RV TRIP TO USA WEST COAST 1993

When the four of us (we and Vered and Aviv Ron) walked into the huge parking lot to claim our RV in San Francisco, we saw tens of parked RVs and were thrilled to think that one had our name displayed in the window. We were crushed when Anthony, after walking around the lot reported that our RV wasn’t there. Ant eventually said that he'd found it, but it was quite a bit smaller than he'd expected. How Ant, Vered and AvivR all laughed as my mouth literally dropped when he showed us a pick-up truck with a tiny cabin perched on the back. Eventually ours was ready and with high spirits and a lot of laughter we prepared for takeoff. It’s very comfortable - our bed is at the back and Vered and Aviv sleep on a shelf over the steering wheel. It’s quite easy to drive, although its width is disconcerting. Turning can be a problem as the body ends a significant distance behind the rear wheels (sounds like me describing my behind!) But we feel so powerful as we master this hulk, what a change from my moped! Anthony was the first to take the wheel and it was a nightmare. Vered and I led the way in the rented car - verblonzering in town, swerving from lane to lane and finally we took him through an obstacle course in our efforts to find the rental depot for the car.

Nevertheless he had to drive through heart stopping winding passes to our first stop, a park by the American River. Dusty surface with pines all around we could hear the rush of the river as it cascaded over the nearby rapids. The first evening was wonderful for me - I slept the whole night in anticipation of my morning cup of tea. It was only in the morning when I woke up and had to get up to make tea did I realize that it was the river bubbling and not the kettle. Not trusting our fishing skills, the next morning we opted out of river fishing and choose the pond stocked with trout. It was Aviv's first time and to his delight he caught two fish for our supper. Vered was upset that she didn’t catch anything - but as we explained, she can't have everything in life! The area, Colorna, is where gold was first found and people still pan the river. Despite claims that people are panning more out of the river than in the 1800s and unlike the chunks of gold displayed in the park office, we only panned a few flecks from the icy river, certainly not the piece I had hoped to hang around my neck.

After disconnecting our lifelines of electricity, water and sewage, Ant drove us to our next stop. We drove to Dingerville, no-where on the way to the north and Lake Tahoe. The park had little to offer, but was full because of the adjacent golf course. At the office there was a news magazine for the over 50 RV’ers, glorifying the “have camper, will travel and socialize bit” but we decided we weren’t quite ready for this retired scene.

Next morning Anthony declared that he who drives must also dump. So Vered and I with wrinkled noses and curled toes gingerly dumped and flushed and flushed and flushed. Then Vered drove us through Santa Rosa, OrovilIe and Chico, towns that serve huge farming communities where corn, pistachios, plums and nectarines flourish. Continuing along Road 32, the road paralleled Big Butte, winding through lush gorges carved through mountains thick with forests and crisscrossed with streams. Vered and I couldn't resist the inviting waters and stumbled down sandy banks to dip breathlessly in the icy waters. We spent the night in Mill Creek, after sneaking out of the Fire Mountain Resort that was depressingly neglected and unimaginative. Aviv, who missed the earlier dip wandered to the stream, but on the way stood on a leatherback bee. As we ate dinner we anxiously watched Aviv who was in pain become hot and red. Bearded Ted - who ran the camp ground, was also the cook at the local diner and a volunteer fireman, and presumably a good source of information - said that Aviv should have taken antihistamines immediately, but nothing dire would happen to him this time. Afraid that Aviv would get stung again we were ever so careful about closing the RV doors and windows; thankfully the only effects were a healthy respect for the bees that were everywhere and definitely a nuisance.

The next morning we drove an hour to McArthur - Burney Falls with views of Mount Shasta towering over the other mountains. We decided to eat breakfast by the lake and spread sugar and banana peels on the other picnic tables to lure the leather bees away from our cereal and milk. After an admiring glance at the falls, we drove another hour to Shasta Dam. It is a huge, electricity generating dam on the Sacramento River, where the houseboat is king. Far below the dam wall the river continues to wind peace- fully along,
Vered and Aviv boarded a Greyhound bus in Redding on their way to San Francisco and then to New York. We'll miss their company, but we are relieved that we can now have sex whenever we want without, as Vered delicately said, "Rocking them to sleep."

We remained in Redding and were delighted to find a park on the Sacramento River. We took our stale bread and fed it to the ducks, feeling a little guilty that it was not whole wheat! It was a big night for us, first the laundry, then a movie, The Fugitive. We spent the next morning at the mechanic having our freezer fixed. We later continued north along the 5 Highway, past Dunsmuir to the town of Mt. Shasta where we visited a trout hatchery and the Sisson Museum where I took a lottery to buy a quilt. We ate by Lake Siskiyou, a man-made recreational lake that showed Mt Shasta off to good advantage. Afterwards we drove 14 miles up Mt Shasta to 8,000 feet and standing above the tree line among alpine flowers saw the world spread below us.
On to Weed then Yerka, seeing the mountains open into wide cattle breeding plains, dried grasses and oaks, and then back into mountainous passes. At Yerka we turned west to join the Klamath River as it wound its way south and west. We stopped for the night at a campground by the river. By the time we arrived, about 7.30, the other campers had already eaten and when we started to prepare dinner they had all gone to sleep. How is it that we are always so noisy and everyone else is so quiet? Even our whispers break the silence. Numerous campers all around and it’s as if we are the only people around.
The nextmorning we drove along the winding Klamath and were filled with awe at the grandeur of the scenery. At one viewpoint, we picked blackberries to eat with our cereal, really getting the feeling of nature up close. We collected wood for our nightly campfire prepared by "One Match Levy".

We left the Klamath and drove to Arcata on the Pacific where we walked through the Humboldt Wildlife Reserve, admiring the gulls, ducks, geese, cormorants and a delightfully shaggy blue heron. We drove northwards along the coast to Trinidad, where the Portuguese first landed in California fitting for us who recently celebrated Columbus’ landfall in the New World. We had entered salmon country and saw that the trailers in the parks were obviously long term houses for people who came to the coast to fish. Why? The RV Park had a special fish cleaning area, smoker and canning facility. We were in the right place, but obviously doing the wrong thing!

The next morning we explored a demonstration forest of second growth Redwoods and admired these enormous trees. Anthony was particularly delighted to meet up again with our old friend from Alaska, Sitka Spruce. We then walked along the beach looking for California seals that we could hear barking off-shore. The scenery was spectacular - enormous rocks piercing the sea, jutting upwards to the sky. Back into Trinidad we bought far too much salmon fresh, smoked and jerked. Ant's specialty was smoked salmon omelette for breakfast. Delicious!

On the spur of the moment we decided to continue northward to Oregon, just because we knew no-one who had visited there. As the thick fog rolled in from the sea, the weather became very cool and we drove off through fog shrouded roads lined by the majestic redwoods. Glimpses of the wonderful beach scenery kept us delighted. At the Redwood Information Centre, the ranger pointed out two gray whales offshore. We wondered why they were hanging out, spouting and lounging in the water at the very spot that was crowded with people. Were felt sure that of all the spots along this coast they choose this one, which was crowded with RV campers and passing visitors for company.

We overnighted in Prairie Creek Park, just north of Orick. Roosevelt elk sat in the tall grass opposite the campground impervious to the curious tourists busy framing them in automatic clicking cameras. We woke up early the next morning hoping to join a trip to the Tall Trees Grove, where some of the tallest trees in the world grow. Although we· usually like to visit places just off-season so that we miss the crowds, it occasionally happens that we also miss out - like then, when trips to the Tall Trees were only on Saturdays. Deciding to console myself we went to a riding stable. But same story - weekends only. So we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Redwood National Park. Anthony prepared a smoked salmon and mushroom omelette for breakfast as we watched the fog roll in through the enormous redwood trees. It is so still one is afraid to talk - the fog blankets out sound and even the air feels thick to breathe. Ant and I wandered through old growth trees hundreds of feet tall and tens of years old and learned about burls, goose pens and snags. Quite delightful.

We headed north to Gold Beach. Again an RV Park that was clean but with the lots on top of each other. Since the following morning we were to go on a jet boat up the Rogue River, proximity was more important than a pleasant place. The trip was most pleasurable. We high-tailed it up rapids, but stopped to see otters, cormorants, ospreys and their nests and even spotted deer. We couldn't understand why kids on the beach waved to us in a circular motion. When Jeff, our driver, turned the boat on its axis throwing up curtains of spray, we understood what the kids wanted. We were impressed by the feeling of community that Jeff expressed - his grandfather invented/developed the jet engine for the Rogue River Runners, his cousin ran the restaurant where we lunched and everybody knew and greeted each other.

Our next stop was further north at Bandon, where we camped at Bullard’s Beach. The Oregon scenery is spectacular and it is difficult to drive as one wants to stop at every bend and drink in the magnificent view. Why do sea and rocks make such a fascinating combination? Is it the timelessness - the waves wash or crash against the rocks, they retreat only to try again. And the rocks remain seemingly impervious to this constant battering. What a pity that we can't take all this wild, rugged beauty with us. Plans to fish were aborted because of the windy weather, but we retraced our (tire) tracks to Face rock and admire another beautiful bay, Bandon is a wonderful town, with an historic lighthouse, nice shops and great fudge and sweet shops! We splurged and the unaccustomed sugar rush caused runny tummies.

Between Bandon and Coos to the north the beach is sandy, so as the road turned inland we didn't feel we were missing anything.  At Coos we arranged to go on a fishing trip the following morning and then drove along the coast as I liked a picture in a brochure. Stopping at a viewpoint, we were amazed that below us were thousands of seals, barking California sea lions, elephant seals, Steller seals and Harbour seals - occupying all the rocks and sandy places below us. A docent was there to give explanations and loaned us a telescope to view the amazing sight better. How beautiful is the Oregon coast, each view more inspiring than the next.  

We camped at a dumpy RV park, but it did have Cable and we were anxious to absorb as much news about tomorrow's signing of mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO. It will be a momentous meeting and one we have dreamed of for many years, although violence and much trouble still lie ahead. Although we are supposedly having a grand time overseas we have paid a high price - first being in Nassau while our family was in Israel during the Gulf War and now again, at this momentous time. On 13th September we woke up while it was still dark and while Ant had his usual cup of tea I had ginger tea to settle my stomach for the sea trip. It reminded me that while I was telling Vered something she laughed and asked where do I collect all these odd bits of information. Do I read the Reader’s Digest? I had no answer for her then - but now realize that women who network share a lot of information.

We drove to the Jetty in Charleston, Coos Bay. As the silver light of morning lifted the darkness we boarded Betty Ray's fishing boat and feeling cold and sleepy, we huddled on the bench with the four other people. Bill, the captain pulled off and Ken our fishing guide explained the rules. We had expected a leisurely morning of fishing and talking, sipping steaming mugs of coffee at a leisurely pace and catching a few fish by the way. We were quite unprepared for a modern day fishing trip. Bill drove through large swells for 1 1/2 hours to yesterday's 'good spot' and then circled until the echo finder found a school of fish hovering over an underwater knoll. "Cast off!" came the cry, just as he shut off the engines. First Bill caught three fish on his line and then I had a catch. The rush of adrenaline was wonderful as I saw the rod tip jerk. But there was no need of fishing skills to reel in - just plain exhausting reeling in - the bottom was a long way off. After everybody had caught something and it slowed down, Bill with echo finder searched for another school. "Get ready, cast off!" and the scene was repeated.  Although exhausted by the first fish binge and having decided to sit out the next round of fishing, I was overcome with guilt and rapidly let my reel out together with the other fishermen. The ginger did work as I felt alright, only occasionally queasy as the boat rocked in the swells. When Bill called for the final reel-in we were quite thankful, utterly exhausted by this time. Still cold, although it was noon we were warmed by the thrill of fishing - 14 fish between Ant and I. Back in the harbour we gave our fish to The Cleaner, who for a nominal fee filleted our fish. We were horrified at the waste, but he skillfully sliced off the filets and threw the skin and the meaty remains down a sluice into the bay waters. The squawking gulls floated nearby, fighting between themselves to snatch the coveted skin. The skeleton, head, wing fillets and fins floated untouched, but we were later assured that eels and crabs fed on them. In fact, while scaling the fish to grill, I met up with a retired couple who come here for a few weeks a year to catch Dungeness crabs (they use the fish skeletons to bait their crab pots). They then clean them on the pier and freeze them to eat throughout the year.

In fact we are constantly surprised by what we would call alternative lifestyles - not gay couples (of which there are plenty), but like Jeff the Rogue Runner, who captains the boat for 6 months of the year and then works as a builder during off-season We are so staid that way – you have to have a steady job for a lifetime.

With nylon bags filled with filleted fish in our hands we eagerly drove off to a nearby park to fry our fresh fish. Delicious.

We then returned to Cape Arago to have a last look at the seal colony. We don't know what the collective noun for seals is - but if it’s a pod of whales it must surely be a noise of seals - the barking of the California seals is unbelievable - raucous and joyful. The white, small harbour seals lie motionless near each other; the enormous elephant seals are immobile, appearing like huge rocks on the sand; the Steller seals flop on small rocks jutting out of the sea in impossible positions, happily sleeping in the thin sun. But the California Seals, all males, cluster in enormous groups, one on top of each other, many trying to sleep but barking and snarling at each other as they jostle for positions on the cramped beach. The young males cavort in the water, staging mock battles, turning their heads up to the sun, or gallop flopping around - doing exactly what we expect from seals. The North California coast, but especially the Oregon coast, is spectacular - the road winds along the coast which has trees, Redwoods in California and Douglas firs in Oregon, growing along the coast. It is quite hilly and from the viewpoints there are breathtaking views of sweeping bays with enormous rocks jutting out of the sea. Seagulls, cormorants and puffins work the fish. The days were fog bound, but as the fog lifted, the sea was pacifically calm, lake-like and silver grey. Green – how many shades of green we see - grey-green of fog enshrouded vegetation; lively green of young plants; dark green of redwoods and firs, lime green of leaves in sunlight. Ours hearts expand from the beauty of it all.

It was time to leave the coast and make our leisurely way back south. We turned inland driving through lumber country. We left the dominant Myrtle woods and saw Douglas Firs cover the hills and mountains. Huge mills line the roads, with different sized logs strapped on mammoth trailers plying the roads, piled in the mill yards and tied together in the creeks.

Within an hour the weather changed and it was quite warm. We camped at a small site bordering the school playing field in Myrtle Creek. Kampground Kate, the hostess, chattering away, suggested we visit Crater Lake. So on a whim we abandoned plans to continue south and turned east instead. This is the essence of RV life! Plans made to be broken, driving off on word of mouth or chancing upon appealing brochures. We drove along the North Umpqua River and stopped at Colliding Rivers, where the Umpqua and Little Creek collide, then together turn ninety degrees as they continue toward the sea; an unusual sight. We stopped at Toketee and delighted in the Falls - not very high, but the lip of the basin is formed by columnar basalt rock and looks as if made from logs, exactly like the trunks of the Douglas Firs surrounding the river.

Our next stop was at Watson Falls where we walked to the impressive base of the falls. It was fun feeling the spray of the falls and watching the spray drop like icing sugar onto the rocks below.

We spent the night camping by Diamond Lake that reflects the jagged peak of Mount Thielsen. We walked over to the Lodge and were amazed by the vast recreation area that enfolded as we walked through. We've all heard of Lake Tahoe and in our ignorance assume that there is nothing else of interest; but this place is great.

The next morning we got up in the cold and I went over to Diamond Lake Corrals and Wayne Watson led me on a three hour horse trail. The horses took us up to 6,000 feet through the wilderness devastated by heavy snowfalls and beetles. We followed elk tracks, saw signs where elk had rubbed their antlers against the trunks of young fir trees, shallow holes where elk dug to get to the mushrooms that grow below the surface - elk wallows, but saw no elk. At Timothy Fields a meadow at 6,000 feet a small cross stood among the sparse firs in the blanket of green grass. Wayne said his daughter had had a premature baby that died and had asked that it be buried there. It was a place where a crick (creek) trickled through. I had no trouble when we crossed streams by horseback, but negotiating the crick I slipped in the mud and water, returning to the warmth of Ant and the RV thoroughly frozen but happy.

We continued to Crater Lake. 7,000 years ago Mount Mazama, one mountain in a chain of volcanoes of the Pacific crest blew its top, forming Crater Lake, the deepest and bluest lake in the USA.  The views from the rim were outstanding and again superlatives were inadequate. We saw Pumice Desert, where even today only a few well-spaced pine trees grow. We drove up windy passes to the rim and looked down 1,000 feet to the lake spread below. Again, one of the world's great spots and quite unknown to us!

Leaving Crater Lake we were delighted to meet up with the Rogue River again. We stopped to watch tons of water gushing through a narrow gorge. Reading that it has been officially declared a wild and scenic river, it had our whole hearted support.

We spent the night at an RV camp on the banks of the Rogue River and we ushered Rosh Hashanah in with as traditional a meal as we could, with apples and honey and a pomegranate.

The next morning we again changed plans and decided to retrace our tracks and continue to Ashland to check out the Shakespeare Festival. A quaint town with a definite Elizabethan flavour, Tudor-style main street, lots of book shops and bed and breakfast inns. We saw Illusions, adapted by Tony Kushner. It was an excellently crafted play and all the trappings of a 'classic' with bawdy humour, twists in plot and a well concluded finale.

We drove along the 5, the main north-south artery of the west and drove along the road we had travelled during our first week. We slept over at Kellogg Ranch in Weed. More wild than crispy, they did have a hot tub as promised (the weather was freezing), but nonfunctional and the RVs were crowded together on a tarmac surface. But the owner pointed out Mt Shasta barely visible through ·the clouds. The next morning it was dull and foggy as we drove off, but a few miles further on, the sky cleared and sunlight poured in - what a sight: clouds formed a skirt around the base of Mt Shasta, while the rest gleamed in the blue sky. The sun lit up the iridescent patches of snow visible behind wisps of light cloud.

It was hard driving along Highway 5 - huge trucks roared passed.  We stopped for breakfast and the leatherback bees were back. One stung Ant on his lip. Quick dose of antihistamines and he was fine, but pretty drowsy for the rest of the day. We drove through Redding again - making complete circle that we had started with Vered and Aviv just over two weeks before, but now turned west onto the 299 and stopped at Whiskey town and Weaverville. In the 1850s this was the heart of Gold Country and these were booming towns. The 299 still runs through these once prosperous towns that are now museums in an Historic State Park. We learnt a little about the Chinese who faced discrimination to work inferior plots and visited the Joss House - only now there are no more Chinese in Weaverville, but a sympathetic and knowledgeable State Park Officer runs the guided talk through the Temple-museum. I met 86 year old Mrs. Smallen, white-haired and with glasses. She was riding her bicycle through town, unfazed by the trucks roaring by. Born and lived in Weaverville, she plans to die there and showed the tearoom, once a warehouse, where she worked for 40 years.

fine, but pretty drowsy for the rest of the day. We drove through Redding again - making a complete circle that we had started with Vered and Aviv just over two weeks before, but now turned west onto the 299 and stopped at Whiskey town and Weaverville. In the 1850s this was the heart of Gold Country and these were booming towns. The 299 still runs through these once prosperous towns that are now museums in an Historic State Park. We learnt a little about the Chinese who faced discrimination to work inferior plots and visited the Joss House - only now there are no more Chinese in Weaverville, but a sympathetic and knowledgeable State Park Officer runs the guided talk through the Temple-museum. I met 86 year old Mrs. Smallen, white-haired and with glasses. She was riding her bicycle through town, unfazed by the trucks roaring by. Born and lived in Weaverville, she plans to die there and showed the tearoom, once a warehouse, where she worked for 40 years.

The roads had been crowded with tens of Hogs, Harley Davidsons’s, travelling in leisurely packs along the roads. The men were mostly over 40, paunchy with walrus-·like moustaches. All were dressed in black leather with lots of silver accessories. The riders drove through town, then stopped one next to the other and dismounted and entered a cafe. A few minutes later they mounted their gleaming machines and in the same orderly fashion drove off. It was like a pecking order. A youngish couple from Chico who also visited the Joss House said that there was a charity benefit for MSC and they were playing a vast poker game spread over tens of miles. They paid five dollars then drove to various spots to pick up cards for their hand.

We continued west and joined the coast at Eureka and drove through the old town, old Victorian houses from the lumber days and slept at Fortuna. The next morning we backtracked and visited the Lolita Cheese Factory. Unlike Lolita of Nabokov fame, the cheese was old and tangy and very good. We then drove to Ferndale. Quite delightful, the whole town is an historic place; the houses were lovingly restored with plaques explaining the original use of the buildings. We chanced upon lots of art galleries and knickknacks, the cutest restroom and the African Connexion, owned by ex-Rhodesians and popped into Diane's restaurant. Quite wonderful, it was the kind of business that I would like to run - it made me happy just to walk in - large loaves of cornmeal bread filling the restaurant with their good smell. All the staff wore white chef's hat and clean aprons; menus written in chalk on boards, beautiful china and pretty mugs among cookbooks and homemade jams for sale. We ordered large mugs of steaming cappuccino that we savoured with pumpkin pecan muffins. It made me happy just to be there!

We drove along the 1 and drove through The Avenue of the Giants, again delighting in the massive sequoias, some well over 250 feet tall and two thousand years old. The road turned inland; narrow passes and winding roads where the maximum speed around bends was often 15 mph, I was glad that Ant was over the effects of Benadryl and was doing the driving. We stopped for tea at Benbow Inn - a delightful place with antique furniture, a small library, puzzles and games, and best of all, English tea and scones. We eventually joined the coast and again superlatives were inadequate to describe the sweeping bays and rocks positioned off the coast to best tug at your heart strings. The place where we wanted to sleep was full and so we had to drive 15 miles back along this incredibly windy road to Westport, where we slept at a State Beach, a patch of Park between the highway and the cliff edge. But the view was magnificent and after One Match Levy had made a fire we sipped our cocoa (bought days ago at Crater Lake for just an opportunity) enjoying the starry sky and the cool damp evening. 

The next morning we drove to Fort Bragg to take a leisurely ride on the Skunk Train as it wound its way through the mountains to North Spur (Bend?). The name of the train was from the fact that you could smell it before you could see it. It still serves as the mail train to places even further along the line. We took far too many pictures of the train; we'll see how they come out.

Mendocino, much touted as the tourist mecca north of San Francisco was quaint, with many watchtower houses and fancy shops, but our hearts were with Ferndale. We talked to people who dive for abalone - cold business that.

We slept at a State Park at Point Arena and went to see its driftwood beach. Huge bleached logs were strewn across the beach, making handy perches for our clothes. To my amusement, Ant put in his green 'ears', preparing to take a plunge in the Pacific. He got no further than wetting the soles of his feet, when he declared, that the cold was far too painful still from the effects of ciguatera. The water was freezing and definitely too cold to get wet.

We drove to the Point Arena light house and were pleased to see Harbour seals, white and spotted, sunning themselves on the rocks below. We were distressed that one seal looked injured, with an obvious red patch on his mouth. We ate breakfast at another fabulous overlook and gave some of our frozen fish to two men in a caravan by us. This fish was what remained after eating fish, caught in Coos bay, two weeks earlier.

It was my turn to drive and I realized that the road was not hugging the cliffs, it was holding on to it precariously by clenched fingernails. Incredibly winding with hair-raising bends (much tighter than hair-pin) and dramatic drop-offs to the surf below.

There was a forest fire at Point Reyes, but the Rangers wouldn’t let us become volunteer firefighters, detouring us around the fire instead. I went horse riding with Jim at stables near the Park and had a great time on Wizard.

The road joined the 101 at Sausalito, but jaded from the ride we found no pleasure in it and camped at Larkspur, an awful place. We went to see The Age of Innocence, which was delightful. While in the RV I felt a number of tremors, but Ant brushed them aside as imaginings of a nervous mind. The following morning we read that at Klamath there had been an earthquake and I had indeed felt slight tremors.

Our last full day was problematic - difficult to drive in town and nowhere to park. We drove through Oakland, but the museum was closed and went to Half Moon Bay where we ate lunch and drove north to pack and prepare for returning the RV the following day. Turning a corner we came upon huge orange moons gleaming in fields of brown. We had chanced upon pumpkin country, which was gearing up for Halloween at the end of October. The pumpkins looked wonderful, glowing in the sunlight.

We are quite depressed at the knowledge that this holiday has ended. It has been quite wonderful and there is virtually nothing we would have done differently. It was great!