Pinnacles and Acton: Central California

We had fixed reservations or we would have stayed put. It was pouring rain in Half Moon Bay on the Saturday morning we left (12/10/2016). I just kept telling myself that as awful as this was, at least it wasn't cold. I'll take 50s and raining over 30s and raining any day. We were soaked through, despite our rain jackets, by the time we were set to go.

Today would mark a first. Our first time stopping somewhere to visit while towing the rig. An old college friend of mine, Maja, lives in Silicon Valley with her husband and two boys and we had an invitation for lunch at their home. Google street view showed the neighborhood to be navigable with our beast and she guaranteed plenty of parking, so we couldn't say no. We had a great visit. I hadn't seen her in probably 20 years, but she hadn't changed a bit and it was great to catch up and meet her family. Her boys, 11 and 13, enjoyed playing with Crayton and he was in heaven with two older boys to play with. Pam is always nervous meeting old friends of mine, and frankly I don't blame her. It's hard to know where you fit in with old friends like that. I felt the same way the first time I met some of her old friends. But I knew Maja was the kind of person to set anyone at ease and soon enough they were chatting and getting to know one another. Maja fixed us an amazing vegan lunch and too soon we had to leave if we were going to get to our campsite for the night. The next time we're in the bay area, Maja, I promise to stay longer!

Dropping into see Maja, Eugene and their kids!

Crayton with his new best friend

Our camp for the weekend was at Pinnacles National Park. Just a spot on the map we'd never been to before with those magical two words at the end.. "National Park", and it was on the way, so we had to go. We got there right at dusk and the road there kept getting smaller and narrower and twistier as we got close. This was clearly off the beaten path. When we arrived, I went to check the email confirmation to see which site we'd reserved only to find there was zero cell service there on Verizon or AT&T, so I couldn't get to my email. A ranger stopped over and told us to just find an open spot and we'd sort it out in the morning. The sites were mostly smaller back-ins as I remembered from the website, so it took a bit to find one of the handful of pull-throughs we'd fit in. They had 30amp electric and no water or sewer, but this site happened to be within hose-reach of a communal water spigot, so we could fill our tank without having to hitch up and move. With no Internet, either, this was the closest to roughing it we'd come in quite a while. It's a good thing we were only here for two nights over a weekend, there's no way I could work from here.

Camp at Pinnacles National Park

Come morning we went off exploring and it was a really cool place! A big flock of turkeys would visit each morning along with lots of California Quail and other birds. Apparently this park was critical in the rescue of the California Condor as well. Great rock formations, caves formed from boulders falling into gullies, a small lake, great hiking, just what we needed to unwind after a crazy few weeks of city life.

More Turkey Friends

The trail we took went through some of the gully caves and required a flashlight to navigate. The path was uneven and often wet, but Crayton was a champ. It was just outside the edge of his comfort zone, which makes for the perfect challenge. He was really proud of himself for finishing the hike and making it through the caves. His reward was getting to throw some rocks into the reservoir at the end of the trail, one of his favorite activities.

A beautiful morning on the trail

Crazy cool colors in the gully caves

A small reservoir at the end of the trail

Usually camera shy, he prompted me to take this.

A little over a week earlier, while getting set up at Half Moon Bay, I'd done something to my foot, probably while jumping out of the bed of the truck. It had been acting up and causing me a lot of pain. While in Wisconsin the prior week, I visited my doctor and had an X-ray taken. Thankfully it wasn't broken, but it's hard to rest it properly when we're always on the move. Hiking here at Pinnacles actually proved good for it somehow. I focused on keeping it aligned properly (no twisting), and walking slowly and it was sore at the end of the day, but felt much improved the next morning.

Monday morning came too quickly. We really wanted to extend our stay here, but I needed to work Tuesday and with no Internet, we needed to keep moving. It was a long drive back to I-5. I assumed we'd pass some small towns along the way and have an opportunity to fuel up, but there was nothing at all. it was nearly 100 miles before we saw a gas station and we coasted in on fumes having started the day with only 1/3 of a tank or so. That truck-bed mounted 50-gallon auxiliary diesel tank is looking more reasonable, now. It was a long day or driving, but not dull. I think it was my first time in California's central valley. It was interesting to see the politics of water play out in signs along the road. The drought has been hard on folks out here, especially almond farmers.

Up and over a mountain range and a quick jaunt up Hwy 14 away from near Los Angeles and we were at our next home for the week, Soledad Canyon RV Resort in Acton, CA. It's about 45-50 miles northeast of Los Angeles and about a half hour drive from Palmdale and squarely in the middle of nowhere, just like we like it :) This is our first stay at a Thousand Trails Resort after purchasing our membership. I'll have a post on this in the next couple of weeks after we've had a chance to stay in another of their resorts, but so far we love it! This place is HUGE. Eight Hundred and Sixty Five sites. Multiple lounges, pools, laundry rooms, mini golf, etc. This is the off season so it is fairly empty, maybe only 20% full or less and a few things were closed for the season including the family pool and the convenience store, but so far we're impressed with Thousand Trails. It's not perfect. The place is dusty and dry, not all of the sites have 50amp electric (I could see this being a problem in the summer) and some of the amenities are a bit worn. They had possibly the saddest horseshoe pits I've ever seen. But they have lots of kids activities including daily story time and crafting, weekly movies, cotton candy socials, etc. We could get used to this.

Playing Operation in one of the the Family Lounges

The weather was nice, 60s during the day, 40s at night and sunny and dry. Finally we'd escaped the rain. Until ... Thursday. It seems the rain found us and we got dumped on for a day or so. Pam was talking with a long-time resident who said he was pretty sure this was only the second time it had rained here all year. Leave it to us to bring it with us, huh? There were even some wildfires nearby earlier this year, coming within a couple miles of the resort. They had to evacuate the place. The picture in my mind of 865 RVs all trying to leave at once is quite something. I wonder how it actually went down.

We didn't do much exploring this week. I brought a cold home with me from Wisconsin and we all needed the rest. Saturday was pretty much a total loss for me as I slept the majority of the day sniffling and sneezing away. Sunday morning, though, I woke up feeling better. Not well, but better. So I slugged some Day-Quil and we went off adventuring. We'd promised Crayton a ride on the commuter train that whizzed by our campsite every hour or two during the day. Every time it would go by, he'd rush over to a window and say "Commuter Train! I want to ride on it!". So we drove up the road a piece to the nearest station and bought their heavily discounted weekend ticket ($10 and you can ride metro-link, metro subway and buses all day) and headed into the city. Nearly two hours later we arrived at Union Station near downtown LA. From there we took the purple line out to Wilshire Blvd and then a bus the last 20-30 blocks to the La Brea Tar Pits!

Riding Metrolink into LA

Crayton, much like myself at his age, loved dinosaurs and fossil bones. While the tar pits (or "shallow asphaltic seeps" as the tour guide was quick to correct) are Ice-age era and not dinosaur era, it was still pretty darn exciting for a 4 yo budding paleontologist. The museum was small, but interesting and informative. They also had two 'shows'. First a short 3D movie on the tar pits and the ice age that was pretty good. Second, they had a live action puppet show. The "Saber-toothed cat" scared the daylights out of Crayton until we got him to understand and believe that it was just a puppet with a person inside. The puppet immediately made me think of my old puppeteer friends Scott and Kelly G who had a kick-butt Panther puppet back in the day.

Smilodon Fatalis

By the "Lake Pit"

That's a pretty mammoth ... uh ... Mammoth

The rest of afternoon was spent checking out the 'pits' themselves and taking the tour. The whole experience was perfect for Crayton's attention span and interests. We're really glad we went. After a quick dinner, we reversed our epic public transport trip and made it back to the camper fairly late, but entirely satisfied. The next day, Monday, we moved even further south.

"Rawr-don" is what we got trying to teach C to say Smilodon Fatalis

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We went from 3700 square feet in the suburbs to 370 on wheels. We work and travel fulltime with our son and kitty.


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