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.