Travelogue #6 – Boondocking and Medford

Did I mention Napa was beautiful? Napa was beautiful. Just wanted to revisit that.

The parking lot in the casino was not.


But it was free.

The drive was very short to near Redding – just under two hours. It was easy to find the casino, though there was a lot of construction going on. I found a spot to park and went in to talk with the registration desk. The woman was very nice, assuring me that it was fine to park in the “trucker lot” for the night. She told me there were restrooms in the casino and also at the Chevron station at the end of the lot. Seemed easy. While their restaurants were closed, they did have a food truck outside. I grabbed some food from there then went back to the trailer. Found the trucker lot and parked in the middle since that would put me right between the two bathrooms, important for last night trips.

Indy immediately jumped out and explored for a bit. But there were already a couple of big rigs parked there so he quickly jumped back into the trailer after hearing their big rumbly engines.

We settled in. I ate my dinner, put on some Netflix and figured we were in for the night. I heard trucks pulling in all around us but sort of ignored it. I knew this would happen so I didn’t think much of it.

After I finished eating, I thought I’d go into the casino and maybe play some slots for a bit. Shows you how long it’s been since I’ve been in a casino. I long for the days when you could put $5 in a machine and play for a decent amount of time. Now, $5 might get you three spins, if you’re lucky. I counted my winnings – a whole 70 cents – and went back to the trailer.

My little Sky looked sort of ridiculous in the middle of these humungous rigs. I had opened the galley so I could grab stuff out of it, leaving it open in case I wanted something else.

As the sun began to set, I heard another rig pull up, this time right beside me. I mean, RIGHT beside me. I got out to see how close he was.

Way too close for my comfort. At first, I was a little angry. I mean, seriously? A whole parking lot and you have to park right next to me? But when I stepped around his rig, I could see that the lot was filling up. Yes, he could have parked somewhere else, but someone else would have probably parked next to me.

I got back into the trailer, debating about what to do. I’m tiny compared to these guys. I became concerned that someone wouldn’t notice me in between two rigs and basically drove over me in the middle of the night.

Finally, I decided the smart thing to do was to move to the end of the lot. That meant closing up the galley, taking down all four jacks, undoing all the things you do to set up your trailer, move, then set everything up again. Pain in the ass but I did it.

I’d like to say it helped but it really didn’t. Eventually, a huge rig pulled up next to me again, though this time I knew I was under a bright light and I could easily be seen. But that meant I had to listen to his engine run all freaking night. I always close my windows, so at least I didn’t get his diesel smell.

But neither of us slept well. Every time I’d doze off, another noise from one of the rigs would wake me up. Indy was stressed, pacing around for a long time before he settled down. Not what I wanted before I had another travel day in front of me.

Travel days are always hard, no matter how short the drive. The trailer and the car both have to be packed up, even if I try not to use too much, things still have to be put away. The solar panel and my guitar travel inside the trailer but live either outside or in the car when we’re parked. The litter box and cat food has to be emptied and put away. The jacks and things have to be put away. Everything has to get locked up. Then I have to get Indy into the car, which is a whole big deal on its own. Ugh.

Woke up after a few hours of sleep to the rumble of the rig next to us. Struggled into some clothes then wandered over to the Chevron bathroom. Ran some water through my hair, figuring it was a travel day so it didn’t matter if I hadn’t washed my hair. Got everything together, got Indy into the car and got underway.

Not sure I’ll do much boondocking at casinos and stores after this experience. I’m sure it’s great if you’re in a large motorhome with your own bathroom and kitchen and all that stuff. Probably much better insulated than my little trailer. But for someone like me, it wasn’t worth free, not at the expense of losing all that sleep.

The drive from the casino to Medford was about four hours.

I thought Napa was beautiful.

The drive through the forests of Oregon left Napa in the dust. Verdant, lush, unending.

I grew up in Manitoba (though I was born in upstate New York) so I was used to the prairie. Even living in Los Angeles for most of my adult life, there aren’t mountains like these ones. I hadn’t really traveled to northern California so I had no idea how beautiful things got up there.

It was hard to focus on the road while driving through all of that. Indy was restless at first, which added to the level of difficulty. Once he settled down, that made things a little easier.

I was tempted at a couple of points to pull over to hang out for a while at some of the places along Shasta Lake. The blue of the water with all of the forest around it was so inviting. But towing the trailer gave me second thoughts because of getting into and out of areas. That plus the lack of sleep made me decide to drive straight through.

As we peaked one of the mountain roads, the summit of Mount Shasta suddenly jumped into view on the horizon. I almost drove the car off the road. Still covered with snow, surrounded by clouds that looked like an SFX company created them, it’s one of those moments I will never forget. It took my breath away. I scrambled for my camera but it was gone by the time I found it. The summit teased me for a while as I wound my way along these mountain roads. I was torn between wonder at seeing it and abject stress at trying to manage these roads.

While my RAV4 is pretty awesome, it doesn’t like climbs. And we climbed a lot. Crawled maybe is a better word. Because I’ve had so many shitty cars in my life, every little bump and shimmy made me panic that something was wrong. I had to keep reminding myself that I was towing at least 700 lbs behind me, which was going to make the car feel weird.

Finally, the summit appeared again in a stretch where I was pretty much by myself. I slowed down and very carefully snapped a couple of photos of it. I know, stupid. But it was worth it.

Once I got through the Shasta Mountains, the roads finally leveled out, making the drive much easier, but no less beautiful. Small towns surrounded by forests. Just beauty as far as the eye can see.

Got to the RV park in Medford. It was nice, as all RV parks are. It was right on the river, which was cool. Nothing special, though. I was happy that it didn’t take me forty tries to get Sky backed into the spot. Once again, Sky is so tiny, taking up barely half of the cement pad, compared to the huge homes parked around me.

Indy immediately got out to explore. He loved this place for some reason. I couldn’t keep him in the trailer. He dragged me around everywhere, sniffing and rolling around in the grass. I had to fight with him to keep him from climbing under the lavender bushes into the next camping spot.

SIDE NOTE – If you’re at an RV park, keep your dog on a leash. I don’t care if it’s a little dog or a big one. Leash it. It’s in the rules. At least half the dogs around me weren’t on leashes. They weren’t running around, for which I was thankful. But still. Leash your freaking dog.

The people around me were very nice and polite. The man parked right next to me lives full time in his motorhome. His wife was usually with him but she was back east. He said they’d been doing it for four years. He gave me lots of good advice on how to camp on the cheap, especially on the east coast, because that’s where they were from.

He had a big old dog named Chloe who needed a ramp to get in and out of the motorhome. She was very sweet (leashed!), shuffling around.

That first night, I just hung out in the RV park. I got some firewood and made a fire. I’m getting spoiled with fire pits. There’s something so comforting about them.

The next day, I went into Medford to get some things for the trailer. There were just some minor things that needed to be done – add new magnets to the cover for the skylight, find a hose for the solar shower (I drove off with it on the back of my car and lost the hose), those kinds of things. Picked up some groceries because I had pretty much tossed almost everything at the casino. It’s hard to keep things fresh in a cooler so every once in a while, everything that’s left gets tossed and I start over. Spent the day puttering. Also, I was still exhausted from the casino, so we retired early.

Or tried to.

Indy was obsessed with getting outside again once I locked everything up and tried to sleep. He kept sniffing around the door, digging at it, then going to the window on the driver’s side and digging at that one. Finally, he wore himself (and me) out and passed out.

Dawn patrol wasn’t too bad. He woke up, paced around, pushed at the door and then finally went to sleep.

I made plans to have coffee with my friend, Jeff Johnson. Jeff is a comic book artist/storyboard artist I had met at something called the Drink and Draw Social Club ten years ago.

It was a group of comic book artists, animators and everything in between who would meet every Thursday night at a pub in downtown Los Angeles to drink and draw. You could drink, you could draw, you could do both, you could do neither. I hadn’t been drawing very long at that point, maybe four years or so, and I ended up going there on my birthday because it sounded interesting. I sat next to Jeff and got to know him as I started coming back every week. It was one of those special times in my life. I met the most amazing artists there, all of whom treated me like a peer. I learned so much about making comic books and art in general by hanging out with these people.

Jeff will always be special to me because he basically tutored me in how to make comics. He gave me a pile of books – which I still have and I have used whenever I teach comic book basics – and basically gave me critiques and advice as I drew my first book. He and the other comic book artists were all so very generous with their time and their advice. I don’t know if I would have even started “Wraith of Love” if it were not for them.

Jeff also was one of the people who helped keep my creativity going when I was going through cancer treatment. He would take me to and from Drink and Draw, always making sure I was still working on the book, giving me small deadlines to try and meet. He also allowed me to use him as a referral when I was applying to teach comic book creation in China. Good dude, Jeff.

It was great to be able to spend some time with Jeff. He and his wife moved to Medford five years ago and I haven’t really seen him since. He’s so easy to talk to, always so gracious and encouraging. Filled my soul just to have coffee with him. We talked about everything and nothing, and we wrapped up after almost three hours.

I wandered around Jacksonville, the small town where we had coffee. Charming little town, which Oregon seems to be filled with. I went back to the RV park, resting a bit because I had read there was a food truck event nearby that evening. Well, in LA that would mean a bunch of trucks, some music, lots of people. I went. Two trucks and a half dozen sort of red-neck-looking folks. I ended up at Dairy Queen. Came back to the park, set up my screen and watched “Rocketman” in the trailer. Love that movie. I realize that Elton John’s music was a huge part of the soundtrack of my youth.

Tried to go to bed but my furry toddler had a temper tantrum when I wouldn’t let him back outside. I wish I could just open the door to let Indy out but I can’t. He gets so frustrated and angry with me, growling (not seriously), digging at the door, prowling around. Finally after about twenty minutes of making me crazy, he wore himself out. So much so that his Dawn Patrol didn’t last very long either this morning.

I got things packed up early as I wanted to get on the road before 9:30. I had to teach my fine art class at 12:30. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the next stop before then but figured I could make it about 2/3 of the way there, stop at a rest stop and teach, which is exactly what happened. Not sure what my studnets think about the fact that I’m in a different spot every week, but they keep showing up.

I’ll write more later. I’m getting tired after a travel day and want to write about where we’re staying now, but I’m not focused enough to do so.

Oh, I did realize that I’m going to have to redo my door at some point during this adventure. Ugh. More on that later as well.

Be safe, be well, be kind to each other.

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