Redwoods to Rio Vista

Our first night in our new home was mostly uneventful. The rain fell all night (we were surprised how loud rain could be on an RV roof!)

And it got pretty chilly. At about 2am, I fired up the heat pump. An hour later, I woke up sweating. Looks like the heater works. Also looks like I’ll need to fine tune the thermostat.

Looks like we woke up in a Redwood forest.

It also looks like it’s going to be another nasty day outside.

Driving through the Redwoods was not the original plan but a last minute decision due to weather. Fortunately, we didn’t feel the pressure to do any sightseeing this time around.

We made it a point to drive right through here last August on our way back to Baja and are glad we did. We got perfect weather then for exploring the National Park, Trees of Mystery, and driving the parkway.

We disconnected the power and rolled out into the yuck that lay ahead. Our goal today is to cover the 300 miles to a County Park just outside of Rio Vista before dark, hopefully grabbing some food and gas along the way. Seems easy enough.

The whole morning, we were zeroed in on the blue dot (us) moving towards the edge of the green band where the rain was supposed to let up. We kept heading south at a good pace, but the edge never seemed to get closer. Turns out, the storm was headed in the same direction we were, and the rain didn’t let up for several hours.

First gas-up on the road. This thing holds 55 gallons of fuel, and gas in California is not cheap right now. Painful. Fortunately, we don’t have to commute to work and we don’t intend to use our home as a daily driver (though it feels like we are we are right now).

By the time we reached the Bay Area, the weather had improved significantly (for the time being). Random factoid. Do you remember Windows XP? According to Google Maps, these green grassy hills outside of Sonoma are where the default desktop wallpaper photo was taken.

By the time we reached Fairfield, we were ready for a break and some dinner. We still had 30 minutes left until we reached Rio Vista, but it’s a pretty tiny community and we weren’t sure what would be open when we arrived. So, we pulled into a little diner to refuel before continuing on.

Our pit-stop turned out to be a good call, as nothing much looked open when we later arrived in Rio Vista. With the benefit of hindsight, however, I think I would have rather continued on in the little daylight we had left and dove into our canned foods instead.

The Highway to Fairfield had been excellent, with wide lanes, good visibility and a generous shoulder. Highway 12 between Fairfield and Rio Vista, on the other hand, was a completely different beast to drive in an 8-foot wide motorhome.

The narrow highway is built up on some sort of a levee with only one lane in each direction and a concrete barrier down the middle (meaning absolutely no passing at any time). They also happened to be doing some shoulder construction, so we had cones on the passenger side, leaving, what I estimate to be about a foot of wiggle room on each side.

To top it off, it was after dark at this point, our headlights still aren’t superb (though serviceable) and every one of the vehicles in the oncoming lane seemed to have those insanely dangerous migraine-inducing stadium lights blinding us.

It was slow going, but we made it into Rio Vista, a sleepy little town on the banks of the lumbering Sacramento River. I followed Lori’s driving directions through a dark residential neighborhood thinking to myself, “There can’t possibly be a County Park with RV sites near here!” Sure enough, moments later, the road emptied us out into a parking lot near the river, where the friendly park caretaker was waiting to meet us and give us the low down.

I estimate there were just over a half dozen RVs in the quiet and sprawling park. We did the best we could with nothing but our headlamps and a sky full of stars to illuminate the sites we had to choose from. None were particularly level or even, but we were too tired to be picky and went ahead and parked in the least funky of three.

Another one nighter, keeping it easy and making miles. In addition to electricity this time, I wanted to try to hook up to water. We can hold 36 gallons of fresh water, but we didn’t want to drive with a full tank for fuel economy. The tank’s now getting a bit low, but rather than fill it, it makes more sense to hook up.

Right away, I noticed an annoying leak coming from the connection. If I jiggled it just the right way, I could get rid of it, but I’ll definitely need to address that at some point.

Another 8-hour driving day, 320 miles from the Trinity to Rio Vista. We’ll heat up a can of something and call it a night.

This morning is our first dry morning in a while. The goal is Bakersfield today, which should clock in at between 4 and 6 hours (more than likely the latter). It would be nice to get in before dark, but we also want to take the opportunity to let the kids run around. They were happy to do so.

Riley ran around with Lori and I took Noe down to the river. The Sacramento is not the type of river we’re accustomed to in Oregon. At Rio Vista, at least, it’s big and lazy, and fringed with reeds and bamboo, not unlike what we’ve seen in the South. Already feels like we’re getting somewhere.

Noe found a long dried out reed and immediately fashioned a fishing pole.

He would have been happy to spend the entire morning seeing if anything would take his “bait”. But I wanted to make sure both boys got some wiggles out before the drive.

But of course, our boys can’t just run around aimlessly. They quickly found one pine cone, then two, and just like that, they had a collection. It would be the first of many talks about the limited space in the RV and not being able to take treasures with us, but enjoying them while we have them, and so on.

The previous night’s canned dinner didn’t exactly send us into a food coma, so we thought a visit to the town’s sole bakery and cafe was in order. Not sure how many other times we’ll have biscuits and gravy whipped up by an eccentric Chinese couple at a small town diner.

Our diner experience might have surprised us if Grampy hadn’t enlightened us a bit on the history of the area. When he heard we were staying in Rio Vista, he told us about his experience passing through there decades ago. He recommended a detour to visit the tiny community of Isleton which has an interesting back story. Naturally, we followed Grampy’s advice.

Now, there couldn’t have been any way that Lori’s dear ol’ dad could have known the state of the road heading out there all these years later. But I’ll tell you it wasn’t constructed with 8-foot wide motorhomes in mind.

The road into town was bad enough—narrow and elevated with no guardrails, a steeply sloped “shoulder” and clean edge (if you’re lucky). In addition to being home to a large Chinese population for more than a century, the “island” has a well-documented history of flooding. As a result, the roads connecting Isleton with the outside world trace a series of narrow levees.

Below, was the best part of the road. After that, no more pictures, which should tell you something about the condition.

We made it to Isleton, but couldn’t really find the “historic” section. It was getting late in the morning and we were feeling the need to push on. Somehow, the road out of town was even narrower and in worse shape than the other road.

Next stop, Bakersfield, 300 miles down I-5. Then, back into the desert.

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