A month in California

17 June - 2 July2016

The plan wasn't supposed to be that we arrived at our niece Kate's house in San Diego just after she arrived in Wales. Still, that's how it worked out and her husband John kindly put up with us for a few days until Harvey was ready to hit the road.

Harvey spent another couple of days being pampered at Dave's Lamont Street Motors. This time we wanted to get the cab air-conditioning fixed after many years of existing without it. It was good timing as most of the South-West USA was in the grip of a fierce heatwave. At least now we would be able to cool off when driving on the flat or downhill. Uphill still wasn't possible unless we wanted to kill poor Harvey!

Oops – time for Plan B

We were extremely glad of the air conditioning as we headed north through the Mojave desert. It was by no means cool but at least bearable and life without it unthinkable. We headed north as quickly as possible through the Eastern Sierras and decided to visit our friends Mike and Patti, who would be in their 'River House' near Placerville for a few days. The route seemed easy, we'd just head north up 395 and then cut across to Highway 50.

However when 395 is blocked at Mono Lake due to an out-of-control wildfire right by the roadside and the estimate from the Forest Fire workers is that the road 'could be closed for an hour or two or maybe a day or two, it all depends'. It is time to seek out an alternate route.

Our only option was to drive from one side of Yosemite National Park to the other to reach Placerville from another direction. At least it gave us a chance to buy our National Park pass for the year, an $80 detour. The road was slow, narrow and winding and by the time we reached Mike and Patti's, we were exhausted and stressed, partly from the driving, mostly from finding out about the UK Brexit vote while en route.

Mike and Patti's peaceful house by the River gave us much needed time to relax. The heatwave was still underway and much of our time was spent swimming or just wallowing in the River.

We took a day trip to Placerville to take in the sights; the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi river, the 'hanging tree' former spot of demise of many bad guys and a local pie shop.

Oldest hardware store in the West!

Touring the 'garden' with Mike.

Mmmm, pie!

Our buddies had to head back to the city for 4th July weekend, it was a shame as we were having so much fun together. It was decided that Harvey would head back to the Eastern Sierras for a few days and then make another visit to Mike and Patti's on their return.

We rushed to Convict Lake and were lucky to grab the only campsite available for the holiday weekend. Once we had our home for the holidays secured, we spent a few days exploring the area. We took two wonderful hikes, the first was in Little Lakes Valley along a chain of small and picturesque lakes.

Convict Lake – view from our campsite.

One of those little lakes.

Hiking Little Lakes Valley Trail

Little Lakes Valley Animal Life

Wild and not so wild.

A day to 'rest our legs' had us hiking around Convict Lake to enjoy a spot of fishing.

Being serenaded at Convict Lake.

Fishing Convict Lake.

Next day we hiked again, this time along McGee Creek as far as a beaver pond, which someone told us was a good fishing spot. This hike began at 10,000 feet and was mostly uphill from there on the outward leg. Quite a workout at altitude.

Several miles in, the trail became a bit vague. Some passing backpackers, fleeing a plague of mosquitoes which had cut short their three day camping trip, pointed us in the right direction for what they described as 'a pretty interesting river crossing ahead'. They weren't wrong.

Surviving the fallen bridge, we finally arrived at the beaver pond and Phil caught himself some trout before our picnic lunch.

Downhill at altitude wasn't quite as exhausting but back at Harvey, an ice-cream stop was required.

Ascending to our cruising altitude.

Fishing at the Beaver Pond

That's not a beaver!

'OK, you go first!' Crossing McGee Creek.

We explored the beautiful June Lake scenic loop, fishing on Rush Creek on the way. Closer to our campground we tried Hot Creek, where fishing was supposed to be 'hot' but it was really too windy to tell!

We had to make an unexpected visit to a transmission stop and then a brake shop in Carson city, when we discovered that Harvey wouldn't change into park. We then discovered that our handbrake needed adjusting as Harvey kept trying to roll out of the campsite! We had to deploy several large rocks, to stop him running off. The friendly folks of Carson City sorted us out the day after the holiday.

We then headed back to Mike and Patti's house for some more relaxation and swimming. We were joined for the weekend by Mike's friend Frank.

An afternoon dip with Mike and Frank.

Saint Michael of the freezing cold water.

We couldn't be persuaded to join the 5.30 am dip when the air temperature and water temperature were about the same, a chilly 51 degrees Fahrenheit. We could tell how virtuous Mike was by his dazzling halo.

We headed next to Kings Canyon National Park for a few days. The winding drive down into the bowels of the canyon was as stunning as on our previous visit. A little less scary this time as we made sure we had enough petrol!

On our last visit the campground was deserted but there were definitely many more people around this time. Our gem had been discovered. Still, we found our own secret swimming spot at the bottom of our campground where we could cool off when the midday heat made it too hot for cycling.

We cycled each day along the Kings River to the end of the road and back along the unpaved track on the opposite side, heading to the lodge for ice cream. One day we came across a bird, stunned and lying in the road. It had obviously been hit by a passing vehicle and we didn't hold out much hope. We moved it out of harms way and on checking on it on our way back, it had flown away. Our good deed for the day.

Our own (pretty much) private river – Kings Canyon.

Biking heaven.

Someone wants ice cream!

We were headed back to San Diego to meet up with family who were flying in. Driving through Los Angeles is no joke, especially in Harvey, so we opted for a route closer to San Bernadino, through the mountains. Now, when your route includes a road called 'Rim of the World Highway', that should really clue you in. We wound our way for miles along the edge of a cliff to reach our campground and arrived exhausted enough to spend an extra day just to recover before driving on! The views up there were stunning and before leaving we decided to head up to the nearby fire tower to get an even better view.

The volunteers who manned the lookout tower in case of fire seemed pleased to see us. We guessed not many people were crazy enough to drive up there, and even less in a motorhome. We did think we may have to volunteer ourselves permanently as there was no room for Harvey to turn around at the top of the narrow winding road! A bit of nifty reversing was required before we could head back to San Diego!

Climbing up the lookout tower.

View from the Lookout Tower

Rim of the World Highway.

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