Archive for August, 2009

Hay Fork

Posted on August 31, 2009 by 5 Comments

Jason picked up the ‘drag link’ he’d ordered in Redding and we were on our way to Hayfork, CA–site of the 2009 Trinity County Fair. This was another recommendation from our new friends Mike and Maria who were going to be there. Hayfork is a pretty small town and this is the once-a-year big deal that brings everyone out of the woodwork. We were pleasantly surprised too see an even blend of tie-dye and cowboy boots.

Jason hadn’t been to one of these since he was a kid in Texas (100% cowboy boots), and enjoyed checking out the prize-winning squash and going through all the exhibit halls where everything had a ribbon hanging on it. Best muffins. Best 4th grade poster art. Best quilt. Best hog. Best chickens with feathers in peculiar places. You name it, and the best of the county was represented here and awarded appropriately.  Good clean fun.

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The competitions were not just limited to agriculture. We got a chance to participate too. The kid’s tractor races sounded fun and Bode was game for it, so we signed him up for the four-year old heats. Despite the organizers best attempts to remind everyone that this was all just for fun, we were surrounded by parents coaching their kids on the finer details of pedal-tractor drag racing.  “No steering!”  “Pedal like you’re mad!” were being tossed around like common knowledge. The kids went in pairs, but due to a no-show, Bode had a solo heat and raced the clock. A clear disadvantage. Jason insisted there was also a slight humidity increase that deleteriously affected the track conditions. If you’re getting our drift, Bode did not turn in the fastest time. The winner clocked in at 7.7 seconds.  Bode turned in a respectable 10 flat. Of course, nobody really cared and all the kids got free ride tickets – Bode was thrilled and we went straight for the serpent coaster.

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We missed the Ugliest Dog contest and Bode was a little sad. While we were checking out the pigs, I saw a woman carrying what had to be the ugliest dog I’ve seen, and thinking that Bode would be happy to see the winner, I asked “Were you entered in the contest?” The woman holding this tiny furry beast looked confused. I tried to explain that I’m sure her dog wouldn’t have won, and I meant no offense to the dog, but I think the sentiment was lost due to Jason’s laughter from behind me. Oh well, she’s gotta know that dog isn’t pretty.

Next it was time for the pie-eating contest. Jason had threatened to enter, but after seeing the competition, he backed out. Probably a good decision.  The kid’s competition was cute – they only had to eat a thin slice.  The adults had to eat a half a pie – not as cute.  It should be noted that one of the duties of Miss Trinity County 2009 is to help out with the pie-eating contest.

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We continued down Hwy 36 toward the coast. It was lovely at first, but there were no lines on the highway and being a Friday night, there were lots of large pickups hauling boats. We stopped at a small burger joint right off the highway – Mad River, the only sign of civilization we’d seen. Jason went to check out the camp sites next to it, but returned and requested we get our dinner to go. Too many strange things going on, including the hitchhiker woman with trashbag luggage and an animal cage who was trying to bum cigarettes from Jason.

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Soon after that, a deer ran in front of the car. I noticed something hanging from it, and realized it was an arrow. I was having trouble getting the Deliverance banjo music out of my head when we finally reached Redwoods and I knew we were close to the coast. We camped at a state park, but were up and out of there early in the morning.  We later learned this stretch of road is referred to as the ‘highway of death.’  Lot’s of fatalities.  Has a nice ring to it too.

–currently headed towards Lake of the Woods and Crater lake–

No Whiskey in Whiskeytown

Posted on August 31, 2009 by 6 Comments

The day started with news that the part Jason was to pick up in Redding wasn’t available yet, so we knew we needed to stick close by. We got our usual late start and drove through the nearly 100 degree heat of the day until we rolled into Whiskeytown Lake around 4:30.

Jason showed all the patience he could in dealing with the hosts at the Oak Bottom campsite, who seemed to have no idea what sites were available.  We drove around and noticed there weren’t many sites with parking near them, so we picked a couple that did and headed back to the camp store. After much confusion and a long wait, we got a site and headed straight for the beach area of the lake. It was a nice beach and the water was warm. On our way to the campsite, Jason happened to read the rules of the campsite, which stated no sleeping in cars. We considered stealth camping (not popping the top), but figured it might be obvious if there was no tent set up. Jason said he should have trusted those feelings he had when he first dealt with the hosts and taken off.

While trying to get a refund, I asked the host if she could recommend a motel in Whiskeytown. She said no, but to stay away from California St. Um, okay onward to WHISKEYTOWN!!! We’ve been to Shasta several times, and I’ve always wanted to go to Whiskeytown.

It was clearly marked on the map, just a few miles from where we were, and a large sign posted on the highway directed us north 4 miles. All day, the thought of seeing the town whetted my thirst. I love the band *, I love the drink, and how exciting that it would be right in the middle of a beautiful Whiskeytown National Forest. I was going to find the seediest bar/restaurant that allows 4 year olds, saunter up through the swinging doors and get me a whiskey! We followed the signs, and realized that aside from a boarded up general store, there was no town. A few boat launches, and a great lake that looked fun, but no whiskey to be had.

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A little defeated, we headed back to Redding and got a cheap motel room. A warm shower and a good meal and we’re ready to try again tomorrow.

*not the best version of this song, but it does feature Beatle Bob, and I know Alison will love it ;)

This situation don’t feel so right…

– Ryan Adams, WhiskeyTown

–currently headed towards Lake of the Woods and Crater lake–

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Filed Under: California

Peace, Brother

Posted on August 28, 2009 by 13 Comments

We’ve been getting the occasional peace sign.

A ‘hang loose,’ here and there.

The old bus is a magnet for good vibes and we’re the beneficiaries. Since I’m a bit of a nerd, the idea crossed my mind today of creating some sort of heat-map of peace-signing over the US . A contour map of good-vibes from other drivers would be an interesting way to plan a road-trip, although most of us can guess where the hot-spots might be. I’ve seen worse ideas get funded.

Anyway, we’re currently in a good-vibe epicenter. Five today.

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They mostly come from other VW drivers. It’s nice when it’s a random Honda. Never a truck.

Amazingly, until today we’ve haven’t seen a single air-cooled VW bus out on the road so far – just in people’s yards. What gives?

When we finally saw one I had such bus withdrawal that I pulled over to chat. We checked out each others rides and swapped advice and stories. Daniel is a super-nice guy who believe it or not(!) is on his way to Guatemala in his bus. Of course, he’s blogging about his trip and you can check it out at

He’s just getting started as well and drove here from Florida.  His travel style is more of the young(er) solo variety.  Lots of ‘stealth camping.’  Pulling over and hiding off the road.  Bar parking lots (“officer, I just had too much to drink and decided to rest”).  Apparently, you can get a ticket for sleeping at a truck stop – it’s for commercial drivers only?  Certainly a thrifty way to travel, but his girlfriend was an early casualty – she was too “high-maintenance” and required electricity.

I used to (still do, I guess) have a theory that the amount of fun you have is proportional to the risk you take.  I see the allure of his travel style, but its just not how to travel with a four year-old kid… or keep a healthy marriage.  I’ve recently been reminded – happy wife, happy life.

Maybe more interesting were his motorcycle trips. From Florida to Oregon on a dirt bike – 80% unpaved. I don’t even know how that’s possible.  From Florida to Guatemala on a dirt bike – the inspiration for his current trip. Anyway, we’re going to keep in touch and who knows – you might see these two buses together again somewhere down the road.

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Filed Under: California

Burney Man

Posted on August 27, 2009 by 14 Comments

We headed up through Lassen National Park and pretty much cruised right through.  Bode napped the entire way, so we just kept driving.  It’s pretty, but  we weren’t in the mood for hiking or waking up a sleeping kid, so onward and upward.  He woke up in time for Subway Cave, which was a great stop for him.   He got scared as soon as the cave got really dark and wanted to go back to the car, but as soon as we left the cave he wanted to go right back in.  This time he was a brave explorer, explained how the lava tubes were formed to me, and we made it all the way through.  There was even a snake waiting for us at the end. Cool! Four is probably the right age to get introduced to spelunking.

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We drove up to Burney on a recommendation and we spent the afternoon relaxing by the lake.  Kids skipping rocks and that sort of thing.  Big impressive waterfall.  Nice place.  We’ve actually been here a few days now just taking it easy and getting caught up on some chores, blog posts and internet things (free internet at the pizza joint – a recurring theme.)  They’ve got a car wash, so it was  good time to wash off the filth we’ve accumulated since we left.  Those mountain gravel roads aren’t kind to the engine compartment of an old air-cooled bus.

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Burney is a funky little town with exactly everything you need and no more.  Mexican food. Check.  Pizza. Check.  Bowling alley. Check.  Wacky VW guy with a van up on a pole in his front yard. Check.

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If you’ve got a few days to lounge around and enjoy a place, this is a good one.  The campgrounds at Burney Falls State Park are spacious and quiet.  It’s also given me some time to finish more bus projects and take a real close look at my steering.  There’s still a fair amount of play in it – you definitely notice it on a windy road – and I’ve tracked it down to the Drag Link Arm (i think).  Fortunately for me, The Bus Boys is only 50 miles down the road in Redding, so that’s our next destination.  Note :  if you search for The Bus Boys on Google, you will not get the VW parts guys.  However, I was reminded that The BusBoys were nominated for a Grammy for the song “Cleanin’ Up The Town” from the original “Ghostbusters” film.

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Filed Under: California

No Beer for Bode

Posted on August 26, 2009 by 7 Comments

Heading up towards Lassen, we made a few wrong turns and ended up in the tiny town of Belden. Any town with a large martini glass on top of the town sign is okay by us.   Its easy to miss a turn around here, and certainly not a problem, since everything is so beautiful.  Turning around and driving along a ‘shortcut’ that was by no means shorter, we found a stream with wild blackberries growing along the side. Bode gave up on the blackberry picking quickly, so we left that for Dad. He and I trekked through the stream, climbing over the slippery rocks trying to make it to the next row of big rocks that formed a small waterfall.

We climbed up to the next little falls around the corner and I noticed a camping trailer parked above. We were in the water (thigh high on Bode) laughing and struggling when I noticed two plastic milk crates in the water. One held bottled water and the other beer. Just then, a large man in a t-shirt with the arms cut-out and holding a fly swatter stands up and yells “You stay away from those bottles.”

It was really loud by the stream, and I assumed he was joking, so I turned to my four year old and said “Okay Bode, no beer for you!” and I turned back to smile at the guy. Apparently, he wasn’t joking, and I got a look from him I’ll never forget.   I didn’t know there was a problem with beer thefts in the middle of nowhere, perpetrated by women and children.  Don’t argue with someone holding a fly swatter.

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About 8 miles into our shortcut, we hit the even tinier ‘town’ of Caribou.  It’s a PG&E town and it’s pretty much just a few houses for the folks that work at the dam just a little farther up.  From here, the road turned to gravel. We persisted and started climbing.   Once again, the bus proved totally capable as we wound around mountain roads past Butt Valley Reservoir – another nice looking camping spot.  No camping for us tonight, though.  The little resort at Child’s Meadow looked inviting and we pulled over to enjoy the evening.

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Another one of the great things about this trip and blog is that we now have the time to catch up with people we’ve lost touch with over the years.   Our quote of the day is from one of Jason’s old friends, who pretty much nailed it.

I’m not sure whether to say you guys are nuts, or to congratulate
you on continuing to evade maturity.

-Steve B.

We’ll take the congratulations.

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Filed Under: California

Railroad Days

Posted on August 25, 2009 by 10 Comments

When we began talking about this adventure, things were a little bit more organized in my mind.

The van would be running, and we would have had several overnight trips in her before we left. I’d have storage all figured out. Everything we needed would be purchased. We’d also have a better plan as to where we were going. A system, if you will.

Life has a way of getting in the way of planning things out perfectly – if we kept waiting until everything was perfect, we would still be waiting.   Jason didn’t have as much time to work on the van as he had hoped, and the lease of our house set the date we had to vacate. The house projects and getting rid of our stuff took priority from the van. The packing came the day before we left. Bode and I first rode in the van on our way out of Alameda 9 days ago. On that day, everything left in our garage was unceremoniously shoved in the van.

In this small space, it is very important that everything has a place. We realized this after the first 2 days of constant questioning “where’s this?” followed by ‘in a bag, either in the closet, under the jump seat or on top…i don’t know’. And so the van projects, tweaks and adjustments as well as the storage are getting figured out as we go. It will take some time, but we know the camera, map, and soy yogurt must always be easy to get to. I fear the day we can’t find a store selling soy yogurt (Bode loves it an he’s allergic to milk).

Saturday, we worked on Red Beard, with Jason doing some electrical stuff (horn fixed!), and me repacking. We gave Red Beard a break from the mountains and traveled through Carson City (yay Trader Joe’s) and Reno, Nevada before heading back into California and towards Lassen. We decided that if we are to camp, we need a more leisurely 3 pm roll-in.  Otherwise, its just too hectic to enjoy. That didn’t happen, but everything worked out perfectly anyway.

We drove into Portola, CA in the afternoon hoping to find a playground and campsites and were surprised to find  “Railroad Days”. Carnival rides, street fair and live music. Just what Bode needed. We ended up staying late and drove a few miles north to Lake Davis to camp really late.   In a true test of VW camping, we were able to pop the top and move all our junk to the driver’s seat without getting out of the van.

We went back to the fair on Sunday and did some ‘fishing’ thanks to the California Department of Fish and Game.  They set up a tub packed with hungry trout for the kids to try their hand at landing one.  I was surprised that the kids actually got to keep the fish.  The guys handed out backpacks to the kids and dropped the flopping fish in and they were happily on their way.  Kids walking around town with fish flopping around in their backpacks.  Gotta love it.  Portola also has a little skate park and free Wi-fi at City Hall.  All of this stuff is immediately next to each other, so we had a fun and easy morning enjoying Portola.

Next, we are heading on towards Lassen.

By the way, for those VW folks- Red Beard did great, no problems at all.

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Filed Under: California

Bode in Bodie

Posted on August 22, 2009 by 43 Comments

This morning we climbed back up from the lake and headed up over the pass. We had no idea what was in store. We chose the Sonora Pass mainly because we had never been over it before, and sort of figured there would be very little traffic. What we didn’t really appreciate was the climb. It tops out at 9624 ft and is pretty darn steep by any standards. We climbed it – slowly – but we did it. Mostly 2nd gear, and occasionally 1st. Fortunately, there wasn’t anyone behind us for the entire ascent.

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Uphill just required patience and liberal use of all four limbs. Downhill was the real challenge. The Eastern descent is STEEP. How steep? We boiled brake fluid. I used low gears and engine braking the entire way – staying off the brake pedal as much as possible. It didn’t matter. A few thousand feet down, the brakes went to the floor (fortunately, right around a flat spot).  We were crawling downhill the entire time, so engine braking and the emergency brake helped us come to a complete stop.
I hopped out and the hubcaps were scalding, smoke pouring out of the front wheels, and a quick look at the transparent brake fluid reservoir and hose behind my seat indicated rapid boiling. I had no idea this was even a possibility. I suppose some of my chemist friends can probably tell me what the boiling point of brake fluid is, but I do know this – it’s freaking hot!
We spent some time just lounging and waiting for things to cool (Bode put together a puzzle on the table). Once it was safe to touch (about 45 minutes), it was clear that we had to bleed the brakes to get any residual bubbles out, and amazingly that was pretty much it. No permanent damage. A good warm-up for The Andes, I suppose. Onward to Bodie.

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Bodie is an old ghost town located at about 8500 feet, but you first descend down to Bridgeport before climbing up into the high desert. We’d been told to visit early in the morning because of the heat, and due to the slow ascents over the mountain passes we rolled in about 2pm. Luckily, there were some clouds and rain in the distance.
I’m not sure what we were expecting, but something along the lines of  “ye old ghost town” at a cheesy amusement park was in the back of Angela’s mind. Maybe somewhere you could get your photo taken in old-fashioned clothes in front of a saloon backdrop. Not quite – it’s the real deal. It was absolutely amazing.
The many houses and buildings nestled into the mountain made up just 5% of what the town once was in it’s heyday. Still, the largest ghost town anywhere, and an amazingly impressive slice of history preserved for eternity.

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Of course, Bode loved it. He wanted to check out the firehouse and jail, and loved walking through the vacant lots spotting well cranks and wagon wheels. There was lot’s of clue-gathering (thanks to Scooby Doo) and he quizzed everyone on their theories about ghosts and what happened to the people that lived here  (according to a Ranger that looked like an old prospector, there were just no more no jobs.  The government closed the Post Office and bank and that was the end.)

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Afterwords, we headed through yet another mountain pass – I think the third of the day at a mere 8400 feet – and rolled into Markleeville,CA around 7 pm. Before setting up camp we hit Grover Hot Springs for a couple hours. A great relaxing end to a long day of criss-crossing the mountains and desert. They have two spring-fed pools that get drained and re-filled everyday: one luke-warm and a  hot one at 104 F degrees.  Both had shallow ends of 2.5 feet deep – perfect for a 4 year old.

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A great part of the day was the variety of scenery. We started the day at a lake in the forest, climbed as high as I believe I’ve ever been in any car (much less a loaded down VW), saw glaciers, desert and prairie. Each mountain pass we took had yet another amazing view completely different from the last. One had a herder and sheep, another a military training operation. All the fields of cows and horses reminded me of Texas, yet the weather was perfect. You gotta love Northern California.


One last thing – there was an article about us in many of the local Bay Area newspapers today.  Many thanks for the offers to send us the article – we’ve taken a few of you up on them!

If you aren’t in the Bay Area, you can view the article here.

If you read the article and just found us – welcome to the journey!

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