Home Sweet Home

Monday, April 4:  Be it ever so humble, there really is no place like home. It is hard to believe that our time on the road has come to an end. We spent our last night on the road at Little Beaver State Park in Beaver, West Virginia, and arrived home last Wednesday evening (March 30). 

During the final leg of our journey, we reminisced about the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met along the way. What an adventure!  Looking through our photos, I realize that there are some really great stories that I didn’t include in the blog.  I hope to write about them as I take the time to catalog and organize our photos. For now, today’s brief blog will simply wrap up our journey with final stats. I hope you’ll check in periodically to check on new posts.  Thanks for sharing our journey.     

  • Nights: 153
  • Months: 5 (November, December, January, February & March)
  • Miles:  7,885
  • Time Zones: 4 (Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific & Eastern Daylight Savings)
  • States:  11 (Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and West Virginia) Note:  We do not count states that we pass thru or overnight stays

Greetings from Asheville, North Carolina! We’ll be here for a week, visiting Mark’s dad, Ken. Mark’s brothers and their lovely wives will join us on Friday and we’re looking forward to spending time with everyone over the weekend.

Zephyr has been running great and we’re confident that mechanical issues are behind us (fingers crossed). Of course the ridiculous fuel prices have put a damper on our travels, and it seems like we made a timely decision when we started to head towards home.

Unless something really exciting happens, this will be my last blog for this trip. Once we’re back home, I’ll do a final update that captures some memorable moments and photos that didn’t get posted along the way. Thanks for tuning in. Ciao!

Making our way home

Sunday, February 27:  We made it to Fort Stockton, Texas, after Fester put in 9 hours of driving.  We broke our rule of NOT arriving at a campground in the dark. Let’s just say we are still talking, and leave it at that. 

Monday, February 28:   As of today, we’ve been traveling for four months. Unfortunately, our recent bout of mechanical issues has put a bit of a damper on our attitudes and Fester is determined to put more Texas miles behind us today.  Once we get to Louisiana, we hope to slow down and enjoy our travels again. We are now in Central time zone, so we’re making adjustments to our internal clocks as we go. 

As (bad) luck would have it, while pulled over at a rest area, I noticed anti-freeze leaking from one of the below compartments. Upon inspection and some troubleshooting, Fester determined there was a leak in the diesel fired heater circuit.  Since the leak was significate, we checked the radiator level and added anti-freeze to top it off (the diesel engine and the hot water heating system share the same coolant). Thanks to our last radiator issue, we had a few gallons of anti-freeze with us – just in case.  Fester wasn’t able to make a repair without the necessary hose connections, we decided to back-track about 10 miles to a campground in Kerrville for the night.  When we arrive at our campsite at “By the River RV Park”, we disconnected the Jeep and checked out the diesel heater.  Rather than replacing the diesel heater at this time, Fester decided to re-route the hose and by-pass the heater altogether.  He’ll fix or buy a new diesel heater when we return home. After a trip to an auto parts store, we found the parts we needed and hurried back to the campground to make the repairs before dark.    

Tuesday, March 1: Tonight, we’re dry camping at a Walmart in Beaumont, Texas. 

Wednesday, March 2:  As we said goodbye to Texas this morning, we set our sights on New Orleans.  But, because of yesterday’s Mardi Gras celebrations, we couldn’t find a decent campground in the area.  Since we’ve been to New Orleans on another trip, so we didn’t mind skipping it, especially considering our travel blues.  We were making good time and decided our next stop would be Escapees Rainbow Plantation RV Park in Summerdale, Alabama.  Amazingly, we have been in four states today – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Pretty much an interstate blur.

Thursday, March 3 – Sunday, March 6:  Although we took a few day trips to explore the beaches of Gulf Shores and visit the charming nearby towns of Foley and Fairhope, we really enjoyed just hanging around the campground and meeting fellow RVers (and ,of course, their dogs). As a matter of fact, while on a morning walk with Sadie, we ran into a couple and their dog, Skipper, that we met way back in Branson, MO. They’ve been at this park since January and we compared notes of where we’ve been since we last met.

Monday, March 7:  Looks like we’ll spend the day driving across northern Florida, hoping to camp past Jacksonville. While at Rainbow Plantation, we spent time mapping out the next few weeks of travel which will focus on stops in Charleston, South Carolina, and Lumberton, Asheville and Gastonia in North Carolina. We’re looking forward to visiting my longtime friend, Renee, and her husband, Rudy in Charleston. Then we’ll spend some time with family in North Carolina.

Back on the road

Friday, February 18:  We were all set to leave Bill’s truck yard this morning, but decided to take a quick test run before hooking up the jeep.   We headed up Old Womans Spring Road and as we were moving along, Fester noticed white smoke coming from the tailpipe again.  He thought it was residual oil from the turbo issue and wasn’t too concerned.  However, when the smoke didn’t stop after a few more miles, Fester pulled over to check things out.  Another Good Samaritan was following behind and pulled over too, saying she noticed the smoke and was concerned. After checking the engine compartment, Fester assured her that we were okay and it was just oil burn-off.  We headed back to Bill’s and shortly after turning around, Fester said there was no more smoke.  Back at the shop, John checked the engine and confirmed that it was oil burn-off, which was to be expected. The back of Zephyr was covered in oil residue, so we grabbed a bucket, Dawn detergent and rags and spent the next 40 minutes or so cleaning off the oil.  Fortunately, Bill’s water hose reached and we were able to spray everything down and rinse off.  After hooking up the Jeep, we were on our way.

We were headed to Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA for the night, since it was close by and we considered it a “practice run” before setting off toward Phoenix and beyond.  We needed fuel, but wanted to wait until we reached Arizona so we wouldn’t have to pay the ridiculous California fuel prices.  It was wonderful being out of the truck yard.  We took advantage of the KOA’s pool and hot tub, which were fed by mineral wells/hot springs – lovely!

Saturday, February 19:  When we were back in Arizona, we pulled into a truck stop to fuel up and Fester saw radiator fluid gushing out of the tank onto the ground.  We quickly moved from the fuel pumps to a parking place among the trucks while Fester tried to figure out the problem.  Apparently, when John put the coach back together after repairing the turbo, he may not have mounted the radiator tank securely.  The tank had dropped from its mount and in doing so, the radiator hose rubbed up against a moving belt and was sliced, almost in two.  We were fortunate that we were at a truck stop, with a parts store next door.  Unfortunately, the parts store was getting ready to close, adding to Fester’s anxiety.  We spent the next three hour or so at the truck stop while Fester jury-rigged a way to remount the radiator tank and clamp the hose.  After filling the radiator with about 7 gallons of antifreeze, we took off for Quartzsite – a familiar safe haven.  We ended up camping on Plomosa Road again. Very few campers here compared to mid-January.

Sunday, February 20Tuesday, February 22:  Quartzsite has little in the way of shopping, and the hardware & auto parts stores were closed on Sunday. After putting a parts list together, we drove the jeep to a Phoenix suburb to get the parts we needed for the repairs.

By early afternoon on Tuesday, Fester was able to make and install a bracket to hold the radiator in a secured position and reinforce the repaired hose. We topped off the radiator fluid too. We are good to go and will head out tomorrow morning. In the meantime, we took the jeep off-road for some fun.

Wednesday, February 23:  After stopping to fill our propane tank this morning, we were on the road by 8:15, heading east on I-10 towards Phoenix (and eventually, Benson, Arizona).  After about 45 minutes on the road, Fester noticed the amber Check Engine light came on.  The light was intermittent, so we continued on our way, keeping an eye on the gauges.  A red flashing error message showed up on the computer, which I wrote down. We stopped at the next Rest Area to check things out.  Everything in the engine compartment looked good so we started off again, heading into a steady rain.  Although it was nice to see the continuous rain, the temperature had dropped 10 degrees from 52 to 42 in just the last few hours. In addition to the Check Engine light, the coach wouldn’t accelerate above 55 mph. Rather than pushing on to Benson, we decided to stop at Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson to investigate the engine issue, since we are familiar with the campground and the area.  We ended up parked in an area with mostly permanent and semi-permanent residents and our site was much smaller than we would have liked, especially since Fester needs to work on the coach.

Once again, Fester called John Krauss, our good friend and excellent Mechanic, to see if he could help troubleshoot our problem.  John threw out some ideas and later in the day, John called us back with his friend Kevin on the line.  Kevin, who is a diesel mechanic, suggested it might be an issue with the fuel sensor, but said it would be helpful to have the Cummins’ error code (vs. the computer’s error code).

Thursday, February 24:  Fester contacted the software company and was able to obtain the Cummins error code and after speaking to Kevin again, we had a fix in mind. It was cold and windy and we were both a bit discouraged and feeling blue because of the recent mechanical problems. 

Friday, February 25:  As Kevin suggested, Fester cleaned the fuel injection connections and we took Zephyr out for a test run.  Unfortunately, once on the freeway, we experienced the same error message and couldn’t accelerate past 55 mph.  Discouraged, we returned to our campsite to try another approach.  John had suggested we change out the fuel filters.  While changing the first filter, Fester noticed black “gunk” around the top, which we assumed was algae (not a good discovery). When tipped over and shaken, bits of black gunk dropped into the bucket.  The second filter was clean.  After both new filters were in place, we took a second test drive and didn’t get any error messages and acceleration was normal. These good signs seemed to indicate that there was a block in the fuel filter causing the problem.  Fester felt confident we were in good shape to continue our travels.

Saturday, February 26: Since we had pre-paid for the night, we decided to bop around town today and lucked out by finding a wonderful Italian restaurant, which helped put us in a good mood for moving on.

Sunday, February 27: After fueling up, we set off down I-10E toward El Paso, Texas (about 300 miles).  We decided to skip Benson and instead try to make up some distance and leave Arizona behind.  It’s now 2:30, and we’ve already passed Las Cruces, New Mexico and El Paso, so we’re making good time to wherever we’re going.    

The turbo saga continues

Sunday, February 13:   We eventually escaped the truck yard and headed back to JTNP for a 4-wheel adventure. We took the Geology Tour Road to the 11.5-mile Berdoo Canyon Road, which was mostly downhill (some pretty darn steep).  At one point we came upon a warning sign, designed to create fear and uncertainty. Of course we ignored it and pushed on. Before we head off on any unknown 4-wheel road, we always make sure to have a full tank of gas, plenty of water and snacks, in case we get stranded. We took turns driving through the rocky desert landscape, which included a lot of very sandy roads that were tough to navigate. Fester took over when we reached a particularly difficult descent, lined with boulders and sharp rocks. Near the end of the canyon, we drove past the ruins of the Berdoo Camp, which was established in the 1930s by the builders of the California Aqueduct.  The trail came out at Dillon Road, towards Rt. 10. Sadly, it was obvious where JTNP land ended and BLM property began. We started passing homemade shooting ranges, strewn with trash, broken bottles, torn plastic bags, abandoned targets and empty shotgun shells. We saw mini-dumpsites with tires, junk and even furniture. Litter was scattered all along the roadside.  Seeing the total disregard for the land really pissed me off and makes me want to scream. As we headed toward home on Route 10, we passed several cities including Coachella, Indio, Palm Desert and Palm Springs. It is amazing how we went from desert to oasis, in just a matter of miles, with the mountains remaining constant.

Monday, February 14:  Maureen, a friend back home, suggested we visit Pioneertown while we’re here.  Her daughter lives in the area and shared the info. We passed the Pioneertown sign several times already, but decided to make it today’s destination.   According to the official website https://visitpioneertown.com, Pioneertown was established in 1946 by Dick Curtis and seventeen investors (many from the film industry) to create a “Living Breathing Movie Set.”. Within its’s 32,000 acres of desert and mountains, Pioneertown became an 1880’s themed town with fully functional businesses including a grocery store, motel, saloon, restaurant, newspaper and post office.  More than 5o films & serials were filmed in Pioneertown during the 194o’s and 195o’s. There have been over 2oo productions in town and all of the Gene Autry Flying A television productions through the 195o’s were shot here. Pioneertown is still a fully functioning production set where movies, independent films, music videos and commercials are filmed every month.  Although there were quite a few people touring Pioneertown, it really comes alive on the weekend, when most of the shops and restaurants/saloons are open for business and tourists come in droves. We did see a few privately-owned homes on the property and wonder how those folks put up with all the tourists tromping thru town.

Tuesday, February 15:  We woke to a chilly, windy morning and the wind continued to pick up throughout the day, with gusts up to 50mph!  Being in the high desert, we saw a lot of blowing dust all day long.  We’ve been at Bill’s Diesel for a week now, and today we’re supposed to find out the turbo status.  That said, we wanted to stick close to home in case we’re able to pick it up from San Bernardino today. Late morning, Bill told Fester that the turbo guy was able to rebuild the turbo, but still had a few things to work on, so we can’t pick it up today.

We had some projects lined up to keep us busy while we waited. Sadie and I walked our desert loop again. The turbo guy got back to Bill before day’s end and said we should be able to get it in the morning – to check back with him when they open at 9. We took a trip to Home Depot to pick up some screws for my window blinds project and came across a really wacky car decorated with all sorts of stuff including antlers, coins, bullets, crosses, matchbox cars…you name it.  I thought the “Art Car” was worthy of a few photos.  I imagine the owner would be an interesting character with a story or two to share.

Wednesday, February 16:  The temperatures dropped and the wind howled all night long, making for a bad night’s sleep.  And, to top it off, we accidently ran our batteries down to 2% because we forgot to switch the portable electric heater to the power cord Bill let us use. As the heater slowly drained the batteries, it eventually shut down. It was very, very cold inside the coach when we got up.  Fester turned the generator on so we could charge the batteries and turn on our heater system. Gentleman that he is, Fester insisted that I drink my coffee in bed while the place warmed up. I didn’t argue.

Bill said our turbo was ready for pick-up and he asked Fester if we would mind delivering a part to the same turbo shop.  Of course, we said yes, but had to wait about an hour or so for John, the mechanic, to remove the part. We didn’t get back to the coach until almost 4 and decided to stay home for the rest of the night. It was a big relief to have the turbo here.

Thursday, February 17:  Brrrr… it was a cold 35 degrees this morning; with a high of just 57 for the day. Interestingly, back home in Willoughby (yes, we do check) the temperature was 51 degrees this morning. It’s hard to believe it was colder here than in Ohio.

Last night was our 9th night in the truck yard, and while we’re trying to make the best of it, the experience is definitely getting old.  Fester’s waiting until 9 or so to approach Bill and John to see when they may start work on our coach.  The last few days have been very windy and chilly, which might slow down our progress since John will be working on our coach outside vs. the warmth/wind protection of a garage.  At least we have the turbo here so its just a matter of hurry up and wait.  Once we know when they plan to start work, we can make plans to do more sightseeing, etc. We’re talking about visiting JTNP again, but we’ll start at the Oasis Visitor Center and explore that part of the park.  There’s also another 4-wheel drive/high clearance road we haven’t been on yet, that we may check out.

John started work on the turbo around lunch time, and we decided to stick around. It seems Bill had John focus solely on our repairs so he made good progress. Late afternoon he was adding oil and attending to a few other important details. Fester thinks John may finish up today and we can be on our merry way tomorrow. Yes!

We’re starting to think about routes for our homeward journey. We thought about heading north toward Las Vegas then Albuquerque, but cold temperatures may cause us to backtrack south, heading for New Orleans. Although it’s only the middle of February, we need to be back the first week of April for Fester’s scheduled doctor appointment and lab work. Starting back now will allow us to take our time and enjoy a leisurely trip down the southern coast.

Joshua Tree National Park

Sunday, February 13: After enjoying breakfast leftovers, we’re setting off for our second visit to Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP), planning to travel the unpaved roads today for some fun adventures.

Saturday, February 12:  Fortunately, Bill showed us where the “secret” key was hidden so we can let ourselves in and out of the gate this weekend.  Not being locked in is definitely good.   On our way to JTNP, we stopped for breakfast at the Crossroads Café on Rt. 62 (a diner recommended by mechanic John). While talking over breakfast, we realized we forgot our National Parks pass, which saves us from paying the entry fee. Because we had to return home anyways, we stopped at a roadside Farmers’ Market and purchased local strawberries, blueberries, Brussel sprouts and snap peas.  We also stopped at a weekly “Swap Meet”, basically an outdoor flea market with regular vendors.

After dropping off our breakfast leftovers and market purchases, we set out again for JTNP, with our National Parks pass.  We spent several hours just driving around the park, getting to know our way around. There were many places along the road to park and take photos. Later, we took one of the unpaved roads and had fun exploring the park from a totally different perspective.  According to the park brochure, the 792,510 acres park (more than 80% of it managed as wilderness) is comprised of two deserts. The eastern half of the park, below 3,000 feet above sea level, lies within the Colorado Desert.  The western half of the park, above 3,000 feet above sea levels, lies with the Mojave Desert and is habitat to the “wild-armed” Joshua tree and Mojave yuccas.  The roads and trails lead through a jumble of stacked boulders, which began underground eons ago as a result of volcanic activity. It is amazing to drive between these two deserts and watch as the habitat gradually changes.  We spent a lot of time in the Mojave Desert during our PCT hike, and remember the drastic temperature changes as the day turned to night. We hope to get back to the park at night, as the dark skies make this a perfect place for star gazing.

Friday, February 11:  We didn’t make venture out much today, and spent the majority of our time on small, but necessary projects around the coach.

Disaster Strikes!

Tuesday, February 8: We left Jojoba Hills before 9 this morning, amidst sunny skies and warm temperatures. Our destination is Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Forest, but as luck would have it, I’m updating the blog while we’re broken down on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.

Despite road construction, we were making good time and reminiscing (once again) about our PCT hike. We saw the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, and were chatting about Big Bear Lake and Palm Springs when our morning got exciting. Climbing a steep grade, Fester noticed the diesel was sluggish and having a tough time making it up the hill. His gauges didn’t display any issues, so we kept driving. Somewhere in between Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley on Twentynine Palms Highway, we started up a slight hill when Fester yelled to me “it looks like we’re on fire… grab the fire extinguisher.” The extinguisher was right next to my seat, so I had it and was pulling the pin as I raced down the passenger side of Zephyr. There was white smoke everywhere at the back of the coach, and I initially thought the Jeep was on fire because the brakes had locked up or something. But Fester came down the driver’s side of Zephyr and saw small flames and a lot of smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. He handed me the Jeep keys and told me to get it in gear and ready to back up while he unhooked it from the coach. Once the Jeep was backed safely away from the coach, I grabbed Sadie, along with Fester’s wallet, my purse and our phones and iPads and put everything in the Jeep. With sirens blaring and lights flashing, the fire/rescue trucks showed up in no time, thanks to a good Samaritan who pulled in behind us and made the call to 911.

Working with the folks who handle our Family Motor Coach Association’s Roadside Assistance Program, Fester was able to line up a towing service and a diesel mechanic. We were told to expect the tow truck in 60 to 90 minutes. Two hours later, we called FMCA again and explained no one showed up or called. They contacted another (local) tow company and said they’d be there in 30 minutes.

Thirty-minutes later, we were impressed as “Big Red” from Lefevres Towing approached us, and the driver expertly pulled in, turned around and backed up close to Zephyr. Once the driver, Casey, assessed the situation, he got down to the business of hooking Zephyr up to be towed. The process took about 45 minutes, and we felt very confident with Casey’s expertise and trusted he would tow our home on wheels safely. As we followed Casey to the repair shop, we saw that even with 15 speeds, Big Red struggled to pull our coach (weighing 33,ooo pounds) up two steep hills, including an 8% grade on Old Woman Springs Road.

Fortunately, Fester had called Bill’s Diesel Truck and Equipment Repair Services’ owner earlier to let him know we were running late. Bill left the truck yard gate open for us and Casey backed Zephyr into a designated space. Because it was already after hours, we told Bill we would return when they opened at 9am to figure things out. We ended up spending the night the Best Western in Yucca Valley.

Wednesday, February 9: We arrived at Bill’s truck yard around 8:30, and the gate was already open. Fester met John, the head mechanic, and they started discussing a game plan. We were told to just hang out until John had a chance to look at the turbo and access the damage. Sadie had a chance to meet Twiggy, the yard dog (I keep wanting to say junk yard, because it kind of looks that way with broken trucks and RVs all over). Little Twiggy is a scrapper and let’s you know she’s got her eye on you. We hope to eventually make friends with her, as we’ll be dry camping here while Bill works on Zephyr. It’s generous of him to let us stay, and we are happy since we’d probably be boondocking anyways.

Sadly, my first task was cleaning out the fridge and freezer. Because we were parked unevenly along side the road, we had to turn off the fridge/freezer because of the propane gas. When we arrived at the truckyard, we weren’t level, so we left if the propane off overnight, knowing everything would spoil. On the bright side, we had been “eating down” the contents of fridge and freezer so I could defrost it, so it wasn’t very full.

Sadie and I set out to explore the desert just down the road, being sure to observe any and all “No Trespassing” signs. It seems folks around here don’t want you on their land, even if that land is nothing but desert scrub. We found a nice loop path that allowed us to get some exercise and sunshine, while exploring the desert area which was scattered with Joshua Trees and Yucca plants.

Thursday: February 10: Did I mention that the truck yard gates get locked after 6pm. Until we manage to earn a key, we are destined to end our travels by 5:30 so we don’t get locked out. It is a strange feeling knowing you can’t leave.

To hurry things along with the repairs, we volunteered to take the turbo to their “turbo guy” who’s in San Bernardino, about 1.5 hours away. We dropped it off around 10:30 this morning and after a quick look, the turbo guy thought that something must have hit the air side of the turbo and damaged the fins, which induced a vibration and ultimately caused the exhaust side of the turbo to fail. The turbo guy said he would examine it further and let us know if he can do a rebuild. If so, we should be able to pick it up on Tuesday. At least we have some idea of how long we will be at Bill’s truck yard. We can plan some day trips and start working on our next destination. That was the highlight of our day. We spent the rest of it driving around town while Fester checked a few auto parts stores and Tractor Supply for some fittings. And, we did go grocery shopping to re-stock the fridge. Tomorrow we plan to visit Joshua Tree National Park.

Pacific breeze

Sunday, February 6:  Since we’ve visited San Diego and Los Angeles years ago, we set out for a day trip to Oceanside City. We did the touristy thing and made sure to visit the historic wooden pier (although we didn’t actually walk the pier because dogs are not allowed).  We watched surfers trying to catch the waves, which weren’t cooperating (and neither was my camera).  We joined many others who were walking the sidewalk that runs along the beach and sat for a spell, watching the world go by as we soaked up the sun and ocean breeze. We explored the neighborhoods, filled with charming bungalow homes (that probably cost a fortune). There’s an abundance of coffee shops, restaurants and outside patios lining the streets and it would be a neat place to spend a few days if we were so inclined.  We drove over to the New England-style harbor and enjoyed looking at all the boats filling the docks, while reminiscing about our first Zephyr (sailboat).

From Oceanside, we headed to San Clemente to check out the state park to see if we wanted to move there when our time’s up at Jojoba Hills on Tuesday morning.  On our way to/from San Clemente, we passed the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). Fester said the plant was permanently closed by the NRC back in 2013 and is in the process of being decommissioned. We also drove past the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. What a pretty place for a military base. San Clemente, with its Spanish colonial-style architecture seems to have it all – the ocean, the mountains and the very nice weather.  We did find a state park that would accommodate Zephyr; however, when we saw the posting that dogs aren’t  allowed on the beach or trails, we nixed that idea.

Before we left Yuma, we filled up the propane tank and stopped for diesel fuel for Zephyr and gas for the Jeep to avoid California fuel/taxes. We had to fill up the Jeep today, and couldn’t believe the prices – $4.95 for regular and $5.09 for diesel. Crazy!

Soaking in the sun

Saturday, February 5:  This morning, we headed south, toward Temecula.  Imagine our surprise when we saw more metals sculptures line the road, just a short distance from our park. Unbeknownst to us, metal artist Ricardo Breceda has a multi-acre Gallery and Sculpture Garden just down the road from us. Although we saw plenty of Breceda’s work at Borrego Springs, we may stop by an tour his out-door gallery if we have time later.  After dinner, we enjoyed soaking in the hot tub after floating around in the pool.  Set among the mountains, Jojoba Hills has created a resort-like atmosphere with its pool and patio. Truly a relaxing experience – until you get out of the water.  Even at 75 degrees, the breeze coming off the mountains can be chilling.  That, however, didn’t stop us from buying a few Klondike ice cream bars for later.  Because it was still so pleasant out, we took Sadie for a walk at the nature conservation and enjoyed climbing the hills, looking out for wildlife.  

Zero Day

Friday, February 4:  Happy Friday!  Today is what we use to call a “zero” day. It meant that we didn’t hike at all and just chilled, either at our campsite or in town. These zero days usually took place when we were in town picking up our food drops and staying at a cheap motel with a laundromat, hot showers and a real bed. Today’s zero day simply means we’re staying put – no trips or adventures outside of the park.  We did do some chores around the coach, like defrosting the fridge/freezer.  Fester washed Zephyr’s windshield inside and out.  Sadie and I took a pleasant walk through the Riverside County Nature Conservation area, which backs this park and is accessible thru a locked gate.  Now, we’re both sitting outside enjoying the sunshine – I’m working on the blog and Fester’s surfing the net, while Sadie’s eating a chew toy.  We will probably hit the pool after dinner.  A lazy day.  We have our full hook-up site through Monday night, and we’re debating what to do next.  If we find we like the area (and weather the weather stays nice), we may move over to a dry camping site for a few days (or even check out some of the BLM land we saw yesterday).

Borrego Spring

Thursday, February 3:  Another chilly morning, but the sun was shining brightly when we set out toward our much-anticipated visit to Borrego Springs. After a bit of research, prompted by Marc & Connie’s photos, we thought we knew what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was to find each metal sculpture or grouping, much like a scavenger hunt. We got a brief glimpse of the metal sculptures as we made our way to Jojoba Hills on Monday… the three wild mustangs that appear to jump across the mountain.  

While photographing sculptures, I noticed two strange looking cacti-like shapes that turned out to be sculptures by artist Tanya Aguiñiga.  According to the sign posted at the site, the Two-Spirit Earth and Hallowed Mound are totems that emerge from forms of the surrounding landscape. These large forms are designed to channel moisture, encouraging growth and transformation as they slowly decompose and return to the earth.  What a neat concept… truly living art.

Julian: On Monday’s drive to Jojoba Hills we passed signs for Warner Springs and Julian, both towns that we remember from our PCT hiking days.  Call it nostalgia, but we wanted to revisit those places that were part of our hiking adventure 16 years ago. After all this time, we still remember coming off the trail at the crossroads to Julian, where we tried to hitchhike into town.  We were hot, tired, hungry and just plain miserable and no one would stop to give us a ride.  The wait got to be so long, that I left Fester on one side of the road, crossed over to the stop sign across the street and faked a limp/injured foot as motorists passed by.  Sure enough, we ended up with a ride to Julian in the back of a pick-up truck.  As we made our way down memory lane, we were happy to find that the Julian Hotel was still thriving, having survived Covid shutdowns. We remember spending a night at the Julian Hotel and savoring a meal at their restaurant while talking to locals about the happenings in their quaint town. After a stroll through Julian with Sadie, we headed back to the crossroads and found the PCT trail marker – talk about fond memories!  It was a good day.

Jojoba Hills

Wednesday, February 2: Our first bit of business this morning was waffles! It’s a real treat to be hooked up to power again, which allows us to use our electrical appliances (griddle, Instant Pot, Ninja, microwave/convection oven, etc.) without worries of draining the batteries. Life is good!

Fester just registered us for the 61st Escapade that takes place toward the end of June at the Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebenon, Tennessee. Of course we’ll make plans to visit Fester’s dad, Ken, in Asheville either before or after the event.

Apparently, Escapade is the largest and most extensive gathering of the Escapees Community and will be another opportunity for us to lean more about the RV lifestyle from professionals and experienced RVers. There will be a wide variety of seminars, social gatherings, and nightly entertainment during the five day event (sounds very similar to the Xscaper’s Convergence).We hope it will give us a chance to meet up friends we met at other Escapee events and on Plomosa Road in t Quartzsite.

We’re scheduled for a tour of the RV park this afternoon. Because George escorted us to our RV spot when we arrived on Monday, we requested him as our “tour guide.” George has a dry sense of humor and seems to know the park very well. George spent about 2 hours showing us the park’s many amenities and activities from the comfort of a golf cart. Imagine a Time Share sales pitch, but without the pressure. Escapee members are able to put their names on a waitlist to lease available properties at the park, as they become available. The co-op consists of 148 acres of rolling terrain terraced for spectacular views from each of its 283 RV sites. There’s a 35’ x 65’ heated pool, two spas, six ponds, a fitness center, as well as pickleball, tennis and bocce ball courts. In addition to the wood and metal workshops, there’s a pottery studio, arts center, community greenhouse, library and clubhouse. A perfect retirement community. It turns out, that even if we were interested in leasing a lot, our Zephyr is too old (20+ years).  Oh well, we’re having fun while we’re here.

California here we come!

Tuesday, February 1: Happy, Happy Birthday to our sister-in-law, Karen!!! She and my brother, Sam, own a travel trailer and have been enjoying Ohio summers at their campground, but are looking forward to some of their own travel adventures soon.  I hope we are inspiring them to “just do it.”

We left the KOFA park around 8:30 this morning, anticipating a three-hour drive to our next destination, another Escapee Co-op in California. After we crossed into California and passed a sign reading “San Diego 136 miles” we both remembered when my sister, Merrily, and my niece, Landyn, drove us to the California/Mexican border in March 2006. After dropping us off at the trailhead to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hike, they drove ahead of us to a part of the trail they knew we would cross and made a creative “good-luck” sign right on the trail, using rocks. It was such a touching way to send us off on our big adventure and we are still grateful for their inspiring message.

We have reservations at Jojoba Hills SKP Resort in Aguanga, California. The park is another Escapee 55+ RV Membership Cooperative Community, located in Southern California just east of Temecula. According to their website, Jojoba Hills is surrounded by beautiful mountains and high desert. Temecula is the second largest wine region in California and a short drive to the coast, ski slopes, Los Angeles or San Diego. While at the park, we’ll have a chance to visit some of the places we passed through during our PCT hike (for example, we hitch hiked to Temecula to pick up our food package and stayed over the night to shower, do laundry and eat like fools).

Parts of our drive were through a few mountain passes, with curvy roads, boulders on hillsides (and almost no shoulder). We were happy when we started seeing hardwood trees versus cacti. We passed more than a few vineyards and wineries along the way. It was exciting to come upon metal sculptures of three wild horses which appeared to jump across the road. ahead of us. These are just a preview of the many sculptures we’ll see when we go to Borrego Springs later this week. We also passed a glider airport, full of gliders in storage. Fester doesn’t think they soar during winter months, but we plan to check on it this week – maybe we can arrange a flight.

Although we’ll still have sunny skies in California, the temps will be lower due to the mountains and elevation change. Yuma’s 70+ degree days will really be missed, but we’re ready for another change. During this morning’s drive, we passed through Anza Borrego Desert State Park (which looks pretty much like the landscape we’ve been passing- desert scrub surrounded by mountains).   We passed a turnoff to Warner Springs and Borrego Springs. We’ve been to Warner Springs on our PCT hike. Our Escapee friends, Connie & Marc, spent a week at Borrego Springs after Tulsa and loved it.  We plan to go there via the Jeep during our stay (maybe camp overnight).

We arrived at Jojoba Hills SKP Resort and checked in before noon. After eating a quick lunch, we took Sadie and walked uphill to one of the two dog parks here. If today is any indication, we’ll get a lot of steps in while we’re here. Our RV site is pretty far away from both dog parks, as well as the Office, Club House and Pool. We’ll need to pump up the bike tires in the morning, as this is a large, hilly park to navigate (golf carts seem to be very popular). We’re scheduled for a park tour tomorrow and look forward to it, as there’s still a lot to see and learn. Imagine my surprise when a bobcat (yes, a bobcat) walked across the patio on the site next to us. I was washing dishes and quickly grabbed the camera – unfortunately, it was a lousy shot due to window glare and a fast moving object. I’m posting the photo anyways, because it is cool.

Since today is the start of another month on the road, here are some of our travel stats to date:

  • Nights:  97 (including tonight)
  • Months: 3 (November, December & January)
  • Miles:  3,925
  • Time Zones: 3 (currently Pacific Time)
  • States:  7 (Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona & California) Note:  We aren’t counting Illinois because it was just a one-night stopover.

I plan to update our Yuma visit soon. Please stay tuned.