“California Dreaming is becoming a reality”
Mama’s and the Papa’s
State 21: California - November 19 , 2017
We woke up in a Walmart in Medford, Oregon ready to soak up some sun and get on the road! Today, we would drive Southwest and enter the 21st state on our cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home; California: The Golden State. Not a bad state slogan! With the 2nd highest cost of living in the entire county, you better own a stack of gold if you want to live in California! The state motto is derived from the golden sunsets over the Pacific, endless fields of golden poppies in bloom, and of course, there is the Golden Gate Bridge! However, the state's golden roots go back to January 24, 1848, when gold was found in Coloma, CA sparking the California Gold Rush. Over the next 7 years, 300,000 people migrated to the state by land and by sea. Although gold mining is on the decline, you can still find plenty of gold diggers in Hollywood even to this very day! Will the Cross County Couple strike it rich and call the golden state our new home, or will we discover during our visit that all that glitters is not gold? We can’t wait to see what adventures lay ahead for us in California, and we will be dedicating 2 weeks to our exploration of the state.
The first stop of the day was a 102 mile drive Southwest to the Redwood National and State Parks. We would reunite with Route 101, and enter the state along the Northern coast via the Redwood Scenic Highway. The Redwood National and State Parks contain 139,000 acres of protected land. and contains old growth redwood forests. Towering upwards of 360 feet tall, 20 feet in diameter, and over 2000 years old, the redwood trees are the tallest and most massive tree species on earth!
During the California Gold Rush in the mid 19th century, many whom failed to strike it rich in gold mining, decided to instead make their fortunes by cutting down these magnificent trees. After many decades of unrestricted logging, conservation efforts began to preserve remaining old-growth redwoods. In the 1920’s the Redwood State Parks were established, and Redwood National Park was created in 1968. The Redwood Old Growth Forests have the unique distinction of being one of only 30 places in the US designated as a World Heritage Site. Designated by the United Nations and legally protected by international law, World Heritage Sites are determined to have cultural, historical, scientific or other significance to the collective interests of humanity. Despite conservation efforts, irreversible damage had already been done! In 1850, there were 2,000,000 acres of redwood trees along the California coast, and today less than 100,000 acres remain of the tallest trees in the world! Humans are by far the most destructive force in the world! I am noticing a recurring pattern on my cross country trip: Beauty is most often found where humans don’t exist!
The part of Route 101 going through the Redwood Forests were clearly constructed with conservation in mind. The road winded wildly throughout the forest around, and even right up to, the trunks of these giant trees! There were also plenty of pull offs, and side trails to get out and explore them up close. One such sign read “Big Tree” with an arrow pointing left. I thought I had been looking at big trees for the past 100 miles, so I was intrigued to see the National Park Service's definition of a "Big Tree!". Due to their shear size, it is almost impossible to photograph the redwood trees, but I did my best. Please see the pictures below.
It's hard to describe the sensation of standing at the base of a tree over 360 feet high, 20 feet in diameter, and over 2000 years old! It really makes you feel small and insignificant! I even stopped to give one a big hug! Yes, I am a tree hugger, and am proud to be one!!! My drive through the remaining old growth redwood forests of Northern California was a powerful experience I will never forget! Please see the pictures below.
After departing the Redwood Forest, we drove 41 miles South to the post office in Eureka, California to pick up our mail. Getting the mail; something so simple we all take for granted! You put on your bath robe, slip into your fuzzy slippers, walk out to the mailbox, open the mailbox door, retrieve your mail, and walk back into your house. I remember those days so vividly! On our cross country journey, we don’t have a mailbox, and even if we did, the post office does not deliver to Walmart parking lots where we sleep. One of the most common question we get asked when people hear about our year-long cross country trip is, “How do you get your mail?”.
When preparing for our journey we had to find new and creative solutions to solve everyday occurrences as simple as getting the mail. Before departing, we signed up to receive everything we could via email, and we use a mail forwarding service to address those few items requiring snail mail such as tax bills and registration renewals. After A LOT of research, we chose Escapees mail forwarding service based out of Livingston, Texas.
Founded in 1978, Joe and Kay Peterson started a support group called Escapees RV Club to answer a growing need for a community among early RVers. From the original 82 members, Escapees had grown to over 10,000 members, and is the one of the largest RV professional organizations in the country. In addition to mail forwarding services, Escapees offer RV advocacy, educational classes, travel assistance, avenues for on the road employment, and even an assisted living facility for former RVers, just to highlight a few of their services.
Escapees is a licensed commercial mail-receiving agent, and began their mail forwarding services in 1985. Today they are the largest mail forwarding service for RVers in the country! Each day, they process a tractor trailer full of mail, and actually process more mail than their own town's post office! They offer different delivery options based on your individual needs which include: personalized mail sorting, mail review, mail forwarding, and even mail scanning! We signed up for their basic mail forwarding services, which is comparable in price to the annual fees of a P.O. Box. You must be a member of Escapees to use their mail forwarding at a cost of $40.00 per year, and you must submit a deposit of $50 to cover the cost of postage for the forwarded mail. To forward your mail, you call Escapees and provide the forwarding address. Your mail is sent, and a tracking number is provided! The staff has always been friendly, prompt, professional, and understand the logistical challenges of a living a mobile life.
Having your mail forwarded is the easy part. The hard part is finding a place to take delivery of your forwarded mail! Since we like to allow a week for our forwarded mail to arrive, the process begins by guessing what geographical area we will be in 7 days in the future. This in itself is quite the challenge, since we never know where we will be from one day to the next! The town receiving our mail also has to be the right size. If the town is too large and has multiple post offices, our package inevitably gets lost in the mix. Ask me how I know! If the town is too small, the post office has limited hours, limited deliveries, and we are stuck waiting for days for our package to arrive. Again, ask me how I know! Towns with a single post office with around 20,000 residents seems to be our sweet spot. After I make a list of suitable towns where I believe I will be a week from now, then the real fun begins! I call each town’s postmaster to inquire if they will receive my forwarded mail via general delivery. This usually equates to a frustrating hour or so of phone calls, because for whatever reason, less and less post offices are willing to accept general delivery. As you can see, receiving our mail requires a perfect storm of the right location, the right sized town, and a willing Postmaster! We try to have our mail forwarded every month, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. 3 Months had passed since we were able to receive our forwarded mail, and the only willing post office I found was in Eureka, California.
When entering a new town, one of the first things we do is look for the tell-tale signs we have entered a bad neighborhood such as; There are no women out jogging. Trash litters the sidewalks and the streets. Check cashing stores on every corner. The houses appear neglected and abandoned, and the few nice homes are surrounded by large fences! All of the red flags were going off simultaneously upon our arrival in Eureka, and normally we would have just kept on driving. Unfortunately, we had arrived after the post office had closed, and needed to spend the night in this shady town. All of the typical places where we spend the night were not options in Eureka. There was a citywide ban on overnight parking, no Cracker Barrels, and no casinos. To make matters worse, there was only one Walmart located in a mall, which also did not allow overnight parking. It was time to get creative! Since the mall had a Sears Auto Center, we went to the mall security office at 11:00PM, told them our headlight was out, and asked permission to spend the night outside of Sears to have our car repaired in the morning! Just for the record, one of our headlights was actually out! He begrudgingly gave us permission! Yippie! We had a safe place to park for the night in this awful town! After driving Rosie to the parking lot near the Sears garage, we taped a note to the window stating car was broken, and security granted us permission to park here for the night. I also included on the note, the date and the name of the Security Guard whom gave us permission. We then retired to the back of Rosie for the night.
1 hour later we heard a loud and aggressive knock on the side of Rosie. BANG! BANG! BANG! We were instantly jolted from our restful slumber! Was it the cops? Was it a homeless person? Was someone trying to break in? Our adrenaline was pumping, and our thoughts were racing! After spending 6 months on the road, we had finally received the dreaded knock in the middle of the night! We both knew this moment was inevitable, but you can really never prepare yourself for the moment when it first occurs. Some people choose not to answer when they get the knock on the door, but Nate and I decided in advance we would! Not answering a knock can escalate the situation to ticketing and towing. Security guards and cops are just doing their jobs, and many times just talking to them can resolve the situation. I went up into Rosie's front cab, and left the van doors closed and locked. A mall security guard was standing there shining his flashlight right in my eyeballs. What a way to be woken up! He told us we had to leave because we were breaking the law by car camping and trespassing! I explained we had permission to stay because our headlight was out, but he wanted no part of it! He did graciously direct me to a nearby street where overnight parking was allowed! We found a spot among a line of parked run down campers, and noisy and smelly idling 18 wheelers in a very sketchy part of town. For the first time on our cross country trip, we actually felt homeless!