So the big picture for this part of the trip is that I am basically killing time for a week until a music festival next Saturday. It’s called Dock of the Bay and it’s at Mare Island, the old Navy base across the water from Vallejo. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of months, and somewhere along the Mendocino coast I realized that easiest way to make it happen would be to not go home and come back, but rather to just stay out on the road till then. The rest just kinda fell into place.
If I’m really gonna do the festival thing, I need better drugs than my old stale pot stash, hence the pot gummy pickup in Fort Bragg. (Note: 50% CBD and 50% pot does not really do the trick for me, I wish I’d gotten stronger)
Then I remained on the coast until the insane heat died down. Which left me with five nights, Monday through Friday to kill before the show on Saturday. I know this part of the Valley, from I-5 to Shasta really well, so just mapped out five places to stay from memory that worked out to be a great trip!
Visiting all the spots I wanted to visit caused this to turn out to be a three coffee day! First stop is my other love at Katie’s, the Donut Mill! It’s run by cheerful Cambodians, and it’s most lovable feature to me is that they lay out three newspapers every day: the Eureka paper, the Wall Street Journal, and my beloved San Francisco Chronicle! Since the Niners embarrassing defeat was a 10AM game, a couple of articles on how embarrassing it was were able to make it into the Monday sports section. Which is … good I guess?
Walk back to Katie’s and make my goodbyes. Phone in a takeout order to a deli with a new name, but in exactly same place where the Hole in the Wall was. In fact it appears to be exactly the Hole in the Wall with a different name.
Then, because it’s just part of what I do in Eureka, I went to Los Bagels and got a lox ‘n bagel and my second coffee of the day. Kept one half of the open faced bagel for later.
Now it’s time to really leave good ole Eureka I guess. Up 101, through the Arcata Bay speed trap, past the exit for Freshwater Elementary School. For some reason I get a rush of nostalgia for the years they lived up here. Rylan was born here, Tyler spent three great years at this lovely school out in the country school. It was a good time in everybody’s life.
Onward, past Arcata, past Humboldt State, to the familiar right on 299 east to Redding. As I’m driving along, I note that all the National Forest campgrounds – Hayden Flats, Boise City – are gated off, so I’m a little worried Pigeon Point will be closed, but no problem. Stopped at the Strawhouse because it’s a really nice place, even though the management is a little prissy. Had my third coffee. Half caf/half decaf americano. A wimp’s drink, I know, but it’s late in the day.
WHUFU page for: Pigeon Point Campground
On a bend in the Trinity River. The main deal here is the heavily used boat ramp, I think the campground was built as an adjunct to it. Just seven sites, a couple of which are really nice.
Busy Route 299 is only 30 yards away, so when a truck passes you hear it. Fortunately, the road is not busy after dark.
Not quite as torrid as Redding, but still pretty darned hot until the sun goes down.tonight:
It's been a while! Don't drive this road nearly as often since the family left Eureka.
Still convenient and very pleasant, excepting that it is still hot as a mf-er. I'm been used to coastal 60's all week, so 93 and nary a breeze is pretty tough.
They appear to stop caring about collecting fees after the season. There's no mention of the cost, and there are no pay envelopes.
After a whole week of pleasant beach weather, I am really not ready to rejoin blazing summer heat again. But ready or not here it is! I am tidying up the van in 93º with no breeze to speak of, and I am (figuratively) dying!
Once I got to calm down and chill out, it was quite nice. A little breeze came up in the evening, which by the middle of the night was quite a stiff wind howling down the river valley. I took that to mean there was a change of weather in the offing, and indeed there was.
Fuck wildfire smoke. It’s a perfect, beautiful morning, much cooler than last night, but the outside air hurts my lungs, so I’m keeping the door shut. It’s often balmy here with few bugs, so I like to keep the door open all night, but not this time.
I am looking forward to one of my favorite stops, late breakfast at Corbett’s in Redding, so I make sure to head out with plenty of time to get there before thy close at 2. It’s still awesome. The rest of Redding still sucks. I got my diesel at the Safeway, then tried to find the rural road to Red Bluff, the memorably named Jellys Ferry Road. A little stretch of cattle country running right along the Sacramento River.
Escaping Redding took longer than I thought, and the road was rougher than I remember, so overall, it was nice, but it wore me out.
WHUFU page for: Sycamore Grove Campground
A lonely outpost of Mendocino National Forest - a little chunk of federal land next to the diversion dam. The parking lots are huge, making it seem like it was full of action back when the dam was being used create the diversionary lake. Emptying the dam a couple of decades ago was sad for the boaters of Red Bluff, but great for the salmon, who were being killed off by the salmon ladder.
This beautiful campground suffers from being too close to the town of Red Bluff. The bathroom has a security code to prevent random weirdos from moving in.tonight:
I finally caved to the system and make a reservation for this place a couple of days ago. It really wasn't so bad. It's good to be back! Still effing hot though...
At Katie’s I did what the system demands of me and made reservations for tonight and tomorrow night. I don’t like it, but it’s really not so bad. Recreation.gov works pretty well. It recognizes my Senior number (both the new one and the old one I lost! :), gives me my discount, and does NOT charge a service charge!
It’s pretty awesome really … but I still don’t like it. :)
So at Sycamore Grove I waltz in and pull right into site 1, no muss no fuss. It was fucking hot again when I pulled in, but again, once I slowed down and mellowed out it was quite nice. I budgeted enough time to take a great walk around the campground.
Slept with the door open for the first half of the night. My van is completely visible from the road, and it seems strange to have the door open when the sun comes up.
It’s really nice here in the morning. A little bit of smoke in the air, but not too bad. The apparently sketchy neighbors a few sites away were model citizens all night. The old folks right across the road are gone, so it’s an all around perfect early fall morning here at Sycamore Grove.
I lounged around and enjoyed the peace and quiet til almost 1pm, which is great, except that both the restaurants I wanted to eat at close at 2pm. Who’s responsible for the planning here?!? It all worked out though, I took the scenic route and even got a little tangled up in a construction detour and still made it in plenty of time to the Hometown Cafe in Corning. I quite liked it!
I took the slower, bumpier road to Black Butte Reservoir, just head westout of Corning to Black Butte Road.
WHUFU page for: Buckhorn Campground
Due west of Chico, about 12 miles on the west side of I-5 is Black Butte Lake. There are two ACE campgrounds. This one is the main one, with a nature preserve and large recreation area. Open all year, on a point of land jutting into the lake, quite scenic. This campground is closer to the lake.tonight:
Reservation system is weird. It said all my favorite spots were taken, but I am the only person in the campground.
Anyway, site 2 isn't as cool as sites 1 or 3, but it gives me better shade this time of day. And later if no one comes I can still hang out at the cool sites anyway! :)
As mentioned above, I reserved my spot here on Sunday, because that’s how the Army Corps insists you do it nowadays. The site clained both of my favorite spots, sites 1 and 3 were taken so I took site 2, between them on the other side of the campground loop road.
It was all a lie. When I got there, literally NO SITE was occupied! Around sunset, a kid in a subcompact parked in the far parking lot for the night, but that was it … not a single camper!
I was kind of annoyed, but it worked out quite well. I did the van reversal trick again, first parking for shade against the afternoon sun then face the poposite direction for the panoramic sunset view later in the evening. Site 2 actually gives a better angle for that than my favored sites, 1 and 3, so there you go.
I too the nice evening walk across the valley to the next hill over, then back up through the boat parking area.
I stayed as long as I could in the morning and still make it to the I-5 Diner. After my nice breakfast and wifi session I drive on to Chico. I looked at a few houses in the Avenues. Finding houses and simply driving by and looking at them sounds so simple, but after four houses I am exhausted.
I went to my favorite little hidey hole, the parking area tucked into the south side of Sycamore Pool, which Maps calls One Mile Recreation Area. It’s still a pretty hot day in Chico as it so often is, so gather all my reading material and devices and go hang out at a shady park bench for an hour or so. Very pleasant!
Then drive to my other favorite local hangout, Llano Seco Wildlife Viewing Area. It’s a really slow time of year for wildlife viewing, but I take the half-mile walk out to the little mound with the viewing platform anyway, just to be doing something.
Finally I’ve killed enough of the day to be heading to Colusa Casino around sunset, as I like to do. I made a good faith effort to go inside and eat and drink to pay for my stay, but it didn’t work out. The corner they stuck me in smelled and the upholstery felt really icky. In the very long time I waited for a server to come over, I decided to bail out. No harm done, they hadn’t brought me water even.
WHUFU page for: Colusa Casino
RV parking is way in the back of the parking lot ... That part of the lot is still gravel there and quite muddy in the rain.
Casino is cozy and not unpleasant. Restaurant and bar are just fine. Wifi is terrible except close to the coffee shop.tonight:
Still here, still just an awesomely handy place to have in the middle of the valley.
I dutifully went inside intending to have a drink and a meal, but the restaurant scene was so disorganized and kinda gross that I gave up and ate leftovers in the van.
The overnight lot was pretty full, but amazingly, the best part, the far end facing outward was empty, so I got my favorite spot!
So I found myself settling into the RV parking area earlier than usual; there was still some daylight left. Here I got lucky. You never really know how it’s gonna be back in the RV lot. The first part of the lot, closest to the casino was crowded, big ole trailers and bus RVs parked quite close together. My heart started to sink. But driving on, I found that the good part of the lot, farthest from the casino and closest to the quiet field next door was deserted! I parked as close to the edge as I dared, and had a very pleasant, quiet evening!