Goodbye, Southern California –
We spent our last week in Los Angeles at a hotel, close to our storage unit as we still had a lot to figure out. The cooler was massive, needed to be accessible, and once full, completely immovable. That added some complication to the packing.
The car would be full and weighed down no doubt about it, plus a bicycle on the back. We even went to our mechanic the day before our departure and asked him to check if the load was too heavy for the car. He said it was okay, thank goodness!
Our last few days were hectic – besides working, I had two events to attend. The second one was on our day of departure. I had to schedule visits with my three children (and will miss them terribly.) Jim also made a round of goodbye visits to friends and family.
Taking into account the decades we had both lived in Los Angeles, the relationships built, and years at one job, it was incredibly easy to leave. It wasn’t sad; it was simply time to go. We were excited and anxious to get on the road and begin our new life – no work, no schedules, lots of nature. We couldn’t wait!
How Could it be Any Other Way
Our departure was just as it should be for people moving away from Los Angeles. We couldn’t leave until 3:00 pm on a Friday, driving north on the busiest north/south route out of Los Angeles: the 405. Those in Los Angeles know what that means.
For those who don’t know, it is the route tens of thousands of commuters take on their way home, or to get away for the weekend. We also did not have much time before our house sit in Oregon, so staying an extra night in Los Angeles to avoid the traffic was not something we wanted to do.
We drove at highway speed for about three miles and then crawled for at least an hour or more (we got a whole 20 miles.) It did get better; a minor accident was finally cleared up, the fire trucks pulled away, and the traffic eased up.
Off we drove through the Grapevine, then out of the mountains to the flat San Joaquin Valley. This stretch of highway is notoriously dull; there is nothing to share about it except that it’s hot and flat, and the putrid stench of cow manure fills your car at least twice and seems to linger in the car forever.
Jim had already driven this route four times recently, so it was extra mind-numbingly boring for him. For hundreds of miles, there is nothing but the highway, a few gas stations, fields, a few large farms and a handful of cheap-looking hotels. “Oh, look, honey, the aqueduct.” There it was, taking water south to Los Angeles. That water was coming from where we were headed.
Our First Campground
I had not found many choices for campsites along our route, the only one that made sense for us was the Basalt Campground at the San Luis Rey Reservoir. It was off the Los Banos exit (parallel with Santa Cruz). At least we made it out of Southern California the first night! The campground is next to the reservoir, well a couple of miles away. It is easy to find off Interstate 5 and about 10 miles west.
It’s expensive for a campsite, $30.00 ugh, but we had no choice. The woman at the sign-in booth was sweet and friendly, though. There were other campers already there, tents set up, fires roaring. There were still others that arrived quite late and set up in the dark.
Time to Set Up the Tent
We didn’t have a chance to explore at all since it was getting dark by the time we arrived and we had to work hard to set up our camp. The campground was quite secluded and quiet. There was nothing else close by except the hills. We chose our site, off to the edge of the campground. All the sites came with a grill and a picnic table. There were also flush toilets, showers, and running water.
The landscape was not exactly lush, but it had a stark beauty. It was June, so everything was brown with a few trees amidst gently rolling hills. We commenced operation ‘get the tent up right away,’ since we had only practiced putting it up once and were not sure how long it would take out in the field. It was easy.
Setting up House
We lugged all the bedding into the tent, and I began setting up our new home putting as many layers as possible between us and the ground – the large piece of foam, the old sleeping bag, and the wool batting. We each got a small pillow, and our new home-on-the-road was complete.
Jim got the fire going. It was like playing house. Now it’s time to cook dinner on the campfire grill. Isn’t it funny how good even simple food can taste when you’re outdoors? After dinner, we watched the hills turn golden as the sun set.
The campground had a nice feel; the campsites were spread out with a few trees between sites. It was so warm and dry we didn’t need the fly and could stare up at the stars through the mesh tent ceiling: so many. That was a treat after living in the never-ending glare of lights in the city. Surprise, we even had Wi-Fi reception! Who would have thought? Day one – done.
What’s Next – Day two coming up!
You know you want to!