Cloverdale, Chowchilla & Mojave, CA

March 4-6, 2015

Emerald triangle to wine country, and on to desert

We spent Wednesday 3/4 through Friday 3/6 in an interesting transition across California.  We started by entering and then quickly passing through the heart of California's Wine country, followed by cruising down the farming valley tracked by highway 99, and then heading east at Bakersfield to reach Mojave, CA - home of the Mojave Spaceport.

Wednesday, March 4th

We started the day in Benbow by briefly back-tracking to Garberville to fill up our truck's gas tank again and grab something for breakfast.

Garberville is an interesting small town.  Everyone there looks a little scruffy and extremely relaxed.  It turns out that Garberville is one of the points on what folks in California refer to as the emerald triangle.  So, the observed states of relaxation are possibly THC-induced!

We found a very nice little organic restaurant in town, the Woodrose Cafe, for breakfast.  The food was really great, though we had to remind our extremely relaxed waitress a few times what we had  ordered for breakfast.  So, highly recommended, but you'll have to be a little relaxed yourself so as not to get frustrated.

We stopped in Ukiah, as planned, to visit with the AAA folks and came out with a more organized plan for our trip from there to Orlando.  Step one was to either head north a bit to Route 20 and work our way East along the north shore of Clear Lake (which is apparently anything but clear), or to keep going south on 101 and then cross the bay north of San Francisco on Route 37 through Vallejo, followed by Route 12 to Lodi and then south on 99.

We chose to keep going south, primarily because we couldn't find any decent campgrounds on Route 20.

So, with that choice made, we drove south to the seething metropolis of Cloverdale, which happens to be in the midst of it's own wine and citrus district.  Our campsite that night was an interesting and quirky place called Dutcher Creek RV Village.  It's a small RV park on top of a steep hill.  Yep, the road to this place is so steep that it had a switchback.  If we had realized in advanced how interesting the drive up would be, we'd likely have picked another place.  Since we didn't have time to get intimidated by the hill, we just drove up.  It was fine. Once we got our rig up there and parked, we had great views of the surrounding countryside.  Just like a hilltop villa in Tuscany!

On a mundane level, it's worth noting that we were still camping dry at this point, to ensure that we wouldn't have a freeze incident with Rocinante's plumbing.  So, we had to use the campground facilities, as it were.  They were...interesting.  Rustic, dated and drafty, though clean.  For this reason alone, I'd recommend that if you stay here, do so in the warmer months rather than in early March!  The folks who manage the place are absolutely delightful - wonderful and helpful.  The gentleman is an expert in backing up trailers and gave us several excellent pointers.  So, with some caveats we'd say this could be a fun place to stay again sometime.

Thursday, March 5th

From Cloverdale it was a good day's drive to Chowchilla, CA on Route 99, though we drove over a highway you should avoid like the plague if you're doing the RV thing.  CA Highway 12 from I-80 near Fairfield to Highway 99 in Lodi.  It's an awful, terrible, no good very bad road.

We decided to stay the night in Chowchilla at The Lakes RV & Golf Resort. This place is perfect in every possible way.  It's clean, tidy, nicely landscaped, with a pool and hot tub, really nice bathrooms and showers, and a great laundry room.  We loved it, except for the sheer number of rules and the relatively unfriendly staff at the desk.  Oh, and the sites were a bit close together with very few picnic tables.  Campfires strictly prohibited.

The Stepford Wives would have been very much at home here!

Friday, March 6th

We rose with the sun to make breakfast, jump in the hot tub for a bit, and hit the road.  Today we decided to go into the desert.  The Mojave, to be precise.  What better way than to go right to Mojave, CA?  So, we headed south on 99 and hung a left at Bakersfield, going East on Highway 58 past Tehachapi to Mojave.

Fun fact about Mojave:  it plays host to the Mojave Air & Spaceport.  How cool is that?  We went  by and oogled the spaceport, but saw no obvious spaceships, even though Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites is based there.  We did, however, seen a lot more jets parked there than we would normally expect. Perhaps some of them are in "desert storage."

We spent the night at Sierra Trails RV park, just outside Mojave.  It's a cool and campy place, with cowboy silhouettes at the entrance.  Plenty of long-term folks who spent much of the winter there, we think.  The park is neat and tidy with trees and shade.  The latter is quite a rarity in the Mojave.  The facilities are showing their age, but everything works, and is neat as a pin.  Staff there is very friendly and helpful.  So, while it's nothing fancy, it's a fine place to stop for the night.  Lots and lots of stars at night, and plenty of Joshua trees in the surrounding desert, many of which were in bloom.

More on those weird Joshua trees in our next post.

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