Friday, December 10, 2021

A Northern Migration

"Trouble with a long journey like this is that you end up just talking to yourself a lot, which gets terribly boring because half the time you know what you’re going to say next."

            ~ Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Brookings, Oregon:  After spending the last three winters in warm sunshine states, it feels a little backwards to be driving north at the beginning of December.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that we will be spending Christmas with family, I'm just not overly excited about returning to the wet and cold. 

It took me three driving days and 2 rest days to make the 1,174 mile drive back to Oregon.  Most of the drive was thankfully uneventful.  There wasn't a whole lot to see the first day along the I-10 from Phoenix to Palm Springs other than the slow moving post-Thanksgiving traffic and too many semi trucks pulling my trailer off course.  I call this the truck-suck, that annoying airflow phenomenon when passing trucks and buses pull our trailer in towards them.  Most of the day's drive looked like this...

A whole lot of truck-suck today

I pulled into Sam's Family Spa & Hot Water Resort in Desert Hot Springs, CA around 4pm and was assigned spot #302 way in the back overflow lot which was fairly empty.

Sam's Family Spa is a place I've been curious about because it is mentioned by so many other full-time RV families as a good place to spend the winter months.  The park has family friendly hot spring pools on site and very reasonable monthly rates.



I stayed two nights at Sam's to test out their hot springs and I'd say my initial impression of the place is mixed.  While the pools and facilities were very clean and well cared for, it was also very busy.  It seemed like a place where locals were also visiting during the day.  There were several big families running around the pools and playing music on the evening that I arrived.  It didn't appear to be a very relaxing time to visit so I stayed away the first night.  The pictures above were taken the next morning right when the pools opened.  Within a half hour they were full of families again and I cut my soaking time short after about an hour.  

The RV park itself was interesting.  Half of the property is taken up by a mobile home park and there is also a motel and cabins to rent.  Everything appeared to be older but clean.  The staff I interacted with was friendly.  Will I return to Sam's in the future to give it another chance? Maybe. 

My second day of driving was just plain long and dull.  Breaking the 3/3/3 RV driving rules, I drove the 526 miles from Desert Hot Springs up to Petaluma, CA in one day.  For those that don't know, those rules are: drive no more than 300 miles in a day, stop and stretch your legs at least every 3 hours, arrive at your destination by 3pm.  Well, I didn't do any of that.  I only made one stop for gas and lunch about halfway into the drive at Harris Ranch.


If you are making the marathon drive up I-5 in California Harris Ranch is a great place to stop for a break.  They have parking available for all sizes of rigs, a gas station, hotel, restaurant, space to walk the dogs, picnic tables, and decent BBQ made on-site for take away.

Doggy approved BBQ break

By the time I got to San Francisco North / Petaluma KOA I was pretty tired of driving.  Unfortunately, I also discovered a water leak coming from one of the main water pump lines while setting up.  I tried everything I could think of to stop the hose connection from leaking, but eventually after a spew of expletives and several bruises to my elbows trying to reach the pump in its teeny tiny holding space, I admitted defeat for the night and went to bed.

The main reason I had decided to stay in Petaluma for two nights was that I wanted to drive over and visit Napa for the first time.  This ended up being more of a drive-by than a real visit since much of my day was taken up searching around hardware stores for a solution to my water pump issue.

First a stop at Model Bakery for their famous english muffins

"The Original" 

Some Christmas gift shopping at Oxbow Market

Fun market, but I thought it would be bigger

The Château at Domaine Carneros

View from the Château

I think I got just enough of a taste of the Napa area to confirm that I need to come back and spend more time exploring in the future.  So much to see and do here.  So many fun things to eat and drink.  I'd really like to come back.

The last of my three long driving days took me 342 miles up Hwy 101, through the towering redwood trees, and back to the windswept coastlines of Oregon again.  I pulled into Harris Beach State Park just before sunset.


The ORV in Harris Beach site A21 with a peek-a-boo ocean view through the trees

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