Monday, April 25, 2016

Fulltime RV'ing.....Are we Doing it Right?

The other day waking up in another Wal-Mart parking lot I turned to Barb and asked her “When we got married 30 years ago did you ever think we would be spending nights in the Wal-Mart parking lot?" She turned to me and in a serious tone responded “Yeah, I knew there was a good chance”.
Sometimes I wonder if we are doing this fulltime thing the right way. When I look at the fellow RV friends we have made in the past two years, no two of them seem follow the same guide when it comes to how they approach their campsites.
We have friends who would never consider spending the night anywhere that did not have full hook-ups let alone a Wal-Mart parking lot! Others are members of Thousand Trails jumping from park to park taking advantage of their membership. With the cost of state parks ranging anywhere from $10-$35/night and private parks usually from $35 to over $100/night, where you stay is an important financial decision. It’s not like it is for one weekend a month where $50/night is not a big deal, this is a decision that you have to make 365 days a year! Even at $25/night you are looking at an annual expense of almost $10,000. So how does one offset or mitigate this expense? Some of our friends volunteer at a park for part or all of the year and receive their site for free, this is a great option and one I am sure we will take advantage of at some point.
When we plan our travel we do so thinking about what we want to do or see, where we are going to stay is not the primary consideration. Once we plan our destination and route THEN we think about where we are going to stay. This is where Barb gets busy; our primary tools are ALLSTAYS, Ultimate Campgrounds and the blogs of other FT’ers. Our ideal situation would be to find a full hook-up site for free, but since we don’t tend to stay in an area long enough to volunteer that has never happened. Using these tools Barb searches for the best campsite that fits our itinerary. For us, we rarely stay in an RV Park that has full hook-ups instead opting for dry camping in State Parks, boondocking in remote areas and of course the occasional Wal-Mart. We spend most of our time hiking, exploring or other outdoor activities. Many days we leave the rig early and return just in time for dinner. While other days we will just spend lazing around the rig reading, working on the blog, cleaning and doing other busy work. Since we don’t take advantage of the amenities in the larger parks why spend the $35+ per night? Maybe one day we will but for now we would rather save that money for some fun activities or going out to eat!
Luckily Barb and I are on the same page when it comes to this approach. Although they can be noisier, we have found Wal-Marts, truck stops and rest areas perfectly safe. There are usually other likeminded RV’ers there that you can stay somewhat close to. Only once have we moved locations because it looked a little sketchy.
In the end we decided that there is no right way, you do what fits your lifestyle and if you are happy you must be doing it right! 
A remote boondocking site we found outside of Cave Junction in National Forest land
Which leads me to where we are this week….Leaving the coast of Northern California we headed inland to Cave Junction, Oregon where we visited Barb’s 95 year old grandmother. We spent the afternoon getting caught up on the lives of Barb’s aunts, uncles and cousins as well as looking at pictures and hearing stories of her mother and grandmother in their younger years. Although she does not get around as well as she used to, her mind is sharp as a tack and you can almost see her memories come to life as she looks across the room and tells her stories. Visiting is always a highlight of our time in this area.
Grandma Merriman
We collected another stamp in our passport book while in the area!
Barb at the mouth of one of the caves
 Late that afternoon we drove to Grants Pass where we visited Barb’s aunt and uncle. They have a beautiful home right on the Rogue River. Again we spent the afternoon getting caught up on the lives of her dad’s side of the family. Living so far away we didn’t get the opportunity to see them very often so we now try to stop by whenever we can.
Barb with Ron and Diana
Time to get back to the coast! We pointed the truck west to Charleston, Oregon. We had been there each of our previous trips to the coast and knew of a free boondocking area that we always wanted to stay but never could with the big rig. This time we were going to do it!!!!!!
It was a disappointment to say the least. When we arrived there were signs everywhere limiting camping to 24 hours, there were transients in tents scattered throughout the area as well as 3 burned out and abandoned travel trailers. You could hardly blame the local residents for wanting to limit or eliminate the camping in this area if that is the way it was being treated!

The camper in the background was burnt. The van drove up that night and 5 guys spent the night.
Not letting this ruin our adventure we found a quiet little spot and tucked into the trees for our one night.
Our free spot on the beach for the night
The next day we moved just up the hill to Bastendorff Beach County Park campground which had off-season rates of $20/night with water and electric.
Site #34 at the county park
This is the third time we have been here in the past two years and during each of the previous trips we had gone crabbing and clamming. The seals and sea lions were so frustrating last year that we decided to forego the crabbing, but we did get out clamming twice! We got enough clams for several meals of clam strips and chowder!
A limit of Gapers
We had heard that the local marine biology center was having a fund raiser call Aw Shucks Oyster Feed. Although raw oysters are not our favorite they advertised that they were cooked a variety of ways, so we thought why not! We arrived to find out that they were being prepared; fried, sauteed  and steamed so we thought that we would try a platter of 12 sauteed and fried oysters. They could not be that bad, others were sitting around gobbling them up like crazy. So with oysters in hand we found an empty table. I dipped a fried oyster in garlic butter and started to eat it. The look on my face must have said it all because Barb said “Are you going to throw up?” I had to concentrate of swallowing it as it really did want to come up instead of going down! OMG, they were horrible! Barb said they can’t be that bad and popped one in her mouth. It was at that moment that I saw what I must have looked like a few seconds ago! Ever courageous we thought the sauteed ones must be better so we each tried one. Nope, equally as bad. By then several others had joined our table and we watch their expressions closely as they popped one after another into their mouths without even flinching. Must be an acquired taste as it certainly wasn’t for us. When no one was looking we slipped them into the trash next to our table and ran out of there! All afternoon those oysters rebelled and tried to make their way up but we were able to hold them down!
The signs looked friendly enough

We won't be eating oysters for a while.....
Our next major destination is Newport, Oregon where we are going to visit Barb’s aunt on her mother’s side. We had several days until we had to be there so we slowly made our way north along the coast spending a night in Florence and Seal Rock. We stayed at the Casino in Florence one night where we each got $10 for enrolling into their Players Club. Barb turned her $10 into $24.50 while mine was reduced to $6. A free stay and $30.50 equals a great night!
Cape Arago Lighthouse in Charleston

Umpqua River Lighthouse, Winchester Bay 

 Seal Rock RV Cove is another Passport America Park ($15/night with PA discount). It is located right along Hwy 101 with full hook-ups, free Wi-Fi/cable TV and great views of the ocean. Definitely worth stopping by if you are passing through.
A shot of the coast with Heceta Head Lighthouse in the background
Heceta Head Lighthouse Florence
Sea Lions catching a wave!
Devil's Churn
Our site at Seal Rock
We will leave you with a few shots from our walk along the beach at Seal Rock...... tomorrow we are off to Newport!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Mighty Redwoods

Some of the largest Redwoods in Northern California are believed to be:
a)      200 years old
b)      500 years old
c)      1,000 years old
d)     1,500 years old
For those of you who have been here before I am sure you got the answer right away.
The Redwood National Park has been on our “full-timing bucket list” for a couple years now. But each time we have been in this area we have been in the big rig and many of the roads and state parks in this area are just not big rig friendly. This time, in the smaller pickup camper we were going to make it!
But, I am getting ahead of myself. After leaving Shasta Lake last week we drove a whole 10 miles south to Redding, CA where we were going to be spending the next few days visiting Barb’s stepmother (Paula), sister-in-law (Kelly) and nieces (Heather and Holly). Barb spent much of her childhood in Redding and each time we come back to this area it is like somewhat of a homecoming.
The first night we went to dinner at Olive Garden with Paula and spent the night in her driveway. The next day we drove about 20 miles west to Whiskeytown Lake an area Barb frequented when she was younger. Several of the campgrounds and the beach were not open yet but we found Brandy Creek campground open just above one of the closed beaches. This campground looks like a picnic area that was converted into an RV area. There are no hookups but they did have a dump station and water. At $11/night (off season) it was worth the price.
Not bad for $11 a night
We had visitors both of the days that we stayed, the first day Kelly, Holly/Brandon, Heather and all their kids stopped out. We spent the afternoon grilling and catching up while the kids biked and chased lizards.
Kelly, Kailey, Heather, Barb, Holly, Brandon, Darien, McKenna and Raidyn
 We took a short hike to the beach down the bluff where the kids played in the water and Daisy had a blast retrieving pinecones that we threw into the lake.
Daisy retrieving a pine cone
We wanted to get at least one hike in so the next day Barb and I hit the trail early to hike the Whiskeytown Falls trail. Round trip this hike is a little over 3 miles. I would consider this hike somewhat strenuous on the way to the falls. It was up hill most of the way. Luckily there were plenty of smaller rapids along the way and we took our time for rest breaks and pictures. We were back to the truck in about 2 1/2 hours.
There were lots of photo ops along the way


Whiskeytown Falls
Until about 3 years ago these falls were a little known secret that history had forgotten. The park constructed this trail so now everyone can enjoy their beauty.
That afternoon Paula came out and supplied a great lunch of bacon wrapped tenderloins on the grill, Popeye’s mashed potatoes, baked beans and potato salad. Thank you Paula! Soon after Kelly and Heather stopped by. We get to see all of them so infrequently it is always special when we are able to get together.

Paula and Barb
Visiting done, it was time to head to the coast! When you come to this area, you really get to visit two separate and totally different attractions; the redwoods and the coast. Both of which are blog-worthy in themselves, we spent two afternoons on the coast; walking along the beaches and exploring trails along the bluffs above the ocean.

Poor Daisy got tired on the way up this hill!
Battery Lighthouse in Crescent City
Cattle along the ocean side
 Did you get the answer of the age of the trees correct? It is hard to imagine that some of these trees are over 1,000 years old and stretch longer than a football field.

King of the trees!
 The highlight of this leg of our trip to this area was our drive to Stout Grove in Crescent City . This 10 mile stretch winds through old growth redwoods. Trailers and RV’s are not allowed on the road. The road is only wide enough for one vehicle at a time, if you run into traffic from the opposite direction you need to find a pull-off to let them pass. Personally I would not take anything larger than our truck, there were a few places it was very tight on the sides and numerous areas where we were scraping braches on top of the camper. 
This tree was growing right on top of an older tree, roots and all!

See Barb at the bottom?
 It's been a while since I posted a video, this short 2 minute video gives you an idea of what the drive it like.
After spending 2 days in the redwoods near Crescent City we moved up the coast to Smith River were we stayed on Salmon Harbor RV Park on Hwy 101. Using our Passport America discount it was $19.00 (reg. $38) for the night. They have full hook-ups, showers and laundry. We took advantage of all of these and left with all of our electronic devices totally charged!
We are right on a cove with the ocean a few hundred yards across

If you look closely at that sandbar..... can see tiny specks along the near shore.....


Tomorrow we move about 45 miles northeast to Cave Junction where we get to visit Barb's grandmother!