Wednesday, April 13
With the home visit out of the way, I’m free to leave the Acton KOA and seek cheaper and and more natural accommodations. But where to go? There aren’t many free camping options near Los Angeles, space is at a premium as evidenced by the high nightly rates.
The Angeles National Forest campgrounds are an option. They require passes for camping which can be bought on a daily basis or for a year. But the America the Beautiful pass (Interagency Pass) that I got at Joshua Tree also counts. Not all National Forests accept it, but this particular one does.
Angeles NF covers several mountainous areas near LA, and many of the campgrounds are at a higher elevation and up narrow twisty roads. Most have smaller sites that won’t fit RVs, but Oak Flat campground just north of Castaic along I5 is rated for RVs up to 18′. Assuming those larger sites are open, I should be able to squeeze in.
On a whim, I look for boat repair places in Castaic along the way, figuring as close as I am to the coast they should exist.
Yes, boat repair. On my older Casita, the A/C unit isn’t on the roof but mounted into the front of the trailer the way a window unit does. There’s an exhaust vent that needs to be covered when I drive so that water and dirt kicked up from the truck doesn’t get into it. The vinyl cover I’ve had for the past two years is starting to tear again (same thing that happened to the last one) because it fits loosely. The flapping of the cover when I’m driving 60 mph down the road puts stress on both the fabric and the metal fasteners that hold it on and both are now in bad shape again.
RV repair shops don’t know what to do with this cover, it’s an unusual setup. Camping World tried to fix it once for me long ago, that was a joke. Larry at Little House Customs knows exactly what to do, but he’s several states away.
Hence a boat shop. The cover is similar in scope to a boat cover, so they’re the best equipped to deal with it. I do some research and eventually end up at Roberto’s Boat Repair, which is willing to take on the challenge and see if they can help. I arrive around 1 pm and Roberto and his upholstery guy get to work on it right away.
I’d already bought the new fastener hardware back in Quartzsite last January. The rivets come out on the broken fasteners and new ones go on. They custom make a new cover using umbrella canvas that won’t stretch the way vinyl does, the same stuff they make their boat covers with. The canvas is cut and seams sewn to increase durability. It takes them about an hour to do and it looks great. I opted for gray because it won’t show dirt as much, keeping the white vinyl one looking good was impossible. It fits very tightly and won’t flap in the wind, I’m very pleased with how it comes out. And Roberto only charges me $40 total, buying a new ill-fitting cover from Casita would have been $35 without shipping. I leave one very happy customer.
Getting to Oak Flat is a climb. As always, Bertha handles the steep grade like a champ, putting along at a steady 40 mph with the semis. The engine temperature climbs, but not enough to require pulling over. To get there, take exit 183 off of I5 for Golden State Highway. It’s a four lane road that sees little traffic and has plants growing up through cracks in the pavement. I’m guessing it stopped being used much once the interstate was built.
Located on a flat spot on the side of a mountain, the views to the north and east of the campground are quite spectacular.
Because of the abundant oak trees, most sites don’t have a clear view. There is one exception, a site closer to the edge of the cliff that is already taken when I arrive. None of the sites are numbered.
Even the interior sites are pretty though. Beneath the oak trees, tall green grass waves in the breeze. The site I choose has the longest pad of the bunch, and at 35′ truck and trailer just barely fit in without unhitching, but a 35′ motorhome wouldn’t be able to make it in because of the tight turns. The rig on the cliff edge is probably about 25′ long and I’d say that would be maximum length.
Thursday, April 14
If I were to call into a regular job and tell them I couldn’t work because there were too many trees, I’d get laughed at, and then reprimanded. But it’s the absolute truth here. I can’t power my computer because there’s too much shade on my solar panel.
When I arrived yesterday I didn’t think much of this because I was only intending to stay one night. Now there’s a wind warning out for much of southern California starting this afternoon and going until early Saturday. Not wanting to drive the rest of the way through the mountains with 70 mph wind gusts, I opt to wait at Oak Flat and hope I don’t get blown away.
I can’t work, but there are other things to keep me occupied. I walk and take pictures, and when the wind picks up I retreat inside the RV and read.
A combination of topography and trees keeps it from getting bad. The Casita doesn’t rock as much as when I was camped in the windstorm at Joshua Tree.
Friday, April 15
With the wind diminishing in the afternoon, I depart Oak Flat and continue north on I5 to Bakersfield. The small town of Grapevine signals the end of the mountains, but as I’m coasting down in second gear with it in sight, the check engine light comes on in the truck. Uh-oh.
Since Bertha is still driving normally, I continue on to Bakersfield and stop at Walmart to stock up. When I turn the truck back on after shopping, the light is still on.
I’d hate to break down along the side of the road, so I opt to get it looked at. Luckily, there’s an auto shop not far away that can get me in at 2:30 pm on a Friday afternoon. The guys at G&G Auto Repair have me pull up to the curb and check the diagnostic code without unhitching, which simplifies things greatly.
The verdict? A bad O2 sensor. I had one of these die two years ago when I was working at the renaissance festival in Georgia, this isn’t the same one. They’re honest, saying it doesn’t need immediate attention and I’m safe to continue on to my destination. They also don’t charge me a penny. Yes folks, there really are good repair shops out there and I’ve gotten lucky twice in a row now.
It’s getting on in the afternoon as I depart Bakersfield and traffic picks up. The delay means I’ll be arriving at my boondock later than anticipated, but the lighting ends up making for a perfect drive. More on that coming next!
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