The Greatest Road Trip USA? - Our Round USA Road Tour.
Part of a year long trip from Sept ’94 - Sept ’95 through 36 USA States and 2 Canadian Provinces by Jean and Graham Beven in ‘Serendipity’ their 30 foot Winnebago Chieftain.
California Round Trip USA
We spent a total of 48 days in the state of California, USA as there was plenty on our must see list of places to visit.
There are however twenty five National Wildlife Refuges, twenty Bureau of Land Management areas, nineteen National Parks and ---- State Parks in the state of California.
The State Tourist Office for the state of California, USA is: California Office of Tourism, Suite 1600, 801 K St, Sacramento, CA 95814
2 March 1995 Left Nevada - Entered the state of California for a brief time to visit the Death Valley National Monument. Coming in on Hwy 190 at Death Valley Junction CA. Through the pass at Furnace Creek Wash, between Funeral Mountains to the north and the Black Mountains.
At Furnace Creek Visitors Centre we were 48 metres (190 feet) below sea level! We visited the Borax Museum and followed the interpretive trail, finding out that in the mid 1800’s prospectors rushed to Death Valley in search of gold. What they found was Borax, ‘white gold’ to the more knowledgeable.
Borax was mined there for quite a few years – until it became uneconomical and investment money ran out. Now the whole area is an historic site.
The valley floor shimmered in the heat at over eighty degrees fahrenheit! Even though the sky was full of heavy clouds on the day we visited.
The sand dunes by the Old Stove Pipe Wells Picnic Area are interesting especially when you find out that they migrate with the annual wind patterns. Fortunately the north wind duration roughly equals the south wind duration and keeps the dunes in this one area of Death Valley.
They have worked out a Sand Dune formula ~ WIND, Speed, Duration, Direction + SAND, Size, Uniformity, Amount = RIPPLE FORMATION
The lowest point is at Badwater 86 metres below sea level (282 feet).
Some of the rock formations were quite spectacular. In particular Mosaic Canyon, at the base of Tucki Mountain, has a wonderful trail we went as far as we could without having to do any climbing. The canyon was eroded and its walls highly polished by water - a lot of water over a long period – a bit of a conundrum now! as there is hardly any rainfall in the valley nowadays.
We were a bit restricted by the 30 feet length of 'Dippy' as some of the roads were not recommended for vehicles over 25 feet. We saw enough in the day we were there.
3rd Made our way back to Las Vegas, Arizona.
20th Left our bit of heaven (above) in Arizona and headed off towards Joshua Tree National Monument. California. on I-10 via Blythe. Entered via the Oasis Visitor Centre close to Twentynine Palms on Hwy 62. Joshua Tree NatM was a little disappointing at first but as we travelled into the park area the true splendour of the area revealed itself. Equally as interesting as the trees were the rock formations created by the San Andreas Fault Line. The rugged mountains and twisted rocks.
Picture of 'Jumbo Rocks', Joshua Tree NP, California
We camped at another free campground at ‘Jumbo Rocks’ an unusual place if ever there was one! Huge boulder shaped rocks that look like they were rolled there by a giant who was a bit bored and wanted to create something unusual.
21st March A travelling day from ‘Jumbo Rocks’ JTNM, AZ to Colton, California.
Camped at Wal-Mart. Exchanged the metal detectors at Radio Shack two for one at twice the price – a better model – should actually detect something now!
22nd Traveled from Colton to Los Angeles, California. Called in at LA International Airport to check on our daughter’s flight (on the 26th) and find out where the arrivals terminal was for the following day. Camped at Camping World, Anaheim, California.
23rd Had a bit of a fuel problem again. Called in at an RV dealership for repairs and Propane. Rained all day – Storm warning! And our daughter arriving soon. Overnight at Wal-Mart Anaheim , CA .
24th Moved from Anaheim, CA. North to Valencia, California. via the beaches. Spent a long time looking for a public beach with free parking! The nearest we got was the town park at Manhattan Beach, California. Overnight at Camping World, Valencia CA.
25th Domestic day today in preparation for our daughters visit the next day. Traveled back towards LA International.
26th Our daughter arrived at 00:30hrs – The wait seemed like forever! She looked really well considering she had just completed a long haul flight. An earthquake was reported registering 2.7 in Valencia, CA. where we had been two nights before! We walked, talked and drove today. Went to the beach and ended up in Poway, California. at Wal-Mart, where we camped.
27th set off Went through Orange County in Hwy 1, south - then the 78 - a scenic route, looking for the free campground in Julian, San Diego County, California. but couldn't find it! There was a CtoC close by – American Adventure, it was out of peak season – so almost as good as free! We parked up about 1pm. A very picturesque place with lots of squirrels and different birds. Decided to stay 3 nights to let our daughter get over her jet lag and get some sun. Good hot tub and pool!
30th Traveled from Julian, CA. eastwards ~ Went looking for some hot springs by the Salton Sea - a huge lake in the valley between the Anza-Borrego Desert and the nearby Chocolate Mountains. When we got there we were told they had dried up so stopped at the edge of the 'Sea' for lunch. The water is a brackish solution and without any life and a bit smelly when you get close to it!
We stayed on Hwy 78 to Osbourn Overlook at Imperial Sand Dunes, California. This is a BLM area. There were folk there with ‘dune buggies’. We got in with a group who were there for two nights and tagged along – even got a trip or two out onto the sands with one guy. Great fun! The dune system extends for over 40 miles, 5 miles wide, along the east side of the Imperial Valley. The dunes can measure up to 100 metres high. Summer temperatures can get to 110 deg f. Between October and May lots of ATV enthusiasts visit the area. There are parking pads and public toilets around the area.
The dunes used to be crossed by a Plank Road that fell into disuse in the 1920's when a new road of asphalted concrete was finished 1n 1926. Remnants of the Plank Road can be seen just south of Gray's Well Road accessible off the Sand Dunes I-8 Rest Area.
1st April – No fooling – we were going back to Quartzite.
Back to Arizona.
10th April From Arizona re-entered the state of California heading for Needles, California . Spent a couple of days at a CtoC Resort chilling’ out again! Leaving on the morning of the 12th Taking our daughter through the Joshua Tree National Monument, via Twenty Nine Palms to Jumbo Rocks Campground. (Again)
13th Traveled from Jumbo Rocks to Redlands, California. via Palm Springs, California. To see how the other half live!
Stopped at a truck stop where Hal Katchum’s song ‘Mama knows the highway by heart’ video was made. The dinosaurs looked great – well worth a stop for photos. Camped at Fisherman’s Retreat.
14th From Redlands, CA. to LA visiting Hollywood and Beverly Hills – Taking in Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. Jean and our daughter had a walk down Rodeo Drive to check out the designer shops. And have a photo opportunity under the road sign! They didn't see anyone that they recognised. We all arrived back at LAX at 4.45pm . The traffic was horrendous. Camped at Lincoln Boulevard Car Park just outside LAX.
15th Dropped our daughter off for her return flight. Travelled to Oxnard, California and stayed there until the morning of the 17 th. Getting used to being on our own again and doing some domestic stuff. And relax!
17th We started up State Hwy 1 'The Pacific Coast Highway' today, heading for Lompoc, California. Drove passed the Santa Monica Mountains. Had tea in a very picturesque rest area overlooking the sea before moving off to Camp at Wal-Mart, Lompoc, CA.
18th We are definitely travelling the right way – South to North – as we are not at the edge of the road nearest the drop into the sea! A windy day! Travelled to a rest area just North of San Luis Obispo, California overlooking Morro Bay.
19th Moved up to Big Sur, California. On the way up saw three sea otters swimming along the coast line. Most of the coastline is an ‘Otter Reserve’ so hopefully we will see more before the end of the trip. Just a few miles up the road at Hearst State Beach we saw a colony of seals basking in the sunshine. Found a small rest area just big enough for ‘Dippy’ and spent the whole evening watching a 'raft' of otters and a couple of seals feeding and playing. A very entertaining evening. There were deer browsing in a glen and squirrels everywhere!
20th We watched the raft of otters again in the morning first thing. Even started naming them – ‘Basher’ and co. Moved up from going round Big Sur, CA. to Felton, California. Picked up some spring water from a natural spring - filled every spare container we had. camping at River Grove CtoC Resort. On the dry-dock so they let us stay free – a cost we like!
21st Traveled from Felton, CA. to Pillar Point Harbour, California. Spent the day at the harbour – did a bit of non-productive fishing. Watched the seals following the fishing boats in and out begging for freebies. Overnight on the harbour car park.
22nd Travelled north over the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California.
Drove along Fisherman’s Wharf (nowhere to park ‘Dippy’!) Saw Alcatraz out in San Francisco Bay. Stayed at the overlooks and picnicked for a while.
Carried on to Livermore, California. Camped at Wal-Mart.
23rd Carried on up the Pacific Coast Highway, California . today from Livermore, CA. to Tracy, California. Spent the afternoon at Bethany, State Recreation Area. We would have loved to take the boat out onto the reservoir, but the charges were too high! Camping at Tracy, Wal-Mart.
24th Traveled from Tracy, CA. to Merced, California. and the following day (25th) on to Hensly Lake where we spent the afternoon before carrying on to Moderna, California. and camping at Wal-Mart.
26th From Moderna, CA. to Fresno, Central Valley, California. via Millerton Lake, California - Boating and sunbathing – lovely lake. Locals suggested we might be the first Brit's to ever visit Millerton Lake! A nice thought. Overnight at Fresno, California. Wal-Mart.
27th April From Fresno, CA. to Vasalia, California. A travelling day 120 miles. Called in at AAA for maps at a visitor centre. Overnight at Wal-Mart, Vasalia, CA.
28th and 30th Travelled from Vasalia, CA. to Kirch Flats, California. 152 miles.
En route we visited the Sequoia National Park and Forest, California. Entering the park at Ash Mountain we weaved and wended our way up through these magnificent trees. The well repaired road is one of the most twisting roads we have ever driven. The road was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the great depression days.
The first 16 miles was opened in 1926 a further 14 in 1935. The winter snow was still laying thick about the forest.
In an area called the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park in the United States, east of Visalia, California, the General Sherman Tree stands. The tree is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old, the single largest (volume) living single organism on earth.
Pictured right are Graham and Jean Beven at the base of General Sherman.
We would have liked to visit the neighbouring Kings Canyon National Park, but this was closed due to the snow!
Another weekend of restful relaxation and sight seeing. Saw our first black bear – very exciting.
1st May 1995 From Kirch Flats, CA. back to Fresno, CA. Left the campsite after lunch and drove straight to Fresno, CA. We could not go on to Yosemite, as there had been a landslide blocking the main road. Overnight at Wal-Mart, Kings Canyon .
2nd From Fresno, CA. to Coursegold, Yosemite South waiting for the road to be cleared. Batteries on house side not charging again? Why? Camped at Coast to Coast, Coursegold. Yosemite South-Coursegold Ranch is located about 24 miles from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park, CA . It has a great swimming pool and spacious tree-covered sites make for a truly enjoyable and relaxing visit. The site is pen year round.
3rd From Coursegold, CA. to Bass Lake, California. via Oakhurst, California. Had to get a new alternator today - $80 – batteries almost flat! Graham had no problems fitting it and everything worked fine there after. Camped at CtoC, Bass Lake Resort.
4th From Bass Lake, CA. to Sonora, California. via Yosemite National Park, CA. Drove through Yosemite today. Spectacular rock formations, forestry and waterfalls. Saw climbers (like flies) on the side of ‘El Capitan’ also saw herds of mule deer and cheeky squirrels. No bears! Followed the trail to the Yosemite Falls. The Yosemite Valley is probably the best known example of a glacier carved canyon overlooked by Glacier Point. The sheer scale of the place is so dramatic. We visited The Pioneer Yosemite History Centre and crossed the covered bridge that the stagecoaches used to cross in the late 1850's. You can almost hear the rumble of an oncoming stage! The History Centre also has 'Homestead', Blacksmiths, Cavalry Office, Bakery, Jail and Wells Fargo Office!
Overnight at Wal-Mart, Senora, CA.
5th From Senora, CA. to Jackson, California. only 59 miles today. Really bad weather, rain, rain and more rain! The road was a winding, scenic trip. Did some laundry and a bit of shopping. Overnight at Courtesy RV Park, Jackson, CA.
6th Travelled from Jackson, CA. to Rocklin, California. via Folsom, California. Spent most of the day in the town of Folsom, CA. We walked the historic ‘Sutler Street’ trail. Watched the locals in a rail handcart tournament.
Visited the famous prison (Of Johnny Cash’s [1932-2003] “Folsom Prison Blues” fame) – only the museum, just inside the main gates, is open to the public – the rest is still an active prison. Johnny Cash was never an inmate of Folsom Prison. You can view a video tour of the 'old' and new prisons. A mannequin narrated the story of living conditions from the 1890's. Up left - Picture of Folsom Prison, Folsom, California. The first prisoner was registered 26th July 1880. The prison can hold up to 1,958 inmates.
Overnight in Rocklin, CA.
7th Set off to Coloma State Historic Park, Coloma, California. Visited the Community and visitor information for the Coloma - Lotus valley, on the South Fork of the American River where gold was first discovered in California in the year 1848. We thought (and hoped) that there would be another opportunity to pan for gold but this was not the case. After the visit we moved a mile down the road to a CtoC RV park Ponderosa. Where we did a bit of electrical re-organisation with the house batteries. Fixed a leak on the domestic hot water system. Stayed the 8th as well ($2).
9th May A good travelling day- from Coloma, CA. to Carson City, Nevada.
Returned to the state of California on 12th May from Reno, Nevada. to Yuba City, California. 130 miles. Overnight at Wal-Mart, Yuba City, CA.
13th Yuba City, CA. to Oroville, California. We saw a wild wolf today on the way to Oroville, CA.
Visited the Fisheries Department visitor’s centre and fish hatcheries at the Feather River Fish Hatchery. Saw the life cycle of a Salmon. There is a purpose built overlook at the fish ladder on the dam. The fish ladder leads to gathering and holding tanks that give the hatchery workers an opportunity to net and ‘strip out’ the hen salmon, and fertilise it with the milt of a male salmon and then incubate the eggs in a hatching tank, away from predators. Saw fry and bigger fish awaiting release back into the Yuba River.
Went to the historic Chinese Temple, Orville, CA. built in 1863 to serve a community of over 10,000 Chinese. A major flood in 1907 decimated the Chinese community - Most of the survivors left Oroville then. Some returning to China - others moving to other areas in the USA.
Visited Lake Oroville, visitors centre and the Oroville Dam
Overnight at Wal-Mart, Oroville, CA.
14th From Oroville to Black Butte Lake, Orland, California. Mothers day in USA. The weather was poor so there was no point on going on. Camped at Black Butte Lake, Eagle Pass site. Parked at the side of the boat ramp.
15th spent the day at Black Butte Lake, 8 miles west of Orland, CA. This was a US Army Corps of Engineers project. We spent some time fishing, boating and feeding the ducks and geese! Left for Red Bluff.
Camped ar Wal-Mart, Red Bluff, CA.
16th From Red Bluff, CA. to Douglas City, California. Spent a great day travelling through the forests. Jeans Birthday today. Took an hour out to sunbathe at lunchtime. Found a great view at tea time too. Considering the miles we travelled we seemed to have a very relaxing day. 102 miles. Overnight in Forest Service Campground (Free).
17th May From Douglas City, CA. 105 miles, to McKinleyville, California . Camped in the Rest Area on Hwy 101.
18th May From McKinleyville, CA. to the Freshwater Lagoon on the Pacific Coast Highway south of the Redwoods. Saw wild Elk today. Camping on the beach side off the highway – a designated free camping area! At Freshwater Lagoon Spit – During our stay (until 21 st) we saw Osprey and Seals. Met a Native American called Kenneth, he was surf fishing for Smelt – he gave us a bucket full! Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch!
22nd May 1995 Grahams Birthday. Spent a great day in the Redwood National Park. Calling in at the Redwood Information Centre south of Orick, CA. The redwoods here are an ancient link to the past. The oldest Coast Redwoods are around 2000 years old and around 100 metres tall. Surprisingly this large tree grows from a seed no bigger than a tomato seed!
Took one of the hiking trails which lead right to the coast. (1.7 miles) It was quite a strenuous walk but well worth the effort. At the coast we saw a heard of elk. Graham, spent some time panning for gold in one of the creeks. Only fools gold panned out!
On to Klamath, California. Overnight at Klamath River RV Park, CtoC. A great view of the Klamath River.
23rd From Klamath, CA. only 37 miles today through the northern section of the Redwoods NP. to Crescent City, California. Passed by a couple of huge carvings outside 'Trees of Mystery' a 'tourist trap' on Hwy 101. Just north of the Redwood National Park. Arriving in Crescent City, CA. at lunch time. Saw a British registered motor home on Wal-Mart car park – knocked to chat – left them about 6.20pm! A nice couple from London who had shipped their motor home over and were taking it back! Went off to find a laundrette and returned to Wal-Mart to sleep later.
24th A monster day driving 311 miles. From Crescent City, CA. to Grants Pass, Oregon. via Crater Lake. Through Medford, Oregon. and up to Crater Lake, Oregon. The snow was horrendous but the view was worth the trip. Regrettable we arrived after the visitors centre had closed. On the way back down we stopped a fish hatchery for tea. The salmon were collecting at the fish ladder in their thousands. It was a spectacular site to behold. Overnighted in Grants Pass, OR.
25th Back into California for a couple of days crabbing in Crescent City, CA. The Citizens Dock allows non license holders to fish for crabs. As the harbour was full of seals it was unlikely that there would be any decent fish, so having fished a good commercial crab pot out of the briney, Graham spent some time crabbing. Caught eight good sized dungeness crabs which we eat over the next couple of days. Stayed another day. Overnighting at Wal-Mart. How many ways can you cook a crab? Day 1 Straight out of the shell! Day 2 – battered! Yummy. Day 3 ‘Fish pie’ with eggs, peas and potato topping. Wow!
27th May 1995 Goodbye California, USA. Off to Oregon .
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