Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tuttle Creek Campground, Lone Pine, California

Hi Kids!

This place is so cool!

We came down a crazy-long 6% grade, miles and miles long... seemed to last forever. Still, truck did fine with the exhaust brake and minimal brake usage. We are so pleased.  That's no small thing with a 19K pound trailer.

So down from about 8,000 feet of elevation to about 4200. We are still up high, and the temperatures are more mild, mid 80s during the day, and not quite as cold at night, 50's.  MUCH better. Our furnace was running every night at Glass Creek... low 30's every night!  It's odd to experience such a wide swing in temperatures in such a short time. One of the new skills we will have to master, I guess!  Tomorrow we will move and they will swing wildly again... and not in a good way. 100's!! YIKES.

So this campground was one that Dad researched as to whether or not we would fit. His research paid off and we were able to find a site, though most of them are NOT suitable. Most are very unlevel and there the campground is primitive. No hookups (see a theme here?) but there is water and a dump station to access when you arrive and of course when you leave.

The attraction here is Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. Lone Pine is a very small and picturesque town who's claim to fame is the nearly constant occupation by Hollywood making western movies. It all started way back in the 30's... and when you see the natural scenery here it is easy to understand why. They even made the movie "Tremors" here too... I am now anxious to see some of these movies (again) and be able to recognize the area. It's very distinctive!  They made IRONMAN here too.

The Alabama Hills is the natural recreation area that adjoins Lone Pine. It is owned by the BLM and they have miles of free boondocking on the scenic landscape. We chose the campground for simplicity; it's very close to the Alabama Hills recreation area and it is only $8/night. We were glad to have access to the water and dump station. Though, after exploring the Alabama Hills, we could see that there were lots of areas we could have camped out there, for sure.

While here, we visited the Film Museum, where you learn all about what went on out here. It's definitely a MUST DO. Again, I thought of Grammy. These were HER PEOPLE for sure. She so loved all of that stuff. I thought of her constantly as I browsed through the copious amount of memorabilia. Lots of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gene Autry, The Lone Ranger, on and on.  So interesting.

The backdrop of this campground (and all of Lone Pine) is the STUNNING Mt. Whitney and the Sierra Nevada range. It is indescribable. The tallest peak in the continental US, thousands of climbers come here to take the ultimate challenge. It is beyond beautiful. I would love to see after a little snow falls, which should be soon beings this is nearly October. The jagged granite peaks are amazing in the early morning when the rising sun lights them up in electric relief. Wish you could see it.

Today we got up early to beat the heat and take advantage of great sunlight effects and took our bikes over to the Alabama Hills Recreation Area to ride among all of the dirt roads off of "Movie Flatts Road". The exact spot where all of the movies were made, exciting ambush scenes, and cowboys and indians fought endlessly. Really epic stuff.

The MONEY SHOT with Mt. Whitney through the arch!
We hiked up to a landmark called Mobius Arch and took the sought after photo of Mt. Whitney through the arch, glowing in the very early sun. It was magical.

I love hiking on granite and sandstone... the rocks are so "grippy" and you can scale up the side of them like a mountain goat! Super fun!

Next we scoured the dirt track roads, up and down granite faces and through slot canyons of giant boulders.

It felt like we were riding around in a Flintstones cartoon! The landscaping is truly other-worldly. It's just amazing to us that there are places like this that occur naturally. NOT man made.

Tomorrow, very early to beat the heat, we will head out and continue south toward Arizona. We are stopping at an Elks lodge for a couple of nights. They have hookups there which we will need with temps as high as they will be. I will get some laundry done and maybe a much-needed pedicure! I need to buy more milk, you know how Dad needs his glass of milk before bed every night. Things are going really well so far, and we hope it continues. It truly is like a dream come true. The only negative so far is being so far away from all of you.

I hope things are well there. I know the weather must be starting to turn. Seems odd that we won't experience that this time. Hmmmm. Don't know how I feel about that.

Love you all so much! MOM

Elks Lodge #1913, Ridgecrest, California-Great Stop!

Hi Kids!

Well, it's time to start truly making our way to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta on October 3.  We have a long way to go yet, and we don't like to drive extended hours so we have to make a lot of stops. We planned these stops months ago, and it's a lot of fun to finally see them actually happening. Our careful planning and research has paid off (so far) and we have been very happy with every place we have stayed.  We have been living off the grid now for a long time, and we were looking for a place to take care of some business; namely, do some laundry and clean up some stuff. It has been very dirty and dusty with all the outdoor playing we have been doing.  Though our solar has been fantastic for enough electricity, our water tanks only last so long and running the clothes washer uses more water than we would like when boondocking.

After an easy haul down 395 to come down another couple thousand feet in elevation, we arrived in the city of Ridgecrest where there is an Elks Lodge that we had targeted. It offers full hookups (YAY! Sewer!!) and 50 amps of electricity (TWO A/C's!!). This is what we were really after... the temps in Ridgecrest are right at 100 degrees every day, and we are not used to that AT ALL.

This lodge has a terrific setup, lots of room, and several sites. There were a few RV's there but plenty left for us to pick from. They are all pretty level and have a fine, graveled surface. None offer shade, although a couple have a small tree between sites. We chose one of those. We got setup and filled out one of the little slips at the kiosk outside. The lodge was closed on the weekend. The cost of the site is $20/nightly, so we would square up in the bar on Monday.

The big benefit of this location is that it is located very near one of the places we have been really excited to explore; The Trona Pinnacles.  The Pinnacles are tall calcium spires in a large grouping in the middle of what used to be one of several large lakes about 100,000 years ago. The spires were formed by volcanic springs bubbling up from the bottom of the lake, and the chemical reaction between the compounds caused the deposits to be formed in a pile... now they are these ghostly, other-worldly sculptures in the middle of the dessert, surrounded by BLM land that is free to camp on for up to 14 days. It is truly unbelievable and amazing.

Since it was so hot, we chose not to camp near the pinnacles, but to simply drive out early one morning for a bike ride in and around the spires. We wanted to be on our way home before the blazing hot sun got too hot, like about 10 AM. One thing about the dessert, yes, it is a dry heat, so it isn't too bad in the shade, but IF you are in the sun, it is almost unbearable. It's intense on our tender Pacific Northwest Pallor!

We got there as planned and parked not too far from the large parking area and single vault toilet provided. We unloaded the bikes and excitedly took off on a really fun exploration of all the different sandy dirt roads that wind through all over the place. You go up and down hills, through the spires and around the area. Most of the roads are easy riding but you can see deep ruts and washouts from when it rained last. I have read the the roads quickly become impassible if it rains and people get stuck out there. I wouldn't want to experience that, for sure.

Our electric bikes are ideal for this. We never had any problem zooming up steep hills and between the rocks. The fat tires are excellent for this kind of terrain, the bikes are sure-footed and steady. One of the really great benefits is that they are SILENT. You hear nearly nothing except the crunching of the gravel in what feels like a magical place. I just loved it. Having the bikes allowed us to be very comfortable and see most of the area without really getting tired or hot.

We rode for about an hour and half and could feel the air heating up. It was time to go. We had seen most of what we came to see, and were elated that we actually had the whole place to ourselves! Not a single other person there, due to the early hour. It was like being on another planet. We were so glad that we had made the effort to get out there early!

Well, time to get ready to move again! We are headed out early in the morning for Needles, California, and another Elks Lodge. Only for one night, because it is even HOTTER there... 107ish each day this week! YIKES! We are going to keep going the next day to Winslow, Arizona where it is a little higher in elevation and finally better temps. Only in the 80's! That will feel like heaven after being in this blast furnace for a week! So we'll check in from there.

Yellow ghost light made from a bucket!
Oh: Dad made a new ghost-light, he missed his too much. We decided yellow would be better because of the bugs. It was a good choice, no bugs at all bothered us as we enjoyed our new light on our patio last night! Check it out:

I bet it's getting a little more like fall at home! Love you!!! MOM

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Glass Creek Campground, Mammoth Lakes, California

Hi Kids!

 Well, we made it. To yet another stop, and we are now back in California.

We weren't sure how this one would be, but we were very pleasantly surprised! Dad does lots of research on places, reading what other bloggers have written that have large rigs like ours, so we don't go in completely blind, but still, you are always a little apprehensive when you pull in. Sometimes you can pull in a place and you literally are trapped and can't get turned around.

This is another BLM location, free for 21 days here. There is, as usual, no hookups so we came in with a tank full of freshwater and empty holding tanks. We do that every time. So far we have been extremely comfortable between our large tanks and are big solar system and generator, we don't suffer much.

It became quickly apparent that we could move around in this campground, and we picked out a level spot. We have found that the leveling blocks we got as an after thought have been used a lot already. Super glad we have them. Very few of these BLM type sites are completely level, and our jacks stroke out sometimes trying to get level.

There is a beautiful, clear creek running through this campground, and it is used mainly by off road enthusiasts. There are 2200 hundred miles of dirt track around this park, and people were there with their toys. I kept thinking of Kevin and Conor... they would love it there. You can ride all day and rarely ride the same road twice.  Naturally we took the RAD Bikes out for a few miles!

Those are "Tufas" in the back ground, ancient!!
This campground is also very close to a favorite place of ours, Mono Lake. It is TEN TIMES saltier than the ocean. It is also extremely alkaline. We have been paddling on it before but we had to do it again. It's a funny place, they ask you to get off of the lake by noon, because the wind kicks up so badly, and so it does. We got off just as the ripples started across the water. By the time we had the kayak packed up it was WINDY.

You can see by the photo of my leg that the lake water just coats everything with what feels like baking soda. This is, in fact, what it is. The boat, our skin... everything was chalk white.

We are getting ready to move again, this time much further south. We will have to go down some very steep grades because we are at almost 8000 feet here! It's very unnerving to look behind you and see that huge fifth-wheel in the rear window, chasing you down the mountain. The truck is doing an excellent job, though, and we are very happy with it.

I will check in when we get where we're going! We are shooting for a place called Tuttle Creek in Lone Pine, California. It is a cute little town where they made a TON of movies, mostly westerns. Grammy would have LOVED to go there!


Monday, September 24, 2018

Washoe Lake Campground, Reno, NV

Hi Kids!

Well you KNEW we would stop in Reno! So here we are. We opted to stay a little out of town at a super nice little campground called Washoe Lake. This is, again, dry camping, no hookups of any kinds, though they do have water and a dump station as you enter the park. The cost is $15 per night.

Loved the covered picnic tables in some of the sites!
This campground is also on a lake. 
We were glad that we stuck to our 2-2-2 rule, because it was a Friday night, and we got one of the last sites that our rig would fit in. Most of the sites were on the small side and we would have really struggled. By late afternoon, all of the sites were taken, and people were parking in the overflow area near the equestrian sites. 

The next morning we got up early and headed for Reno. We weren't sure how long we would be there, but we knew it would be fun. Reno, as you know, is very nostalgic for us. It is the town we spent all of our time in when we first met and were dating. Seems like not long ago at all... and yet is was more than 33 years ago. Wow, time flies.

We were happy to see that Reno has cleaned up a LOT since the last time we were there. The city is much cleaner, less trash and less poverty. We felt a lot safer walking the streets and even saw big improvements. I hope that continues. It's a cute town.

We spent most of our time in Silver Legacy... that was Grammy's favorite place in Reno, ours too.  So even though we weren't big winners, we still had a good time and were glad we went.

Getting ready for a pretty big haul next, back into California for one more stop, and there will be a lot of grades. Grades are always a little more stressful when you are pulling a trailer this big. So far, everything has been performing very well, but we certainly do not take that for granted!!

Love you and miss you so... MOM

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rocky Point East on Eagle Lake in California

Hi Kids!

Rocky Point East, BLM, Eagle Lake, California
We had an easy, uneventful haul down into California. We are trying to keep to our preference of "2-2-2" which is only drive two hours, settled by 2 pm, stay a minimum of 2 nights. We came close, but the drive was a little longer. That's ok.

This is a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) area, and you are allowed to stay on the land for up to 14 days at no charge. Of course, this is very raw camping, no hookups of any kind, and the "sites" if you can call them that, are rarely level or convenient. We were able to hoist our big girl up in a nice area with a view, and we worked to get here level... which worked, but as we are often finding, it means that the trailer is literally on it's jacks completely on one side:
You can see our wheels are well off the ground!

This was a very quiet place and the area is literally surrounded by all of the wildfires we had been hearing about lately. We made plans to go on a bike ride nearby in another local park, and we drove through miles of horribly burned forest. It was very sad and very sobering to see. We had a GLORIOUS 10 mile ride on our bikes through a beautiful, scenic pine forest next to another lake-I cannot remember the name of it unfortunately.  We have been faithfully doing our walking in the mornings and trying to get in better shape for the hiking that lies ahead. That is going very well.

It was a very quiet stay, and much needed. We have been going pretty hard since Dad retired, and our life has completely changed, to say the least. We are quite exhausted, and it certainly doesn't feel like we are retired yet. It feels like we are on a vacation. We feel that urgency of "hurry up and see everything because we have to go home." We have to keep reminding ourselves that WE ARE HOME! 

Thank you for the pictures and snapchats from home! It helps SO MUCH. We will check in from our next stop! Love you! MOM

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Hot Soaking At Summer Lake Hot Springs!

Hi Kids!

 Well, this is a first for us. We have never been to a hot springs before. Weird, I know, since we live in the Pacific Northwest which is very volcanic... there are tons of hot springs all over and we have never been.

This hot springs is located in a very lonely stretch of highway in Southern Oregon. We pulled in and were checked in by an extremely friendly, extremely tan woman who obviously worked outdoors a lot. She gave us a quick run down on the place, and told us the rules, "we don't have any rules". But they do have rules posted at the hot springs pools, which basically are; don't make noise and splash about and shower before you enter-oh, and clothing optional after 9 PM. Ok... NOTED.

The main pool is located inside of this little building.
 We got settled in; we were surprised that this very-shall we say rustic-place offered full hookups. It was quite windy so there wasn't much to do.  As soon as we could we got our bathing suits on and headed for the pools.

You know how much I love hot water. Why in the WORLD haven't I gone to visit hot springs? GOOD LORD they are amazing! Obviously, we are changing our travel itinerary to include more of them on this years snowbird trip.

Ohhhh the bliss....
We soaked first in the large rectangle concrete pool in the metal shed. The water was very warm, and nearly too hot to stand coming from the pipe in the wall where the hot springs entered. Naturally I parked my tired shoulders directly under the pipe and the aromatic water worked miracles. Yes, it is a strong sulfur smell, but you actually learn to love it, it just feels so wonderful and so healing.

There were dressing rooms surrounding the pool and a shower to use before entering.

Our full-hookup spot just a short walk from the hot springs.
We had a nice dinner and returned later to enjoy the hot springs again. Then in the morning we took one more dip in the outside rock pools that are just behind the metal shed. They are small, more private pools, and each has it's own spring water pipe running into it. PURE HEAVEN.

Oh what I have been missing all of my life! I know you guys have been to hot springs, and you TOLD me how yummy they are. I should have listened.
Miss you all so much already! I will check in on our next stop! Love you!! MOM

Saturday, September 8, 2018

We Hit The Road! It's Surreal.

HI Kids! 


Well, our life has changed a lot. We finally were able to hit the road, after all the years of planning and dreaming and getting ready. No matter how much we tried to imagine it, it isn't quite that way. I guess things rarely are.

We used to talk endlessly about what our lives would be like when it finally happened, and now it has. I can say that so far, we are having a very hard time coming to terms with the fact that we are not "on vacation". It still feels like we will soon return back "home" to go back to work. But this is how most recently retired people feel, I know.

Our first stop is in Bend, Oregon at the Bend Sunriver Thousand Trails. It is our second stay at a Thousand Trails park, and it has been an excellent experience. We weren't sure what to expect, because there are definitely a lot of stories out there about the Thousand Trails parks. We are very happy so far. The staff at this park have been extremely friendly and helpful and the park is like a summer camp. Lots to do, close to Bend and we have been busy every day trying to take advantage of all of it.

The park we are in is right on the Little Deschutes river, and we took our inflatable kayak down and had a nice paddle. It's one of our favorite things to do.

There have been so many fires burning all over the pacific northwest area that the air quality has been pretty poor most days. Still, the weather has been incredible, though already dipping down into the low 30's at night in the high desert. We aren't used to that quite yet, just coming from the west side where temps have been extremely high day and night. Temperatures shoot right back up into the 80's during the day.

There is a lot of hiking and biking to do in this area, and we have done both. We spent two days exploring the Newberry Volcanic National Monument, just a short drive from the park. The evidence of past eruptions is overwhelming, with an enormous lava flow, and huge cinder cone.  Hard to believe it happened so long ago, and yet the area is still completely transformed into a sea of lava rock and even huge flows of obsidian. It makes me think of the effects of the recent flows going on now in Hawaii and how forever changed it will be. I mean, we are talking thousands of years. Wow.

We leave Monday for the Summer Lake Hot Springs for only one night. It will be my first experience using a natural hot spring and I am looking forward to it. It will be a full-hookup RV site so I will definitely be doing a LOT of laundry! No sewer hookups here at the Thousand Trails, so using the washing machine is definitely out!