Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lake Piru Recreational Area

We left O'Neill Regional Park on February 16. I had a few choices on the route north, but the most direct was right up I-5 through the heart of Los Angeles. We waited until 11:00 AM in the hope that rush hour had passed and then headed out. The traffic was moving briskly until we got to the northern edge of the city of Los Angeles. We had stop and go from there on out. I noticed a semi truck was moving at about my same pace and I pulled in behind him. He was braking as I would and I was able to just trust him and watch his brake lights. That made the drive much easier. We still had cars darting in between us and then slamming on their brakes, but I guess that is just the way it is. We drove through Hollywood, but were disappointed we could not see the sign. We finally saw Six Flags Magic Mountain and I knew we were at our exit. We then drove about 30 more miles through fruit orchards and we turned up the steep winding road to Lake Piru Recreational Area.

This area has seen some of the worst of the California drought. The lake has gained only 6 feet this year and is now 16% full. The lake is surrounded by very tall steep hills. They were all green from the recent rains. When we pulled in we had our choice of sites. There are a few seasonal campers in one area, but it was just us and 3 rigs in the rest of the park. They were expecting a very serious storm to come in on Saturday. For now, the park was dry. That would change. The sites are dirt and cost $22 with electric and water close by. That is a bargain for California. The only problem is we had no cell signal and the park Wi-Fi is not working. We also had no OTA TV. We chose a site with a partial view of the lake and very nice views of the surrounding hills.

We were planning to stay three days to ride out the storm. That did not work out. The first storm hit with torrential rain and wind. We were safe at the top of this park, but the rain continued for 4 days. We had a few times when it would stop for an hour or two, but then it would come again. We mostly stayed inside and watched the wildlife coming through and flying over the park. There is a California Condor sanctuary near the park and they said you could see them soaring overhead. I saw plenty of large birds that were mostly Turkey Vultures and a few Eagles. I was never able to positively identify a condor. We also had deer roaming through the park on a regular basis. It really was a beautiful place.

Most of the time we were at Lake Piru, we both did some reading reading. I have been reading some work by Jeff Schaara. He is a novelist that writes about war in a very unique way. I started with a World War 2 book and then read a book about the siege of Vicksburg during the civil war. I then worked backwards to his book about the battle of Shiloh. They were large books, but I had plenty of time. I then read his first book called “Gods and Generals”. This is a book he wrote as precursor to his fathers famous book “The Killer Angels”, which is about the battle of Gettysburg. He has done a fine job picking up where his father left off. I would highly recommend these books to anyone that has an interest in the Civil War. Although these books are novels, they are historically accurate. I learned more about the details of the Civil War from these books than I had from all of the rest I have read and seen at the battlefields. I think a swing through the east to visit more of the battlefields is in our future.

The sun finally came out the day we left. You can really see the beauty of this place when the weather is good.

Getting hooked up was difficult. The ruts in the mud pulled me sideways and it took about 10 tries to get it lined up. I got it done and then needed 4 wheel drive to get out. We went to the dump station and I did the fun part while Kim sprayed the mud off of the tires.

The only bad part of our time in Lake Piru was that I got sick with a bad head cold. I was not feeling well, but after being there 6 days and being ready to move, we left on Wednesday, February 22. It was an interesting drive along the coast of California through the cities of Ventura and Santa Barbara. In between there were miles of beautiful fruit orchards and vegetables growing in the fields. Many were being harvested. We were heading to where we are now. We are at Jalama Beach County Park. We have an awesome view of the surf and the surrounding coast line. I will write all about it in my next entry.  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Disneyland and Huntington Beach

I am writing this entry on February 23rd sitting here looking at the surf from the comfort of our home on wheels. We are at Jamala Beach County Park, north of Santa Barbara, California. It is beautiful here and I can't wait to show off the pictures, but first I have to work on getting caught up.

As I mentioned in my last post, we had a few things that we wanted to do in Orange County. The first few days we were in the area it rained... a lot! I think it is clear that California is good on water this year. We will have to see if they can get some more rainy years to get all of the reservoirs back near full. We relaxed and enjoyed some quiet time in the park.

On February 13th, we finally got a nice day. We decided to take a trip to Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach. I lived in FV back in the late 1960's. That is almost 50 years ago. At that time thousands of people were moving into Southern California each month. They were building homes as fast as they could. To build them as quickly as possible, they resorted to “Tract housing”. The homes are built very close together and use just a few floor plans. It is not uncommon to see many houses in the same neighborhood with the exact same floor plan or simply reversed. While the tract is under construction, they have some of the first built homes that are used as models. When the tract is sold out they sell the model homes. My parents bought one of those model homes. It came with many of the furnishings still in it. The funny thing is that I still have some of that furniture. I decided I had to stop by and see the old house. Here it is 9972 Aster Circle:

The brickwork in the front was completed by my father. My brothers and I played a bunch of basketball in that driveway.

We then headed down to the beach. We knew we needed to take it easy because we had big plans the next day, but did we...NO. We walked about 5 miles. We decided to walk to the HB Pier.

It was such a nice day and there were plenty of people with the same idea. You can see Catalina Island in the distance.

We made it to the pier, now we just had to walk back. There were a bunch of surfers catching the nice break at the pier.

The next day was Valentines Day. Kim loves amusement parks, but had never been to the granddaddy of them all, Disneyland! When we planned this trip, she wanted to use our season passes that we bought last year in Orlando for Universal Studios, but they do not allow you to use the pass at the California park. So, I decided to take her to Disneyland for Valentines Day. I could tell she was excited.

We rode all of the rides we could fit in a 12 hour day. We walked over 20,000 steps. After the previous day, we were exhausted by the end of the day, but she loved it. I survived and made a point to remind her that the next time I am a jerk, I get a free pass. That took about a week to redeem. Here are a few shots of the day. Like I said, we did it all.

The only disappointing part of the day was that the two rides that I was looking forward to, The Matterhorn and the Pirates of the Caribbean were both closed. 

The stroller parking was impressive

We finished the day with the Electric Light Parade
Look! A guy riding a dragon.
We made it home at about 11 PM. We did very little the next day. On February 16th, we left Orange County. I will write about where we went next and the crazy things that happened there in my next entry.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

O'Neill Regional Park

I am writing this on Monday February 20. I have not written in a while. We had a fun time in Orange County, California and will write about that in coming entries. We moved north of the Los Angeles area on February 16. The drive up through the city was without incident although very nerve racking. We are now in the area of Ventura, California. We have found a nice little campground up in the hills on a small lake (that has grown significantly since we have been here.) As you may have seen on the National News, California was hit by another major storm on Saturday. We did see some strong winds and torrential rains, but we are very safe.

The only problem with this campground is that we have no cell signal and no OTA TV. We have been doing a bunch of reading and relaxing after our very busy time in OC. We hope to move out to the coast in the next couple of days. Now, back to the blog...

We arrived at O'Neill Regional Park on February 9. I was dreading the drive into the mass of humanity that they call Southern California, but it went very easy and without incident. We did end up taking one toll road. They do not have toll gates, so you have to go on line to learn how much it cost to drive on the road. For a 4 mile trip with a trailer was $7.70. We decided to avoid toll roads the rest of our time in SoCal.

I did make one observation that held true throughout our time in the area. There seems to be no enforcement and therefore adherence to the traffic laws. These drivers are not happy unless they are exceeding the speed limit by at least 20MPH. In the state of California, a truck and trailer are limited to 55 MPH. That creates a huge disparity between our speed and the crazy drivers on the road. It is not uncommon to see cars exceeding 100 MPH. It is just crazy! I will say that we saw very few accidents, so they must be fairly good drivers. I would think the business of repairing automobile brakes would be a good opportunity in SoCal.

O'Neill Regional Park is nestled up in the Tabuco canyon on the eastern edge of the county. There are some large hills that run parallel to the coast and provide some commanding views of the area. This park is an oasis in the madness of OC. We had booked a week and enjoyed our time there. We paid $20 per night for a no hook up site. Our solar worked well and we only ran our generator once. We did have a water spigot about 10 yards from our site so water was very easy. They have some huge pull through sites, #14,15, 16 that are over 100 feet long. If I was coming back, that would be my choice. Our site # 56 was fine.

There is a creek that ran next to the campground:

The forecast looked like rain was on the way, so I got up on the first day and took a hike up into the hills. I was hoping to get a view of the beach about 10 miles away. I walked up the Live Oak canyon trail. It was very steep, but I really enjoyed the hike. I took a few pictures along the way, but was disappointed when I arrived at the top of the ridge to see fog covering everything west of me. It was still an unexpected treat in this mass of humanity.

I ended up hiking about 4 miles and really enjoyed it. The next day it rained and the trails were closed, so it was good that I took advantage of this day to make the hike.

On Saturday we went to see the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. We did not take the tour, but enjoyed seeing the old mission. We then went down to the coast to see the ocean. We stopped at Dana Point and took a walk on the beach. It was a decent day and there were a bunch of surfers in the water.

There were some interesting cliffs by the parking area.

We then drove on down to Oceanside. On the way we saw the now shut down San Onofre Nucular plant.

It was a nice outing and we enjoyed seeing the Pacific Ocean. We had a few primary reasons we ventured into Orange County. I will write about those experiences in my next entry.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Joshua Tree National Park

I am writing this entry from Orange County, California. It feels strange to be here in a campground in the hills in one of the most populated counties in the US. We can drive a short distance and get into the suburban area of greater Los Angeles. I will write more about this place and our visit to this area in coming entries, but as always, I need to catch up a bit.

We only stayed at Lake Cahuilla Park for 2 days. The main reason we stopped there was to visit Joshua Tree NP. We only planned to visit for one day and February 8 was going to be that day. The good news is the weather was perfect as we took off for our full day drive.

We left the populated area of La Quinta and headed out into the farm fields. They were growing a diverse mix of fruits and vegetables. The one thing that we had not seen before was the groves of date palms. We then headed into Box Canyon Wash that was still south of I 10. This area if beautiful with high cliffs on both sides of the road. There is also plenty of dispersed camping because this is BLM land. I was wishing we had camped there.

We crossed over I-10 and then entered the park from the south. We have to stop and take the entrance sign picture. This would be #26 on our adventure.

We stopped at the very limited Cottonwood visitor center. I was a bit surprised to see that it was about 25 miles to see the first Joshua tree. We had steadily gained elevation as we drove. Our campground is at about 600 feet in elevation. The park is between 3000 and 4000 feet. The Joshua trees grow at the higher elevations.

We had heard that this was not one of the most spectacular parks in the National Park System. That is why we only allocated one day for our visit. Although the park does not have the awe inspiring vistas of some of the other parks we have visited, this is a beautiful place. As we drove along the main road, the surrounding mountains and desert landscape was very relaxing.

As you do in many parks, we drove along and hit many of the turnouts. We met a couple from Washington State and talked a bit about living on the road. They still have a house and are only starting to travel. They were riding a vintage Honda CT70 that he had restored. We did not lack things to talk about. We talked for a bit and then moved on. We stopped at the turnout for the Octillo cactus patch and they joined us again. There was only one trail guide left in the dispenser, so Kim did the reading and we all enjoyed the guided walk. You meet the nicest people on a Honda.

We left them there and we continued on. We drove through the park and looked for a nice place for lunch. We stopped to see some interesting rock formations at a place called Jumbo Rocks. The geology of this area is very interesting.

We stopped at a day use picnic area called Split Rock. We had lunch and then Kim surprised me by wanting to take a hike. It was a 2 mile loop hike that she failed to notice was rated "moderate".

I got some sweat on my camera lens at this point and my pictures were fuzzy for much of the hike. Too bad, because it was very cool.

I really enjoyed the hike and I think Kim did also. These rocks were much higher and we even saw some rock climbers up on the highest ones. I really think the thing that motivated Kim to take the hike was a 74 year old woman that stopped to talk to us while we were eating lunch. She headed out on the trail in front of us. Kim wanted to make sure she made it OK. Well, we never caught them.

At this point, we started to see Joshua Trees. I was expecting to only see a few, but there were large groves of them.

A larger Joshua Tree

We stopped at the Keys view overlook and had a nice view of the valley we were camped in and the surrounding mountains including Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio. I will have to ask my Dad and brothers about them. I remember camping and hiking in that area when we lived here 50 years ago.

We then drove back down to the small town of Joshua Tree and then down highway 62 to hit I-10. Highway 62 has some very steep hills on it. I would hate to pull my trailer up those hills, but we saw many large rigs heading up the hill to the Lucerne Valley area. There was a big Motorcycle race up there last weekend called the "King of the Motos". Not much of a spectator event, so I decided not to go.

I would say that our trip to Joshua Tree was better than  expected. I did not have high hopes, but once again the National Parks are all spectacular in their own way. This one is good for a day trip and if you can camp at the Cottonwood area, a couple of days for some hikes would be great.

I got a note from my Mom last night that said I forgot something. My Great Grandfather is buried in Blythe, California. Darn, I would have liked to visit his grave. I never met the man, but maybe I would have felt the connection. I do plan to visit my Grandfathers grave in Livermore, California. I am not sure why I feel a desire to visit these places, but for some reason it is something I want to do.

Well, next it was on to Orange County. I was really not excited about driving the big rig into this area. I would have to say I was down right nervous. Come back to see how that went and what it is like camping in the middle of 22 million people.

Friday, February 10, 2017


We left the desert near Bouse, Arizona on February 5. I really loved our private little spot. I think part of the reason I liked it so much is that I was dreading the next part of the trip. Dreading may be too strong a word, but I really like solitude and when I think of Southern California, I do not think of solitude.

Our first move was all of about 40 miles to the town of Blythe, California. We were concerned about crossing the California border. We had read about the check point, which is mainly for agriculture protection. Kim carries a house plant with us that she has had for 14 years and was her grandmothers. We had read that they may take those on inspection. As it turned out, when we arrived at the checkpoint, they just waived us through. Cool, one less thing to worry about.

We decided to stop in Blythe to camp along the Colorado river and to get a few things done before moving on. We did find a nice park through Passport America that is called Hidden Beaches that was only $21 per night. We were hoping for OTA TV, but we had no channels. This was Super Bowl Sunday and I really wanted to watch the Super Bowl. As we were getting unhitched and setting up, our neighbors came over to say hi. They are from near Edmonton, Alberta and are on their way to Mexico. Here are some shots of our campsite on the banks of the Colorado River:

Our view of the distant mountains, the boat ramp, and the wildlife area across the river.

Each site has a private patio overlooking the river.
As time for the game to start neared, I got set up to watch the game on my phone. I get the NFL Mobile App on my phone for free with my Verizon plan. Kim went outside and spent some more time talking to our neighbors. It was not long before Wayne was over at our door asking me to come over to his place and watch the game on his TV with his Satellite. He had no interest in the game, but insisted. We ended up having an impromptu Super Bowl party complete with a pot luck dinner. We really had a fun time getting to know them. Here is a bad picture of Wayne and Liz along with Kim:

The next day I went into Blythe and got the oil changed in the truck. I usually get it changed at a Ford Dealership because they have good prices and the Ford recommended oil. I found that the California Ford dealers are much more expensive. I went to a quick lube place in Blythe and got my oil changed for $85. That is a good deal on my diesel. We have driven about 7000 miles on this trip so far.

Wayne and Liz had gone out for a walk and met a local person who had many loaded fruit trees in her yard. She told them to take as much as they wanted and send other RVers down. We decided to see this for ourselves and took a walk to see if we could find the house. It was right where Wayne had said and we went up to the door to ask permission. She was very nice and was an RVer herself. We picked 4 bags of lemons, oranges and grapefruit. You can't beat free!

The fruit does not look perfect, but the taste is awesome. Some of the juiciest citrus I have ever eaten.

On Tuesday, February 7, we were ready to move on to a site near Palm Desert, California. It was pretty windy for the first half of the drive and we were also gaining elevation most of the way. The truck was working a little harder than normal. I was glad to have the fresh oil in the motor. The drive was about 130 miles, so not too bad.

We left interstate 10 and headed out to a park along the edge of the mountains. It is a county park called Lake Cahuilla. They are also a Passport America park and is a bargain at $15 per night with water and electric. The park sits along a man made lake and is right up against the mountains.

It is a pretty nice park and can accommodate large rigs. It has a primitive camping area that is also an option if they are full. There was plenty of availability during the week. The only problem with this park is that there is a shooting range on the far end of the lake. It is a range that is used by local law enforcement and is not open to the public. It is clear they are training for a war and they get to shoot as much ammunition as they want. The rapid fire action sounded like a machine gun much of the time. They at least shut down around 7 PM before starting back up at 7 AM. It really amazed me how much ammunition they were going through.

I also found it interesting that this park is right next to PGA West. This is a complex of 6 top level golf courses. This is the home of a PGA tour event that was formerly called the Bob Hope Classic, now it is some corporate sponsors name. The courses look amazing, but way out of my budget.

Now, you may ask yourself, why did they stop there? Well, Joshua Tree National Park is just about 40 miles away and we wanted to make a day trip through the park. I will write all about that visit in my next entry.