By the Salton Sea

Sky: blue.  Temperature: 23C.

As these rather pleasant weather observations at the Salton Sea convey, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie are at a latitude where the snow don’t show. But as the Salton Sea isn’t as well known as Palm Springs, CrossCountry Bob thought it might be useful to provide a few clues as to where this Sea actually is and that way everyone will be, if not on the same page, at least in the same country…

Two clues should be sufficient for most to determine the country but if not, here is Clue 3.

Stars and Stripes (they don’t like small flags in this neighbourhood)

When CrossCountry Bob last posted, Winnie was still on the ocean shore near Bodega Bay.  Here is Paintin’ Peggie hard at work, capturing a bit of that ocean mystery.

Paintin’ Peggie in her office

But it was time to move on to the next phase of the trek and Winnie, always up to a challenge, slipped south on the Interstates, skirting San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose and then a straight shot south on the I5. 

Richmond – San Rafael bridge – notice the quality air

Very cleverly (thought CrossCountry Bob), he had picked a Sunday for this traverse and the traffic was Sunday morning light.  A beautiful day except for the pollution gift of the Bay Area – a nice, thick carpet of brown from north of San Francisco all the way down past San Jose and on to Bakersfield.  And to keep that brown company there was the flat nothing of the Central Valley (but productive for agriculture – wow!).  After some hours hauling south, Winnie passed by Bakersfield and turned east up into the hills. Dusk was creeping in but the skies blued up and the scenery turned fun.  Paintin’ Peggie had her camera up and working once again.

But by then CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie had had enough driving for the day and so it was an overnighter in Tehachapi at the Flying J Truck Stop.  Perfect for a quick park and sleep after a long day of driving. 

How CrossCountry Bob felt at the end of this long day of driving

Winnie, on the other hand, settled right in next to the trucks (CrossCountry Bob thinks maybe Winnie liked hanging with the big boys for a bit).

Winnie and her new friends

All those big trucks need some additional mention here.  Was Winnie in the United States of Trucks?  There are trucks packing every interstate and highway and every one of those trucks insisted on barreling past Winnie.  Speed limit? For suckers, maybe, not truckers.  While CrossCountry Bob had to focus on keeping Winnie steady as those trucks blew by he was smiling about one thing though.  CrossCountry Bob bought oil stocks 18 months back when you couldn’t give away Alberta oil companies and now, looking around California at the flocks of trucks, CrossCountry Bob thinks that even if oil is playing the back nine it is still a long way from done (you could apply that bit of description to CrossCountry Bob as well he thinks).

One place CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie had on their “To Do in USA while BC freezes” list was Joshua Tree National Park.  This Park turned out to be a winner even if it the Joshua Tree is not a tree at all but a member of the yucca family (Yucca brevifolia to be exact) .  And the name?  The story goes that the name was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.

Believe that story or not (CrossCountry Bob buys it as it sounds like the Mormons), the Joshua tree is an impressive piece of this desert land. Just as impressive, but different, is the rocks – yes, rocks.  Check out those shapes…

Those rocks were thrust up into these lands millions of years ago and have been eroded since into unique shapes. Part of our ever changing planet which moves in cycles much, much longer than a human lifespan (something CrossCountry Bob always tries to keep in mind when he hears talk of preserving something “forever”).

Since one objective of this trip was finding warm, CrossCountry Bob needs to mention it was cold up there at night on the Joshua Tree Park plateau. Winnie’s furnace was working just fine (for you camping purists, this is an RV trip, not a camping trip. CrossCountry Bob’s camping days are past and if they weren’t he would be camping alone as Paintin’ Peggie has made more than clear that sleeping on the ground in a tent is a non-starter).

So, clear, cold nights littered with stars and a bright moon – a magical combination.  And, yes, clear nights mean cloudless days and CrossCountry Bob needs to mention that clear sky days have been on parade lately, one after the other with no end in sight.  CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie are doing no complaining about that.

Blue skies and Joshua trees

Leaving Joshua Tree National Park, Winnie heads down, down, down and then there is the Salton Sea.  Two hundred feet below sea level in a geological trough resulting from the nearby San Andreas fault.  CrossCountry Bob never usually thinks much about earthquakes but right now at this very minute with his butt on the crack (in the earth), he thinks about it a bit while enjoying the view…

Sunrise on the Salton Sea

  CrossCountry Bob could maybe give a geology lesson on how the Earth is always changing but nobody likes lessons from CrossCountry Bob (but he will say anyway that the Salton Sea in times past was a huge freshwater lake called Lake Cahuilla and way before even that the Pacific Ocean extended inland to where CrossCountry Bob is sitting right now writing this blog).  The Salton Sea (a lake, actually) was itself created by accident when the Colorado River flooded in 1905, broke through the irrigation canals and drained into the Salton depression for a couple of years. It was great for a while, and Los Angles residents holidayed here in the fifties. Now, not so much (as in zero) with high salinity, algae blooms and receding waters…

Salton Sea shoreline

Speaking of where CrossCountry Bob is sitting…the sun is shining, the wind is light, Paintin’ Peggie is painting away and the living is good.  Homemade prawn cakes for dinner, washed down with California wine (CrossCountry Bob was careful to stock up at the Costco in Victorville).  What is America if not Costco (and Walmart)?

Tomorrow is Arizona. So today, last pictures of California, mostly from the fine eye of Paintin’ Peggie.

Welcome to California (finally)

There was no avoiding it. If you keep driving south along the Oregon coast, California eventually arrives.  Did you know that the economy of California is as big as the entire Canadian economy.  CrossCountry Bob was always impressed by that;  it is enough to give a Canadian an inferiority complex…except that…who wants to live in California (sun, sand, money, glamour, big cities, polluted, homeless, crime…notice the downhill trend?).  Some Californians appear to have  noticed as there is a net outward migration the last couple of years towards states such as Texas  Seems to be part of the tide of human affairs, reaching a pinnacle (in this case, economic), and then down the other side.

Meanwhile, outward migrations aside, saying that the California coast road, Highway 1, in northern California is windy is like saying the sun shines.  Its true but it hardly tells you much.  Winnie’s steering and brakes got a workout and Paintin’ Peggie’s camera was close to overheating.  Around every corner was another winner view.

And not forgetting the redwoods which were actually before that narrow coast road began.  Every time CrossCountry Bob sees those redwoods, he is impressed.  Probably due to that little bit of a forester still hiding inside him somewhere.  Paintin’ Peggie was certainly thrilled to hug a redwood!

That tree is probably over 1,000 years old

Winnie’s first campground in California was not the ideal advertisement for California Parks.  Just the opposite maybe.  Deep in those redwoods.  Dark, dark place.  And that would be okay if you liked dark forest canopies, but in winter the maintenance guys are apparently on extended vacation (but not the fee collector – full fees of course and a price to make BC Parks blush).  Now that is a turn of events – the USA costing more than Canada.

Avenue of the Giants -a tourist winner!

But CrossCountry Bob digresses.  Where was he? Oh, yes, Winnie was heading down Highway 1 and on some of the high cliffs, CrossCountry Bob was sometimes wondering what a front tire blowout would mean (bye bye Winnie & Company?).  But, tires intact, Mendocino appeared out of the ocean mists.  A nice spot with that classic history of a logging boom town (remember those redwoods) and then a slow fade to not much of anything and, eventually, a metamorphosis into arts, crafts and tourism.  While the coast north of Mendocino/Fort Bragg (the ugly duckling of the pair) is virtually deserted in January, this changes to the south.  For one thing, CrossCountry Bob noticed an increasing frequency of BMWs and Audis, piloted by youngish drivers with premium shades.  Perhaps the Silicon Valley money oozing north? (figures CrossCountry Bob).  And my, my they do love their masks in California.  In some spots its an outdoor fashion accessory.  But no matter the passing changes in the minutiae of human affairs, the sunsets keep on coming and there was a premium one of those just outside Mendocino and that is where Winnie settled for a night to just enjoy.

Van Damme Bay south of Mendocino

After that sunset and a good sleep, Winnie continued south towards Bodega Bay but pulled in just north of there at a state campground called Wright’s Beach; the maintenance guys were still missing in action (but not the fee collector of course), but the campsite made that mostly irrelevant. You can see the campsite spot from which Cross Country Bob wrote this post (sunglasses and hat required to defend against that lovely sun).

Campsite – view from CrossCountry Bob’s camp chair

Beachfront camping is sweet for sure and the living is very fine at Wrights Beach with the clear skies and warm sun.  Not to say it was all things fine as Winnie found the campsite sand soft and inviting and she wanted to sink right in…

RV sand trap – easy in, not so easy out

  CrossCountry Bob made it out – just (if not, oh how deflating, was it a call to the American Automobile Association for a tow?).  Well, CrossCountry Bob has learned a few lessons along the way and one is to always, always trust your gut when it comes to taking a chance or not.  Then why, in this instance, did CrossCountry Bob not listen?…some things have no answer. But saving grace – using another of those few lessons learned along the way, CrossCountry Bob deployed Winnie’s leveling blocks as traction pieces and Winnie eased back out (skillful driving by CrossCountry Bob?).  Uh, no.  That’s yet another of the few lessons CrossCountry Bob learned – don’t take credit for getting yourself out of a jam you put yourself into.

Winnie’s eventual fate if CrossCountry Bob drove deeper into that sand?

And now, the last days of ocean are upon Cross Country Bob and Paintin’ Peggie.  Decisions must be made on the inland route.  But that is for later.  Paintin’ Peggie is painting outside (plein air painting they call it) and CrossCountry Bob is writing this but at the same time sneaking thoughts about the oysters that he will pan fry for dinner (after being prepped by Paintin’ Peggie using a dynamite recipe from Fannie Bay Oysters on Vancouver Island).  Gin and tonic beforehand of course.  What else did you expect?  

O Oysters, said the Carpenter,

You’ve had a pleasant run!

Shall we be trotting home again?

But answer came there none –

And this scarcely odd, because

They’d eaten every one.

from “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll

And some more photos along the way…

Still in Oregon

Blue skies, ocean mist, sandy beaches with crashing surf – that is why CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie just reached Brookings on the southern Oregon border. CrossCountry Bob figures that a fast walker could probably have reached California before Winnie. But no matter that, the glow of life shines more favourably on the experiences, not on the “we made great time”.

And one great experience is “seafooding” your way south. There was another crab shack in Bandon and Paintin’ Peggie just loved this one. Great clam chowder and even better fish tacos. The food was so good CrossCountry Bob forgot to take a picture of the place. Well, as penance, here is a shot by Paintin’ Peggie of a seahorse sculpted entirely from ocean debris collected by a local Bandon society called Washed Ashore. Nice.

With so much going on, Winnie was quite content to settle for a few days in the nearby state park, Bullard’s Beach State Park, just north of Bandon. Only, sad to say, 4 miles of sand and surf adjacent to the campground, and to the south of the beach a rocky shoreline with great view from the bluffs. Easy place to stay awhile. We did.

And met a local who was hunting agate for his daughter. This particular Bandon beach is rich with good agate he says. He was a young 85, still walking some miles every day. Retired to Bandon at the tender age of 64. CrossCountry Bob spent the next hour hunting for agates. Okay, there are things CrossCountry Bob is good at and many things he is not. When he is unsure which is which, Paintin’ Peggie is there to make things clear.

Hunting agates, 85 and the back still works just fine!

But. But. But. Back at Bullard Beach, there was something strange happening; quite unusual. CrossCountry Bob made a best guess that it just might be the Covid Virus assembling itself into frothy attack formations. See for yourself in the short video clip that CrossCountry Bob snagged at great personal risk. Are we doomed? Who can say…we each have to make our own choices.

Video of attack formations temporarily blocked…

Meanwhile, we are all here and the world is still a beautiful place. Here is a bit of photo evidence of that…

Sometimes it’s the sitting

Posting from Newport, Oregon.

Although it might be warmer further south, Newport was a pleasant 13 degrees so CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie decided that sitting a while was a grand idea; time to explore the area on the bikes, eat fresh, whole crab, and stock up with fresh shucked oysters and a beautiful ling cod filet (for dinner fried in butter if you were wondering). After two nights hanging out near Newport, the largest commercial fishing port in Oregon, Winnie wandered south a bit to Sunset Bay State Park, a nice spot for a hike along a rugged piece of Oregon coast complete with misty, salty air and occasional drizzle.  There was time for CrossCountry Bob to write and ponder about the workings of America after checking out such things as this for hire sign in Newport:

And that sign is just one of the many differences between Americans and Canadians

And, of course, CrossCountry Bob could not consider this post complete without showing y’all the carved “Trump” at the chainsaw carving emporium in the town of Umpqua.

How do you drive a Canadian crazy? Hang the “Trump” sign above your front door!

Meanwhile, far in thought from such American show and tell, Paintin’ Peggie paints or sketches and edits all the great pictures she takes (CrossCountry Bob might be the one posting the pictures but the photo credits go mostly to Paintin’ Peggie – she has that artist’s eye).

Changing channels now, America seems mostly business as usual so far.  CrossCountry Bob noticed some outdoor enthusiasts encamped in the outskirts of Portland but that was as close to downtown as Winnie would venture (not that CrossCountry Bob was arguing, having read a fair bit about the joys of “police light” downtown Portland).

Portland, Oregon – outdoor living

And to round out this Post, some photos courtesy of Paintin’ Peggie, captions by CrossCountry Bob.  Feel free to use the Comments if you are so moved.

Into America – CrossCountry Bob & Paintin’ Peggie drive south

After biding their time since the New Year, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie finally spotted a break in the Okanagan snow and wasted no time in bolting south in Winnie – the idea was a quick breakout across Washington before winter noticed CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie were missing. And it worked. A cold, bleak and snowy Washington State interior (see those pics below) gave way eventually to the Columbia River (day 1 and less snow) and then west to the Pacific Ocean at Newport, Oregon (day 2 and No. More. Snow!) What CrossCountry Bob noticed instead of snow was Americans – they were everywhere (not a suprise of course), some masked, most not and so, what to make of it all? CrossCountry Bob couldn’t tell a Biden from a Trump, nor a Democrat from a Republican. Well, plenty of time to figure that out. CrossCountry Bob will see if any of it makes sense to a northern nobody. No rush though, because the weather down south is warm and the living is easy.

And so it begins; a foreigner in America…