Milepost 2540: Fillmore, CA. Elev. 469 ft. 30 miles from the ocean.
We have safely arrived in our winter home at Fillmore, California, where I have signed on to a work-camp assignment for the next five months, earning a free campsite. We have been out and about exploring this old railroad town where the Mexican restaurants and markets outnumber all others combined.
It is a pleasant little town with palm-lined streets, occupying the floor of a wide and verdant valley surrounded by parched mountains – they are in their fourth year of drought here. The valley is irrigated and the orange groves are full of fruit right now, spilling windfalls into the ditches.
Upon setting up the RV, we found our sewer line too short and had to run to the store to buy another section. The nearest Walmart was over the mountain ridge in Simi Valley. Our satellite maps did not prepare us for the topography on this quick jaunt. The mountain road was a tangle of switchbacks and hairpin turns climbing steeply – and populated with double-bottom gravel trucks heading to and from the quarry. It left our nerves an equally tangled mess.
Kenney Grove Park is a scenic garden of eucalyptus, sycamore, palm, pine, oak and cactus.
I’ve already had a lengthy orientation into my job as handyman and part-time camp host. I consider it a privilege to add my effort and attention to such a picturesque slice of the world. It helps that I am missing the blizzards back home in Michigan while I work in short sleeves in southern California where it is 70 degrees and sunny every day.
This afternoon I got my bike out and took off to the explore the local bike trails, my first ride since October in Michigan. There are paved trails here, some following the old railroad grade and some following the levee along Sespe Creek (which is totally dry right now) upstream toward the condor sanctuary a few miles into the national forest to the north of us.
Tomorrow we get to head up to Santa Barbara along the coast highway to visit our kids who work and study there in the winter. I wonder what marvels await us there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kaye has been posting travel notes on her blog. Today she lists the notable features of our trip across the Mojave Desert.
I liked the little KOA we stayed at last night in Kingman, AZ, and felt refreshed and ready for yet another day of travel. That was a nice change from mostly feeling fatigued the last few days.
I wore my hiking sandals today. With socks, but still. Maybe flip-flops tomorrow?
Climbed to 7200 feet and back down a thousand or two and back up again. Several times. Yep, another ear-popping day!
Made it to California. Wahoo!!!
Inspection Center. Oops! We forgot NOT to buy fresh produce before entering California. Let’s see; what do we have? A new bag of mini-peppers and one of carrots – both unopened – as well as a banana. We wondered whether we would be allowed to bring them in. Oh wait; the guy waved us through without even asking any questions.
More vegetation than we’ve seen through a couple states – despite the horrific drought we’ve been hearing about. I like vegetation.
Drove through the Mojave Desert pretty much all day – or at least for 200 miles.
Sign says “Traffic monitored by air craft.” Must be true that it is strictly enforced in at least one section of highway because very few trucks passed us there – which is rare.
A helicopter passed us on one of the mountain roads – or at least most of a helicopter – on the back of a truck.
Holy Moses Wash. Evidently a “wash” is something like an arroyo – or dried up river. Holy Moses Wash was my favorite.
Warning sign: Bumps at bridges Really? Guess the only thing different about California and other states is that they have warning signs for the notorious rough and bumpy overpass bridges. How nice of them to let us know.
We are camped in what looks like a little “parking lot” or maybe a junk yard in the town of Mojave with a flimsy chain link fence a few feet away. On the other side of the fence is the Mojave Air and Space Port – where space shuttles land sometimes. How fun. Oh, yah, we are right by Edwards Air Force Base…
Figured out how to change our clocks. Hadn’t bothered until we reached our last time zone. Well, at least our last one for a few months.
Milepost 12-10-13 The newer RV arrived yesterday, and Kaye and I are on a mission to have it ready by our departure day, December 28th, when we hope to head for California for the winter and spring. Today we emptied the cupboards and drawers of the old RV and carried everything across the yard (through the snow) to the new rig for sorting and re-assigning places – for the stuff we want to take with us for the next phase of life. It feels like we are in a race against time.
It’s a small slice of the larger race against time: Life. And it is informed by bucket lists and lifelong dreams and a watchful eye on the clock of human life expectancy and physical well being. Can we get everything done before we are too decrepit to climb the proverbial mountain (because it’s there)? Or will we die trying? Or will we die NOT trying?
It’s been 10 years since Kaye was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, and we have been keenly aware of our mortality since that day, two days before Christmas, 2003. There’s nothing like cancer to remind a person of the shortness of human life and to cause one to formulate some quick plans about how to spend what’s left of it.
We decided to travel more, to see more of the world, but our financial situation wouldn’t accommodate us. All of our capital was in real estate, and none of it was liquid. We had to make radical changes. For us, it meant downsizing, and we are still in the process.
Finally, later this month, it looks like we will get to hit the road and wander around the country for a few years… perhaps until we can’t climb the steps of the RV anymore – let alone the proverbial mountain.
To my younger friends who haven’t yet given a thought to the future and how to make the most of it, I have some words of wisdom:
Enjoy the moment. Stop and smell the roses. Don’t wait until retirement to have adventure or to take risks (and don’t seek adventure if you don’t like to take risks; they go hand in hand).
Upsize when you need to. You need a bigger house and vehicle during the family years. And a bigger garage — for the Harley.
Downsize when you need to. For us it was after the kids had moved out and we realized our house and 30-acres were too big for two people.
Prioritize from the outset. If money is important to you, get an education. With a college degree, on the average, you’ll make 30% more over the span of your career (if you can get a job in your field). At 17 years old, a major factor in my decision to become a teacher was having summers off. No way would a 2-week vacation every year satisfy my need for extended adventure trips.
Love people more than stuff. Your friends and family will determine your quality of life more than the job you have or the stuff you own. Respect them even when they don’t seem all that respectable, hold them tight for the most part, but give them space when they need it.
Go climb a mountain. Start on your bucket list while you are still young. Believe me, it’s a big world, and there is too much to see in one lifetime, so you better get started now.
My kids set the pace.
My daughter, Wendi, has visited all 50 states and has backpacked with her husband from Mexico south through South America to Argentina. She and Scott own an adventure tour business in Alaska where they spend their summers.* My middle daughter, Angie, has lived on four continents and resided with her husband in India for two years. She planned their 10th anniversary trip to Florence, Venice and Rome without the help of the tour companies. My oldest daughter, Stacy, has visited 46 states and will get the other four in 2014 before her 40th birthday. She could write the book on lone wolf adventures for women (and she might do it), as her husband often works weekends.
They’ve been great adventuring role models for me! Maybe this post isn’t really about the race against time that is life, but more about the race to keep up with my daughters on their adventures!
Anyway, Kaye and I are taking off to assume the gypsy life for a while – and the risks and adventures that go along with it. Maybe we will meet other vagabonds along the way. Perhaps we will bump into YOU somewhere between the oceans in the next couple of years. I hope you will give us directions if we seem to be lost.
Just remember, “Not all those who wander are lost.” –J.R.R. Tolkien
What adventures are on your bucket list? In what phase of life will you make them happen? Click “Leave a Comment” at the top to tell me about it. Also, if you’re interested in life on the road, please “Follow” (in the left sidebar) to see where we end up next time.
We are in downsizing mode. Again. This time we are packing for the trip to California where we are scheduled for a 5-month work/camp stay at Kenney Grove Park in Fillmore, through the winter and spring. We get a free camp site with full hookups in exchange for some part-time handyman work and camp hosting, an opportunity that Kaye found on the Workers On Wheels website.
Then around June 1st, we head north up the coast highway on our epic journey to Alaska. We probably won’t get back to Michigan until August.
We have been down this road before, but not quite this far. It’s the weight of everything that’s the biggest consideration this time, and I do mean weight — as in pounds and ounces. We are moving into a 29-foot fifth wheel RV that will be our home for the next few years. We have to cross the continental divide several times in the next year, hauling this rig and every bit of cargo we put into it.
So, the importance of each item has to be weighed in terms of its actual usefulness. Too many heavy things will result in higher fuel consumption and engine work load.
This is where we part with our decorative knick knacks and pottery collection. The 12-piece cookware set will be left in storage and a single skillet selected. The glass cookie jars are out, the light weight plastic containers are in. The toolbox will be culled until only the most essential tools are included. My piano and organ are going into storage. I’ve already moved to on-line banking so I don’t need to carry much of an office, so even the office supplies will be reduced to a bare minimum.
This is a deeper level of downsizing than we have experienced up until now. Three years ago we started sorting and pitching so we could move out of our 10-room house and into a one-room log cabin. A lot of our stuff just went into storage sheds, even after we had yard sales and umpteen Craigslist listings to reduce our inventory.
But this is where the rubber meets the road. Actually. Because there is only so much space in the RV and only the essential necessities will pass muster.
This can be really difficult. Kaye is a book lover who had a library in the big house with hundreds of volumes. Now she will carry a dozen titles at most. Fortunately, she owns a Kindle and has it loaded with hundreds of digitized books — which are weightless.
And I am leaving my workshop locked up at home with all of my prized power tools and sawhorses; I’m only taking one toolbox, and there’s no room in it for a table saw or a chainsaw. I’m hoping we don’t have a repeat of our earlier Smokey Mountain encounter where we came around a bend in a narrow mountain road and found a tree down across the road. I had to use my small campfire axe to cut it in two so we could get through.
Well, it looks as though we will leave the Michigan log cabin around December 28th for our westward winter wanderings — which will turn into our spring and summer sojourns.
With careful packing, our load will be light enough to climb every mountain with ease. And our adventurous spirits will reach new heights as well!