Updated on November 3, 1998.
We finished rigging the trailer for travel from South Jetty TTN on the coast of Oregon, then headed out by way of the sewer dump (Ah, the life of the full-timer!). Daughter Deb was driving her Saturn, and we were in our Dodge truck. We turned south on US101 to travel along the Oregon coast. The weather turned from foggy and overcast to partly sunny as we traveled. You cannot see much scenery along the coast; most of the time is spent surrounded by trees with small roads turning off to enticing names.
At Reedsport we turned inland on OR38 and followed the Umpquah River. It was a beautiful drive, with green trees starting to turn yellow along the way. It reminded me much of the Klamath River canyon in California during steelhead season.
At Elkton we turned south on OR138 and caught I-5 at Sutherlin. There is an Escapees park in Sutherlin that we plan to visit next time we are by. The roads were good all the way, and the winding, twisting roads I had seen on the map did not prove to be any problem. There were several times when the exhaust brake was a great asset.
I-5 in southern Oregon goes through hills and mountains covered with trees. In the valleys are assorted towns and farms. We were getting hungry, so Alice looked into the "Exit Authority" (a recommended book for the traveler) and found there was a restaurant called Heaven on Earth coming up. It had space for truck parking. We decided to try it, and it was a good choice. The music was different and the restaurant had really good food. It also has the largest cinamon rolls I have ever seen, but I resisted and did not buy one. Such restraint!
It rained on us a bit along the way, but not enough to be a problem. By the time we headed up towards Siskiyou pass at Ashland, the sky was partly cloudy and the roads were clear. The truck took the grade like a good Dodge, and soon we cleared the pass.
As we came over the pass into California, I noticed a marked difference in the habitat around us. The grass on the hills became browner, and the trees gave way to scrub. Yes, we had left the wet green of Oregon for sure. By the time we drove by Yreka (remember "Hail to the Yreka Bakery"? -- just look at its signage in a mirror), we were only seeing dry, high desert grassy fields with the Mount Shasta volcano in the distance. Deb stopped and took some pictures of Mt Shasta in the sunset, but I did not bother. One drawback to pulling a big trailer is your unwillingness to stop along the side of the road for a great pic.
We stayed at the KOA at the town of Mount Shasta nestled on the slopes of its namesake. It was a pleasant RV park, and the sound of the trains was not too bad. We had supper downtown at the Black Bear Diner -- it was good and more than adequate. Then Deb said her goodbyes and headed on down the hill to Sacramento. We went back inside the trailer for our first night by ourselves in over two weeks. Family is good, but it was nice to have privacy back.
The next morning we continued south on I-5 past Lake Shasta (it was down for the winter, showing its red, muddy shores) and into the upper Sacramento valley (still the same, dry). We drove down to CA20 and headed over to Yuba City through Colusa and past the Sutter Buttes (they still look like a collapsed volcano). We drove through Yuba City and Marysville and continued east on CA20, turned north on Marysville Road, and turned east at the Willow Glenn junction towards Oregon House.
Alice began to see some of the burned trees as we approached our turn on Frenchtown Road. It had been just over a year since the forest fire had come through from Dobbins, and it was the first time she had seen its effects up close rather than in the video I had shot two days after our rig had burned in the fire. She was almost in tears.
As we drove on towards the LOTS entrance, she kept asking about the houses along the road; they all seemed so fresh and unaffected by the fire. I explained to her that they were all new, quickly rebuilt by the insurance companies amongst the blackened trees to replace those that had been lost. Around one house up on the hill above the TTN entrance the brush and burned manzanita had been scraped from the surface, leaving several acres of cleared land around the house. That field was now covered with dry grass, but any flames would have a very hard time attacking that house.
The guard shack was still there with green grass and painted TTN signs around it. Andy (yes, we remembered him and he remembered us) was on duty, and he quickly processed the paper work and suggested we park in X section. We drove up to the top of the hill and slowed to survey the burned valley before us. Most of the 12 foot high manzanita and juniper was gone, leaving gaunt, black branches pushing out of the dry grass that had regrown during the spring. Many of the digger pines were still standing, along with a few of the scattered suger pines, but their trunks looked blackened and scarred. As we drove down the hill past D section, we could see many rigs parked in the area, more than we had ever seen before. There was one that was parked where we had been located in D section a year ago. Then I realized there were not more rigs than before, it was just that they were no long hidden by the trees and you could now see them.
We reached the bottom of the hill and out of the burn area. Amazingly, the fire had jumped around and only touched the edge of G, A, and B sections, leaving the camping spots still green and tree covered. The trading post and the family lodge were still fine. In places it was almost like the fire had never happened.
We found a fine spot in X section, parked the trailer, and hooked up. We were home for two weeks. It seemed both strange and familiar. It hurt to think of what had been lost, but it felt good to be back on our old stomping grounds. This was where our journey had really started, where we had brought our first fifth-wheel nine years before. We had enjoyed LOTS as our foothills home for over five years, coming up on weekends and for several long weeks during the year. We knew many of the staff and some of the other frequent campers. We were sort of home.
From LOTS we visited our dentist in Sacramento and friends in Tahoe Donner. We shopped in Sacramento, bought a new laptop and a wireless LAN, reconfigured our computers, and learned more than we wanted to know about Windows98. I continued to work on the new web page and talked to friends in San Ramon. We also spent one day in San Ramon where I renewed the plan to consult with my former employer. We did not do much sight-seeing, so there is not much to tell about.
Finally our two weeks at LOTS was up, and we moved down to Morgan Hill to do our Bay Area business.
We packed up the trailer and headed out Sunday morning, our 198th day of retirement, to our next stop at the Morgan Hill TTN Resort just south of San Jose. This had been the first place we had driven after our retirement party back in April.
Driving through San Jose is best done on a Sunday morning. Even so, it was obvious we were back into commuter land, for the traffic was still thick and brisk. We arrived in Morgan Hill and checked in shortly after noon. It looked and felt the same as last spring. We found a good spot in G section and settled in for our short stay.
I worked some more on the web page, trying to catch up on the happenings of the last three weeks. I also worked on making the RVer information sections more useful. It is sometimes amazing how much time and effort a web page takes. I hoped to get the page back up into shape by the first week in November, but it was looking more and more like December before it would be ready.
On Wednesday we drove to San Ramon where I had lunch with some of the crew from Engineering. In particular, I paid off an old bet with Debi about where the company stock would be by now. Shows you what happens to an optimist. But it was fun going out with the Engineeering gang again, and Uncle Yu's is still one of the best Chinese restaurants in the TriValley area.
After lunch I had a chance to talk with the company executives, and it was agreed I would do some consulting for them in the Product Marketing area. It will take a bit of my time, but it does provide income and maybe will help the company get to where it should be. At least it should help me win the next bet.
That afternoon I went to see Dr White, my cardiologist, for my annual checkup. My test results had been good, but he felt we needed to do a status check. So I was scheduled for another triple isotope stress test a couple of weeks later.
Later that afternoon we went to see son Mike and his family in Martinez. It was good seeing the grandkids; they have really grown in the past six months. I presented Mike with our golf clubs. It had become obvious we were not the types to play golf as part of our retirement, at least at this time in our life. We all went to Chilis for a nice supper, then Alice and I drove back to Morgan Hill.
The next morning we rigged the trailer for traveling and headed to the Diablo Caravaners meeting at Smithwoods RV park near Felton. The initial trip the Co-Pilot suggested seemed to do a bit of winding through the hills, so we just drove north on US101 to I-280, then to CA17, and then south towards Santa Cruz.
CA17 is one hell of a road. It is 4 lane, but it winds around and is far too narrow. At least there is a barrier separating the traffic from the other direction. There are far too many broken sections and potholes in the road. It reminded me of my feelings that California's roads are the worst I have driven on.
But we made it over the top and down to Scott's Valley. We took the turnoff to Felton, found Highway 9 and turned south. The road got narrower and more twisted. I was beginning to worry when we finally saw the turnoff to Smithwoods RV park. But as I drove up to the driveway, the road disappeared. We had to come down a 20 percent grade to get to their parking lot. It was something I did not expect.
The RV park was quite nice, and they put us into a large area that would contain the club the next day. We were under the redwoods (second growth), so there was essentially no possibility for rigging the satellite. They did have cable, so we watched some local TV. We were parked right next to the San Lorenzo River, and the whole area was nice and green, almost like Oregon.
After the difficult experience with CA17, on Friday morning I decided we would try out the road to Morgan Hill via Mount Madonna to see if we wanted to go back that way as suggested by the Co-Pilot. First we continued south on CA9 which became even more twisty and narrow. Alice and I concluded at the same time we could not bring our trailer down that way; we would have to go back around through Scott's Valley. We took CA1 down through Aptos and then turned east towards the hills. The road was good for the first three miles, then it started getting narrower and narrower. When the middle yellow line disappeared I knew we were in trouble, but we continued.
We were finally able to make it over the top of Mount Madonna and down towards Morgan Hill. The last five miles down the mountain took us over 30 minutes. It was more of a blade cut through gravel than a road at a grade of 20 to 30 percent. We were lucky we were going downhill. I believe only a four wheel vehicle could make it uphill. Strangely, we met only one other truck on that road.
I decided CA17 was not such a bad road after all.
When we got back to Felton, most of the club crew was there. We had a great time renewing friendships and checking the new rigs. Gene and Carol arrived later that evening, and we went to the Don Quixote restaurant for supper. It was pretty good, but too much to eat. Saturday morning most of us slept in because it was raining. Shortly before noon we wandered out of our rigs and nestled up under the necks of the fifth wheels for more conversation. Larry and Clarise were there with their new motorhome so we celebrated with champagne at the coctail hour. Our potluck supper Saturday night was casseroles. We had the rec center for only 2 hours so we returned to the shelter of the fifth-wheel necks again instead of staying inside to play cards.
The rest of the club pulled out Sunday morning, but Alice and I stayed for another night. It was peaceful and restful. I made some more progress on the web page and did some consulting research.
Monday morning we packed up and headed back to Morgan Hill. We found another good spot in G section and settled in for the duration. I made a visit to San Ramon on Tuesday and arranged details for my consulting deliverables. Wednesday we visited friends in Mountain View and had another fine supper. I took the truck in for servicing on Friday. The rest of the time has been spent doing consulting work and working on the web page.
The month of October has ended. There were a few goblins running around the resort on Saturday night, but it was relatively quiet. We are mostly resting up for now and starting into November. Tuesday is the stress test, and Wednesday I go to a trade show in San Jose. Then we head for San Benito on our way to Las Vegas.
The days are running together now. I will start the November log in San Benito.