American Adventures: The homeward run....

Published: June 7th 2018
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Redwood ForestsRedwood ForestsRedwood Forests

A Roosevelt elk standing proudly away from the herd.
" All the pathos and irony of leaving one's youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time." Paul Fussell

Routing: Brookings, Oregon- Redwoods State Park- Mendocino- Petaluma and Newark CA (Home of Cruise America). Distance : 694 km. Total trip distance: 4994 km.

Towards the end of any journey there is a tendency to slip into a "Shucks, this is all done and dusted" mode and some of the gloss of the trip loses it's shine. But somehow, with our time running out, it was almost a gift that we set off from Harris Beach State Park in the knowledge that the famous Redwood forests were just down the road. That little bit of natural wonder alone was enough to keep us on the edge of our seats. Fortunately for the good folk of California, the audaciously beautiful landscapes of the Oregon coast have been copied and pasted onto their northern coast so any thought of an uneventful rumble back to San Francisco quickly vapourised. The spectacular coastal tapestry of

Antique/junk shop patiently waiting for a collector to drift in.
wide, cliff lined bays with strange lava rock islands just offshore popped up around every corner on a crisp and clear summer morning. Blissful! HW 101 hugged the coastline and about an hour into the journey we drifted into a town (population 357) by name of Orick which looked as though it was breathing it's last. Really eerie with a two storey motel that looked as if it hadn't had a brave guest stay there for a long, long time. It's one claim to some sort of fame was the weirdest antique shop imaginable. That's the wonder of travel. It's not always the big, glitzy places that hold intrigue. Our travel "Bible" gave notice of an elk viewing area up ahead and true to form there they were, quietly grazing in an open field in the first section of redwood forest we entered. Seeing these Roosevelt elk was something special as they were the first wild mammals in any sort of number encountered on our entire trip. Bear in mind that up to this point we had covered about 4400 kms and our sightings of animals in the wild were pretty close to zero. Apart from a few squashed squirrels

Sue trying to wrap her arms around the Immortal Tree.
and other little mammals which had succumbed to roadkill, there is an amazing lack of wild animals to be seen. To add to this extraordinary lack of things "wild", there was never a need on the entire trip to stop and clean the windscreen of little bugs and things. Bears, coyotes, wolves, elk and so forth.....where are they or has their habitat been nuked to the extent that they seek refuge in the last remaining deep corners of the country?

On the subject of things "American", a few more observations:

Strip Malls

They are everywhere. Just as you read about them in novels or see in the movies. There are not many of these so called small "cities" that don't have a spanking new strip mall gracing the highway on entry or exit. Generally single story buildings in a long, continuous row with a huge parking lot right out front. Branded retail stores strut their stuff and the car parks are chock a block full. Got used to them and our favourite replenishing store, Walmart, was conveniently everywhere.

Natural disasters

Most of us have heard of the "Ring of Fire", a major basin in the
Ancient Redwood Forest CampAncient Redwood Forest CampAncient Redwood Forest Camp

Blissful setting but once again outmuscled by size of motorhomes alongside.
Pacific Ocean which is associated with lots of volcanic rumbles and grumbles and is host to about 75%!o(MISSING)f the World's active volcanoes. So, it is not surprising to see signs all along the seafront areas on the Pacific Coast providing exit routes in the event of a tsunami. The last Tsunami to hit the Pacific Coast was way back in 1964 and it caused a huge amount of damage. And then as recently as 1980, Mount St Helens popped in Washington State killing about 57 people. Apart from these recent natural disasters and the ever present threat to this coastal region, California is in the grip of a severe drought. This was very evident once moving out of Oregon. The countryside is seriously dry and parched. And then, as a gentle and timely reminder, a volcano erupted a few days ago in Guatemala.

The "doggy culture"

This dog ownership phenomenon was mentioned in an earlier blog. It was remarkable to arrive at each and every RV park or State Park and observe large numbers of pooches of all breeds and size, either sitting outside the owner's motorhome, or being led on a leash to the doggy enclosure
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The last evening and last campfire. Easy to reminisce in this setting.
for some light exercise. Generally on these little walks, these well trained dogs would do their timely little dump and the owner had all the skills needed to scoop up for disposal in a special doggy dump bin. Most times there was more than a single dog sharing the motorhome and what was a little disturbing was to observe how much time they were actually cooped inside up rather than doing what dogs do best...running outside. The other noticeable trait was that the dogs did not bark much. Thank heavens!

After passing through Eureka, HW 101 took an inland turn and then to cap another splendid day on the road, we entered the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The redwood is no ordinary tree! They are the largest and tallest trees on the planet and can live for thousands of years. Standing beneath a redwood and looking upwards is a remarkable experience not forgetting they can reach heights of 300 feet. Our lodgings for the night of this leg of the journey was the Ancient Redwood RV Park located right on the Avenue of Giants, a spectacular roadway threading it's way through these magnificent trees. At the entrance to this
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Back to spectacular ocean scenery
RV Park was a lone redwood entitled the "Immortal Tree." It has survived the loggers axe (deep axe marks still evident), a major flood in 1964 (the flood water level is marked about 15 feet high on the trunk) and it has survived lightning and fire. It stands 258 feet high with a base diameter of 14.5 feet. A youngster with an estimated age of about 1000 years. This was a two night stop which enabled a 3 km walk through a pristine section of the redwood forest. Very special with a deafening silence and wonderful bursts of sunlight penetrating the deeply shaded areas. Our location was alongside the Eel River which is impressive and has an annual salmon run. Tempting to pull out the fly rod but the thought of purchasing a one day licence dulled the temptation. Another time, another trip?

We were very fortunate on the next morning to have an early morning, 30 km drive through the remainder of the Avenue of Giants. Superb! The plan was to have one last meander on the Californian Coast and GPS Sue, on cue, gave instructions to leave HW 101 and head down HW 1 which turned out
Petaluma CampPetaluma CampPetaluma Camp

A real bonus. A large group of vintage car enthusiasts in camp with their "toys."
to be a steep, windy road through forests and steep mountain valleys before we reached the coast at Westport. Having banged on about how few mammals one sees, we had a wonderful sighting of a female deer and it's youngster just as we left the forest. Proof that there is a wild beating heart out there. On another crystal clear and windy day, the ocean views were really good and after passing through Fort Bragg, we reached our last coastal town at Mendocino which is renowned for it's art galleries and the arty types who have settled there. What was interesting were the number of signs on the beachfront alerting people to the consequences of abalone poaching. The insatiable appetite of mostly Asian nations for these things seems unending. Having bade farewell for the last time to the dramatic and splendid Pacific Coast, the routing shifted inland to the Anderson River Valley where we had our last sighting of redwoods. This valley is renowned for wine production and we were soon in the thick of wide spread vineyards. The countryside was parched and very similar to the Western Cape vineyard areas in the middle of their hot summers.

Late afternoon we arrived at a KOA RV park near Petaluma for a two night stop. GPS Sue demanded compensatory "retail therapy" time in this city where she had diligently spotted a very large Factory Outlet complex. Once again this proved to be a sprawling complex of top brand stores all offering high quality clobber at hugely discounted pricing. Having inflicted some proper damage to the FNB Credit Card, we then drove across to Sonoma for an enjoyable lunch in this appealing town in the middle of the vineyards. Not quite as impressive as Stellenbosch, it was nevertheless a fitting spot to sit, chat and reflect on our wonderful trip.

All that was then needed was to negotiate San Francisco's hectic freeways one last time to hand back the Ford Bronco to Cruise America. We met up there with Brett and Lorraine Wilson Jones whom we had last seen about two weeks back in the Crater Lake area. Lots of catch up conversation with them before we said "Goodbye" one more time. We were headed for New York and SA whilst they planned to spend a couple of days in Washington before heading home.

All that remains is to try and put a final spin on our American Adventure. Firstly, we were very privileged to have been able to do a trip on this scale and to share it at different times with very special friends of ours, the Wilson Jones's and Craigs. We leave America with wonderful memories which will linger for a long, long time and definitely stimulate a need to undertake another RV trip somewhere, someday....soon! America is a country of incredible sophistication on the one hand and yet we witnessed, on the other hand, the real heart beat of the small towns in back country which seem stuck in a time warp all of their own. The scenery, wherever we travelled was striking, and there were numerous places where it took one's breath away as it was that dramatic. We found the American people easy to interact with and they were always willing to assist and offer advice. Their service ethic is exceptional. What a blast and "Thank You, America."

I did undertake to share costs for the trip as it may prove useful for anyone thinking of doing a something similar.

Food Ave $38.00/day (no bully beef and baked beans on the menu at any stage)

Fuel Ave $40.00/day (the mighty Ford Bronco was a thirsty beast!)

Accommodation Ave $42.00/day

RV Hire $120/day (includes unlimited kms and full insurance cover. I would highly recommend Cruise America)

Converted at R12.00/US$ (this works out at R2880/day. The cost of a modest hotel room in US cities alone was just over R2000/night)

Final word....thank you to those who have read some of the stuff in these blogs. I have tried to make them interesting and informative and thoroughly enjoyed writing the story, which will be converted to a coffee table book to ensure the memories don't fade.


7th June 2018

Thanks for the shared memories
Thank you Tim for sharing what has been a fascinating trip. Time seems to have flown by but your memories will stay etched in your mind. Safe trip home.
8th June 2018

San Francisco
Thanks Barrie. Been wonderful & we will be in Aussie April next year for Charlie's son's wedding in Perth mid April. Then another RV trip......
8th June 2018

Awesome blog
Hi dad been following your blogs and sounds like your trip was unforgettable...looking forward to seeing lots of pics when you are back xx
8th June 2018

Thanks my Sebs. Really looking fwd to getting home and seeing all of you. Safe travels.
8th June 2018

Traveling brought vibrantly alive!
Tim! Sue! What a truly magnificent trip you have just enjoyed. No need for ‘carpe diem’ have seized and made the most of every single moment! Your descriptions, Tim, have been as stunning as.....the scenery, ‘cities, people, highways and byways, sundowners, magic moments, bike rides, foot slogs, quaint hamlets, sophisticated cities, the homeless, the well heeled, in the mountains, on the coast, and more, much more! Thank you so much for sharing such an enchanting adventure. You even let us in on the secret of who filled the petrol tank with diesel 😀😀. You must be sad to be leaving, as much as we are sad to end the journey with you. But you will no doubt be delighted to see your babies, big and small...including Baby Bump! And St Francis is beckoning....! Can’t wait to see the coffee table version of these fabulous blogs!
8th June 2018

Thanks Megs. It has been great fun. Sitting at JFK & boarding in 2 hrs...long trip home.

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