Tuesday, August 7, 2007

August in the Gold Country

It's HOT, baby!

Seriously, we just finished our annual camping trip with a group of friends we've had since High School. Last year on this trip, we drove home in our truck and 5th Wheel combo and decided that we were going to get a motorhome. Traveling with the kids in the truck across the state of California was just too cozy for all of us. And, that, my friends, was the beginning of our journey into FMC land.

As usual, the FMC performed quite well for us -- with a couple of heat-related concerns. We added to the lovely look and feel of our FMC on this trip. Doesn't every vehicle look better with some bikes attached. Form may follow function but sometimes design takes a backseat to practicality and we were tired of traveling with bikes in the aisle! Greg doesn't mind too much. Before too long, we'll have a Tow Vehicle back there and the bikes can go on the back of that!

Bike Rack on FMC

This trip went up to Lake Tulloch -- a small reservoir in the Gold Country. It's near Yosemite, near Sonora, near Highway 49 . . . but not too near much of anything. It's on the Stanislaus River and the lake itself is lovely. There is a real resort feel to the lake -- lots of vacation homes but there is still lots of land available too. I really loved the setting. We stayed at the Lake Tulloch Campground. It has a lot to offer but it also misses in many, many areas. It generally has a feeling that it isn't well cared for which is too bad. Seriously, some irrigation and some regular cleaning of the sites would go a long way toward making it a much nicer place to stay. Still, it had a general store with a snack bar and regular bar. The guys would go down to buy ice and spend an hour -- drinking beer! I couldn't blame them. I snuck down for a few milkshakes, myself. The best thing was the lake -- the water was very comfortable to swim in and there was tons of birds around. The best sightings were the many Osprey on the lake -- love those birds!

FMC at Lake Tulloch Campground

We actually squeezed a vintage trailer and another tent into the site next to us before we were done -- Crowded but it worked!

This area is very hot in the summer -- it was around 102 - 105 every day. We had sites without hookups and our generator isn't working so that made things a bit rough in the camping area. The FMC holds on to heat very well and we had a hard time sleeping at night as it took hours to cool down to comfortable temperatures. So, we'll be investing in some of those Fan-tastic Vents {click} to move the air around and help us to move hot air out and cooler air in so we can sleep at night. We also need to check into getting our auto air fixed as driving up and back was pretty uncomfortable in the 95-100 degree heat.

For recreation, this area had a lot to offer. We went river rafting on the Stanislaus River near Knights Ferry on Friday. This was an easy rafting trip -- Class 1 the whole way. They have one Class 2 rapids section but the water was low enough that it wasn't at all risky. The river water is COLD so you can easily cool off when you are too hot from paddling. It is beautiful and we say lots of deer, river otters, ospreys, kingfishers, vultures, and herons. Really nice trip.

On Saturday, we rented patio boats or party boats at the marina right at the campground. We tooled around on them all day. It was so much fun. We'd explore and then park them and swim and then explore some more. There are lots of houses along the lakeshore so it was very fun to look at them -- especially since Greg is an architect. He loves that sort of thing. We even tooled up the river a ways -- the water was cold in the river but really, really nice in the lake.

So, all in all, a good trip. I don't know if I'd go back to that campground again but if I did, I'd make sure that I got the "Cabana" sites which are right along the water. Being able to step right out into the water would have gone a long way towards making the trip a lot more comfortable. Plus, it is cooler near the water as the breeze crosses the water.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

End of an era

We said goodbye to an old friend today. We sold and delivered our 5th Wheel trailer. Greg and I bought this while we were in graduate school -- full of plans for a long life of camping in it. We did camp a lot -- if not as much as we planned to do. We took a 3 week Honeymoon in the Southwest in it. We went to family reunions in it. We went to dog shows with bunches of Labradors. We hosted family who needed temporary accommodations in it. We did annual camping trips with friends and occasional camping trips just as a family. It has served us well.

We will miss it.

Selling it was difficult. Everyone who came to see it wanted something newer or bigger or both. Our 5th Wheel was functional -- not luxurious. We intended it for CAMPING not luxury living. We needed to find a buyer who would appreciate that side of it. And we did. The people who bought it have been camping for years in a 1976 5th wheel trailer that is much smaller than ours. It was on its last legs -- held together with bailing wire and duct tape by the look of it. To them, our 5th wheel is spacious and functional. They will use it and love it and that makes me very happy. Hurray!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spring Break 2007 - Trip to Disneyland

FMC Montage

We are home from a fantastic trip! Here's the report:

Day 1: Scotts Valley, CA to Pismo State Beach

We started on our trip from Greg's cousin's house where the family had gathered for Easter. After an egg hunt and lunch, we headed off. We had a smooth drive down to Pismo State Beach. California is so beautiful this time of year! We arrived at Pismo just past dinner time and had a brief debate about whether or not to stop for Ribs but decided that burgers on the grill would be just as good (or almost as good). When we got to Pismo, the rangers had called it quits for the day and we were listed as being in the non-hookup area. No biggie except we'd PAID for hookups. We were annoyed but figured that since the campground was full, we didn't want to get woken up at 11pm to sort it all out if someone else rolled in really late with a reservation for hookups. So, we went to the non-hookup area. It was lovely -- lots of grass, birds everywhere, pretty trees. There were a lot of people with off-road vehicles which is to be expected at Pismo -- because of the beach management there. Before we ate, we decided to walk out on the beach and enjoy the sunset. It was spectacular although the kids did not last long in the "stay clean and dry" area. Still it was worth it -- even though we missed the actual sunset due to wet, cold children.

Ruthie and Gage playing in the waves
The kids playing in the waves

Day 2: Pismo State Beach to Simi Valley, CA

I woke up and took a walk while everyone was still asleep. Saw some fabulous birds and enjoyed the morning. I was pretty disappointed by the state of the campground. Lots of trash everywhere. Kids were harassing the local geese. Just an unkempt air about it. On the other hand, they had a lovely native plant garden that someone had obviously spent a lot of time on. The ranger came around to make sure we were checked in and I told her about the confusion. She said we should have just gone to the hookup sites. "Well, we didn't want to cause a problem," I said. "Sorry," said she. Sigh.

We headed off around 10am. The drive down to Santa Barbara is lovely. Especially coming through the mountains and then seeing the Pacific splayed out below you with sun shimmering on the waves. Wow! We had lunch in Santa Barbara which was something of a joke. We could not find a fast food restaurant that we could park at. Finally Greg just dropped me off and circled the block -- of course, I was done ordering and waiting out front before he could get back again. We hit the highway again and found a lovely little seaside park where we had our lunch. The view was stellar and there was a place for the kids and Greg to play tag on the grass. We even had an SOB pull in after us! I couldn't believe it. This BEAUTIFUL spot with temperatures a perfect 75 degrees and they didn't even get out of the vehicle or even open the windows.

We continued on our way. Greg's aunt and uncle live in Simi Valley. We got to see the whole family -- aunt & uncle, cousins, and their kids. Really special. We actually left their at around 10:00 pm to drive over to Anaheim. We figured it would be better to do the cross-LA trip with no traffic and it was. Although arriving at midnight was a bit late! :)

Gage sleeping in FMC
Gage catching some ZZZ's on the way to Simi Valley

Day 3: Simi Valley, CA to Anaheim, CA

We pulled in around 12pm. The Anaheim RV Resort gets full marks from us. They knew we were coming in late and gave us SUCH a convenient site -- right on the road. No complaints from us. We backed right in . . . well, not RIGHT in. The FMC died on us as we were backing in. We both had visions of being stuck and having to wake someone up to help us but luckily it started up after 2-3 tries. Whew!

We pulled in, moved the kids up to their bunks from our bed, and crashed.

As you might imagine, we had an early morning. The kids had a blast in Disneyland. We met my sister and her husband there. We were there from about 9:30am until 10:30pm. Exhausting. But so much fun!

Mickey signing their books
The kids got to meet Mickey!

Day 4: Dinner Guests!

Another day in Disneyland. We saw and did so much. The kids had a blast. We left early -- in order to meet Ron and Louise Herbert for dinner. They met us at our campsite and we had such a good time with them. I am afraid that exhaustion was setting in and I didn't even think about getting the camera out and taking pictures. We had some good wine, munchies, and a pretty good dinner. The kids crashed with movies after a little bit of running around wildly. I hope that we were good hosts -- to be honest if they said we stopped talking at one point and fell asleep during dinner, I wouldn't be a bit surprised. Two full days on one's feet is a trifle mind-numbing! They are wonderful though we had such great conversations. If you get the chance to meet them, you definitely should do. They are good people!

Louise and Ron
Since I didn't take a picture of our guests, here is a shot from Felton last November.

Day 5: California Adventure

More theme park -- can you believe it? My feet couldn't believe it either. I don't know how we survived this one, I'll tell you. CA Adventure is the newest addition to the Disneyland Resort. We didn't know what to expect but we had fun -- and to be honest, given the state of exhaustion that the 4 of us were in by this point, the fact that we enjoyed it says a lot about how much fun it must be. We even got the kids --- Gage too! -- to do the Tower of Terror. Wow! That is a ride!

We left early again -- around 6pm and even the kids weren't complaining. We got back to the FMC, futzed around, and crashed. Exhaustion again.

Day 6: Anaheim, CA to Refugio State Beach

We took two days to drive home again. The drive to Santa Barbara was lovely again. I drove a big chunk of it. I found the FMC to be nice to drive despite the strong winds and lots of traffic. Greg's new mirrors (which I'm sure he'll tell us all about soon) are wonderful! We arrived at Refugio and, again, were not happy with our camping experience there. We were assigned the best site on the worst row -- backed right up to the train tracks and 101. There were plenty of other sites available else where in the campground that would have been quieter. There was a LOT of trash everywhere. We were right next to several group areas. Thankfully, everything was better than we feared it would be. The group campers didn't party all night loudly and did finally turn off their generators (although not until at least an hour past the quiet time). The trains weren't too bad -- the worst was the 6am freight train -- long and loud! I did see lots of birds and that was nice. Still, we didn't mind that we were only staying one night. The kids had a blast on the beach again though.

Playing in the waves at Refugio State Beach
They love playing in the waves!

Day 7: Refugio State Beach to home

We had a leisurely morning at Refugio and headed off for home. The drive was nice again although we were driving into a storm. Lots of wind and some rain. The FMC did great, of course. We love it more each time we use it. The kids played in the back and read and Greg and I got to talk. We used to enjoy camping in our 5th wheel but I have to say the time spent driving is SO much better in the FMC. There are, of course, things we want to change about the FMC -- projects will never end -- but we are so glad we made this purchase. Driving down the road in it is a fantastic feeling.

That's our FMC reflected in that 5th Wheel
(This is from when I was driving!
We used the zoom on the camera -- I wasn't tailgating that close!)

Oh yea, The FMC got a new decoration, too! A Disney antenna ball -- Ruth and Greg put it up there. Gage was challenged though -- he had to climb up on top the next day! :)

Putting the Disney Ball on our antenna

Our next trip is to Big Sur in May! We both have some projects to report on before then!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

We're going to Disneyland!

Here is our trip map:


This is our children's first trip to Disneyland. At ages 8.5 and 7, they are just about the perfect ages to have a memorably wonderful trip. We are all very excited! We are also going to see some of our LA area family and friends. Ron and Louise are going to come have dinner with us on Wednesday night. We are going to have such a fun trip! More later!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Another cruise

We took the FMC out for a little local run last night. Every Sunday, we go to my inlaws for dinner. Last night, we took #708 out for a run. It performed beautifully and our new dog thoroughly enjoyed her first trip in the FMC. We filled it with gas at the cheapest place in our area. Ouch!

We head down to LA in April to take the kids to Disneyland. We have a few projects to get done before then. Greg has to get the new mirrors installed. I have to fix the bunks so the kids don't fall through them.

Ruby, the back dash dog!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another trip planned!

We just booked ourselves for 2 nights at Pfeiffer Big Sur SP in May! We'll be meeting family friends from LA. Greg's sister's family will likely be there as well. And his folks will join us for a day trip. Hurrah!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Greg's View of the Trip

Well, we had our REAL maiden voyage this past weekend. We purchased
#708 back in October. We have driven it around the local area
including going to the excellent Western Rally in Felton (only 6 miles
from our home town) back in November.

This past weekend, we drove up to the Gold Country here in California,
about a 400 mile round trip. I am happy to report that the Coach
performed like a champ (through rain and shine). We had various long
grades to go up and down and engine felt strong and the temperature
(assuming an accurate guage) never got above 190. Gas mileage on the
way up (overall, about a 2000 ft. difference) was 6.82. We got about
6.5 driving around the foothills and then back across the
dread-Central Valley to the Santa Cruz area.

I found 2nd gear (I have the stock engine and tranny) to be quite
useful all around. Up grades and down grades were very manageable at
about 45 mph. I plan to tow a car in the future, so I hope this bodes
well. Also, all of the appliances worked fine and that was a relief
(we typically dry camp; no hookups).

We had a few of minor leaks in the rain: one at the top of the main
door, one at the top-middle of the window over the dinette, and one
that seams to be at the rear roof vent. The window and roof vent are
most likely solved with caulk. Not sure on the front door as the seal
does not seem to be very tight at the top and bottom.

When driving in the rain, the front defrost had to work hard to keep
the windshield clear of fog. The defrost could certainly be stronger
and I will look into that, but it seemed to be fighting a lot of
moisture on the inside when it was raining.

Lastly, I had to put 1 quart of oil in halfway through the trip.
Hopefully, it was just time for a quart and is not burning it quicker
than would be expected.

Overall, a very successful trip. We plan to go a little farther away
with each successive trip. We're taking the kids to Disneyland in
April! Can't wait.

Monday, February 12, 2007

If it's February and raining . . .

. . . then the Millers must be camping! We spent the long weekend at New Melone's Reservoir near Angel's Camp in the California Gold Country. We planned all our trips for the year early in January and knew it was risky to go camping in February but it was worth it.

FMC at Columbia SHP

We loaded up on hot chocolate, games, activities, books, and even a movie or two and headed off. Camping in the rain can be romantic for a couple but for a family, it's a test of your mettle and the size of your vehicle. Our family and the FMC passed with flying colors!

The views are worth it

This was the first *real* camping trip we'd been on in the FMC -- camping in Felton (three towns away) for the Rally doesn't really count! We don't have a tow vehicle yet and it was raining and due to rain all weekend. We put Greg's parents on call to come get us if we had problems.


The FMC performed beautifully! Everything we wanted it to do, it did! Travelling across the state in our truck and 5th wheel was always taxing -- the kids are RIGHT behind you and when they get antsy and loud, there they are. Not relaxing for anyone with them either playing loud or bickering and Mom nagging the whole time. Delightful. Travelling in the FMC -- awesome! Even with limited seatbelts, we had ample opportunity to separate the kids when they needed alone time or let them play silly, loud games without bugging Mom. Needing to go to the bathroom 5 minutes after we just stopped? No problem. Hungry and need a snack? No worries. Need to stretch out and nap . . . just do it.

So, we left early Saturday morning and made about 47 stops on the way out of town. New windshield wipers, gas, iPod radio transmitter, Claritin-D, and some lunch later and we're finally off and out of the Bay Area. The drive was mostly rainy but we did fine. We got to the gold country around 2:30pm and went to Columbia State Park. It's an active town where the down town has been preserved as a Historic State Park. The 2nd Saturday of every month, they have people dressed in period costumes who answer questions and show what life was like. We almost had the place to ourselves on a rainy Saturday in February. The highlight for all of us was Nelson's Candy Store where we all picked out goodies! Yum! We also enjoyed the General Store where the people gave us tons of information about what life was like back during the 1850s. Really fun!

Camping in the rain

From there, we went to our campground at the Glory Hole Recreation Area on New Melones Lake. We pulled into our reserved site and were quite pleased. The campground was fantastic -- paved spaces, great views, clean but spartan restrooms. Again, we had the place to ourselves. The campground hosts came by in their electric car and checked us in. There was one other couple in the next site up the hill but there was enough space between the sites that we barely knew they were there. It was cold and windy but not raining so the kids did some scootering to burn off their ya-yas from the long drive while we got the FMC into camping mode. We didn't set up the canopy as it was too windy. We settled in and started a fire because Greg forgot the BBQ grill. So, he grilled the burgers in the cold wind over a real fire. They were delicious! We played Monopoly Jr and went to bed! We were all out by 9:30 pm.

Excellent Martinis in superior camping martini glasses Greg is barbecuing our dinner!

The next day woke up damp and we decided to just stay put and enjoy the day. We took walks when we could, played games, made paper airplanes, ate, played more games, and generally enjoyed a lazy day. Late in the day, the sun actually came out and we took a walk down to the water. We all threw rocks in the water and had a grand time getting muddy. We came back, cleaned up, and had a great dinner of chili with all the fixins. Double Yum! We watched a movie that night and put the kids to bed. Greg and I played Cribbage. I actually beat him the last time (we won't talk about the 3 previous games where he beat me!!!). Greg has been playing cribbage since birth whereas I learned it after we met some 25 years ago! (Yikes!)

Greg and Gage making paper airplanes Throwing rocks in the water

Today, we drove home the long way. We are looking for a new dog and had to visit some breeders in that area. We ended up driving south of Sonora on 49. We were warned against it but Greg is adventerous and the FMC was performing beautifully. It was a great drive -- up and down and round and round. We loved it and were very proud of the FMC and how well it performed! We made a couple of stops on the way home and cruised on home via 152. We planned to have dinner in Gilroy and were enjoying the clear driving we'd had since we left the Sierra foothills. The phone rang -- it was Greg's parents telling us it was POURING at home. We did eat dinner in Gilroy and then got back on the road around 7:30pm. The rain was really coming down but we decided that it would be better to drive up to San Jose and then over 17 so that's what we did. It was a great choice because it was a small thunderstorm and by the time we got to San Jose, it was only drizzling. The rest of the drive home was uneventful. The kids were stretched out on the bed in the back. We had to carry them to bed when we got home.

South 49 between Sonora and Mariposa
At the historical marker at the top!

Fantastic trip. I can happily recommend camping in the Gold Country in the winter. It was uncrowded and delightful. I'm so glad we bought the FMC and so glad that we are making a real point to use it!

Cute dogs!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Out for a Spin

On the road again
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Greg started up the FMC tonight -- just to give it a run for awhile. I suggested we go for a drive. What the heck . . . it's only money! :)

So, we did. The kids were so excited! We drove over to my MIL's and wished her a happy birthday in person! That was fun and such a surprise!

Then we came home and had a late dinner. I think the kids favorite part was climbing in the back to help Daddy back up . . .

Helping Daddy back up safely

Friday, January 5, 2007

Happy New Year!

I wanted to post a Christmas picture as our FMC was used at Christmas time. Not for a trip or as a guest room but as Gift Central. I am an inveterate online shopper. As gifts were delivered, we put them in the FMC. Then I took all my wrapping things out there, cranked up the furnace, plugged in my iPod and wrapped away. Totally awesome way to manage Christmas gifts!

But, on to the new year. . .

We have already started planning our Camping Trips for 2007.

February - camping at a reservoir in the Central Valley. Risky to camp in February but the Central Valley doesn't get much rain (at least compared to where we live!) and there are plenty of little towns with antique stores for us to poke around in if its rainy! We need to do this trip as a warm up to our next trip . . .
April - Spring Break, we are heading down to Anaheim. We're going to Disneyland! The kids don't know about it so don't tell them! We'll also visit some family on the way. What a trip!
May - Hopefully we'll be going to the West Coast Rally. Plans are still in the works but it's rumored to be in the Grand Canyon. We love the desert southwest and are looking forward to this one!
June - Quick overnight for Greg's birthday to Seacliff State Beach. It's booked almost solid for the year so we feel lucky to get a single night in the Summer.
July - We'll probably head up to my folks to drop the kids off for their week in the mountains. We'll hopefully get a night of camping just the two of us on the way home!
August - Our annual camping trip with our group of long-time friends. And, then school starts and the rat race begins all over again!
I'm sure we'll fill in a few other overnights or weekend jaunts here and there. Should be fun!

We also hope to make some improvements to the FMC this year. Greg is chomping at the bit to get some Alcoa wheels and is willing to spend big bucks to get them. We are also going to get a spare tire holder on the back -- it's already in the works at RVS. I'm sure we'll manage some other improvements as well.

It looks to be a great year for camping and traveling! Yippee!

What are all of YOU planning for 2007?