At Last! Bumming Around Again…
Day 1, 2019-1-24, Thursday, home to Tulare, CA via CA99: 155 miles
I was sooo overdue to enjoy that road-bum lifestyle! After all, it had been four months since my Iowa Loop adventure when I had last bummed around the country. Our monthly adventures since then had been family get-togethers – those wonderful gatherings I so enjoy, but am expected to be responsible and dependable. But… I planned to wander the back roads and just follow them at my leisure to warm weather!
I’d like to have left home with grey skies or rain or something less than sunny and bright, but we’d had a few sunny days leading up to my departure. Still we’d had a good, wet winter overall, and I hoped it would continue. But I didn’t want to be there for it!
Presenting the freshly washed Big Blue II, ready for my annual adventure into Texas for some warmer weather.
The preparations for my Texas adventure took about three days, as usual for me in my old age. I spent about an hour each day washing the coach, checking and filling the tires and batteries as needed, etc. On the morning of Day 1 she was all ready to roll, so I idled her up to our house from the RV lot in our little senior gated community and took an hour and a half to load all the clothing, food, etc. for my trip. A bit before 1100 hours I pulled out of our community and headed south!
My first stop was just down the road a few miles in Ripon, where I picked up my dear cousin, Murle Jean, as she was heading to Madera for a week and I saved her the trouble of taking the train as she often does. She’s 85, and an old friend there who is 88, fell recently and Murle planned to go stay with her for several days to help out. Murle Jean prepares to board as I load her luggage into a basement hold for our trip together to Madera. Murle was very impressed with the comfort and the excellent view we enjoyed while cruising aboard Big Blue.
We stopped at a Mickey D’s somewhere along the drive for lunch. When we arrived in Madera, I pulled into a Home Depot parking lot near the highway and Murle’s daughter-in-law met us to drive Murle to her friend’s home. It all went well and we had a good visit as we rode together.
Before continuing south to Tulare where I planned to spend the night, I stopped at a Mobil station just off the highway in Fresno that was selling diesel for just $3.24 per, an excellent price here in high dollar Kalifornistan. I had room for just 30 gallons, but pumped it on with a smile. I had shopped online for the best price around and that was it! The place was selling Diesel 2, the good stuff, instead of the awful, low mileage bio-diesel that some low price stations sell.
Jacks down at Tulare’s Walmart store for the night. It was so good to be back on the road with no particular place to go for the next couple of weeks or so. I didn’t even know when I’d be home – life as a bum is good!
I pulled into the Tulare Walmart lot around 1530. I set up the coach for the night and was “home”. I edited photos, began this travelogue, and worked through evening chores such as shower, etc. Unfortunately, there was a Panda Express in the shopping center, very near where I parked. Despite the good diet habits I’ve developed in my old age, I could not resist, so I went online to peruse their menu. Having stood in line at Panda Express stores in the past, I decided to try ordering online. What a difference! When I walked in I walked past the line of customers waiting to be served and gave the girl at the register my name. Five minutes or so later I walked out with my order. I’ve waited in a Panda line for the last time!
Back at the coach I enjoyed my teriyaki chicken, mushroom chicken, and chow mein. It all made for a very good and satisfying dinner as I watched a few silly videos on YouTube.
After dinner, my evening was the usual aboard Big Blue. I wrote more of this blog, perused the ‘net, then after enjoying a couple cool ones, I headed to bed around 2330 and slept very, very well. It had been a long day.
Day 2, Friday, Tulare, CA to Ridgecrest, CA via CA99, CA155, CA178, CA14: 156 miles
Friday dawned cool (for Kalifornistan) but I slept unusually well in the very cozy coach. I set the thermostat in the bedroom for 64° while outside it dropped into the 30s.
Sunrise in Tulare on Day 2. Sunshine was plentiful already, but I wanted some warmth along with my sunshine.
I was rethinking the day’s destination as my planned drive to Ridgecrest was not far from Death Valley. I checked the camping facilities there, and because of the federal shut down at the time, things seemed pretty uncertain online. I opted to continue to Ridgecrest and decide then.
A few minutes before 0900 I zapped a sandwich of turkey sausage, egg white, and cheese on a croissant bun, something Jimmy Dean calls a Delight sandwich. They are quickly zapped in one minute, are pretty tasty and have just 290 calories. I added a little clementine orange and a glass of cranberry juice and called it breakfast. And it was time to hit the road!
Clementine oranges (sold as Lil’ Cuties, etc.) are a staple of my diet; I buy them weekly and eat them daily. And for the first time, I saw them on the tree! This is somewhere east of CA99 and it seemed to be the main crop for a few miles.
There was a bit of fog as I began my drive heading south on the lousy CA99 with all its patches, cracks and potholes, but it wasn’t a long drive as I headed east after a few miles. I drove CA155 over the Sierras, and it was a nicely paved road, but I had no idea what I’d be getting into!
This should have been a clue – 55 miles of nearly nothing! No gas stations, just a couple small stores in Glennville was all I saw. Another sign also advised large trucks to avoid the road. It would be an adventure!
The drive was very lovely with all the green grass and the remoteness – but this pastoral setting was to change…
The narrow, two lane highway twisted and turned incessantly as it climbed ever higher, eventually topping out at 6000 Ft. I’ve driven logging trucks on lousy mountain roads that weren’t as twisty as CA155; I could almost read my own rear license plate as I turned through some of those sharp hairpin curves! There were ice warning signs aplenty, and the road had quite a bit of sand on it in places because of the ice that would form overnight.
A lovely photo of Big Blue and the incredible landscape. I was just getting started, but didn’t know it at the time…
At one point I was stopped by a flagman as a crew was doing shoulder work and the road was down to one narrow lane. As we chatted, he advised that I be careful going down the other side because a 13% downgrade lay a few miles ahead. He stated that he understood it to be the steepest grade on any Kalifornistan state highway.
The flagman who also plowed snow and sanded the highway – check out his rig. Note the elevation on the navigator – I was at just 3971 feet, and had no idea that I had over 2000 feet yet to climb to the summit!
And the flagman added the reassuring tale of a woman driving a motorhome with her two dogs who had lost control in that area, went over the side and all three were killed. He also asked if I had an engine brake as the downgrade, while not so severe the whole way, was long and steep. Yes, I did have an engine brake and it worked very well, indeed. Soon the one car we were waiting on drove by the other way, and he waved me on. He wasn’t kidding about the steep grade – I drove downhill for miles and miles, but the brakes were not challenged a bit; the engine brake did the vast majority of the braking.
Greenhorn Summit, elevation 6102 feet – and a fun ride was guaranteed down the other side!
One advantage of taking CA155 over the Sierras as opposed to CA58 or other routes was that traffic the entire way was extremely light; I could count on my two hands the number of vehicles that I encountered over the 25 miles on each side of the summit – and no trucks except a couple of belly dump rigs working the construction area. I liked that!
Unbelievable! In my nearly 60 years of driving, including hauling logs and lumber in the mountains, I don’t recall ever seeing a 13% grade on a paved road. Interstate highways are limited to 6% with few exceptions. I loved my engine brake even more after the day’s adventure!
Here is a three minute video of the narrow, crooked CA155 as I began the long descent down the east side of the summit: