Tag Archives: Fillmore

A Day in the Life of a Work-Camper

The Santa Ana winds torn down a huge oak that landed on the camp office (yellow motorhome).

Milepost 5-2-14   Fillmore, California

It’s not every day that we get out the chainsaws along with the heavy equipment to remove a huge fallen oak tree.  Last night the vicious Santa Ana winds knocked down one of the charter trees here at Kenney Grove Park, and it partially damaged the camp office, a vintage motorhome.  We used the backhoe and a chain to pull sections of the tree off the old camper.

The golf cart is loaded with tools for the tasks.
The golf cart is loaded with tools for the tasks.

Every work-camp location has its unique set of tasks that comprise the typical day.  My current jobs include tree trimming, painting, weed whacking, raking campsites, prepping for groups who are coming in and then cleaning up after they have left.  I have repaired golf carts,  sharpened chainsaws, and replaced rusty hardware.  Most days require a string of light duty tasks; it’s an unusual day when we have to clean up a massive oak tree.

Yippie!  I get to drive the 1963 GMC pickup today!
Yippie! I get to drive the 1963 GMC pickup today!

Actually, the timing of that was pretty good, since I’ll be moving on in a month and there may not be another helper right away to help Rona,  the manager who usually works alone.  Apparently, I’m the first chainsaw operator she’s had here in four years.

It’s important that the worker matches the job requirements, and it helped that I had a lifetime of experience with the chainsaw, the backhoe and antique manual-shift trucks that date back to 1957.

Kenney Grove is a regular destination for the Songmakers camping club.
Kenney Grove Park is a regular destination for the Songmakers camping club.

Since I am not a morning person, it helps me that starting time is 9:30 or 10:00 and there’s a half-hour break for lunch and then another two hours of work in the afternoon.  I’m often done by 2:30, so evenings are open for going out to dinner or meeting with friends or visiting some of the plentiful attractions along the southern California coast.

Mugu Point Beach is populated by surfers.
Mugu Point Beach is popular with surfers and has a famous 1950’s-style fish-fry diner across the road.  Go to Neptune’s Net website here to see what famous movies they are in.

Though it was the mild winter weather that drew us here from cold Michigan in the first place,  Kaye and I have enjoyed an assortment of local sites, including the Reagan Presidential Library, the Old Mission at Santa Barbara, the historical railroad museum in Fillmore, the national forest wilderness, and of course, the beautiful Pacific coast beaches that line the shore from Malibu up to Santa Barbara.  And then there are the eateries which run the full spectrum of world ethnicities from the local Mexican cuisine to — well, you name it, you’ll find it nearby.

With our kids we dined at 150-year-old Coldspring Tavern which started as a stagecoach station in the mountains above Santa Barbara.  Celebrity sightings are common here.
With our kids we dined at 150-year-old Coldspring Tavern which began as a stagecoach station in the mountain pass above Santa Barbara. Celebrity sightings are common here.

I am retired, and I like to feel like it.  I wasn’t sure that work-camping would actually work for me, because I haven’t worked a full day in several years.  But the placement here at Kenney Grove Park has been just about perfect for me.  I usually work for 3 or 4 half-days, and then get a couple of days off before reporting in again.  The campsite that I am working for is beautiful and secluded with a canopy and storage shed on site.  This was probably the best first-time work-camp assignment that I could have hoped for and I might try it again.  But I am also an adventurer, so I will likely not return to the same location for a five month stint again.

Have at it, friends!  The west coast awaits you!  The link to the Workers on Wheels listing for Kenney Grove is here.

The 1976 Dodge motorhome emerged from under the tree with only one broken window.
The 1976 Dodge motorhome emerged from under the fallen tree with only one broken window.
Kenney Grove Park manager, Rona, keeps everything running like clockwork.
Kenney Grove Park manager, Rona, keeps everything running like clockwork.

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.

 

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.

We Came, We Saw, We Camped.

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.

The mountains loom over the town in this shot taken a half mile from our park.
The mountains loom over the town in this shot taken a half mile from our park.

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.

The orange groves are loaded with the current crop of fruit near our camp.
The orange groves are loaded with the current crop of fruit near our camp.
The central park in Fillmore is lined with palm trees and backed by old railroad trains.
The central park in Fillmore is lined with palm trees and backed by old railroad trains.
Fillmore boast a large railroad museum with train cars and locomotives from several eras.
Fillmore boasts a large railroad museum with train cars and locomotives from several eras.

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.

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.

Kenney Grove Park is a scenic garden of eucalyptus, sycamore, palm, pine, oak and cactus.

Kenney Grove is a sprawling park with a nestled in the valley below 4,000-foot peaks.
Kenney Grove is a sprawling park nestled in the valley below 4,000-foot peaks.

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.

There are three beautiful foot bridges spanning a dry creek bed in the park.
My first task here is to re-coat this foot bridge, one of three spanning a dry creek bed in the park.
One of a half-dozen kinds, the prickly pear cactus grows 14-feet tall here.

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.

The bike trail along the dry Sespe Creek bed reveals the mountains behind the camp.
The bike trail along the dry Sespe Creek bed reveals the mountains behind the camp.

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.