Friday, December 2, 2011

The California Coast

When the winds, rain and falling temperatures moved into Winchester Bay, Oregon, it was time for Trevor to take some vacation time so we could move out. We did enjoy our stay there at Winchester Bay RV Resort. We loved the front and backyard of our temporary home, the excitement of watching the Coast Guard practice their rescue maneuvers out back, and the many opportunities to view sea life, lighthouses, elk, and beautiful coastline as we hiked along the ocean’s edges.

They called us chickens on the day we left, because they’d all heard it was to be extremely cold that night. I call it being smart, like the rest of the campers who bailed out as well. There were only eight rigs left in the park when we left. Unlike many RV parks in the area, Winchester Bay RV Resort is open all year, so if you’re in the area, this is a very nice place to stay.

The skies seemed to clear somewhat as we drove down highway 101 toward California. I can’t tell you enough how beautiful the scenery is along the way.

If you’re into lighthouses, there are two I particularly liked; Coquille River Lighthouse in Bandon, OR and Cape Blanco at Port Orford. There’s a very nice state park at Cape Blanco. A lot of these lighthouses are closed to the public this time of year, including the Cape Blanco lighthouse. Some of the camping areas within the park were closed as well, but not all. There may still be some camping there now, but I’d call ahead if you’re planning to stay there. I have to say, I was really impressed by the fortitude of the tent campers in this park!

The drive down 101 is a photographer’s dream, but it’s amazing how there won’t be a view point in some of the most amazing scenic areas, and then you get to some that are ho- hum in comparison. Sadly, I had to pass up a lot of awesome photo-ops just to keep my driver’s sanity intact. Seriously, you could stop about every five seconds for photos.

Ever since I learned about them in grade school, I’ve yearned to see the giant Redwoods in California. I never thought I’d get to see them, so you can imagine what an awesome experience it was when we got to spend the night on Avenue of the Giants near Redcrest, CA. This is a long, narrow road, lined on both sides by these awesome giants. You really have to watch the road if you’re driving an RV, as there seems to be only inches between you and the big trees.

When we arrived in the area, we checked into Ancient Redwoods RV Park-very nice place and very nice owners. This park was closing for the season in three days after we left so if you’re thinking about staying there this time of year, that won’t work. This RV Park does have a store there that’s open year round, filled with all kinds of beautiful things made from Redwoods. I think they also have a little restaurant there as well; we didn’t wander into that part of the building, so we’re not sure what they serve there. We dropped the RV off in the campground and took the car along Avenue of the Giants. It was so cool to hang out amongst these awesome trees! Since it was near dark when we arrived there, we had to pass up the many hiking opportunities in the area. But we did hear of some cool things to see along the trails. One, was about a grandfather tree so big around, 17 people could hold hands around the circumference of it.

I love how the landscape changed so much along highway 101. We went from beautiful coastal waters, to giant redwood trees, then into Napa, CA, with foothills covered in the fall foliage of their famous vineyards.
While in Napa, we stayed at Skyline Wilderness Park; an interesting park that’d be nice to see in the summer when everything’s nice and green. We took a day trip from there to San Francisco, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge just for fun, got a great view of Alcatraz, and had a picnic lunch at one of the many old forts in the area. It rained a bit during the day, but as I photographed the Golden Gate Bridge, the sun made an appearance, producing a beautiful rainbow into San Francisco Bay. At one point during this display, the rainbow’s end appeared to land right onto the deck of a sailboat tooling around the bay. I tried to get a shot of it, but just missed that perfect shot!

Our next stop was Monterey, CA, where we stayed at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. You can usually stay in a fairground for around 20 to 30 dollars per night, but this one was 40. It’s difficult to get into this place because you need to go through a narrow gate that has a big dip in front of it. The dip tossed a few more dishes out of the cabinets even though they were taped shut (new dishes, yea!!!). It is also located on the edge of a golf course, so you stay there at your own risk of being nailed by a stray golf ball, and having to sign a piece of paper stating as much. But the camp host there is very nice and very helpful.
Once parked, we visited the nearby Cannery Row, the area made famous by John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name. The street was originally called Ocean View Avenue, but was renamed because of Steinbeck’s book. There are a lot of shops, restaurants and people in this cute little area. We had a nice evening there and explored the town of Carmel the next day, with more beautiful beaches and we were able to catch a glimpse of the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course.

Out of Carmel, we got on US 1 to continue down the coast toward Morro Bay. US 1 is a long, windy, narrow road, along California’s beautiful coast. If you have to decide between taking this road or 101, take this one at least once. The route is difficult because it’s slow going in the RV, taking many turns at 25 and 35 miles per hour. Since you’re slower than the rest of traffic, people tend to be less than thrilled with you in the lead, so you need to use a lot of turnouts, slowing you down even more. This gets to be annoying for you, but the drivers behind you are grateful.

It does get to be tiring, because you’re doing slow turn, after slow turn, and sometimes it seems like you’re right on the edge of the high cliffs along the ocean and one wrong move….But believe me, it’s worth it! You’ll be so relieved by the time you’re done, but so happy you didn’t pass up the chance to see what there is to see there.

About the time you finally reach a straight, flat, wide road, you get to pull off on a beach near Hearst Castle that’s loaded with Elephant Seals. If you’ve been in areas with lots of seals, you’d think this place would smell pretty bad, but it doesn’t smell at all. We visited this place three times while in the Morro Bay area. You just can’t get free entertainment like this in many places. We heard sounds there, neither one of us had heard before, and saw the cutest things, like these babies all nestled and snug on the beach, while visions of ratfish danced through their heads.

We were so blessed when we arrived at Morro Dunes RV Park. We were told on the phone we’d have a back-in site (not preferred) with no sewer and no TV. I don’t feel human without a daily shower, I had laundry that needed to be done, and I didn’t want to miss the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…rofl.
We were so blessed upon arrival when we were told about a cancelation, freeing up a pull-thru site with sewer and cable for us! I keep telling you, God is good!

We left Morro Bay on Black Friday and with the help of the holiday and friends on the, we had smooth sailing through Los Angeles. We spent the night in a lush, green, oasis in the desert, called Emerald Desert RV Resort. It was a bit pricey for the night, but we had to check some things out in the area the next morning, so it worked fine as a one-time deal.
We spent the next night in the Quartzsite desert. This is an awesome place to be if you like solitude and free rent. You can stay in short-term areas for free up to 14 days. Now and then we talk about staying here for long periods, but I’d have to get over my daily shower addiction and we might need to add some solar panels to the rig.

Vacation's over, it’s back to work now, so we’re going to stay put in the desert for a while. It’s a sharp contrast to the coastal waters we’ve recently enjoyed, but the desert does have it owns beauty.
We love you and miss you all!
Trevor & Roni