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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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