(For photos, right-mouse click on title and opt to open in a new window.)
On this, our sixth official Salt & Pepper trip, we incorporated all of our lessons learned on previous trips and added an ingenuity-of-the-day award.
We started out on Friday planning to drive half of the way to our ultimate destination. Utilizing our experiences from before, I had packed groceries enough to carry us through at least three days as well as the all-important, driving day dinner (DDD). Such a lesson learned is that one! Driving always takes us much longer than anticipated and there is nothing worse than pulling into a site hungry and tired and having to actually cook something. Plus, this trip started in Irvine at 3:00 pm and required driving through LA at rush hour, so we had the additional requirement of needing to eat while still driving. We set off with chicken sandwiches, raw carrots and fennel, and lots of water. (Click here for the full trip meal plan.)
Our second lesson-learned invocation came in the fact that we were only going to drive for three hours which should put us half the distance to Shaver Lake. I had found a KOA in Visalia for our stop-over night. But our three hours turned into more (due to the aforementioned LA traffic) and we pulled into our level, full hook-up, pull-through spot around 8:30 pm that night. Quite a nice KOA with the requisite store and showers (which we didn't use) plus a lovely fenced dog run (complete with agility equipment, on which Rosco, who has been trained in agility but only works for treats, refused to perform having surmised that neither Alan nor I were packing at the time.) Terriers!
But we did pick up a new lesson on this day (I have stopped numbering them, by the way): Don't pay for the additional cost of electrical hook-up. With our great solar panel, we have no need to plug in unless we want to watch extended hours of TV. But TV is really uninteresting when you have a fire ring--as we did this night. Alan got a fire going while I poured the sun-downers. A quiet, peaceful evening, even though the KOA was quite full.
It was a short drive the next day to Shaver Lake (invoked the DDD lesson again and I had packed a frozen lasagna to put into the oven when we parked.) Our campground, Dora Belle (National Forest Service), didn't have any hook-ups (standard for an NFS site) nor a dump station. So prior to arriving in Shaver Lake, I utilized my new favorite webpage rvdumps.com to locate a dump station nearby. (Those of you who knew me when I was earning six-digits selling SAP software in my Armani suits are having a good laugh right now!) We were planning on being there three nights and knew we'd like to dump our tanks before heading down the mountain. We found one at the marina and drove over to check it out. $20 fee to dump there if you aren't a guest of their campground, but it would work. So we returned to check into Dora Belle at a great arrival hour of 2:00.
The check-in lady asked if I had been to Dora Belle before and I said no. She then went on and on about how we had the best site in the whole campground (I had chosen it from the website because it looked to be the furthest away from everyone -- my main site selection criteria.) Site 41, she said, was impossible to reserve all year and she just didn't know how we had managed to get it. (This conversation was repeated to us every time we saw one of the [very nice] camp hosts. I kept wanting to say, "we managed it by clicking on it from the website two days ago" but I refrained. They were so nice.)
So we headed to the famed site 41. And what a gorgeous site it is! At the end of a loop with easy access to the lake and wonderful, huge sunny rocks on which to sit and enjoy a morning coffee. But, we hadn't parked yet!
It was cold up there. This year, the snow is very slow to leave the Sierra's. In fact, we had reserved at Huntington Lake for this trip, but the campground hadn't opened by June 3rd which is what made me scurry back to the on-line reservations and grab Dora Belle. So it's cold and rainy and, since Alan is driving, I am the designated back-in coach. Here is where we made use of another lesson: Walkie-Talkies. Oh my lord, what a difference they make! No more yelling back and forth "turn right, now a little left", "what did you say?" and (often) me, when it is late and we didn't want to disturb people, running up to the Pepper's window and back to Salt's rear again and again and again. But not this time! (Everything is more fun with walkie-talkies.) So out I jump with my Northface Women's Grace Jacket and walkie-talkie to coach Alan in. We did it perfectly the first time! Even remembered to remove the sway control bar before we started! Only trouble was that the pitch was not nearly level. We have not yet purchased leveling chalks (I think that's what they are called), so my wonderful problem-solving husband looks around, grabs a large flat rock, places it behind Salt's tire and reverses up on to it (great picture of this work in the slideshow) and Voila! we have our ingenuity of the day award! Quite level now, we chalk up the tires and begin setting up.
We went full set-up this time, opening all the awnings, or trying to. Our main awning in the front gave us some trouble. Very frustrating as Alan had opened it at Oceano Dunes all by himself, but now, even after both of us reading the manual (see how frustrating it became? We read the manual!) we couldn't get it right. It was hanging down at a very odd angle making it difficult to walk in and out of the door. We took a break, and Alan returned to it after awhile. While watching him, I saw the issue: We had been trying to hook one of the poles to the wrong part of the awning arm. Once we got this straightened out, and added a little WD40, it went up like a charm. I'd say we'll never forget that again, but I have learned to never say never--I refer you back to the RV Dump Site versus Armani suit exchange, above, as well as my comment in "How It All Started" vis a vis never buying an Airstream.
We had a great weekend: Dogs running free in the alpine meadows, catching fish (2 for Kit, 1 for Alan, I am just saying), campfires every night, a wonderful thunder and lighting show, lots of hiking around the lake, and even an NBA playoff game streamed through Alan's phone (which we enjoyed by the fire.)
We left on Tuesday so we could stop at Pyramid Lake on our way home. Our campground there, Los Alamos, was empty, dusty, full of flies, but a nice stopping point anyway--just over half way home. We checked out Pyramid Lake (about 2 miles from the campground) on our way out. It is really only good for boaters--no shoreline to speak of, and the "beach" is very small.
We were back at the Spice Rack (Baker RV Storage) by early afternoon. Gathered up the little food that was remaining, the towels and clothes, disconnected Salt (always our least favorite part) and headed home.
After all that talk from the camp hosts regarding our ability to get site 41, I couldn't help but give it a try when we got home. Would I be able to reserve that site again? Apparently not, it appears to be the only site booked throughout the season. There was some Loml Luck in this trip!