Snowbirding 101

California, here we come!

Taking the scenic route to California

Our route was all mapped out—down Highway 101 to Highway 20, then across the hills to Highway I-5 at Williams, California. Our first mistake was listening to the gal who ran a coffee shop we stopped at.

“Oh, don’t do that,” she said, “that’s a terrible road across. Take 299 across to Redding—it’s a lot better road—four lanes most of the way.”

We’re still not sure if she was confused, “on” something, or thought it would be a good joke to play on these outsiders.

We did take Highway 299 and what a road! Not the four-lane she assured us it would be (there was the occasional third passing lane): it twisted in and out and up and down through the redwood trees; around the side of one mountain with a hairpin turn at the bottom that took us over to the next set of mountains only to wind up and down though the redwoods over there and onto the next. IF it hadn’t been so rainy AND if we hadn’t been in an RV AND if we had a sense of where we were going, I think it would have been a great trip BUT it was raining, we were in the motorhome AND we didn’t have a clue where we were.

“Oh, I can make it in 2 ½ hours in the car,” she told us. Well, those two hours took us around five!

We finally came out at Highway I-5 near Redding. Even though interstate highways are not my favourite roads to travel on, there was a sense of relief finding that BIG straight road even though all the trucks and cars went whizzing by. We followed I-5 until we met up with California 99. The latter road is still a major highway but we got through Sacramento and were able to see more of the country than the sides and rear lights of all those semi-trailers.

Loved the coast: didn’t like the never-ending rain. Now we were out of the rains and into a completely different terrain.

The hills (mountains) and fields were the muted colours of fall that gave notice that winter was not far away. As we entered the San Joaquin Valley, the roads wandered along fields, orchards and vineyards and through rolling, rounded hills dotted with clusters of green trees and shrubs—mostly oak, I found out later. There always seemed to be a mist hanging over everything. At first I thought it was fog, but then I realized it wasn’t mist at all but a haze generated by city smog from Fresno and as far away as Los Angeles that sat over the entire valley.

Once we hit the Park of the Sierras (an Escapees Club RV park just south of Yosemite National Park, about 30 miles north of Fresno), we were ready to take a travel break. We had some problems with the brake system between the motorhome and the car and arrived with a dead car battery, so it was nice to find folks who were willing to help with it.

What a great place to spend a few days. Unlike most RV parks that seem to resemble parking lots with the occasional tree, POS (as they call it) is built on the side of a hill and the sites are scattered in and amongst the trees. The roads wind and climb throughout the whole area and each site has its own unique landscaped alcove.

The oak trees around here are a lot different from the ones we saw in Alabama (the live oak) but still fascinating. They dot the fields and clump in bunches throughout the hills.

My research into the oak trees of California actually describes them as tree oak and shrub oak. They talk about nine different trees, 12 different shrub species and various types of hybrids.

They are very prolific—given the right climate—and produce acorns that the native peoples used for food. They would make a kind of a mush and use it in breads and puddings and such. It is said to be very nutritious and is cited as being the foundation for a long healthy life.

We only spent a week or so in this part of California and leaving wasn’t easy either. We took the BIG highway heading towards Arizona, only to be swallowed up in a major traffic jam.

We discovered the traffic backup was because they were trying to clear up the wreckage of a motorhome. By the time we got there, there was nothing but a pile of burned, twisted metal and smouldering ashes. Just another reminder that we can’t be too cautious (It bothers me that there is no escape window in the bedroom and there should be!).

We were heading to where California, Nevada and Arizona meet—to the desert—and we didn’t stop until we got there.

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