Road to California

On December 16, we embarked on a 17-day journey from Northern Idaho to Central California and back in our fifth wheel.   The first obstacle to overcome was getting out of our driveway.  Shawn had to buy studded snow tires and chains for the truck.  Our neighbors, Rich and Kyle, did their best to help us out by plowing as much snow and ice as possible off of our downhill driveway.  When Shawn went to buy the snow tires and chains, Rich chained his truck to Shawn’s to prevent Shawn from sliding down the driveway.  It was a scary drive in the early morning darkness, but Shawn successfully navigated us down the driveway to the main road before removing the chains.

The next obstacle was the weather.  We ended up leaving a day earlier than planned in order to miss a storm.  We drove six hours to Portland the first day.  Eastern Washington is far from picturesque, especially in the winter.  We stayed at the Sandy Riverfront RV Park in Troutdale, Oregon.  Troutdale is a cute little town and their main street was decorated for Christmas.  We enjoyed dinner and martinis at Troutini.  Our waitress encouraged us to come back for New Year’s Eve on our return trip.

The Christmas lights in Troutdale

Martini with color changing ice fish at Troutini

The next stop was South Beach State Park in Newport, Oregon.  Once again we stayed at a park that we visited on our previous trip.  Living in landlocked Idaho, Shawn knew I needed my dose of ocean views.  We just beat the storm, and we were able to take a long walk on the beach.  That night, our trailer was shaking fiercely in the 35 mph wind and rain.

Winter driving conditions
South Beach, Oregon
You’ve gotta stop at Rogue Brewing when traveling along the Oregon coast

We stopped in Bandon, Oregon, home of Face Rock Creamery and the import store with all the dinosaurs.  Face Rock still makes the best mac & cheese in my book, and the clerk told us the recipe is available online.  We bought a frozen mac to go along with a healthy supply of Vampire Slayer garlic cheddar.  No additional dinosuars came home with us this trip.

A menagerie of metal animals past and present

In Gold Beach, we stayed at Turtle Rock RV Resort.  As you can see from the picture, winter RV’ing is not so popular in the Pacific North West, but the solitude makes it much easier to park!  We enjoyed an evening with Shawn’s niece and her family.

Now I know why it’s named Turtle Rock. I totally missed that last trip.

Our first stop in California was in Trinidad, a cute seaside town with an incredible smoked fish shop.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, so after lunch, we took a 2-mile hike before getting back in the truck to head to Garberville for the night.

The Cool Bus

That was the end of the relaxing, leisurely, sightseeing portion of our trip.  After that, our days were packed with visits with family and friends.  We spent the night at Cal Expo RV Park in Sacramento, had lunch with our daughter and the grandkids, and dinner with our friend Jerry.  Traffic and 5-lane freeways were a rude awakening.  The stress level instantly increased.

Then it was on to Fresno to visit our son and the Scharton clan.  Some of the highlights included sampling the local breweries, an introduction to mulcajetes, lots of good Mexican food that we don’t have in Idaho, a Zumba class led by my sister-in-law, and Christmas Eve dinner with family and old friends.  We parked in my brother’s driveway for the duration.  I’m sure the neighbors were thrilled when we packed up and left at 5:30 Christmas morning for a hair-raising drive through the tule fog back to Sacramento.

The molten goodness that is a mulcajete
Enjoying a beer by the fire at Tioga Sequoia Brewing
Gift exchange with the Schartons

We made it to Elk Grove in time to watch the grandkids open their presents Christmas morning.  Shawn’s brother hosted Christmas dinner.  Only in California can you serve Christmas dinner outside on the patio.  Sure, there was a heater and a fire pit, but we won’t be doing that in Idaho in December.

Gift exchange with the Echols

On Boxing Day, we drove to San Francisco to visit our youngest son.  We’ve always gone over the Bay Bridge, but this time we took the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was so much nicer; I may never use the Bay Bridge again.  It was a rare sunny day in San Francisco, so we enjoyed a long walk through Golden Gate Park and a Korean lunch of bi bim bab (not commonly found in Idaho).

It was fun seeing the kids decorate their trees with old family ornaments

The next two days were filled with lunches and dinners with old friends and co-workers.  So much to catch up on and to remind us how much we are enjoying retirement.  We spent four days in Sacramento before heading home to Idaho.  We picked up a cold along the way and just wanted to get home.  The return trip was only two stops compared to the five days we took on the way down.

Shawn’s nephew made some repairs on the RV while we were in town
Gratuitous granddaughter picture from Stephanie’s birthday lunch
I’d tell you which mountain this is, but I was taking a lot of cold medication at the time of the photograph
NYE back at Troutini, we just wanted to go to bed at 7PM
Kyle towing us up the driveway to our Home Sweet Home

We arrived home the afternoon of January 1st and our neighbor Kyle was waiting at the end of the driveway to tow us home.  The trip was fun, adventurous, and exhausting.  It was wonderful to see all of our California family and friends again.  Now it’s time to look through all the seed catalogs that were awaiting us on our return.  Spring is just around the corner…she says hopefully.

Selling Our House in California

When you live in a house for years, there are just some things you start overlooking…the missing tile in the corner of the bathroom; the hole in the closet for the CAT 5 cable you installed pre-wifi; that overgrown corner of the yard that no one sees; the unpermitted electrical in the garage.  It turns out you need to deal with those things if you want to get top dollar for your house.  Our realtor, Joey, also gave us a lot of other suggestions to improve the saleability of our 21-year-old house.

Shawn had a lot of shelves and electrical built into the garage.  That all had to come out and then Joey suggested painting the walls white to give a cleaner, larger, brighter look.  If you’re going to have a 4-year-old “help” on a painting project, the garage is probably the best place.  To fill the holes left by the electrical conduit, Shawn found this nifty spackle that goes on pink and turns white when it’s dry.  No more trying to paint over wet spackle.


The water is our area is very hard, so we had years of buildup on our once clear shower doors.  I found a service to clean the doors and clean the tile grout.  What an amazing difference that makes.  Of course now we no longer use the master shower because we don’t want to get any water spots on the glass.


We recently had the interior of our house painted, so the walls are in pretty good shape; however, our youngest son’s room still had purple walls and a wallpaper border of his favorite basketball team.  Joey said that had to go.  Seriously, who wouldn’t want a house in Sacramento with a Kings motif?  You need to support the home team people!  We removed the chair rail and wallpaper and painted the whole room gray like the rest of the house.  So boring.


Each of the kids’ rooms had a closet with double sliding doors.  When the kids were young, the doors were a hassle, so we removed and discarded them (the doors, not the kids).  It turns out people don’t want to buy houses without closet doors, so off to Home Depot to buy three sets of replacement doors.  Shawn had already packed up his power tools and sent them to Idaho in POD #1, so he had to buy a hacksaw and cut the tracks to length manually.

We had a few projects in the yard too.  General weeding and pruning to get the yard back in shape; updating the flowerbeds with fresh bark; fixing a few boards in the fence; removing a Japanese maple tree that we want to take with us to our new house.  Out next door neighbor has let her yard go a bit, so Shawn coaxed her 10-year-old son into helping rake leaves, and I repainted her fence while they were on a bike ride (we have an HOA that demands that any street facing fencing is painted a specific shade of gray).

The Japanese maple ready to move

This week Joey is taking pictures of the house for the listing and he plans to have an open house this weekend.  The carpet was shampooed and has the requisite vacuum marks.  All personal items and photos have been removed.   The closet is staged to perfection (matching hangers, clothing sorted, shoes lined up).  The house is looking very shiny and spacious.  The only pieces of furniture we have left are a sofa, dining set, bed, armoire, nightstands, three TVs, a desk and two desk chairs.  The house is so empty that it echoes.  Of course all this fixing up makes you wonder…why didn’t we do this ages ago?

The echoing gray cavern that was our home
This is really happening


Packing Our Stuff

I completely underestimated what a huge undertaking moving would be.  We have lived in our current 4-bedroom, 3-bath home for 21 years.  We’ve raised three children from school-aged through college.  We’ve remodeled, repainted, redesigned and repurposed rooms many times.  We have acquired new tastes and hobbies and all their accouterments over two decades.  We have accumulated stuff.

The first step in moving was to get rid of some stuff.  I started with my closet.  Having gained and lost weight and finally settled at a maintainable size, it was time to let go of the extreme sized clothes on both ends of the spectrum.  Knowing I am retiring soon also allowed me to let go of a lot of career clothing.  Many bags of clothing headed to Goodwill.  My husband, Shawn, did the same on his side of the closet.

We cleared out our mini-storage and put the stored stuff in our garage so we could have everything in one place and get a better idea of how much stuff we really have.  The answer?  Too much stuff.

Next, we started going through other closets and cupboards in the house and decided we had enough excess stuff to warrant a garage sale.  Furniture, books, videos, lots of kitchen stuff, camping gear, holiday decorations, more clothing…we hoped this would bring in a few dollars.  Mid-December is not a popular time for garage sales, but we gave it a try anyway.  Luckily, we had a sunny morning and people were happy to be outside searching for bargains.  Most people were friendly and happy with their finds, but a couple of ladies took bargaining a little too far for my liking.  I priced a crystal salad bowl at $5, but these ladies wanted it for $1.  I ended up giving it to a nice lady for nothing.  It’s not always about the money.  We got rid of lots of stuff that day and made a few dollars.  The rest went to Goodwill, and a few larger items were listed for sale on Nextdoor.

It was fortuitous that we had our annual “bulky waste pickup” in December.  This allowed us to pile a lot of garage and yard detritus in the street for garbage hauling.  We also took bags and boxes of household toxins and e-waste to our city recycling center.   Yet we still needed to make a trip to the dump.

Now it was time to start really looking through the stuff and begin packing.  We’ve had a sturdy brown box marked “Camping” in our garage for years, yet we never open it each summer when it’s time for camping, so what could be in it?  Shoeboxes, each neatly labeled with the year.  And inside the shoeboxes?  Envelops filled with that year’s bills.  I know you’re supposed to keep important tax papers for seven years, but these were from the early 90s.  Let the shredding begin.

We are using PODS to move our stuff to Idaho.  Since we plan to put our California house up for sale in January, we ordered a POD for the first of the year so we could de-clutter and make our home look spacious, per our realtor Joey.  We planned to have a second POD delivered in March for the final move.  After the first POD arrived and we filled it, we knew we could not fit all our stuff into only two PODS.  Now we’re filling two PODS in January and another one in March.

I had grand plans to be very organized while packing boxes.  I wanted to strategically place things in boxes that belonged in the same room, closet, or cupboard in the new house.  That lasted for about two boxes.  Not wanting to make boxes too heavy, there was a lot of mixing and matching going on.  A box of books topped with a quilt.  A box with a bathroom light fixture, three quilting rulers, a gym bag and a stuffed bear.

Remember those shoeboxes in the camping box?  Well, it turns out that wasn’t the only place I had stashed old bills.  There were filled shoeboxes in the back of my closet, under my desk, in the linen cupboard, and the oldest box dating back to 1988 in my cedar chest.  Thank God I started scanning papers in 2012, and this will not be an issue moving forward.   Although it was kind of fun finding a paystub from my first job out of college.

Day 14 – The End is Near (a.k.a. Friday the 13th)

We woke up in Oregon, but we are going to sleep in California.

Emigrant Lake Campground

The change from Oregon to California seemed drastic on I-5. The pine trees turned to oak trees and scrubby bushes, the ground from green to brown, the sky from gray to blue, the temperature from cold and damp to warm and sunny, and the condition of the pavement from smooth to potholes. An hour into California we got great views of Mt. Shasta.

We decided to stay over in Red Bluff instead of driving all the way to Sacramento. We’re staying right off the highway in the Durango RV Resort. It is quite impressive with full amenities: community room, pool and hot tub, bocce ball, tetherball, horseshoes, laundry, curbside garbage pickup, and full hookups. I think the 3 RVs to our right are having a family reunion. It looks like they brought 20 extra folding chairs.

Steve is ready to hit the road and go home

Since the weather was warm, we relaxed outside at our picnic table and played board games. We ventured into downtown Red Bluff and had Mexican food for dinner. One more night in the super short RV bed and then we will be back home to our king size bed. Steve the Dinosaur misses his friend Malcolm.

It has been a fun trip. Oregon is beautiful and I can see us returning for more camping especially on the coast.

Daily Ratings
Los Mariachis in Red Bluff – 3.5 stars
Durango RV Resort – 4 stars
Oregon – 5 stars

Day 4 – Oregon Ho!

This morning I had to show Shawn all my adventures of the previous evening.  It wasn’t nearly as scary in the daylight with Shawn by my side (except for the old van with darkened windows tucked away in the bushes…still creepy).  Steve the dinosaur found a slug.

Just before noon we hit the road again headed for the border.  Road repairs along 101 had us stop a couple times for about 20 minutes each with traffic going in only one direction at a time.  On a normal Tuesday, this may have bothered me, but when you have nothing but time and are surrounded by redwoods, it’s not such a big deal.

We had planned to stop in Crescent City for lunch at a Mexican Restaurant, but as we were driving by it looked closed.  When towing a fifth wheel you can’t make any sudden decisions like let’s stop here and look at the chainsaw carvings of Bigfoot.  And you can’t just flip a u-turn at the next light.  We ended up stopping at Home Depot for propane and eating lunch in the parking lot.  Good thing we stocked up on local cheese and smoked fish yesterday.

We are staying overnight at the Turtle Rock RV Resort tonight.  We have a creek view spot.  The creek is nice.  I’d show you a picture, but I couldn’t take one without a road or power line.  We are meeting Shawn’s niece and her family in Gold Beach, Oregon.  Shawn got in trouble last time he passed through Oregon without stopping for a visit. We had a nice dinner and visit at The Landing overlooking the Rogue River.  The girls pointed out a few otters bobbing in the river.  A nice way to end our day.  Tomorrow we are off to South Beach State Park

Daily Ratings & Stats
Home Depot Parking Lot Lunch – 5 stars
Turtle Rock RV Resort – 3 stars
The Landing – 3.5 stars

Day 3 (Part 2) – I Am Brave

When we arrived at our campsite yesterday, I thought “oh how pretty and secluded, look at all the beautiful ferns”.  Who was I kidding?  It is creepy.  It’s all dark and damp and slimy vines hang from the trees, and there are scary sounds coming from the bushes.  I’m just waiting for the twang of banjo notes.

Shawn wasn’t feeling well, but I wanted to see the sunset over the ocean, so I decide to venture out on my own at 6:15 PM.  The campground is dark and overgrown.  Little paths veer off the road forming black tunnels of wet.  Ominous sounds from the gently rustling bushes make me fear a mountain lion will pounce at any moment.  I doubt clapping my hands and yelling “scat” will have the same effect on the mountain lion as it does on the neighbor’s cat who skulks through my backyard daily.  I reach the deserted parking lot where the wind is making the bathroom door creak reminiscent of a haunted house.  I consider turning back, but I want to see the sunset damn it.  I am brave.  Maybe a little dramatic too…

At the next parking lot, I take a left and climb a trail leading to a sunny outlook.  As I snap pictures, I take a look to my right and see the couple from Oklahoma that I met in the parking lot posing at the top of a huge rock.  Dang it.  I want to be on that rock too.  So back down the trail to the parking lot and then up the twisty trail and rugged stairs to the top of the rock.  I got my sunset.

Updated step count:  7,516 (one-third adrenaline-laced fear, two thirds giddy about the beauty of my surroundings)

Me being brave by taking a selfie on a cliff

Day 3 – Meet Steve the Dinosaur

For my birthday last month, my 4-year old grandson, Malcolm, gave me a dinosaur.  He is about 3 inches tall and named Steve.  We usually see Malcolm a few times a week, so two weeks without seems like a long time.  I decided to bring Steve along on vacation so that we could share our adventures with Malcolm via texts and Snapchats.  Hence Steve’s debut on the blog today.

It was a beautiful, clear, sunny morning at Patrick’s Point today.  We started out the day with a walk along Agate beach.  Not even the tsunami warning sign could deter us from our beach stroll.  It was an easy trail down to the beach, but I knew at some point I would have to hike back up the cliff.  The beach is covered with tiny to medium, polished rocks and driftwood.  Steve enjoyed collecting rocks, playing in the surf and running from seagulls.

In the afternoon, we drove south to Trinidad and Arcata (home of Humboldt State).  Our first lucky find was Katy’s Smokehouse.  We were in search of a restaurant serving fresh seafood, but Google sent us to Katy’s instead. Bob, the owner, gave us a lesson in how his family has been smoking fresh King salmon, albacore, and other fish for 83 years.  They also can their own tuna which is nothing like the mushy, triple cooked crap from China that you get at Safeway (according to Bob).  He convinced us to buy a few cans and said we would be ordering it by the case soon.  At $7.99/can, I’m afraid I may like it too much.  We also got a fresh piece of salmon that he had smoked that morning in the Native tradition using local Alder wood.  It is fabulous.  Even Shawn, the salmon hater, said it was good.

At Bob’s suggestion, we had lunch at the Lighthouse Grill because that’s where the locals eat (Bob said he doesn’t eat out because the only place that serves good fresh seafood is his house and he only has two chairs).  Any place that proclaims it is “Home of the Mashed Potato Waffle Cone” must be tried, and of course I had the mashed potato waffle cone “all the way.”  This includes a savory waffle cone filled with mashed potatoes, gravy, cheese, bacon, and brisket.  It was everything you’re imagining.  Shawn had the grass fed beef pepper jack cheeseburger, garlic fries, and a salted caramel milkshake.

The Mashed Potato Waffle Cone, It’s Better Than It Looks

In Arcata, our destination was Slice of Humboldt Pie.  Little did we know it was co-located with a cider bar.  Shawn had a piece of raspberry lemon pie (no picture because he inhaled it before I could even get out my camera).  We sampled a few ciders: four dry and one berry.  We finished with something called “We can’t call this a pommeau”.  We let it warm up to room temp and it was rich and somehow slightly sweet and dry.  Very nice.  We headed back over to the pie side of the establishment and grabbed some savory hand pies to take back to camp for dinner.  We also wandered through a huge bead and rock store and the local natural food co-op.

Heading out soon to watch the sunset…

Today’s Ratings & Stats
Agate Beach – 5 stars
Katy’s Smokehouse – 5 stars
Lighthouse Grill – 4 stars
Slice of Humboldt Pie – 4 stars
The Local Cider Bar – 5 stars
Steps taken: 4,741 so far but most of them were uphill or in the sand so they should count at least double
Weather conditions: sunny, windy, high of 61 and low of 45

Day 2 – Redwoods, Ferns, Clover and Cheese

Everyone camps differently.  We used to be that family that tent camped, but we brought a lot of stuff to keep us comfortable and amused.  Now all that stuff is neatly tucked away in our camper.  At the Benbow KOA we had the extremes of camping on each side of us.  On one side were two couples crammed into an r-pod and a tiny tent; on the other side a class-A motorhome (you know the ones that look like buses) towing a full-size truck.  The bus driver and his wife along with his brother-in-law had been traveling cross-country for six weeks starting out in their home state of Florida.  He said he was too old for tent camping and was enjoying the comforts his RV offered, like heating and air.  He had done enough tent camping in his youth with his parents and nine siblings (5 boys and 5 girls).  I asked how his parents managed to take that many kids camping and he said they had a DeSoto and a station wagon.

Today we traveled about 100 miles through Humboldt County, but we took our time stopping along the way.  We started with a 3-mile hike in Pepperwood along the Avenue of the Trees.  It was a beautiful (warning I’m going to use the word beautiful a lot) forest of redwoods with lush ferns and clover growing below.

Our next stop was lunch at Eel River Brewing Company, home of the first certified organic brewery.  This compelled me to try the organic IPA and Shawn had the Emerald Triangle IPA; I must admit the non-organic Emerald Triangle was better.  The regular and sweet potato fries were awesome.  Piping hot and crunchy.  The fish & chips and black bean burger were OK.  I guess I was feeling a bit hippie in Humboldt ordering things like organic beer and a vegetarian burger.

Driving along 101, I spotted a billboard advertising a cheese factory.  Now a cheese factory is a thing worth stopping for…a reason to change your planned route.  We drove through the little town of Loleta to the Loleta Cheese Factory where we sampled about 30 cheeses (they were tiny samples, no need to call the cardiologist).  They made smoked cheddar, Gouda, Jack and Havarti and then there were all of those again with peppers, jalapeños, habaneros, and garlic in various combinations.  Needless to say, we bought a few…plus a couple bars of Humboldt dark chocolate for good measure.

All that cheese called for a beer, so we headed on to Lost Coast Brewing.  Don’t try the Raspberry Brown Ale.  It is hideous (in my opinion), but the triple IPA was quite good.  But even better than beer, they had Downtown Brown ice cream made from the wort they use for the Downtown Brown Ale.  A local artist crafted the large metal sculptures in the parking lot.  The owl-like creatures cast cool shadows on the parking lot.  The bomb was just weird.

OK, enough eating and drinking for an afternoon.  Time to find a campsite.  We went to Patrick’s Point State Park on the coast.  This is the only place where we could not make a reservation and we were hoping to find a good site that we could get the RV into.  As we drove through the loops, we would either find great sites that were already occupied or tiny sites that we couldn’t fit in.  Luckily, the very last site #124 was empty and pretty big.  It’s a pretty site with more ferns and redwoods and it is rumored to have a mountain lion.  We are tucked in for the night.

Daily Ratings & Stats

Eel River Brewing – 3 stars (but 5 for the fries)
Loleta Cheese Factory – 5 stars
Lost Coast Brewing – 3.5 stars

Steps taken – 7,272
Miles driven – 100+
4-Leaf Clovers spotted – 0
Temp – mid-60s

Day 1 – Is Cheaper Gas Really Worth It? Why No, it is Not.

We are going on our first real trip (not a BBQ competition) in our fifth wheel.  Fourteen days traveling from Sacramento up the coast through Northern California and Oregon over to Portland and then back home down I-5.  Being from Northern California, I do not refer to it as “The 5”.  Packing for an RV trip is definitely different than packing for a month in New Zealand.  For the NZ trip, I was very particular about what I brought.  Everything needed to serve multiple purposes.  For this trip, I haphazardly threw things into the RV.  Six pairs of shoes?  Why not?  Three jackets: rain, warm and cute.

Today is our longest day of driving: 234 miles from Sacramento to Garberville, CA.  We started out this morning full of excitement, only to hit traffic within 20 miles of home.  It turns out that when people are driving along the freeway and they see a sign for “Guinness Book of Records World’s Largest Corn Maze” they must slow and gawk.  Google saved us a few minutes by detouring us through the lovely farmland and orchards near Dixon.

We stopped for lunch in Healdsburg for a much-deserved margarita and Mexican food.  Towing an RV is stressful when cars don’t merge like a zip.  Agave Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar was a great find.  The Chili Ancho margaritas had a nice zing and they were not skimpy with the tequila.  They also make their own margarita mix so it was not overly syrupy or sweet.  I had Mom’s Special chicken mole enchiladas with rice and black beans.  Nice hint of cinnamon in the in dark, chocolate brown mole.  Shawn had a Mexican pizza al Pastor.  It was a giant charred tortilla slathered in black beans, pork, cabbage, avocado, and thinly sliced radish.  It was beautiful.

Continuing on our journey, we decided we should find some diesel prior to arriving at our campground.  I installed the GasBuddy app and searched for the station with the cheapest diesel. $2.75 seemed like a bargain; however, Google could not find the station.  We looked for the next station and Google said, sure that’s only a few miles away.  You would think we would have learned from our New Zealand adventure…never turn down an unpaved road.  A quarter mile down the gravel road, Google indicated we should drive down someone’s private drive to get to the main road.  We thought better of that and Shawn deftly backed up a quarter mile down the gravel road (the grape vines were lovely).  Three-point turns are not a thing when pulling a fifth wheel.  We made a pact then and there…no driving down unpaved roads no matter what Google says!

Highway 101 past Willits is beautiful with tall redwood trees.  We finally arrived at our first destination: Benbow KOA in Garberville.  A nice little campground off 101. We will stay here one night before heading up to  Patrick’s Point in Trinidad, CA tomorrow.

Daily Ratings
Agave Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar:  5 stars
Benbow KOA:  3 stars