Saturday, February 1, 2020

Wayne and Margy's 2019-20 Snowbird RV Adventure

Wayne and I planned for months for our first Snowbird road trip in the new RV we purchased last April.

This time of year it gets darker, colder and wetter at our float cabin on Powell Lake. Sun and warmth are calling. Just like the geese, we are migrating south.

An early November departure was perfect. We beat the snow and ice in the mountain pass between Oregon and California, and we were able to skip winterizing our RV. That was a win-win.

We picked a Forest River Sunseeker 2250 specifically for this adventure. We like the small size for maneuverability and easy parking. It's been a perfect rig for us even on long trips.

The overall 24'4" length of the Sunseeker packs in a lot of living space.

We planned a three part trip.

Part 1 - We left Bellingham on November 4. For 43 days we explored and camped our way from Washington to Southern California. In mid-December, we put the RV into storage in Southern California, went to USC for basketball and then flew back to Bellingham for a break. You can start reading about this leg of our trip by scrolling down.

Part 2 - starts in early February when we fly back south to pick up our RV. We'll drive to Arizona for more exploring and a stay in Tempe for Arizona State University softball. Are you seeing a trend here? College sports? In late February we'll store our RV in Tucson then fly back to Bellingham for a second break.

Camping in public parks gives you more privacy and nature.

Part 3 - starts in late March. We'll fly to Tucson to pick up our RV for the final leg. There'll be more ASU softball before heading back north. We hope to make it to Oregon State University for more softball, and anticipate arriving back in Bellingham in mid to late April, after all of the freezing weather has passed.

Private RV parks offer more amenities and full hookups.

Does that sound complicated for a relaxing winter vacation? Maybe, but we aren't the kind of Snowbirds that like to stay in one spot. Our friend John says we live a complicated simple life. But that's the way we like it.

Come along with us on the second leg of our Snowbird RV Adventure. I'll write posts along the way when we have Internet. I hope you enjoy our trip as much as we do. -- Wayne and Margy

Monday, December 23, 2019

Snowbird RV Adventure Part 1 Begins: Bellingham to McChord Air Force Base

Part 1: Day 1

Please note that the following posts of our Snowbird RV Adventure Part 1 have been reordered for easier reading in chronological order.

Camped overnight at the Bellingham RV Park.
November 4: Our Snowbird RV adventure began in Bellingham, Washington. We went to Gotcha Covered RV and Boat Storage to pick up our rig. Catchy name, huh? It aptly describes our secure covered parking spot with a power hookup.

We keep our RV ready to roll except for perishables. For long trips we rent a spot at the Bellingham RV Park closer to our condo. Here we can load last minute items, test our systems and get an early start.

Downtown Seattle was a breeze this time.
We timed our departure to get through the big city of Seattle after the morning rush hour. Google maps with traffic help us plan our route and make adjustments as needed.

I also use Google in satellite view to find places to eat and shop along the way. I choose places that offer RV parking or have large lots nearby. McDonalds in Burlington has RV parking so that's where we stopped for breakfast.

Our first night destination was Holiday Park on McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington. We like to come here on our first night out because we can easily stock up with fresh food at the Commissary. If you are active duty or a retired veteran with base privileges, we highly recommend military campgrounds and RV parks.

Before we went to the campground, we parked with a view of the runway to watch the C-17 Globemaster transport planes landing. If you like to watch aircraft, bases are a good choice.

We got settled in our spot. On long trips we like to use a variety of RV camping styles. Public parks and some military campgrounds give you more privacy and let you get closer to nature, yet have amenities such as power, water and sometimes even sewer.

Site #30 at the McChord Holiday Park campground is private with full hookups.

After a long day of driving, it's relaxing to sit outside and enjoy a beverage.

Enjoying the outdoors is a big part of RV camping for us.

I take some time to write and add illustrations to my travel journal. That way I can record tips, comment on good sites for the future and to remember the fun times we've had.

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 135 miles
Total - 135 miles

Stay tuned for more of our travelogue blog posts and get some handy tips from two RVing newbies. -- Wayne and Margy 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Snowbird RV Adventure: McChord to Armitage Park Campground

Part 1: Day 2

Over the Columbia River entering Oregon on a foggy morning.
November 5: Today our Snowbird RV Adventure started in fog. We didn't have to checkout until 11:00 so we waited for it to lift a little.

The second leg of our trip was going to be a four driving hours plus time for a rest and to get gas. That meant we would arrive at our destination, the Armitage County Park Campground in Coburg, Oregon, at 4:00. We would get to our destination before sunset. Since we are still new at parking our rig, having light to get it in place and set up is important.

This was the first long leg of our trip. We like a break from driving every two hours or so. Sometimes we plan a meal stop (with good RV parking) or use one of the handy in and out rest areas along major highways. That's what we chose today. You can see us parking in a pull-through spot next to the big guys.

Taking a break with the big guys at the French Prairie Rest Area.

Our route took us down I-5 from Tacoma to Coburg, Oregon. We never got away from the fog, but the forward visibility was good. We bypassed downtown Portland using Interstate 205 to the east. Again we lucked out, no rush hour traffic. Planning to drive through large cities on weekends or the middle of the day works better.

We chose the French Prairie Rest Area on I-5 south of Portland for our rest break. There are two drive-through areas and Oregon allows 12-hour parking including overnight if needed. Here's a summary of rest area rules by state.

Site #32 at Armitage Park Campground has full hookups and privacy.

We got to Armitage Park Campground before sunset, just as planned. You can make reservations for any Lane County Park up to two days in advance. We pre-selected a favourite site and knew we had a guaranteed spot when we arrived. Armitage Park is next to the McKenzie River. It has a large dog park, picnic grounds, boat launch ramp, walking trails and campground.

Fisherman on the McKenzie River in Armitage Park.
We love this campground and come here often while attending sports events at the University of Oregon in Eugene. 

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 240 miles
Total - 375 miles

Stay tuned for more of our travelogue blog posts and get some handy tips from two RVing newbies. -- Wayne and Margy

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Snowbird RV Adventure: Our Run for the Border

Part 1: Days 3 - 4

Trying to avoid snow in the mountain pass like February 2018.
November 6: We started our Snowbird RV Adventure in early November to make it through the mountain pass between Oregon and California before ice and snow.

Last year on our rental RV trip, heavy snow stranded us for a day as we were trying to get north. We definitely didn't want that to happen again. Wayne grew up in snowy Upstate New York, but even he didn't like the conditions. I grew up in sunny Southern California. For me it was even scarier seeing cars stuck in snowbanks.

Grocery store parking lots often have drive through spaces.
Day three was our longest driving time so far, five and a half hours. We got an early (foggy again) start and broke it up into three more manageable segments.

First we stopped at a Denny's in Medford for breakfast. It was next door to a grocery store with excellent parking.

It's hard to pass up their crispy Pancake Puppies with cream cheese icing for dipping.

We stopped at the Weed Rest Area in the pass to take pictures of Mt. Shasta, and finally got gas at an easy off and on station just before Redding thanks to Google maps satellite view.

Mt. Shasta with very little snow for this time of year.

Our destination for the night was the Durango RV Resort in Red Bluff, California. We stayed here twice last year on our rental RV trip. It has lots of amenities and is located within easy walking distance to a shopping center. As a treat, we walked to Shari's for an early dinner. We shared the restaurant with several tables of Cal Fire firefighters. There are fires burning in many parts of California right now.

November 7: After three days of steady driving, we wanted a break. We asked for three nights, but could only get two. A large group was arriving on Friday for the weekend. This is the Durango Resort's busy season for RV clubs.

Site #25 next to the clubhouse is pull in for motorhomes, back in for trailers.

The view of the Sacramento River from the park.
Last year we had a Sacramento River front site. This time we were along the fountain parkway. They also have pull-through sites.

The fountain site is $60 but they have a 10% senior and Good Sam discount, and 15% for veterans.

The second night we walked over to Luigi's Pizza. They deliver to your rig with a 10% discount, but we opted to eat in. We had the beef dip special and an antipasto salad. Next trip we'll try the pizza. It looked delicious heading to other tables!

The fountain parkway at the Durango RV Resort.

Building in extra rest nights after long driving legs helps you stay alert for the next segment of your RV trip. And after all, it's supposed to be a vacation even while you are traveling.

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 347 miles
Total - 722 miles

Stay tuned for more of our travelogue blog posts and get some handy tips from two RVing newbies. -- Wayne and Margy

Friday, December 20, 2019

Snowbird RV Adventure: Red Bluff to Sacramento CalExpo

Part 1: Days 5 - 7

November 8: We left the Durango RV Resort at their noon checkout and began our drive down I-5 to Sacramento, the capitol of California. Along the way we could see the fertile valley between the Coast Range and the Sierra Nevadas of Northern California.

There were walnuts, almonds, olives and lots of rice fields and granaries as we entered the Sacramento Delta region approaching the California's State Capitol, Sacramento.

Smoke from a small fire on the horizon.
Now that we are below the pass with the potential for snow, we are making our driving legs shorter and our overnight stays longer.

Devastating fires are burning throughout California. It was one year ago that a fire virtually wiped out the town of Paradise and killed 87. We passed through strong smoke below Red Bluff. Then farther along, we saw a small fire in its beginning stage. Fortunately, this week the winds aren't as strong, especially at ground level.

Our destination was the CalExpo Fairgrounds in Sacramento, California. I used to come to this city several times a year for Department of Education meetings when I was a school administrator in Southern California.

The RV Park is tucked away on the southeast side of the fairgrounds backed by the greenway along the American River with miles of multi-use trails for bikes, hiker and horseback riders.

It's huge with over 500 sites in several areas and they take reservations. Each site is paved with full hookups. Ours was long and wide, and the campground was mostly empty so it didn't feel crowded.

A few trees breaks up the parking lot atmosphere.

We hooked up to power and water utilities. Sewer was available, but we didn't need to use it here. We can travel for about eight days before it's needed.

Full hookups at Site #235. No cable but lots of local air antenna channels.

Then there was time to get some sun outdoors with an early afternoon check-in. We fixed dinner in our rig and watched the news with channels received from our built-in antenna.

November 9: On our second day, we walked down to the American River using the popular network of paved multi-use trails.

The American River before it merges with the Sacramento near downtown.

We saw lots of people walking dogs, riding bikes and sitting at picnic tables strategically placed at the river's edge.

The paved trails along the river are shaded by oaks frequented by squirrels.

November 10: On our last night, we met up with a childhood friend of mine, Carol and her partner Bob. Carol and I were in Blue Birds and Campfire Girls together when were kids in Compton, California. They live in Davis and drove over to have dinner with us at the nearby Red Lobster. It was fun to catch up after all these years.

A nice place to say for overnight or an extended stay.

Fairgrounds are a good place to stay if you are going to a town or city. They are usually large with lots of availability. The sites are basic, but the fairgrounds we've used have been clean and welcoming. - Wayne and Margy

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 135 miles
Total - 857 miles

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Snowbird RV Adventure: Sacramento to Travis Air Force Base

Part 1: Days 8 - 10

A C-54 on display between the Travis Commissary and Exchange.
November 11: We left the CalExpo RV Park after sleeping in and having breakfast in our rig. A noon departure got us on the road an hour before the 1:00 check-out time and set up to arrive at the Travis Air Force Base FamCamp for its 1:00 check-in time.

Our first stop was the Commissary to restock our fresh food items. We were surprised to see a C-54 Skymaster former transport plane on display out front.

It was Sunday. The office was closed, so we stopped at the bulletin board to pick up our registration packet and park information.

Site #25 was a back-in end spot.

We made reservations a week ago. We had to adjust our travel schedule to get a spot at this popular military RV park. In addition to sites with full hookups for $22 a night, they have dry RV and tent sites. We stayed at the Travis Air Force Base FamCamp for three nights.

November 12: On the second day we relaxed and I did a load of laundry. You know you are staying on a military base when you are awakened in the morning with Reveille, everyone stands in respect for the National Anthem at quitting time, and you are lulled to sleep at night with Taps.

Wayne kicking back at Site #25 listening to C-17s and C-5s in the traffic pattern.

November 13: On the third day, we walked to the Exchange to pick up a few items. One purchase was a smoke alarm for our bedroom. The built-in one on the kitchen ceiling goes off every time we use the oven, or cook something that creates steam. It really needed to be replaced. While we were there, we stopped at the Food Court to treat ourselves to an early dinner at Arby's. We like our camp cooking, but an occasional restaurant meal is a nice change of pace.

The laundry room at the Travis FamCamp.
We've been on the road for nine days so I decided to use the well appointed laundry room at Travis.

I bought new towels and cloths and washed them at home, but they were still bleeding red. Along with my darks, I had enough for a load.

I was surprised the machines used only credit cards. I carry quarters, but using a card is easier. I've also seen machines that use a smart phone app. Laundry has entered the digital age. -- Wayne and Margy

Trip Mileage Log
Leg - 46 miles
Total - 903 miles