Winter Wonderland in So Cal/Yuma (Expanded)

As I belatedly start the blog for our current journey (on day 6, for heaven's sake!), the Midwest and eastern part of the country is getting pummeled by ice, snow, and generally horrific blizzard conditions.

Thursday: We drove two hours south to Paso Robles for the Winnebago seat belt recall repair, which took much longer than the promised 20 minutes. We had the opportunity to tour some of the RVs for sale--5th wheels, Class As, Class Bs, and travel trailers of all sorts, including Airstreams. That was fun. For about a half an hour. We still love our Navion best.

Then we (counterintuitively) drove a bit north on country roads to go to a Monterey County park we've never stayed at--Lake San Antonio. Beautiful winding, country roads through vineyards and ranches, but the poor campground had seen better days. We stayed at south shore for $40 and not much in the way of amenities except for a clear sunset

and some of the outstanding outdoor art of our local boy, John Cerney:

On Friday we set off south in the morning, clearly not in any hurry, because we took quite an out-of-the-way route, just to shake things up a bit. We tend not to explore California very much (probably because of the overcrowded, overpriced, and always reserved state parks), but we were bound and determined to do so on this trip. We took the very familiar 101 south to
just after Nipomo and then headed east on 166, a new road for us, and one shown as a dotted "scenic" route on our map. It was a very nice drive, rather typical inland California scenery--oak and chaparral studded rolling hills. Not terribly remarkable. But then we turned south on 33. Wowee. What a fun road to drive and what gorgeous scenery. We didn't take any photos as there weren't too many pullouts, but put this road on your list. Up to 5000+ feet elevation and down again, with every curve and twist making us gasp.

The road ended at Ojai, where we were planning (well, hoping) to walk in to a site at Lake Casitas--a spot we'd read about that we wanted to try. Two-night minimum was required, and it was a Friday night. There would be no chance of getting a spot at a beachfront state park late in the day, so we took the Lake Casitas fellow's recommendation and went to a nearby county park. Ugh. I gave it a 4 out of 10 on RV Park Reviews....

So, our trip thus far had taken us only a few hours from home with only mixed results on the fun-camping scale. Maybe the next day would be better?

Saturday dawned sunny (again) and Lisa got behind the wheel for this whole day, as it involved negotiating LA traffic. We made it through LA and then East LA (I kept having to do my poor Cheech and Chong impersonation) and finally out of the smog. Slowly city faded and desert began.

We made it to our Salton Sea destination to find, not surprisingly, that the hookups at the state recreation area were already full. Of course! It's high season and a Saturday. But we found a really nice spot down the road 1.5 miles at Mecca Beach, where there was boondocking (but also restrooms and solar-powered showers). We checked out the primitive beach sites down the road, but opted for the place with bathrooms, as we didn't have enough fresh water to get us through two days of boondocking. Boy, did we ever like THIS place. Just gorgeous and a nice 1.5-mile trail through the desert to walk between Mecca and the Headquarters area. I took a ton of photos, but here are a few of my favorites. (You have to imagine the smell, though.)

Our campsite:

Sandpiper at sunset:

Some of the thousands of pelicans wintering here:

The Chocolate Mountains at sunset, with the very frequent freight train entering the picture. (Seriously, ever hour or so, a 3-4 engine train of 130 cars went by. You can't be bothered by train noise along this lake....)

And here's the smelly part:

You'd think, perhaps, with train noise and an unrelenting odor that this place would be the pits, but it wasn't. Far from it. The millions of birds, the vast expanse of sparkling water, the snow-covered peaks made it magical, really. Something to experience. For more info: Salton Sea.

On Monday, We then made our way all the way south to just a few miles north of the Mexico border to I-8 and headed east to Yuma to see my dear ole Uncle Joe--an 85-year-old Illinois snowbird who is a lot of fun to be around. We spent the afternoon touring the area with him, he treated us to dinner (our first meal out of the trip!) at the Cracker Barrel, and then he came over to "our house" for some tea and chatting into the late evening. We stayed at the retirement community and were tickled by how friendly everyone was. (Much friendlier than our other jaunt into this world in Mesa last spring.) Here we are outside of Uncle Joe's trailer home this morning:

 After our nice visit, we headed back to California on Tuesday, past 2 border patrol and one agricultural inspection station. On the way, we stopped at Felicity, California, the center of the world, at the recommendation of Uncle Joe. It's right off I-8 in CA, about 10 miles from the AZ border. What a place. What a vision this fellow has. This Roadside America article sums it up best. 

I have a hunch that our tour guide may actually have been Felicia, the "town's" namesake. That's her below, explaining how this sundial works and checking her watch. (That's a 3D interpretation of Michelangelo's arm of God. The sundial is perfectly accurate at noon on December 25 each year.)

Because the proprietor is French, here's a section of the actual Tour Eiffel, with Rocksie posing in front.

Here's the pyramid that covers the "actual" center of the world bronze marker that you put your foot upon and make a wish....

Here's the non-denominational church on the newly made hill. (Dedicated 2008)

49 steps lead up to it; haven't figured out the significance of "49" yet, but I'm sure it means something....

Some sample engraved panels. The first in the history of the universe, of course:

The last one:
 View from the church toward the pyramid, with the "history in granite" in between.

Entrance to the gift shop:

We reached Tuesday's destination, eerily, almost exactly at 2PM, the time I was shooting for (but not in any planned way--who could account for the 3 inspection stops and the bizarrely fascinating Felicity stop?) and exactly the state park campground's check in time. We got the last hookup site (natch) and then proceeded to walk the mile and half trip to the Visitor's Center, reading natural history signs along the way. Every time we said that we'd like to see an animal, it showed up. Seriously. It was strange. At the end of the walk, we realized that we'd forgotten we'd like to see the rare bighorn sheep. Tomorrow--we'll see 'em tomorrow! I'll post pix altogether then....

Good night! Tonight's serenade is not a freight train (Salton Sea) or Harrier jets (Yuma's Marine Corps air base), but rather lots and lots of coyotes.

On Wednesday we awoke to this sunrise and view of Venus (iPhone photo through bedroom window).

After letting the chilly desert air warm up a bit, we set off on what was billed as a 2-hour hike up Palm Canyon. Well, it took us almost 3 hours! Thank goodness we had our walking sticks.

Apparently, a flash flood some time ago had messed up the trails and there was a fair amount of scrambling over rocks to be done. And, we had to eat an apple and some nuts at the top of the trail, taking in the beautiful palm oasis that was the trail's destination.

View up toward the oasis at the top of canyon

The towering palms at the oasis

After that 3-hour, 3+ mile hike, we felt just fine about sitting still the rest of the afternoon and reading/writing.

We departed the next day, Thursday, bright and early, as we had quite a big drive ahead of us. The first section I drove--over two sets of mountains. Very winding road, but gorgeous. We didn't stop in a very cute Gold Rush era mountain town (Julian), which is apparently famous for its apple orchards. Every window advertised pie, but since one of the purposes of this trip was to do a detox/cleanse and start off the new year with some weight loss, we figured it best to keep driving....

Lisa took over the reins at San Clemente, for the trek through LA on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). We avoided the freeways entirely and enjoyed seeing the famous towns and beaches of Newport, Huntington, et al. But, boy howdy, did it take time to get through all that and up to our destination: Malibu Creek State Park. See next post....

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to the RV world. Good to see you out here again.