Saturday, January 26, 2013

RV Show ~ Quartzsite ~ Arizona

We love RVing and have traveled I-10 across California and Arizona, passing through here many times but until this day, we had not had a Quartzsite experience like the one we would have today. The expression “if you build it they will come” springs to mind and most RV’ers in this part of the country are very likely to have seen or heard about Quartzsite, Arizona.   

Desert with mountains in distance
Desert scene along I-10 in Arizona
Some RV’ers come to stay here for awhile, parking in one of the local RV parks, but there are many more who ‘boondock’ (being self- contained) out in the desert.  The desert may look like this as we drive by but there may be rv’s parked out there and the closer we get to Quartzsite, the more of them we can see. 
RV park under an interesting cloudy sky
RV park in Quartzsite, Arizona
According to Arizona Highway Patrol figures, there are between 750,000 to 1 million visitors, most of whom are RV’ers in the months of January and February, who come to Quartzsite every year.  This town, with a population of about 3500 for the rest of the year, is located on I-10 about 30 km (18 miles) from the California-Arizona border and where Highway 95 crosses over I-10. 
Photos of different RV's in the show
RV show has many on display
The purpose of our day trip was to visit the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation and RV Show to see all that which might be needed for this style of living, and then some!  There are many kinds of RV’s open for viewing at this show, considered to be “the largest gathering of RV’ers in the world”.
A large tent hosts the vendors with outdoor parking area nearby
Hundreds of vendors sell their wares in the large tent area
Many vendors have gathered here for this special show as well as other shows that happen yearly, including Quartzsite Hobby, Craft & Gem Show, which is another big draw to the area and the Quartzsite Rock & Roll Classic Car Show, click here to learn more about these shows. 
Beautiful rock on display
The beauty inside the rock at Quartzsite, AZ
Quartzsite is called the “Rock Capital of the World” and if you were to visit one of the nine major gem and mineral shows held at the nearby grounds, or many other shows held there, you will see rocks of all kinds and understand why they are so named.  Rocks also play a big role in the history of this mining town.
many masks, totem pole and carvings on display
Painted carvings and totem poles
Quartzsite, Arizona, originally called Tyson’s Well, so named after Fort Tyson, was built in 1856 and served as a safe stop for travelers.  The access to water and the location made a place for the stage line to stop, and for miners as well as freighters passing through with mining equipment and military supplies.  
many bins and other containers full of rock
Crates and more crates of rock to be seen
In 1897 a small mining boom took place and the town of Quartzsite was built about 9 miles east of Tyson’s Well.  Quartz is a mineral not found here but quartzite is, thus the name with an ‘s’, apparently misspelled by the Post Office employee, so the story goes, when applying for the town site’s new name.  This remained a mining town until the mine closed down in 1957. 
Name sign with camels to signify the history of this town
This sign welcomes into the town of  Quartzsite, Arizona
The camels are significant to this area as a result of an experimental program called the US Camel Corps.  Hi Jolly was hired by the US Army in 1857 as a camel herder for the Camel Corps that was to chart a wagon road across New Mexico and Arizona to the Colorado River.  The Camel Corps ended when the Civil War began but Hi Jolly kept his camels to continue working then eventually moved back to Quartzsite. Hi Jolly is remembered with an annual parade and a landmark in the Hi Jolly cemetery.  Learn more. 
White rocks make a 'Q' in the mountainside
A large 'Q' marks the nearby town of Quartzsite, AZ
So went one day in our life of winter RV’ing, a life enjoyed by so many of us.  A life that allows us to make impromptu plans, to join some friends at the 'adult daycare', which had great food, beverages and music and spend our day in Quartzsite with thousands of other RV’ers.   Oh, what a life!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bakersfield ~ Barstow ~ Palm Springs ~ California

Day 5 of our winter drive south and we are on the home stretch, which will take us almost 5 hours.  We will drive 348 km (216 mi) today so arrive early enough to set up in daylight. We’ll travel from Bakersfield, CA over Hwy 58 past Tehachapi and the Mojave Desert.  Once we arrive in Barstow, we will then take I-15 to San Bernadino, CA where we will then follow I-10 east to Palm Springs, California.

The rv park shows parking spots between the orange trees
Orange Grove RV Park, Bakersfield, CA
We’ve spent the night just east of Bakersfield, CA at the Orange Grove RV Park, where we have stayed and enjoyed many times.  A reservation is necessary as they fill up at this time of year with all the snowbirds heading south.  The park encourages everyone to pick some fresh oranges from their trees when they are ripe so we shall do that plus a free truck/RV washing is to be done before we leave.
The train can be seen following the loop
Tehachapi Loop railroad
The Tehachapi Pass is one of my favorite ones and the sights include the Tehachapi Loop that the Union Pacific Railroad uses to lesson the grade, the track passes over itself on this 1.17km (.73mi) spiral. This in one of the busiest single-track mainlines in the world, which explains why we usually see a train when we pass through here. This photo was taken on a previous trip, we see nothing today.
low visibility shown on the highway
Fog through the Tehachapi Pass
This is what we are really looking at today, the visibility is almost zilch!  The Tehachapi Pass is 1156 M (3793’) high and we’re in the clouds at the southern end of the Sierra Mountains. The drive might be a bit slow as we pass through here but the roads are bare. We’ve also had snow through here before but not today.
Thick fog shown in the distance
More fog across the green hills of Tehachapi Pass
The Tehachapi Pass connects the Tehachapi Mountains with the Mojave Desert, which we will travel through today.  Our temperature as we go through the Pass is just over 3C (36f) so not the weather we want to spend too much time in but it tends to be cool like this at these levels, especially at night and through the Mojave. 
The mine can be seen in the distance
Borax Boron Mine, CA
As you may imagine, there is a lot of nothing as we drive across the Mojave Desert but there is one place I find interesting by the road signs.  We pass the 20 Mule Team Road which was named after the 20 mule teams that moved borax out of Death Valley, CA many years ago.  Then we see the Borax Visitor Center sign that leads to the site a short way off the freeway.  After some research, I find that this is the largest open-pit mine and borax mine in the world. 
Dark clouds ahead travelling I-15
San Bernadino Mountains shrouded in clouds
Once we leave Barstow, Ca we are travelling on I-15, passing through Victorville, the former home of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum, now closed.  We descend down towards San Bernadino Mountains and see some very dark clouds ahead but we’ll be heading east before we get to those. 
Billboards advertise upcoming shows
Robin Thicke performs in Coachella Valley
We are now travelling east on I-10 and only a half hour from our favorite RV Park.  Upcoming shows are advertised on billboards and we spot this show with Robin Thicke that we will definitely have to see on Feb. 2, 2013.  There are several casinos with no shortage of great entertainment in the Palm Springs area.
Names of cities on overpass walls
New overpass at Palm Springs, CA
We arrive in the Coachella Valley and the temperature is 13C (56f).  Cool temps and clouds are not what we usually expect to be greeted with but we see no snow!  The new overpasses have been completed since our last visit and the sign says we’re in Palm Springs and we are only moments from the park.
Gated entrance to the RV park
Desert Shadows RV Park, CA
We have arrived at Desert Shadows RV Park, which we will be calling home for the rest of the winter. The gates open up like welcoming arms after a long 5 days of winter travels and we are very happy to be here, clouds and all. 

We have now completed a journey of 2,414 km (1500 mi) together over the past 5 days.  I usually showcase the places we visit and not the roads we travel but if you’ve enjoyed this one, I hope you will continue to follow us on our RV adventures to the places we visit.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Red Bluff ~ Bakersfield ~ California

We have a chilly 3C (36f) at 8:30am as we head south down I-5 looking at the blue sky ahead, we have sunshine!  .  Our destination is Bakersfield, CA, 604 km (375 mi), which is going to take all the daylight hours of the day to arrive at, but we have an easier drive ahead than the one we left behind so we’re set to go. Click here to see our travels through winter conditions the previous day.

Bare roads and sunshine for the drive down I-5.
Sunny skies south of Red Bluff, CA
This area south of Red Bluff is the Sacramento Valley and I-5 bypasses several small towns for many miles before we get to Sacramento.  Another route that we have used at times when travelling later in the year is Hwy 99, which visits several towns and offers slower travel with a different vista.
Reflections of mill show in rice field along highway
Rice mill in Sacramento Valley, CA
California has been growing rice since the Gold Rush days and has found the most ideal locations is all within 100 miles of the State Capital, which is Sacramento,CA.   We see several rice fields lining the highway and many locations like this one to store the rice, a big industry in California.
Waterfowl can be seen on the water
Waterfowl visit the rice fields of California
The rice farms also provide habitat, food and breeding grounds for 230 species of wildlife.  It is estimated that between 10 and 12 million waterfowl visit this area each year.  We did see several ponds covered with what we believe to be snow geese, although just too far away to see properly.  Other rice field were covered with zillions of birds.
meandering lines between ponds
Unique pattern of rice fields in California
This shows an area that we believe to be more rice fields that we cross using a very long span of bridge adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge.  This bridge crosses the Sacramento River and we also watch a jet cross over on its’ landing at the Sacramento airport.  We are now 10 miles north of the State Capital.
Quiet freeway passing through city and water tower at south end.
State Capital, Sacramento, CA
Saturday morning is a quiet traffic time for Sacramento so always a good time to pass through the city.  This next segment of I-5 has seen much needed improvements over the past few years, and it continues, making it a better drive each year.  I have taken a picture of the water tower every time we pass but this is the best one yet!
Ships moored in Channel
Stockton, California 
City of Stockton in the San Joaquin Valley on I-5 is located on the Stockton Deepwater Ship Channel  This is 75 nautical miles east of San Francisco and it is quite surprising to see the size of the ships that are moored near this inland highway.
Maggie says, "are we there yet?"
RV travelling with pets is much easier than most other forms of travel.  Maggie made her first trip to California when just a tiny puppy and definitely prefers this winter weather.  She is a great little traveler and like most pets, she is happy no matter what, as long as we are all together.
The green of the hills are rolling down I-5
Rolling hills of southern I-5
Our high temperature of the day reaches 14C (57f) and although that doesn’t sound very warm, our stops at the Rest area for lunch and fuel stops are great.  We pass miles of rolling hills continuing down I-5 and feel the nice warm sun through the windows most of the day. 

By the time we leave I-5 following Hwy 46 through Wasco and Bakersfield for the end of our travelling day, the clouds move in and darkness soon follows.  We are ready to stop for the night and get a good rest before continuing on our travels tomorrow, which we will share the as we make our way through Tehachapi and onto Palm Springs. CA.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter Driving ~ Washington ~ Oregon ~ USA

Our winter travels south continue on day two and we don’t have the snow we had on day one, nor do we have the sunshine.  We made it through the Aldergrove border crossing after a 15 minute wait shortly after 8am.  They moved traffic through fairly quickly and we were on our way to meet friends in Lynden, WA who would then travel with us, pulling their trailer down I-5, too.

Heavy fog and slow traffic on I-5 at Everett, WA
I-5 freeway Everett, WA

A lot more traffic on the roads in Washington and the fog certainly is thick this morning but most are driving according to the weather and the roads are not winter roads. There is a lot of freeway driving on this part of the trip south but most of our time is not done during rush hour as we usually try to time the trip so we can avoid that.
Trees silloettes reflected on the lake
Roadside lake near Kelso, WA
This day was fairly uneventful and with the fog following us most of the day, the scenery was almost non-existent so it wasn’t a big photo day but there were some scenes that looked pretty enough for a photo.  This was taken looking into the sun that was just behind these clouds as we neared Portland, Ore.,  making it look like a black and white photo.
A patch of fog sits in a valley in the distance
Fog south of Cottage Grove, Ore
We spent that night in Cottage Grove, Oregon at the RV park adjacent to the Village Green Motel after a good long drive and enjoyed a great dinner in their restaurant.  They are just a short distance off I-5 so make it easy to get back on in the morning to begin day 3. 
Lots of fog but the roads are good for travelling.
Good winter roads at Cottage Grove, Ore

I love the scenery south of Cottage Grove and am disappointed we won’t be able to see more but the fog offers some very neat sights so the camera is busy anyway.  The roads are damp but the temperature isn’t freezing so they are good travelling roads today. 
Visibility is limited but the fog on the hills is great.
Fog on the hills of Oregon

Our destination is Red Bluff, CA tonight so we have a lot of miles to cover that include some mountain passes. We have left early so that we can arrive before dark, which arrives early during these winter months.

A man is walking his bike up this hill
Lone cyclist on I-5 in Oregon winter
We want to reach our final destination on the fifth day of travel but allow for more time in case road conditions dictate that. We’ve never been held up due to snowy conditions but some of our friends have had to deal with that.  One just never knows what lies ahead at this time of the year so be prepared to stay awhile.  This lone bicycle rider is one brave soul to be riding, or walking this part of the country at this time of year!
We cannot see very far offside the road, though.
Good visibility in spite of the fog 
Grant’s Pass is just west of Medford, Oregon and is one that concerns all winter drivers as it does get winter conditions and has been known to require chains in order to travel through these mountains.  Other than the fog and the threat of snow, we’ve not had any weather problems yet.
A nice winter picture, fine snow covers the trees and ground.
Snow covers the roadside hills and trees
The Siskiyou Range of mountains travel along the southern Oregon and northern California border and we don’t usually see snow on our trip south but this year is totally different.  We are seeing fresh snow on the trees that border the highway and we’re driving through clouds and we expect more snow.  We are climbing higher.
Sign shows the elevation and the winter roads
Highest point on highway  I-5
The climb has taken us to the highest point on I-5, which is in the Siskiyou Mountains.  1314 Metres (4,310’) is a big climb and although the outside lane isn’t a real one, the shoulder of this road is wide enough for the big trucks to travel and they do so as to not hold up the other traffic.  There usually is a sign to say if this is allowed.  Consideration in this matter is always appreciated by other motorists.
The snow and fog are not the usual sight we see here.
Welcome to California ~ foggy and snow
We’ve made it over the highest elevation and the snow hasn’t stopped but at least we were through the worst of it without having to put chains on our tires.  We did learn later that these passes had been closed a few times during the previous week, so we did time it nicely.  
Very cold and snowy rest stop
Rest Area north of Weed, CA
The thermometer in the truck for the outside temperature reads -2C (29F) so it is cold out there.  We call our friends on the two way radios we carry for these travels and make a stop in a Rest Area.  We take a break, make some lunch and walk the dogs.  These Rest Areas make it easy to get out and stretch, always a good idea every couple of hours and they offer clean restrooms, too.
these prove we're going in the right direction!
California mileage signs on I-5
We’re back on the road in no time and happy to have the mountain passes behind us.  The fog is still pretty thick but we know we only have a couple more hours to go before we stop for the night in Red Bluff, CA. 
The foggy Lake Shasta is barely visible
Lake Shasta, CA
Lake Shasta is shrouded in clouds but we’re able to see the marina, not much activity there today. We carried onto Red Bluff, CA and stayed in Durango RV park, also easy access from the freeway and enjoyed a beautiful RV park with nice amenities and nearby restaurants and shopping.

We’re not there yet so stay with us and we’ll share some more winter travels.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter Driving ~ Thompson Canyon ~ Fraser Canyon ~ BC

We love rv’ing and the time has come for these Canadian Snowbirds to head south for some sunshine.  Not that we don’t have some wonderful winter weather at home, but we also like to enjoy the winter weather that doesn’t include cold temperatures and snow.

the snowy clouds are thick and low as we drive up the hill
Climbing into the clouds at Kamloops Lake, BC
We seem to be getting more snow than we’ve had in recent Decembers so the road conditions might be an issue.  New tires were on the list of purchases this year and they were a good idea, even for local driving during the time leading up to leaving for the trip. There were many snowfalls and some mild days.  This photo has dirt on the windshield showing what kind of roads we were travelling around Kamloops.
Good winter conditions for the roads.
Winter roads near Cache Creek, BC
The challenges of winter driving can be a bit intimidating and watching the weather forecasts and road reports for a couple of weeks before departure day is typical at this time of year.  We’d enjoyed our travel through the Thompson and Fraser Canyons last year and decided we’d go the same way this year, too. 
The river comes into view again from this vantage point
The Thompson River
The roads are definitely winter conditions but have been well sanded and the temperature seems to be kind enough that we’re not seeing a lot of ice on these roads.  Most of this day of travel, the coldest temperature we noticed was -2C (28F). 
We can see three routes for transportation with the river, railway and highway.
River, Highway and Train tracks
The Thompson River meanders through the valley, CN and CP Railway tracks frame on either side of the river and Highway 1 follows along on the snow covered hillside.  Three different routes for transportation are seen here. The contrast of the snow is showing off some of the geography we may not normally notice and creates some great photos.
Snowy mountain is the backdrop from the highway across the river.
Thompson River at Spences Bridge, BC
As we pass through Spences Bridge, we follow along at river level and see fisherman throwing their line from the cold shoreline.  The Thompson River at Spences Bridge is a big fishing draw for Steelhead in the fall.  Steelhead is a rainbow trout so they migrate to saltwater from freshwater streams but return to those freshwaters to spawn. 
Several rocks in the river make whitewater rafting a summer sport here.
Whitewater in the Thompson River, BC
Fresh snow on these rocks in the river is pretty rare to see so the camera is busy catching what photos I can as we drive by.  All of these photos have been taken as we drive so I get what I can and although I am not going to get prize winning photos, they still may show the beauty of our drive.
We begin climbing out of the canyon as we approach Lytton, BC
Leaving the Thompson Canyon, BC
From here we begin to climb and can see some promising blue sky up ahead. The sun has been trying to peek through some of the clouds and makes the snow sparkle and shine.   This just makes the day even better!  Nothing like blue sky and sunshine as we head out on a great RV holiday!
We see snow covered mountains in the distance
Lillooet Range in the distance
And look at the view we get as we come around a corner and get to the crest of the hill before reaching Lytton.  The Lillooet Range Mountains are covered with snow and with the sun shining, they look spectacular.    
Roads are looking quite clear on this portion of the road
Near Hell's Gate on Fraser River in BC
This part of the trip was so pretty with all the snow laden trees lining the highway.  The sun has managed to keep the roads bare, although not quite dry but with the temperature just above the freezing mark, we are travelling on great roads. 
A view of the river from the highway on the way to Yale, BC
Highway 1 - the road leads to Yale, BC
Once we pass Lillooet, BC, we are now following the Fraser River as it meanders its’ way to the Pacific.  We pass through Yale, BC, which has some great history, as does the whole Fraser Canyon.  Click here to see more of the history of the Fraser Canyon.
The road ahead looks good but the clouds are dark with pending snow.
Dark clouds loom over Hope, BC
As we approach Hope, BC on Highway 1, we see the clouds ahead are low and make the day dark and dreary, we now know we chose the right route.  We have just enjoyed driving through the beautiful Thompson and Fraser Canyons with spectacular sights and sunshine. The roads were good winter conditions and the roads ahead are going to be just fine.

The travel time for this trip that took us into Aldergrove took 5 hours from Kamloops, so that is a bit longer than taking the Coquihalla.  We parked in our daughter's driveway for the night and left early the next morning to travel through Washington State.  I will post some photos from that drive soon.


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