Our Winter Vacation '04 - Page 1
We had intended to head south just after the first of the year, but the weather suddenly turned cold and then it snowed. It was the first real substantial snowfall that we have had in a few years. Not desiring to drive in the snow with the motor home, especially pulling the car, we decided to wait out the storm for a few days until the roads became snow free. This gave Diana an excuse to put on her skis and try out the slopes of the golf course behind our house.
On about the 10th of January, the snow was mostly gone, and so we decided to head out. When we reached Vancouver, Washington, there was much snow beside the road and we heard radio reports of snow covering the roads in Portland. It was then that we decided to take a right turn and head for the coast. By early evening we had reached the small town of Chinook (near Illwaco), and made camp at the Columbia Shores RV Park there where we had stayed for two weeks the previous November during Thanksgiving. As a historical note, Chinook is near where Lewis & Clark made camp (Station Camp) from November 15th to 24th, 1805. They proceeded to survey the area, viewed the pacific from the hills (Cape Disappointment) just to the west of Illwaco, and then hiked up north along the coast a few miles past Long Beach. From the camp near Chinook, they then crossed the Columbia River and made their winter camp at Fort Clatsop, which is just a few miles south of the town of Warrenton, Oregon.
From Chinook, we then headed south over the Astoria Bridge on highway 101 and down the Oregon Coast through Seaside and Cannon Beach. There was no sign of snow except for some views of it high up on the distant hills. The going was slow on this highway, with the average speed being about 35 to 45 miles per hour, because of the twists and turns of the highway, and also because of the great scenery. At mid morning, we stopped for a few moments in the small town of Wheeler, Oregon, in front of the old hotel. This was the hotel that the first son (Edward Kelly) of Diana's great grandfather (Matti Kelli) once owned in the early 1900s. Although it has had some face-lifts since those early days, it was interesting to see this old building with Diana's ancestral history attached to it. And, it was interesting to later note that this building was recently bought by a couple that had been full time RVing. They had been driving by in their motor home like us, saw that this place was for sale, and decided that this would be a nice place to live (we learned that from their web site).
Continuing down the Coast, we stopped in Tillamook, Oregon where we took a self guided tour of the cheese factory and had lunch there. The afternoon brought as warm sunshine and we pulled over to stop numerous times to take in the view of the ocean and to breathe in the fresh salt air. Neither of us had been to the Oregon Coast for a long, long time and it was fun for us to take our time to enjoy this scenic drive. We cannot say, however, that this was a truly great experience for Lucy the cat, for she was either hiding in a corner some where in the motor home (when frightened), or sitting on the dash board in the front window sleeping (when she was feeling brave). Actually, as our vacation progressed, she became more and more used to her new home and the noises of the road. However, she could not seem to get used to the new camping locations each evening. After pulling into a spot for the evening, she would take one look out the window and then decide that she better hide. It would take a lot of convincing to assure her that she was safe, and it was easier to do that if we shaded all the windows. Our first night on the Oregon Coast was at the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park where we were all alone except for the camp host who was stationed there.
The following day, we again headed south and stopped briefly to gaze from the cliffs above the sea lion caves.In mid afternoon we crossed into California and we were soon traveling on sections of freeway which made our travel a bit faster, except where the road entered the redwood forests. We found it interesting that, in a couple of places, the fast freeway suddenly disappears into a 1940s two-lane winding road through the forests. With a pace of 25 to 35 miles per hour, you have to be careful not to scrape the huge redwood trees that are stationed at the edge of the pavement and at every sharp bend in the road. Of course, these portions of the road are beautiful and it would be a shame to see this all disappear in favor of a freeway, but the existing freeway portions do funnel all of the traffic through these areas, creating impatience in some drivers. In mid afternoon, we came upon Paul Bunyon amongst the redwoods and later, toward evening, we found an RV park in Trinidad, California where we spent the night.
The next day, when we were about 6 miles north of Ukiah, California, we decided to head inland on highway 20 toward Sacramento. We stopped briefly at Lucerne next to Clear Lake (the largest natural freshwater lake in California) where we had lunch. A short while later, we took a route down highway 16, along Cache Creek; a very beautiful, remote, and scenic area with no traffic at this time of year. Soon, we intersected Interstate 5 south of Sacramento and wished we were back in the remote country. After traveling a few hours on the interstate into darkness, and not being able to figure out where to stop for the night, we decided to pull into a rest area where we cooked dinner and then hopped into bed with diesel trucks singing loud lullabies next to us. We got up about 3 in the morning, after a fitful sleep, and then continued south in the darkness. It's not possible to see much of the country in the dark hours, but it is compensated by missing the rush hour traffic and by being able to cover greater distances, which is what we wanted to do. The freeway is no way to see the country anyway. Our destination now was to make it to the Western Horizons resort of Pyramid Lake that was at the top of the "grapevine" on I-5, but when we got there, we found that it was "closed for the season". This seemed quite unusual to us since we were now in the sunny south.
When we reached Santa Clarita on I-5, we decided to head back to the coast, toward highway 101, and then we gave a call to Karen Henry (Dave's second cousin) and her husband Cal who live in Thousand Oaks. When we called, we asked Karen where there was a good place to camp on the ocean for a couple of days. She suggested the state park at Carpinteria, about 15 miles south of Santa Barbara. This place turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip, because the weather was quite warm, and we were assigned a place next to the ocean with an unobstructed view of surfers and jumping dolphins, After setting up camp, we called Karen back and invited she and Cal to come for wine and a steak dinner. We had a good time together and it was the first time that we had met Cal. The next morning, we had breakfast in the warm morning sun at a picnic table next to the beach where small gentle waves were spilling on the shore, and then we took a long walk along the beach. On our walk, we discovered first hand that this area near Santa Barbara sits on top of a pool of oil. Not only are there oil rigs far out into the bay, and scattered pumpers on land near by, but the oil is literally leaking out of the ground in the form of tar that is sticky and gooey, and it tattoos you if you happen to step on a blob of it while walking the beach. We found places where it was actually coming out of the earth from a hard viscous mass and oozing onto the beach sand in the hot sun. From our location, we spent much time watching the 15 to 20 surfers dodging the playing dolphins, and we could do this right from the front window of our motor home or from the beach in front of us.
On our second day in this beautiful place, we got in our car and traveled to Thousand Oaks to see Aunt Loraine (the sister to Dave's dad) who just happens to live near cousin Karin (although they are not related). We had called Loraine the day before to let her know that we were in the area and she invited us to see her at her condo. Dave had not seen her in many years and we had a very pleasant visit with her. After we went walking with her and her dog, she took us to see her son Tim and his girl friend where they were living just a few miles away. Then she took us a few miles in another direction to see her daughter Lorie where she was living. We had a very nice visit with her and her children (Lorie's husband was not home at the time). Although Dave has never had any real contact with his first cousins, it was a pleasure to meet with them again after so many years had passed. After being treated to dinner by Loraine at a local restaurant, we brought Loraine back to her home and then we returned back to our camp at Carpinteria.
The next morning, we packed up and left our wonderful place on the beach and headed to Long Beach, California to see Aunt Yvonne (the wife of Dave's dad's brother Harry). We had given Yvonne a call from Loraine's place the day before. We followed the Pacific Coast Highway down to Santa Monica and then cut inland to I-5 on the way to Long Beach. On I-5, we competed with stop and go rush hour traffic on one of the busiest highways in the nation, while pulling our car with the motor home; an experience everyone needs to have once in their lifetime. We arrived at Yvonne's in the late afternoon and then decided that we would leave the motor home parked in front of her house for the evening, on the residential street, rather than try to find a Wall Mart parking lot that would allow us to stay overnight. After we dinned at a local restaurant, we spent a pleasant evening visiting with Yvonne and then retired to the motor home. The next morning, we met Yvonne after her 3-mile morning walk and then we went back to the local restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast, we hitched the car back up to the motor home, said our goodbyes, and headed out east to Desert Hot Springs near Palm Springs. It was great seeing Aunt Yvonne again, not having seen her since staying with her when we came down for the Cougar WSU Rose Bowl game in 1997. Yvonne still has that happy, easygoing humor that is fun to be around.