Well, let me rephrase that:  The Awesome, The Great and The Challenging.

Have had a little bit (actually, a lot) in each of those categories.

But before we get to that, the word of the day is “Boondocking.”

“Boondocking,” to put it simply, is parking without paying.  This can range anywhere from a Walmart to the thousands of available BLM (Bureau of Land Management) acres of land out west.  My intention all along was to boondock as much as possible along this journey, mostly in the land out west.

But have also spent nights in truck stops, shopping centers, my friend Relaena’s side street and once in the parking lot of an auto parts store.

So . . . on with the story:

I had always read that Cabela’s (a huge, outdoor hunting/fishing/camping store) allowed RV’s to park in their parking lots overnight.  So on my way down through Oregon, found a beautiful Cabela’s with lots of available parking at the far end of the lot.  I checked with the greeter inside and he assured me there would be no problem.  HOWEVER, at 12:30 in the morning, in the middle of a very deep sleep, was awakened by a knock on the door of the trailer.  The security guard advised me that parking overnight was not allowed.  My plea that the greeter had told me it was OK got me nowhere.  He told me I could park in the Fred Meyer’s lot across the highway.  So I moved the trailer and went back to bed.  Woke up in the morning, got ready to take off but . . . no keys.  I always attach my keys to the front belt loop of my jeans so that I always know where they are.  (Whole Foods team members, you know what I’m talkin’ about!) They weren’t there.  I spent an hour digging through the entire trailer, inside and out (Did the parking lot sweeping machine I had heard early in the morning sweep them up?) and finally, feeling extremely hopeless, decided to get away from the trailer for a while to calm down, get some coffee and regroup.  Wrote a note for my windshield that I had lost my keys, left the trailer and heard a jingle-jangle on the back of my jeans.  In my exhaustion-stupor at 1 a.m., I had hooked the keys to the BACK of my jeans and not noticed them in my search since the jeans were nicely folded on the bench with the keys on the back and not visible.

* Here’s one of those extra stories that if you don’t like to read a lot of detail, you can just skip.

(*Extra Story #1)

BUT, in the midst of my hour of combing through every inch of the trailer, I lifted my mattress to see if the keys had fallen between the mattress and the front wall of the trailer and noticed that my sheet was damp (no, did not wet the bed!).  This led me to notice that moisture had formed on the front wall and mold was beginning to grow.  Now, condensation is a huge issue in a trailer — I thought I was doing everything right:  ran my MaxxFan often, ran the exhaust fan over the range every time I boiled water, ran the exhaust in the bathroom when I took a shower.  But still, after only one month, had mold starting.  So the “challenge” of the night before turned out to be a good thing because I would not have noticed the mold.  Now I was able to pull off the sheet, clean off the wall, post on the Escape Trailer Forum for advice and learn more about how to prevent condensation.  And, to make matters even BETTER, Lucy, who with her husband Charlie, bought an Escape (we have been corresponding for months) and stopped in Cleveland on the way to Chilliwack so we could meet for breakfast, offered to mail me this special material to use to separate the mattress from the wall.  Another challenge coming to a good ending.  Thank you dear Lucy!

Stopped for breakfast one morning in Cottage Grove, OR.  Always easier to park with the big boys!!!  Can ya see me  now?

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Coming through northern California was greeted by the magnificent Mt. Shasta.  I kept hoping for a pull off so I could get a photo but it was not to be.  😥  So many wonderful views that I wanted to shoot but it’s not so easy to pull over with a trailer behind you.

(*Extra Story #2)

Drove six straight hours one day in order to get to Buckley Cove Park in Stockton, CA.  They said if I didn’t arrive by 4:45, they would call me and give me the gate code and site #.  I was stressin’ all the way down because I knew I would have trouble backing into a spot if no one was there to guide me; additionally, really didn’t want to have to navigate there after dark. And though Google Maps said it was a 4 hour trip, didn’t realize that ANY vehicle towing on I-5 throughout California cannot go over 55 mph and I’m sure Google was basing the four hours on going 65 mph.   Arrived at FOUR FORTY-FIVE!!! Can you believe it? Worth the stress, the place was beautiful and was combined with a marina. Got three loads of clothes done and a long hot shower and shampoo before leaving for Turlock. 

(*Extra Story #3)

Have you ever been to a campground, went to the public showers, forgot to bring a change of underwear so went back to your camping spot wearing only your sweat pants, only to notice when you got back that there was a rip in the back?  Well, neither did I, but I MIGHT have if I hadn’t left my favorites back in Cleveland!   😛

I had originally intended on going to Corte Madera from Seattle and at some point drive over to Turlock, CA to see Shirley and Jim.  I met Shirley about ten years ago when we both attended a photography workshop on a huge cattle ranch in Oregon.  We’ve been friends ever since and have been wanting to meet up.  As I was driving south, decided to go to Turlock first. 

Shirley had this little blackboard set up and also a photo taken of us about 10 years ago (The “Waldo” comes from the fact that her husband, Jim, calls me “Waldo” as in “Where’s Waldo?”:


Cannot begin to describe the hospitality from Shirley and Jim.  Jim took care of taking my Tahoe into the Chevy dealer (he’s good buddies with the owner) (actually, I think he’s good buddies with half of the town!), filling my two propane tanks, filling my gas tank, and so much more.  image5

Shirley and Jim developed a beautiful condo/townhouse community years ago and there was a space in the back where Jim hooked me up to electricity, helped me unhitch and hitch, gave me an electric heater to use, gave me a really cool LED light and a big bag of gloves for dumping the tanks. Shirley’s an awesome cook and we did lots of eating, drinking wine, going to movies, meeting the rest of the family, playing a new card game she taught me and laughing!  It was a wonderful three days and I kept teasing that I was going to stay for a month! Oh . . . and if you’re ever in Turlock, CA, be sure to stop at Latif’s Restaurant.  Shirley and Jim owned and ran it for 40 years and now their son, Bob, runs it.  Everything made from scratch!!!  Deeee-licious!!!

We call each other “Twinster.”  We really DO look a lot alike!

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So I’ve finally got a handle on pulling the trailer and can say without hesitation that I am absolutely, 100% comfortable with pulling it.  Well . . . that is . . . if it’s not raining, if there are no semi’s passing me, if there are no 6% downgrades, if there are no continuous sharp curves, if there are no signs that show a vehicle with two squiggles beneath the tires, if there are no cross winds.  Well . . .  I’m getting there !!!!!

(*Extra Story #4)

I have GOT to handle this losing-things problem.  Parked in the far corners of a Walmart lot to spend the night.  I had no sooner parked and opened the door than I “lost” my iphone.  After searching for about 10 minutes, a car pulled up and parked beside me.  I asked the woman to call me.  She was kind enough to call me FOUR TIMES until I found the phone hidden deeply behind the passenger seat where I don’t believe I would have found it without emptying out half of the truck.

So after three days in Turlock, I headed towards Corte Madera to Godo and Janice’s. escape      view from godo's

I had been there several times through the years and was a bit concerned about the steep hill to climb to get to their home but had forgotten HOW steep.  Those 6% grades I mentioned are candy compared to the trek up to “Deer Run.”  Not only that, but I missed one of the turns and had to go in reverse to get back down the hill low enough to make the turn because there was no way in the world I could have turned around on that road. I finally made it and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Thank you powerful Tahoe and your first gear!!!  Deer Run is beautiful and it’s been great to see Godo and Janice again.  The days have been relaxing with hiking at Green Gulch Farm, driving Stinson Beach (indescribable!), stopping at Spirit Rock, regular latte runs and and endless supply of chocolate!  And red wine in the evenings by the fire.  Sweet.

Yesterday, my niece Corri and her girlfriend, Nicole, drove up from Oakland.  We all went to Mt. Tamalpais and drove almost to the top.  Nicole had to leave to go to a pre-Thanksgiving get together.  Corri and I did a very short hike (absolutely gorgeous up there!) image10

and then stopped for dinner on the way back to Corte Madera.  It was absolutely wonderful to spend time with Corri — she’s just a doll and I can’t wait to see her again — possibly in Cleveland next summer!?!

An old friend of Godo’s and a friend of mine, Howard, is coming up tomorrow.  We’ll be playing cribbage and then out to lunch.

As you can tell, The Awesomes and The Greats far outweigh the Challenges!!!

Will be leaving Thursday morning to spend Thanksgiving in Cleveland with my family — am SO looking forward to seeing everyone!

I know I promised to send photos of the inside of my little home but this blog post seems pretty full so will save for another.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving — my favorite holiday of the year!  I won’t get gushy and talk about how thankful I am for everything and everyone in my life.  Oh, whoops, I just did!

17 thoughts on “THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

  1. Kelly Hotchkiss

    I soooo love reading your posts! It sounds like you are having a great time. I am so jealous. Love you!

  2. shirley stevens

    Ahhh—you just had to post pics didn’t you. Hee Cant thank you enough for coming to Turlock. We truly enjoyed having you and helping with this and that. AND what a good time you and I had seeing two movies , eating, playing cards and mostly laughing!!! You are a pleasure to be around and it was so special catching up on everything after such a long time. Cant wait that long again. Take care, be good, and safe travels in the air and on the ground, have a Happy Thanksgiving and keep in touch. Love you Twinster.

    1. Ellen Darby Post author

      Love you too, Twinster! I will always remember our time together with smiles and joy! Can’t wait to see you again!!!


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