Retirees frequently embrace the “Snowbird” lifestyle of running South for the Winter and enjoying summers at home. Unfortunately Judi & I seem to have the concept backwards, as this is now our 2nd winter in B.C. Last year wasn’t an issue – zero snow, temperatures rarely down to 0C (32F), bulbs sprouting in January and cutting the lawn in February. Well this year is different – suffering snow on the ground for 6 continuous weeks and temperatures of -10C (14F). You would almost think we moved to the East Coast, but NO, this is what we experienced on the West Coast. We simply have to head South!!!
The RV is in storage and winterised, so with a few weeks of timeshare condos available, we checked out the availability; making reservations at Indio, Anaheim, Solvang, Windsor (all California) and Bend, Oregon. With that many locations, flying wasn’t an option, so we loaded up the car and headed South.
Normally we blast down the I-5, staying in Redding the first night, then complete the journey on day 2. However, Portland was still snow bound and friends/fellow Redwood owners recently got stuck in southern Oregon for 5 days, waiting for the roads to clear. Why don’t we try the coast road??? Great opportunity to try it in the car, to determine if it is suitable for a trip in the RV.
With the last vestiges of snow still on the ground, we set off on a bitterly cold morning, navigating some rather slippery local roads. Thanks goodness for brand new tires and automatic 4-wheel drive. Fortunately, our first destination of Long Beach WA was only 300 miles, as it started as a slow trip, until hitting major roads.
Judi at the car in Long Beach
We could have saved some miles by staying in Astoria/Seaside, but Long Beach was our first holiday as new parents, bringing our daughter when she was only 3 months old. Haven’t been back since, so wanted to check out the changes.
Worldmark Long Beach, WA overlooking the shoreline
Our preference was to reserve a room at our Worldmark timeshare, but it was a Friday evening and we only wanted 1 night. Unfortunately, weekends have a 2-night minimum, so we stayed at the Best Western up the street. Excellent hotel – quiet, great staff, comfortable and recently renovated room, and excellent breakfast.
Yes, you can drive onto the beach
The above photo has some significance, as during our last visit 30+ years ago, we saw all the cars on the beach, so decided to join the party. Nobody else had issues, but you guessed it, we got stuck in the sand. This gave the locals a laugh, but they did help the “City Slickers” by towing us out. You’ll notice from the first photo, we stayed on paved roads, while I walked down to the beach.
Long Beach Shoreline Panorama
In the midst of a winter storm you wouldn’t want to spend the day on the beach, but we enjoyed the boardwalk and wind swept dunes between the Worldmark and the Pacific Ocean. The boardwalk above is almost a mile in length and is a most pleasant walk.
During the Lewis and Clark’s 1805/06 expedition and winter on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, they documented observing 3 whales in the area that is now Long Beach. In May 2006, a 38′ young male Grey Whale beached and died on the shore, a couple of miles north of here. The remains were buried on the beach. A couple years later, NOAA permitted the City of Long Beach to display the whale’s skeleton. Therefore, it was unearthed, cleaned, preserved and is displayed in an area just off the boardwalk.
Whale skeleton of a 38′ Grey Whale
Whale carving also visible from the boardwalk
After a most enjoyable 90 mins walking along the boardwalk, dunes and beach on a rather blustery afternoon, we headed over to the hotel – Best Western Long Beach Inn. After checking-in we headed to one of the many local restaurants for dinner followed by a visit to North Jetty Brewing, the local craft brewery.
After an excellent sleep and filling breakfast, we were back on the road, with today’s destination being Eureka, CA, a mere 460 miles. The GPS wanted us to head over to I-5, but we resisted and stuck to Hwy 101, a route we have taken many times.
Cannon Beach from Hwy 101 viewpoint
Judi at Cannon Beach viewpoint looking south
Similar to Long Beach, WA we have many great memories of Cannon Beach from our first visit more than 30+ years ago, with our daughter. We drove down from Long Beach spending an entire day at the beach.
Expecting a long day, we weren’t disappointed, stopping at many viewpoints to watch and be mesmerised by the pounding surf. Finally got to Brooking, about sunset, which left 110 miles through Northern California, in the dark. While some sections were open highway, we did spend a number of miles navigating through Redwood forests. Must return to see this section in daylight.
We arrived at the Best Western Plus Humbolt Bay Inn, Eureka about 20:00. After 12 hrs in the car, we accepted the offer of room delivery, from the onsite restaurant.
Day 3 was the longest, with the destination being Fresno, CA (485 miles). We could have remained on Hwy 101, but wanted to try PCH # 1, especially to determine if it was suitable for the RV. Immediately south of Eureka, the road climbs and winds through some amazing Redwood forests. While most of it is a high speed road, it does have 1 section where you literally navigate around and between massive Redwood trees. So far, I don’t see any issues with bringing the RV, tight in places, but passable.
About Leggett, we turned off Hwy 101 and onto Hwy 1 (Shoreline Hwy or PCH). Wow, my opinion on being suitable for the RV, changed immediately. On departing the high speed Hwy 101, you immediately descend a short, but very steep hill, then are faced with a hairpin bend. If you survive the intro, you’re wide awake and ready for the next 30 + miles, during which I think I briefly got the speed up to 20 mph. Even the F350 dually would be interesting on this road, never mind adding a 41′ 5th wheel.
Just before reaching the coast, we noted a straight and level section that must have been at least 100 yds, so erroneously thought we survived the turmoil. Sadly not, within a few minutes we reverted to mountain goat status again. However, we did get a rare bonus when Judi spotted something in a field.
Couple of Elk chilling in a field
We stopped in Fort Bragg for a quick lunch and then back on the road, continuing south. Shortly after departing Fort Bragg, the heavens opened to the extent the wipers couldn’t clear the windshield. Regardless of the weather, the drive and scenery was most enjoyable.
About 20 miles before the return to Hwy 101, Judi was driving and rounded a corner to be met with a road closed sign, “Flooded”. Not overly surprising considering the amount of rain. I vaguely remembered this area from a few years ago, so against the advice of the GPS, I back-tracked then headed down a local road. After numerous delays, another temporary road closure, a flood alert broadcast on the cell phone, we eventually got back to Hwy 101, but up at Santa Rosa. The rain didn’t abate all the way through San Francisco until we hit the CA-99. Having departed Eugene before 08:00, we finally arrived in Fresno about 21:30.
Fortunately, the last day was a comparatively short 350 miles. I planned heading down CA-99 to Bakersfield and then heading East on CA 58. However, the mountains East of Bakersfield were covered in snow, so plan B was through LA. Unfortunately, we didn’t escape the snow, having to drive through a few miles of light snow at the summit. As we descended into LA, the snow reverted to heavy rain, which continued until reaching the Palm Springs windmills.
By the time we reached Indio, normal service was restored, with the sun shining and not a cloud to be seen.