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Cross-Country Journal -- January 2003


Wednesday, January 1 -- It was a beautiful sunny and warm day.  We watched some of the college football bowl games and went to In & Out for lunch.  We also drove up to Baker Beach which is just a mile south of the Golden Gate Bridge because we wanted a sunny picture of the bridge from the south ocean side view.  There were a lot of people and dogs walking on the beach.  As we walked north on the beach we were a little surprised to see that several people (men only) were nude.  They were just walking along amidst all of the walkers who were fully clothed.  I heard a woman near us say, "Why are these people naked?" to the person she was with.  Her friend said, "It's a beautiful day and life is good".  My picture of the bridge happened to include one of these nude people.  You'll find the picture in the Pacifica Stay Photographs Album.

Thursday, January 2 -- Today was our last day in the San Francisco area.  It was a little cool and windy so we spent the day reading and watching the ocean.  We stocked up on cheap wine at Trader Joe's and had a nice dinner cooked by Jaimie and Mario.

Friday, January 3 -- We drove over to Route 5.  We started out with one mistake we turned onto 101 north instead of south!  we made a circle and then everything went fine.  A long, straight route to LA.  We had to climb over the mountains to enter the LA basin.  We stopped at a small, old motor home "resort" in Arcadia.  We needed to be stopped and have TV for the start of the Fiesta Bowl.  Great game.

A nice day of driving.  It's been a long time.  The Alfa SeeYa motorhome drives like a Mercedes.  It is a dream to drive and fun.  The central valley of California is flat and full of fruit trees and other crops.  Irrigation channels cross back and forth to bring water to all of the valley.  About 50 miles north of L.A. we suddenly realized that we were becoming boxed in by mountains east, south and west.  I-5 goes up and over to finish the approach to L.A.  The traffic was not too bad for Friday night at 4:30.

Saturday, January 4 -- We continued on to Desert Hot Springs.  We got a site for a week in Sky Valley.  A very big "resort" which we got at half price since it was in the Passport America book.  Sites on sand.  We watched parts of two play off games and enjoyed the sunshine and warm temperatures.

What a change in weather from Petaluma.  Here it is hot and sunny so we plan to dry out for at least a week.  In 1992, Tommy and I drove to Palm Springs for a day of golf while Jackie and Jaimie went to Disneyland.  I had forgotten how this huge valley is surrounded by mountains and this time of year there is snow up there.  The mountain right near Palm Springs is a little over 10,000 feet tall and since the valley floor is close to sea level, that makes this mountain one of the highest escarpments in the country.  A few miles east is a 11,500 foot mountain with even more snow on it.

Sunday, January 5 -- We watched the first playoff game and at half time on the San Fran game (which they were losing badly) we decided to tape the second half and drive over to Indio, Palm Desert, etc.  This is the rich side of the valley.  We checked out a RV condo park.  Very high end. 

Monday, January 6 -- We woke up to very windy weather.  We drove over to 1000 Palm Canyon Road and stopped at a preserve.  There was a palm oasis.  We walked a mile to a pond and another palm oasis.  This is right along the San Andreas Fault.  The cracks in the rock layers allow water to surface causing the oasis, springs, green areas in the middle of desert.  

This is another thing that I did not realize about this valley: the San Andreas fault runs right up the middle.  I never saw natural palms trees like these.  You cannot see their trunk because they have a "beard" of old fronds making them look twenty feet thick.  Look for them in the photo albums in the near future.

Tuesday, January 7 -- The wind had slowed down.  Watching the news we learned that in LA the Santa Ana winds had been blowing causing wild fires.  Seems like we are experiencing all the weather phenomenon unique to the area.  We hung around the campsite and enjoyed the warm day.

Shortly after arriving in Desert Hot Springs.  (By the way, this valley has about a dozen towns or cities that all run together, especially on the south side.  Palm Springs, Desert Palms, Cathedral City, La Quinta, Indio are just a few.  I use Palm Springs to refer to the whole valley at times)  Anyway, shortly after we arrived I realized that our electric awning would not extend.  The good news is that it decided not to work while it was closed.  If it died while extended, I would have to manually disconnect the motor and push it closed in order to move.  To make a long story short, after many hours on the phone with the awning manufacturer we isolated the problem to the motor itself.  They put me in touch with a service technician in San Diego who will replace the motor since that procedure is a little tricky.  When you're on the move like we are you have to plan service actions like this several days or weeks in advance.

Wednesday, January 8 -- It seemed like it was going to be a rainy day in the desert!  We drove and found a movie theatre and saw About Schmidt.  Kind of a sad, funny tale.  We found the Food 4 Less and did some shopping.  

Thursday, January 9 -- We decided just to enjoy the nice weather.  We rode our bikes for about an hour!  

Friday, January 10 -- We got an early start and headed to Joshua Tree National Park.  We drove past Indio and then into the Colorado Desert.  We were amazed by strange cacti (that came with a warning that they were hazardous) and piles of jumbo rocks and then the strange Joshua Tree "forest"  We took two hikes the last 4 miles to an old gold mine.  It was all uphill!  

Saturday, January 11 -- We moved from our spot in Desert Hot Springs and found a campsite on the Salton Sea.  The Salton Sea is an accident of man.  This is a California State campground and it had full hookups which allowed us to watch play off games.

After reading more about the Salton Sea it seems that this entire valley has been a lake several times over the last 2000 years.  It is 250 feet below sea level and the Colorado river over on the Arizona border keeps flooding the valley for one reason or another.  This time the flooding occurred in 1905 when a poorly designed dike along the Colorado broke.  Water flowed into the valley for approximately 15 months before the people got it shut off again.  This created a new lake that is 20 miles wide and 40 miles long.  What a place.  Although it started as fresh water it has turned salty due to the nature of the soil and the fact that there is no real inlet or outlet.  The water level drops 6 feet each year due to evaporation but remains the same due to runoff from surrounding irrigated crops.  Now the sea is 50% more salty that the ocean and the salinity is rising every year.  People are working to figure out what to do about the Salton Sea.  By the way, the lake is only 25 feet deep so the top of the lake is still 225 feet below sea level.

Sunday, January 12 -- Two more playoff games!

Monday, January 13 -- Last day at the Sea.  We drove down towards the end.  The countryside got more barren.

These three days on the Salton Sea were very nice because it was hot and sunny every day and the views across the lake to the mountains were breathtaking.  It was great to see and learn about this unique corner of our country.

Tuesday, January 14 -- We drove back towards LA.  We stopped at Freightliner to get the oil changed.  We got right in but then 6 hours later we were finished.  We stayed in Arcadia near Pasadena and Jaimie came over for dinner.

I was very frustrated with the Freightliner service stop.  After all, this was simply for an oil change!  This stop was planned ahead for a day that we would be driving right by a Freightliner place and a day when we had no time pressures.  We pulled in at 10 AM and finally pulled out at 4 PM !!  I felt good at the start because the motorhome was inside the shop being worked on within 15 minutes of arriving.  Of course when the MH is in the shop all of us (including the dog and cat) are outside.  We had the Jeep and that was all.  Louie did well to last 6 hours in the jeep with no litter box and no food.  We never dreamed it would be so long.  Also the back seat of the Jeep was loaded up with lawn chairs and stuff so we could not use that.  Pepper sat upright in the driver's seat for a long long time before she found a way to curl up in that tight space.  The oil change was finished in about one hour but they had to travel 40 miles to get a special Caterpillar fuel filter which they did not have (even though I chose them because they were also a Caterpillar dealer!).  It was a tough day.  Needless to say we broke out a bottle of wine as soon as we got settled that night.  It was a $1.99 bottle of Cabernet.

Wednesday, January 15 -- After lunch at In-N-Out we went to the Alfa factory and took the plant tour.  It was amazing to see the Alfa start off as a chassis and then keep adding things.  We found out a few things and spent some time in some new Alfas.  We like ours just as well and some things we like about ours better than the new ones.  We had dinner for Jaimie again and then dropped her back at her hotel.  A goodbye to her for a while.

It was good to see the Alfa factory because I learned a lot about how this thing is put together.  I am convinced that Alfa does a better job than anyone at building a motorhome.  They put a box shaped steel frame over the top of he Freightliner frame.  The top surface is so strong and resistant to twist that the rest is built like a normal house starting with a 3/4" plywood sub floor.  This is why we can have ceramic tile floors in the kitchen and bathroom without fear of cracking.

Thursday, January 16 -- We moved on to San Diego.  

The awning guy came around 4:00 PM today and got the motor information so he could order one on warranty.  Another complication with this repair is that the manufacturer has to ship a warranty motor so we need to be in one place for at least a week.  That's why we planned ahead to this stay in San Diego.  I now learned how to remove the motor and manually extend or retract the awning.  So this problem gave me a chance to learn everything about the awning, electrically and mechanically.  That is how it works with this motorhome life.  When a problem occurs, you end up learning everything there is to know about that particular system.  Filing it away for future reference.

Friday, January 17 -- We drove La Jolla to see Torrey Pines.  Then over to Qualcomm Stadium to see where the Super Bowl will be held.  We also visited the first of the California missions. 

Saturday, January 18 -- We drove over to Point Loma and then to Cabrillo National Monument.  This was whale watch weekend.  The grey whales are coming from Alaska to Mexico.  We didn't see any but enjoyed the view.

Sunday, January 19 -- We had noticed dogs running free on a beach the other day.  We took Pepper to Dog Beach.  The dogs can run free and Pepper loved it.  We drove to downtown and then back home to watch the play off games.

Monday, January 20 -- After another 10 minute drive and one hour run on the dog beach for Pepper, we took off and saw a lot of San Diego.  At one point we were 3 miles from Mexico.  The harbor and city here are very nice.  San Diego has lots of ocean communities and lots of beach area.  We have noticed that food is expensive in the grocery store.

Tuesday, January 21 -- We had a nice day relaxing in the sun.  Also did some laundry.  Jackie has a head cold.

Wednesday, January 22 -- We did a few projects around the 'house"  Tom built a footrest to use when driving and I tackled the shower.  

Thursday, January 23 -- We needed to extend our stay to receive some papers about Tommy's refinance.  We had to move to  another campsite which was fine since we had a tree dropping berries on us.  This site is a little quieter but we know the whole campground will be filling up with Raider fans.  Things may change.  We took Pepper over to the dog beach again.  She has a ball.  Running into the water, rolling in the sand and sniffing constantly.  

Friday, January 24 -- The weather today is perfect and we are sorry for all our friends and family in the east.  Whenever we have looked at the weather map we noticed San Diego has the best weather.  We chose to enjoy it and wash the Jeep and read and relax. Our awning got fixed.  

Saturday, January 25 -- We went on the bike path and rode around part of Mission Bay and then along Mission Beach.  

Sunday, January 26 -- The big day arrived.  Super Bowl Sunday in San Diego.  We had a morning walk on dog beach with Pepper.  Picked up our snacks for the big game.  A few Raider fans have left for the game.  Those without tickets are still here. 

Monday, January 27 -- We got the overnight papers we had been waiting for and had them notarized and after finding we would have to pay full price for the campsite, we left San Diego.  We drove along route 8.  Very close to Mexico at times.  We pulled into an area with many motorhomes parked.  It was free, no hookups.  A woman told me she wasn't sure who owned the land but there were no rules and she had been there since the end of December. We tested out our battery system and spent the night.

Tuesday, January 28 -- We drove into Tucson.  We have a site with no hookups at Catalina State Park.  We had stayed here 10 years ago on our family trip.  The weather is very nice.

Wednesday, January 29We woke up to very cold temperatures and were able to move to a site with electricity so that we will be able to run our heat during the night.  It took an hour to pack up and move to the new site.  We went over to Bill and Kay's house.  They have an amazing house that backs up to the desert.  It was great to catch-up after 10 years.

Thursday, January 30 --We drove to Saguaro NP.  We took a mountain road through Tucson Mountain Park.  We walked out into the desert amongst the cacti.  We went to Saguaro NP west portion.  We had stopped there 10 years ago but were unable to drive the loop road with our RV  We drove through the dirt road and stopped and hiked.  We went to Bill and Kay's and went out to a Mexican lunch. Afterwards we sat in the backyard and watched bunnies and quail eating seed on the patio.

Friday, January 31 --We took a hike on the Canyon Loop trail in Catalina SP.  We were able to take Pepper with us.  It was a beautiful hike.  Looking up at the mountains.  There were many Saguaro cacti.  These cacti seem to take so many different shapes and personalities.  Later Bill and Kay came to our motorhome where we barbequed chicken.