Sugarloaf Ridge (5)

Site 1, looking green and sounding babbly next to the actively flowing creek.

It is so good to see California looking lush and green. Despite the damage done by the storms, the water is much needed, and has made everything come alive with renewed life. This area especially got hit hard by fires a few years ago. Richard remembers going on a ride around Sonoma and coming away with a horrible, apocalyptic impression. Everything smelled like a fireplace. There was nothing but charred remains of trees, formerly grassy hillsides, and the empty spaces where there used to be homes. The foundations, swimming pools, and sometimes eerie blackened children’s toys remained, tragically holding space for what once was. Now, you can hardly tell. There are some swaths of standing dead trees, but the ground around them has filled in with new life. Where entire neighborhoods had been wiped out, now there are beautiful new homes. The streams are running full, and little waterfalls appear in the folds of the mountains. It fills one with hope and joy in witnessing renewal and rebirth, following so much sorrow.

Oh so lovely. Fills one up with serenity.

One such waterfall is a 1.5 mile hike down from the Visitor Center. We got out early on Friday and had time to go check it out. Mostly, this wooded valley has been very dry the past few years, with the waterfall running at a trickle at best. Now it is dancing and cascading into beautiful, clear pools. If you try this hike, be aware that it is pretty steep down, with lots of wooden steps along the way. Strava says it was 1.6 miles total, out and back, with an elevation change of 388 feet. It was surprisingly well kept and not at all muddy or slippery. There is a shorter way to get there from the road, but it will still be steps down, and steps back up.

Little spontaneous water features are everywhere.

The next day we were more ambitious. Richard rode in the morning to go look at how Sonoma Valley was recovering, while I looked at color palettes and took a shower. We are in the exciting phase of the Dory/ADU project, where we get to choose countertops, flooring, and paint colors. I was looking through pictures to try to find one of the front of our house, and wasn’t having any luck. I must have fifty thousand pictures of Dory/Lola/Dory2, but no decent pictures of my home. In fact, the best shot I could find, where I could see what the porch area looks like, was in a Dory reflection shot when I had her in the driveway for a bath. I wonder what that says about me. I think, once this project is finished, I will finally, after 25 years, actually love my home. It has always been a work in progress and I’ve never liked the exterior color. So I’m excited. Our daughter is excited too because now the ADU is starting to feel real. And hers.

Looking East, across Napa Valley, all the way to the Sierra Nevada

After Richard got back, we went on a good hike up to the top of Bald Mountain. Strava says that one was 6.21 miles with an elevation change of 1,570 feet. So nothing to sneeze at! I, too, am feeling a sense of rebirth and renewal, along with increased confidence in how much physical activity I can take on. I am a bit melancholy about how long I allowed myself to feel tired and out of shape, and there are places we’ve visited where I would like to have a do over. I think I would have a better time, and be a lot less grumpy, now that hiking uphill is not such an ordeal. Richard was surprised to find out that he was often the only one actually enjoying some of the hikes we did. To my credit, I got myself out there a lot, but sometimes I was more focused on the likelihood of having a heart attack, combined with a mental guesstimate of how long it would take emergency crews to get to me, than I was with the stunning views. In fact, I routinely noticed whether trail descriptions contained the words “stunning views,” because that always means uphill. I had lots of sneaky ways to steer us away from those. Losing a big chunk of weight usually reveals what you’ve been carrying around, in addition to the pounds.

Mt. Diablo, off in the distance

All of that is to say, I enjoyed the extremely uphill hike and its views, with no grumpiness at all. It is pretty steep in places, but we followed a paved road, so it was neither muddy, nor too slippery. It’s one of those little used single lane authorized personnel only roads, so it wasn’t in great shape. We saw some bikies struggling up the 8-12% grades, and made sure to get out of their way as they clutched their brakes on the way down. From the top, the views were worth the effort. You can see our hometown landmark, Mt. Diablo, which is 51 miles away. And, since it was a beautiful, clear day, we were able to see all the way to the snow capped Sierra Nevada, 132 miles away! We could not make out the Pacific Ocean, but we could see Lake Hennessy and Napa Valley clearly. Then it was down, down, down to Dory and a well earned snack of chips and salsa.

This crossing was underwater during the height of the storms a couple of weeks ago. We bailed on reservations then, so it is nice to come back now that things are a bit calmer.

There is some more rain in the forecast, but nothing like the power punch of the last system, at least, not for now. We dumped again at a Shell station on our way home, right on Highway 12 in Sonoma. I wish there were more of those around. We would happily pay $10 after staying in a campground with no dump station anywhere nearby. Trust me, as we have been doing all of this home improvement, I have wondered whether there was any way we could install a home dump. We could charge people $10 to use it. Pretty sure it’s a) not legal, and b) not something the neighbors would appreciate.

Green and blue. Coexisting nicely.

It sure is nice to see California all green and cleansed. It fills my head and heart with circle of lifey stuff: destruction, regrowth, loss, birth… all the things on repeat. But then my head gets distracted with color swatches, and that is lots more fun to think about. Our house will be green, by the way. I live a color coded existence and home = green, camping = blue. Edamame Green, to be exact. With accents of Sea Grass, and Golfer Green. It will be beautiful.

Total miles: 62.4, 16.3 mpg, 2 hours 15 min. Site 1. Great site within reach of Visitor Center wifi. Some solar. No hookups. NO cell for either, but wifi worked pretty well as long as you kept logging out and logging back in again. No dump. Dumped at Shell station in Sonoma on Highway 12. It was ok, but tippy in the wrong direction.

Costanoa (5)

Worth every penny.

We don’t usually camp in KOAs, unless we are on the road and are looking for conveniences. But this is no ordinary KOA. And it comes at a price point we don’t normally hit. But this place warrants the premium price tag, provided you are willing to fork over the extra fee to lock in a specific site. There are five or six premium sites in the first loop that have views of the ocean, your own patio area, and plenty of spacing between you and your neighbors. Otherwise, the rest of the sites are more in line with your typical KOA spacing, where you can be very close to the rigs in the next sites. But even beyond the luxury level experience, this campground is situated inside a resort complex with a nice (but pricey) restaurant, a high end general campground store, and lots of activities for campers of all ages. My favorite campground amenity? Why, that would be the roving BAR CART of course. It’s like an ice cream truck, but with margaritas. All of this, right off Highway 1 south of Pescadero. It is a splurge worth doing every now and again.

Most impressive campground store ever

We pulled in after sunset on Friday and went to the general store. There we found teeny tiny containers of Ben & Jerry’s, among many other things. There was an impressive array of scented candles, which our daughter enjoys. I sent a photo and she chose Big Sur. I smelled it later and it was nice, but I’m not sure what kind of smell is supposed to capture Big Sur. What comes to mind right now is the odor of heavy construction machinery clearing slides. I doubt that essence would sell too many candles though.

One of the few remaining signs around this area of the serious nature of the recent storms

Richard went out riding on Saturday and did a little disaster tourism while he was at it. We’ve seen videos of parts of Stage Road sliding downhill into oblivion, and since that is a road Richard sometimes rides, he was curious about its current status. What he found made him nervous to even approach for fear more of the roadway would suddenly give up the ghost and go join its fallen bits down below. Meanwhile I had brunch to go from the restaurant. I was surprised to learn that lunch did not officially start until 2pm, but I guess that’s a luxury schedule for you. Then I sat with my breakfast burrito and waited for Richard to return, while quietly looking up the prices of all of the patio furniture. I’ll just say, $329 poly Adirondack chairs are comfortable, though cold.

This would be the “swirl” technique

At 1pm, I joined in on the campground Tie Dye activity and selected a T-shirt to make. How fun is that?? I have an embarrassing lack of tie dye anything (meaning precisely zero things), considering I am a native Californian with all the bonafide credentials of being a sixties hippie flower child, raised in a commune, and cohabitating occasionally with Joan Baez. It does not seem right that I have no tie dye anything. The activity facilitators assisted me in making a swirly patterned, rainbow colored T shirt. It was loads of fun and now I can get my hippie groove on with my ultra luxury, KOA made clothing, with the Costanoa logo proudly centered in the middle of the swirl. I’m not sure how my parents would have felt about the corporate image placement, but at least now I have something to wear at school the next time it is Tie Dye Day.

A helpful sign had in fact warned us about this. But we are rebels who do not believe signs.

After that, we went out hiking toward the beach and Franklin Point. Right away, we came upon a sign warning that the trail was flooded ahead. Both of us immediately thought, “Well how flooded?” and continued right on. The answer turned out to be: “Quite flooded, why must you question everything?” We turned around and backtracked to a different trail leading to the same place.

Watch your step!

The North Whitehouse Creek Trail was a more established route, though it too had pockets of squishiness and some spots that were actually submerged. Those were passable if you went a bit around though. Closer to the beach, there were sections that are beginning to slide off and someone is going to need to adjust those trail ropes to compensate. There also appeared to be lots of movement in the sandy approach down to the beach, I imagine a spontaneous river running through there on its way to the ocean. In fact, we saw little waterfalls here and there as the saturated earth is still seeping rain water from every possible pore. We overcame all of the trail obstacles and returned before sunset.

Yes please 🙂

Again, I was able to justify the outrageous cost of the site, by virtue of the fact that we were able to enjoy a glorious sunset, right from our patio. And if that was not enough bang for your buck, the icing on the cake was Richard appearing, having tracked down the BAR CART, and handing me a margarita.

Not your ordinary KOA

I would quite happily spring for this site again. It’s like all of the elements of staying in a luxury hotel, except you get to stay in your own space with your own stuff. Cleanup crews come through each site between guests, wiping down the $2500 patio furniture set, cleaning the complimentary grill, and leaf blowing any trace of nature away from the brick patio and walkway. The staff is incredibly friendly and determined to make sure you enjoy your stay. Kids were entertained with organized activities, playgrounds, s’mores parties, and more. It’s a great place to go when you want to get away, but not rough it in any way. If you’re on the hunt for a premium “camping” experience, with emphasis on the quotation marks, this is an excellent place to stay.

Total miles: 75.8, 17.4 mpg, 2 hours 45 min. Site 13 premium, full hookups. LTE for Verizon, no cell for ATT, could hit campground wifi from site, which is pretty fast wifi. Excellent wifi (enough to download) in front of general store. Nice patio with furniture and grill and view of ocean. Incredible facility with very nice bathrooms, store, group activities, playground, gathering areas, stables. Expensive but worth it.

Skyline Wilderness

In answer to the question: “No seriously, what is wrong with us?” I came across this definition of a rare, clinically diagnosable disorder:

dromomania (noun)an exaggerated desire to wander

“Dromomania.” Merriam-Webster.com Medical Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/dromomania. Accessed 16 Jan. 2023.

I mean…. seriously.

I think we have that. Or, at the very least, we have doryomania, which is an even more rare form of the condition. See, California has been going through some stuff the past couple of weeks. I mean, you never know what it is going to be with California. You could be burning down, or the sky could be orange and you can’t breathe because somewhere else is burning down, or you could be falling into the ocean with the next Big One. But this time it was “atmospheric rivers.” California doesn’t really do so well with biblical levels of precipitation, and everything starts to slide, and/or pool, and/or turn into a rushing river. Things were bad enough last weekend that we grudgingly accepted defeat and stayed home. Also, I’m pretty sure the campground on the coast closed, or certainly should have. So what did we do? We raised Dory’s roof in the garage and camped there. We powered through by watching all of the “Star Wars” post-quels (numbers VII, VIII and IX), plus “Rogue One.” That kept us pretty entertained for the most part. Sustained scoffing is a fun activity when there’s nothing better to do. And when there was a break in the rain, we walked down the multi-use trail that is literally at the bottom of our street, in order to gawk at the high water levels in the creek, and enjoy our own cute downtown. We do actually live in a nice place, despite appearances that would suggest we can’t stand it here.

We camp for the views.

Throughout the week, the rain continued to come down. Many parts of the state are suffering major damage. Lives have been lost out there. Roads have closed. But not all the roads. And not all the places are flooded. We had reservations at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma, which did close for a while before deeming itself safe-ish and opening back up on Thursday. We could have gone, but I suggested instead we go to the place we normally go to dump tanks when we leave Napa. Skyline Wilderness Park always seemed like a fun location, close to the south side of Napa Valley, and right next to the city of Napa proper. The campground struck me as kind of meh and parking lotty, but that was exactly what I was after. I wanted a place that didn’t have a lot of big beautiful old oak trees that might fall on top of you in the middle of the night. I wanted a place where there was more than one entry/exit route, and was neither in a river valley nor at the top of a peak. A nice high ground location with service and hookups for as long as the power stayed on. This place fit the bill.

Downtown Napa at night

It was raining when we left, and raining when we got there, and rain predicted the whole three day weekend. But we were so happy to be out, we didn’t even care. We went out to dinner all three nights, because when the going gets tough, the tough enjoy Thai food. There is an overwhelming selection of incredible restaurants in Napa. Our first choice was Chetuphon. It was so good. We had shrimp Won Ton soup and chicken satay and a spicy curry over Jasmine rice. Wow.

I don’t think this golf course normally has water features

We both always sleep better in Dory than we do at home, and the rest was much appreciated. We got to laze around for a while in the morning, and then we ventured out for a long walk on a paved multi-use trail through Kennedy Park. The Napa River Trail intersects several other paved routes up and down the valley, and will get you to the heart of downtown in about two and a half miles. We first did a loop around the park to the south, which spends a lot of its time taking you past some extensive homeless encampments. It also runs along the Napa Golf Course, which more resembled an archipelago with all of the new lakes that had formed. The shorebirds looked delighted. It is a striking juxtaposition to see the encampments looking right onto the fairways. I imagined how hard that would be to be sheltering under tarps in that kind of weather.

Rain kilt for the win. Richard does not care if you are scoffing. His shorts are dry.

We continued northward on the trail until we got pummeled by a downpour. We had geared up pretty well, with rain jackets, rain pants for me, and of course, the infamous rain kilt for Richard. He loves that thing by the way. He says it is the perfect way to keep his shorts dry and not feel clammy. Nevertheless, we weren’t really trying to do extreme hiking, so we turned around and went back to the car. Then we drove back to Dory because we had wet socks and no one likes that.

The Dutch Door – it is really just a door

After wringing out, we drove the short distance into town and reveled in the fact that there was a Ben & Jerry’s store. Lord, that was fun! I had earned the calories, not only for that, but for another splurge for dinner at The Dutch Door. This is literally a hole in the wall place, with one outdoor table, thankfully under a heater and a generously overhanging awning. I had the absolute best Korean fried chicken sandwich. YUM.

The person at the counter mentioned we were the most excited customers she had ever had.

Sunday was more or less a repeat of Saturday, though this time we walked the trail all the way into town. Well, to Ben & Jerry’s really. That was the actual destination. Between Mint Chocolate Chance and Chocolate Therapy, I cannot decide. We hoofed it back to where the car was parked and ended up with five miles and enough earned calories for a third night on the town. Our final dinner was enjoyed at Yak and Yeti, Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine. We had the veggie Momos, which are steamed and filled dumplings, Tandoori prawns, and the “Chicken 65,” which is a house specialty. This, plus fresh baked naan and rice. If I put a pound or two back on after all the splurging, I do not care. It was worth it.

I’m not sure what the water levels normally look like, but I’m betting lower.

We had a really wonderful weekend, especially considering it was during a historic natural disaster. The city of Napa seems to have handled the excess water quite well. Even though the river was flowing full throttle, I didn’t see or hear of any places where it was backing up. I mean, besides the areas right by the river, like the city park and golf course. You could see lots of floating debris getting carried downstream, and the water was a thick brown color from all of the mud. but it was holding. And Napa is a super fun town to explore. All in all, we think it was the right call to go out, and to not go to Sugarloaf. In these circumstances, being in town with services and paved walking areas was the perfect thing on a rainy three day weekend. We don’t normally do city things when we go camping, and this was a reminder of how much fun that can be too.

All weather passes, eventually.

And guess what! California’s reservoirs are filling up! After a two week inundation, Shasta went from something like 32% capacity, to over 51%. Shasta is huge, so that is just nuts. Yay California!

Total miles: 37.3, 16.0 mpg, 1 hour 39 min. Site 1. Electric hookups. Good dump. Excellent 5g cell for both. Gate closes at 5pm, but they give you a code to get in. Super close to town and all services imaginable. Did really well in atmospheric river with no flooding and very few puddly sites.

San Simeon (4)

Not the desert anymore.

And just like that, we’re back in the land of weather. Travel to San Simeon was not fun. In fact, the last thirteen miles of Highway 46 going down to Highway 1 was some of the most terrifying towing I think I have ever done. That was awful.

We had been watching the weather reports up and down the state quite closely. It looked like we were going to be able to slide between two systems on our travel day westward. That was kind of true, in that it wasn’t raining until the end, and at the Tehachapi Pass, but it was very windy all day. Wind towing is one of my least favorite things. At least, I kept telling myself, it is daytime, it is not raining, and Highway 58 is not as busy as some other highways, if you have to tow in wind. There were few places I could exit or take frontage roads, so it was mostly just hang tight, be ready for the pushing and pulling every time a truck passed, and keep it slow. For a while, we listened to our audio book of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” which is fun and mostly distracting. When it got intense though, we had to pause. I took quick breaks at rest stops and exits, just enough to catch my breath and unclench, and then it was back on the road all the way until Tehachapi.

Climbing up the pass, one could see that there was going to be dense fog and low visibility at the top. Light up signs saying “Dense Fog. Low Visibility.” seemed to confirm that suspicion. I was finally able to get off the highway and take surface streets to the big gas station at the top and look for the alternate route down. I really did not want to be on the highway going down with next to no visibility. The wind was crazy up there and blew the car doors shut when you got out. Weather reports said it was not raining, so there went any credibility out the window.

The Tehachapi Loop

I was able to find the road I had once SAGed Richard on that I remembered not liking. Woodford-Tehachapi Road was narrow and curvy, with deathy edges and a serious descent for twelve miles. Well now it is my favorite road. I love that road. It is the best road ever. Crawling out of town through the thick fog, we started to go down. There was no one behind me or in front of me, so I could go as slow as I pleased and not worry about being rear ended. Almost immediately as we started down, the wind lessened and the fog lifted a little. It got better and better as we went, enough that when we got to the place where we could see the Tehachapi Loop with a train going by, I was downright happy and untense enough to make Richard take pictures.

The cloud layer by the time we reached Keene (and the unavoidable onramp back onto Highway 58), was way overhead now. There was very little wind, and traffic was moving slow and careful the rest of the way down to Bakersfield. What a relief! Traveling across the central valley was easy and the wind was not noticeable on this side of the mountains. I took 58 to 46 and stayed on 46 all the way to Paso Robles. With only about twenty miles to go, I thought I had it licked. And by the time things got socked in, there was really no turning back.

Highway 46 down to the coast is normally rather exhilarating. I mean, the views of the ocean below are gorgeous, but it is not a relaxing drive. It is a long, exposed highway that plummets about 1,500 feet in sweeping curves that are dicey on clear days. And there is often wind. On our approach, it was wind plus that damn dense rainy fog the whole way down. Visibility was so low it seemed like nighttime, the road was wet, and you could only just make out the edges of the curves as you went down them. Maybe that was good though, because seeing the dropoffs on either side of the curves might not have helped. If I had even tried to pull over, there were about ten cars behind me that would never have been able to see me or stop in time. It was death grip on the steering wheel time and just super focus on what I could see of the road ahead. I asked Richard to count down the miles, in tenths, all the way down. “7.1, 7.0, 6.9…” And me repeating, “It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok…” By the time we were three miles away from the intersection with Highway 1, it was in fact ok. The visibility improved and the grade calmed down. When you roll to the stop sign, it is finally, blissfully, flat. Then it’s clear sailing just a few flat miles to the campground. I can still feel my shoulders reaching for my ears though. Weather apps insisted it was not raining yet. Stupid weather apps.

Whew. Made it!

I knew there was no bailing on that day, unless I wanted to be stuck somewhere during the big storm on Saturday. We pulled in and did our best to nose Dory into the direction the stupid weather apps were saying the wind was going to be coming from. Then I had a margarita and we pulled the privacy curtains on our little cocoon of stationary safety.

Kept an eye on that tiny little creek…

The big storm on New Year’s Eve took a while to ramp up, so much so that we scoffed a little about this storm being a “nothing burger.” We really should not do that. Ever. Even if it ends up being true. And while we were fine, we found out later that lots and lots of places flooded or slid, all over California.

Palm trees are rugged buggers.

We had reservations for a tour at Hearst Castle in the afternoon, and there was no reason not to do that. Everything was open and trams were running people up the long road to the castle, as per usual. The castle is situated at the top of a hill, about sixteen hundred feet above the ocean. Architect Julia Morgan designed the approach so that, as you bend and climb your way up, the castle comes in and out of view until you reach the top. Of course, we couldn’t see anything through the clouds, but when we got out of the bus, we sure could feel the full force of the storm. We were all geared up in rain jackets, and I put on rain pants, which fared a lot better than the destroyed umbrella of another tour member.

You only know there’s a storm outside because you can’t see the view of the ocean.

Fortunately, most of the tour was indoors, and castles are really the place you want to be in a storm. We could see the palm trees blowing around through the windows, but really couldn’t hear or feel anything inside. That’s what happens when you build things out of thick reinforced concrete.

Lots of fancy bathrooms in this place

The tour itself was fascinating, as they always are. I think we’ve done three now, all different, and I would be happy doing each one again. You always learn something new about the place, or the people who visited. This time I learned that the showers in some of the guest rooms were among the first permanently installed and plumbed showers anywhere. Everything was state of the art at the time, including the fact that there was electrical lighting in every room. That was very avant garde for the times.

The Roman Pool

The outdoor “Neptune Pool” had been restored since the last time I was there, and it is beautiful. Now they are trying to restore the roof of the indoor “Roman Pool,” which is also the floor of the tennis courts. This pool was designed using millions of cobalt blue and gold leaf glass tiles, arranged in a pattern that makes it look like a starry sky. If you jump into the pool from a landing above, it makes you think you are diving upward, into the nighttime sky. As water dripped into the pool through the leaky ceiling, it created shimmering circles of golden reflected light. Dazzling. After the tour, we watched the informational movie in their IMAX theater. We both wondered whether Dory was doing ok in the storm, but figured there would be nothing we could do if we were there, so why not take our minds off our worries a while longer.

Returning to the campground, we saw no evidence of any storm damage and the creek did not seem to have gotten much higher than when we left. Dory was fine and we had done a standup job turning her right into the wind. She hardly even shuddered. It was time for dinner, bed, and be ready for an early departure. We had planned to stay an extra night, but stupid weather apps were all saying Sunday was the break in the rain. We did not believe them at all, but still planned to head back home.

Ok, one point for the stupid weather apps. They called this.

Morning came, and what do you know? The sun was out, the skies were blue, and it was as though nothing had happened. Our drive home was long, but not stressful. We even listened to some more of our audio book to pass the time. We could see small mudslides on the side of the road, but nothing was closed that barred our way.

Once home, we discovered some things had not fared so well, our next door neighbor being the hardest hit. She had a major mud slide from her side of our adjoining hill. Meanwhile, since we are in the process of construction, and since part of our existing roof has been removed in order to connect the new roof for the ADU, our daughter’s room had been raining inside. She did her best to catch the drips with bowls and buckets, but it looked pretty bad. Her floor is toast. It was a wood laminate and is now completely warped and destroyed. The drips coming from her ceiling were not quite so attractive as those falling into the Roman Pool at Hearst Castle. Maybe if she had Venetian glass floor tiles it would make the leaking more fun. The scary part is that there is another big system due to come through. We are happy for all this California rain of course, but we weren’t quite in sync with the timing of the remodel.

Oh well. Just keep swimming…. even if it is in your bedroom because the roof is leaking. Just pretend you’re in a castle.

Total miles from Calico: 288, 15.0 mpg fighting wind, 7 hours 8 min of stressful driving. Site 206 in the Washburn primitive loop. No hookups. Water spigots, vault toilets. Good dump down below in the main campground, but rinse hose was not working this time. Fairly good cell service, but not enough to satisfy our desire to keep updating weather reports.

Calico Ghost Town (4)

The Ghost Town is anything but abandoned during the holidays.

Once again, we returned to our funky little stopover between travel days. The journey was uneventful and went smoothly. Richard got in a short ride up Box Canyon to get his ya-ya’s out. Then we cut through Joshua Tree to catch Highway 247 from Yucca Valley on the other side.

Hey! I spy a Safari Condo van up ahead. It’s a good bet we know who that is!

We knew Francois was in the vicinity with his travel buddy, who met up with him in SoCal. We scanned for vans as we headed up the road, and did in fact catch up with him right after the Cholla Cactus Gardens. His Safari Condo van is a particular shade of deep grey, plus, it has a snail logo on the back, so we knew it was him. We followed along after them on the main road, until they pulled off to park and go look at something. It was very crowded in Joshua Tree that day, so we didn’t want to try to find parking for Dory. Instead, we rolled down the windows as we passed by, and yelled at them to “Get out of the road!!” Waves and kisses were exchanged and I hope they had a blast in Joshua Tree. Now we know we will see him again in the summer, but in the parking lot/campground in Quebec. He promised wine. I’m just documenting that here to hold him to it.

Howdy partners and a Merry Christmas to ye!

We got an early start and made good time, so we got to poke around the ghost town a little bit. It is nicely decorated for the holidays and had more people walking around than we have ever seen there. The parking lot even seemed kind of full and I can’t recall ever seeing more than a couple of cars down there. Of course, there were the New Year’s ATV people, flying their flags and buzzing around in their brightly lit little off road buggies. Even our loop felt hopping.

We can’t skip this…

We rolled in with very little gas – not that we hadn’t noticed; we were monitoring the projected range and miles to go the whole way. So the first order of business was to fill up in town where there are lots of choices for gas stations. Then, it was a short hop around the corner to Penny’s. We would wonder if they were starting to recognize us, but it was a different server this time. I had fried chicken waffles and they were worth every logged calorie.

Fun little stop as we make tracks toward home. We will be dodging severe weather alerts all the way home.

Total miles from Anza Borrego: 243.7, 17.3 mpg, 6 hours 38 min. Site 9, hookups until kid tripped on power cord. Nice dump. Bitsy pieces of service until you get over the little hill bordering the loop. Excellent service above/beyond the hill. Also, Penny’s always has excellent wifi.