Heading Down the Coast

Our RV Spirit Guides

The remains of our dog Murph/Murphy… our first road trip without him…

Our pot head from Weasel and Fitz in Madrid, NM along the Turquoise Trail…

And our alien from Roswell, New Mexico…


Today we pack up tchotchkes and secure cabinets and fridge as we depart Port Orford and slowly head to Thousand Palms Oasis. Our first stop is just across the border into California north of Crescent City.

But before we can hitch the car onto the tow dolly and drive away… RV glitches stall us. First, the magnet needs to be attached to the screen door so that our entry steps can go up and down. Jeff tries a glue gun, duct tape, mailing tape, and tacky craft glue before realizing where the magnet needs to be placed. Then the hydraulic jacks won’t ascend properly. Finally the jacks cooperate but Jeff discovers a problem with one of the rear jacks.

Finally, we are on our way to a new adventure at Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve outside of Palm Springs, CA.


Jeff and I are volunteering as co-hosts in this lush oasis on the San Andras Fault from October through April.

Nestled into the Indio Hills on the northern side of the Coachella Valley, Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is a day-use area with 30 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, oases, wildflowers, wildlife, and a rustic Visitor Center. Check out the website to find out more about the Preserve.


Our driving itinerary is an unconventional one in an RV. We plan on taking Highway 1 from Leggett, CA to Santa Monica where we will connect with Interstate 10 and head southeast to Palm Springs.  I’m sure we will encounter some iffy moments leaving us asking ourselves WHY. Who drives a 35-foot motorhome towing a car on a dolly on the narrow shoreline highway with twists and turns? We do.

Our Dogs

 Murph and Casey

In our 22 years of marriage, Jeff and I have adopted 3 rescued dogs.

On January 23rd 2005 we took Casey home from Save the Animals Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was a rambunctious 6 month-old brindled Australian Cattle Dog-Boxer mix with a cropped tail found roaming the streets of Blue Ash, a northern suburb of the city. He was a perfect fit for our lifestyle as we relished long walks and jogging.

In 2006 I was time-sharing a position as a teacher-librarian at Whittier Elementary on the West Side of Cincinnati.  Arriving at school one morning, a beagle dog kept wandering into the building. I thought nothing of this until, between classes, I stepped out into the hallway and saw the visiting Speech-Therapist with a bad knee limping toward me carrying the very same beagle. Apparently someone called the SPCA and before they arrived she took our visiting beagle and hid the dog with her in her car. “I can’t take her home with me but I don’t want her put to sleep in a shelter.” So I took the dog into the library with me, much to the delight of my kindergarten, first, and second grade classes. A few children claimed the dog as their own, but when I called parents, I found out this beagle was a loose dog in the neighborhood. I finally called Jeff, who was recovering from ankle surgery, and asked him to come by and pick up the dog.  We named her Sadie and she lived with us for about 4 years until she got loose and got run over chasing a rabbit on Johnson Road in Dent, Ohio.

Several months after Sadie’s passing we adopted Murph, a 6 year-old schnauzer mix rescued from an abandoned house in Indiana. His first adoptive parents were RVers and felt bad confining him. And then his dad discovered he was allergic to the little guy.

Ironically 5 years later, Murph was an RVer once again. I retired from teaching, Jeff and I sold our house, and we became full-time RVers on August 31, 2015.

Casey and Murph were 11 years-old.  (We picked July 4th for their shared birthday to symbolize their new lives in a forever home, free from roaming the streets or living in a shelter.)

Surprisingly life on the road suited them perfectly. They could no longer manage long walks and enjoyed car rides and chilling out.

Our 2 furry children have traveled across the United States with us and have experienced the smells and set their paws on a diverse variety of habitats: mountains, beaches, deserts, prairies, forests, lakes, rivers, and plains.


Casey and Murph greeting us at the door to our RV…

Casey at the helm…

Chillin’…

You talkin’ ‘bout me?…

Quenching and eating…

Casey’s favorite seat on the road…

It’s Murph’s turn to drive…

Casey relaxes on the couch…

Murph arranges himself between the pillow and blanket on the bed…

Rise and shine!…

Murph and his pillows…

Besides eating, Casey loves to sleep…

Murph’s new haircut…


In July Murph stopped eating, not that this was too uncommon, as he did not have a huge appetite anyway. Then he started yelping when we moved him or picked him up and moaning when he laid around.

The Vet could find nothing specifically wrong and prescribed a strong aspirin-like medication. We learned how to pick him up without hurting him. Three weeks later  Murph was not getting better and his prescription needed refilling. Jeff had to feed him by hand and carry him up and down the RV steps.

We returned to the Vet. She did some blood tests and prescribed a medicine humans take to relieve nerve pain. Taken twice a day, the Gabapentin made Murph very drowsy. He was barely eating and Jeff had to bring him a small bowl of water to get him to drink.

On August 3rd we went to a different Vet for a second opinion. She did blood work and took x-rays and concluded that Murph had liver cancer. With her input and advice we decided to take Murph home and give him a last few loving days of car rides, ice cream, and snuggles. We made a last appointment for August 7th.


Tuesday was a very sad day for our little family of four as we drove to Coquille to say goodbye to Murph and to end his pain.

We were taken to a very beautiful room where Jeff, Casey, and I gave kisses and love to our little guy. (Casey licked Murph’s face a few times.)

I held him in my arms while he received an injection of sedation medicine and surrendered to its relaxing effects. Murph was at peace. And that’s how we left him, as we chose not to witness the final intravenous dose.

You are greatly missed Murph-Murph, Murphy, Moiff, Mr. Murph, Poodley Boy, Murphy Magoo… I know you loved us and I hope you know how much we loved you. 🐾💔

Something’s Fishy

“Fishy, fishy in the brook…”

The fishy is a rainbow trout and actually it was caught in Garrison Lake.

“Papa caught it on a hook…”

Actually, our neighbor, Kenneth caught it with his fishing rod.

“Mama fries it in a pan…”

Oh hell, no! Jeff fillets the trout and cooks it.

“Baby eats it like a man…”

“Jeff shows Kenneth the cooked pan…”

Then we eat it as fast as we can!

Settling In…

Warning: I usually write about the highlights of living on the road. Today, however, I am sharing some lowlights… the normal day to day reality of living in an RV and being retired. So, spoiler alert, this post may make you yawn.

We take 3 days to settle in at Camp Blanco RV Park, our favorite place to stay in Port Orford. There are no frills here, no bathrooms, no parties… Just 25 spaces for full-time and visiting RVers. William, the host, and Jeff, the owner, are 2 of the friendliest and most helpful people you will ever meet.

Across the street is a laundromat and car wash with a high bay for washing RVs. Next door to Busy Bubbles is a Dollar General store that opened last spring. It’s clean and well- maintained and carries a wide variety of merchandise at low prices including food items with the exception of fresh meats and produce.

When you live in a small town you learn to make do with the available albeit limited resources. For us, that’s exactly the charm of Port Orford. We like this challenge of less choices. Down the street from us is a grocery store, Ray’s Place which I like to call Ray’s Palace because the prices are high. Locals call it Raper Ray’s for the same reason.

So for now, we only need these 3 resources to help us move in.

We’ve been on the road since March 12th and the RV needs a major cleaning inside and a bath on the outside, not to mention the car and tow dolly. Cleaning and reorganizing are our priorities, and oh, did I forgot to mention eating some fish and chips from the Crazy Norwegian? Upon arriving on a Monday, however, the Crazy Norwegian is closed. Some priorities will have to wait until tomorrow then.

Later, in the middle of the night when Jeff takes our dogs out to relieve themselves, Jeff wakes me up to tell me he can hear the ocean waves and see every star in the Milky Way.


Everyday at noon a siren announces the midday hour. But today, April 17th, the sirens issue a special call for volunteer firemen. The 3rd type of siren blast is a tsunami warning. (The RV Park information sheet explains all this.)

Visiting the ocean will be our reward for completing all our chores and we hope will keep us focused and motivated. But I’ve got to be honest. Traveling takes its toll and we are just plain tired.

Being on the road wreaks havoc in an RV. Dust gets into all the nooks and crannies and it doesn’t help having a dog who sheds piles of fur every time we sweep. Jeff and I start cleaning out the fridge and storage cabinets. The cabinets are stuffed with towels, blankets, and pillows that now need to be washed. The tchotchkes are packed away in a bin and need to be unpacked. Basically the whole RV has to be rearranged.

We start preparing a major grocery shopping list and TO DO LIST of everything we need and have to do from Amazon orders to laundry to vacuuming all the nooks and crannies. It’s also a good time to assess the needs of the RV. We have light fixtures to replace, a door jam to fix, a new TV antenna and an awning damaged by high winds to replace. Speaking of high winds, we lost our outside door mat in San Jacinto to the Santa Ana winds and our collapsible outdoor recycling bin when we visited Zion National Park. We think it sailed through the air and landed in the Virgin River where the water currents carried it somewhere. If you’re ever in this area and a green collapsible bin washes up, it’s ours. Sorry about that…

And the outdoor storage bins need to be cleaned, washed out and reorganized. This also allows us to sort through “stuff” and decide whether we should still keep it or dump it.

Jeff makes a run to Dollar General for necessary staples and food items to tide us over until we drive into Coos Bay for a proper grocery shopping.

For a late lunch, Jeff picks up a fish and chips carry-out from the Crazy Norwegian which we gobble down and then lick our fingers off for every last morsel.

With satisfied tummies, these 2 happy campers take the rest of the day off to read, stream, watch some TV and relax. We are retired after all!


On Wednesday, the 18th, we finish vacuuming and wiping down the inside of the RV from top to bottom on hands and knees… Oh what a feeling!

We wash bedding and blankets at Busy Bubbles and I meet a man from Connecticut who moved here 20 years ago. Actually he lives in Sixes, 5 miles north of Port Orford. People enjoy sharing their story about visiting this area and then deciding to stay. And I always pick up some new info on local history. Today I learn that Highway 101 was a stagecoach route and towns grew up along the way because the average distance a stagecoach could travel in a day was 25 miles. That’s why you only have to go 25 miles north or south to get to the next town. For example, Gold Beach is 25 miles south and Bandon is 25 miles north. Coos Bay is another 25 miles north of Bandon.

Only 2 types of people live in Port Orford… those who love living here and those who are trying to escape. By my book so far, the lovers outnumber the wannabe escapees.


Thursday, the 19th, we travel 50 miles to Coos Bay to buy groceries at Fred Meyer. Kroger owns Fred Meyer so we are counting on good prices. Our other option is to shop at the Walmart Supercenter, 4 miles away.

Before we head into the “city”, however, we reward ourselves for all our semi-hard work cleaning, organizing, prioritizing, and rearranging. We drive to the scenic viewpoint overlooking the Port.

And there it is… a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean and the Port that always leaves us amazed and inspired.


I’ve already lost track of Friday, but Saturday we go across the street to Busy Bubbles and wash our clothes.

Today I meet a man from eastern Oregon who moved to Port Orford 11 years ago. He does not own a car or a bike. He just walks everywhere. I’m not sure what he does to travel to other towns on the coast. Maybe he has friends drive him or is it possible he never leaves? He used to work at the local Circle K. I learn from him that meth addiction is a problem here. He shares stories of how he has watched the decline and deterioration of some of his customers. Now, however, he works at one of the art galleries in town helping the owner design and manage websites on the side. Maybe that’s how art galleries survive here, a sideline.

The owner of Busy Bubbles pops in later. I remember him from last year and he is still trying to sell his business. He is an example of the 2nd type of person living in Port Orford. He hates it here and desperately wants to move to Corpus Christi, Texas.

Sometime during the past 5 days I add up our monthly expenses. Jeff and I are trying to stay within our budget and we have never kept track of what we spend on the road. Traveling guzzles gas and overnight full hook-up parking can cost anywhere between $25-$50. Buying groceries costs more too because tourist areas charge more and RV parks on the backroads are not located near major grocery chains. Plus, we  tend to grab a quick bite out more often when we are on the road. And spending time with family and friends has to be added in to the budget. I have to factor in an airline ticket to Ohio, not to mention our 6 grandkids, 5 sons and their families. Once we have a good idea of what we spend, we can plan better for the future. Full-time RVing is still a learning experience for us.


And there you have it… the low-down, the let-down, the behind-the-scenes of our scenic adventures. So, stretch your arms and legs and get ready for tomorrow’s beach walk.

Confined in the Car with 2 Dogs… Epilogue

image The New Door

Leaving California Citrus State Historic Park we head back to Highway 74 and Giant RV. Again, we avoid the freeway and take the scenic back roads.

At 1:45 PM we call Richard at Giant RV. The new door has been installed and we can pick up the RV and head back to Site 124 at Lake Elsinore West Marina and RV Park.

This is a map of the places we visited confined in our tiny car with 2 dogs:

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Fortunately, we have a new outer door and screen door.

Unfortunately, Forest River no longer carries the original door on our 2015 Georgetown.

Fortunately, the door fits.

Unfortunately, the window is smaller. ( But we don’t care!)

Fortunately, the paint and decals match.

Unfortunately, the door is missing the top decal.

Fortunately, our insurance paid for the replacement.

Unfortunately, Forest River would not reimburse us the deductible even though we had to replace the door lock TWICE.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to leave the RV overnight.

Unfortunately, Richard worked through his lunch to make this happen.

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Thank you, Richard, at Giant RV!

I just wish Forest River was as easy to work with as you are!

Fortunately, I have a complimentary letter to write to Giant RV.

Unfortunately, I have a different letter to write to Forest River.

Confined in a Car with 2 Dogs, Part 3…

image California Citrus State Historic Park

After visiting Glen Ivy RV Park, we continue north on Temescal Canyon Road and merge onto I-5 in search of Sprouts Farmers Market in Corona, another natural and organic grocery store near Trader Joe’s.

img_5162 foursquare.com

(Remember, our new door on the RV is being installed today and we need to kill time before the work is finished and we can pick it up.) It’s amazing all the places you can think of to drive to just because you are curious and have time!

Okay, so now we know… Now where do we go next?

All we know is that we don’t want to take any freeways and that we need to slowly mosey back to Giant RV. So we head to the airport in Ontario. It’s another option for flights besides John Wayne in Orange County. We abandon this exploration when all gps routes lead to the freeway. I can’t even find the airport on our paper map.

As I look at the map, however, I find back roads weaving back to Highway 74 and Lake Elsinore. Then I discover that these roads intersect with the California Citrus State Historic Park. With the help of Google, I learn that this park in Riverside is a working citrus grove preserving California’s agricultural legacy… juicy, sun-kissed oranges. And off we go!


A replica of an old-fashioned fruit stand on the corner of Van Buren Boulevard and Dufferin Avenue leads to the entrance to the citrus park.

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Only 2 roads are accessible to cars. The remainder of the park consists of visitor trails and working citrus groves with no public access.

We head to the Visitor Center/Museum. The parking lot is deserted.

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And when I approach the Visitor Center door, I discover it is locked even though I see uniformed park volunteers inside.

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One of them comes to the door to explain that the center is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Today, a school group has scheduled a tour, hence their presence. They are cleaning up and getting ready to lock up and leave. I collect a brochure and a tip to be sure and take the ascending trail behind the Visitor Center to view the groves and snow-capped mountains.

So, up we go…


The parking and entrance fees are on the honor system and we are one of two cars in the lot.

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But Jeff and I gladly spend $13 to support the mission of California State Parks:

to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor education.

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…and we are glad we did.

Sunny, cloudless blue skies are the perfect background for viewing the San Antonio Mountains.

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And just as beautiful is the view of the citrus groves with Mt. San Gorgonio in the backdrop.

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The trail smells heavenly with whiffs of earthy citrus.

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The trails consist of pavement and dirt. Some are lined with palm trees.

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Others include antique machinery.

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So, while our dogs, Casey and Murph, take a break, let me  fill you in with a little history of California’s citrus groves.

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The Empire of the Orange

In the late 1800s a kind of second gold rush took place in Southern California as citrus groves spread across Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties into the Central Valley.

It all began in 1803 when the missionaries of San Gabriel first planted some Mediterranean citrus trees. Kentuckian William Wolfskill planted more seedlings in 1841. By the late 1800s lemon, lime, and orange trees grew in today’s downtown Los Angeles.

lemons

lemons

oranges

oranges

grapefruit

grapefruit

In 1873, Eliza Tibetan of Riverside planted 2 orange trees that she obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Called the Washington navel, this Brazilian fruit was sweeter, seedless, and easily peeled. It’s thick skin also protected it during shipping. Today nearly all Washington navel orange trees are descendants from Eliza’s 2 original trees. (California Citrus State Historic Park brochure and plaques at Visitor Center)


The Laborers

After our government took away their ancient tribal lands, many Native Americans worked in the citrus groves until prejudice and discrimination drove them out of work.

In the late 1800s Chinese workers replaced the Native Californians until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 sent them off too.

Japanese immigrants filled the worker void from 1900 through 1920 until anti-immigrant sentiments eventually squeezed them out.

Around 1919 Hispanic workers and their families started setting up communities near the citrus groves. By the mid-1940s this group made up nearly 2/3rds of the citrus labor force. The women worked in the packing houses while the men tended the groves.

In the early 1930s dust bowl refugees, migrating from the Great Plains and seeking relief from destitution, came looking for work in the citrus groves. (California Citrus State Historic Park brochure and plaques at Visitor Center)


Today

California Citrus State Historic Park opened in 1993 as a living museum. The nearly 200 acres of groves are managed by the Friends of California Citrus Park, a non-profit group using all proceeds to fund facilities, programs, and maintenance. (park brochure)

Confined in a Car with 2 Dogs, Part 2…

image While waiting for the installation of our new RV door

It’s just shy of 10:00 in the morning now and we still have about 3 hours to kill.

After discovering Sky Dive Perris we head west, back toward Lake Elsinore. I had read about a nearby abandoned  town and today gave us the perfect excuse to go on a wild ghost hunt.


On our way through the scenic back roads’ neighborhoods, we  notice a wake of buzzards with their wings spread along the side of the road. Of course, by the time we can capture this photo they bring their wings in!

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Our first approach to Terra Cotta is from Nichols Road off of Interstate 15.

The only access is a rutted dirt road.

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With our little Scion IQ we chicken out from driving further.

We then decide to approach this same location from Lakeshore Drive and Terra Cotta Road. Guess what? Terra Cotta Road ends and turns into

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But this time we plow through the rough road anyway, very carefully I might add, and I take a few pics.

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Now, here’s the story behind this abandoned location:

Established in 1887, Terra Cotta was a mining town a few miles northwest of Lake Elsinore. In 1885 John D. Hoff discovered a vein of coal and a supply of clay in this Warm Springs neighborhood leading to his vision of producing terra cotta tile products, such as ceramic sewer and water pipes, using the coal to fuel the kilns.

Unfortunately, not long after the town was christened and the first factory built, Hoffman and his backers found out that both the coal and clay deposits were inferior in quality. By 1892 all mining was permanently suspended by Hoff’s Southern California Coal and Clay Company, although the mines were used intermittently during the early 1900s by other companies. In 1940 the Pacific Clay Products Company folded and the town of Terra Cotta was abandoned. (ghost towns.com and pe.com, The Press Enterprise)

All that remains today is the location and the old grid of dirt streets hidden in the sagebrush.


So, from Lakeshore Drive we bounce along the dirt road all the way back to Nichols Road. Since Temescal Canyon Road, leading to Corona and Trader Joe’s, is just off of Nichols, we head for Glen Ivy RV Park along the way. (Glen Ivy is a place we considered for our winter stay, but we never heard back from them after several attempts. On our way to Trader Joe’s one day, we drove right by the RV Park. We didn’t stop in, saving that adventure for another day. Well, today is now that day.)

Glen Ivy RV Park is large and includes lots of amenities, such as a pool, playground, restaurant, bar, and basketball court. It lacks, however, the natural beauty of Lake Elsinore Marina with the lake, trees, and surrounding mountains. The monthly rates are also higher.

We register and drive around the island areas, each distinguished by its own color.

I have to stop and take these pictures before we leave:

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I have fond memories of the bookmobile during my summers in elementary school!