Updated on March 24, 1999.
Tuesday morning we got up and started rigging for travel. We made the decision to put our name in to join Jojoba Hills, so we took care of the paper work. Everyone seemed pleased we had decided we liked them enough to come back. I got several great Escapees hugs in the process.
I had worked out the trip on Co-Pilot the night before, so we were ready to take off without any further advice. After dumping we headed back to Temecula and picked up I-15 south. Everything was going smoothly and the scenery was pleasant. I had not realized how much of the southern part of California was made up of decomposed granite.
Then we came to the ubiquitous sign on southern California freeways announcing a slowdown in the next mile or so. Sure enough, it slowed down. We were in stop and go traffic for the next four miles for almost a hour. When we finally passed the CalTrans crew putting spots on the freeway it speeded up again.
Our route called for heading for San Diego and then turning east on I-8. The traffic and signage was all good and the travel was easy. Once on I-8 we made it over to CA125 without problem and turned south a mile to CA94. We were on four lane roads much of the way, and then we passed the last major construction site and the road became a simple two-lanes going up and down hills and through little valleys. We kept thinking we had come to Jamul, but it was not until the fourth time we went through a business district that we actually entered and passed through the town. We did see the post office, so we knew where to go back to when our mail arrived.
Eight miles south of Jamul we came to the Otay Lakes Road and made a hard right turn. We drove three miles next to a small creek between hills and mountains of scruffy brush and granite until we came to the TTN park.
Pio Pico is on both sides of the road. At this time of the year you first enter the south side which had no sewer hookups. We signed up to be moved to the prestigous north side and selected a temporary spot. It was actually a very nice spot, and had we not been boondocking for the previous week, we might have stayed there.
The next day we checked the list for our name, found it, and went to the guard gate for our red pass to the north side. They assigned us to a nice spot in E section, and by 1pm we had moved over and hooked up. Our neighbor admired the way we backed in without shouting at each other.
Checking the schedule we found there was a bus going to Tijuana, Mexico, on Thursday, so we signed up. We were down there bright and early and found our place on the bus. We sat near two other couples: Dave and Charlene, and Ward and Bonnie. We chummed around with them during the rest of the trip.
Mario, our bus driver had never done the Tijuana trip, so some of it turned out to be whatever we wanted. The first stop was near the ocean at the Mexico-US border. There is a twelve foot tall fence of steel mesh all along the border, even out into the sea, and the border patrol was constantly in sight in their white SUVs with green strip down the side. On the US side at the beach, there was a park with trees and concrete tables and fire pits, but there were no people there. On the Mexican side there were fenced empty lots and houses in need of paint crowded together with trash and stray dogs in the street and garbage in the gutters. It was depressing to see such a contrast in living conditions from what we all were used to. I thought of the Berlin Wall, but this was a wall to keep people out, not keep them in.
We next went to the Rosarito Beach Hotel and looked around, then we drove by the studios on the coast where the movie Titanic was filmed. We finally ended up further down the coast for lunch at some beach town where Mario said there were 31 lobster restaurants. That was when Mario proved he was either a great bus driver or a damned fool.
Mario took the graveled road exit from the highway to the town and bypassed the main town entrance. He said he usually went in a special way. Coming down to the road he wanted, he saw they were doing some construction and were laying some concrete curbing on the inside of his turn. He went as wide as he could but just kept going. Several on the bus swore that he at least drove over the wet concrete, if not the fellow smoothing the concrete as well.
We went down the dirt road Mario had turned onto towards the beach. Coming over the last hill, he looked down at the muddy road ahead and commented that they had been doing construction there as well and he hoped he could make it. He edged the bus over the edge and down the hill. The road sloped to the left, towards the cliffs down to the beach; he had to make a right turn at the bottom of the hill and go back up a hill to reach the restaurants.
As he neared the bottom of the hill, he turned the steering wheel to the right and the bus moved to the left. "Oh, Oh," was his comment as he brought the bus to a stop. The rest of us sucked in our guts and held our breath. He waited a moment and then moved forward again. Again the bus drifted toward the left where the cliff was getting steeper and steeper. "Maybe we can back out." He put the bus into reverse and we all heard the rear wheels spinning in the mud.
At this point I was wondering if maybe we should all get out of the bus and save ourselves. Then Mario said, "let's try it again," and put the bus back in first gear and rolled forward. Amazingly the front wheels seemed to catch and then moved the bus to the right up the street where we needed to go. Applause broke out on the bus.
Later, he claimed that he knew that if he waited, the bus would settle in the mud and then he could get the traction to turn towards the hill. It was either pure bravado or he was a damned good driver.
The lobster lunch special was great, perhaps enhanced by the two pitchers of margaritas shared by the three couples. The bus loaded up and headed back to downtown Tjuana to shop. Mario dropped us off and said the bus would be back in 2 hours.
Shopping in downtown Tijuana is an experience, and anyone who is bothered by someone coming up and grabbing their arm and trying to sell them a piece of jewelry should not go there. We went into various shops, looking for various things. Some of the merchandize was junk, much of it was useless but pretty, and some if it was very nice. But for people living in an RV, there is not much space for anything at all, so it was a matter of "window-shopping." I bought a leather vest. I am not sure why, but I bargained and got it for a good price. At least I thought so until I found the next leather shop where the fellow told me I could get it even cheaper.
Dave was on a mission. He was supposed to buy some leather belts, size 46, for a friend in Canada. The prices varied all over the place. Then as he was searching through a pile of belts in one of the shops, the sales-girl asked what he was looking for. When he said a size 46 plain black belt, she pulled one out of the size 38 pile and offered it to him. He said he wanted size 46, and she said that in Mexico, that would be a size 38. He said no. So she pulled one out of the size 40 pile and offered it with the same explanation. Dave decided he should have come down with a tape measure. Last I saw, he had purchased six or seven belts; I am not sure of the sizes.
We all wore out our legs before the bus had returned, so we went into a modern looking bar for a drink. Ward and I each had a Dos Equis beer. When the beers arrived they were more like an imitation of a Coors Light that the Dos Equis we remembered getting in the States.
Our next experience was shopping at a super market where we purchased two bottles of Teachers Scotch, at least I hope that was what it was. The bus also stopped at a bakery where alice bought some fruit pies.
Finally we were back at the border crossing for reentry into the US. We had to get off the bus and walk through customs showing what we had purchased. Everything was okay until one of our companions who was from Canada had a problem with his papers. Mario was not sure how long it would take, but the busload of people said to wait and see. It took two hours and $170 before we could get him out and we headed back to Pio Pico. It was quite a trip.
During the remaining time in Pio Pico, we walked the park a lot and I did a lot of writing. We had breakfast on Saturday and ran into Bill and Sandy (of Yellow VW bus fame). We collected our mail at Jamul. And we went into Benito and Chula Vista to do some shopping. The weather was spotty, sometimes nice and warm and sometimes cloudy and misty. It never got too cold.
Pio Pico is host to many different campers through the season. On our walks we went by this bus several times. I thought this was someone who was long term in the park, but then I talked to one of our neighbors and heard that they were like many others who moved from park to park every one or two weeks. They had spent a long time putting the floors back out when they arrived. They would spend as much time putting it all away when they left. The other side of the bus was just as busy.
Pio Pico TTN has a nice setup for getting on the Internet, so we were able to handle needed email business and do a little surfing on the web. Though I updated these web pages on my computer, I did not download them while at Pio Pico.
Thursday morning we awoke to a cool, misty day. We finished packing everything up for the trip to Oakzanita TTN Park in the Laguna Mountains. The ranger had given me a map to the next park that suggested a shortcut up to I-8. After looking at the maps in detail and hearing that the shortcut were quite curvey, I decided to go up through Jamul. It was 45 miles instead of 30.
By the time we pulled out, the mist had turned into a light rain and the roads were beginning to be a little wet. It was not bad, though, and we made good time back up CA94 through Jamul towards El Cajon. We took the cutoff on CA54 directly north to I-8 and joined the freeway crowd. By that time the rain was steady though light.
The 20 miles on I-8 to our turnoff was mostly a climb, and we went from about 400 feet to about 3700 feet elevation at our turnoff onto CA79. As we drove along the two-lane highway we started noticing that the rain hitting the windshield was becoming granular. We curved around through the hills of decomposed granite for nearly five miles before we came to the TTN sign on the right side of the road. We swung into a very picturesque park nestled amongs a number of large, old oak trees. When I got out of the truck at the ranger station next to a pond of clear water, it was cold! And yes, it was snow that was falling around us.
Ranger Bob suggested we look in the lower part of section B for a place to put our rig. That way we would not have to climb up onto the side of a hill where many of the campsites were located. We soon found a good spot, partially shaded by a towering oak tree. We backed in, hooked up, leveled, and got the heaters going in record time.
Alice heated some leftover soup and we feasted as we watched the snow come down harder and harder. Granted, it was not a snow like they were getting in the northeast, but it was doing a good job. Some of the flakes were big as half-dollars. We took Misty out into the snow, and she was not impressed. The hose froze overnight, but thawed out as soon as the sun came over the mountain.
Friday was a beautiful day, and we walked the park. Our new friends Ward and Bonnie were in camp, so we visited with them. I was able to get a lot of writing done.
On Sunday we drove on up CA79 to Julian, a quaint town devoted almost entirely to the tourist trade. We had brunch at a nice place on Main Street, but unfortunately, the young lady waiting on us seemed to have a mind of air and kept forgetting to provide good service. When we left I wrote a note pointing out the deficiency rather than leaving a tip. I felt sad about it, but people do not learn unless they get the feedback.
We went to the used bookstore in Julean and found a treasure trove. I bought several out-of-print books on earthquakes that help in the research for my novel. There were a lot of other books I would have like to buy, but there is that weight thing in an RV. We walked around town for a while and then drove back to camp. It is pretty country, but everyone in the area is saying they are really in need for rain. They are at only 35% of normal at this point, so it will be a dry summer.
The Weather Channel reported there was a storm coming through and quite a bit of snow was expected Monday night, and then again Tuesday night. We did get a dusting of sleet, but not much else. During the day it stayed cold. Again, good weather to write.
Wednesday was again a beautiful, clear, warm day; just right for another walk. It was also a good day to work on the web page in preparation for when it can be uploaded. I also decided I should start a new page for this web site describing my experiences trying to write on the road. You can find it under Writing. I expect to upload the new things in Palm Springs next week.
Thursday was my birthday. We walked again and this time Misty enjoyed herself in the sun. Alice took me out to lunch in Pine Valley. I had a good chicken breast sandwich and an awesome apple pie ala mode. She said she would get me a birthday present next week. We also checked email got back word from Pat Houser that we would be on the staff for Escapees Fun Days in Escanaba, Michigan. And to really make waves, we replanned our trip for the summer. We will head for the Memphis area earlier than planned to do some research, then do Fun Days, then back through Memphis on the way to California for the end of the millenium. It turned out to be quite a decisive day.
Friday was another delightful day spent working on the web page and watching the Stock Market trying to break 10,000. The next day was for travel to Palm Springs.
Saturday morning was forecasted to be rainy, so we were up early to get ready for travel and out before the rain really started to come down.
The sun was shining and the temperature was mild. We had breakfast and dumped one last time and rigged for travel. We were out before 10am.
We drove back on CA79 and then took old US80 east for five miles into Pine Valley before we rejoined I-8. There were a couple of passes on I-8 heading east, the highest 4181 feet. The road was good, but it was obvious that if the weather had been bad the roads might get slick. We traveled through the high desert of southern California surrounded by the decomposed granite I will always associate with that part of the country. I did not realize it was so extensive.
We then started down the Jacumba grade to the Imperial Valley floor. It was over 10 miles of 6% grade, and it was fairly continuous. I turned on the Pac Brake and dropped out of overdrive. That held us at 55 to 60 most of the way, though there were a couple of places where I dropped down into second to keep from going over 60. The road was good and there were no big rigs rushing around us.
As we came out of the mountains it was clear the early settlers who put in the Butterfield Stage line that ran up the canyon were hardy folks. There are some imposing pieces of rock you drive through in that region.
Once we reached the floor of the valley, it was straight as an arrow. We stopped for lunch at the rest stop west of El Centro, and then a couple of miles further turned north on the Forrester road towards Westmoreland. There we caught CA78 and headed west and north around the Salton Sea. A few miles further and we took CA86 on into Indio. Along the way we went through date palm groves and citrus groves. The oranges were in bloom, and the air was sweet with their fragrance.
After passing through the fringe of Indio we got onto I-10 for a couple of miles and then reached the Palm Springs TTN. We found a great spot not too far from our friends from Pio Pico, the Baldwins. They were over soon after we arrived and we visited for a couple of hours. Then we went out to a restaurant they liked, the Outback. We waited for an hour to get a table (it was Saturday night) and had a chance to have a good talk. It turns out David and I have the same birthday, even to the year. There was a lot to talk about.
On Sunday we visited with my sister and her family in Palm Desert. Then on Monday I started to work on the can storage unit Alice kept asking for. It took a day to complete (but then I wasn't working on it full time), but it turned out just right. We also found some sliding shelves to help in the pantry with the 27 inch deep storage.
We had planned on going up on the tram with Dave and Charlene Baldwin on Tuesday, but the wind was blowing fiercely, so we put that off until next time.
The other great event so far in Palm Springs TTN is that we washed Misty. It was warm enough and we did it outside on the picnic table. She seemed to enjoy having the two months of dirt removed from under her fur. Now she is all fluffy again.
I worked on the website and added a new page on writing, which was something I have not done much of recently. It's hard to write when you have something else to do all the time.
Sunday morning we rigged up and headed out for Soledad Canyon, starting our trek to the north. The winds were beginning to blow and it was a bit hazy. We took the cutoff on CA30 around the I-215 and I-10 interchange and then, after climbing up to Cajon Pass, looked at taking CA138 towards Palmdale. I remembered when we had driven down that road and decided to continue on I-215 to US395 before turning north. It was a much better choice.
It was a pleasant drive across the Palmdale bulge (remember when concerns developed because the land to the south and west of Palmdale had risen about 10" and they were afraid it signalled an impending earthquake?) towards Acton, and we settled in B section soon after reaching the park.
The weather was cool and breezy, and though we took several walks, we did not do much else. I did drive on down the road to see if it was a short cut to I-14 when we decided to leave. After that trip, I decided the miles I would save would not pay for the time I would spend taking the trailer down the winding road. The cool weather also curtailed my photography urge, so I did not collect any new pics for the web page. Sorry about that.
We ended the month of March at Soledad, and left for Hanford on the first of April.