2000: California Coast

Packing and Departing

July 15-16

Our magic coach - Cinderella, eat your heart out!

Today we pick up our rental for our first-ever RV trip. After two hours at the rental yard (the agency is in no particular hurry to finish its preparation), we finally pull the 31-foot monster onto the road -- with trepidation.

The California freeway is a whole new experience in this critter! Finally home with our cumbersome prize, Mike wrestles the creature up to the curb by our driveway for loading.

Packing takes exactly the four hours I had predicted. My living room is littered with boxes of pre-marshalled supplies, which helps shorten the time. But after we see that storage is plentiful, I find myself throwing in many last-minute items. Some, as it turns out, will prove useful. Ready but exhausted, we fall into bed -- while visions of RV parks dance in our heads.

As we hit the road at 9 a.m., I'm edgy with anticipation.  Today feels like something different, the first step in the next stage of our lives. I can almost see us making that transition into "the golden years" (yecchhh).

Our first adventure is getting this rock-and-roll coach through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge. After that, Marin County is easy going, and before we know it we're in the countryside. We discover our pumpkin coach has no CD player -- and at these prices! I'm dying to drown out the rattles from the rear, so we break out the boom-box, which to our dismay has dead batteries. A brief stop at a Costco in Novato, and we're fixed up again. We're only 65 miles from home and still not ready to leave civilization!

We prepare our first meal (lunch) in the Costco parking lot, where I learn that to get water from the tap in an RV, you must turn on the pump! Now where was that switch..?? Once we're fed and the boombox is batteried, we strike out again, listening to the pleasant strains of Mozart.

I learn my second RV lesson when I get up mid-trek,open the freezer, and get beaned by a tumbling butter tub. Moral: pack things snugly and be cautious when opening doors. A bit later, an unlatched silverware drawer clatters open and I must re-secure it. RV traveling is somewhat akin to having a minor earthquake every fifteen minutes!

Rugged California coast.

Our target for our first night is a KOA campground at Manchester Beach, a few miles south of Mendocino. Leaving behind the fast lanes of Highway 101, we strike out on a "scenic byway"- -map code for "don't take an RV here." However, naive optimism carries us through the endless hairpin turns, the scariest riving we will encounter on this trek.

My motion sickness forces me to take the wheel from Mike for the worst of the drive. I get us through with nary a scrape, but Mike's knuckles are now permanently white. Wimp!

The rugged coastline is beautiful, but the weather is not cooperating -- gray overcast and chilly winds. Those sweatshirts grabbed at the last minute may come in VEEEERY handy!

The KOA is a pleasant wooded campground near the beach. Mike backs us into a narrow space between two apparently permanent trailers, complete with hanging plants, wind chimes, and astroturf. One of our neighbors, Bill, has a bird feeder that attracts squirrels and scurrying California quail for us to watch.

Shivering at the shore.

We decide to make the three-quarter-mile trek to the beach despite the cold. I look like The Mummy in three layers of sweatshirts, gloves, and a hat, and I can still feel the wind.

After slogging through a hundred yards of sand and iceplant, we are rewarded with a glimpse of sullen, half-hearted breakers wallowing on a dingy beach - another 200 yards away. So much for scenery and the beach. We turn back, my flabby thighs howling in protest.

Back at camp, we walk around looking at all the different coaches and trailers, gathering information for our future purchase. A brand-new 32-foot fifth-wheel catches our eye; we boldly introduce ourselves to its owners and they graciously give us a tour. My mouth waters over the comfy lounge chairs, the full-size kitchen and the luxurious bedroom.

Dinner is hamburgers cooked on our portable propane grill. Why does everything taste so good outdoors? Actually we eat inside because of the wind, but it's still delicious - better than the same burgers at home! After flicking thru the three available TV channels (do I sound jaded?), we hit the sack at 9:30 and I nestle in happily for my first night in RV-land.