Back To The Desert

Friday, May 13

After dry camping in parking lots in the town of Gilroy for three uneventful days, sandwiched between mountain ranges where the weather is more reasonable, I finally get word from the rescue on where Jessica needs to go.

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Moon rising near the Walmart in Gilroy, CA

East of LA. Back south into the desert.

It throws a wrench into my plans for sure, but that’s life. At least now I have a destination. The challenge is finding good boondocking nearby as I’ve already spent a good deal on camping this month and need to conserve. Oh, there are several boondocks within a couple hours drive, but now that it’s the middle of May the desert is heating up.

It’s in the mid 90’s in the valley today, so I wait to leave Gilroy’s pleasant 70’s until late in the afternoon. That saves me from the worst of the heat, but subjects me to commuting traffic instead. Oh well.

An idyllic farm scene, taking while stopped in traffic

An idyllic farm scene, taking while stopped in traffic

Finally I get onto 152 and meander east through rolling grassy swells dotted with oak. They’re low mountains, the grade isn’t tough and the road is well maintained.

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Approaching I5, the trees slowly vanish and the grass gets more yellow. To the south San Luis Reservoir appears like a mirage, the water looks almost black against the bright hills. There is camping here, $40 for partial hookups and $30 for tent sites, like the rest of the county parks nearby. That’s not what I’m looking for tonight.

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Like with most of California, water levels are low.

I5 runs through golden country south of the reservoir, some of it pasture for livestock, some of it orchards. Everyone has told me it’s a boring drive and generally I’d agree, but at least the interstate is in good shape and traffic isn’t bad.

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Near the town of Coalinga lies Harris Ranch: a restaurant, inn, and small airport. This is my destination for tonight. It’s just off I5 and has a large flat dirt and gravel lot near the Shell station that trucks and RVs can overnight in. It’s not crowded, and from what everyone says the food at the restaurant is quite good. I walk Jessica around and get a picture of the entrance to the tiny airstrip, it’s so cute. The heat of the day is gone and it’s pleasant weather for sleeping.

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After catching up on computer stuff and eating an early lunch, it’s back to the interstate. West of Bakersfield I catch 58 and head east through groves of trees into town. I’m not sure what type they are, perhaps one of you readers knows? (Cindi says they’re almond trees!)

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Around 4 pm I pull into Orange Grove RV Park, just east of Bakersfield. With a stint of boondocking ahead of me, I need to dump tanks and take on water, and the most efficient way to do that is overnight at a RV park as it also offers the opportunity to charge all my electronics (and battery), shower, and do laundry all at the same time. At this park an electric + water site is only $30, and I’ll use their dump station on the way out.

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Yes, there are orange trees at every site! Park rules state that picking oranges is encouraged, but a person shouldn’t climb trees or damage them in any way to get to them. I feel slightly cheated, my orange tree has only a single ripe orange, and it’s too high for me to reach. So close, yet so far.

Luckily there are other trees in the public areas of the park with oranges, so I get mine in the end.

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I end up staying here two nights, as when I wake up on Sunday Jessica is feeling under the weather and waiting here near Bakersfield where there are vet clinics nearby would be better than having to find one out in the middle of nowhere in case it becomes necessary. By late in the day she’s perked up without intervention fortunately.

Monday, May 16

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Boonies, here I come! The mountains I’ll be climbing through today start out a hazy smear below the morning sun. 58 connects Bakersfield to Barstow and is a 4 lane freeway for much of the distance, but near 395 it drops to 2 lanes briefly.

Near Tehachapi Pass, wind generators line the ridge facing west. I looked this pass up on an RVing forum to see what I was in for and most people agree it has less of a grade than the Grapevine near LA, but that when the winds are strong it can be dangerous. Yesterday there was a wind advisory out for the towns along this drive, and later today there will probably be another, but coming through in the morning I miss the worst of it and what there is helps. The westerly wind increases my gas mileage significantly and Bertha and Cas almost seem to glide on through.

If you look closely you'll see the windmills in the distance

Windmills are visible against the skyline

The terrain is drastically different on the other side.

Gone are the grassy slopes dotted with stately trees. Joshua trees hug the higher elevations, the land becomes brown. Just like that, I’m back in the desert.

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At Barstow, I point Bertha’s nose onto 247 heading south. 15 miles later, I’m pulling into Sawtooth Canyon Campground.

Yep, back to Sawtooth.

Being at a higher elevation, it’s one of the few boondocks in the desert that is still tolerably cool this time of year. Plus from my visit at the beginning of April I knew each site had a covered picnic area that Jessica and I could retreat to at the hottest part of the day outside of the Casita, and that it had a usable phone signal so I could get online.

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The familiarity means I can focus more time on my writing which I’ve fallen behind on. It’s a reasonable driving distance from where I’ll be dropping Jessica off with her new foster family this weekend, and a place I feel safe leaving the Casita behind to do so.

While I wouldn’t have chosen to come back south, it feels right to be back at this place given the circumstances.

* * *

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  1. Cindi on December 9, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    Those are almond trees west of Bakersfield on 58. That area has the perfect climate for them. They need just a few nights of freezing weather. You drove right past our home. I am enjoying your blog.

    • Becky on December 10, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks for sharing Cindi, and I’m glad you’re enjoying IO. 🙂

  2. Gary King on May 19, 2016 at 3:32 am

    Great post becky & Good luck for your next adventures. 🙂
    Gary King recently posted..2014 LCT-NLA Show EastMy Profile

    • Becky on May 20, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Thanks Gary, glad you enjoyed this.

  3. Rene Kipp on May 18, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    That’s quite the drive to take Jessica to her next foster home. You have the right attitude though. I’m glad you had good driving weather. Hopefully you’ll get to see some new scenery once she’s at her next home.
    Rene Kipp recently posted..I’m Still Here…My Profile

    • Becky on May 20, 2016 at 11:21 am

      Yeah Rene, I’m essentially back at the place I was when this whole thing started, haha. Feels like coming full circle. Jessica went home with her new foster family yesterday, so new scenery is incoming soon…

  4. gayle maria on May 18, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    That’s some amazing security at the Harris Ranch Airport! A gate!! An open gate!! I forget how relaxed people are elsewhere. How nice that you get to feel that (in between RVing crises)!

    • Becky on May 18, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Haha, yeah Gayle it was a pretty laid-back approach. 😉 Such a fun little place.

  5. Judy on May 18, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I hire am sorry about your dog problems. I’m glad you found a place for her. We had dogs, many, but we have lived in houses. We begin our travels next year and no pets. It’s not fair to them. It’s nice to see all my hometown places though. We were at the Walmart in Gilroy before Mothers Day and over to Salinas where I lived when young. I loved Monterey and lived nearby in Pacific Grove. Such beautiful places to see.

    • Becky on May 18, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Yes Judy there are so many great places to see. Congrats on your impending departure and I hope you enjoy full-timing as much as I have. Gilroy was a great area (and Mt. Madonna) and I bet it was a neat area to live.

      I know many full-timers with dogs who make it work just fine. It just depends on the dog and the kind of camping a person likes to do really. Jessica travels well and seems intrigued by the changing scenery. She’d make a good RV dog, I just didn’t bond with her.

  6. Terri on May 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

    I’m sure you are feeling a wide range of emotions right now about where you are and where you are headed and knowing Jessica is with you for just a little bit while more. I hope you are doing ok. I’m glad she is with you even if it is only temporary and she will find a good home, I am sure of it.

    Pictures are beautiful, as always.

    • Becky on May 18, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks for thinking of me Terri. Yes, I’m doing alright, and Jessica is doing well too. I’m treating this whole thing as though I’m fostering her, she’s a good little dog and yes, I know her forever home is out there. She’ll get her happily ever after. 🙂

  7. Jim on May 18, 2016 at 10:00 am

    That’s my stomping grounds. Or rather due west in Rosamond is. Thing about that desert area that’s very interesting to me is the huge rock formations that dot the landscape. There are several places with them, many of which have ended up in movies and on TV shows.

    Sorry you and Jessica didn’t connect. You’ll find the right fit eventually though. Hopefully, very soon! Good luck!
    Jim recently posted..Another Sailing trip…My Profile

    • Becky on May 18, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Yeah Jim, this campground has a lot of rock piles like that. in fact the whole reason it exists is for rock climbing. 🙂

      Thanks, next time things will go better.

  8. Mike B on May 18, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Hi Becky! Do you use Passport America? By joining you can get half off on one or two nights at certain parks. Might be something worth looking into to help save some money.

    Safe travels!

    • Becky on May 18, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Nope I don’t Mike. I know many people who have it and say it’s a great thing, but boondocking is free and I love that more. Only reason I’ve been staying at RV parks so much lately was trying to get the problems returning Jessica sorted out, soon that won’t be an issue anymore. If I ever find my camping style changing I’ll look into Passport America.

  9. Jodee Gravel on May 17, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Weird that you had to take her to a different foster. Glad you had good weather and road conditions for your travels. Bummer there weren’t more oranges to enjoy in Bakersfield. Beautiful spot at Sawtooth!!
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Three Years in the BlogosphereMy Profile

    • Becky on May 18, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Yeah, a weird set of circumstances Jodee. Not much longer now though and it’ll all be righted. This is my favorite site in this campground, I’ll be writing more about it soon. Take care!

  10. Tina on May 17, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Great to have an update from you, was just crossing that area a few weeks ago from AZ. Kind of crazy you are having a hard time returning Jessica. Thought she would just go back to the lady who had her before. I’m taking notes so if I look at getting a pet in the future and things don’t work out.

    Travel safe, hope the weather is not too hot for you there.


    • Becky on May 18, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      I agree, it irks me that it’s been this hard. But it’s not any one person’s fault, just a combination of factors. Normally it wouldn’t have been this challenging.

      Thanks, and so far the weather’s been just fine I’m happy to report.

  11. Ron on May 17, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Good luck, very pretty campsite. Where to next?

    • Becky on May 18, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      After I unite Jessica with her new family, north! I don’t know exactly where yet.

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