I wanted to do a blog post in “real time” to give an update on where we are now as well as where we have been in our travels during the last few weeks. We arrived to Chico, California last Friday and are visiting for a week with my parents, leaving the day after Thanksgiving. We are looking forward to the holiday with family as our daughter Shannon, son-in-law Jonathan and grandsons Luke and Levi will also be coming to Chico for Thanksgiving. In my last blog I wrote about exploring Kentucky. After we left there we went a short distance for a week stay in Tennessee before heading east to our camp along the Mississippi River near the town of West Memphis. Then we traveled further west for a five night stay in Oklahoma City. In future blogs I will continue to write about our experiences in those places. In addition, I still have posts I want to do on our summer travels through the New England states, so lots more to come! As I write this we have now traveled and stayed in 31 states! Mark and I like the photo above because in our travels we often have to park near the “big rigs” when stopping for a break or meal since our truck and trailer wouldn’t fit in a regular parking spot. But parking next to those rigs makes us look so tiny and out of place.
Once we left Oklahoma the push west began, especially to get through Northern New Mexico and Arizona before the cold weather. A storm front with snow and temperatures in the teens at night was due to hit so we drove more miles each day then we originally had planned as temperatures below freezing play havoc on our water hoses and system. While passing through the Texas panhandle we had to stop for a late lunch at the Big Texan in Amarillo, a famous steak house with lots of character and great food. I couldn’t pass up a steak here even though I felt some guilt since I had eaten a steak the night before at Cattlemen’s, the famous steakhouse in Oklahoma City. No more red meat for me for awhile! Eating some homemade gelato for dessert in the big chair wasn’t too bad either.
After stopping twice for the night in New Mexico and a two night stop in Kingman, Arizona, we found ourselves back in California after being gone for almost 15 months. We stopped for several nights at one of our all time favorite camping spots – Orange Grove RV Park outside of Bakersfield. If you like oranges, you would really like this place as it is set in the middle of an orange orchard with RV sites between the trees. When the oranges are ripe, usually beginning in December, guests can pick all the oranges they want during their stay. We always seem to find ourselves here just before they are fully ripe. But it is still fun to hang around the orange trees admiring the fruit and enjoying the ambience of being in a citrus grove. They were almost ripe and I couldn’t resist trying one, or maybe several. Shh, don’t tell anyone, we are loyal customers here (smile). This park is really large and a great place to walk. Around the outside of the Park are more orchards and pickers were out there harvesting with their ladders and boxes.
Another great thing about staying here is that the California Fruit Depot is just around the corner and you can stock up on oranges there. When we visited we watched a number of workers sorting and boxing fruit in the packing shed next door to the store. This is the most generous place I have seen with their samples. Not only do they sell varieties of citrus, but they also have lots of dates, dried fruits, nuts and candies, most which can be freely sampled from little containers throughout their very small store. The place is so easygoing that two years ago when we were here a worker forgot to ring up a bag of oranges I was buying after totaling my purchases and told me I could just have them for free.
Leaving Bakersfield we started our long drive north up Highway 99 through California’s Central Valley, the saddest drive I have done in my beloved state. During the whole trip the air quality was horrible due to the terrible Camp Fire still burning north in Butte County as well as fires south in the Los Angeles area. All we saw were brown and grey skies with limited visibility. It got even worse once we reached the outskirts of Chico (photos above and below). We drove past burned fields and saw where the fire jumped the highway to the other side. Most readers are probably aware of the Camp Fire, but for those who are not, it is the worst fire in California’s history and as I write, it is still only about 66 percent contained. The death toll has continued to rise each day with 77 deaths now reported and close to 1,000 still missing or unaccounted for. I am sure this will be remembered as one of the greatest tragedies in California’s history as the town of Paradise, population 26,000 was virtually destroyed. It is unbelievably sad what people have gone through.
Although the fire came close, the city of Chico was fortunately spared. The city mobilized to take in evacuees with shelters opened as well as a tent city next to Walmart. Most of these evacuees have nothing to return to as their homes and businesses were wiped out. We arrived to hazardous air quality in Chico with a number of residents wearing special masks with air filters that have been passed out by agencies or sold in certain stores. My parents acquired masks as well which they have been wearing when venturing out. The recommendation by authorities is stay inside which we have been doing these past several days. Not only Chico’s air was hazardous but also the Sacramento area which was noted a few days ago to be the city with the most hazardous air quality in the world, worse than the big cities in China and India. Even San Francisco which is some distance away has suffered very poor air quality. Very unhealthy air has pretty much hit all the Northern California Central Valley cities, including our former residence Modesto. Luckily, the air here in Chico is starting to improve and today we saw less brown sky and a little more blue. Below is a picture of me and my parents with their masks.
In spite of the tragedy around us, we are having a really good visit here in Chico. We have had so much to talk about and catch up on! Great conversations, special times! Below, another photo of my parents looking hale and hearty in their hand knit Irish wool sweaters. Thanks for checking in and reading!