Down South: On to Warmer Weather

When I sat down to write this blog, I realized 14 days has never felt like so much time. It feels like such a long time since we embarked.

The entire scenery has changed as we sit on the edges of Southern California now, us having been at the Salton Sea for the last few days and moving over to Joshua Tree BLM area today.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though! Where did we leave off? Oh yes… After the last fiasco of tearing the door handle off Jeremiah jerry-rigged a handle, and we set off for California!

Red Bluff – Sycamore Grove Campground

One of the games Jeremiah and I play when we’re out to dinner is make up scenarios that the other diners are experiencing.

“What about that couple?” I’ll say, and he’ll respond, “Third date. He’s not sure if he’s into her because she has 7 miniature poodles that she takes on a on-the-road circus 2 months out of the year in a minivan, and he’s more of a cat guy,” or something equally as ridiculous. We vary between creating sob stories and hilarious tidbits, but the reality is often better.

While we stayed outside Red Bluff, we stopped at a great thick-crusted pizza place. While we were inhaling slices of pepperoni and tomato, the guys in the booth behind Jeremiah were having a loud discussion about prescription medication. I should clarify. They were discussing obtaining and re-selling prescription medication for recreational usage.

You know, a drug deal.

But it was absolutely the loudest drug deal I have ever witnessed. At one point, one of the pizza chef yelled towards the booth,  “Did you bring enough for the whole class?”

The pusher was an aged Ken doll in pseudo-Ed Hardy jeans with frosted tips hair. The other guy was a boringly normal-looking college kid who didn’t seem very interested in purchasing anything besides pizza. Ken Doll was adamant that College Kid would benefit from RX sleep medication, while College Kid politely stepped around the conversation. The level of comfort between these two characters was comical as Ken Doll repeatedly asked for a few bucks and College Kid instead got him some pizza. I’m not sure if this is how all drug deals go down, but if so, I’m not quite certain how drug dealers make it on the streets.  

At any rate, the conversation was so much better than anything fake conversation we could have made up.

The campsite 

Sycamore Grove : Red Bluff, California

This was a beautiful place… and empty! We met some folks who had purchased a similar RV to us, but 10 years newer and I think Jeremiah had a very short-lived keeping-up-with-the-joneses envy. (That didn’t last long since he likes our chassis better.)

There were some really easy trails here – many paved, some not. Walks really – not hikes. This was the first day that really made me feel like we were on the road – the previous door handle event clouding the first day. (Good lord, is this a foreshadowing for all our travels? Please no.)

Traveling South

Being able to travel across the USA isn’t just for us to see places, but also to see friends and family!

We were able to spend five days down in the East Bay of California, soaking up some time with our good friends Sean and Risa who had moved to California from Oregon about three years ago. While we held their brand new baby and played with their 11-year-old dog, Dexter, they heckled us as being the oldest 34-year-olds they know since we’re living in an RV. (We get that a lot, to be honest, but I don’t think it’s as rare as many people think.)

Risa and I got our nails done so I feel less like I’m camping and more like I’m living in our Home On Wheels, something we did back in Oregon together.  

We also took a short hike around Rock City at Mount Diablo, which maybe wasn’t the best idea with two dogs and a five-week-old baby. But then again, life’s short. 

The Saturday before we left, we met up with two pre-Portlanders and Jeremiah’s oldest friend Jimmy, and Steph and their stylish dog Gus. We took our pooches and had a wine tasting inside since the air was horrendous from the smoke. We considered staying an extra day to spend more time with them but I was getting worse from the smoke, so said our farewells. Don’t worry- we live in a home on wheels so we’ll be seeing them more.

Mount Diablo: Rock City

Alameda County Fairgrounds

I won’t go much into this actual site – it isn’t our typical site we’d seek out except that we got to spend a lot of time with our bay-area friends.

We wanted to fix our jacks here, so we called a mobile RV repair guy, and I’m leaving Jeremiah to chat about maintenance, RV improvements, etc, as well as the fact our car has gone to two shops in the short time we’ve been on the road. I think it’s slowly killing Jeremiah inside since he’s used to fixing EVERYTHING in his huge shop with his lift, tools, and plenty of space.   (Fast forward to two years on the road – here’s our maintenance log if you’re curious.)

35: A Difficult Birthday

One of the reasons we purchased our RV and sold our house was to take our two dogs on the road. As you notice though, I’ve only mentioned one up until now – Bernadette. 

Our best friend, Gordon, died suddenly and unexpectedly several short weeks before we had planned to get on the road and it’s been rough – we wanted to get down to California quick after that, and a big reason was to see Dexter, Sean’s dog. Dexter and Gordon grew up together – living together for a little over 5 years. He was the same Dexter we know and love so much, whining loudly when he realized who we were. 

Before we left the Alameda County Fairgrounds for our next stop, Sean took some of Gordon’s ashes to have turned into worry stones for both himself and us, and promised us when it was Dexter’s time, he’d send us a worry stone with some of his ashes as well.

It was my 35th birthday, and up until then I was having a hard day not celebrating it with Gordo – the first birthday without him since before I met Jeremiah. Scooping some little gray ashes into a double zip-locked bag to share with Sean felt like a weight off my shoulders. It was a good ending to a very hard day. (The night Gordon had passed away, Sean and Risa were the first people to find out, and Sean had inundated us with pictures and stories about Gordon.)

Being able to share your life with a pet can mean different things. For us, Gordon and Bernadette are our children, our family and so much more than “just a pet.” Being able to share memories of Gordon with Sean and Risa, and share him physically meant a lot to both of us. It was the ending to a birthday that I had been hesitant to celebrate.

Back on the Road

The horrible fires that have California in a blaze started while we were visiting, so my asthmatic lungs were less than happy. While I would have liked to stay longer to spend time with our friends, I was also eager to breathe. We headed down South.

Kern River

One of the things I am fairly confident in is that I will never likely reside in Bakersfield, California. Kern River is beautiful though! We dry-camped here – no water or electricity, but it was fairly pricey for that since they charge for both tow vehicles and RV as separate vehicles, and charge $5 for a dog each evening, as well as a reservation fee even though it was a first-come first-serve.

I think we would have enjoyed it more if 1: Jeremiah didn’t have to work the entire time we were there, so he mostly just saw the sunset each evening, and 2: they hadn’t charged for every aspect and had instead rolled it into a larger overall fee. 

The campers at our site before us had left their campfire going. Seriously. Didn’t I just mention the horrendous fires that are happening in California? Okay, just checking. I was honestly shocked by this. But then, while we were getting settled we decided to clean up the campsite since they had also left trash – we filled a garbage bag half-full of trash ranging from beer bottles to literally a dozen eggs cracked throughout the site. There were pieces of metal, plastic, paper, handfuls of skittles, toy cars… it looked like a junkyard. Every site near us was impeccable though, so it was sadly just a case of people treating the campsite horribly. Suffice to say we left it cleaner than we found it. 

(Future Sasha here. We returned to this campground about 18 months after this and the campsite we showed up to literally had a dozen broken eggs and heaps of trash from the previous campers. We spent ten minutes cleaning up the previous camper’s shit.)

My fav part: I was able to spend two mornings sipping my coffee next to a Great Blue Heron

Yucaipa Regional Park

This place has a huge recreational area! We spent a couple nights here to just chill. We were ready to be in a less manicured area, but this is a good place – especially if you have kids. 

My favorite place on the road, thus far.

The Salton Sea.  There’s so much history here. It’s the clearest of evidence that man creates and destroys simultaneously, unfortunately.

Thousands of dead fish along the shore at the Salton Sea


Here, Bernadette found many fish bodies, a difficult temptation to resist. The lake’s shores are made up of tiny itty bitty shells, crunched and re-crunched, and blown by the winds.

With the salt in the lake, mini hills of crustiness were formed, and the amount of flies during the hot afternoon had even Bernie annoyed. 

The stench of dead fish and sulfur is barely noticed when the evening has cooled – as it did rapidly for us while we visited. Once the sun dipped behind the hills lining the salty lake, the temps dropped about 10 degrees – what was edging towards hot was considerably comfortable within just 20 or 30 minutes. 

Hands down, this was my favorite place so far. We’ve only been on the road a couple of weeks, so it’s hard to say if this will be a favorite long-term, but the place stole my heart. It’s hard to explain; there was a whole ton of gross stuff, even the train was annoying just meters away…especially in the night when it woke us up. The smell was rancid when the wind blew the right way. But it was the first stop though where it really felt we were “home.” Not sure what that says about me. The sunsets? Gorgeous. (We also checked out an easy hike but hot hike called Bat Caves Butte – it’s mostly used for four-wheeling.)   

A Little Piece of Americana

One of the remarkable people we took note of was an older Cowboy who likely lived in his tan minivan but emerged looking fresh and clean each time I saw him. Each morning, and each afternoon, the man was found next to a large fire pit, chain-smoking several cigarettes before taking off again. Next to the fire pit each morning were two short pieces of wood, a packet of matches, and one folded piece of newspaper.  Each evening, after dark, Cowboy would show up again and light a small fire: so small that I couldn’t see it unless I walked close to him. Cowboy knew the park rangers’ schedules better than they did themselves, always leaving before they arrived (mere minutes this morning) and arriving to his little spot after they had finished with their routes in the evening.

Before we left this morning Cowboy had been gone several hours. Where he normally sat was a large cutout of Sponge Bob Square Pants, taped directly to the concrete-lined fire pit. I have no idea what to make of that at all.  

Bombay Beach

On Saturday, right at two weeks on the road, I wanted to grab some postcards at the Salton Sea gift shop so we headed on over to Salton Sea Recreational area. Armed with a printed map of the area (Yeah, I could have used my phone but that’s not as quaint) we trekked on down to Bombay Beach. That place? It’s… weird.

What’s up with the lake?

For a bit of history, the Salton Sea was created in its current state when the Colorado River busted through an irrigation canal over 100 years ago. The 1940’s and ’50’s had Californians treating the sea like a destination to be coveted. But with years of agricultural runoff, it’s not such a great place to sunbathe since you’d be lying among fish corpses. The only fish you can really catch there is Tilapia since it’s twice as salty as the Pacific Ocean.

So, Bombay Beach. It’s this tiny little community. At one time, I’m guessing there were a couple thousand people, maybe. Now? Fewer than 300. The rubble is strange – it’s a hipster artist mecca where burnt out buildings are covered with spray paint by artists thinking they are the next Banksy.

A ghost town, Bombay Beach is the set for several post-apocalyptic movies. This does not come as a surprise. Bunches of tourists were posing by the decrepit houses, and large metal installation art had been created from building remnants.

I would have taken pictures but felt it wasn’t appropriate. It’s worth visiting for a quick drive-through. It reminded me that life can change drastically in a relatively short period of time.

Here we are

Today, we settled into BLM land South of Joshua Tree – our first free campsite… and it is packed! We’re planning on staying here in Joshua  Tree for a good bit of time, so I’ll likely have lots to blog about it when I sit to write again.

Things we’ve learned over the past 2 weeks: Dates grow on a type of palm tree. There’s a date festival in Southern California each year.

Don’t get behind in blogs, or you’ll end up with a novel for a blog. (I’m caught up now though!)

Everything moves, all the time, when you’re driving.

Tips: Fix any window screens before getting to Salton Sea to avoid the plague of flies. Bring fly strips since you just can’t win against that many flies. Get s’mores sized marshmallows!  

The next podcast in Sasha’s lineup: Imagined life, Episode 2

Jeremiah’s current audible book: Earth Core

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