After the Grand Canyon, I point Bertha’s nose back west and quickly retrace my route earlier this spring along I40 to Keyesville Rec Area in Lake Isabella, CA. There I spend six days working hard so that I can have my two weeks of vacation relatively work-free.
“Wait, vacation? Isn’t your whole life like a vacation?”
This is a common misconception among people who haven’t learned much about full-time RVing yet. For those who are wealthy enough it could be treated as a perpetual vacation, but for those of us who still need to make a living the answer is no. My life has a better balance between work and play than the average nine-to-fiver and I love that about what I’ve built, but treating full-time RVing as a perpetual vacation is a recipe for disaster if you’re pre-retirement. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, you won’t be on the road for long.
I like to say I’ve built a life that I don’t need a vacation from because of the better work/play balance. I don’t experience burnout at the same level as I did back when I worked a more traditional job. But that doesn’t mean full-time RVers don’t benefit from taking vacations, and I’m greatly looking forward to mine!
May 26, Saturday
Early in the morning, I roll into Fresno, CA, where this new adventure is going to start. My first order of business is getting the Casita stored away, since my parents, brother and I will be road tripping with a rental SUV big enough to fit all of us and staying in hotels.
It surprised me that I couldn’t reserve a spot in the storage lot ahead of time. The planning side of my nature wanted to have a spot locked down months in advance just to be absolutely sure it was taken care of, but none of the places I called allowed me to do that. Instead I call my first choice bright and early to see if they have room, and I’m there by 10 am, signing the paperwork, paying for two weeks (around $20), and then parking, unhitching, and generally getting everything squared away. Naturally I’d emptied my tanks before arriving (although it turns out this storage lot has a dump station on site) and had planned my food situation so that I’d run out of perishables before today.
I’d be lying if I said I feel perfectly comfortable with leaving my home with most of my possessions behind in a storage lot. It bothers me more than leaving Cas unattended for the day while boondocking. But I take care in choosing a gated lot with security cameras, and really the chances of someone breaking into it or stealing it are quite slim. I do what I can to make it secure, excuse myself from worrying about that which I cannot control, and then I move on.
My family is flying into the Fresno airport. Since I’m in town before them, I go stock up on groceries and other essentials we’ll need for our road trip. As their arrival time approaches, I drive to the long-term parking area at the airport, where I’ll be leaving Bertha behind (at considerably more than $20). I have a one-way ticket from Portland back to Fresno at the end of this vacation, and I’ve packed so that all I have with me fits in a carry-on.
The plane arrives on time. There are hugs and greetings. We pick up the rental without issue and drive a little ways south out of town on 99 to Visalia for the night.
May 27, Sunday
198 heading into Sequoia National Park is a beautiful road.
99 runs north and south along California through a large, flat, grass-covered valley with a lot of agriculture. As you take 198 headed east, the land gets hillier as you approach the Sierra Nevada range. Grasslands morph into savannah with dotted oak trees. Streams flow out of the mountains and are dammed to make reservoirs surrounded by pretty parks. Eventually the savannah becomes a true woodland as the hills get higher and become true mountains. The transformation is dramatic.
It being the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I’m a bit concerned about crowds, but there’s no wait to get into the park. It’s not until we reach the popular area of the park near the Giant Forest Museum that the crowds increase and parking becomes impossible to find.
Fortunately, Sequoia has a free bus system. We park at Wolverton picnic area off the main road for an early lunch, then catch the bus to see the sights.
Meet the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world by volume. It stands 275 feet tall, and is over 36 feet in diameter at the base.
Have I mentioned lately that I love big trees? Well, my dad does too. This is the first time he’s seen giant sequoias and he points out how strange they look, that they don’t seem to have enough foliage up top to support their massive size. But somehow they must, because here they are.
Fun facts learned later at the visitor center: Scientists have not been able to determine the maximum lifespan of the giant sequoia. They seem to keep growing until they die from other causes and the oldest known is about 3,500 years old by ring count, making them among the oldest known living things on Earth. They require fire to reproduce and their thick bark is very fire resistant.
Giant sequoias were once a widely distributed and common species in prehistoric times, but their range was greatly reduced at the last ice age. Today they are listed as endangered, growing naturally only in a small region in California on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range at 4,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation.
Their bark is also oddly spongy when damp. I know this because I poked one.
After a fun afternoon of short walks among really big trees, we get back to our rental car around 4 pm. From there we continue north on 196 until it becomes 180 at Kings Canyon National Park. From there we turn back west to Fresno, and then take 99 north to the town of Merced, the staging point for the next leg of our trip, Yosemite National Park!