The White Christmas we enjoyed in family fashion, with our daughter (Elly) and son (Eric) who live out of province, was a joy. To hug your kids at this special time of year after the last two years of separation meant so much to us. We were especially thankful for the time together. The “White” and associated sub-zero requirement in the two weeks we enjoyed in each other’s company overstayed its welcome. “Escape” from it became a reality we couldn’t deny. February first was deemed the goal to make that escape the reality. By January 8 we were looking at our phone plan and the monthly scheduled period was set to end on the 22nd of the month. An excuse or a necessity depends on your point of view. We had to leave earlier!!!
Last year knowing we were wintering over we thankfully rented a cozy little cabin. But this year the border was threatening to open so we thought “let’s try staying in our rolling mansion”. We won’t know until we try. Winter is mild on Vancouver Island right?! (Until its Not)
Besides the weather being cold and wet, we were facing daily multiple wipe downs of all the cabinets, outer walls, tin containers, glass bottles, and window frames. Most of this moisture was caused by a dog and 2 adults breathing. Add to this the cooking of meals and resulting water vapour condenses on cold surfaces when the interior is heated. Dehumidifier going and space heater running non-stop, with electrical cords to trip on became less than an adventure and more like stress. Plus, every cabinet was propped open, and the pillows and bedcovers carefully pulled away from the walls. We still couldn’t keep up with it. Under the bed where it is relatively inaccessible, especially when we are sleeping, had a puddle below the outer walls and anything touching the walls in that space were wet and starting to get little black spots. Horror!! Nanaimo was cold and snowy this winter so no awning out to keep the doorstep somewhat dry. Our clothes and dog had nowhere to dry if it rained and the door mat got wet even with a boot tray. The dryer was $5 per use at the RV park so daily use was not really affordable and hours of access were limited. Plus the water even though it was in a heated hose, froze periodically.
A brief ode to our old hound dog Fani. We found Fani at a chicken wired fenced in compound in Extension near Nanaimo in 2007. Her name is the last four letters of the name of a town we stayed at in Italy in 2006, Radicofani. She was the last puppy of the litter and looked forlorn and afraid. We had 4 little kids with us who screamed, “Can we get her???”.
Once we were home with her, we researched hounds. She was loud, did not aim to please, demanding, and could tell you to F off with a look. As she grew into a dog, she was loyal, able to be dressed in costumes, and came with us everywhere, morphing to always keep her pack together. When we went away on our journey 2 years ago, she stayed with my family in Parksville and Calgary. When we arrived back, she trundled along in the trailer.
Moving off her couch and the constant changes in her environment became very stressful for her and eventually age grabbed her ability to contain her poops, hear her environment and the cataracts were growing. She was devastated and in constant turmoil. We gave her calm pills and kept her close but even to go around a corner was excruciating for her. So, after many consults with the veterinarian, Fani is resting peacefully and chasing squirrels in the mushroom forests. Her personality still wets our eyes with memories, but it was time.
“Escape”! Once we decided, we didn’t even consider a touristy ramble down the coast. We bee lined it to the desert to dry our poor little trailer out!!
The drive south was uneventful, but we did see things along the way that were good surprises. At the Peace Arch border crossing, while being scrutinized, there is a public art space of a rectangle framed by a flock of wire looking at the heavens.
We keep a journal of where we spend money, stay and fuel up, etc. We faithfully let the app GasBuddy find our best deals on gas. This also helps us know how much to fill and how often we need to stop. Costco is by far the best deal overall but not in every location. The next best prices came from Casinos that are close to the highway and have a gas bar.
Google said it was just under 24 hours of driving to Borrego Springs and our favorite spot in the Anza Borrego Desert so we knew we would have at least 3 stops along the way. Shortest route was through the north edge of Los Angeles. No thanks. Maybe next time but on a Sunday night.
We traveled the Interstate 5 with stops at rest areas along the highway. The BCAA/AAA maps give locations of the rest stops. All have lanes for trucks and camper/rigs plus areas for cars. Overnight in these places is just fine since they don’t want tired drivers on the road. Some have dump stations; some have volunteers serving coffee in the morning. It is very welcoming.
The first one was just south of the Oregon border near Eugene. The gentle purr of the trucks that flanked us was comforting until the brake compressor pressure would build, as the semi-trucks idled, and a loud airy exhale would depressurize the air brakes compressor tank right beside our window. This was repeated about every 20 minutes to half hour all through the night. Sigh. Our drive through Washington and Oregon was foggy and cold, a constant reinforcement of why we were driving on such a direct route.
Once through the clouds at the California border, we entered the sun belt. We heard about fires near Monterrey and Big Sur. The I 5 just east of this was heavy with the resulting smoke. Although we and most others are happy for sun, the associated drought years have been and will continue to plague California with the loss of magnificent forests and erosion saving ground shrubs. Never ending sun comes at a terrible cost as we know. Passing the sleeping volcanoes from Mount Baker to Shasta always gives us pause. St Helens brings sooty memories as it erupted in our lifetime, and we had stopped at the visitor center 2 years ago. But this time we drove on, like on a mission from god, past Mount Shasta in all her splendor!!
On our second night we found ourselves in the California Rice belt south of Sacramento looking at an alternative to overnighting at busy roadside rest stops and found Chico Rice on our Harvest Host app. This stop along the I 5 was close to a migratory bird route, surrounded by wet fields and large granaries near Willows Calif. California grows 25% of all North American rice. As it is a colder and dryer climate, japonica type short grain rice is successful here. If you are a sushi fan, chances are your rice is from this area. Long grains are fonder of the hotter more humid climates and do well in the southern states such as Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and up into the Carolinas. Our host had a small farm stand selling their rice and local olive oil from the groves we passed along the route. We benefitted from the flat plain his silos of rice were situated on. The stunning sunset along the coastal mountains, and an equally beautiful sunrise along the Sierra Nevada range framed our quiet, private rest stop nicely.
At 7 AM sharp an apologetic farmer pulled up to his silos early enough to supervise the grain trucks filling on their way to be milled and put into the supply chains we so desperately appreciate. His comments regarding the drought were disparaging. It left us thinking and wishing we could take that controversial pipeline infrastructure and send some of the water from BC’s crazy November rains south.
Once south of the rice belt we were into the everything else belt. California is one big farm belt that we Canadians depend on for our fresh winter supplies. It was not lost on us that there was a steady train of trucks going north.
We decided to avoid the San Bernardino area of north LA and divert across through Bakersfield then drop south through Yucca and Palm Springs area. En route is the Rio Tinto Boron mine where Borax and the 20 Mule train museum and visitor center is. When we were driving by 2 years ago we saw it but didn’t stop. This time we did. What a gem…in a huge mining kind of way. The Visitor Center was staffed by an old miner who hired on in the early ‘60s. He was a charming wealth of information and was a proud employee. An obscure stop with benefits. Fun fact – your cellphone glass uses boron to make your touch screen work better. This, of course, had a more scientific explanation on the employee recruiting video!!
While looking at the map we decided that the rest stop in Boron, CA would be a good distance for travel that day. However, if you google Boron crime it comes out as having only 10 % higher crime rate than the national average, whatever that means.
Our trusty Campendium App told us about a restaurant in Tehachepi another half hour down the road. The owner allows parking-lot overnights for restaurant patrons. We felt very safe and secure. We were the only ones there overnight. Then the trains went by…..every half hour…to and from LA.
We rose early, with the Anza Borrego as our final resting spot that day!! It was going to be a short trip until we took the scenic route through Pioneertown. We visited Pioneertown two years ago for a musical night at Pappy and Harriet’s and vowed we would return during the day to see this old gem of the wild west. It truly was built as a wild west movie set in a working town. We didn’t stop but could see the old street. We will be back to get out of the car next time and dodge some bullets while taking a stroll. We were too motivated to get to our destination. We descended the Mojave Desert past roadside Joshua trees and high-altitude yuccas into the warm Coachella valley. We passed our familiar exits at Palm Springs, Indio, and the Salton Sea. Fueled up at the cheapest gas bar south of Oregon and proceeded to the Arroyo Salado Primitive camping spot.
Our first experience with the free camping in the park was at the Arroyo Salado wash. Another Escape trailer owners, Ian and Valerie, from Vancouver, were camped there two years ago and took us on a big hike through washes, up and over a mountain side, beside an old, deserted mine, and back down a wash to our trailer. We had every intention to tell them we would be returning south and would they be there. Never got to it. When we arrived, their Escape trailer was there!
We reacquainted with avid hiker Ian, as his wife stayed north, and he
took us on a hike of a nearby slot canyon at the old Calcite mine.
This hike took us through some great slot canyon meanderings with dry
waterfalls and great geologic layers of color and textures. We had
some lunch at the abandoned Calcite mine opening and poked through the
leftover calcite material on the ground. Fun Fact: During WW2 they
mined high grade Calcite here for gun sights, more specifically for
bomb sights and anti aircraft weaponry. Another great,8 Km guided hike
by our acquaintance Ian.
We are currently in the Blair Valley of the Anza Borrego Desert State
Park awaiting the arrival of three friends from Vancouver Island. Another
great chapter in our adventure is visiting the Baja with
our friends. Stay tuned for updates from San Felipe and Bahia de Los