Category Archives: Side Roads

More information and discussion about the modern gypsy life.

Where the Robert Leaves the Road – a day in the National Forest

Today  I spent some time exploring a section of Los Padres National Forest nearby.  The border is only about three miles from my current campsite near Fillmore, California, so I didn’t need to travel far.  The terrain is extreme, very mountainous and with no developed campgrounds in this section of the park.  Camping is permitted just about anywhere, but good luck finding a level spot of ground for setting up a tent or a camper.

The road into Los Padres National Forest isn't for the timid.
The drive is beautiful but can be rather intimidating.  A few feet in front of my pickup is a thousand-foot drop if you miss the hard left turn!
The road into the national forest is one lane and steep most of the way.  Not a good drive for the timid driver.
The road into the national forest is only one lane and steep most of the way with no guardrails anywhere. Not a pleasant walk-in-the-park for the timid driver.
There are a couple of fords above Sespe Creek.  Here's a Ford fording a ford.
There are a couple of fords above Sespe Creek. Here’s a Ford fording a ford.

The weather was comfortable at 68 degrees and mostly sunny – really nice for early March for me, but it’s normal here in southern California.  When you are driving or hiking to higher elevations remember this rule of thumb:  The temp drops 3-1/2 degrees for every thousand feet of elevation.  Take this into account and you’ll be ready for changes in the weather.  Also, campers and hikers are used to layering, adding or removing clothing as the day – or the exertion level – warms up or cools off.

A steep climb up a dry creek bed offered a nice spot for a picnic lunch and a rest.
A steep climb up an almost dry creek bed offered a nice spot for a picnic lunch and a rest.

Los Padres is a beautiful but challenging destination for the intrepid hiker or camper.  A bit of research will be invaluable before you leave civilization and head into the mountains.  And it’s all mountains.

There's no straight or level section of this road into the wilderness.
There’s no straight or level section of this road near the “California Condor Sanctuary”.

Oh, a footnote is in order here.  If you do a Google Maps search of this area, you’ll see a spot named the “Sespe Condor Sanctuary”.   Don’t get excited; there are no condors out here.  There used to be a few of the giant birds, due to the efforts of a few scientists and nature lovers, but their efforts proved futile.  It’s a long story.

 

Motion is a Must for Mobility

Retirement can be a killer if one doesn’t stay active.  The muscles and joints have a tendency to stiffen with age anyway, and when people quit working and retreat to the recliner, rigor mortise sets in.

Lots of folks move to retirement communities that offer aerobic exercise programs from golf courses to aquatics workouts.  For us it is too early for that, as we are in a traveling and exploring phase now.

A one-hour ride every other day makes the corpuscles jingle!
A one-hour ride every other day makes the corpuscles jingle!

Kaye and I are regular walkers, and I have a bike that takes me even farther.  And our life of adventure and travel keeps us moving even if it is just climbing into and out of the truck for restroom breaks while on the road.

Photography is a great hobby for me and keeps me on my feet – or on my back in some cases.  Yesterday I was looking for something to do and asked the waiter at the local IHOP if he knew where the skaters hang out.  He sent me to the town skate park where I shot the kids flying and flipping on their skateboards and stunt bikes.  The best vantage point for photographing this sport is down low, so I ended up sitting or lying down below the adolescent acrobats.  It can be dangerous, but a bit of risk can get the adrenaline flowing, so it’s all good.

Local trivia tidbit here:  Kaye discovered that our current town, Fillmore, was the first California town to offer skateboarding classes in its physical education program in the middle school.  Cool.

Another photographer was already on site (the 11-year-old lying on his back) shooting his friend's flying antics.
Another photographer was already on site shooting his friend’s flying antics with a smart phone when I arrived at the skate park yesterday.

My cycling regimen is on hold for a couple of weeks while the local shop repairs my bike tires;  I got two flats within 5 minutes of each other while riding the other day.  It seems that there is an almost invisible thistle that is endemic to the American west and I discovered them while exploring the local two lane blacktops that wander through the orange groves around the camp here.

Apparently it is common for towns in California to have world class skate parks.
Apparently it is common for towns in California to have world class skate parks.

What do you do to stay fit while traveling or after retiring?

View a gallery of 45 pics from my skate park shoot here.

Some of the skater dudes were kind enough to pose for a minute so I could shoot come faces.
Some of the skater dudes were kind enough to pose for a minute so I could shoot some faces.

Short Sleeves and Hairpin Turns: The New Normal

Milepost 1-22-14  Fillmore, CA

Part of the adventure of the traveling life is the new things we discover when we round the bend into a new town.  Settling in at Fillmore, California, for the next few months, we are adjusting to some amazing differences from where we came in Michigan.

Of course, the weather is the biggest change for us.  Our friends back home are dealing with sub-zero wind chills while we are perusing the local farm markets in short sleeves and flip flops.  That’s part of the reason we chose this corner of the country.

Kaye checks out the dragon fruit at a local open-air farm market.  Hard to find that one in Michigan.
Kaye checks out the dragon fruit and other oddities at a local open-air farm market.
Fillmore farm markets offer an abundance of varieties, but oranges are everywhere here.
Fillmore farm markets offer an abundance of varieties, but oranges are everywhere here.

I mentioned in an earlier post that a quick run to Walmart from here meant a rather frightening trip over the mountain ridge on switchbacks and hairpin turns.  Today I retraced part of that route to grab a couple of photos.  In Michigan our path was straight and flat.

A quick trip to Walmart requires both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times.
A quick trip to Walmart requires both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times.
Vehicles negotiate the switchbacks on county road 23 between Fillmore and Simi Valley.
Vehicles negotiate the switchbacks on county road 23 between Fillmore and Simi Valley.

On a side trip today, we headed north into Los Padres National Forest, but we didn’t get very far.  The one-lane trail was a scary climb around sharp turns and blind corners above sheer cliffs.  It sucked the courage right out of us, so we turned around – at an almost wide enough pull-off – so we could come back down.  Kaye got out of the pickup and stood off at a safe distance while I made the u-turn with the front bumper almost hanging over the edge.

My biggest question about the national forest was, "Where's the forest?"  No trees were evident.
My big question about the national forest was, “Where’s the forest?”  Few trees were evident.

We also did a bit of exploring in town today, enjoying a very delightful chat with the volunteer at the local historical museum, who informed us about the history of the town, including stories about the old swimming hole that she used to visit with friends back in the day.

Martha Gentry talks of old trains and avocados - and everything in between.
Martha Gentry talks of old trains and avocados – and everything in between.

Martha Gentry is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about Fillmore and the surrounding area and the one who told us where to find the most respectable farm markets.  She and here husband are avocado growers.

This caboose is one of a score of railroad cars and engines at the Fillmore railroad museum.
This caboose is one of a score of railroad cars and engines at the Fillmore railroad museum.

Another of the significant changes in our experience here is the presence of so much Spanish.  It seems that every vendor and clerk is bilingual, and they mix it up sometimes swapping Spanish and English a number of times in the same sentence.  We don’t hear that much in Michigan.

Every cashier is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Every cashier is fluent in both English and Spanish.

So far, we are adjusting very well to our new location.   Most of it is really not very hard to get used to.

Surfers wander home after a day on the waves near Santa Barbara.
Surfers wander home after a day on the waves near Santa Barbara.

See my 19-second video of the traffic on the mountain road here.

Red Rock Canyon, California

Milepost 2489:  Red Rock Canyon,  Cantil, CA

Having covered more than 2,400 miles in 8 days, and since we allowed 10 days for this grueling trek from Michigan to California, today we took a day off and visited a state park named for its beautiful rock formations.  Red Rock Canyon is located in the mountains at the west edge of the Mojave Desert.  It was a long-awaited treat for me.

The rig is dwarfed by the cliffs at Red Rocks Canyon.
The rig is dwarfed by the cliffs at Red Rock Canyon.  Can you spot the photographer?

All across the plains and the high plateau and through the mountains I have seen amazing landscapes that I have not been able to really appreciate because we have stayed on the highway, pulling off only for rest stops, fuel stops, and for our camp each evening.  The camera has been tucked away for the most part, only an arm’s length away but inactive.

Today that all changed.  At Red Rocks I was able to realize my hope for a close geographical encounter of the first order.  And to top it off, there was nobody else around for much of the time we spent there, so my photos were not cluttered with somebody else’s stuff.

Bob in the cliffs at Red Rocks Canyon.
Bob in the cliffs at Red Rock Canyon.  There are several hiking trails criss-crossing the area.

While I was scrambling around on the rocks with my camera, Kaye found a cute little niche in the rock (or was it a nook?) where she was able to get out her Kindle and read a book.

Kaye enjoys a relaxed read in a nook with her Kindle.
Kaye enjoys a relaxed read in a nook with her Kindle.

There are very few places where it is possible to actually set up camp this close to the cliffs, and I was really excited about it.  I had hoped to stay the night at a place like this, but this is a rustic campground, meaning no electricity, meaning no heat in the RV on a night when the temp was dropping into the 30’s.  No boondocking this time.

Late in the day we headed down to a civilized camp where we could plug in and be comfortable.  In my younger years I might have stayed in the mountains for the night, but my blood’s too thin for that now.

Here are a few photos of the sights at Red Rock Canyon.

Joshua trees are the foremost form of vegetation on the Mojave Desert.
Joshua trees are the foremost form of vegetation on the Mojave Desert.
How's this for a cool campsite?  Hmm, those Joshua trees should handle two hammocks.
How’s this for a cool campsite?  Hmm, those Joshua trees should handle two or three hammocks.
Bob on the rocks at Red Rock Canyon.
Bob on the rocks at Red Rock Canyon.

Campers can set up right at the base of the cliffs.
Babe, I think we’re alone now.
I studied geology in my college days, so I'm in my element here.
I studied geology in my college days, so I’m in my element here.