California Road Trip 2016, the first 5 days

January 15th, and we are off!!!

Way back when we were plotting our travelling for 2016, we had planned to go to California and perhaps the Baja in March. I had even booked a 5 week stretch off to make for a nice leisurely tour. However, life has a way of throwing in the occasional plot twist.

In this case, it took the form of Nancy getting a job in Tokyo and having to move there exactly when I had booked the vacation for the road trip. Since we really wanted to go to Tokyo and help Nancy settle in, we elected to change our plans, cancel the road trip and go to Japan instead.

Then one of us asked, “Why don’t we go in January?”, and thus the idea formed. This isn’t a long term thing though, Nancy only got the job in mid-December, and the decision to go to California was probably made between Christmas and New Years, then there was a boatload of stuff to do on the trailer to get it ready to go, stuff we had planned to do in the January and February, not in the first week of January.

So what, exactly, did we do to the trillium you ask?
Installed a new power system including a 175W solar panel, charge controller and new battery bank. Repaired and installed an on-demand propane fired water heater. Added a railing to the bottom bunk for Ru-chan
Installed a USB charger port.
Mounted a container on the rear bumper to hold misc. crap.

Most of the work was on item #1, the solar panel takes up about a third of the roof area of the trillium, but should enable us to stay off grid indefinitely.

Oh yes, and then there were the maintenance items for the Xterra (which had to be done anyways but got done in about 2 weeks): new tires
new exhaust system
new brakes
new head light controller module (yes, that is a real thing, I asked) regular maintenance
new key and fob

So, after a period of frantic preparation, on January 14th, we were pretty sure we’d be able to make it, with a bit more of a push. Of course, that meant we didn’t go to bed until 2am. Up at at it again right at 8am on the 15th we got it all together in time to make the 3pm ferry and get Miwa to her Gymnastics session. A bit of running around in CR got us the last few things we’d need to make the rig function as we planned. We picked up Miwa at 6, and were rolling by 6:15, headed for the 8:15 Duke Point to Tsawassen sailing. We made it with minutes to spare, clearing the ticket booth at 8:05.

The girls have been super excited about going on a trip like the one we did last year, Miwa remembers the beach and the monarch butterflies, and of course the pool and playground in Pismo. Ru-chan has been asking, ad-naseum, “When we going to Calipornia?” Not sure why she pronounces California that way, but it makes us smile and laugh, so she’ll probably keep it up for a while.

The plan for this year is to do the majority of the driving at night. Our experience last year was that we spent most of our time at the destinations in the dark and asleep, so this year we are going to try spending the day in one location, having dinner and then hitting the road. The theory is that the girls will fall asleep, and we will drive in peace until midnight-ish, pullover at a rest stop, and find our final destination first thing in the morning. We will see where theory and reality diverge…

January 16th

Reality departed from plan almost immediately when we were unable to contact our friends in Seattle to stop for a visit. Rather than dropping in un-announced, we elected to just, well, give’er. So, told the girls we wouldn’t be stopping, and it turned out Miwa had really been looking forward to visiting, but she took it like a trooper and cried silently, her tears rolling down her cheeks in a rather artful manner.

We stopped at a state park for lunch, it was a long drive off of the freeway, and we were ambushed by a $10 day use fee once we got there, but by then we were committed, so we sucked it up and paid. The park was very picturesque, as evidenced by the multiple photo shoots going on, some involving scantily clad young women, another appeared to be in a wedding dress.

We made it to a rest stop just north of Eugene, Oregon and stopped for dinner. We used our special rice cooking pot (Hango) for the first time with great success and had a nice light dinner. During dinner, we decided to change our route plan and deke out to the coast so we could enjoy a drive along the ocean rather than risking potentially snowy passes on the I5. This added about 2.5 hours to our total driving time, and given the torrential rain and dearth of rest areas on the 101, may not have been worthwhile. However, for all we know, the passes could have been far worse, and we would not have had the few hours on the beach that we got. Also, the universe seemed bound and determined that we make it to Pismo on schedule, so it may not have mattered what choices we made anyway.

We were aiming for a wayside just south of Ophir, but decided that enough was enough about 2 hours before we were supposed to get there. We tried several times to stop at waysides, but each time were defeated by “No Overnight Parking” signs. So we carried on and finally got to the Wayside around 12:30.

There were tremendous gusts of wind during the night that kept Ben awake but soothed Jill into a peaceful slumber. Ben figures he must have been worried about dragging anchor.

January 17

The morning brought grey skies and drizzle, but it was nice and warm, so we donned our rain jackets over our T-shirts and played on the sandy beach for an hour or so. We finally got underway around 10:30, and drove along the mist shrouded coast until we stopped for lunch at a funky little diner in Crescent City. Jill elected to order nothing for herself and just dine on the girls’ leftovers, and boy, was that ever the right call! The portions were huge!

We powered on with only the occasional stop for pee and petrol, a slightly longer break for dinner at a dark and unfortunately No-Overnight-Parking rest area just north of Willits. By that point, we were pretty beat and ready to give in. The driving conditions had been terrible all day, alternating fog and intense rain, sometimes even both at once. We thought the police were trying to flag us down to pull us over, but it tuned out they were just trying to get us to slow down so we didn’t die when we hit the flood around the corner. Then at one point a small landslide had blocked all of one lane and a bit of the other, just enough room to get through between the boulders and the guard rail. However, the girls went to sleep, and we carried on driving into the night, this time aiming for a rest area at the north end of the Golden Gate bridge.

The rain got really bad at about 10:30 PM, about 10 minutes before we got to the Golden Gate bridge. It was also about this time, as Jill tried to confirm that we could indeed park overnight at the intended rest area, that it was discovered the rest area was only for northbound traffic… To add a bit more spice to the whole adventure, there was an accident just before we got to the bridge. It really looked like someone had lost control in the rain and bounced off the cement barrier a few times. Not a great night to be on the roads!

Not wanting to pull a U-turn on the Golden Gate with Trillium in tow, and unwilling/unable to camp out in a metropolis, we ended up driving through San Fransisco and San Jose in an epic rainstorm. The 101 basically goes right through downtown San Fran, so that was kind of fun with flooded streets and 3 narrow lanes of traffic, towing the Trillium and trying to find the right road signs.

We realized at this point that but the time we made it to Pismo this time, we will have driven every inch of the 101 from Lund to Pismo, at one time or another.
We drove until we had to stop for gas just after midnight in Morgan Hill. Ben asked the gas station attendant of there was anywhere nearby that we could park for the night, and he said, “Sure, by those bushes over there, or over by the carwash.” Sweet! Easy, free parking, just what was needed.

January 18

In the morning, we pulled over to the adjacent Denny’s (The In-N-Out Burger wasn’t open at 6:30am) and had a bite to eat before hitting the road again. About an hour and a half later, Ru-Chan became absolutely insistent that she had to stop and pee. We tried to get her to wait until the next rest area, which was where we were aiming for a break any way, but she seemed ready to burst, so we pulled off on at an overpass and both Ben and Miwa emptied their bladders while Ru couldn’t even squeeze out a drop. We all ranted at her about crying wolf all the way to the next rest stop. In other words, a whole 5 minutes. Silly girl. Really though, other than the occasional bout of silliness and whining, the girls have been great. Mostly just reading, colouring or playing with Star Wars figurines (We’ve got two Ayla Secura figurines now, so they don’t fight over her anymore) the i-pods are only allowed out after dinner.

All in, we pulled into Pismo Coast RV Village just after noon. Not bad at all, really. Left Campbell River after dinner on Friday, had lunch in Pismo on Monday. 2,216 km covered in just over 2 days. Crazy, but here we are, it is warm and sunny and there are palm trees beside our trailer. Totally worth it.

January 19th

A heavy downpour began around 6 AM. No one really wanted to go out, but Ru and Ben had to go to the clubhouse for a while so Miwa and Jill could get in some home schooling. Being cooped up in the trailer was way tougher that driving all day. It was so bad that Jill simply fell asleep after lunch. Ben took the girls to the beach to let her sleep in peace.

It was a full rain gear sort of day, and the wind was blowing pretty hard on the beach, it was kind of like being sprayed with a garden hose. However, it was warm and there was no one else on the beach. Everyone was totally soaked after about an hour or so, so we trundled back to the trillium to find Jill awake and confused about where everyone had gone. Apparently she slept through the rain gear donning 30 cm from her head.

After a little while of reading and fighting, we piled into the Xterra and headed into town for food and fuel. Highlights were the Goodwill, where we picked up a kettle, and noticing that there could be a massive spread in gas prices, even just across the street. We paid $3.15, but saw prices as low as $2.95. All in, we are currently paying about the same as we would be at home even with the horrible exchange rate.

The skies cleared after the sun went down, so after the girls went to bed, we sat around the fire and had a bottle (or two) of wine. Good times!