Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Great Anderson-Lechien Adventure

And it was a good one – not trouble-free, though, as you’ll soon read. The travelers were my sister Linda, her husband Bob Lechien and Winnie their Australian Shepherd in their Winnebago motorhome and Cat and I in Jeremiah, my Winnebago motorhome.

This adventure started and ended in Gardnerville, Nevada, where the Lechien’s live. In all we traveled 880 miles in 10 days, stayed at six RV parks, and drove roads ranging from major highways to dangerously narrow minor ones.

Thursday, Aug. 13

Gardnerville to Jackson, California. We are a four-RV caravan today for an 85-mile drive over the high Carson Pass in the Sierra Nevada Range to Jackson Rancheria for a Good Sam Club campout. This full-service RV park is located in a natural forest setting on the Miwuk Indian reservation; elevation about 2,600 feet. This 5-Star facility has a casino, an awesome clubhouse, swimming pool, two hot tubs, 2/3-mile walking trail and dog play area. The grounds are well manicured.

Fourteen RVs from the Desert Vagabonds Good Sam group gathered for the three-day outing. Club members played games – bocce ball, snake, Mexican train, chicken foot, 31, Polish poker and Zilch. Linda and I also enjoyed morning walks. (See photo of Linda and Winnie)

Sunday afternoon, Aug 16

With a successful club campout concluded, we headed toward Grass Valley. Linda found a Scotts Flat RV Park listing in one of our camping directories, deep in a pine tree forest alongside Scotts Lake. For $30 each, we parked on un-level dirt and had no hookups, requiring us to run generators to cool down. We were cautioned about bears, and that was confirmed when Linda talked with a tent camper who said a bear had raided their campsite of all edible stuff. We believed them because the bear left a “calling card” – a strong, very offensive odor reminding us of pig farms in the Midwest.

Monday, Aug. 17

After a pleasantly cool and dark night, we left Scotts Flat, traveling on Highway 49 (on the map the route has those little dots alongside denoting a “scenic route.”) toward Quincy. Let me describe this highway: winding road, two lanes, very narrow – Jeremiah took up an entire lane, tall pines creating ‘canyon walls’ in some places with occasional rock walls on one side and steep drop off on the other, paralleling a river/creek, and not safe to drive faster than 30 to 35 mph and oftentimes slower. In short: treacherous and stressful driving in motorhomes. (In fact, when we finally reached the Pioneer RV Park in Quincy, the owner, when she heard we had traveled on Highway 49 gasped and exclaimed, “You drove on highway 49?”)

Along the way to Quincy, we stopped in the old gold rush town of Downieville, hoping to have lunch. We pulled off the highway only to discover that this tiny town had no real RV parking. After gingerly maneuvering to get back on the highway, we had to cross a one-lane bridge.

Fairly soon after leaving Downieville on this dangerous road, a guard rail that was smack-dab along the right side of my lane jumped out and hit Jeremiah on the side, making a huge noise and frightening me. I walkie-talkied Linda and Bob and as soon as they could find – amazingly – a fairly wide shoulder, we both pulled off to check the damage. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected. Besides scratches it looked like one of my exterior storage bays was damaged and the lower hinge on my ‘house’ door was damaged.

We proceeded to drive on and I soon noticed that the ‘house’ steps on the Lechien motorhome had not retracted. Another walkie-talkie conversation, but no place to pull over. At this point, we are both nervous about the very narrow road, hugging the yellow center line as much as possible. We pulled off at a scenic overlook, and by luck an AAA tow truck was there helping another motorist. When he finished, he figured out a way to wire and camp the steps up and we were on our way again.

Two road-weary drivers arrived at Pioneer RV Park in the logging town of Quincy. This park sits alongside the County Fair Grounds and we were delighted to have hookups. I hesitatingly tried to open Jeremiah’s side door – whew! It opens.

Tuesday, Aug. 18

Today’s destination is McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, and our route took us through a just-burned forest; firefighters were doing some mopping up, the odor of burned trees permeated, and acres and acres of tall pine trees were burnt to a crisp.

The park sits high on the eastern boundary of the Cascade Range, halfway between Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak. Across the basalt face of the cliff, thousands of rivulets issue through the porous rock from five underground aquifers fed by rain and snowmelt, giving the falls a feathery, enchanted appearance. President Theodore Roosevelt visited here and pronounced the falls one of the wonders of the world.

This State Park is a very popular park in the pines; there were lots of tent campers. In spite of the pine setting, it was HOT – and there were no hookups, thus no electricity to run air conditioners. We could run generators between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. which we did part of the time. But by 8 p.m. it was still hot. We had intended to stay two nights but the extreme 100+ degree heat made it unbearable for both humans and our animals. By late afternoon we decided to only stay one night.

Linda and I took a hike down to the base of the falls – to marvel at the sights and to cool off. Temps down there are fairly steady at a cool 65-degrees.

We also spotted this lost-dog sign posted outside the restrooms:

As I walked around the park, I spotted what the park brochure calls “one of the prettiest birds and yet rarely seen by park visitors and staff – the Pileated Woodpecker.” This bird is also called Indian Hen, the Rain Crow, Laughing Woodpecker and Black Woodcock or log cock. They are the largest woodpeckers in North America – 16 to 19 inches long. A bright red crest adorns the head of both males and females. The pileated woodpecker was the inspiration for the cartoon character - Woody Woodpecker. This bird was hard at work on a pine cone – and did not stand still for a decent photo. Here’s the best I could do.

Besides staying only one night, we also made the decision to cut our trip short by not heading further west to Center Point, Oregon, to tour the Dogs for the Deaf facility. Bob’s back was getting steadily worse (he is scheduled to see a specialist next month for possible surgery). He was in a lot of pain and discomfort in spite of his medications. We would start back to Gardnerville after our time at Lakeview.

Wednesday, Aug. 19

The park cheerfully refunded our second night’s camping fee and we were on our way north to Lakeview, Oregon. Linda had been raving about the Junipers Reservoir RV Park that they had visited a number of years ago. The park has 40 sites with hookups. It is in the midst of an 8,000-acre ranch in southeastern Oregon. The ranch grows field grasses and feed for the cattle graze there in the summer months. In the winter, the cold and snowy weather requires the rancher to truck his cattle to a warmer place in Nevada.

We stayed here two nights – giving us a down day to relax and rest. Linda and I rode bikes on the Ranch Tour Road. I saw my first Rock Chuck, aka a Yellow Bellied Marmot. I also learned that these ground critters are herbivores and especially like to dine on flowers and just-ripe tomatoes. We watched the rock chuck dash into the park’s raised flower bed where it most likely has a burrow. We also saw Magpies, Mountain Bluebirds, and Tree Swallows.

Another interesting thing was a old-time working water pump. Here’s Linda as she pumped into a leaky bucket.

This park also gets my first-place award for a clean and beautiful women's restroom! Campground restrooms run the gamut - from ugh! to well, it's at least fairly clean. Junipers is the best I've seen so far. Tile floors, spacious showers, fresh cut flowers every day!

This was a peaceful place to spend two days.

Friday, Aug. 21

This morning we drove 75 miles to Likely Place (Calif.) to stay at The Likely Place RV Resort and Golf. Compared to our mountainous drives this past week, the drive was delightful and restful. The route took us through more ranching country. Somehow I neglected to take any photos. It was early to bed in anticipation of an early departure for our last day’s drive. I’m eager to get back to Prescott Valley because my New Mexico house has sold and I need to get back to civilization to tend to the transfer details – closing papers will be Fed-Ex’d to Prescott Valley for signature, etc; the sale closes August 31. I’ll be celebrating!

Saturday, Aug. 22

In retrospect, it was a super adventure. And I learned more about myself! I do not like driving through miles and miles of pine forests – all I can see are tree trunks, walls of rock, and the road right in front of me as I thread my way between the center and road-side lines, worrying about traffic coming from around the bend partially in my lane. I feel hemmed in. I much prefer open spaces with lots of sky, fields, and the luxury of looking around as I drive. I like to see the critters in the fields, marvel at the cloud formations. On the open, less-traveled roads I prefer, I can often take my half out of the middle, briefly stop to snap a photo of an interesting sight, and relax.

So, until next adventure – I hope you have some adventures of your own. Remember, life is short. Enjoy each day and find something wonderful and kind to do.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A terrific time in Gardnerville, Nevada

After high/low temps in Boulder City of 110/91 and in Tonopah of 92/70, for my first night (Thursday, Aug. 6) in Gardnerville the temp got down to 42 degrees! And I was not prepared for such cold weather. I had unloaded my winter bedding and somehow neglected to load any sweat shirts and warm jackets. Why, you might wonder? Well, it was hot in Prescott Valley when I prepared Jeremiah for the trip, and besides, it was summer.

Nephew Tim Slater backed Jeremiah onto his side yard where I’d be camped for the week. And not expecting a cold night, I chose not to get hooked to electricity – and didn’t turn my propane on before I went to bed. So I could not turn my heater on. In short, I was cold!

Earlier in the evening Sister Linda had said, “You got here just in time for tomorrow’s huge rummage sale at St. Gall Catholic Church.” As I shivered through the night I knew that I’d be
buying some warm clothes and blankets at the rummage sale, just in case I encountered more cold nights on this trip.

Friday, Aug. 7

The rummage “madhouse” started at 6:40 a.m. – Linda and I stood in the line for the rummage sale that would open at 7 a.m. Some people had been there since a little after 6 a.m! It was HUGE. A large lot outside had sports and fitness equipment, large appliances, furniture and such. Inside there were two rooms of small appliances, lamps, etc. The stage of the Parish Hall had books, videos, DVDs and such. The entry hallway had toys, shoes, etc. The entire mail floor had clothing, dishes, craft supplies, Christmas stuff, linens and bedding. All this, and the mobs of

people carrying and filling large bags and totes made moving around difficult. Several ‘pay stations’ were located outside. The best part? Everything was priced ridiculously low.

My purchases: two warm queen-size blankets ($7 each), one suede/knit jacket ($5), a battery charger for household batteries ($1), and the best deal of all was a Columbia jacket that is actually two jackets in one ($5). (See photos – two jackets become one.)

Two other purchases were an old-fashioned food grinder ($2) and an unknown-at-the-time thing ($1). Later I looked that curious item up on the Internet and found that it is a Vesuviana 40s-50s vintage espresso/cappuccino maker from Italy - sadly missing two important parts.

That evening our family dinner at Tim’s house included Nephew Richard Slater and Sister Linda’s granddaughter and her great-grandson.

Saturday, Aug. 8

This morning’s treat was a delicious breakfast at South Lake Tahoe at Lew Mar Nel’s restaurant where Nephew David Slater is a waiter and his son Tyler is a greeter and seats diners. Our breakfast group included Sister Linda and her husband Bob, Tim and his wife Linda, Tim’s grandson Tobyn and me. Afterwards we went to David’s house to visit with his other three children – DJ (who is home from college) and 11-year-old twins Alyssa and Abigael. After that we took a scenic drive on forest roads that went up to the Angora overlooks where formerly-used fire lookout towers are. Two good photos taken were these: Linda and Bob below.

Saturday late afternoon’s outing was to Reno to take Tim’s grandson back home, and then we went to the new Legend’s Shopping Center that had just opened. Here’s one of the outdoor sculptures – look closely and you’ll see this large fish is made up of small ones. At the gigantic Scheels Sporting Goods Store (Similar to Cabella’s) Tim and Linda “drove” in a simulated NASCAR racing event.

Sunday, Aug. 9

Today’s adventure was going out to brunch – 12 miles across Lake Tahoe – in Tim’s Bayliner boat. After two iffy weather days, it was bright and beautiful with a gentle breeze. It is fascinating to see the lake and the surrounding mountains from mid-lake. Breakfast was at the Firesign Café on the west shore – and Tim bought me a café t-shirt to remember the occasion. This has been a favorite eating place since 1978 and I imagine it is because of the delicious food. After brunch we cruised the lake shoreline looking for Bald Eagles, dropping into Emerald Bay to feed ducks and geese.

Back down the mountain, Linda and I went to visit our friend Dot Hogen. Dot and I go way back to the late 1970s. She came to work for me when I owned Associated Tennis Suppliers and the United States Racquet Stringers Association. She and I had been playing tennis from time to time and she offered to help for “for a few weeks.” Those few weeks stretched into several years, including the ones I also owned the Custom Racquet Shop. And when I sold the USRSA she went to work for the new owner, another friend of mine. Dot worked there until this past January when some medical issues forced her retirement from work and from tennis. Over the years Dot and her doubles partner played dynamite women’s doubles and at one time they were ranked 7th nationally in hard-court competition. Even though she’s been forced to slow down and now lives in the Reno/Carson City areas with family, Dot is alert and lively at age 84. Dot is a great role model for me. This picture shows Dot and her son Rory. (Note to our North San Diego friends – dot says she is getting better and soon will be making a trip to visit.)

Monday, Aug 10

We got Linda and Bob’s motor home ready for travel on Thursday, and enjoyed a home-cooked salmon dinner that night.

Tuesday, Aug. 11

This morning was ‘house cleaning’ for Jeremiah and some grocery shopping in preparation for the next motor home adventure. This evening’s treat was the Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe. Linda and I went in order to take Tony – a physically handicapped man who Linda and Bob escort to various events and appointments. In spite of his physical problems, Tony is a delightful guy with a good sense of humor. The play was ‘Measure for Measure’ and the venue was an outdoor setting on the beach. It was a fun and interesting evening – and a late one for me! Here’s a photo I took of Tony (in his new wheelchair) and Linda; and another one of the actors who entertained the audience prior to the start of the play.

Wednesday, Aug. 12

Today was the day to get Jeremiah ready for the trip – a tank of gas, tire inflation checked and a generator tune-up. We leave tomorrow morning; we’ll be part of a 4-RV caravan. Destination is Jackson Rancheria RV Park in Jackson, California.

Keep smiling! I leave you with this quote by Joseph Addison

"What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. They are but trifles, to be sure, but, scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Let the next adventure begin!

One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure,

– William Feather

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My New Mexico home is empty, clean and on the market. My furniture and household goods are in my Arizona home. It is somewhat organized and now looks like ‘my’ home. It’s time to get Jeremiah out on the road to another adventure.

Highway 89 took me through northern Arizona ranching country and joined up with I-40 at Ash Fork – besides ranching, this town’s major industry is mining flagstone. Hoover Dam bridge construction required me to detour at Kingman on highways 68 and 95 to my first night’s stop at the Elks Lodge in Boulder City, Nevada. I chuckled when I read the Lodge sign – “Friendliest Lodge by a Dam Site”.

When I got out of Jeremiah to get hooked up to electricity, it felt like a blast furnace – it was 110 degrees. Thanks to my super air conditioner, we were pleasantly cool inside.

Wednesday, Aug. 5

Overnight it ‘cooled’ down to about 90 degrees, pleasant enough for a walk through part of the town this morning. I saw what is most likely the classiest and cleanest McDonalds – yes, it has the arches, but that is where the similarity ends. The grounds were well manicured with lots of flowers and grassy areas. But the highlight was about a dozen bronze sculptures within the landscaped areas.

Since I was eager get on the road, I decided to have my first ever Egg McMuffin. Ugh! Once I removed the top muffin piece and the gooey orange stuff (cheese?), it was edible. But I won’t do that again.

I-515 that scoots to the east side of Las Vegas was fairly smooth driving until I hit the construction areas; fortunately it was late enough in the morning to miss the heavy traffic. My destination was Overton, Nevada. Highway 169 from I-15 to Overton passes through a lovely agricultural valley and the Mudd River.

Today’s highlight is a visit with my brother-in-law Bob Pray and his wife. A bonus was also getting to see my nephew Daniel (their oldest son) and his family. We got caught up on family news and events and I got a tour of Bob’s huge carpentry shop. Bob and Marilynn planned and built the house – and as with all construction guys – it is still a work in progress. It is spacious and well thought out. We took some photos, but somehow they have disappeared! I’m extremely disappointed!

With Tonopah, Nevada, my destination for today, it was all too soon to end my visit with the Bob Prays. Highways 169 and 168 took me to highway 93 north, and 93 took me alongside the Desert National and Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuges to the Extraterrestrial Highway.

So what’s with this highway? In 1996, Nevada designated its 98-mile state route 375 the ‘Extraterrestrial Highway’ that goes east-west between highway 93 and highway 6. As Writer Chuck Woodbury wrote in ‘Out West Newspaper’ in 2000, “…the highway leads from nowhere to nowhere with a tiny splat of civilization called Rachel – population 98 – in between.”

Having just driven this today, I’ll agree with the assessment. The highway also passes by Area 51, a top secret military area (the super-secret Stealth fighter flew here long before the Air Force publicly acknowledged its existence). UFO believers say that alien spacecraft are often seen in the area. And I read that there is a speed limit sign that says ‘Warp 7’, although I did not see it.

This two-lane blacktop highway – open range country – crosses three large high desert valleys; except for a couple of ranches, it is fairly barren land with cattle searching for something to eat. As I dropped into one of the valleys I could see plumes of some white substance. Was a lake of water there? Water spouts? Or perhaps a dry lake? Dust? Or? Even as I got closer I couldn’t figure it out and there was no place to pull off to go look, but I did take photos.

This ET Highway ends at Warm Springs, now a ghost town, and connects with Highway 6. About 40 miles later I arrived in Tonopah to spend the night at the Tonopah Station Casino RV Park.

Thursday, Aug. 6

200+ miles to drive today. Highway 95 seemed to draw me toward the town of Hawthorne; which changed my route into Gardnerville. As I drove north from Hawthorne and saw a huge body of water (Walker Lake), I realized that I had never been on this part of Hwy 95 before. And I encountered a fairly stiff wind for about 50 miles. The scenery made it worth the windy drive. From Yerington to Gardnerville was a pretty drive, too. I arrived at my sister’s mid afternoon, and later that day we settled Jeremiah into my nephew Tim’s side yard. I’ll be parked here for a week.

I'll close this blog entry with a quote by Pastor and Author Max Lucado:

"Ambition is that grit in the soul which creates disenchantment with the ordinary and puts the dare into dreams."

What are you dreaming about?