Verizon Shut Us Down!

We saw Lakehead, CA in passing
Mount Shasta out the camper window

We left Sonora and headed straight for the Pacific Northwest. California, another painfully long state, much like it’s sisters Texas and Florida, all are easy to get into and hard to get out of when traveling by road.

As we neared our future home state of Washington, and reality hit that the time to knuckle under and look for a job was approaching, Verizon essentially quit on us. The mobile hotspots that we mistakenly thought were unlimited, along with our data, turned out to be quite limited in fact. Shut down, just when we needed it most! Our phones continued with internet, which became painfully slow when attempting to access well… anything. It felt like returning to the days of dial up.

Our Verizon Wireless bill comes in at over $200 each month. As serious data junkies we know we need to pay. But now I ask myself why we pay top dollar for this elusive unlimited data?

The representative cheerfully informed us that all data renews on the 12th of August. Sadly, this news arrived before the end of July. As the internet slowed to a crawl the tears began to flow. Maybe they were crocodile tears, but still.

We camped for one night at a rest area in Oregon, after driving past a smokey wildfire, we found a fairly breathable place to stop. The next morning we sailed past Portland and Seattle and headed for Monroe. For a week we languished at a state fairgrounds there, that doubled as an RV Park in the off months. It consists of a really large parking lot with hook ups. The activities there proved to be seriously loud until about 9:00 pm, as it doubles as a raceway and sits in close proximity to railway tracks. In the end, it served our purposes for a reasonable price and we met a few interesting people along the way.

The data work around we found involved going into town and bringing our laptops to Starbucks. We were rewarded with quicker internet service in exchange for five dollar beverages and a tip. Now I get why so many people hang out there with laptops. They’re probably just out of their monthly allotment of data. That’s what I am thinking.

The City of Monroe is very functional. It offers a lot of countryside and sells pretty much whatever you might want in town. The outskirts, near the highway, consist of a movie theater, Fred Meyer and Walmart, along side many restaurants and chain stores. Further down the road is a very cute little downtown. We were particularly happy to find the Monroe Laundry Company. A clean and efficient laundromat with style. Our small collection of clothing sparkled in short order. Overall, I felt thankful to be in Monroe and ready to explore the area to find the perfect place to settle.

Such cuteness here

Love how clean and fun it looks in here

You know you’re in the Pacific NW when you see moss everywhere

Detour to Eastern California

View out the back window at 4 am (after “the guys” ran off)

After Los Altos, we bumped into our next misadventure. Instead of listening to our friend and staying the night on a quiet little street as advised, we decided to make it to the next rest area. All I can say, is it seemed like a good idea at the time. We planned to get closer to the next destination and take a break in a well lit area. This resulted in sitting through hours of construction delays and related rest area closures. Once it hit midnight and we passed the third closed or inaccessible rest area I hit up the GPS to determine where the next putative rest area might be. It indicated that no rest areas existed along our active route. What?!

Plan B, find the next random Walmart. The GPS guided us to an unknown town at 1:00 am. Honey said, “I’ve never been so happy to lie down,” followed by a knock on the door and, “We are sorry sir, but this parking lot closed at 12.” I loath to admit that honey begged to stay, but there just might have been a little pleading involved… to no avail.

We found a nearby parking lot in a supermarket and it seemed the best place for desperately sleepy people to stay. Sleep for me seemed elusive, though I must have drifted off at some point, as I awoke to the sounds of opening and closing car doors, and loud profane voices edging ever closer to our camper.

I opened the window shade a smidge at 4 am, only to find two sketchy seeming characters examining our dirt bike rather closely. They appeared to be checking out the straps securing the bike from about 6 inches away. Not sure what to do, I whipped open the shade, resulting in saucer eyes followed by a rapid retreat.

Meanwhile honey continued to enjoy his slumber. I put a rapid end to that situation and we headed out right away. Finding nowhere else to stop, we made it to Sonora, at the base of Yosemite National at 5:30 am. We found a perfect Walmart, then slept pretty much all day in that parking lot. We found a campground on the internet and booked it for that afternoon, provisioned ourselves at Walmart (I always try to patronize when we stay for a protracted time), and went to the 49er RV Ranch. During the gold rush this campground was a working farm that let 49ers stay. So it’s essentially been a campground for over 150 years.

The campground was hokey and wonderful all at the same time. Sonora is just beautiful. After our campground, we stayed on our niece’s little farm. We had garden fresh veggies at dinner and farm fresh eggs to take on our way. We really didn’t want to leave… until we found out their dogs had been vaccinated against rattle snake bites. That’s a thing?!

Next stop… the Pacific North West at long last.

Grape arbor at the farm

Love all the wind energy

Highway 101

After four days we tore ourselves away from So Cal. We thoroughly enjoying the family visits, art, views, and cuisine. The next brief stop, Santa Barbara, is another city that essentially outlawed recreational vehicles. My friend from there tells me that RV’s ended up taking over the city at one point, clogging every roadway, making driving difficult and turning out of driveways precarious. Okay, okay, we get it, we know when we’re not wanted!

We headed north to a campground in Buellton. I don’t know how to pronounce it, but they seem to cater to campers there. We found the Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground. It’s a bit pricey and offers a lot, including a little cafe, activities, and restaurants within walking distance.

We drove all day the next day, and enjoyed so many views along the way. Next stop, Los Altos, to have dinner with an old high school friend. The friend isn’t actually old, only the friendship. It’s basic friend math.

Nobody Parks in LA

Finally, we made it to the other coast. Southern California offers the the highest highs and the lowest lows. You’ll find the art, the traffic, the unique food, the palm trees, the dreamers, the crowding, the endless treats for the eyes, the sunshine, and many, many people sleeping rough among the plenty.

Sometimes we feel our hearts belong to this happy place. On the other hand, this part of California is not RV friendly AT ALL. So many people live in campers here that many of the communities created laws against anything greater a certain length parking overnight. In Santa Monica, where we stayed with family, we discovered that RV parking is not allowed ANYWHERE. A system exists for home owners to request a short term permit to park an RV on the street for a few days, but that ship had sailed.

We spent hours looking for a campground or storage facility. My dear husband even walked into an impound lot to ask if they might allow us to leave it there for a couple days. We tried the airport which approved an overnight parking permit, but would not allow a vehicle to take up more than one space. I know most of you won’t find this shocking, but the LA area does not generally offer open RV campgrounds spaces in July. The planners, happily parked at those campgrounds, were all set for a stay months in advance. We like spontaneity, and accept that the more densely populated places don’t always accommodate spontaneous. Our joy comes with a price.

Fortunately my cousin’s large driveway fit the camper. Sadly her electric car, which charges in the driveway, did not fit with the RV there. We spent much time driving the camper down the street to LA, where it could be briefly parked, in daylight hours, for just long enough to charge that ecologically minded vehicle.

With the parking problem more or less solved, we attempted to visit some of our favorite places. Once again we found going nearly anywhere in the city to be frustrating, if not impossible. Yes, you can drive around, just don’t try to stop or park. We rented a car for a couple days to give us access to the city. That helped us enjoy Venice, Pacific Palisades, Malibu and more!

Even the shadows shine

A massive disco ball on the balcony? Yes, you CAN see that in Venice

Many royal pathways

Just another day, walking the cat, in paradise

Street art is everywhere

Palm Springs and Such

Yes, Palm Springs did find us with another tire issue. This time the valve permanently gave out, and we needed another new tire. The team at the first place, as nice as they could be, referred us to another tire place after an hour and a half. They did not charge and refused a tip. Off to the next placement, and another nice group of guys who got us back on the road in a few hours.

Palm Springs surprised. This town made us think of luxury. The opulence here felt like going back in time to the 1950s. It’s well maintained mid-century architecture for the most part.

You know your in California when even the parking lot flowers look this good. My husband said, “The colors of the flowers look so good, I want to eat them, and I don’t even want to know if they’re poisonous first!” Should I be worried?

We loved our campground here, Horizon Mobile Home Village and RV Park. It consists of full time residents, winter residents, RV sites and lots of folk art. The prices were very reasonable, and the neighborhood was super cute and friendly. If we returned to Palm Springs in an RV, we would go right back.

Palm Springs seems to have many funky interesting little bistros, though very few parking lots that can accommodate an RV. We finally found a larger parking lot with choices for takeout offering fairly exotic fair (for those coming from pragmatic New England). I found mixed vegetables with Asian flavors and grilled tofu for a song. The prices were surprisingly reasonable. We went to sleep feeling well fed and dreaming of our next adventure in LA.

Can’t Hear Me Now?

After Waco we traveled for an entire day through central Texas without any phone, internet or even text messaging. If that gives you the shivers, maybe drive down to Interstate 10 or up 20 when you leave Waco. We took state road 84 to 190 and caught back up with Interstate 10 around Fort Stockton, where we camped in a truck stop. Along the way we passed miles and miles of sparsely populated agricultural land. It’s beautiful, ringing with the song of cicadas, and virtually endless.

That night we napped in a rest area in Stockton, then passed quickly through New Mexico and stopped in a rest area after roaming past most of Arizona.

Wonderful Waco

We found this great little campground out in the countryside of Waco on a Sunday evening. We settled in, ate leftovers and prepared to see the city in the morning. Riverview Camp Ground is not fancy, rather it offers quiet, shade trees, and a country kind of pleasantness. We thought we might just like to stay forever.

Early on that Monday morning, I shunned prepping for the day in the RV, donned my pink shower shoes, and headed for the real showers offered by the campground. The plan: get to the Magnolia Market Silos at opening time and avoid the crowds. We were so naive back then (sigh). With much construction going on in the area, it took 20 minutes to find a place to park the RV. We paid $20 to an attendant in a church parking lot and walked a few blocks over in the blazing Texas sun.

It started with a gatekeeper at the bakery to control the flow of folks into that establishment, so no bakery for me! Fortunately, I discovered the inner courtyard with many food trucks offering samples from the bakery and restaurant. We picked up two cookies (easily a pound’s worth of gooey goodness) and a carbonated elderberry lemonade for $16. Despite my judgement of the place being crowded, the young ladies at the food court laughed a little at my commentary and deemed it to be a slow day at the Silos.

The lovely store, full of decore and fun little household things, held too many souls for me. My best intentions of finding gifts for the holidays flew out of my head, as soon as I spied the very long lines, resulting in a quick retreat back to the courtyard. My apologies to all of our would-be-gift-recipients. You may be sensing that crowds are not really my thing at this point, and thus the time to say goodbye arrived fairly quickly.

We toured the rest of Waco a bit and enjoyed many lovely sights. This place is full of charming restaurants and cute little places. It really is a sweet little college town, despite all my whining, I recommend a visit here.

A Breath of Fresh Austin

After a much longed-for shower we headed to Austin. We’ve traveled to all of the lower 48 states, and somehow always missed it. I’ve dreamed of seeing this vibrant, musical and arty city for years.

All new places offer surprises and push out the silly pre-conceived notions we harbor in our minds. I swear that I knew Austin is a city and yet still found myself surprised that it is huge (should’ve known, since it’s in Texas and all). It also caught me off guard being slammed with traffic… on a Sunday!

Navigating a city in an RV, is not generally fun. The oh so narrow streets, the traffic, the miniature parking lots, need I go on? This city, with well over 900,000 people is the 11th largest city in the US according to Wikipedia.

We spent most of our time in Austin driving around and enjoying the art. Taking a ride is among our favorite things to do. It’s all about the journey… the destination is only the ending. To truly get the most of this city, a car would be preferable, or alternatively a stay in town and renting the ever-present bicycles and scooters to get around. We did stop at “The Picnic”, a little gathering of food trucks and other trailers selling their wares represented a must-see. Their free parking lot accommodated our 27 foot baby and the picnic tables gave a place to sit and enjoy. After a brief stop the ride continued and then we tried to sneak right out of town, but that’s a tale for another day.

Just over half way through our journey to Seattle… and more than 3000 miles behind us!

Texas Yeah!

So happy to be in Texas, but the Austin food truck dinner was a fail. We settled for highway level fast food and a campsite in a lovely state park, after a couple of traffic incidents. One such incident involved dozens of horses with amateur riders and a young lady making the unfortunate choice to jump off of a moving vehicle. Don’t ask, all I can say is she lived.

Off to Jim Hogg Park we went. They offered electric and water for $22. The best feature of the facility is the availability of same day online booking. I may be a little in love with them for that. For some unknown reason all of the women in my family are phobic about making phone calls. We can do it, but it represents a last resort. Most campgrounds won’t allow online booking on the same day— we don’t plan ahead on a road trip— so you can see my Dilemma.

Driving into the campground we saw a doe and fawn, frolicking bunnies and stars popping right out of the sky. Yes, it was after dark. Backing an RV into a space after dark is a little like gambling. The jackpot is a crash-free landing.

Austin should happen Sunday, with a plan to see Chip and Jo on Monday and then work our way out of TX. The road often takes us to unexpected places… and that’s why we do it.