. We saw one or two larger RVs, but really nothing huge is going to fit in there. Our site was fantastic with lots of room and abundant privacy due to all the trees and bushes. It was quite unlevel, but with the Lynx levelers and the new addition of Lynx chocks, we were just fine.

50DA823E-0A21-41BA-9D9B-E0DD43CA7E89Saturday I had some work to get done and Richard rode out to the coast via Philo Greenwood Road to Cameron Road and landed at Navarro State Beach. I drove out once I was done for the day and met him there. It was glorious weather and I just stayed and gawked at the ocean for a while as Richard headed back on 128. We met up again at the Navarro Store to have a snack, and then we both headed back to Dory. 62E9579E-0797-4CDB-A45A-FF9999F23C18Dinner Saturday was a new recipe of grilled foil packets of salmon and asparagus topped with lemon and dill, and potatoes cooked on the griddle. Delish and very easy.

Sunday we hiked around the Big Hendy Woods trails and marveled at the redwoods. 8CAB2DBA-CBB4-4EA8-8570-794529915FF1Then it was back to Dory where Richard had nappy time inside while I fell asleep in my Nemo chair. Side note: since I’ve been wearing the permethrin treated clothes, I have not yet gotten bitten. And there were a few mosquitos buzzing around, with me being an easy sleeping target. So I’m hopeful there. Sunday dinner was a balsamic marinated grilled steak salad with grilled peaches and potato wedges. Also good, but the meat was a little dry. Maybe don’t pre-cut the meat.

8043BC9E-0A69-47E4-803F-F812B93686E4Monday we woke up happily late and rolled out after noon. We stopped at a place called Gowan’s Oak Tree for some award winning fresh fruit and a frozen apple pie. We heated it up when we got home and I must say, that was worth the drive right there. YUM.

Wonderful weekend in a campground that ranks high on my list. I will definitely want to go back there!

Total miles: 141.7, 3 hours 50 min, 15.6 mpg. Site 43. No electric anywhere. Water spigots a plenty and potable water at the dump. Nice dump. Nice bathrooms. Very little solar except in a few sites. 1 bar LTE for me, 2-3 bars for Verizon. With booster got up to 4 bars LTE. Nice sites: 43*, 27, 29, 31, 32, 34 (solar), 48, 49, 51*, 52, 22.

Henry Cowell (3)

img_2202This was our first foray into tippy sites in the post BAL Leveler era. I am happy to report that Lynx Levelers work better. The Anderson Leveler probably feels nervous in fact. I guess we have to get the Lynx chocks now? Our black one seemed sufficient, but we wouldn’t want to mess around if there’s a chance we could roll. And since we’ve removed so much stuff from our camping gear, we can afford the space.

img_2213On Saturday, we hiked up to Observation Deck and took the trail down all the way down to Cable Car Beach. That’s a great loop. It takes you to lookout points where you can, if it’s clear, see Monterey Bay. If you go just a little off the loop to another Lookout, you can see Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Then you descend into the thick redwood forest until you come to a river. Great place for a bit of lunch, or a wade if it’s hot. You do have to pay for it on the return because it is almost all uphill to return to the campground. At least it’s also shady.

img_2216In the afternoon, Richard went on a ride up the Felton and Empire grade. I dozed in my Nemo. After dinner, we went back up to the Observation Deck to catch what we could see of the sunset. We noted how much fire damage there is around there, but we saw a sign indicating it was all controlled burns. If so, that’s a lot of intentional burning there. It did seem to be contained within the boundaries of the trails though, so I guess I could believe it.

img_2207Once the sun disappeared, we walked an easy downhill path along a well worn and sandy chute, back to the campground. I used my blue plastic sippy cup to bring some Chardonnay along for the ride and spent some more chair time back at the site, watching bats whiz around at dusk.

Lovely weekend in nice weather. And for the record, I wore my Permethrin treated clothes while outside and have yet to get a bite. Staying hopeful!

Total miles: 83.0, 16.8 mpg, 2 hours 20 min. Site 46, right next to the dumpsters. Spacious, but unlevel. Trail runs behind it. Some solar though. Nice bathrooms, water spigots, no dump but you can go to New Brighton for free. LTE for ATT, but very little service for Verizon.

Rancho Seco

img_2175You mean, like the nuclear power plant? Yep, the same Rancho Seco. Apparently there is a lake there, with a campground, that is quite the happening place to be on a hot weekend. It is no longer a working power plant, and one has to wonder just a little bit about that lake. Apparently, when it was operating, it was known for frequent accidents and shut downs and boasts the dubious honor of having experienced the third most serious safety-related occurrence in the United States. But hey, it was a nice place with an interesting backdrop view and the whole point of this reservation was to fend off post vacation depression.

img_2159In years past, I have allowed myself plenty of “down time” before the beginning of the school year, theoretically so that I would not feel rushed in the get ready process. Twice I’ve ended up in the emergency room feeling funny and was actually probably experiencing mild to moderate panic attacks. So this year I decided to try something different by not allowing any down time. Worked like a charm. Except this weekend I felt like I’d been hit by a train.

I love my job. I seriously do. But wow, it is a significant mental shift to move from making sure I’m rotating ice cube trays to scheduling a year’s worth of IEP meetings. It’ll all be ok. I think we’re back in our home based groove now. But I should apologize to neighbors for some of the colorful words we used getting Dory down the driveway on Friday. Two months of not doing that and we just about took out the mailbox.

img_2178Richard went out for a very hot bike ride on Saturday and I kind of just laid there, having been recently hit by a train. He saw lots of coyotes, I putzed with the visor and rejected screen shelters while doing online searches. I could have launched my kayak, but it was over 100 degrees and my motivation was low. At dusk, we walked through the campground and saw that there were tons of people there, partying it up with tiki torches and movies projected onto tents (that got Richard’s attention).

img_2180We walked all the way out to a little beach, attempting not to step on the millions of frogs jumping out of the grass. There were so many, it made me wonder if their numbers were somehow increased due to multiple radioactive gas leaks. That’s not such a bad outcome if that’s the case. Now there is a massive array of solar panels at the foot of the cooling towers, but I doubt they could be responsible for a surge in frog population.

img_2182We enjoyed a nice drive home along the Delta via Highway 160. We’ve got sites lined up for the next couple of months and we’re already talking about next summer. It’s good to be home, but it was really good to be out there.

Total miles: 92.4, 17.2 mpg, 2 hours 47 min. Site RV4. Electric and water at our site. Bathroom nearest to use was flush, but single room, so there were lines to use it. Fairly crowded in the day use and tent camping area, but our site had lots of space around it. No view of the lake due to trees and bushes. Dump, LTE cell service for both.

Donner Lake SP (2) & Home

JKzMMhltTy25Qci5JMuCHQOur last hurrah before returning to the real world! Going with our theme of spontaneity, we just decided to pull up to the park and see what they had. I’d secured a reservation for Saturday night at Sugar Pine Point, but we had booked it through Nevada with enough time to get to Donner and out of the smoke and heat by Friday. That all worked perfectly. And not only did they have a site, they had one for two nights. We cancelled Sugar Pine and basked in Donner as though it was just another weekend out.

b4Id0umcQ0mq10jo1b%DQAOn our way, we passed by, but did not stop at, Thunder Mountain in Imlay NV. I wrote about this place three years ago and had intended to stop so Richard could see it. However, the smoke in the air was so bad, he was having a hard time even breathing. So we waved and drove by, on our way through Reno and to higher ground.

Saturday, I wanted to do some reconnaissance while Richard did a ride up Barker Pass. I really have never just gone around Lake Tahoe, so my plan was to check out the roads and scope out other potential campgrounds. Wow, was my thinking waaaaaay off there! QAtKjKJHTYafHZKp2gTr3gFirst off, about half of the 39 million residents of California had decided to go to Lake Tahoe this weekend. So I hit some crazy traffic jams with tons of people trying to make their way along single lane highways while events were blocking off streets and taking up every conceivable parking space along the lake. Next, wow, ok, I’ve never driven the part of Highway 89 that goes along Emerald Bay. I will officially say, that is not my favorite thing to do. There are definitely steep deathy drop offs along there, and with so many people in cars, or walking next to parked cars, it was dodgy at best getting through. I was super glad not to have accidentally had Dory with me for that drive. I made it, partly on the power of the promise to myself that I would not have to drive it again since my plan was to go back up on the eastern side of the lake.

TwdUjaexSj2N2wjFJq076APlan thwarted. Once I got to South Lake Tahoe, I discovered all the rest of the 39 million Californians, on the road, completely stopped, in South Lake Tahoe where 50 meets 89. I sat in a parking lot of cars for a loooonnnggg time. Eventually, I started getting hungry and realized this lake loop plan was going to take at least triple the time I had allotted. So, I reluctantly turned back, deciding to cut my losses even if it meant driving the deathy road again. I wasn’t happy about it, but having immersed ourselves in Donner Party history the past couple of days, it just seemed like a more rational thing to do. I mean, I didn’t have food in the car, it looked impossible to pull over and park to get food anywhere along the way, and I didn’t want to have to end up eating someone. “No see, Your Honor, I’d only had a protein shake for sustenance and it was super hard to park, so I had no choice but to eat that guy.”

TqSuaR%y8wbVqPxZrpwI was able to get enough service to text Richard, who procured a nice sandwich and some water. I picked him up in Tahoma and managed to snag a parking spot long enough to eat lunch. Then we got the hell out of the chaos and went back to Donner. I do like that park. I got to sneak in one last paddle and we had dinner outside in our swinging chairs. That is just much more relaxing. I know lots of people who love Tahoe, and I’m willing to learn how to do it, but so far I must say I do not have a good impression of the place. Too crowded, too hard to get around.

QHOZ9TwSRumfBmSrxj6TIwSunday we trudged home. Richard was not a happy camper about the whole idea. I had intentionally made reservations for the next several weekends, specifically as a way to fend off post vacation depression. That helps. And I must say, all things considered, the twentysomethings did a pretty good job not trashing the house. The bathroom sink seems to not be draining, but everything else is. Also, the cat was full of burrs. So many burrs. But she endured brushing and only batted at me every three or so strokes. So I think she knew it was bad.

And you gotta hand it to home on a couple of fronts: the wifi is fast, the laundry is free, and the grey water tank is simply amazing.

Total miles: 205.4, 15.1, 4 hours 21 min. Total miles to home: 176.4, 17.1, 4 hours 38 min. Site 67. No hookups and no dump, but you can dump in the nearby Chevron station. Slight solar, but it’s fairly shaded. Water spigots and nice bathrooms and showers. Good LTE for both, but around Lake Tahoe, service drops out sometimes.

Winnemucca KOA

E68BD7A0-63E7-416B-8E8B-4F9E9E2ADFC4Nevada, in Spanish, means, “don’t go there.” Got it. Today we mentally connected with the Gold Rush pioneers, noting that we have a car, and air conditioning, and roads, and…. It was still a slog.

Remember that Laramide Erogeny I keep mentioning? Nevada is what happens when huge areas of land rise up and form mountain ranges. In between the ranges, the land gets stretched out to form ripples of repeating basins and ranges. So, stretch marks, really.C4248DAF-42BF-4D53-A462-83E15C740A6C The great basin of Nevada does not get water draining into it, so it’s a vast desert, punctuated with salt flats and a wall of death, called the Sierra Nevada. You can probably tell we stopped at a pioneer museum today, and you’re right.

To break up the long drive, we pulled off at the California Trail Interpretive Center and I would give that a 5.0. They take you through the pioneer story by focusing on members of the Donner/Reed party. 84D2D75A-FAC2-4F58-94A5-B7420385F8EDThey have excerpts from journals, illustrated with displays showing what the land was like at the time. For example, going through the Bonneville Salt Flats, tedious in a car driving 65, took them weeks. The carts and horses broke through the top layer of salt, only to sink into salty mud. They had to abandon supplies, carts, and livestock all along the trail just to make forward progress. By the time they got to the Sierras, much later than they planned, they were exhausted, emaciated, and not getting along terribly well with each other. It’s the ultimate camping trip from hell, but with much more death. E0864219-2289-464B-ACB8-9B119BB9FE2FThere was a multimedia display that sort of brought to life the final months up in the snow and I literally felt my stomach tense up because I could imagine the scene. This historic site is really well done, and I highly recommend it as a stop along 80. Also, it’s air conditioned and has great bathrooms.

Backtracking a bit, we began the day with the discovery of another Alto in the SLC KOA! And it was not only a member of Altoistes, but also someone I’d conversed with previously because they live in California. Turns out, they are returning from their pickup and we will probably see each other on the road all the way back. I love when that happens. 🙂

31469A57-215F-4EB3-AA9F-262A6CC4FE29We wrapped up the day with another KOA. Listen, it’s 105 degrees here. No way were we going to camp at a state park with no electric hookups. And out here, the only choice is really how far you want to drive, in 50-100 mile increments, before you stop for the day. Today’s winner was: Winnemucca! It is every bit as exciting as its name sounds. And, who should we see in the site across from us, but our new Alto friends. Richard went and got take out from a nearby Mexican restaurant and I’m sipping margaritas with ice, so all is well. It’s a far cry from the end to a Pioneer’s day, where you mostly either die or eat deceased non-relatives. Those people were amazing.

Total miles: 351.7, 17.1 mpg, 6 hours 24 min. KOA with full hookups. LTE still strong all along most of 80. Pretty good wifi. All the expected amenities, plus fake plants in the bathroom for ambiance.